San José State University and the City of San José Extend Operating Agreement of Hammer Theatre Center for 35-Year Period

Editors note: This media advisory was distributed on June 25, 2020.

Corner view of the Hammer Theatre Center Box Office entrance.

Hammer Theatre Center. Photo: Christina Olivas.

Media Contacts:
Robin McElhatton, San José State University
O: 408-924-1749
E: robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

Steph Keay, Carla Befera & Co
O: 650-327-1200
E: steph@cb-pr.com

SAN JOSÉ, CA – June 25, 2020– The city of San José and San José State University have agreed to a new contract that allows the university to continue operating the Hammer Theatre Center for up to 35 years. The theatre, which is owned by the city of San José, is a state-of-the-art performance venue located in the heart of downtown San José at 101 Paseo De San Antonio.

In March, San City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the contract, which builds on a successful partnership initiated in 2016. San José Director of Cultural Affairs Kerry Adams Hapner told the council, “This has been such a successful model in so many ways.” She says, “We are looking forward to continuing a fruitful partnership that increases the cultural vibrancy of the downtown and brings long-lasting benefits to the city and SJSU.”

San José State has signed the agreement, which allows SJSU to operate the Hammer for the next fifteen years with additional options to renew through the year 2055. “This contract allows the Hammer Theatre to bring high-quality arts programming to San José for decades to come,” said College of Humanities and the Arts Dean Shannon Miller. “It also gives our music, theater, and dance students the opportunity to perform on the Hammer’s professional stage, and connects our campus community to the cultural and economic corridors throughout the downtown area.”

Formerly the home of San José Repertory Theatre, the architecturally striking, bright blue building sat vacant from June 2014 until SJSU took the helm in early 2016, investing approximately $2 million to renovate the facilities. “One of the hallmarks of the Hammer has been the diversity of our programming,” said Hammer Executive Director Christopher Burrill. “We have been attracting new audiences with a wide range of interests—not only theatre lovers, but also fans of dance, music, film, live talks, and much more, with programs that speak to all sectors of our multicultural community.”

For the past four years, the 528-seat theatre has presented an array of offerings including outstanding professional productions, community-based works, SJSU shows, and concerts, as well as dance, music, talks, film screenings—even live aerial performances with dancers suspended outside, scaling the sides of the iconic blue building. In addition to a complete renovation of the stage, and updated audio and lighting equipment to reflect the latest technology, an upstairs rehearsal space was transformed into Hammer 4, a black box theatre space designed for intimate productions such as Hammer’s “Black Cab Jazz” collaboration with San José Jazz.

In the last season, the Hammer presented nearly 200 events, drawing more than 57,000 audience members. From jazz performances to mariachi extravaganzas, the popular National Geographic Live! speaker series to the acclaimed National Theatre Live film screenings, Cinequest film festival presentations, ballet and modern dance shows, kid-friendly performances, live art and more, the Hammer’s mission is to serve the community through artistic and educational programming that express the unique characteristics and diverse cultures of Silicon Valley. The Mercury News raved, “It’s safe to say San José State has exceeded anyone’s expectations for the reactivation of the theater and have kept it as a vital community asset. That is certainly worth applauding.”

On June 15, 2020, the Hammer announced its plan to invest in additional technology to create a studio-quality, high-definition, multi-camera video environment that will allow the theatre to offer its audiences live stream events to view from home. These tech upgrades provide the Hammer the opportunity to offer high-quality alternatives for the short term—while large public gatherings are prohibited by COVID-19—and long term—for those who may not be able to attend a live event in person for accessibility reasons. To help with the effort, the Hammer has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 to pay for the refit of the theatre and to offer live stream content from its stage. For more information visit: power.sjsu.edu/hammertheatre.

About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations—offered through its nine colleges.

With approximately 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural, and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

SJSU Welcomes Secretary of State Padilla, Other Elected Officials for Election Security Town Hall

President Papazian served as the moderator for the election security town hall panel discussion featuring Secretary of State Alex Padilla and U.S Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren and Anna G. Eshoo. Photo: Jim Gensheimer.

President Papazian led off the election security town hall with remarks about the importance of participation in the voting process. Photo: Jim Gensheimer.

San Jose State University will play a major role in the upcoming California primary, and with this month’s Iowa Caucus raising questions about election security, the university hosted a town hall on the topic.

President Mary A. Papazian moderated the election security town hall featuring Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Congresswomen Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) Thursday at Hammer Theater. Before answering questions from the crowd, Padilla, Eshoo and Lofgren discussed legislation they are working on to stop voter suppression and why it is important for voters to feel like their vote matters.

“Voting may be, in fact, the most fundamental expression of our civic engagement. Educating our students on their civic responsibility and helping to equip them to be engaged in their communities is part of our public mission as educators,” Papazian said. “No matter the topic, San Jose State takes pride in its role as a regional convener of important issues, as a public square and venue where debate and discussion takes place.”

“We all remember what we were feeling on election day and election night in 2016. It was the first time we started hearing consistently words like ‘cyberthreats’ or ‘foreign interference.’ That single election year fundamentally changed, in my mind, the job of a secretary of state,” Padilla said. “I’m so proud of Californians because it would have been easy to give up hope, easy to say ‘well, if the election is going to be hacked, why should I vote anyway.’ How will we respond in 2020? Record registration yet again, and with your help, I am anticipating record turnout. That’s how we resist.”

President Papazian is assisted in cutting the ribbon by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. The first voting center in SJSU history will open Saturday, February 22. Photo: Robert Bain.

Before the town hall, Papazian, Padilla, Eshoo and Lofgren were joined by Assemblyman Ash Kalra and Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey in celebrating the opening of the voting center on campus with a ribbon cutting. This is the first time SJSU will serve as a voting center.

The center, located on the first floor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, will be open from February 22 to March 3. Santa Clara County residents can cast their primary votes in the voting center. SJSU will serve as one of 21 11-day voting center locations in the county.

“This is an exciting year for voter engagement and an important chance to continue the momentum we have seen with increases in youth voter turnout, especially as we take part in a presidential election and transition into a Voter’s Choice Act county,” Kalra said. “It is imperative that we continue to empower and engage young people, which will in turn decrease the disproportional representation in voter turnout and move us toward a more active democracy.”

The voting center will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 22 to Monday, March 2. On Election Day, March 3, the voting center will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

San Jose State also has two 24-hour ballot drop boxes on campus, with one in front of Clark Hall and the other located at Campus Village.

Watch the Election Security Town Hall

 

Play Promotes Dialogue on Gun Violence

SJSU’s production of Bang Bang You’re Dead runs at Hammer Theatre through December 7.

The curtain opens on a young man lying on a jail cot, haunted by the ghosts of four high schoolers—classmates he killed. William Matrosimone’s Bang Bang You’re Dead tells the story of a school shooting from the perspective of the perpetrator, a troubled teen named Josh who responds to years of bullying and insecurity by bringing his rifle to school.

San Jose State’s School Touring Ensemble Program, directed by Theatre Arts Professor Buddy Butler, performed the play at three Silicon Valley high schools in late November before arriving at the Hammer Theatre for free live performances December 4-7. Butler will host talk-backs following each show, culminating in a community discussion on December 7 involving the city of San Jose and local chapters of anti-violence groups Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.

Butler said it is especially important to bring the performance to high schools, many of which practice routine shooter safety drills, and some of which have experienced threats of gun violence. The play gives insight into the shooter’s frame of mind, grapples with toxic masculinity, peer pressure and bullying.

The play is being presented as part of the College of Humanities and the Arts’ Borderlands series, which explores blurring boundaries, breaking barriers and building bridges. Butler sees theatre as an opportunity to provoke conversation around difficult issues—and in this play’s case, break down the psychology of a largely American phenomenon.

“I see the play as breaking barriers that are placed on our young people attending public and private schools today,” said Butler. “The barrier of safety and security has been blurred. Schools were once a place where we sent our children to learn and grow in a healthy and safe environment. That is no longer the case. There are gun violence drills, not just earthquake drills. We have created borders around and within our schools. Bang Bang You’re Dead is a resource for dealing with a broken world that is violent, unhealthy, unfair and beyond of anyone to fix except today’s generation. We cannot exist and grow in a world that festers fear.”

Between being haunted by ghosts and attending an imaginary trial of his crimes, the protagonist remembers his first time hunting deer. He does not want to kill the animal, and yet is rewarded for ending its life. Throughout the play, his four dead classmates repeat a chilling refrain: “You make your face a mask. / A mask that hides your face. / A face that hides the pain. / A pain that eats your heart. / A heart that nobody knows.”

Butler first produced the play at SJSU in 2013, following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. At the time, he felt America had “reached its height” of school tragedies, though incidents in the years since have proven otherwise. According to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization that has documented gun violence at schools since 2013, there have been at least 492 incidents of gunfire on American school grounds over the past six years, resulting in 188 deaths, including 33 suicides and 377 injuries, including six self-harm injuries. Butler’s teenage daughter, who attends high school in San Jose, has been warned of threats of gun violence on campus as recently as October.

Bang Bang You’re Dead is a sobering show,” Butler said. “It forces students to ask themselves, how would the world be different without you in it? What happens to your potential? I hope this is the last time we produce this show—that we can put this issue to rest—but it probably won’t be. There’s no cure for this phenomenon. That’s why we need to talk about it.”

Bang Bang You’re Dead will be at the Hammer Theatre Center’s Hammer 4 Theatre on December 4, 5, 6 and 7. Reserve tickets.

 

Dreamer Project: An Undocuplay at Hammer Theatre through November 24

Photo courtesy of Hammer Theatre Center.

Seventeen actors stand in a circle facing the audience. One by one they address the crowd and say a number—”Seven!” “Three!” “Ten!” “Four!”—until the final actor says, “I was eight months old when I was brought to the United States.” The actors, San Jose State students and alumni, bring the words of fellow Spartans to life in Dreamer Project: An Undocuplay, a verbatim theater project created from interviews with SJSU undocumented students by SJSU Film and Theatre Lecturer Kathleen Normington. The performance opened at Hammer Theatre Center on Friday, November 15, and runs through November 24.

“You hear these stories and ‘DACA’ or ‘undocumented’ are not labels anymore,” said Normington. “They are people with stories that we will remember. That’s what I’m hoping.”

Undocumented individuals come to the United States from all over the world in a variety of ways. Some undocumented students qualify for AB540 and AB2000, California legislation that allows undocumented immigrants who have attended elementary, middle or high school in state for at least three years to pay in-state tuition. The 2011 California Dream Act made it possible for undocumented students meeting specific requirements to qualify for state-funded financial aid. Some are eligible for two-year work permits through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a federal immigration policy introduced by President Obama in 2012. Unless undocumented immigrants have been granted DACA, they are not legally authorized to work.

Undocumented immigrants who pursue any of these options must sign an affidavit that discloses their immigration status to the government. Regardless of their status, at San Jose State they are united by a common goal: to pursue an education.

Normington was unaware of the significant challenges faced by her undocumented, DACA and AB540 students until one of them approached her on November 8, 2016—the last presidential election. The student lamented that she wished she could vote, sparking a conversation about the complexity of the immigration system and the competing desires of high-achieving students who sometimes felt limited by their status. Normington began interviewing students with the idea that perhaps there would be a concrete way to educate others about this reality.

By spring 2018, she had assembled a script based on interviews with more than 30 students. Normington assembled a student cast, revised the script and workshopped the play in fall 2018 with a one-night performance at Hammer Theatre. Following the show, the Department of Film and Theatre funded Normington’s full production as part of the 2019-2020 Borderlands: Immigration and Migration in the 21st Century programming, which focuses on blurring boundaries, breaking barriers and building bridges.

“I have been at San Jose State for 20 years and, before the 2016 election, I’d never had a student reveal their immigration status to me,” said Normington. “This has been a journey to learn more so I can better understand our students. I have so much more empathy and understanding, not just for undocumented students, but for all of my students. You don’t know what somebody’s going through until you walk in their shoes. And I want everyone to feel like they have walked in the shoes of one of our students by the end of each performance. It will grip you.”

Throughout the creative process, Normington returned to her interviewees, collaborated with dramaturg Cándido Tirado, consulted with community leaders from the UndocuSpartan Resource Center and with other faculty members, and updated the script to keep up with changes in immigration policy and national rhetoric.

“I hope people see a different side of illegal immigration,” said Jose Garcia-Gomez, ’19 Theatre Arts, who recited his own life story in the play. “I know they will. I hope more undocumented people come out of the shadows. I want people to know that we want basic human rights and nothing more. We are not dangerous. We are not criminals. We are innovators. We are artists. We are students. We are parents. Since all of us are SJSU students, I think this has a positive impact in our community.”

Tickets for Dreamer Project: An Undocuplay are available on the Hammer Theatre Center website: $10 with valid student ID; $20 general admission.

 

Sixteen SJSU Student Teams to Share Their Innovative Prototypes at April 8 Paseo Public Prototyping Festival

Ian Lee, Ryanne Zertuche, Natasha Mislang, Matthew Montero, Alberto Reyes

Team Illuminate seeks to bring light driven sculptures to downtown San Jose. Members include Ian Lee, Ryanne Zertuche, Natasha Mislang, Matthew Montero and Alberto Reyes (photo by Assistant Professor Craig Hobbs).

Media contacts:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748
Robin McElhatton, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1749

SAN JOSE, CA — Sixteen teams of creative and imaginative San José State University students will showcase their technological solutions for many of their city’s most pressing issues – including downtown safety, traffic congestion, the homeless, and support of local small business entrepreneurs – on Saturday, April 8, at the Paseo Public Prototyping Festival in downtown San Jose.

The Paseo Festival Expo will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Hammer Theatre Plaza, 101 Paseo De San Antonio. In the evening, teams will present their final pitches from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the Hammer Theatre Center main stage.

Along with the student team competition, the festival will feature other exhibitions and speakers focused on art and technology, science and engineering, as well as civic engagement.

Admission is free and the public is invited.

Students tackling pressing issues

In preparation for the festival, students majoring in art, design, engineering, business and the sciences have spent the past year in collaboration with fellow team members to develop and refine their proposed solutions for improving life for the people of the city of San José.

The student teams, selected by a competitive review process headed by university faculty members, as well as industry professionals, will demonstrate their prototype devices and apps and be available to answer questions throughout the daylong festival.

Concepts to be exhibited by the SJSU teams include:

  • A skateboard modified to generate electricity that can be used to charge a cell phone or power a headlight for the board to be safer at night;
  • An app to better control city traffic and enhance access to public transportation;
  • Devices to collect solar energy during the day in order to light up pedestrian walkways at night;
  • A social app enabling residents to follow the actions of their local government, while communicating with it to access services and report problems;
  • An inventory-tracking module to help local food entrepreneurs provide fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods to city residents;
  • An app to help drivers more efficiently locate available parking spaces near their downtown destinations, while eliminating excess traffic jams;
  • A collaborative educational game that encourages learning and offers first-hand experience, while keeping students continuously engaged; and
  • An app that helps individuals with niche interests and hobbies find other like-minded persons as well as events and organizations related to those pursuits.

A skateboard that generates electricity

“San José State University students are making a difference through their creative and technical talents,” said Gary Craig Hobbs, faculty director of the Paseo Prototyping Challenge and Festival. “The festival is the culmination of a year-long civic innovation challenge designed to incubate solutions to pressing social and environmental problems in San Jose.”

One of the teams – Traxis Design – created the modified skateboard that features an axle team members call “a truck” that allows the moving board to generate electricity while it is used during daylight hours. The collected electricity can then be used later for multiple purposes.

“We ride a skateboard to get around, so one of our team members thought it would be really convenient to add features to create and generate a source of electricity that can be used later,” said Josh Siqueido, a senior finance major from Oxnard.

His collaborators on the Traxis Design team are Connie Jiang, a graduate student in human factors and ergonomics from San Francisco; Aaron Caprino, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from San Jose; John Chaloeicheep, a junior aerospace engineering major from San Jose; and Omar Riaz, a freshman software engineering student from San Jose.

Siqueido indicated that he and his Traxis Design team plan to stay together to market their creation and work to develop other innovative products in the future. A similar goal was expressed by members of other participating festival teams.

Collaborating with industry

In September of last year, San José State University – in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the City of San José, Intel, Microsoft and Autodesk – launched the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival.

The “Challenge” portion of the partnership was designed to create model solutions to social and environmental challenges in the city through student-focused multidisciplinary collaboration and technological innovation, according to Hobbs. “The festival will celebrate the culminating prototypes.”

A panel will announce the top three innovative creations from among the 16 teams, with first place winning $5,000; second place earning $3,000; and third place awarded $2,000.

(Editor’s note: SJSU Contributing Writer Barry Zepel wrote this release.)

 


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

 

 

Students Make Downtown San Jose a Better Place to Live, Work and Play

San Jose State University will launch the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival on 6-8 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Hammer Theatre Center

San Jose State University will launch the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival on 6-8 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Hammer Theatre Center.

SJSU Media Relations contact:
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1749, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University will launch the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival on Wednesday, September 21 from 6-8 p.m. The launch takes place at the Hammer Theatre Center, 101 Paseo de San Antonio Walk, San Jose. This event is free to the public and open to all ages.

Through partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and under the leadership of the College of Humanities and the Arts, the Paseo challenge asks San Jose State University students, “What will you create to make the city of San Jose an incredible place to live, work and play?”

The Paseo Prototyping Challenge is designed to incubate solutions to pressing social and environmental problems through multidisciplinary collaboration and technological innovation.

Following competitive review by SJSU faculty experts and industry professionals, 25 multidisciplinary student teams will be selected, mentored, and provided $1,000 in seed funding to develop prototypes for public presentation at the Paseo de San Antonio Public Prototyping Festival – an arts, culture and technology festival held on the Paseo de San Antonio corridor at the site of the Hammer Theatre Center in spring 2017. The Hammer is operated by SJSU.

A public opinion survey gave students insight on what issues need to be addressed in downtown San Jose.

“Homelessness, safety, and transportation were top concerns among San Jose residents,” said Corinne O. Takara of Okada Design, which conducted the survey. “Residents provided such thoughtful, forthcoming feedback and were so appreciative of being heard. I hope this information will help students build impactful prototypes that will address some of the residents’ concerns.” A short collection of audio survey results is available online.

The San Jose State University’s Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival is funded by the Knight Foundation and Intel, with sponsorship support from Microsoft Civic Engagement and The Tech Museum of Innovation.


About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 8,900 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 250,000 alumni, 65 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.