Old dog, new tricks

My husband presented me with a little something in red and white the other night. Not a Valentine’s Day gift, as you might expect. But a plastic card bearing the letters “AARP.”

Apparently I’m now old enough to get the senior discount at my local Denny’s, plus other benefits I’ll read up on some other time when I run out of crossword puzzles or Earl Grey.

As the phrase “old dog, new tricks” popped into my head, I recalled my most recent adventures with Childsplay — a Tempe-based theater company founded in 1977.

I attended last Saturday’s early matinee performance of “Go, Dog. Go!” at Tempe Center for the Arts – and was delighted by the endless parade of new tricks.

Count me among the many folks who never cease to wonder how on earth Childsplay manages to outdo themselves at every turn. It’s mind-boggling, and not because I’m 50.

My daughter, Jennifer, turns 20 this year. “Go, Dog. Go!” by P.D. Eastman was one of her favorite books during childhood. She’s hesitant to see a live performance based on the book for fear it will ruin her memories of the story somehow.

But I have strong evidence to the contrary — my own memories of absolutely elated preschoolers and ebullient parents who also attended last Saturday’s 1pm show.

Think one-ring circus colliding with comedic theater, and you have Childsplay’s spin on “Go, Dog. Go!” — a Steven Dietz and Allison Gregory adaptation of the book that features music by Michael Koerner.

Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!” is a “theater in the round” experience brimming with actor (dog)/audience interaction — plus plenty of hats and pratfalls.

Think roller skates and all sorts of wheeled modes of transport. Think vollying a giant inflated ball back and forth a la rock concert. Think giant props, and plenty of them.

“Go, Dog. Go!” is a full-blown “bells and whistles” production.

During intermission, families had lots of great options — including going outside to run off some steam and hitting the Childsplay gift boutique for books, CDs, stuffed animals or signed cast photos (there’s even an adorable silver sparkly photo album just for holding Childsplay memories).

Too few headed to the exhibit of glass works currently featured in the TCA Gallery. It’s full of whimsical kid-friendly fare, including several multi-media works with neon lighting.

Several enjoyed educational materials with fun dog-related themes found throughout the lobby — including matching games featuring dog breeds and characteristics, and words from the show presented in diverse languages.

Childsplay offers all sorts of educational programs — from field trips and school tours to Childsplay Academy classes for children and teens. Online registration for popular summer programs starts today, Feb 12, at 10am.

Learning and laughing — it never gets old.

– Lynn

Note: The 9th annual “dog friendly” “Liver Life Walk” takes place Sat, March 19. Click (or paw) here for details.

Coming up: Fun with cats

Photos courtesy of Childsplay

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