Once way down, theatre grad student transforms role, receives CSU’s Hearst Award
At Cal State L.A., Asistio overcomes past,
Drug addiction. Bipolar disorder. Flailing, if not outright failing, financially. That’s not what Lesley Anne Asistio wanted to see as the role of a lifetime.
After years of turmoil, of being way down but never completely out, Asistio transformed her real-life character into an accomplished student and gifted budding playwright. Now a graduate student in theatre arts at California State University, Los Angeles, she will earn her master’s degree in June 2009.
Recognizing her persistence and determination, the California State University Board of Trustees will present Asistio with a 2007-08 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. She will be one of 23 students from throughout the 23-campus CSU system whom the board will honor at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18, in Long Beach.
Asistio—raised in Oxnard, CA, in a single-parent home—now resides in Los Angeles with her brother, following the recent death of her father.
“When I hit rock-bottom, I realized that that wasn’t real life,” says Asistio, 27. “I didn’t want to waste my life so I went back to school, determined to make my dreams come true.”
Her dream: To create a theatre company that empowers women and girls of color through arts education. “To eliminate stereotypes by creating new images of beauty,” she says. “Not to segregate, but to build alliances between the races and genders.”
She has produced two plays reflecting her push for positive social change, “Regrets” and “White Butterflies & Crying Myself to Sleep,” as part of Cal State L.A.’s Theatre Arts and Dance Department student productions. “White Butterflies & Crying Myself to Sleep” will be performed at The M Bar in Hollywood on Friday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m.
“College,” she says, “has given me the opportunity to evolve as a student, as an artist, and as a person. Now, I truly believe that I can make a difference in people’s lives and in the world. I wouldn’t have my goals and dreams, or the means to make them come true, without my education.”
Asistio, a 1998 graduate of Channel Islands High School, also participated in the 2006 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Playwriting Intensive and the 2007 CSU Summer Arts Solo Performance Workshop. She has also been a member of the Golden Key International and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies. She has received an Editor’s Choice Award for poetry and she has been on the Dean’s List at Los Angeles City College and Cal State L.A.’s College of Arts and Letters.
According to James M. Rosser, president of Cal State L.A., “Several years ago, this achievement would have been hard to foresee... Yet, she persevered, sharpened her focus, and followed an academic path that led her to attend several community colleges before coming to Cal State L.A., where she earned her bachelor’s degree.”
Stephen Rothman, professor of theatre arts at Cal State L.A., says, “Since I first met Lesley, she has evolved from studying theatre to writing, directing, and performing her own shows.
She shows a talent that in my mind is going to lead to great success in the professional theatre world.”
Calling Asistio compassionate and positive, her mentor Henry Levingston III, a resident service coordinator with the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles, says, “Her desire to help and change people’s lives through the performing arts is what I find remarkable. She is truly a role model that young and old people can value.”
Funded by personal contributions from the CSU Trustees, other friends of the CSU, and an endowment established by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the award provides $3,000 scholarships to students with financial need who demonstrate superior academic performance, community service and personal accomplishments. Asistio is the fifth CSULA student since 2000 to receive this award. Other recent recipients include Ana Jessica Diaz, William George Vine, Dion Davis and Alfredo Ruben Gay.
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