Tag Archives: cherry blossoms

You had me at “cherry tree”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s a small parking lot at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts that’s covered with yellow blossoms these days — dropped from the Palo Verde trees that bring a splash of color to the desert each spring. I’ve taken to imagining these trees are cherry blossoms, picturing them in pink instead of yellow, because I’m still learning to love the Arizona landscape — but cherry blossoms have always tugged at my heart.

I saw the season’s first cherry tree blossom inside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden earlier this month and get wistful for Washington, D.C. each time the cherry blossoms emerge. So when I learned that a new theater work titled “Sakura no Ne” (“Root of the Cherry Tree”) included footage of trees in bloom, I knew I had to see it. Folks who feel the same have just one more opportunity (April 22 at 2pm) to see the family-friendly production being performed at Theater Works in Peoria.

“Sakura no Ne” is part multi-media production, part performance art, part morality tale and part homage to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix (along with sister city Himeji in Japan). At times it has the feel of a fine work of theater for children. Other times it reads like a Japan-inspired version of “Riverdance” or “Stomp.” Everything about it is lovely, but it may need a bit more pruning as it evolves to reach wider audiences.

Children in the audience Saturday afternoon clearly loved the humor, drumming, martial arts component and digital projections. The 80-minute show also features diverse dance elements rarely scene on Valley stages. I chatted with a couple after the show, eager to see whether a storm scene filled with lightning and a fire-breathing serpent had scared their preschool-age son. “This is the first time he’s sat through an entire show,” they told me.

“Sakura no No” is the work of playwright Soji Kashiwagi (of Grateful Crane Ensemble) and music composer Scott Nagatani.  It’s directed by Dominik Rebilas. “Sakura no Ne” is produced by Yoshi Kumagai (who also serves as art director and fight choreographer) and Ken Koshio (who also serves as music director), sponsored by the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix and funded by a Sundome Performing Arts Association grant. Kumagai shared with me after the show that they’re hoping to present the work in additional Valley venues.

The show’s most dramatic element is drumming by Ken Koshio in the role of Ikazuchi (Thunder God). The cast also includes John Tang (Taro “Tama” Yamazajura), Urashima Taro, Old Man), Dale Nakagawa (Justin, Sea Turtle) and Sandy Harris (Haley, Sea Princess, Crane). Most delicate is Koshio’s title song, sung in Japanese and English with harmonica and guitar. I also enjoyed creations by Zarko Guerrero (mask and turtle outfit) and Derrick Suwaima Davis (crane feather outfit).

“Sakura no Ne” follows the adventures of two tween-age siblings — a boy rarely parted from his Nintendo and a girl attached to her cell phone. Think “I’m so bored” and “O-M-G.” They’re left one day at the Japanese Friendship Garden by parents hoping they’ll find a bit of bliss. But the pair finds something more — a renewed appreciation for nature, family and community. Even each other.

The simple storyline is punctuated by music, dance and martial arts performance. There’s traditional Japanese dance featuring Mari Kaneta (whose choreography and dance I enjoyed with daughter Lizabeth during the 1996 Arizona Opera production of “Madama Butterfly”), taiko drumming by Fushicho Daiko and Jakara, martial arts by a trio from Arizona Aikiko and dance by the ASU Japanese Student Association’s Soran Bushi Dancers. It all comes together in the service of a single message.

Only the cherry tree’s strong roots make its beautiful blossoms possible.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Strolling in Yukata” (taking place April 28 at the Japanese Friendship Garden) and here to learn about a new musical titled “Allegiance” (which explores the World War II experiences of a Japanese-American family).

Coming up: Another tree tale, Don’t cry for me Shakespeare?

Remembering Japan

I learned a bit of Japanese and followed the adventures of John Fulton in Japan last night after my daughter Jennifer invited me to watch an episode of one of her favorite television shows — the Discovery Channel’s “Must Love Cats.”

Turns out the episode featured all sorts of cat fare in Japan — including the story of a cat called Maneki Neko thought to bring good fortune, an island where cats exposed to radiation are cared for, and several cat cafes for cat-lovers who can’t enjoy cats in their own homes.

Knowing that it’s been a year since Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, Jennifer remarked that “we have our 9/11 and Japan has its 3/11.” Those eager to show solidarity with the people of Japan have several options, including donations to assist with ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts.

Also attending a “Special Anniversary Remembrance Event” being presented today by the Japanese Culture Club of Arizona. The 2pm event features the screening of a film titled “The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom,” which was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for short subject documentary.

This Arizona premiere screening takes place in the Arizona Historical Society’s Steele Auditorium, located at 1300 N College Ave. in Tempe. A charitable donation of $10 is suggested.

The Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix is accepting donations at its gift shop today to benefit earthquake and tnunami victims. It’s open from 10am to 3pm, and admission is $5. Upcoming events at the garden include the following:

March 23: Anime Night at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix — presented in partnership with the Himeji Sister Cities Committee

March 24: Taiko Experience 2012 with Fushicho Daiko Dojo (includes the opportunity to learn taiko with special ticket purchase)

March 31: Children’s Day (with Valley of the Sun Koi Club) at Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix

April 13-22: “Sakura no Ne” production at Theatre Works/Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

April 28: Strolling in Yukata (traditional Japanese attire)

They’ll hold “The Spirit of the Garden Anime/Manga Contest” (all ages welcome, but no mature content allowed) in early May.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about the Phoenix Sister Cities Program that includes Himeji, Japan.

Coming up: Celebrating National Poetry Month

Two fairs, three festivals

Unplug the kids this weekend for a bit of camp fair and festival fun

I’m heading out this morning, and tomorrow, to enjoy this year’s Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair – taking place at the Tesseract School Shea Campus in Phoenix (Feb. 25) and the Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler (Feb. 26). I’m especially eager to chat with folks from all the camps offering visual and performing arts fare.

I’ll have plenty of good choices for weekend fun, including three festivals, once I get my Camp Fair fix — a Black History Month festival in Peoria, a Matsuri festival in Phoenix and a Sunday A’Fair “mini-festival” in Scottsdale.

The Black History Month celebration in Peoria actually kicked off last night with a jazz concert featuring Dennis Rowland, but those of you who missed it will be pleased to know that he’s also part of a concert taking place at the Herberger Theater Center Mon, Feb. 27 to benefit Actors Theatre (which also stars Walt Richardson, and Bob Sorenson as master of ceremonies).

The Black History Month Festival happens today from 10am to 7pm in Osuna Park in Peoria (83rd and Grand Aves.). I’m told they’ll have live music, vendors, community and medical service stations, and a kids zone — plus lots of information and educational materials. Admission to the festival is free, and the day also includes a tribute to the late Whitney Houston.

Sunday A’Fair in Scottsdale takes place Sun, Feb. 26 from noon to 4pm on the large lawn adjacent to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Admission to this baby is free as well.

This week’s Sunday A’Fair features the Chuck Hall Band playing “a spicy Texas stew of originals and unique blues-based standards” from noon to 1:30pm and Powerdrive playing “Red-hot salsa dance numbers, R & B, classic oldies and Tex-Mex.”

Sunday A’Fairs also take place March 4 & 25 and April 1 & 8 — and each features different concert fare. All include a fine arts and crafts market, activities for children and free admission to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Arizona Matsuri, the 28th Annual Festival of Japan, hits Heritage and Science Park in downtown Phoenix both Sat, Feb. 25 and Sun, Feb. 26 from 10am-5pm. It features exhibits, demonstrations, arts and crafts, children’s activities and three stages with live entertainment. Plus Japanese food and bonsai displays.

Folks dressed in Japanese attire are invited to participate in the Matsuri parade that starts at 10:10am today (start gathering at the Plaza Stage around 9:45am).  An opening ceremony at 10:30am this morning features Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States.

Festival organizers note that “flowering cherry trees have seen symbols of Japan’s friendship to the people of America for 100 years.” In 1912, more than 3,000 cherry trees were gifted from the Tokyo to Washington, D.C. so 2012 has been dubbed the Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Centennial.

Enjoy all these fabulous fairs and festivals while you can. In another couple of months the only things we’ll be celebrating are ice cubes and air conditioning.

– Lynn

Note: Ice cube meets art at the corner of First St. and Brown Ave. in Scottsdale, where you’ll find a 2006 work created with concrete, forged iron and pavers that also includes a rose, cowboy boot, boxing glove and more. It’s “Hidden Histories for Old Town Scottsdale” by Elizabeth Conner with Benson Shaw, Duke Grenier, and Tawn Endres.

Coming up: Starry, starry playwright