BWW Interview: Lance Gharavi of ASU's School of Film, Dance And Theatre, Including a Look at This Season
Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Dr. Lance Gharavi, the Artistic Director of ASU's Theatre Department. He is an extremely wise man that heavily emphasizes the influence of "diverse voices" in the theatre department, a topic that has become extremely relevant in the past couple of weeks. To those interested in ASU's Theatre Department or looking for a fresh outlook on theatre, Dr. Gharavi is definitely the one to take advice from.
Without further ado, here are some of the things Dr. Gharavi had to say about the program and his role with the school.
SUTTELL: Do you play a role in the casting process as Artistic Director? What does your job entail?
DR. GHARAVI: I do not cast shows unless I am directing it. I do two big things: I curate the season in collaboration with a committee of other faculty and staff and students. I work with them to come up with a season; we review proposals from other students and faculty and come up with ideas of our own. I also hire the guest artists; we work with several artists from around the metropolitan area and the nation that we invite to direct, design, or perform in our shows. Those are opportunities for our students to work with professionals in the field, which is another opportunity for students to network and gain experiences. It just enriches what we can offer.
Dr. Gharavi also emphasizes the program's use of "diverse voices". This season, three out of the five plays are written by women, which to him is simply a display of common sense. Dr. Lance Gharavi put it best, stating, "Sometimes I think leading is doing what should be obvious to everyone, but apparently isn't".
SUTTELL: What would you say sets ASU apart from The Other Theatre programs in the U.S.?
DR. GHARAVI: We are very much keeping with the character of ASU as an institution. That's an emphasis on "innovation", which a word that gets thrown around a lot with ASU, but it fits with what I described as our forward learning character. We don't do the same-old kinds of approaches to theatre performance, but we do something different. We're interested in being leaders in forging the theatre of the future instead of preserving the theatre of the past. We have a devotion to diverse voices, and a strong tendency to use new works that have been created through some sort of collaborative process.
Dr. Gharavi describes ASU's theatre department as different from the rest because of their forward-driven attitude. The program doesn't rely on age-old methods and approaches to theatre performance, but instead focuses on being "leaders in forging of the future" instead of relying what has been done in the past. He mentioned that the program has "a devotion to diverse voices, and a strong tendency to use new works that have been created through some sort of collaborative process".
SUTTELL: What are some of your priorities when choosing the new shows for each season?
DR. GHARAVI: There are three purposes that our program serves: the first thing is to educate our students. Everything we do is about that first and foremost. Secondly, for research and development in the arts. ASU is a research institution, and our faculty is dedicated to research in the field of theatre and performance. Many of them are devoted to innovation and pushing the art of theatre performance into the future, so that is a really important value for us. The third function that our season serves is to engage and enrich the set of communities in which we are embedded. These communities include the school itself of Film, Dance and Theatre, the Herberger Institute, the community of ASU, Tempe, the Phoenix Metro Area, of Arizona, the Southwest, etc, moving out from there. Another thing I look a lot at is why would our students care about this? What are the opportunities here for our students; is this a play that's going to be meaningful and speak in meaningful ways to our audience and to our students who are going to be working on it.
Dr. Gharavi also took some time to give us a look into this year's season, which revolves around two central themes: Science Fiction and Film (All descriptions are provided by various play licensing sites as well as Dr. Gharavi).
This Fall focuses in on the topic of Science Fiction and features two plays set in the very near future.
"The Nether" (Jennifer Haley) - The Nether is a virtual wonderland that provides total sensory immersion. Just log in, choose an identity and indulge your every desire. But when a young detective uncovers a disturbing brand of entertainment, she triggers an interrogation into the darkest corners of the imagination.
"The Compass" (Michael Rohd) - The Compass is a groundbreaking, live interactive performance that explores the intersection of technology and decision-making. At the center of The Compass is a trial, determining the fate of a young person who used the app to make a life-altering decision.
In between the two seasons lies a show called "Six Stories Tall", which has only been staged once in Chicago. It will feature a partnership between the theatre and dance department, using the mediums of spoken word, hip hop, rap, and more.
In the Spring, the program will feature a theme of "Film", using two plays written by women.
"The Flick" (Annie Baker) - In a movie theater near Worcester, MA-- one of the few that hasn't yet switched to digital film -- three employees work dreary jobs for just above minimum wage: selling tickets, cleaning up after patrons, and running the projector. Their tiny battles and not-so-tiny heartbreaks play out in the empty aisles, becoming more gripping than the lackluster, second-run movies on screen.
"By The Way Meet Vera Stark" (Lynn Nottage) - This "sharp-toothed comedy" (The Wall Street Journal) offers a glimpse into the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African American actress who begins a career in the 1930s, at a time when her only shot at success lay in stealing small scenes in big Hollywood blockbusters. Seventy years later, film buffs are left to reflect on the life and legacy of this controversial star, whose eventual fame and fortune came at the price of perpetuating dangerous stereotypes.
Thank you to Dr. Lance Gharavi for taking time out of your day to talk to me, I really appreciate every minute of your time! Be sure to take a look at ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre for more information about their upcoming season and admissions.