As events unfolded last Sunday, I couldn’t help repeating the chorus of a song called ”I Am What I Am” over and over again in my head. From the Broadway musical “La Cage aux Folles,” the song is a sort of anthem to self-acceptance.
Ironic considering my failure to execute my one big goal for the day — attending an Arizona Jewish Theatre Company production called “My Name is Asher Lev” — which tackles the topics of identity and self-acceptance.
Because it was to be my third theater outing of the weekend, I felt even guiltier than usual about leaving my husband behind to care for more mundane tasks like paying bills and caring for pets.
I assuaged my guilt by attempting to squeeze in just one more load of laundry before leaving for the afternoon. That’s where it all started to go horribly wrong. Turns out I had just enough time to make the show, but I breezed right past the final turn that would take me to my destination.
I was distracted, I suspect, by the song that was playing on the SiriusXM Radio ”On Broadway” channel at the time. It was “Bring Him Home” from the musical “Les Miserables” — which has always reminded me of my 21-year-old son in poignant ways that only my husband and I fully understand.
When I got to the John Paul Theatre on the campus of Phoenix College in Glendale, where the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company performs, it was about ten minutes past showtime. And to their credit, they’d started the show on time — with a nearly packed house that would make it hard for me to find a seat without being disruptive.
So I snagged a program, information of their upcoming “Curtain Call” youth theatre production of “A Rockin’ Tale of Snow White,” and their “Summer Theatre Day Camps.” I hoped to find a little coffee joint nearby where I could review the program or read one of the daily papers I keep in my car for just such occasions.
I drove away, planning to return two hours later for a post-show talk back with Janet Arnold, Layne Racowsky and the show’s three cast members.
And I remembered that I’d been meaning to get to the historic district in Glendale to check out local arts offerings and photograph a bit of local flavor.
I found the flavor I was looking for at a coffee joint called “A Shot of Java” — which has a rare blend of cozy charm and quirkiness that makes it especially appealing. I stumbled on this little gem after parking nearby to photograph a sign that caught my eye because of its “Mad Hatter” motif.
I asked for directions to local museums. We used to have a bead museum, they told me, but it just shut down. “I know,” I said — vowing to photograph it anyway as a reminder of what can happen when we take local repositories of arts and culture for granted.
I used the time I’d allotted for “My Name is Asher Lev” to explore the City of Glendale further — and I’ll be sharing more about my fun finds in a future “Art Adventures: Historic Glendale” post complete with photos of plenty of signs.
My kids often tease me about my fondness for taking pictures of signs, but I felt somewhat vindicated as I watched a story about an artist with a similar affliction on the “CBS Sunday Morning” program earlier in the day.
I returned for the “My Name is Asher Lev” talk back, and discovered that audience members included students taught by one of the show’s actors. Their questions, and those of others who actually managed to see the play, were enlightening — and will be included in a future post that I’ll publish before the show’s final weekend performances (it runs through April 3).
My final stop of the day was a coffee shop I frequented when my daughter Lizabeth trained with the School of Ballet Arizona. Sitting at one of the outside tables was a friend I first met while Christopher attended New Way Academy in Scottsdale. I sat to catch up a bit before heading home to make dinner, asking how she’d spent her day.
Turns out she was lucky enough to catch one of the many productions I just didn’t have time to take in — the Ballet Arizona performance of “Modern Masters.” She described each of the three pieces they performed in beautiful and exquisite detail — leading me to wonder whether she might be a budding arts critic, or interested perhaps in writing a guest blog about a future dance performance.
Tonight I was planning to attend opening night of “Fiddler on the Roof” at ASU Gammage – a piece that feels especially poignant as James and I ready to send our youngest daughter off to college in the fall. But I knew better than to leave late in the hopes of making it in time. Once again, my plate is full with family responsibilities.
Still, I’ll be taking time out later this evening to write a post about the show — which I saw performed at ASU Gammage many years ago. It was a different production, but the story in all its grandeur does not change — and it’s one that all parents can relate to and learn from.
“Fiddler on the Roof” runs through this weekend at ASU Gammage, and if you’re not going tonight, there’s still time for you to learn from my mistakes. Get through all that work you brought home now. Make the kids use paper plates, and tell your family you’re boycotting laundry.
It rarely seems to work for me. But I never give up trying.
After all, I am what I am…
Note: My “Art Adventures: Historic Glendale” will post just in time for you to get a taste of the city’s historic district before it holds a free event titled “Artworks First Saturdays” from 10am-4pm on Sat, April 3. Watch for musings on “Family and Fiddler” tomorrow (Wed, March 30).
Coming up: New season announcements!, A new “Women of Broadway” series hits the Valley