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ASU students share life lessons through acting

May 08, 2015

Ciara Archer came to ASU with the goal of becoming a journalist, but she had no idea she would add singer, dancer, writer and comedy sketch artist to her resume.

When she was a sophomore, Archer joined DisOrientation, a student-led comedic drama and sketch poetry production, where current students reveal the "real deal" of campus living.

Archer remembers her first impression of DisOrientation during her initial week at Arizona State University.

“The cast members were putting their lives out there for everyone to see, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my life.’ I was just mesmerized because it was so cool. The fact that they wrote it all themselves and these were true stories really resonated with me,” said Archer, who is now a senior studying journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Under the direction of Pamela Sterling, an associate professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and an accomplished playwright herself, the production is designed to offer advice on everything from roommates to relationships – and a lot in between.

Going on its ninth year with a cast of 15 students, DisOrientation now plays to more than 3,000 first-year students during Fall Welcome.

"Everybody writes, performs and sings, whether you’re a good singer or not,” Sterling said. “Singing, dancing, performing, writing and composing or musicianship are the five main components. I’m looking for all types of students to apply to be part of the paid cast."

As a unique summer opportunity, DisOrientation allows current ASU students to try a new experience and share their Sun Devil stories. Participating students are not required to be theater majors. Past shows have included engineering, biology and math majors, along with Archer, a journalism major.

“We did a lot of trial and error. Some things worked and some things definitely didn’t work,” Archer said. “It’s great to see the dynamics between each of the cast members, because we all come with our own view on college and life. So to be able to have that voice and put it into the show was really unique.”

Accompanying an unforgettable experience for new students, cast members often experience personal growth during the production, Sterling said. A student from the 2014 cast, who is transgender, was able to tell the personal story of her transition, and the challenges it presented, with her parents in the audience.

“They heard some things they had never heard, that she had not been able to tell them. And after hearing her and seeing her tell this story, they came up and hugged me and thanked me for allowing her to have this opportunity,” Sterling said.

The benefits of becoming a cast member are many, according to Sterling. Besides offering a paid campus job, DisOrientation provides students with confidence, new skills to put on a resume and fun collaboration with fellow Sun Devils.

Auditions for DisOrientation will be held May 23-24 in the Fine Arts Center 131 on the Tempe campus. Rehearsals begin July 13, and performances will be held during Fall Welcome, Aug. 15-22. For information on how to apply, email before May 12.

Written by Jim Brophy,