Comprehensive Contemporary Acting

"Comprehensive Contemporary Acting" is a cutting-edge, unconventional approach to the performance experience. Joining classic philosophy with groundbreaking technique, it is the film professional's shortcut to the hidden dynamics of a script, and a proven path to masterful work through the art and science of acting. Complete with hundreds of exercises and examples, including chapter by chapter reviews. 

Great Comedy Films

The scandalous world of Great Comedy Films is torn wide-open, with sordid tales of sex, money, drugs, power, prostitution, hedonism and shenanigans that make this book a "must-buy."  Now that we have your attention ...

ASU theater professor recognized for mentoring Latinx students

May 5, 2018

Micha Espinosa, associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, was selected as the 2018 Alberto Álvaro Ríos Sangre de Arte Award recipient.

The ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association gives the award to recognize an individual, group or organization exemplifying passion for creatively affecting their community through the arts and for mentorship of Chicano/Latino students. Photo of Micha Espinosa Micha Espinosa. Download Full Image

Espinosa is also affiliate faculty with ASU’s School of Transborder Studies. She is an artist, activist, teacher and voice, speech and dialect coach and has performed, lectured and taught voice and speech around the world since 1992. She coordinated the first bilingual voice conference in Mexico City and the first Asian voice and speech trainers' conference in Singapore. She is the editor of the award-winning book “Monologues for Latino Actors: A Resource Guide to the Contemporary Latino/a Playwrights.”

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


image title

ASU Film Spark charts new course for young filmmakers with LA nonprofit

May 4, 2018

Herberger Institute film program offers access to education, career opportunities

Arizona State University is widening the lens for film education in Southern California. In collaboration with Film2Future, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to educating underserved youth in the film and creative industries, ASU Film Spark will help facilitate a two-week summer program designed by Film2Future to introduce L.A.-area high school students to the art of virtual reality production.

With access to facility space and mentorship at Film Spark’s home in the ASU California Center in Santa Monica, Film2Future students will write, direct and produce virtual reality content during the program, which will run from June 11–24. It’s a venture Film Spark’s executive director Adam Collis hopes will open more avenues for Film2Future and other Southern California students with an eye on film education.

“Our goal is to help them get to the next level and to provide students access to both higher education and the entertainment industry,” Collis said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to help prepare these new storytellers on emerging platforms like VR, as well as for their lives as college students.”

The collaboration between Film Spark and Film2Future kicked off in earnest with a special screening of the blockbuster "Black Panther" in late April. Screened simultaneously at AMC movie theater locations in Santa Monica and Tempe, Arizona, the event drew almost 200 high school students and ASU students, staff and alumni and featured a live talkback with "Black Panther" executive producer Nate Moore and film editor Michael Shawver. The session was moderated by Collis at AMC Santa Monica 7 and video linked to the Tempe audience at AMC Centerpoint 11.

Film Spark Director Adam Collis moderates a Q&A with film editor Michael Shawver and executive producer Nate Moore at a special screening of "Black Panther in Santa Monica on April 22, 2018.

Attendees included students involved in the Film2Future program as well as students from Santa Monica College, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars program.

The groups were invited to attend the event to mark the final installment of ASU Film Spark’s Spring 2018 Superhero Movie Speaker Series. Throughout the semester, the series allowed ASU students to interact with filmmakers and executives linked to some of Hollywood’s most successful superhero franchises. Previous guest speakers in the series included producers Hutch Parker ("Logan," "X-Men"), Larry Franco ("Batman Begins," "Hulk"), director Scott Derrickson ("Doctor Strange") and production designer Alex McDowell ("Man of Steel," "Watchmen").

Deepening ASU’s presence in Southern California, ASU Film Spark also hosted its first Los Angeles internship and job fair in collaboration with ASU Career Services, drawing more than 100 students and alumni to the ASU California Center in March.

Attendees had the opportunity to meet with representatives from 12 entertainment companies, including CBS Corporation, Hutch Parker Entertainment and Lionsgate. They were also invited to attend a post-job fair screening of the 2009 film "Star Trek" at the Laemmle Fine Arts Theatre that included a Q&A with Trevor Roth, chief operating officer of Roddenberry Entertainment. 

ASU Film Spark is a part of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre within ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The career accelerator program has produced several films —  "Car Dogs," "Justice Served" and "Postmarked" — as well as a growing list of notable alumni, including film editor Nick Ramirez, who worked on the Oscar-nominated film "Lady Bird" and David Breschel, producer of the Student Academy Award-winning student short "Mammoth," directed by Ariel Heller.

Offering degrees in film and media production and filmmaking practices, ASU’s School of Film Dance and Theatre has been named one of the fastest-growing film programs in the country. The school was ranked among the Top 50 Film Schools of 2017 by online trade publication

Top photo: ASU Film Spark director Adam Collis and students from the L.A.-based nonprofit Film2Future pose with "Black Panther" film editor Michael Shawver and executive producer Nate Moore at the AMC Santa Monica 7 in Santa Monica, California, on April 22, 2018. Photo by Lauren Elisabeth Photography. 

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Graduate thrives on performing, building art with others (and sword fights)

May 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Rachelle Dart has been a theater artist her entire life. Photo of Rachelle Dart After graduation, Rachelle Dart will be attending the Fitzmaurice Voicework Teacher Training Program in Los Angeles and will be apprenticing with storyteller Liz Weir at her Ballyeamon Barn in Ireland. Download Full Image

“Ever since I was little, I was a performer,” said Dart, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theater. “I would put on living room performances for my family.”

She participated in theater all throughout middle school and high school. Later she co-founded Small Dance Collective, where she and her artistic partner, Anya Hernandez, focus on creating theater based in community engagement. She also managed her own improv company, called The Penguin Players, which provides affordable, quality entertainment to people of all ages.

For the last five years, Dart has trained in stage combat. She is a freelance fight choreographer in Phoenix and an advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. She has been teaching theater in some way since high school, including teaching stage combat workshops to over 500 sixth- through 12th-grade students this semester. And she has worked professionally as an actor with Southwest Shakespeare Company.

“It’s hard to imagine not doing some kind of performing,” said Dart, who transferred to ASU from Paradise Valley Community College. “I thrive in collaboration — the building of art with other people — so it made sense to continue to develop my craft. I wanted to grow as an artist so that I could be more honest with the characters I play.”

One character she had the chance to play while developing her craft in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts has been with her since she was young. Last spring, Dart was cast as Captain John Wesley Powell in “Men on Boats,” a play that tells the story of an 1869 expedition to map the Colorado River; all the cisgenderCisgender denotes a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with his or her birth sex. white male characters are played by actors who are not cisgender white males. 

“I had studied Powell in high school, and he was a very interesting character in history,” Dart said. “I was always excited by the fact he was an amputee. So, getting to play this real person who shared a similar difference was quite wonderful.”

Dart, who lost her left hand in a boating accident when she was 3 years old, related to Powell. She also loved that “Men on Boats” gave her an opportunity for collaboration and for building relationships with other artists.

“‘Men on Boats’ was one of the most exciting and fun theater experiences to date,” Dart said. “It was an absolute honor to be part of the process. I am still blessed by the women who were in the cast and the relationships we built.”

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: The faculty in the theater program continue to surprise me and change my perspective. They are also incredibly generous and supportive educators, which is something to aspire to as a young teaching artist. If I had to pinpoint one thing, Bonnie Eckard teaches viewpoints and she begins every class with a form of meditation. She’ll guide the class in relaxing and then say, “Remember, you can always come back to this!” She trains her students not only as theater artists, but how to be whole people. I hope to be a teacher like that. She has also redefined success for me. She says that success is not what you accomplish but how well you practice. In this way, every experience in life, even the not very pretty or presentable struggles, are valid and even essential in success.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Jason Davids Scott came and adjudicated a show I was in at Paradise Valley Community College for Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. He talked to me about the program, and it sounded exciting! It was also very affordable with scholarships and easy to transfer all of my community college credits.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Breathe, be disciplined and rest in your worthiness. Also, go to office hours and take advantage of the ability to reserve rehearsal and performance space.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: There are a couple. FAC 231 is the movement studio rehearsal space in the Nelson Fine Arts Center. It is where I rehearsed for many shows and projects and had countless late-night post-rehearsal discussions. The other space is the amphitheater just outside the FAC. My friends and I choreographed and practiced many sword fights in that space.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be attending the Fitzmaurice Voicework Teacher Training Program in Los Angeles and will be apprenticing with storyteller Liz Weir at her Ballyeamon Barn in Ireland.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think it would be exciting to put the money into a trust, so that the money would grow. At the same time, it would also be going out in micro grants to Arizona artists. The grants would cover such things as training programs, rehearsal/performance space, realizing projects, emergency funds, etc. Even without going into a trust and with $1,000 to $5,000 grants, that would help over 8,000 artists. It might be tackling a smaller problem, but imagine the kind of creativity and art that could be cultivated in our community.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Film student steps outside comfort zone to find success

May 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Everyone thought Marylyn Aguilar would pursue a career in singing, but it took an essay and some tears for her to find her own path. Photo of Marylyn Aguilar Marylyn Aguilar. Photo by Reeb Menjivar Download Full Image

“Growing up, I focused my attention on academics and music classes, specifically singing,” said Aguilar, a film and media production major graduating from Arizona State University. “The people in my life assumed I would go on to college to study teaching or vocal performance. It was expected of me. But I knew better and understood I wanted to do something different with my life.”

Her junior year at Maryvale High School, she received an assignment to write an essay on her future and her career goals.

“Attempting to write the essay, I began to cry,” she said. “At that moment, I was anxious. I had no desire to pursue my other interests as careers, but was clueless as to what path to follow.”

Francis Ford Coppola’s film “The Outsiders” played in the background. It wasn’t a film Aguilar particularly liked, but it changed her life.

“It made me realize I wanted to develop stories in that medium,” she said. “With film, I was able to not only conjoin all my interests, but also explore a creative outlet that was outside of my comfort zone.”

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: During my time at ASU, I realized that I'm more of a kinesthetic learner than a visual one. In film school, most of my learning came from hands-on practice. I didn't feel comfortable directing, editing, writing a script or even touching a camera until I did it. I am grateful I learned this about myself sooner than later, it's made me into a better filmmaker in the long run. Many of the stories I write are experiences I witnessed or experienced myself. I always tell myself, "Try it and then execute it."

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose to attend ASU because it was close to home, but it also has a well-established film program.  

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't be afraid to try new things and keep your mind open. Seize every opportunity and run with it. College can be beautiful, so talk to everyone and make connections. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot on campus was, surprisingly, Hayden Library. I would pack snacks, buy coffee and persuade a bunch of friends to reserve a room to study in for hours. I've had the greatest conversations and wrote my best papers there. I have a special place in my heart for Hayden Library – it’s gotten me through some rough nights. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After I graduate from ASU, I will be attending the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles. I begin school in the fall with my younger sister. I will continue studying film in the school's Digital Cinema program. I am genuinely excited to begin the next chapter in my life. More than ever, I feel I am in a position to confidently embark on my career without hesitation. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: It takes so much more than $40 million to solve any problem on Earth, however, if I had the money, I would invest in education in Guatemala and Honduras. It would be a dream to aid my family's homelands in that way. The youth (specifically females) are the primary victims in these struggling countries. They die every day. Young people should not have to give up their chance to learn, let alone lose their lives because of the actions of corrupt governments. I wish to one day actually make an impact with my career.  

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Bringing him home: ASU alum returns in starring role in 'Les Misérables'

Nick Cartell will perform as Jean Valjean in 'Les Mis' at ASU Gammage May 15-20

April 26, 2018

Arizona State University alumnus Nick Cartell is returning to the ASU Gammage stage May 15-20 in his dream role: Jean Valjean in the Broadway touring company of “Les Misérables.”

Cartell, who grew up in the Phoenix area, said his love for theater began at a young age.  nick cartell Nick Cartell will be playing his dream role in "Les Miserables." Download Full Image

“It all started when I went and saw a school field-trip version of ‘Cinderella’ in seventh grade,” Cartell said. “Right then and there I was like, ‘This is something I want to do.’ There was something about it that sparked my interest.”

That spark grew to a passion for performance. Cartell spent his childhood singing, performing in community theaters and watching Broadway tours at ASU Gammage, and he eventually decided to get his BFA in theater performance from ASU. 

“I remember sitting in the balcony and watching ‘Les Mis' with my parents and thinking, ‘Wow, this is amazing. I’d love to do this show someday,’” Cartell said of his visits to ASU Gammage. “I vividly remember, so to be able to now bring this show back to ASU Gammage and to where I received this amazing award is really full circle.” 

Cartell was awarded ASU Gammage’s Rising Star award in 2014 when he first came to perform at the theater in the Broadway touring cast of “Phantom of the Opera.” He also has performed on Broadway as Jonah in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and can be heard on the original Broadway cast recording of “Scandalous.” He previously performed in “Les Misérables” at Phoenix Theatre in the role of Marius, but Jean Valjean is his favorite so far.  

“It’s one of those bucket-list, dream roles of mine,” Cartell said. “I mean, it truly is one of the biggest roles in musical theater for men. I have some very big shoes to fill.” 

Cartell is so proud of the tour, cast, crew and storyline. He believes it’s a show audiences can find a piece of themselves in. 

rising star award

Nick Cartell holds his 2014 Rising Star award next to Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage. Photo by Tim Trumble

“There’s a reason it has been running for 33 years,” Cartell said. “It’s a story about redemption, love and forgiveness and fighting injustice and trying to make the world a better place and truly about the human spirit and not losing that.” 

The audition process for Cartell was rigorous. He went through various callbacks against numerous talented performers.  

The day before Cartell’s final callback, he received a devastating call. His mother, Kathy Cartell, had lost her battle with ovarian cancer and had passed away at age 64.  

“That was very tough, but my parents are so supportive,” Cartell said. “When I heard she wasn’t doing well, I wanted to be there. Both my mom and dad said no. They said, ‘This is what you have to do. This is your dream. This is life-changing, and you know that you have our full support.’” 

Per his mother’s request, Cartell went into his final audition and landed his dream role. 

“I know she was on my shoulder that day, and it’s definitely an honor to get to do the show every night and think of her,” Cartell said.  

Now, in memory of his mother, Cartell and his wife, Christine, produce a benefit in her honor. Cartell said he couldn’t imagine where he would be without his wife of nine years.

Nick met Christine in line at the currency-exchange counter in Tokyo when they were both on entertainment contracts with Tokyo Disneyland.

“I’m so lucky to have somebody that is as understanding as she is and as supportive. She truly is a champion for me and my career. She’s also an actress, so she has her own auditions. I know she works sometimes 10 times harder than I do; I’m so proud of her and everything she has accomplished.” 

This year will be the second year they host Broadway Fights Ovarian Cancer in New York. Last year, the event raised more than $14,000 for Discovery to Cure, which works to enhance prevention, detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. 

“We’re teaming up with them again to make it bigger and better in her honor,” Cartell said. 

The event takes donations through the organization’s GoFundMe. Those who donate $150 or more will receive a private link to view the benefit concert online. 

“If you can’t make it to New York, you can still join us for that night, and you’re also donating money to a wonderful organization that fights to find a cure for ovarian cancer,” Cartell said. “That’s cheaper than a trip to New York, but you’re also still getting a fantastic evening.” 

Cartell said he is so grateful to be coming back to his hometown on tour. He can’t wait to reminisce and perform at ASU Gammage once again.  

“I sing a song in the show called ‘Bring Him Home,’ and I really feel like I get to bring 'Les Mis' home,” Cartell said. 

Purchase tickets to 'Les Miserables' through the ASU Gammage website or at the box office.


Spring dance concert showcases highlights from the year

ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre will show off the best works of 2017–18

April 18, 2018

Each year students, faculty, staff and visiting artists in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s dance program create a number of works. This weekend, audiences have the chance to see a selection of some of the most memorable pieces from the 2017–18 season at the school’s SpringDanceFest production at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse.

“We were really excited to use SpringDanceFest as a platform to highlight the breadth of performance and creativity in the dance area,” said Assistant Professor Marcus White, who is the co-artistic director for this year’s show with Professor of Practice Melissa Britt. “There are so many different types of bodies doing a variety of practices, and we wanted this annual event to celebrate dance at ASU.” Poster for SpringDanceFest with dancer in different poses SpringDanceFest is April 20-22. Download Full Image

One way SpringDanceFest is showcasing the wide scope of dance at Arizona State University is through an expanded intermission. During intermission, a “Get Up and Dance Break” will give audiences a chance to watch, experience, and participate in interactive performances if they want.

“We were interested to find ways for people to move their bodies and to center the amazing work of some of our student-led initiatives,” White said.

Friday’s dance break, curated by the Urban Arts Club undergraduate organization, features live music and dancing. The Salsa Club and Devil Dance Sport bring social/partnership dances to SpringDanceFest on Saturday, and Sunday’s slot includes screenings of two dance films created by students.

In addition to spotlighting student clubs and the student dance films during the dance break, SpringDanceFest features student work as part of its regular program.

Tiffany Velazquez, an undergraduate dance major, choreographed a piece called “Nogitivity: Heartbreak – Falling in Love.”

“My piece is utilizing movement, spoken word, live singing, to gain greater understanding of the psyche’s shift from positive mindset to negative mindset,” said Velazquez, who used conversations with peers and her experience dealing with extreme negativity and finding positivity to create the piece. “I ask the question: Is maintaining a positive or negative mindset a choice?” 

SpringDanceFest also showcases faculty work and pieces choreographed by guest artists.

“The faculty give a prime example of taking what you know, creating a personal connection, expanding on that knowledge, and molding the knowledge so others can relate as well,” Velazquez said. “And the guest artists that came this year were versatile and aimed to satisfy dance forms that students are passionate about.”

Karen Schupp, assistant director of dance in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, teams up with Heather Landes, director of the School of Music and a flute player, for a short and intimate work featuring dance and Astor Piazzola's "Tango Etude No. 4.” “Jazz Savory Suite,” choreographed by guest artist Melanie George, will be the first jazz work to be included in SpringDanceFest. George, the founder of the Jazz Is... Dance Project, visited ASU this semester for a short residency where she taught master classes and worked with dance students.

Velazquez said seeing dance work created by her peers and mentors this year and being a part of some of that work has helped her grow as an artist, and she’s excited to see memorable pieces from the season on the stage this weekend.

“The dance works I have had the opportunity of being a part of challenged my technique skill and equally challenged my artistic voice,” Velazquez said. “There is so much to gain from this program and you can see the artists here listening to their education.”


When: 7:30 p.m. April 20–21; 2 p.m., April 22

Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, ASU's Tempe campus.

Admission: $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for seniors; $8 for students. Purchase tickets online or call the Herberger Institute box office at 480-965-6447.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


image title

A convening with meaning

April 4, 2018

ASU-led initiative The CounterAct Convening calls for 880 artistic actions to counter sexual assault and promote healthy relationships

Art isn’t always about entertaining the masses and making people feel good — it can also be used as a powerful tool for social justice and cultural change.

That’s what “The CounterAct Convening,” an ASU-led grass-roots effort to deploy multidisciplinary artists to foster dialogue and address the national challenge of sexual assault and violence through cultural solutions, was all about.

Timed to kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Convening is part of the CounterAct initiative, which aims to spur 880 artistic acts to counter the 880 acts of sexual violence that occur each day in the United States. The pilot program debuted April 4 at ASU’s Memorial Union on the Tempe campus and is intended as a national model.

“One of the most powerful things the arts can do is make the invisible visible,” said Steven J. Tepper, the dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, which is helping to coordinate the campus-wide effort. “The arts have incredible capacity to interrogate our world in a way to see things we didn’t see before.”

Tepper called the initiative a “bold experiment and an urgent issue” where artists can offer ideas, talent and solutions to prevent and counteract sexual violence.

“Collectively, we think we can shift the culture,” Tepper said. 

The daylong event drew more than 150 ASU faculty, staff and students to address sexual violence prevention, response strategies and ways to promote healthy relationships. It also featured workshops and a keynote address from filmmaker Tani Ikeda, creator of the #SurvivorLoveLetter project and co-founder of imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that supports young female artists working with virtual reality.

Ikeda told the audience that she was raped several years ago a few days before Valentine’s Day — a day that, for many survivors, is an anniversary of sexual assault and violence.

“I came of age how most girls become women — through violence,” said Ikeda, who said she suffered through years of turmoil and nightmares and at times contemplated ending her life. She said she began to heal when she wrote herself a love letter three years ago, which she called a “radical act of self-love” and was the genesis of #SurvivorLoveLetter.

Ikeda said her art has become a healing balm that she has applied to all areas of her life — but she still has her bad days.

“I still wake up with fear, depression and rage,” Ikeda said. “But when we do emerge and rise from the ashes, we come back more beautiful and walk with more purpose in our art.”

Other topics explored included trauma-informed social and civic artistic practices; sexual violence prevention and response strategies; and using art and design as a tool for cultural change.

Nik Zaleski, co-creative director of CounterAct, said participants of the initiative will be eligible for a seed-grant program supporting creative actions. The actions, she said, will vary in size from creating a Facebook meme on sexual violence to an app for Alexa to a yearlong salon series hosted by several artists.

“These cultural problems demand cultural solutions,” said Zaleski, who is a civic practice theater artist rooted in Chicago. “ASU is a leader in innovation, and what’s more innovative than centering creative practices to address this problem on a national scale?”

Freshman Djuan Porter, a theater major in ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre, said he attended the Wednesday event because he “fell in love with the mission of CounterAct.”

“I will take some sort of action because it’s for the betterment of society,” said Porter, who said he’ll most likely gear his creative action in the direction of the LGBTQ community. “I’ve always been a person who’s cared about other people.”

CounterAct is planning a large-scale multimedia dance for April 2019. The dance will include 880 intergenerational survivors and will weave together past and present learning and knowledge. For more information, visit the CounterAct website. To apply for a CounterAct seed grant, visit here.

Top photo: Filmmaker Tani Ikeda, creator of the #SurvivorLoveLetter project and co-founder of nonprofit imMEDIAte Justice, answers questions about her video project at the Counteract Convening event Wednesday on the Tempe campus. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU News


image title

ASU’s 'Science Exposed' merges art, science to increase awareness

April 2, 2018

For the second year, scientists from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and artists from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts have partnered for one-night-only performances of “Science Exposed: Bringing Science to Life through the Arts” that combine creativity, sound, dance and scientific curiosity.

Nine scientists have teamed up with 18 students to create 13 innovative artistic collaborations that explore the effects of Lyme disease, how opportunistic germs can exploit the human body, and discussions of human behavior, sex and AIDS, among others. The teams have been practicing the past few weeks at the Biodesign building.

ASU researcher Christine Lewis. Image by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Dance legend, choreographer, MacArthur Fellow and Herberger Institute Professor Liz Lerman has brought her students to the Biodesign laboratories to create an artistic experience that illustrates research and scientific work.

“We’re so happy to partner with Biodesign for a second year as we move forward in exploring the relationship between pedagogy, research and the interdisciplinary practices of art and science,” Lerman said. “After nine generous and curious scientists told us about their work, the students selected one to partner with and then went on to work together to make something that is partly legible, partly personal and partly informative.”

These performances, which will be showcased all throughout the Biodesign building, aim to spur creative thought and cross interdisciplinary borders, and to communicate and educate the public on different ways of seeing the issues of our time.

One such collaboration called “AIDS: Life-Altering, Not Life-Limiting” explores what people can do to change their behavior when it comes to discussing sex. School of Life Sciences Director Bert Jacobs will be working with students Muneera Batool and Tiffany Velazquez. Jacobs is also a professor and member of the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy. 

As an HIV educator, Jacobs said it’s really important to change people’s behaviors to reduce the risk of getting HIV. But “teaching doesn’t always get people to change their behaviors," he said.

"Using the arts in a visceral way to tell this message and working with artists to convey this information is important,” Jacobs said. “It’s been great working with the artists.”

Batool and Velazquez knew from the beginning that they wanted their work to destigmatize AIDS and to question our behavior toward patients who have been living with it.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

“For the people without AIDS, it’s important to tell them what behavior changes they can have to save themselves from getting infected,” Batool said. 

Another collaboration, “Sal’s Genetic Tweekery,” features dancers Elle Spinelli and Quinn Mihalovic working with Cheryl Nickerson, a School of Life Sciences professor with the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy. The piece explores how salmonella reacts, changes and survives in different environments within and without the human body.

“We unravel how we have interpreted the information about salmonella from Cheryl, while utilizing gestures, text and other elements to give our best explication of the amazing and innovative work the Nickerson lab is doing,” Mihalovic said.

The scientists participating are Athena Aktipis, Christine Lewis, Bert Jacbos, Carlo Maley, Grant McFadden, Cheryl Nickerson, Scott Sayers, Pamela Winfrey and Arvind Varsani. The students participating are: Mac Allen, Muneera Batool, Coley Curry, Taylor Ford, Geneva Foster Gluck, Tasha Love, Manon Goodrich, Tatiana Jacques, Emily Laird, Tremayne Manahane, Sumana Mandala, Lauren Mark, Quinn Mihalovic, Neda Movahed, Matt Nock, Mary Raunikar, Elle Spinelli and Tiffany Velazquez.

Dance students and ASU researcher Scott Sayers. Image by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Part of the “Science Exposed” performance includes an excerpt from “Still Crossing,” which was a commission from "Dancing in the Streets" for the centennial celebration of the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

“Exploring the unknown is the tie that binds science and the arts,” said Dianne Price, Biodesign Institute director of communications, who along with Lerman launched this novel program last year. “Connecting intellect to emotion, sound, movement and sight can spur innovation and creative thinking. Researchers who have participated in past artistic pursuits reported that it opened their mind to new ideas and explorations.”

If you go ...

The “Science Exposed” performances are free and open to the public. They will take place on Wednesday, April 4, at the Biodesign Institute. Performances will begin at 5 and 7 p.m. After the 7 p.m. performance, there will be a wine-and-cheese reception at the James Turrell Air Apparent Skyspace sculpture, where Joe Blattman will lend his talent with flamenco guitar music.

RSVPs are requested. RSVP at


Top photo: Dance student Taylor Ford practices her dance based on the photosynthesis research of ASU graduate assistant Christine Lewis during preliminary rehearsals at the Biodesign Institute building on March 21. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now