C is for cults! Encyclopedia Show AZ provides a new take on old topic

Encyclopedia Show Arizona is tackling the topic of cults in its next performance

From dogs to puberty, the universe and now cults, the topics covered by Arizona's Encyclopedia Show are as diverse as the methods used to portray them on stage.

The Encyclopedia Show Arizona, sponsored by ASU's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, brings together students from different schools and majors to perform sequences that are tied into a larger story related to each show's particular theme. 

The performances, which are held at The Empty Space venue in the ASU Performing and Media Arts Building, can feature anything from slam poetry to dance and balloon animals.

The theme for the upcoming 39th Encyclopedia Show is cults.

Jennifer Linde, an artistic director of The Empty Space and a senior lecturer at the Hugh Downs school who sponsors the Encyclopedia Show, said the show seeks to portray cults in a way that deviates from how they're often depicted in pop culture.

“(The students running the show) don't want this show to be a glorification of violence,” Linde said. “I don't want performances that glorify some of the perceptions and misperceptions of cults. So, what I like about this group of undergraduate students is, they are being really mindful of that."

The show, which is based off the world-wide event of the same name that originated in Chicago, is hosted in Arizona and led by a student-run production board, which consists of ASU undergraduate students Fargo Tbakhi, Joley Hamilton, Molly Bishop and fall 2018 graduate Jaime Faulkner.  

Tempe’s iteration of the Encyclopedia Show has had multiple runs each semester since 2011, and Linde said the show excels in bringing students, faculty and the community together.

“A lot of people over the years have been local poets, musicians (and) artists who have come to ASU to be a part of the show," Linde said. 

Bishop, a junior double majoring in theater and communications and soon-to-be leader of the show's production board, said the show aims to convey its messages in fun and unexpected ways.

“We sometimes incorporate communication theory in surprising ways,” she said. “The way we host the show, and really what the show is about — about quirkiness, about questioning truth (and) about questioning where facts come from — is really unique.”

Bishop said the core values of the show are creativity, criticizing culture and having fun while doing so.

“We take a very critical standpoint on culture,” Bishop said. “The Encyclopedia Show is unafraid to ask hard questions."

Jaime Faulkner is one of the organizers for the show and graduated from ASU in December 2018 with a degree in communication. Faulkner said the show is a great way for people unfamiliar with performance art, which she said can sometimes be "a little high level," to gain a better understanding of what it’s like.

"The Encyclopedia Show is a really good way to get a little taste of what performance art can be," Faulkner said. “It is a very accessible entry point for performance art, and watching it as an audience. It's interactive, it's really fun and it's usually really funny."

Faulkner said the upcoming show will be the final one for her, Tbakhi and Hamilton, as it's the last one for the spring 2019 semester and the three of them are all either graduating or have graduated.

“I would just encourage people to come see," Faulkner said. "It's kind of hard to conceptualize if someone's explaining it to you. It's definitely going to be a spectacle, because it is our last show, so we are going to go out with a bang.”

The Encyclopedia Show will be held on April 5 at The Empty Space starting at 7:30 p.m.

Reach the reporter at tlhill9@asu.edu and follow @hilltroy99 on Twitter. 

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