Building community by sharing Apache Junction ghost stories and other legends
City invites graduate-level students from Community Based Theatre course to deliver interactive community theater performances for the city.
CommunityApache Junction, Arizona, USA
Community Size41,739 (2018 Census Estimation)
UniversityArizona State University
Case TypeIndividual Project
School SizeGreater than 40,000
Focus AreasEconomic and Social Inclusion
RegionEPA Region 9, USA
Community Partner DepartmentCommunity Relations
PolicyHistory, Place Making, Sustainability, Theater
University Department CodeHistory, Theater
Sustainable Development Goals8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Community Population Sizes41739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Apache Junction is a city rich with Western history and legends, but negative perceptions—an under-performing economy and numerous mobile home parks—have overshadowed the City’s finest assets. City officials recently created the Positively Apache Junction marketing campaign in hopes of dispelling these negative associations. The hope is that by promoting the City’s wealth of cultural and natural strengths, city staff can foster community morale while attracting more visitors throughout the year.
One approach the city considered when developing the Positively Apache Junction campaign was to support a community theater program which could celebrate the City’s strengths and rich history.
To help refine the Positively Apache Junction campaign, the City invited graduate-level students from the Spring 2018 Community Based Theatre course to deliver interactive community theater performances for the city.
A member of the EPIC-Network, Arizona State University’s (ASU) Project Cities “connects higher education with local communities” (ASU Project Cities) to co-create sustainable solutions which progress cities toward a better future.
Apache Junction officials supported this partnership with the ASU Project Cities program in the hope it could demonstrate “how cultural assets can be used” to dispel negative perceptions while emboldening local histories. (Spring 2018 Guide p.17)
After conducting preliminary research of Apache Junction’s history, students split into four groups to “discover and devise ghost stories … drawn from the city’s history, legends, and landscapes” (Fall Guide). This approach was chosen as it was supportive of the Positively Apache Junction ethos and because ghost stories are a noteworthy asset of the City’s Western history.
Students refined their stories by reviewing literature to working with community members. Each team created a 15-minute, interactive performance which encouraged “intergenerational connection and community cohesiveness” based on the city’s rich lore. (Spring 2018 Guide p.51)
On April 15, 2018, the students performed back-to-back at Flatiron Park in Apache Junction. Stories included legends about notable cultural and natural assets throughout the city, including the Superstition Mountains and the Dirtwater Springs restaurant. Watch the performances below.
Thanks to audience participation and feedback, the students aptly demonstrated how culture, history, and the performing arts can blend to reveal the shared narratives and interwoven history present in any City. Students generated two recommendations to emboldened the Positively Apache Junction marketing campaign following their performances, which included:
- Encourage intergenerational engagement through communal artistic experiences focused on local histories and folklore.
- Incorporate the creative arts further into city planning to improve community engagement and artistic expression.
Arizona State University Project Cities Contact
City of Apache Junction Contact
This part of the project was completed as part of a collaborative effort between four classes over two semesters. To see the other projects visit the pages linked below:
- Undergraduate students identify historical sites of relevance within Apache Junction
- Graduate-level course identifies modifications to update Apache Junction’s tourism website.