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.


Devin R. Larsen


Steve Russell, Marshall Curry


Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
Community Size
41,739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Arizona State University
Project Cities
Case Type
Project Stories
School Size
Greater than 40,000
Focus Areas
Economic and Social Inclusion
EPA Region 9, USA
Community Partner Department
Community Relations
History, Place Making, Sustainability, Theater
University Department Code
History, Theater
Sustainable Development Goals
8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Community Population Sizes
41739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Population Type

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
Steve Russell
Program Manager
(480) 727-2698

City of Apache Junction Contact
Larry Kirch
Development Services

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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:

University Capital

Classes 1 Classes
Students 13 Students
Hours 1,872 Hours
Disciplines 1 Disciplines
Projects 1 Projects
Faculty Members 1 Faculty Members

"Apache Junction is surrounded by legends"

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