Monthly Archives: September 2010

Igor & son

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Rye Mullis (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

“He’s like a little director,” says Cory English, “telling everyone what to do.” English is touring the country with the Broadway musical “Young Frankenstein” — which runs Sept 27-Oct 3 at ASU Gammage in Tempe as part of the “Broadway Across America Arizona” series.

English has two important roles — Igor and father. We started a recent conversation by talking about his son, Sammy, who has been touring with English and his wife Sara (also an actor) since he was just three months old.

I asked English, who hails from New York but now calls London home, about the pros and cons of parenting on the road. The only real downside, it seems, is that children tagging along on tour enjoy less time around other children. “Adults love listening to his stories,” muses English, “but other kids aren’t as interested.”

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Rye Mullis (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

So how do they make sure that Sammy gets as much time with peers as possible? They’re masters at seeking out kid-friendly experiences in the cities they visit. In one city Sara found a Waldorf school their son was able to attend for six weeks — giving him a sense of place and structure.

English raves about the Chicago Children’s Museum and AcroSports in San Francisco, so I hope they’ll have a chance to explore the Children’s Museum of Phoenix while they’re here. I’m convinced it’s among the nation’s best.

“He has to adapt since we’re in a different city every week,” says English of his son. “He’s not afraid to go up to people and say ‘Hi.'” English praises Sara’s cooking (recalling how much Sammy loved the Waldorf school’s cooking class) — admitting that they do tire of restaurant fare.

Happily, they’re able to find preschooler favorites like “pasta and potatoes” in any city. Still, they travel with certain essentials for on-the-road meal preparation, including a Foreman grill, hot water kettle and Thermomix (which seems to do just about everything but wash the dirty dishes).

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Cory English (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

But what of his Igor role? English replaced the original actor on Broadway in late 2008, and began performing with the touring production in September of 2009. It never gets old, he says, because the show lends itself to a sort of spontaneity that breaks the “fourth wall” between performers and audience more often than most.

You don’t have to be a big musical theater fan to enjoy “Young Frankenstein,” according to English, who says he’s delighted to be performing in one of the few new musical comedies out there. English touts the work’s vaudevillian vibe — noting that the musical is based on Mel Brooks’ 1974 movie of the same name.

English notes that unlike some other musicals, “Young Frankenstein” is popular with both women and men. “There’s a lot of inuendo,” says English, “so just be prepared.” He adds that much of it will “go right over the heads” of children less than 8 years old, while 13- to 14-year old boys “will love this humor.”

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Rye Mullis (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

English’s first love was dancing. His advice to budding actors ages 10 to 16 or so is this: “Do it as much as possible — and enjoy it.” By about 17, he says, kids need to decide whether they’re really going to pursue it — and whether their parents will actually let them.

He notes that there are plenty of theater-related careers — stage managing, writing, directing. “Don’t do it if you don’t love it,” cautions English. “If you can do anything else, do it.”

“It’s a rough business,” admits English. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices.”

“There’s no way I would go out on the road without my wife and son,” reflects English. “No amount of money would be enough.”

So what’s his advice to young people eager to venture into the world of acting? “Get to know as many walks of life as possible,” suggests English. Wait tables. Be a hospital candy striper. Travel. Do odd jobs. For some, he says, it’s helpful to take a “gap year” between high school graduation and college.

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

Whatever your special area of interest, says English, just get out there and “be in the mix of it.” For musical theater, think NYC. For acting, think London — where you can study the classics and hone your storytelling.

I confessed to English as our conversation drew to a close that I hadn’t been all that keen on seeing “Young Frankenstein” before we chatted. He gave a hearty laugh when I shared that my I.Q. might be a bit lower than that of the average Mel Brooks fan.

Now I feel certain I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

–Lynn 

Note: Tickets for “Young Frankenstein” at ASU Gammage start at less than $25. Click here to learn about individual and season tickets, as well as special offers and promotions. Enjoy “Mel Brooks Movie Mania” at Madcap Theaters in Tempe on Sept 23 & 24 — which includes free movie screenings plus “contests, trivia and wacky prizes.” One lucky winner will receive tickets to “Young Frankenstein” opening night. Or join the cast for afternoon tea at The Ritz Carlton, Phoenix on Sept 29. Tickets to the tea run $35 and are available by calling The Ritz Carlton, Phoenix at 602-468-0700. Event includes chance to win four tickets and an exclusive opportunity to dine with the cast. Educators will enjoy the “Young Frankenstein” StageNOTES (TM) materials from Camp Broadway, LLC — which feature information for teaching history, language arts, life skills, behavioral studies and arts.

Coming up: Preview of the Black Theatre Troupe’s 2010-2011 season, which opens with a recent Tony-award winner highly praised by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and assistant vice president for cultural affairs at ASU.

Today’s tidbit: Paradise Valley Community College will host the Phoenix Astronomical Society by the PVCC telescope dome for a free (and open to the public) “PVCC Star Party” tonight from 6pm-10pm. Arizona Jewish Theatre Company holds auditions tonight from 7pm-9pm for their teen improv troupe. Interested teens ages 13-18 can call 602-264-0402 or e-mail gena@azjewishtheatre.org for an appointment (more details at www.azjewishtheatre.org).

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Artwork from ALAC in Phoenix

Some of the Valley’s richest cultural resources are tucked away in places you might not even know exist. I stumbled on one just the other day as I was parking for the Phoenix Symphony/Phoenix Theatre performance of “The Music Man.”

It’s the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center, just across the street from Phoenix Symphony Hall.

The center, also known as ALAC, is a consortium of local Latino groups and artists featuring Galeria 147 — which includes art exhibit spaces, a multi-use performance venue and a gift shop/bookstore. Their current exhibit, “La Phoeniquera,” features the works of Latino & Latina artists in Phoenix.

I wasn’t able to enjoy it because it’s closed Sundays and Mondays, but I look forward to touring the space in the future — perhaps during one of Artlink Phoenix’s “First Friday” events. I’m also eager to see their exhibit of newspaper sculpture and costumes by Christopher Plentywounds, which is titled “The Fine Art of Fine Print.”

"Hechale" by Eduardo Oropeza

ALAC is one of several organizations identified as a partner by the CALA (Celebracion Artistica de las Americas) Alliance, which will hold its kick-off event on Sept 24 at Phoenix Symphony Hall — a “signature concert featuring the exciting Grammy Award winning Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.”

Plans are underway for the first bi-annual CALA Festival — a two-month Valleywide celebration spotlighting “the vibrant artistic, musical and culinary offerings of the regional Latino community through various exhibits, concerts, street fairs and more.” Interested artists can visit their website to learn about the jury process.

"The Love That Stains" by Maya Gonzalez

Other alliance partners include XICO, which “promotes Chicano artists by nourishing the appreciation of the cultural and spiritual heritage of Latino and indigenous people,” and CPLC (Chicano Por La Causa, Inc.), “an organization dedicated to the well-being of Arizona’s economically-deprived communities by providing the tools to empower people and families to achieve their aspirations.”

If you’re eager to learn more about Hispanic culture, you’ll have plenty of opportunities during National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated Sept 15 through Oct 15.

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, notes that the month “celebrates the cultures of Americans who trace their ancestry to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.”

Local family-friendly events include “Fiesta Surprise” on Sept 18 and “Tempe Tardeada” on Oct 10. “Fiesta Surprise,” being held at the Surprise Stadium, features live music and dance, a kids’ fun zone and more. “Tempe Tardeada,” taking place at the Tempe Community Complex (near the Tempe Public Library), features music, dance and art exploring Tempe’s Hispanic roots and culture.

"First Aztec on the Moon" by Santiago Perez

Stay tuned to local venues — including museums, community colleges, universities, performing arts centers, libraries, parks and recreation centers, and bookstores — to learn about National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations in your area.

Online resources include www.pbskids.org, www.smithsonianmag.com, www.smithsonianeducation.org, and www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov — which notes that “the observance started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.”

September 15 is the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries, while Mexico celebrates independence on Sept 16 and Chile celebrates independence on Sept 18. Columbus Day (Oct 12) also falls during the 30-day period designated as National Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Cumpleanos de Lala y Tudi" by Carmen Lomas Garza

If your organization or venue offers events and activities to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, please feel free to comment below to let our readers know.

–Lynn

Note: To enjoy more Latino art, visit www.latinoartcommunity.org.

Coming: More season previews

An ode to “Frog & Toad”

I find myself in a bit of a bind. Recently I attended a preview performance of Childsplay’s production of “A Year With Frog and Toad” — featuring a strong ensemble of Childsplay artists including Dwayne Hartford (“Toad”) and D. Scott Withers (“Frog”), pictured above during the show’s final dress rehearsal.

I’ve since developed a nearly uncontrollable urge to tell every parent I see that they need to hop right over to the Tempe Center for the Arts.

The show runs Sept 18 to Oct 16 — Saturdays and Sundays at both 1pm and 4pm — and is recommended for ages four and up. It’s directed by David Saar, Childsplay’s founder and artistic director, whose work has earned both national and international acclaim.

Sing along at home to the "Frog and Toad" Broadway cast recording

I realize, of course, that I can’t simply run through the streets shouting an ode to “Frog and Toad.” So I’m toying with more subtle means of making my point.

Bumper stickers? Buttons? A bullhorn, perhaps? A “Frog and Toad” ballad. A duo of “Frog and Toad” busts. A billboard, perhaps?

But why so smitten?

Childsplay was a sort of first love for me — one of my earliest experiences as a parent with truly exceptional performance art for children and families.

Experiencing their performance of Steven Dietz’s “Still Life With Iris” at the Herberger Theater Center many years ago was akin to holding a newborn baby in all its splendor. Such joy. Such wonder.

I felt that way again many years later when Lizabeth and I went to see David Saar’s “The Yellow Boat,” a play inspired by the life and artistry of his son Benjamin, who was born with hemophilia and died in 1987 of AIDS-related complications following a blood transfusion.

Through the years, I’ve been impressed by a number of Childsplay productions. Their work is timely without being trendy, profound without being preachy.

The original "Frog and Toad" of Lobel's classic stories

So it is with “A Year With Frog and Toad” — based on a series of books written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel.

This Childsplay production features not only Withers and Hartford, but also Yolanda London, Molly Lajoie, Katie McFadzen and Tony Castellanos (who recently toured with “Jesus Christ Superstar” featuring Ted Neely).

There are lessons to be learned about friendship and patience. It’s full of wisdom, but also whimsy. The crowd I saw it with — ages preschool to parent — giggled and squealed with delight throughout the performance.

The music (by Robert Beale, who majored in jazz studies at ASU) is lively and diverse — from bluegrass to jazz. The scenic design (by Edie Whitsett) is beautiful — with bright, popping colors and seamless execution when the time comes to roll, raise, lower or slide. Spring flowers pop up from the ground. Gentle snowflakes fall down from the sky.

“Frog” and “Toad” are best friends who seem to do just about everything together. They swim, sip tea, ride sleds, fly kites, bake cookies (getting a bit carried away in the quality control department). Other critters populate their playtime (perhaps real, perhaps a dream) — including a snail who slowly manages to find a new calling in life.

Both the acting and singing in Childsplay’s “A Year With Frog and Toad” are exceptional, rivaling the quality of many a touring Broadway show I’ve seen through the years. Ditto for the costumes (designed by Karen Ann Ledger) — once again worthy of their own exhibition.

Childsplay’s current production of “A Year With Frog and Toad” also features music direction by Alan Ruch (who wrote words and music for “The Yellow Boat”), choreography by Michael Barnard (now in his 12th season as producing artistic director for Phoenix Theatre) and lighting design by Rick Paulsen (who recently lit Childsplay’s production of “The BFG”).

Sound design is by Christopher Neumeyer, projection design is by Anthony Runfola (who rocks it by adding a techo-friendly touch that’ll appeal to screen-savvy kids) and stage management is by Samantha Reis.

Poster for the Broadway production of "A Year With Frog and Toad"

“A Year With Frog and Toad” enjoyed a brief run on Broadway during 2003, garnering a Tony nomination for “Best Musical” as well as nominations for brothers Robert Reale (music) and Willie Reale (book and lyrics).

You know, maybe I’m on to something there with the whole Broadway/NYC thing. Anybody know how I can get my ode to Childsplay’s “Frog and Toad” on the giant screen in NYC’s Times Square?

–Lynn

Note: Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe will feature a teaching artist from Childsplay reading from Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” series at their “Explore-a-Story” family event on Sept 25 at 10am. The event is free and includes dramatic play that’ll guide children through “some of Frog and Toad’s best adventures.” Children and teens can enjoy training with the talented artists of Childsplay through various workshops and camps — click here to learn more.

Coming up: Musings on theater award season in Arizona, Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Family-friendly symphony

I had a lovely Sunday afternoon, enjoying the semi-staged, narrative-style performance of “The Music Man” — the first venture in a multi-year collaboration of the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre.

Think charming sets with lattice-laced blue and yellow porchfronts sporting charming screen doors. A barbershop quartet and gentlemen donning newsboy caps.

Think  tall white pillars topped with spring bouquets of gentle pastel tones. Ladies wearing crisp white blouses buttoned staunchly with cameos and adorned with large hats boasting fantastic feathers.

French horn meets mouse

We’ve been enjoying Phoenix Symphony concerts as a family since about the time our oldest could spell the word “symphony” — and they never disappoint.

Once we saw them perform while an artist created a giant original painting on stage. Another time they performed cartoon-theme music with cartoons rolling on a huge screen behind the musicians. The Phoenix Symphony has always excelled at family-friendly music and performance art.

I’m pleased to present a sneak peek at the 2010/2011 “Target Family Series” — followed by a look at pre-concert activities for children.

Enchanted Tales: Brundibar and Peter & the Wolf. Oct 10 at 2:30pm. Special guest: Phoenix Boys Choir. Both folk tales follow friends who come together in the face of those who bully or menace others. And “Peter & the Wolf,” with various animals represented by different instruments, is the perfect introduction to orchestral music.

"Peter & the Wolf" meets piano lessons

Hocus Pocus Pops. Oct 30 at 2:30pm. An afternoon of “tricks, treats and suspenseful music” including a murder mystery for children — Lemony Snickett’s “The Composer is Dead” — which also teaches children about instruments of the orchestra. Kids and grown-ups are encouraged to come in costume.

Orchestra from Planet X. Jan 29, 2011. Two “devious but somewhat bumbling space creatures” attempt to take over the concert as the symphony plays music ranging from “Symphony X” by Don Gillis to John Williams’ “Flying Theme” from the movie “E.T.”

Cirque de la Symphonie. Feb 26, 2011 at 2:30pm. “Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers and strongmen” perform as the symphony plays both popular music and classical masterpieces.

The Rhythms of the Earth. March 19, 2001 at 2:30pm. A concert dedicated to “our amazing planet” from desert to jungle — to include music from the “Grand Canyon Suite,” “Songs the Plants Taught Us” and more. Children leave with seeds to plant as the community prepares to celebrate Earth Day 2011.

Opera meets "Wild Things"

Pre-concert activities start in the Symphony Hall foyer an hour before each of the above concerts — and feature activities ranging from storytime and arts & crafts to a musical instrument “petting zoo” where children can try out various instruments. The cello and horns were always big hits with my kiddos — who went on to play flute, piano, saxophone and violin between them.

I’ve also chaperoned many an elementary school field trip to the symphony, but hadn’t realized until I visited their website recently that they also offer programs that send musicians to perform at schools. 

I was struck today by just how magical the venue can be for children–with a perfect blend of formality that makes the occasion feel special and a more casual ambiance that still feels warm and welcoming.

We’ve also experienced the music and musings of individual symphony members, who chat and perform periodically in venues like bookstores where children can see and hear just a small number of instruments up close (and for free).

Phoenix Symphony meets Ib Andersen's "The Nutcracker"

Lizabeth still recalls many other experiences with the Phoenix Symphony — seeing friends play in the “side by side” concert coupling the Phoenix Symphony with the Phoenix Youth Symphony, hearing Tchaikovsky’s music as Ballet Arizona performs “The Nutcracker” each year.

My favorite Phoenix Symphony memories are of lazy afternoons or evenings when Lizabeth and I would go to hear musical greats like Itzhak Perlman. At first I fretted when she only made it through half of a concert before falling asleep on my shoulder.

But then I realized it was a rare and special gift — Lizabeth drifting off to slumber amidst the tender sounds of the symphony, and me feeling the warmth of her cheek nuzzled against my neck.

There’s really nothing quite like it.

–Lynn

Note: Intermissions at Symphony Hall have a charm all their own — with impressive chandeliers and other interesting design elements to explore, a gift boutique with diverse offerings (my favorites this time around were miniature animals playing various instruments) and a choice of snack bars (including one with over-the-moon cheesecake and chocolate-dipped strawberries).

Coming up: My “first love” in theater is rekindled

Ballet Arizona photo by Rosalie O’Connor

Heads will roll

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs this world-premiere through Sept 25

Strangulations, decapitations and stabbings. Infidelity, revenge and betrayal.

It’s not another “reality television” series gone awry — but rather, the delicious adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy by Michael Flachmann, esteemed dramaturg of the Utah Shakespearean Festival since 1986.

Heads were rolling at the Mesa Arts Center on Friday as Lizabeth and I attended a world-premiere production of “Blood Royal,” directed by Jared Sakren, artistic director of the Southwest Shakespeare Company (also director and sound designer for this production).

“There are 27 moments of on-stage violence,” Sakren quipped during a cast/creative team “talkback” with audience members after Friday’s opening night performance. But who’s counting?

Apparently Sakren, whose research indicates that this is “four times what you get in Romeo and Juliet.” Sakren also notes that there are 45 major scenes — which explains the show’s length of more than three hours (there’s a single intermission). Still, there’s never a dull moment.

Cover art for the "Blood Royal" program depicts one of many fight scenes

Flachmann describes the work as “sprawling and episodic,” noting that 22 actors cover 76 roles (closer to 100 if you add in all those soldiers and such). It’s seamless from the audience perspective, but not so much for the cast and technical team backstage.

“My goal,” said one of the young male actors, “was to get into character, find a sword and get on stage without being impaled.” The piece features plenty of sword fights — something I imagine many boys would enjoy seeing, assuming mom and dad are okay with the play’s many depictions of death (including Joan of Arc being burned at the stake).

It seems a multitude of men wish to be king — a deadly desire that rarely ends well. All around them swirl a myriad of mischief-makers, from high-ranking religious figures to women with their own agendas.

Their sons, of course, fare no better fate. Two scenes we found particularly moving involved parents mourning their children’s demise. Randy Messersmith (co-founder of SSC) delivered a hard-driving performance as the Duke of York, a man made to mourn over the body of his murdered son before meeting his own violent end.

Lana Buss plays Margaret, who marries the way-beyond-wimpy King Henry VI (played by Larry Stone) for all the wrong reasons, and does justice to Shakespeare’s crafting of women as strong and smart — traits at once their gift and their undoing.

We also enjoyed the performances of Nicole Belit (Chorus/John (the son) Talbot/Monkfiend/Asnath/Ensemble) and Eric Schoen (Soldier/Suffolk/Ensemble), who launched his own theater company — Class 6 Theatre — just last year in the Valley.

As the proud mother of an SSC wench (Lizabeth recently entered the company’s “Wenches and Knaves” education program — which means I’ll soon be sewing Shakespearean garb), I was delighted to see several young cast members.

Ryan Janko (Soldier/Ensemble/Prince Edward) is a college freshman from Gilbert appearing in his fourth SSC production. Ezekiel Hill (Soldier/Aldecon/Lord/Murderer/Norfolk/Cade/Ensemble) is a 19-year-old student at Mesa Community College recently seen as “The Beast” in an East Valley Children’s Theatre production of “The Enchantment of Beauty and the Beast.”

The youngest cast member is Tristan Foster (Edmund (Rutland)/Soldier/Ensemble), a 16-year-old making his professional acting debut in “Blood Royal.” Foster competes and performs with the Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band (a haunting bagpipe tune opens the show), and admits to  playing video games and annoying his younger siblings on occasion.

The SSC season brochure pays homage to "More Than Kin...Less Than Kind"

So how do you take three historical Shakespeare works and turn them into a single production both clear and compelling? Flachmann explained his process during the talkback: “I took out what I didn’t like and this is what was left.” Editing for the stage — now I get it.

But what’s the relevance for today’s audiences? Sakren’s “Director’s Notes” for the program share the George Santayana quote made famous by Winston Churchill: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

“The technology has changed,” writes Sakren, “but not the essential nature of man, or his politics.”

–Lynn

Note: Visit the Southwest Shakespeare Company online to learn more about this season’s offerings (“Blood Royal” runs through Sept 25) and special opportunities including “Flachmann Seminars” with Michael Flachmann. Click here to learn about “Knave” opportunities for boys.

Coming up: Phoenix Symphony for families and educators, Community college art offerings

The day our world changed

Untitled by Charlotte Lockhart, age 14

On September 11, 2002, a juried art exhibit opened at the Museum of the City of New York–a shared project of the museum and the New York University Child Study Center. It was titled “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11.”

As our country marks the ninth anniversary of this tragic day, I thought it best to enlist the help of children in remembering and reflecting on what Americans experienced, individually and collectively, on 9/11/2001.

I searched far and wide to locate a copy of a book containing artwork from this exhibit–eventually finding a single copy at a Phoenix library. I’m going to spend much of the day with the 75 works of art featured in the book, also titled “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11.”

Hundreds of children ages 5 to 18 submitted artwork for consideration, and works not included in the original exhibit and book were featured for a time in an online collection. The book, authored by Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., and Andrea Henderson Fahnestock, is still available through the museum’s online gift shop.

Memorial by Andrew Emil, age 11

“The Day Our World Changed” is “dedicated to the children of the New York area, but most especially those who lost a parent on 9/11.” Every piece of art submitted was created by a child from the New York area.

One depicts gray skyscrapers against a stark black background with REMEMBER written along the top in bold yellow letters. A part of the skyline is missing. Another shows a mother and young son from behind as they hold hands and stare at burning towers along the horizon. Another features two grey towers, each with a beautiful blue eye weeping red tears.

“From the hundreds of artworks submitted for this project,” writes Goodman, “some common themes emerged.” These themes include the actual attack (shock, anger), the city in mourning (sadness, fear), heroes and helpers (compassion, cooperation), memories and tributes (longing and honoring), and hope and renewal (symbols, patriotism).

Some are narrative, observes Goodman, while others are dramatic. All are a testament to children’s empathy and resiliency. “The children’s art makes clear that there is no right or wrong way to feel,” writes Goodman. “We want children to know that their voices are important and that art is an extraordinary way to give voice to concerns.”

Mourning Sun by Wanda Martinez, age 17

Today as we remember and reflect on 9/11, may the children of the world inspire us to hope rather than hate.

Turn down the noise. Transform cynicism to service. Gather your crayons–and the ones you love.

We have a future to color.

–Lynn

Note: Click here to visit the Museum of the City of New York and here to visit the NYU Child Study Center.

Update: A collection of these works will be exhibited at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan, which is scheduled to open to the public on 9/12/11.

Bollywood & beyond

A young dancer enjoys a class with Kriti Dance (Photo: Daniel Friedman)

I was delighted to hear recently from a dance school that specializes in Bollywood dance, which has its origins in India’s film industry. It seems I’ve been invited to participate in a dance class — just to get a feel for this “contemporary and innovative” dance form.

The website for Kriti Dance readily notes that participants have been known to giggle a bit when first experiencing the unique waist and hip movements used in Bollywood dance — but I suspect that hearty laughter might be more likely with me (and my thickening body parts) in the room.

I’m opting instead to share the happy news that Kriti Dance, which recently performed during a Phoenix Mercury halftime, will begin a new session of classes at Dance Connection 2 in Chandler on Sept 11. It’s a tough day in so many ways — so I’m pleased to share a fun and fit way to dance away part of the day.

Classes for adults and teens start at 10:30am, with classes for 9- to 13-year olds starting at 11:30am and classes for 5- to 8-year-olds starting at 12:30pm. You can visit their website to learn more — and drop me a thank you note later for the decision to leave my hips at home (for now).

Kriti Dance offers fun and fitness for all ages (Photo: Daniel Friedman)

My weekend calendar is already plenty full — driving Lizabeth to and from a community service gig, seeing The Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre present a semi-staged production of “The Music Man,” and joining Lizabeth at the National Youth Theatre awards being held at Valley Youth Theatre.

Tonight we’ll be attending the first production of the 2010-2011 Southwest Shakespeare Company season at Mesa Arts Center — complete with red carpet flair and a fabulously fun photo contest. We’ll have to miss Sunday’s preview of Childsplay’s “A Year With Frog and Toad” so Lizabeth can see an ASA teacher perform in another show, but that just gives us more to look forward to next weekend.

There’s no lack of arts experiences in the Valley this weekend, so here’s a sampling of your many options to help you plan your family together time…

The Deer Valley Rock Art Center in northwest Phoenix offers half-price admisson to grandparents from 8am-2pm on Sun, Sept 12, in honor of Grandparents Day. Who’s to say that grandma won’t want to enjoy both petroglyphs and Bollywood dance in one weekend? Admit it — Bollywood dance is probably on your “bucket list” too.

Why not celebrate Grandparents Day in Bollywood style? (Photo: Daniel Friedman)

If you’re an artist eager to learn more about using technologies in art making and/or arts promotion, check out the Sept 11 STEWshop from Urban Stew. It’s one of a series of arts and technology workshops they’ll hold each second Saturday of the month between Sept 2010 and Feb 2011.

Children and their adults can enjoy making art together at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix Art Studio — which provides materials for making a special Grandparents Day gift in the studio this weekend.

Head to Chandler Center for the Arts if you love all things musical theater and musical standards. Valley favorites Rusty Ferracane and Christine Drathman will join composer/arranger Craig Bohmler and “top Valley musicians” for “That’s Life…from Sinatra to Sondheim.” (Perhaps we could persuade the trio to add a bit of Bollywood dance to the gig.)

Creative Stage Youth Theatre is eager to show off their new performing space at a free open house Sept 11 from 4-7pm at 19209 N. 83rd Ave (Ste 105) in Peoria — which is a great opportunity to learn more about their upcoming season.

When in doubt, just dance! (Photo: Daniel Friedman)

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village in Sedona presents their 37th annual celebration of Mexican Independence Day with flamenco dance, folk music and children’s activities to include face painting and juggling demonstrations. Remind me to drop them a thank you note for the lovely mental image I just got of attempting to juggle while doing my Bollywood thing.

If you share my love of social justice theater, check out the work of Teatro Bravo at a “pay what you can” performance of “Manzi: The Advenures of Young Cesar Chavez” this evening at the Metropolitan Arts Theatre in Phoenix. It’s “a tale for the entire family” about the legendary advocate of farm workers’ rights — and runs through Sept 19.

So there you have it. Bollywoood and flamenco. Art and technology. Sinatra and Sondheim. If that doesn’t make you want to swivel those hips while gyrating that waist, I don’t know what will.

–Lynn

Note: Today marks the opening of the “Opera & Ballet in Cinema Series” presented by Harkins Theatres and Emerging Pictures. You’re in luck if you’re reading this in time to make it to the 11am live broadcast of “Cosi Fan Tutte” at Arrowhead Fountains 18 or Scottsdale 101 14. Visit www.harkinstheatres.com for ticket availability and pricing, and information on upcoming shows in the series. I can tell you from experience that tickets go quickly so don’t delay in deciding which of European operas and ballets presented in Hi-Definition digital projection you’d like to experience.

Coming up: Art and body image, Coupling fine arts and dual language instruction, The shape of social justice

Audition/Call for artists alert! Auditions will be held this weekend for productions of “The Nutcracker” by both Baller Etudes and Ballet Arizona. CONDER/dance is calling for submissions (from choreographers, dance filmmakers and performance artists) for the 4th annual “Breaking Ground” festival to be held Dec 10 & 11 at Tempe Center for the Arts.