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Coming Together

Students performing in the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy play “On Thinking,” gather during a rehearsal Wednesday morning at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy.

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership students will be performing a play written by one of their own teachers at the Hannah Arendt Circle of Scholars at the University of California-Davis Humanities Institute in April.

FALA theater teacher Mike Levin wrote his play “On Thinking” while he was studying at Bard College in New York state in 2012. The play is an amalgamation of the German philosopher Hannah Arendt’s last writings, “The Life of the Mind.”

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy student Lovenia Libby, who plays the role of Hannah Arendt in the upcoming production of “On Thinking,” …

The book is a collection of her essays and lectures on thinking and how thinking is like having a conversation with yourself about life, death, love, hate, memories and humanity. Levin’s play was a 2013 finalist for the Best Storytelling Viola Award.

Arendt escaped the Holocaust during World War II and emigrated to the U.S. where she became a naturalized citizen. Her philosophic works deal with the nature of power, politics, authority and totalitarianism, including "Origins of Totalitarianism" and "The Banality of Evil." She was working on "The Life of the Mind" when she died in 1975.

Levin said the play draws from many aspects of Arendt’s life and works and is a kind of combination of modern dance, play, music, biography and technology.

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy student Hanna Van Belle playing the role of Olivia in the upcoming production of “On Thinking”, sits sti…

“It’s a play about a little bit about everything and nothing,” Levin said. “It’s kind of hard to explain.”

“It’s been a very different process from any other play that I’ve been in,” said FALA student Emma Collier.

It’s not a typical play with actors who speak their parts, said Heather Giovale, another student. It has so many different pieces that had to come together: music, dance and speaking roles.

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy student Lovenia Libby playing the role of Hannah Arendt in the upcoming production of “On Thinking”, is …

FALA students have performed the play in the past. About a year and a half ago, a professor from San Diego State University contacted Levin and asked if FALA students would be interested in producing and acting out the play again, this time in front of the Arendt Circle of Scholars, a group of people who are very familiar with Arendt’s work.

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Levin said the timing was perfect. Two movies on Arendt’s life have come out in the last few years and recent geopolitical events have brought authoritarian politics to the forefront of public debate.

However, the play needed a bit of updating. So, Levin let his advanced theater students loose on the production.

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy students performing in the upcoming production “On Thinking”, gather around Emma Collier who plays the r…

After a lot of research and studying, the students created a choreography to go with the play, picked the music and tweaked the dialogue and characters a bit. They also updated the play to include today’s technology and the impact it is having on humanity.

“He actually gave us a lot of freedom to make edits,” said Lovenia Libby, another student.

The updates make the play more relateable to today’s audiences, said FALA student Remy Phillips.

The work the students did on editing, choreographing and researching the play also shows that they’re more than just “mindless drones that we’re made out to be,” said Giovale. “We have the ability to engage in a conversation about something like this.”

The reporter can be reached at or (928)556-2253.


Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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