Tag Archives: children’s museums

Fun with folk arts

Children making candles at last year’s Folk Arts Fair in Prescott (Photo courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum)

Kids getting a bit restless? World beyond your house feeling a tad too warm? Wishing you’d spent the long weekend traveling instead of tackling chores? The fine folks in Prescott have a little something to take your mind off such troubles — the 39th annual Folk Arts Fair “Village of Traditions” taking place this weekend at the Sharlot Hall Museum. Think June 2 & 3 from 10-5pm both days.

While you’re there, check out the Phippen Museum. Their “Arizona’s Pioneering Women: Early Women Artists (1905-1945)” exhibition runs through July 8. Weekend hours are Sat. 10am-4pm and Sun. 1-4pm so you can easily enjoy both museums. Admission is $7 for adults, and kids under 12 get in free. Those of you who share my “more museums” mantra can explore three additional museums in Prescott while making the trip this weekend.

The Fort Whipple Museum, housed in a 1909 military officer’s quarters, exhibits medical instruments, Army weaponry, maps, photos, memoirs and more. Admission is by donation and it’s open Sat. 10am-4pm. The Smoki Museum, presenting a “Hopi Summer” exhibition through Aug 31, is open Sat. 10am-4pm and Sun. 1-4pm. Admission is $5/adults and children under 12 get in free. A children’s museum called “the spot” is open Sat. 1-5pm inside the Prescott Gateway Mall (admission is a whopping $3/person).

If musical performance is your thing, you’ll find it at both the Folk Arts Fair and the Blue Rose Theater – which presents “Ted Ramirez in Concert” Sat., June 2. Musical performers for the Folk Arts Fair include Az It Was, Barbara Swanberg, Susan Bailey Smith and Sistah Mary Grace.

Folks who attend the fair on Saturday can enjoy dance performance by a local Irish group. Other fair festivities this weekend include roping, tatting, sheep sheering and quilting demonstrations. Also millinery (hat making) lessons, old-time children’s games and hands-on activities for kids. Think making candles and corn husk dolls.

During the fair, the Sharlot Hall Museum campus will be transformed into “a 19th century Arizona village” featuring several themed districts — animal, clothing, craft, food, folk women and folk men. Living history types donning period garb will be on hand to share practices of times past in Arizona. Daily admission is $5 for adults ($3 for museum members). It’s free for those under age 18. Click here to learn more.

– Lynn

Note: Always confirm event/location details before attending, and remember that all sorts of family-friendly events are described in print and online editions of the Raising Arizona Kids calendar.

Coming up: A couple of crafty chicks, Fun finds for Father’s Day

16 ways to celebrate museum day

After drawing a picture at the Tucson Children’s Museum, this child decided to hang it on the museum’s bulletin board.

Plenty of museums are celebrating International Museum Day on May 18 with free admission and/or other special offers. Check out these ideas for exploring and supporting museums with your family and friends…

Visit children’s museums with your family. Arizona options include the Arizona Museum for Youth, Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Tucson Children’s Museum.

Plan a family vacation to a museum-rich region. Treat your kids to a weekend exploring museums in Prescott, Tucson or Phoenix. Head to museums in other parts of the country — Chicago, New York, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Or enjoy time together in Florence, Paris or London.

Introduce your kids to museum-sponsored events. Tell your teens about this weekend’s “Teen Night Out” at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Take your children to see exhibits featuring works by youth, like “Visions” at SMoCA’s young@art gallery.

Make a donation to your favorite museum. Even small gifts are welcome because they add up to big results for museum goers as donations make new programs, events and exhibits possible.

Write letters in support of local museums. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in praise of museums, or to a local legislator who supports museums and other homes for Arizona arts and culture.

Shop for gifts, games and more at your local museum. Visit the Musical Instrument Museum for child-friendly instruments, the Heard Museum for artwork by American Indian artists or the Arizona Science Center for hands-on activities.

Sign up to get museum e-newsletters. Request e-alerts from your favorite museums so you’ll be the first to know about new programs, family-friendly events, special exhibits and more.

Take friends to see a museum film screening. Catch “Gerard Richter Painting” (May 30) at the Tucson Museum of Art or “Between the Folds” (June 2, featuring ten paper artists) at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Enroll your kids in museum classes or summer camps. Check out offerings at the Arizona Museum of Natural HistoryShemer Art Center and Museum and other museums.

See an arts-related musical or play. Take older teens or friends to see Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “Red” (a John Logan play exploring Mark Rothko’s work) at the Herberger Theater Center.

Read books about great artists and museums. Pick up a couple of art books at your local museum shop or head to the library for titles about artists exhibited in the world’s famous museums and galleries.

Explore museum galleries online. Spend some time enjoying Google Art, or visiting online exhibitions from local and international museums so your children can see works by diverse artists.

Get a culture pass from your local library. Head to participating libraries to snag passes for free admission, and watch for museums offering free/discounted admission as part of International Museum Day.

Invite friends to dine at a local museum cafe. Enjoy lunch at the Phoenix Art Museum’s Palette, the MIM Cafe, the Heard Museum North Cafe or another museum restaurant.

Sign up to volunteer with a local museum. Train to be a docent, help with kids’ art classes or greet museum visitors.

Help your child’s teacher arrange a museum field trip. Suggest a few of your favorite museums for class field trips, and offer to help with legwork or actual field trip planning.

Learn more about Arizona museums from the Central Arizona Museum Association and the Arizona Museum Association. Click here explore Blue Star Museums, a national program that provides free summer admission to participating museums for active duty military personnel and their families.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read a list of Arizona museums offering free admission compiled by the Scottsdale Public Library. Always check museum hours, admission costs and such before attending.

Coming up: Art from a recent United Nations exhibition of works by women

Going rogue?

I've always got my eye out for art -- like this "Right Eye from an Arthropoid Coffin" (1539-30 B.C., Egypt) recently spotted at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

I feel a bit rogue sometimes — writing for an Arizona magazine, but finding such delight in covering NYC arts and culture. So I decided maybe it was time to share with readers in both states, plus others, my rationale for marrying the two. The initial lure, of course, was our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Like many born and raised in Arizona, she’s chosen to further her arts education in NYC — so I visit several times a year in “mom mode.”

But the bridge between Arizona and NYC (plus Chicago and other communities with a heavy arts footprint) is a two-way street. Many who teach and create art in Arizona communities hail from NYC or other parts of the country, and I enjoy giving voice to the places and spaces that’ve nurtured the gifts enjoyed by Arizona art lovers.

Art is all around and deep within us. Traveling without covering regional arts and culture would be like refusing to breath another city’s air. Suffocating. Rather than distracting Arizona readers from the beauty of our own arts bounty, I hope my writing “on the road” inspires a greater appreciation for the multitude of marvels here at home. Photos from a children’s museum in Manhattan or Las Vegas might inspire a family to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix or the Tucson Children’s Museum. So it’s all good.

Sometimes it feels like the art is keeping an eye on you -- like "Curious and Curiouser" by Mary Lucking and David Tinapple in the Arizona Science Center lobby

I’m fortunate to have lots of “Stage Mom” readers in NYC, and hope my blogging on both states’ offerings inspires them to consider the depth and breadth of Arizona arts and culture. We get plenty of bad press, and I’m privileged to cover what’s best about our state. Young poets, skilled playwrights, talented musicians, inspiring dancers, gifted actors. Also arts educators in our schools, museums and various community venues. Tourism takes place in both directions — and I’m an unapologetic missionary for the Arizona arts scene.

I suppose some of my kinship with NYC was born of years attending touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage. I take special delight on reporting from NYC about shows I’ve seen on Valley stages — plus shows that’ll likely head our way during future tours. Only seeing “War Horse” performed at Lincoln Center in NYC enabled me to appreciate how fortunate we are that it’ll gallop into ASU Gammage during their 2012-13 season.

Some people seem to spy art wherever they go -- like this "Untitled" (1961) by Lee Bontecou that's exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum

Some assume that Arizonans are settling for mediocre on-stage and museum fare, but trips to NYC have heightened my appreciation for local offerings. Sometimes I find things that Arizona could use a lot more of — like arts and culture originating in Africa. Other times, I find modest NYC exhibits of Native American or Latino artworks that make clear the excellence of Arizona collections.

Stumbling on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s “Pattern Wizardry” in NYC years after I’d taken my children to enjoy the traveling exhibit at Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth reminded me, like Dorothy in her ruby red slippers, that you needn’t head over the rainbow to find what’s good and right in the world.

Still, we know that plenty of Arizona families travel — making choices when they do about where to invest precious resources like time and money. In an amusement park world, I’m keen on reminding parents to consider arts and cultural destinations too. Youth theater in San Diego. Orchestral concerts in Los Angeles. Public art in Las Vegas. Dance performance in Orlando. It’s all part of upping their appreciation for aesthetics, and the arts and culture industry so critical to a healthy American economy.

Teach your kids to look for art wherever they go -- like this eye detail on the glass house by Therman Statom located just outside the SMoCA young@art gallery in Scottsdale

It’s easy to take Arizona arts and culture for granted, forgetting just how exceptional our own theater companies from Childsplay to Valley Youth Theatre can be. Seeing touring productions from other parts of the country often reminds me that some of the country’s best artists live right here among us. Wowed as I was by a touring Kennedy Center production of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” performed a while back at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, it confirmed my suspicion that Childsplay in Tempe routinely achieves the same high quality of theater performance for students and families.

Seeing works performed during the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City each summer always makes me more committed to attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions here at home. Admiring works of glass art at the Brooklyn Museum last week left me eager to explore more glass art here at home. Similarly, performances enjoyed here in the Valley up my appreciation for works by artists in other places. During my last trip to NYC, I spent an evening watching local arts programming from Thirteen WNET New York Public Media — eager to watch a show about young poets after covering state Poetry Out Loud finals here in the Valley.

Comparing and contrasting are essential to the craft of theater criticism and other elements of arts reporting, so I’d be foolish to check my memories of places like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the door when entering “Stage Mom” mode. The more I experience, the more I have to share with Arizona readers. “Going rogue” has a lovely ring to it, but there’s a circle to what I do — and Arizona will always be my center.

– Lynn

Coming up: Let’s talk “Bully”

A celebration of Jewish life

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A celebration of Jewish life — that’s what the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn is all about. Think Jewish history, culture and traditions brought to life through exhibits and programs featuring hands-on learning and contemporary technology.

Museum materials note that it’s “a setting for children of all faiths and backgrounds to gain a positive perspective and awareness of the Jewish heritage, fostering tolerance and understanding.” The diversity of Jewish culture is well-represented by a giant face on the front of the museum — a composite of smaller photographs of vastly different faces.

The museum has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors since opening in April 2005 — and is “dedicated to the memory of Ari Halberstam, the 16-year-old Yeshiva student who was shot and killed by a terrorist on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994.”

I toured all but the fourth floor during a recent visit to NYC, because new “Voyage through Jewish History” exhibits were under construction. They’ll debut during an April 9 grand opening celebration. These new exhibits include “Patriarchs and Matriarchs,” “Mount Sinai Experience,” “Temple and Tabernacle,” “Land of Israel,” “Sages through the Ages,” “Jewish World Today,” “The Holocaust” and “One Good Deed.”

I first explored the second floor, where dozens of elementary-age school children with chaperones were enjoying interactive activities. While there, I lingered to admire the remarkable details of a 20-foot original mosaic by Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik – plus a Michael Schwartz work featuring 387,000 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

Next I headed to the third floor, home to exhibits titled “6 Days of Creation,” “Shabbat,” “Kosher Supermarket,” “Kosher Kitchen” and “World of Good.” Also “Jewish Holidays” — where I walked through the replica of an old-fashioned shtetl (village) in which children explore the Jewish holiday cycle through hands-on activities like retelling the Purim story with puppets or reading about Passover while exploring a giant Seder plate.

Finally, I made my way to the fifth floor, where I discovered a miniature golf area dubbed “Six Holes of Life” and a “Gallery of Games” with giant wall-mounted activity boards that let children search for hidden Jewish treasures, create images of Jewish objects with light and more.

The Jewish Children’s Museum makes clear the power of coupling education with entertainment in the service of understanding and appreciating history, culture and tradition. I can’t help wondering what it might be like to explore a children’s museum spotlighting the art, history, beliefs, practices and people of all the world’s religions.

– Lynn

Note: The Jewish Museum New York invites you to celebrate Passover by exploring their online collection — which you can click here to enjoy.

Coming up: Quilting for justice, What’s new at Valley museums?

Use your words

I admit to using a few choice words while running last minute holiday errands. When I admonished my young children to “use your words,” these weren’t the ones I had in mind.

And though families are hoping for tender moments as relatives gather for holiday rituals, we all know that tensions can run high. So consider this your friendly reminder to “use your words.” The nice ones.

And keep these simple word games in mind for family time that needs to be a bit more fun and focused. All were inspired by a recent trip to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, where you’ll find all sorts of colorful word art in their “Someplace” exhibit.

Grab pen and paper for a simple game of “Hangman.” Choose a word without revealing it to your partner. Then have them guess as you build the “hangman” each time they guess a letter not found in your word.

Pull out those old magnetic word kits — or make your own using magnetic backing available from local craft stores. Local bookstores and museum gift shops won’t mind you stopping in for a set.

Create your own letter and/or word flashcards using index cards, construction paper or other items at hand. Use them to create story chains (everyone adds a word to build a story together), play sorting games (find all the words that begin with a single letter) or make up your own activities.

Go on a word treasure hunt, choosing certain words around the house for players to find before rejoining the group to share word locations.

Let the kids cut words out of old cereal boxes, magazines and such — then string them together into stories, glue them together into collages and such.

Choose a word or collection of letters and challenge players to find as many words as possible using only the word or letters provided.

If using homemade word tiles feels too passé, rev up your technology du jour and explore more than 60 online word games for kids at http://pbskids.org/games/word.html.

Most importantly, remember to “use your words” to express your gratitude for gifts of time and talent, for random acts of kindness, for the simple joys that fill the season. And to focus on the words that matter most.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Children’s Museum of Phoenix (which is closed Dec. 24 & 25, but open on Dec. 26). Word art included in this post is part of the “Someplace” exhibit featuring the work of Bisbee artist Peter Goldlust. Click here to read a post featuring more of his musings.

Coming up: Freckle time!

Visiting Children’s Museum Tucson

I was pleasantly surprised, during a recent trip to Tucson, to discover that the city boasts its very own ocean and rainforest habitats — in the form of museum exhibits for young visitors to Children’s Museum Tucson. Apparently even dinosaurs still roam the earth there, assuming you’ve got a good imagination.

Children’s Museum Tucson is designed for children ages 10 & under, but older kids and grown-ups can have plenty of fun playing along with younger family members as they explore rooms featuring diverse hands-on exhibits. I started my visit in a large area devoted to electicity, then moved to a public safety exhibit complete with police motorcycle and large puppet theater.

A couple and their young son were already seated inside the cab of a giant firetruck, so I didn’t get to embarrass myself by jumping aboard. Instead, I headed to a room featuring a tunnel running through a train car — where I resisted the urge to give it a try by watching an electric train work its way around a high shelf that wraps around the room.

Later I headed to a rainforest theme room designed for toddlers. It’s full of puppets, mural art and soft yet sturdy items for climbing. Also a room dedicated to creating and exhibiting artwork — and another filled with a fun assortment of kites, Mickey Mouse memorabelia and art with a technology vibe. I even found a submarine station, one of many areas perfect for pretend play.

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Folks who visit the museum for “First Sundays” (Dec. 4 this month) pay just $2 for museum admission. The museum is open Tues-Fri 9am-5pm, and 10am-5pm on weekends (it’s closed on Mondays). Admission is also $2 for the museum’s Winter Solstice celebration, taking place from 1-4pm on Sat, Dec. 17.

– Lynn

Note: Arizona is also home to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.

Coming up: Preview of 2012 film festivals

Ode to squishy things

Seems artist Peter Goldlust spends “a lot of time looking under rocks for squirmy things” with his wife Melanie Germond and their two sons. Goldlust describes Bisbee, their current home, as a “small artist community.”

He’s been spending a great deal of time in Phoenix, readying the “Someplace” exhibit that opened just a few days ago at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. I’m told that the inspiration for “Someplace” came from turning over rocks.

I chatted with Goldlust during the installation process and learned that about 80% of the stuff used to build “Someplace” consists of recycled materials — tires, barrels, clothing and such. Even hundreds of pairs of jeans, including some given to the museum by families who heeded the call for fabric donations.

Bisbee father and artist Peter Goldlust takes a break from installing "Someplace" at the Children's Museum of Phoenix (Photo: Dan Friedman)

Folks who see the exhibit now will scarcely believe the transformation of materials wrought by Goldlust. I suspect the secret lies in the “many hundreds of rivets” used during the process, but the rivets aren’t talking.

If it’s sound you seek, check out the exhibit’s “sound pods” — giant tubs that looked like upside down yellow planters the day I checked out Goldlust’s “work in progress” with Raising Arizona Kids writer and photographer Daniel Friedman.

Now that they’re completed, young visitors can actually go inside the pods to experience “soundscapes composed from the calls and noises of imaginary creatures.” Some were created via the “Bisbee Youth Radio Project,” which I find strangely comforting. I’d hate to think that Goldlust hooked eensy teensy mics up to all those creatures discovered under rocks.

The “Someplace” exhibit is populated by “make-believe creations” that live only in children’s imaginations. Beware the “Giant Pantslug” when you go. I’m told he made a bold escape attempt on route to the museum in Goldlust’s pick up truck — and that retrieving the errant slug from Hwy. 10 set the artist back about $200.

Never fear if squishy things aren’t your vibe. I’m more of a word kind of a gal, and was overjoyed to see that “Someplace” includes dozens of fabric words stuck to 30 feet of Velcro-covered walls like pieces of a giant Magnetic Poetry set. How lovely to experience such a whimsical art/literacy combo.

Peter Goldlust at the Children's Museum of Phoenix (Photo: Dan Friedman)

Before we left Goldlust to his squishy things, I spent some time with a wall covered in strips of stuff with differing textures. Think fur so thick you can write your name in it. And bumpy copper that makes a fun noise when you run your fingers over it. It’s a slice of child development heaven.

I’ll be heading back to the museum soon to check out a few of the elements that weren’t yet in place the day of our visit — a small “Baby Zone” and a collection of puppets rumored to have body parts perfect for mix and match play. Think wings, fins, eyes and more. There’s even a puppet theater for creatures with a bit of a performance bent.

Look for “Someplace” on the third floor of the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, right behind the “Noodle Forest” (now black and teal) suspended from the ceiling. And give a little shout out to the Hearst Foundation and Phoenix Suns Charities for funding this, the museum’s first artist-in-residence program.

– Lynn

Coming up: A bevy of book reviews, Gingerbread tales, What’s new in art classes?

Vegas has a children’s museum?

This mural greets visitors as they first enter the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in downtown Las Vegas…

Interactive museum exhibits make learning fire and water safety fun…

Hands-on exploration is encouraged throughout the museum…

The museum’s mini-city teaches children about using energy wisely…

Several museum exhibits feature a healthy eating and good nutrition theme…

Museum exhibits encourage children to explore community life…

Several exhibits focus on performing arts like theater and music…

The museum is filled with artwork created by visiting children and families…

Science-related exhibits include this tornado and a hurricane wind simulator…

Several exhibits show practical applications of math and science…

The museum is full of activities that families can enjoy together…

A demonstration area looks like the set of a television cooking show…

You had to know there would be neon somewhere in a Las Vegas museum…

The museum has areas for mechanical science, medical science and more…

Every now and then parents actually let their children try something first…

Visit the museum online to learn about plans to move/expand on the strip…

– Lynn

Coming up: Photo tour of the Children’s Museum of Phoenix

“Memphis” meets movie theater

Alert: Click here to learn how you can help victims of flooding in the Memphis area.

Lizabeth and I are heading to a Broadway musical Thursday night — not in the theater district in NYC, but right here in the Valley — as Fathom Events presents a filmed performance of “Memphis” at several AMC movie theaters.

Memphis” was nominated for eight 2010 Tony Awards, and won four of them. It beat out “American Idiot,” “Fela!” and “Million Dollar Quartet” for the 2010 Tony Award for “Best Musical.”

You wouldn’t have expected as much had you read an early review of “Memphis” by theater critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times – who described it in an Oct 20, 2009 review as “the Michael Bolton of Broadway musicals.”

Isherwood decribes the musical as “slick but formulaic entertainment,” but that hardly dampens my interest. If anything, it ups the intrigue factor — already quite high because the music for “Memphis” comes from Bon Jovi pianist David Bryan.

“Memphis” explores issues of sex, race and rock & roll in 1950s America. Seems a white high school dropout stumbles into a black nightclub and wows the crowds with his powerful piano licks — then hits plenty of highs and lows before landing a DJ gig that appears his true calling. Falling for a black singer doesn’t make his life any easier.

The club where character Huey Calhoun first finds his bliss is located on Beale Street, an actual music row located in Memphis, Tennessee — where something called the “Beale Street Music Festival” takes April 29-May 1 this year.

I suppose those who get really inspired when “Memphis” meets the movies on Thursday night can hop a plane and live a bit of Memphis in real life this weekend. Other fab events on the Memphis horizon include a May 2-8 “International Salute to Belgium” and a May 12-14 “World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest.”

Memphis has influenced or been home to plenty of famous actors — from Dixie Carter and Justin Timberlake to Kathy Bates and Morgan Freeman. Also musicians Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis (depicted in the musical “Million Dollar Quartet“).

As every loyal Elvis fan knows, Memphis is home to Presley’s “Graceland.” Tennessee museums include the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, the Memphis Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Memphis.

I have a feeling I’ll want to jump on a plane bound for Tennessee come Friday morning. Thankfully, I’ve got lots of reasons to stick around — including tickets to see the Arizona School for the Arts performance of “Triangle” and the Actors Theatre performance of “Circle Mirror Transformation.”

Come to think of it, perhaps the good folks of Memphis ought to think about coming here to enjoy a bit of Arizona arts and culture…

– Lynn

Note: “Memphis” is also being shown at Cinemark Mesa 16 (home to performances from the Metropolitan Opera in NYC and other special events).

Coming up: Like everyone else…

Update: We had a great time attending “Memphis” at a Mesa movie theater Thursday night. The movie theater venue lets viewers see actors up close, enjoy behind the scenes happenings and watch interviews with cast/creative team members that they can’t experience during live theater performance. I liked the musical as a story of the difference one person, or a small group of people, can make — but Lizabeth and I agree we’d enjoy it more as a concert or play rather than a piece of musical theater. You still have the weekend to see “Memphis” in select movie theaters. It’s perfect for those who enjoy rock and soul, those interested in the history of the civil rights movement, those who appreciate the marriage of history and music, those who like a lot of dance with their Broadway, and those who want to see what happened when Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan got inspired to write music that might help us all like each other more than we hate each other.

Igor & son

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Rye Mullis (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

“He’s like a little director,” says Cory English, “telling everyone what to do.” English is touring the country with the Broadway musical “Young Frankenstein” — which runs Sept 27-Oct 3 at ASU Gammage in Tempe as part of the “Broadway Across America Arizona” series.

English has two important roles — Igor and father. We started a recent conversation by talking about his son, Sammy, who has been touring with English and his wife Sara (also an actor) since he was just three months old.

I asked English, who hails from New York but now calls London home, about the pros and cons of parenting on the road. The only real downside, it seems, is that children tagging along on tour enjoy less time around other children. “Adults love listening to his stories,” muses English, “but other kids aren’t as interested.”

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Rye Mullis (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

So how do they make sure that Sammy gets as much time with peers as possible? They’re masters at seeking out kid-friendly experiences in the cities they visit. In one city Sara found a Waldorf school their son was able to attend for six weeks — giving him a sense of place and structure.

English raves about the Chicago Children’s Museum and AcroSports in San Francisco, so I hope they’ll have a chance to explore the Children’s Museum of Phoenix while they’re here. I’m convinced it’s among the nation’s best.

“He has to adapt since we’re in a different city every week,” says English of his son. “He’s not afraid to go up to people and say ‘Hi.'” English praises Sara’s cooking (recalling how much Sammy loved the Waldorf school’s cooking class) — admitting that they do tire of restaurant fare.

Happily, they’re able to find preschooler favorites like “pasta and potatoes” in any city. Still, they travel with certain essentials for on-the-road meal preparation, including a Foreman grill, hot water kettle and Thermomix (which seems to do just about everything but wash the dirty dishes).

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Cory English (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

But what of his Igor role? English replaced the original actor on Broadway in late 2008, and began performing with the touring production in September of 2009. It never gets old, he says, because the show lends itself to a sort of spontaneity that breaks the “fourth wall” between performers and audience more often than most.

You don’t have to be a big musical theater fan to enjoy “Young Frankenstein,” according to English, who says he’s delighted to be performing in one of the few new musical comedies out there. English touts the work’s vaudevillian vibe — noting that the musical is based on Mel Brooks’ 1974 movie of the same name.

English notes that unlike some other musicals, “Young Frankenstein” is popular with both women and men. “There’s a lot of inuendo,” says English, “so just be prepared.” He adds that much of it will “go right over the heads” of children less than 8 years old, while 13- to 14-year old boys “will love this humor.”

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company-Roger Bart and Rye Mullis (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

English’s first love was dancing. His advice to budding actors ages 10 to 16 or so is this: “Do it as much as possible — and enjoy it.” By about 17, he says, kids need to decide whether they’re really going to pursue it — and whether their parents will actually let them.

He notes that there are plenty of theater-related careers — stage managing, writing, directing. “Don’t do it if you don’t love it,” cautions English. “If you can do anything else, do it.”

“It’s a rough business,” admits English. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices.”

“There’s no way I would go out on the road without my wife and son,” reflects English. “No amount of money would be enough.”

So what’s his advice to young people eager to venture into the world of acting? “Get to know as many walks of life as possible,” suggests English. Wait tables. Be a hospital candy striper. Travel. Do odd jobs. For some, he says, it’s helpful to take a “gap year” between high school graduation and college.

"Young Frankenstein" First National Touring Company (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

Whatever your special area of interest, says English, just get out there and “be in the mix of it.” For musical theater, think NYC. For acting, think London — where you can study the classics and hone your storytelling.

I confessed to English as our conversation drew to a close that I hadn’t been all that keen on seeing “Young Frankenstein” before we chatted. He gave a hearty laugh when I shared that my I.Q. might be a bit lower than that of the average Mel Brooks fan.

Now I feel certain I’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Note: Tickets for “Young Frankenstein” at ASU Gammage start at less than $25. Click here to learn about individual and season tickets, as well as special offers and promotions. Enjoy “Mel Brooks Movie Mania” at Madcap Theaters in Tempe on Sept 23 & 24 — which includes free movie screenings plus “contests, trivia and wacky prizes.” One lucky winner will receive tickets to “Young Frankenstein” opening night. Or join the cast for afternoon tea at The Ritz Carlton, Phoenix on Sept 29. Tickets to the tea run $35 and are available by calling The Ritz Carlton, Phoenix at 602-468-0700. Event includes chance to win four tickets and an exclusive opportunity to dine with the cast. Educators will enjoy the “Young Frankenstein” StageNOTES (TM) materials from Camp Broadway, LLC — which feature information for teaching history, language arts, life skills, behavioral studies and arts.

Coming up: Preview of the Black Theatre Troupe’s 2010-2011 season, which opens with a recent Tony-award winner highly praised by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and assistant vice president for cultural affairs at ASU.

Today’s tidbit: Paradise Valley Community College will host the Phoenix Astronomical Society by the PVCC telescope dome for a free (and open to the public) “PVCC Star Party” tonight from 6pm-10pm. Arizona Jewish Theatre Company holds auditions tonight from 7pm-9pm for their teen improv troupe. Interested teens ages 13-18 can call 602-264-0402 or e-mail gena@azjewishtheatre.org for an appointment (more details at www.azjewishtheatre.org).