Category Archives: movies

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

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

Film tackles U.N. failings

Our oldest daughter Jennifer, who studies cultural anthropology at Arizona State University, came home with passes to a new movie the other night — a Disruptive Pictures film called “U.N. Me” that’s written, directed and produced by Ami Horowitz and Matthew Groff.

It’s billed as an expose of corruption and incompetence within an international organization meant to promote world peace and universal human rights. As most folks know, the U.N. was founded in 1942.

The topic holds special interest for our family since Jennifer has long dreamed of working with the U.N. Our kids first learned of the U.N. during grade school, while participating in the Trick-or-Treat for Unicef program.

“U.N. Me” opened Friday at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre

Watching something so scathing was downright depressing. Unlike other films tackling tough issues such as failings in education, health care inequities, climate change and bullying, this movie left me feeling numb instead of moved to action.

I remember seeing “Bully” and wondering why such a significant portion of the film followed the advocacy of those whose lives were touched in tragic ways. Wasn’t it obvious that those who recognized the problem would be moved to act?

The wisdom of “Bully” filmmakers Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen grows more evident as the credits for “U.N. Me” roll. Viewers see a single sentence directing them to make a difference by visiting the movie’s website, but there’s little reassurance that taking individual action can effect change.

An Inconvenient Truth,” a film directed by David Guggenheim that explored Al Gore’s concerns about human contributions to global climate change, left me feeling a lot more empowered thanks to practical tips shared near the end of the film.

Plenty of folks who see “U.N. Me” — including those who embrace its premises — will never visit the film’s website. But there’s plenty they can do in their daily lives to fight violations of human rights. Arizona offers plenty of examples.

“U.N. Me” follows Horowitz as he talks with people from various nations who have current or former U.N. ties, plus experts in areas such as genocide and nuclear proliferation. Nobel laureate Jody Williams is the most compelling by far.

I’m not wild about the flippant approach Horowitz takes during the film. His comedic forays distract from the deadly serious subject matter. And having spent more than a decade in investment banking, Horowitz will strike many among “the 99%” as an unlikely prophet for all things pure and good.

It’ll be too easy for those who oppose the U.N., especially those who do so for political gain, to use this film to indict every U.N. program and person affiliated with the organization. Or to walk away from the personal responsibility each of us bears for two words at the heart of the film — never again.

– Lynn

Note: “U.N. Me” is currently showing at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre in Scottsale

Coming up: Remembering Anne Frank, Student art meets Arizona history

The Story of Hansel and Gretel

EVCT opens a musical called “The Story of Hansel and Gretel” June 14 at Mesa Arts Center (Pictured L to R: Rachel Primrose as Gretel and Leonel Gallego as Hansel)

Fairy tales and fables are big business these days. Soon “Snow White and the Huntsman” will be working the movie theater crowds who’ve already enjoyed a taste of twisted storytelling ala TV shows like “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm.” I do better with the latter since human faces morphing into menacing figures isn’t the sort of imagery I want to carry around in my head.

Emily Trask (L) as Portia and Tony Amendola as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” (2010). Photo by Karl Hugh. Courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Our youngest daughter Lizabeth chatted with the actor behind one of my favorite “Once Upon a Time” characters during last weekend’s Phoenix Comicon. She first met Tony Amendola during one of our annual trips to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where he rocked the role of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice.” For some, he’s best known as today’s television version of Geppetto — but others consider him a sci-fi icon.

Despite all the modern-day takes on fairy tales and fables, I’m still partial to enjoying them in books or on stage. Hence my delight upon learning that East Valley Children’s Theatre in Mesa is presenting a musical production based on one of my favorite tales — Hansel and Gretel. Remembering our oldest daughter’s performance in “Hansel and Gretel” at Greasepaint Youtheatre still brings a smile to my face.

East Valley Children’s Theatre performs “The Story of Hansel and Gretel” June 14-24 at Mesa Arts Center. They’re one of several resident companies at MAC. Others include Ballet Etudes, Mesa Encore Theatre, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Sonoran Desert Chorale, Southwest Shakespeare Company, Symphony of the Southwest and Xico.

Nowadays Jennifer studies cultural anthropology at ASU

Mesa Arts Center holds a free “Educator Preview Night” featuring arts and culture offerings for elementary, junior high and high school students on Mon, Aug 23. It’s designed to introduce educators to a wide range of arts and culture resources for the classroom. Think museum experiences, live performance art and more.

Educator Preview Night begins with MAC campus tours, drinks and treats, goodie bags and door prizes from 4:30-5pm. A preview of their “Performing Live Season for Students,” featuring a “surprise performance,” takes place from 5-6pm. From 6-6:30pm educators can enjoy “desserts and entertainment,” plus the chance to pre-register for “National Geographic Live!” and “Performing Live for Students” before other folks get a shot at them.

– Lynn

Note: Phoenix Comicon 2013 takes place May 23-26, 2013 and the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 51st season opens June 21

Coming up: Art meets shopping, Easing on down the road, Dance recital roundup

Young artists win Arizona competition

L to R: Kresley Figueroa, Aubrey Ares and Sarah Ambrose won this year’s Arizona Young Artists’ Competition (Photo: Apatrou Photography)

I’m told there’s rarely a shortage of entries in the vocal category when the Arizona Young Artists’ Competition hits the Herberger Theater Center each year. But at least one vocalist found a way to truly stand out. She sang opera.

Kresley Figueroa, who won the 2012 AYAC vocal competition, was singing in community theater productions by age nine, and recalls starting “formal vocal training” at the age of ten. The saw her first opera, performed by the Sante Fe Opera, around the same time.

It didn’t wow her, she recalls, because the opera featured mostly men. And frankly, the tremendous power of their voices felt a little scary at the time. But other operas — performed by The Metropolitan Opera in NYC, the Arizona Opera in Phoenix and students at Northern Arizona University — tugged at her heart.

Figueroa, now a 15-year-old sophomore at Flagstaff High School, has studied vocal performance for about five years with Deborah Raymond, associate professor of voice at the NAU School of Music.

Kresley Figueroa of Flagstaff, who won the 2012 AYAC vocal competition

Figueroa takes lessons with Raymond once a week or so, but also participates “every few weeks” in a pre-college program at Juilliard in NYC for those who’ve got the potential to pursue professional careers in music.

When in NYC, Figueroa also studies with Adam Guettel, whose work on “The Light in the Piazza” earned him two Tony Awards – one for best score, and another for best orchestrations. Seems his family, including grandfather Richard Rodgers and mother Mary Rodgers, had a thing for music too.

Figueroa is generous about sharing tips with other young vocalists. Find someone you work well with, she says. And be sure there’s plenty of mutual respect. Above all, choose someone you trust — because “your voice is a fragile thing.” But study with others teachers too, suggests Figueroa. It’s good to get out there and work with more than one director.

Beware of trying to sound too old, vocally or emotionally, cautions Figueroa. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” The voice is constantly developing, she says, so it needs consistent attention over time.

Figueroa plans four years of study in a college or conservatory setting once she graduates in 2014 — plus graduate studies that’ll continue to hone her vocal performance. There’s little opportunity to experience arts at the local high school, says Figueroa. But she finds what she needs elsewhere.

She’s already taken two semesters of opera history at Northern Arizona University, and says she does a lot of reading on her own about opera and related topics — often tied to pieces she’s working to master.

Her advice to those who feel intimidated or turned off by opera is simple. Just try it. “Just experience it,” says Figueroa. Don’t worry about doing tons of homework ahead of time. It’s perfectly fine to go in completely blind. If something moves you, you can always go back and try to make sense of the pieces that didn’t click.

Folks wary of opera because they expect a stuffy atmosphere full of dressed-up patrons have another option — seeing simulcast or filmed opera performances in movie theaters and performing arts venues. Mixing opera with popcorn helps vanquish outdated stereotypes, so Figueroa’s all for it.

Figueroa’s first place finish earned her a $1,000 scholarship. Scholarhips were also awarded to Sarah Ambrose for first place in acting and Aubrey Ares for first place in dance.

Three AYAC people’s choice winners were also recognized this year — Logan Mitchell for voice, Sarah Ambrose for acting and Tori Mazzacone for dance. All competitors were between 15 and 19 years old.

The Arizona Young Artists’ Competition is a collaboration between Herberger Theater Center and Center Dance Ensemble designed to “showcase the diverse and emerging talent of young Arizona artists.”

Click here to learn more about visual and performing arts presented at Herberger Theater Center, and here to sign up for their newsletter so you’ll be among the first to learn about next year’s call for AYAC entries.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about Arizona Opera programs for youth, and here for information on Phoenix Opera

Coming up: Blog meets casserole?

Hale Centre Theatre performs “Mockingbird”

L to R: Zoe Zamora (Scout Finch), Rob Stuart (Atticus Finch) and Dale Mortensen (Jeremy “Jem” Finch) perform in “To Kill a Mockingbird” through June 30 at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert

I headed out to Gilbert Saturday for a matinee performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is being presented by Hale Centre Theatre through June 30. It’s directed by D. Scott Withers and stars Rob Stuart as Southern gentleman and lawyer Atticus Finch, who’s charged with defending a black man accused by a white woman of rape.

The setting is Maycomb, Alabama during 1935. Hale’s production is a Christopher Sergel adaptation of the Harper Lee novel published in 1960. The cast includes three young actors — Casey Pettyjohn (Dill), Dale Mortensen (Jeremy “Jem” Finch) and Zoe Zamora (Scout Finch). Each did a terrific job.

There’s much to love about the Hale Centre Theatre experience. The theater is located near several great eateries and arts destinations — and there’s a park across the street where children can run off steam. Hale also has a children’s theater, which presents “Rapunzel” through June 30.

The day I attended, the vibe was warm and friendly. There’s a concessions area with an old-time feel, and the fellow who staffed it Saturday wheeled a two-level cart onto center stage during intermission for folks who wanted a water or candy fix without moving far from their seats. The same spot was raffle central before the show started.

Four sections of seats surround a center stage at Hale Centre Theatre, and three small balconies serve as extended portions of the set. Actors sometimes enter and exit the stage from these areas, which is especially fun for folks who like to see them up close. For much of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a central set piece is a tire swing suspended from exposed beams above.

Before “To Kill a Mockingbird” began, David Dietlein (half of the owner/producer team that includes his wife Corrin Dietlein) unveiled the theater’s 2012-2013, noting that they’re honoring requests for more musicals by doubling their musical theater offerings. Think “The Secret Garden,” “Annie,” “Forever Plaid,” “South Pacific,” “Damn Yankees” and “Hairspray.”

They’ll perform “The Price of Freedom,” a musical tibute “dedicated to those who served in World War II and the loved ones they left behind” during Sept/Oct and the holiday musical “A Christmas Carol” during late Nov/Dec. Comedies for 2012-2013 include “The Hit” (an Arizona premiere by Mike Buckley), “The 39 Steps” and “The Man With The Pointed Toes” (billed by Hale as its “most popular show ever”).

Dietlein noted that folks who buy tickets for ten shows will save $10 per show, and that tickets for patrons ages 6 to 18 are always $10 each. I learned after the show, while talking with actors who greet folks via reception line in the lobby, that students from Mesa Preparatory Academy were in the audience on Saturday — having read the novel to prepare for seeing the work.

Parents who take children to see the show should be ready for questions about mature content, including references to rape and use of what we’ve come to call “the N-word.” Both have been cited by folks who’ve sought to ban Lee’s book, and folks eager to learn more about that fight can find resources through Banned Book Week, taking place Sept 30-Oct 6 this year.

I checked the interest level of various teens in the audience several times during Saturday’s performance. Many leaned forward, showing more interest in the play, during the courtroom scene that dominates the play’s second act. This was clearly the most compelling part of the production, and the most humorous piece as well.

Parents and teachers interested in learning more about Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird” can read the Utah Shakespeare Festival study guide and consult several PBS pieces available online. Click here for details on upcoming Hale Centre Theatre productions.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read about a recent screening of the film “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the White House. Click here to learn about the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 51st season, which includes “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Coming up: Art meets Father’s Day, The secret life of paper

Musings on “Mockingbird”

We see what we look for, hear what we listen for. It’s one of many messages conveyed by Harper Lee in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” published the year I was born and dubbed one of the great American novels. Harper’s writing is highly praised, as is her treatment of racial injustice in the American South. Central to the book, adapted for both screen and stage, is the trial of a black man accused of rape who’s defended in court by a white lawyer.

My only experience on the receiving end of racism was during ninth grade, when I lived in Hawaii and was one of just a few “haoles” at my school. I remember noticing that teachers never called on us, even when our hands were raised and we’d come to class eager to participate. Others have experienced far greater injustices caused by bigotry based on skin color.

But our family has lived for years with another type of discrimination, made more painful by the fact that few people even acknowledge its existence. We have a family member with mental illness, but there’s little public outrage when people ridicule such things. For all our progress as a society in championing the rights of LGBT individuals and raising awareness about families affected by autism, we’ve yet to truly see the 1 in 5 people in our midst who live with depression or other mental health conditions.

So I see in “To Kill a Mockingbird” both the tale of a black man falsely accused, and the tale of another man judged too quickly — the character called “Boo” who lives holed up in his house isolated from neighbors who ridicule him for being what they consider crazy. While I acknowlege the power of Lee’s book to heighten our awareness of racial injustice even as it occurs today, I see in her work something more.

The danger in drawing assumptions about anyone. Those with mental illness. Women. Children. White men. Lawyers. Those who commit crimes. Even novelists like Lee who choose to live a quiet existence outside of the public eye. I was reminded of all this today while watching a local theater company production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which affirmed what many have surmised. That the story is just as relevant now as it was when Harper wrote it. See it. Hear it. And act on it.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read the “1 in 5″ report from SAMHSA

Coming up: Remembering Anne Frank,  Veterans who write