Saturday, October 24, 2009

News Release: Halloween Eve "Neanderthal" Preview in SF from NOVA, Academy of Art & KQED

Media Contacts:
DP&A, Inc. / David Perry (415) 693-0583 /
WGBH, Boston / Carole McFall (617) 300-3988 /

Friday, October 30 SF’s Academy of Art Previews NOVA’s three-part special, “Becoming Human”

First 300 Guests Get “Neanderthal Trick or Treat” Bag
and Free Entry to a Special Reception

First-of-its-Kind Recreation of Neanderthal Physiology Modeled on Academy Students

Halloween-Eve “Create Your Own Early Hominid” Demos Offered by Academy Artists

23 October 2009, San Francisco, CA:
What does a Neanderthal wear to class?
On Friday, October 30 – Halloween Eve – members of the public can find out at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University ( Morgan Auditorium (491 Post Street). The question is more than academic for eight Academy student actors who got to find out what it’s like to be an early hominid ancestor – from the inside out -- as part of Becoming Human ( NOVA’s new three-part special examines discoveries that were unearthed throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe and explores what the latest scientific research reveals about our ancient relatives—transforming our understanding of our human past.

The highly anticipated NOVA special debuts on PBS stations nationwide, including Northern California’s KQED 9HD, beginning November 3. On Friday, October 30, from 5pm ‘til 6pm, the first 300 members of the public in costume will be admitted free to the reception and receive special “Neanderthal Trick or Treat” gift bags generously provided by KQED and the Academy of Art University.

Special prizes will be given for the “Best Neanderthal” and other costumes, Onstage, Academy makeup instructor Chris “Makeup Gourmet” Scott will help members of the audience learn how to look like a Neanderthal. At 6pm, honorary doctorates will be bestowed on John Alexander, Matt Rose, and Chad Waters – the team of Hollywood makeup artists who created the scientifically correct pre-humans for the NOVA Special. At 6:15pm NOVA Supervising Producer Stephen Sweigart will introduce a special preview of clips from the three-part series.

“This isn’t 20 Million Years BC,” quipped Diane Baker, Director of the Academy’s School of Motion Pictures & Television, whose students are featured in the NOVA special. “In all my years in front of the camera, I was never asked to do anything so challenging as what these students had to do: portraying the very essence of what makes us human.”

Baker, no stranger to the silver screen, is known for decades of iconic film work including starring roles in such classics as The Diary of Anne Frank, Marni, Strait Jacket and Silence of the Lambs.

“We believe in giving our students the opportunity to work on real life projects, and I am very proud of their contributions to this amazing project with NOVA,” said Dr. Elisa Stephens, Academy of Art University President. “ The arts are all about exploration, asking the big questions like ‘what makes us human’ and in this case, creating something at the crossroads of culture and science. We are honored to be a part of such a dynamic partnership with PBS.”

Academy of Art students featured in the third segment of Becoming Human are: Stu Chase, Christopher Jernberg, Brynn Kerin, Ben Nykaza, James Audi Rudzinski, Derek St. Mary, Kaitlin Rose Williams and Smret Yohanes. Their episode – the third episode in the three-part NOVA series – premieres on Tuesday, November 17.

Becoming Human examines what the latest scientific research reveals about our earliest ancestors,” remarked Paula Apsell, Senior Executive Producer for NOVA and Director of the WGBH Science Unit. “To bring our ancient human past to life in vivid detail, producer Graham Townsley collaborated with artists and scientists to create startling life-like images of early humans that are scientifically accurate based on fossil evidence. Audiences are in for a treat when they experience original animated sequences throughout the series as well as the scenes with Neanderthals in part three of the series, which showcase the work of the Academy of Art students.”

About NOVA:
To celebrate the 200th anniversary year of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book “On the Origin of Species,” NOVA will premiere Becoming Human Tuesday, November 3, 10, 17 and What Darwin Never Knew, a two-hour presentation on Tuesday, December 29, 2009. In addition to evolution-themed programming on-air, the WGBH Lab has partnered with NOVA and PBS Engage to launch an “Open Call” on its website for user-generated content around the theme of evolution. The challenge to viewers is to create a three-minute video that offers a personal perspective on the world in which they live. Selected submissions may be presented, via broadcast and broadband, in conjunction with NOVA’s spotlight programming on Darwin and evolution. For more information, visit

Now in its 36th season, NOVA is the most-watched primetime science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly. The series remains committed to producing in depth science programming in the form of hour-long (and occasionally longer) documentaries, from the latest breakthroughs in technology to the deepest mysteries of the natural world. NOVA airs Tuesdays at 8pm on PBS nationwide, including KQED 9HD.

About San Francisco’s Academy of Art University:
With nearly 16,000 students, Academy of Art University is the nation's largest private art and design university. Established in 1929, the school offers accredited AA, BA, BFA, MA, M.Arch and MFA programs in 15 different majors, as well as continuing art education, with classes in Advertising, Animation & Visual Effects, Architecture, Fashion, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture & Design, Motion Pictures & Television, Multimedia Communications, Photography and Web Design & New Media.. Game Design and Music for Visual Media are the school's newest majors, offering AA, BFA and MFA degrees. Students can also enroll in flexible online degree programs in most majors. Academy of Art University is an accredited member of WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), NASAD, Council for Interior Design Accreditation (BFA-IAD) and NAAB (M-ARCH). For more information, visit or call 1-800-544-2787.

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