Category Archives: arts

Silly old bear

Silly old bear. It’s one of my favorite lines from A.A. Milne tales of the little boy named Christopher Robin whose fluffy companions include a bear called Winnie the Pooh. I’ve got Pooh on the brain today after reflecting a bit more on the transition to a new blog site. I’m remembering my early days with our oldest son Christopher, whose room as a toddler was decorated with all things primary colors and Pooh.

Christopher has been a part of our lives for more than two decades, and I’ve been affiliated with Raising Arizona Kids for nearly that long — joining the staff when my three children were still small enough to read Winnie the Pooh tales in lap mode. They’re all in college now, so the nature of our relationships is evolving. Still, this will always be their home.

That’s how I feel about Raising Arizona Kids. Folks concerned that my new adventures mean their stories won’t get shared with RAK audiences needn’t fret. I’m continuing to cover Arizona arts and culture for the magazine, but in online article rather than blog mode. Also continuing to write an arts page for each month’s print magazine. Your stories are no less near and dear to me now than they were some 1,250 + posts ago when I started blogging.

Like all artists, writers need to explore and grow. We need fresh eyes on new landscapes. I never worry, when seeing associate artists for Childsplay direct or act in other settings, that their love for Childsplay is diminished in any way. I suspect their diverse adventures fuel both their individual creativity and work together as an ensemble. That’s how I feel about both writing for RAK and doing my own “Stage Mom Musings” thing.

Similarly, our children’s college adventures don’t mean they love us any less. It’s just that there are more paths for them to travel. And that’s as it should be. I fully expect that the road back home will stay well trodden. And so it is for my relationship with Raising Arizona Kids. I’ll be sharing arts adventures both there and here, which’ll help me champion Arizona arts both locally and beyond our borders.

I hope you’ll follow along on my road trip. Covering Arizona arts and culture — and those who nurture and create it — continues to be my great joy and privilege. So no worries, silly old bear.

– Lynn

Note: Please send arts and culture news my way at stagemommusings@gmail.com. That’ll get your events and programs on both my RAK and Stage Mom Musings radar. Once RAK recovers from flood mode, we’ll get old “Stage Mom” posts moved over to the “Stage Mom Musings” site at www.stagemommusings.com, where new posts appear each day.

Fertile field, empty nest

Soon I'll be taking flight with new "Stage Mom Musings" adventures

I planted a seed some 1,000 + posts ago, eager to share my love for theater with fellow parents. You could say that Raising Arizona Kids was the soil. It’s been a fertile field for parents to grow, nurture and share experiences for more than two decades. The “Stage Mom” blog has thrived there, growing into a tree of sorts with branches reaching far beyond the Valley of the Sun. I’m grateful for the roots that’ve made the next part of the “Stage Mom” journey possible.

Soon I’ll be leaving the nest to take “Stage Mom” solo, though I know I’ll never really have to fly alone. I’ll still be part of the Raising Arizona Kids family, continuing to write features for the magazine that gave my writing wings and nurtured its growth through the years. My first Raising Arizona Kids article was published in a birthday party issue – something about a Beanie Baby party for daughter Jennifer. Back then, all I knew of writing was “write what you know.”

Karen Barr – the magazine’s founder, publisher and editor – has been a mentor throughout my writing journey, and is incredibly supportive even now as I’m preparing to leave the nest. Much of what I know about writing came from years of “on the job” training with Karen and fellow writers in the RAK family. My writing for RAK has garnered both national and state awards, and I’m grateful for the magazine’s role in helping me find and share my voice about matters great and small.

Most recently, “Stage Mom” earned two Arizona Press Club Awards in the non-metro category – second place for arts criticism and first place for features blog. RAK writers earned an additional six awards. I’ll never stop learning from RAK, but other projects now beckon – including a book about dance that I hope will be the first of several guides to introducing children and teens to the arts. I’ve got an amazing partner for the dance book, and will be sharing more news on that front in coming weeks.

For now, I’m busy making a new home for the writer formerly known as “Stage Mom.” Think Twitter, Facebook, blog and beyond. Watching me wrestle the world of widgets should prove plenty entertaining. Cyberspace is filled with stage moms, so you’ll find me using the “Stage Mom Musings” handle. It seemed the best moniker given my tendency to muse, and I hope you’ll follow me for news of “Stage Mom Musings” developments and future arts adventures.

I’ll continue to cover the Arizona arts and culture that’s so near and dear to my heart, and hope you’ll all stay in touch about your own arts offerings and adventures. Folks who follow @stagemommusings on Twitter will be the first to know as I unroll the new blog.

I’m genuinely grateful for everyone whose support for “Stage Mom” has made the start of this journey possible. Thanks for reading the work, for sharing your own experiences with arts and culture, for making your own contributions to the arts scene in Arizona and beyond. The world is a better place with art, and I’m looking forward to many more years of telling her stories.

– Lynn

Note: Once the new site is up and running, we’ll transfer all “Stage Mom” posts to the new blog — and many will also continue to be available through RAK’s online archives. Please continue to share your news about Arizona arts and culture with me at rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Coming up: Once upon a widget

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience while the tech fairies work to move my 1,250 + posts to their new home. For the latest news follow me @stagemommusings on Twitter.

Tony watching

Jim Parsons (L) and Kristin Chenoweth announcing the 2012 Tony Award nominees. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Watching the Tony Awards ceremony is a longstanding tradition at our house, and our daughter Lizabeth was especially excited about viewing this year’s awards after seeing eight of the shows nominated for one or more 2012 Tony Awards.

I’m fondest of the acceptance speeches, which so often include odes to parents, spouses, partners and kids. Remarks by Audra McDonald topped my list this year. McDonald assured her daughter that although winning the award made it a very special night, the more important day was Feb. 14, 2001 — the day Zoe was born.

Lizabeth once recounted meeting McDonald after attending one of her shows. She was eager to ask her a few questions, but noted that McDonald’s daughter was with her and decided to let the opportunity pass — figuring she’d want to get home at a decent hour on a school night.

When a pair of gentlemen accepted an award for “Newsies,” one offered a simple “Look mom, a Tony!” And Paloma Young, winner for best costume design of a play for her work on “Peter and the Starcatcher,” thanked her father for giving her “way too much adventure for one little girl.”

John Tiffany, winner of a Tony Award for best direction of a musical for his work on “Once,” thanked his family for giving him the gift of music. Another director, Mike Nichols, recalled being at the Beacon Theatre as a child. Nichols won a Tony Award for best direction of a play for his work on “Death of a Salesman.” Seems the site of this year’s ceremony was once his neighborhood movie theater.

Christian Borle, known to many for rocking the Tom Levitt role on the television series “Smash,” earned the Tony Award for best performance of an actor in a featured role in a play for his work on “Peter and the Starcatcher.” His remarks shared thanks for “making my mom so happy.”

James Corden, who won the Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play, thanks his “baby mama” and future wife for teaching him to say “us” instead of “I” and “we” instead of “me.” And Nina Arianda, winner of a Tony Award for best performance of an actress in a leading role in a play for her work in “Venus in Fur,” was ever so cherubic after Christopher Plummer handed her the award. “You sir,” she told him, “were my first crush.”

Most moving were remarks by Steve Kazee of “Once,” winner of a Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. Kazee lost his mother to cancer this past Easter, and shared something he recalls her saying — “Stand up and show them whose little boy you are.”

While most folks in Arizona were watching such moments on TV, others were enjoying the Tony Awards ceremony in New York. ASU Gammage organized a June 7-10 trip to NYC, with the option of staying an extra night to see the Tony Awards at the theater or in VIP seating in Times Square.

While in NYC, the ASU Gammage folks spent three evenings seeing shows and had several meals with Broadway professionals. Saturday’s itinerary included time with cast members from “The Book of Mormon,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and music types from both “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon.”

They also spent time with both the president and vice president of Disney Theatricals Group – and I’m hoping all involved resisted the urge to break into a rousing chorus from “Newsies” or “Beauty and the Beast.” The latter is a “special engagement” for the 2012-13 season at ASU Gammage.

In addition, they toured several parts of NYC — a “renaissance” portion of 42nd Street, the Art Nouveau-style New Amsterdam Theatre (where presidents Obama and Clinton appeared just last week), parts of the NYC subway system, the 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan’s financial district. I’ve experienced them all, and was happy this time around to be tucked under a quilt sitting on the couch next to Lizabeth.

Now that she’s attending college in NYC, annual traditions like watching the Tony Awards on television are bittersweet reminders of the fact that she’ll soon be creating her own traditions far from the nest that nurtured her love for Broadway.

– Lynn

Note: The 2012 Tony Award winning play, “Clybourne Park,” is part of Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012-13 season — click here for details.

Coming up: Go “Jimmy” Go, “Les Mis” meets movie theater, Reimagining “Stage Mom”

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings.

Fun finds for Father’s Day

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Folks eager to find unique gifts and experiences for celebrating Father’s Day need look no farther than local arts and culture. Museums make for fun family outings, and many have gift shops filled with fascinating fare making gifts like striped ties look purely passé.

Got a dad who’s into science? Hit your local science center. Got a dad who’s into art? Treat him to time at your local art gallery or museum. Got a dad who’s into history? Take him along for some time at the nearest history museum. And remember all those neighborhood arts districts with funky fare it’s hard to find elsewhere.

Military dads and their families can enjoy free admission to museums that participate in the Blue Star Museums program. Most museums participate from Memorial Day through Veterans Day — but some offer free year-round admission (with specified I.D.s) to active military personnel and up to five family members.

For dads who enjoy making art, consider taking a Father’s Day walk together in search of found objects for future art projects. Or looking around the house for boxes and other recyclable objects you can turn into forts, musical instruments and works of art. Or get dad a gift certificate to your favorite small business featuring art supplies or classes.

Remember studios in your community that offer hands-on arts experiences like painting pottery, folding origami, recreating famous art masterpieces and such. Check your local libraries, independent book shops,community centers and parks and recreation facilities for activities of special interest to fathers and families.

Also theater companies that offer family-friendly fare — plus performing arts venues that offer fun film, music, dance, poetry and other options. You’ll never know whether the dad in your life is hot for hip hop until you give it a try together.

– Lynn

Note: I’ll be updating this post with more photos as I discover more Father’s Day fare

Coming up: Art meets wild west, Getting to know Jimmy

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

One composer’s journey

Though composer Judd Greenstein recently traveled from Brooklyn to Scottsdale to premiere a new work written for violist Nadia Sirota, his journey into new and expanding musical spaces began long ago. Greenstein recalls writing hip hop and rap works while just 12 or 13 years old, and taking piano lessons too — realizing one day that he could combine the two.

Greenstein was 16 when his piano teacher asked whether he wanted to be a composer. The teen’s “yes” was met with the admonition to work a whole lot harder. Soon Greenstein was taking to the library, reading scores and such. But there’s something more, shared by several of his friends who compose — seeing the 1984 film “Amadeus.”

Suspecting that composing requires a certain sort of brain power, I asked Greenstein when we spoke on Friday about what it takes to do what he does. “I have an intuitive sense of form, where I can make a musical idea and can see how it relates to other things.” A lot of it, he says, is throwing things out. “You can’t get too attached to it.”

Composer Judd Greenstein

Greenstein’s “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves” premieres Saturday night at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. He describes it as “a very emotional work” reflecting “my process of trying to understand what music is to me.” Still, music isn’t the only thing on Greenstein’s mind.

“I really believe that our culture is in a pretty troubled place right now,” says Greenstein. “We’ve lost our sense of what’s important as humans.” He’s convinced we all need a closer relationship to art and art making. “Art isn’t anything but a way of communicating myself as a person,” shares Greenstein.

Even artists have fallen away from the essence of art, notes Greenstein. “Artists have allowed themselves to be a weird, sequestered community.” But art and humanity aren’t nearly as separated as they seem nowadays. And there’s much parents can do to promote art making in their children’s lives.

“Make art a part of other activities that are already enjoyable,” suggests Greenstein. Art becomes an unpleasant place when separated from everyday interests or delivered as mere “teachable moments.” Weekly piano lessons alone rarely fuel a real passion for art.

Greenstein recalls spending time at Tanglewood from a young age, sitting on a blanket with his family and looking up at the stars together. More than isolated episodes of music practice, it was art in the larger context of life that powered Greenstein’s journey from child to composer.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves” concert and ticket information. Click here to learn about “Tanglewood for Kids.”

Coming up: Shakespeare meets musical theater, Fun finds for Father’s Day

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

From aliens to arm wrestling

Got a thing for UFOs? Hit tonight’s free Summer Opening Celebration — and sign up for a UFO-theme family day on June 21 at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

It sometimes feels like aliens from outer space have already landed in Arizona, and no one would be happier than my hubby if it actually happened. He’s a longtime fan of science fiction who’ll be pleased to learn that the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art has UFOs on the brain these days.

Seems we human types once sent a “Golden Record” into space, eager to put our best foot forward in the event our probes made their way to alien lands. But that was the 70s, and this is now. So a Brooklyn-based composer named Judd Greenstein is working with artists who call themselves “New Catalogue” to imagine how humans might represent themselves now.

Folks curious about the project can hit tonight’s “Summer Opening Celebration” at SMoCA — which’ll feature previews of a new work composed by Greenstein that’s being performed tomorrow night at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Tonight’s affair, which runs from 7-10pm, is free and open to the public. You can hit the Lounge at SMoCA to enjoy a no host bar and Dulce Dance Company.

Meet composer Judd Greenstein tonight at SMoCA and enjoy the premiere of a new Greenstein work tomorrow at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Those who attend tonight’s shindig can mingle with artists, curators, dancers and composers — plus check out four new exhibitions. I’m hoping to pop over after we’ve celebrated Lizabeth’s birthday, but will most certainly be in the house tomorrow night as Greenstein premieres “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves,” written for violinist Nadia Sirota. Sirota, a string quartet and members of the Grammy-winning Phoenix Chorale will all be taking to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts stage.

Families fascinated by UFOs can hit SMoCA on June 21 for their annual “Family Fun Night,” which promises all sorts of UFO-related fare like creating hands-on art projects that involve sending messages to aliens in outer space. Also “a planetarium for stargazing,” a child-friendly docent-led tour of related exhibitions and plenty of good clean fun. Think blowing big bubbles, sampling refreshing treats and enjoying playtime in the Civic Center Mall fountain (BYO bathing suit).

There’s also a free event taking place June 12 that’s dubbed “Summer Stargazing and Music in Outerspace.” That baby features a curator-led tour of “This is a Present from a Small Distant World” plus an ASU ethnomusicologist discussing musical selections performed by Erin Hales. There’s even stargazing at ASU to follow.

I discovered oodles of good stuff browsing through the summer events and exhibition calendars for SMoCA – from film screenings and author events to art workshops and teen gatherings. I’m especially intrigued by “Arm Wrestling for Art” (July 13) and an online experience called “Out of the Cubical.” Watch for another post featuring pearls shared by Greenstein once I’ve rocked the birthday party vibe here at home.

– Lynn

Note: Pre-register for the SMoCA “Family Fun Night” on June 21 by calling 480-874-4642 (The evening is $20 for a family of four and $4 per extra person). I’m assuming any actual aliens from outer space choosing to land in Scottsdale that evening will get in free.

Coming up: Composer Judd Greenstein talks art, music and life

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

Two bundles

I’ve experienced many truly beautiful works of theater brought to life by Arizona Jewish Theatre Company. Most recently, Todd Salovey’s “Blessing of a Broken Heart,” first performed at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. It’s a work based on Sherri Mandell’s book of the same name, which shares the author’s experience of losing a son to a terrorist act in Isreal.

There’s a point in Salovey’s play where Sherri recalls the way she and husband Seth shared the news of Koby’s death with their three other children. I am like a canary in a mine, reflects Sherri. People ask if I’m OK. Jewish tradition says that each person is a world. I have lost a whole world.

I remembered that scene after learning that Arizona Jewish Theatre Company plans to cease operations, after years of struggling to meet economic challenges too deep and wide to overcome. “Since 2008,” says founding producing director Janet Arnold, “our revenue has steadily and rapidly declined.”

In a recent note to supporters, Arnold shared three factors fueling the decision to close — the virtual disappearance of government and corporate support, a decrease in individual contributions and a dwindling audience attributed to shifting performance spaces.

Even the bad, in Jewish thought, deserves blessings. It’s another thought shared by Sherri in the play. I do not bless the bad, continues Sherri. But I understand that light comes from darkness, and that evil exists in the world so that we can choose to do good.

There’s a chasm between the grief of losing a child and losing even the most cherished theater company. Still, I hear bits of Salovey’s script speaking to our community’s loss. G-d does his work with that which is broken. It is when our hearts are broken that G-d sculpts our souls, prodding open the narrow entrances to the caves of our being.

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company produced more than 80 plays in 24 years — reaching thousands of audience members, mentoring hundreds of young performers, employing plenty of theater professionals and giving voice to many new playwrights.

Even while sharing devastating news, they’re looking ahead to new opportunities for Jewish cultural programming in the Valley. Board chair Jay Bycer notes that “Janet is working with the Israel Center to bring in a show in October, and is talking with the Arizona Jewish Historical Society.” Both Bycer and Arnold insist that “there will always be a need for the arts in Jewish life.”

Near the end of Salovey’s “The Blessing of a Broken Heart,” Sherri recalls going to the cave where her son and his best friend were killed. I have learned that everything, she says, even the worst trial, contains sparks of holiness and it is up to us to release these sparks into the world.

Those whose lives have been blessed by Arizona Jewish Theater Company can still show gratitude for their work in the community. They’re asking supporters to make contributions that’ll help pay the non-profit’s “final bills.” They’re also sharing a special todah (thanks) with those whose gifts allowed them to finish out the 2011-12 season.

Salovey’s play includes Sherri’s encounter with a rabbi and his son who’ve emerged from the cave where Koby was killed. The pair enounters an old man carrying two bundles of myrtle branches, asking Why do you carry two bundles? The answer: One bundle is to honor and one is to remember.

Lynn

Note: Arizona Jewish Theatre Company notes that folks can click here to make a donation. Click here to learn more about Todd Salovey.

Coming up: Horsing around with art, Fun finds for Father’s Day

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12