Innovation at Arizona State University often comes in the form of research, business ideas and technology. In the case of ASU alumna Amanda Prahl, however, innovation came in the form of literature, theater and music, demonstrated by her original musical, “Til Death.”
Prahl graduated from ASU in 2015 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in political science and English literature from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Immediately after graduating, she entered the MFA program in the theater department, where she earned her master’s degree in dramatic writing in 2018.
“As an undergrad, I was able to draw on my knowledge of politics and philosophy to enhance my creative pursuits, and my creative and literary knowledge made me better at understanding human nature, which is the core of politics, law and philosophy,” Prahl said.
Prahl began her undergraduate career on the pre-law track, intending to enter intellectual-property law to protect writers and creative works. However, she had her own passion for creative writing she could no longer ignore.
“I had always loved to write. Literally, all my life, I was writing stories, going to the theater and reading voraciously,” Prahl said. “But I had some very well-intentioned teachers who suggested that I couldn't really make a living as a writer, or that I'd be ‘wasting’ myself. The summer before my junior year, I realized that I still wanted to write, not just protect writers.”
This revelation led Prahl to add a degree in English literature, and from there, there was no turning back. Prahl combined her love for writing and theater to write an original musical that she used for her honors thesis and application to the MFA program for dramatic writing.
“I've never been one to fit into tidy boxes or definitions. So much of my college career has been about crossing disciplines and breaking new ground,” Prahl said.
As a graduate student in the School of Film, Dance, and Theater, who received support from the Lyric Opera Theatre, Prahl bridged the gap between theater and music at ASU.
“I was uniquely situated to create this multi-department collaboration and push forward into new territory. I hope this collaboration will last long after I've left ASU,” Prahl said.
The original musical, “Til Death,” debuted as part of the New Works series at the Kerr Cultural Center in March. Prahl says she worked on the production for years and was able to work with a fantastic cast and production team.
“Being able to share [the production] with family, friends and colleagues who had supported me along the way was just extraordinary. It meant so much to be able to see this vision come to life,” Prahl saud. “I have such a strong belief in the power of the arts, and of theater in particular. Stories are how we connect with each other, with the past and with the world around us. Getting to be a part of that is honestly a dream come true.”
Prahl says that attempting to create an original musical was her biggest challenge while attending ASU, but she was able to overcome it with help from those who believed in her.
“It's always a challenge to do something new, but the key to overcoming them, in my experience, is to find amazing people to meet that challenge with you,” Prahl said. “My own determination and hard work were important, of course, but it wouldn't have been possible without finding other people who believed it was possible too. Community changes everything!”
Prahl’s ability to cross disciplines during her time in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences allowed her to utilize her diverse knowledge in political science, literature and dramatic writing and forge a new path of innovation at the university and in her work as a graduate student.
“I'm a big believer that a liberal arts education is useful for everyone, regardless of their field. It's where we learn about humankind, what makes us who we are,” Prahl said. “I want to be telling stories that move people, make them think and bring them joy. If I'm doing that, I'll be happy.”