Tag Archives: Arizona Thespian Festival

Musings on “Me to We”

I first met the fine folks from “Me to We” while making a coffee run last year at the Phoenix Civic Plaza. I was attending the Arizona thespian festival, but happened on another conference while stepping out to Starbucks for a spell. It was sponsored by the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence, and they graciously let me take a spin through their exhibit area so I could connect with various purveyors of parenting-related fare.

While there, I encountered plenty of familiar faces, including folks from Workshops for Youth and Families and Arizona Dance Coalition. But also several resources I’d yet to encounter during my 20+ years of parenting — including “Me to We,” which describes itself as is “an innovative social enterprise that provides people with better choices for a better world.” I was intrigued because my kids have long been champions of social justice and volunteering.

I spied a book while there that I never got around to ordering, but spotted once again at this year’s Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair. It’s “The World Needs Your Kid: Raising Children Who Care and Contribute” by Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger (founders of Free the Children) and Shelley Page (writer and mother of two children from China) — and they were kind enough to send me home with a copy to share with my kiddos, all in college and eager to change the world.

The book opens with a foreward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and an introduction covering “the three Cs” — compassion, courage and community. The book has 16 chapters organized around these three themes, with headings like “Find Your Passion,” “Curing the Gimmes” and “Learning Through Service.” Also “First Person” accounts from folks like Jane Fonda, Mia Farrow, Jane Goodall, Ellie Wiesel, Steve Nash, Jason Mraz, Desmond Tutu and Robert Kennedy, Jr.

I’ve read lots of books for youth about “being the change you wish to see in the world” (a phrase attributed to India’s Ghandi), and this is clearly among the best. It’s interesting and engaging, practical and inspirational. “The World Needs Your Kid” is an empowering read for children, teens and adults. There’s oodles of information conveyed in small snippets, and gorgeous photography throughout. Think quotes, tips for taking small actions every day, stories of ordinary people lifting others’ lives and more. Even a section near the back titled “100 Tips to Raise Global Citizens.”

Turns out “Me to We” also offers a variety of summer programs based at the Windsong Peace & Leadership Center — their 40-acre ranch in Patagonia, Arizona. Those noted on their RAK Camp Fair handout include a “Take Action Academy” (ages nine-19) June 24-30 and “Me to We Arizona Trip” (ages 12+) July 1-14. Also “Me to We Advanced Facilitation Training” (ages 16+ with extensive leadership experience) July 16-24 or Aug 21-29 and a “Me to We Arizona-Mexico Trip” (ages 12+) Aug 5-18.

While exploring both “Me to We” exhibits, I spied several fun trinkets my kids would love. Turns out you can explore the works of several artisans affiliated with “Me to We” online — so keep them in mind when shopping for birthdays, holidays, everyday lunchbox surprises and such. Seems you can even shop for social change these days.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about a variety of summer camps, many of which offer arts and culture experiences for children and teens. Click here to read a comprehensive review of “The World Needs Your Kid” from The Epoch Times.

Coming up: Going “Gatsby,” Dance meets dirt, Spotlight on “Sweeney Todd”

More fun with “ThesCon” photos

More than 75 schools are participating in this year’s Arizona Thespian Festival, taking place Nov. 18 & 19 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Most are from the Phoenix metropolitan area, but other parts of the state are also represented. Think Tucson, Bisbee, San Tan Valley, Vail, Yuma, Holbrook, Payson, Sahuarita and Wickenberg.

Agua Fria High School students who decided to really dress for the occasion on Friday

The event program features a graphic with paw prints that reads “Thespians Can’t Be Tamed” and this year’s “We Were Born This Way” theme. Theater students, more than any others perhaps, combine respect for individual differences with love of working together. They’re some of the country’s most creative and hard-working youth, yet perpetually strive to get to the next level.

A group of high school theater students deciding which workshops to attend

So it’s no surprise that more than 80 workshops are being offered this year – on everything from “The Rap & Rhyme of Shakespeare” to “Advanced Playwriting.” Even “Rigging Safety,” “Intermediate Juggling,” “Speaking the British Dialect” and “Hand to Hand Combat.”

A couple of attendees check out the amazing number of festival offerings

The festival helps high school theater students hone on-stage and behind-the-scene skills, and helps teachers connect with others working to improve arts education despite budget shortfalls and other challenges.

Students from Notre Dame Preparatory High School enjoying a bit of down time

Two schools were selected to perform full-length productions at this year’s festival – Perry High School (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and Desert Mountain High School (“Ruthless!”).

Students having a great time at the No Fear Ballroom Dancing workshop

Seventeen schools are presenting one-act plays, and some students are participating in competitions spotlighting specific abilities such as delivering monologues, designing costumes and creating short films.

More students demonstrating the fine art of ballroom dance

Between workshops, competitions and performances, students visit with representatives from various colleges and universities – some in Arizona, some from other states (including California, New York, New Mexico and Nevada). I was especially excited to see my own alma mater, Pepperdine University, on the list of places eager to recruit Arizona students.

Students from Glendale High School doing their ballroom dancing thing

An event of this magnitude takes extraordinary effort by dedicated individuals, and an incredible amount of teamwork. This year’s program lists 31 Arizona adult state board members, including Linda Phillips of Agua Fria High School, who serves as Arizona Thespian Chapter Director. It also notes the names of 22 Arizona student state board members, including Captain Thespian Chris Rodriguez of Desert Ridge High School.

A delightful gathering of several students volunteering at the festival this year

I’ll be heading out the festival again on Saturday morning, eager to glean tips I can share with young readers on topics like auditioning, applying for college theater programs, marketing shows and pursuing careers in theater.

Students from Sahuaro High School in Tucson with a piece entered in the tech challenge

Something tells me I’ll come home with enough stories to carry me through until next year’s festival. Have you ever heard the one about the horse’s head?

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Arizona Thespians, an affiliate of the Educational Theatre Association

Coming up: A playground dispute takes center stage

Habitat for Humanity enlists Little House cast

“I’m headed out to the build,” I hollered to my family as I ran out the door Thursday morning. The last time I heard that line, it was uttered by a serial killer on the Showtime television series Dexter. You don’t want to know what ends up in the “Trinity Killer’s” concrete. I felt perfectly safe since the concrete portion of this job looked to be complete, and the most prevalent material was the “blue stuff” making up the still-in-progress walls.

I had a hard time finding the place I was looking for—a home lot where cast members of the musical Little House on the Prairie, playing now at ASU Gammage as part of the 2009/2010 Broadway Across America series, were assisting Habitat for Humanity folks with building a home for a Phoenix family. But as I drove by the site, windows down, and radio blasting a South Pacific tune—someone recognized me.

I walked up to the build, past a chain link fence with a sign that read “Lot #16”—and indicated that its sponsor is Bank of America. Every build on the block had a similar sign, but with its own lot number and sponsor. Other sponsors included the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, the University of Phoenix, UPS Freight and more.

I mention this because I always make time to review the sponsors listed in programs for the performances I attend. I wonder if they know how much I appreciate their support for the arts, that I go out of my way to give them business, that I wish I’d followed through more often on my plans to send a thank you note or make a thank you call.

I didn’t get to see Melissa Gilbert, who plays the role of Ma in the musical, in her hardhat—but I did get to don one of my own. It brought back memories of the construction of Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. I’ll bet they have plenty of “blue stuff” in their walls too.

My own “ma”—among others—might be mystified by my lack of finesse for naming building materials. Not to worry, I am able to fathom more than the color when choosing a new car—something that happens every few years during the holiday season when I manage to kill a vehicle racing from rehearsals and shows to recitals and volunteer gigs.

My mother was a nurse, an R.N., who earned a master’s degree in public administration while raising me single-handedly in Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and California. She developed substance abuse treatment programs for native populations in northern Alaska. I was always so impressed to see pictures of her in her heavy parka with a fur-rimmed hood about to board one of those tiny planes that land and take-off from the water.

My mom knew her way around a tool box and a great deal more, flipping houses for extra income before anyone thought of divine designing or trading spaces. When she was younger, she once told me, women just didn’t go into construction. Her parents would have been mortified.

So she learned to be content with her garage workshop filled with the finest in hand and power tools. You never had to wonder what kind of gift certificate to get for my mom’s birthday. And I never had to go far to explore a variety of visual arts forms. Our garage was project central for weaving rugs, making sterling and turquoise jewelry and more.

Maybe that’s where I first felt the power of the arts to connect people, to bridge distances and to expand my horizons. I discovered that the arts are fun and fulfilling. And I got a glimpse of the person behind my mom, a privilege too few children enjoy before losing a loved one.

The Habitat for Humanity build was a giant canvas of hammers, levels and saws. Despite my mother’s attempts to teach me her craft, I’ve never been gifted in this area. I didn’t really feel at home on the site until I saw a roll of chicken wire. Aha, I thought, this is something I know how to use—for gardening, and for constructing the innards of some theater set pieces.

On this crisp and sunny Phoenix morning, Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers were joined by touring Broadway cast members—a cause they have supported in other cities as well. You have only to learn of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the wildly successful industry-based non-profit that does AIDS fundraising and grant-making, to know that theater folk have long loved a good cause.

But love is never enough. Action must follow—as it did at today’s Little House build. But why the Habitat for Humanity project, with so many worthy causes in our Valley of the Sun? Because, shares the cast, home is what the musical Little House on the Prairie is all about.

I have tickets to see the show at ASU Gammage this weekend—in addition to watching my daughter offer an amusing portrayal of a gin-guzzling wench (not her official role) in Greasepaint Youtheatre’s Oliver! I hope they’ll be taking voluntary donations after the show so anyone with an interest can join the Little House cast in supporting Habitat for Humanity. I love these types of opportunities to give back because they allow me to do good works while enjoying the things I love most. (My girls do too–when I took them to see Springsteen earlier this year, the food bank folks seemed charmed by the fact that they’d drop money in every single donation bin each and every time they passed it!)

When the Broadway Across America production of Rent came to ASU Gammage a while back, folks had the opportunity to take home autographed Rent souvenirs (Playbills, posters, etc.) with certain donation levels. No pressure involved—ever. But the opportunity is there. I spotted a little something for Lizabeth at the recent Arizona Thespian Festival, which featured a sale of Broadway memorabilia to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I get the double joy of treating her to a special holiday gift and supporting a cause I believe in.

I remember learning of Habitat for Humanity many years ago, thanks to the involvement of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter. Come to think of it, they’ve introduced me to many a good cause—including the Carter Center in Atlanta, which houses a renowned mental health program dedicated to policy goals such as reducing stigma, raising awareness, improving prevention and achieving health care equity.

I’m certain I’ll fall in love with Little House on the Prairie when I see it this weekend. But it’ll be more than the heartwarming story, charming dance numbers and moving dialogue—it’ll also be a renewed appreciation for the role of theater and theater folk in promoting social justice.

I love them for that…

–Lynn

Coming up: The Southwest Shakespeare Company, Holiday art book selection