Tag Archives: Dexter

Musings on the SAG awards

Check out the SAG Foundation auction taking place through Feb. 2

How lovely to finally enjoy an awards ceremony where the acting craft is supreme. No need for pyrotechnics or parades of pop stars. Just simple respect for the work and gratitude for a life that includes it. While the whole affair was a class act, I admit to having a few favorite moments…

  • Christopher Plummer reminding us all that acting is the world’s second oldest profession  — something we should share with all those politicians who see themselves as job creators but fail to sufficiently support the arts.
  • Octavia Spencer dedicating her award to the “downtrodden, underserved, underprivileged and overtaxed — whether emotionally, physically or financially.”
  • Betty White patting her “actor” on the back side while cooing “Oh, I remember you sweetheart.”
  • Presenters answering that burning question about how best to prepare for the acting life. Seems Sofia Vergara studied pre-dentistry, while Julie Bowen studied the Italian Renaissance. Edie Falco once did parties dressed as Cookie Monster, Tina Fey wrote for the school newspaper and Betty White sang.
  • Viola Davis describing how Cecily Tyson and Meryl Streep have touched her life — and encouraging kids in her Rhode Island hometown to “Dream big and dream fierce!”
  • Michael C. Hall sporting the red beard and Mary Tyler Moore rocking the black irridescent suit.
  • Alec Baldwin hailing both reading and writing — remarking that nothing good happens on television without great writers and pitching the SAG Foundation’s BookPALS literacy program.
  • Ken Howard reminding us all that acting is “a collaborative art’ while sharing news that both SAG and AFTRA boards have approved a merger so members can move forward with voting.
  • Jean Dujardin confessing that he was a very bad student, didn’t listen in class and was always dreaming.
  • Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone sharing three messages from “The Help” — change is possible, every person has a voice and we can all make a difference if given the chance.

I’m happy to report that you can find acceptance speech video and transcripts on the Screen Actors Guild website, so you needn’t rely on others to give you the scoop. And you can click here to learn about the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

The SAG Foundation is presenting an online auction through Feb. 2 to benefit BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) and Storyline Online – where you and your children can enjoy classic books read by famous folks from Melissa Gilbert to James Earl Jones. The auction supports other SAG programs too.

Auction items include signed scripts, photos, props and such. Also set visits, vacations, sports memorabelia and much more. There’s something for “Glee” fans, “Dexter” fans, “Boardwalk Empire” fans, “Modern Family” fans and plenty of other fans too. Click here to learn more.

– Lynn

Coming up: Advocating for arts education

Chicano studies — with a twist

The ASU Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film presents Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez at the Lyceum Theatre on the Tempe campus through Oct. 22

I made plans to see “Zoot Suit” at Arizona State University after learning that a young woman my daughter Jennifer went to grade school with would be performing in the play.

Kaleena Newman performs the roles of Newsboy and Zooter in the production that runs through Oct. 22 at ASU’s Lyceum Theatre. After chatting with Newman on campus one day, Jennifer decided to tag along with me to see the show.

The other lure was Andrés Alcalá, an associate artist with Childsplay who directs “Zoot Suit” for ASU’s School of Theatre and Film. I’m convinced that following the fine folks of Childsplay is the surest way to find fab theater in the Valley.

Jennifer studies cultural anthropology and has long been fascinated by events surrounding World War II. “Zoot Suit” by playwright Luis Valdez is set in 1940s Los Angeles, and it makes one point abundantly clear: As one war raged abroad, another raged at home. It was a war against racism — and it’s yet to be won.

The theme of fear fueled by prejudice and the press is still relevant today (Photo: Rod Amez as Henry Reyna)

Close to home we see it in anti-immigration legislation and calls for educators in Tucson to end a long tradition of teaching Chicano studies. In “Zoot Suit,” we witness a gross miscarriage of justice as Chicano youth are arrested and jailed for a crime they didn’t commit — in part because of fear fueled by a fashion statement.

The work reflects something every good student of WWII history knows — that prejudice against those of Japanese, Jewish or African American heritage was also rampant. Be forewarned, if you take younger family members to see “Zoot Suit,” that they’ll hear not only plenty of cursing but also a single use of the “N-word.”

The Broadway production of “Zoot Suit” ran for just 41 performances in 1979. Edward James Olmos, Dexter’s newest nemesis on the Showtime television series, performed the role of narrator El Pachuco on both stage and screen. The 1982 film version of “Zoot Suit” featured Tyne Daly, seen recently in “Master Class” on Broadway, as activist Alice Bloomfield.

ASU’s production of “Zoot Suit” features Nathan Delatorre as El Pachuco and Rod Amez as Henry Reyna, a young man accused of murder the night before he’s set to report for military duty. The cast of 21 delivers a strong ensemble performance that’s powerful evidence of the university’s stellar theater program.

Every element of this production is strong — especially direction by Andrés Alcalá, choreography by Adrian Hernandez, scenic design by Alayne Levine, costume design by Connie Furr-Soloman and lighting design by Anthony Jannuzzi. Infusing masterful media design by Boyd Branch transforms the production into something truly exceptional and rare.

“Zoot Suit” feels a bit like “West Side Story” — minus the vocal numbers, plus a heavy dose of politics. It’s an entertaining work of social justice theater, but its dialogue too often spoon-feeds the audience. Of course, a spoon would have come in handy after the show as Jennifer treated me to gloriously gooey pretzels from Mellow Mushroom on Mill Avenue.

I’ve long enjoyed outings to ASU Gammage for touring Broadway productions with my youngest daughter Lizabeth, often followed by In–N-Out Burger runs. But having Jennifer join me for an ASU theater production followed by pretzels dripping in honey made for an exciting new twist.

– Lynn

Note: “Zoot Suit,” which opens the 2011-12 Arizona Centennial Season for ASU’s MainStage productions, is part of the CALA Festival. Click here to learn about additional MainStage offerings, and here for more information on the festival. Click here to explore New Carpa Theater, which “focuses on Latino and multicultural theater works.”

Coming up: Going green on Broadway, Dora explores downtown Phoenix

Musings on mothering and musicals

I’ve spoken with Lizabeth, our 17-year-old daughter, just twice during the past two days. She’s been on the road with her dad, driving to an out-of-state overnight camp for her first taste of life away from home for more than just a few days.

Lizabeth mentioned the first time she phoned home that she’d thought of me when she heard a song from the musical “Joseph” on the radio. On day #2, she mentioned thinking of me when she heard “Give a Man Enough Rope” from the musical “The Will Rogers Follies.”

That same day I spoke with Colleen Jennings-Roggensack of ASU Gammage, whose daughter Kelsey went to school with my oldest daughter, Jennifer, now a cultural anthropology/history student at Arizona State University.

Jennings-Roggensack recalled that “Follies,” with book by Peter Stone, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Cy Coleman, was among the first shows her daughter saw as a very young child.

So too for Jennifer–who developed an insatiable appetite not long after for writings by and about humorist and performer Will Rogers.

Lizabeth hasn’t seen the show since she’s been old enough to appreciate Will’s wit or the stagecraft of the Ziegfeld Follies, which serves as a backdrop for this musical journey through Rogers’ life and times.

“The Will Rogers Follies” opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in 1991, the year that Jennifer was born. It was directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune.

The Broadway run opened with Keith Carradine (son of an actress and artist) as Rogers, someone best known to my grown children as FBI agent Frank Lundy on Showtime’s “Dexter” series starring Michael C. Hall (who first entered our living room thanks to HBO’s “Six Feet Under“).

My appreciation for the two most noted tunes from “Follies”–“Give a Man Enough Rope” and “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like”–far surpasses that of Lizabeth.

Still, I hope she’ll hold the message of these two songs close to her heart as she explores new territory, experiences new theater training and enjoys new friendships.

If you’re not taking your child to see musicals, you’re overlooking some amazing opportunities to explore meaningful life lessons like the importance of taking chances, the value of second chances and the necessity of trumping chance by sheer willpower (pun intended) at times.

And, says Jennings-Roggensack, don’t overlook the power and appeal of plays for youth. Not everything in the world of performance art, or any form of art, is packed with big production numbers.

Lizabeth won’t be reading this post today since she’s at a camp without computers, which has its own special charm. But perhaps she’ll reflect back on some of the shows we’ve enjoyed together as she makes her way through each day.

Oil on canvas by Frank Szasz

“Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like” is a refreshing reminder that there’s something good and true in each of us, and that the best way to find this in others (and in ourself) is simply to look for it.

“Give a Man Enough Rope” is a humorous spin on the natural consequences of not being terribly kind to others. It’s a good little ditty to pull out on days that mean girls seem to outnumber nicer ones–something all too common among tweens and teens in today’s popular culture.

I imagine these two songs could do a lot to buoy a young person entering the world of acting, at once so creative and so competitive.

I spoke at length with Jennings-Roggensack about the role of live theater in the lives of America’s youth. Stay tuned for a future post sharing her many pearls, one of which settled a running dialogue Lizabeth and I have long had over the relative value and role of musicals like “Beauty and the Beast.”

Lizabeth was pleased when I shared with her by phone that Jennings-Roggensack was on her side. More on that tomorrow…

–Lynn

Note: Learn more about Will Rogers by visiting the Will Rogers Memorial Museums in person or online at www.willrogers.com

Coming up: Preview of fall visual and peforming arts classes, youth theater gems from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

“Eclipse”: A conversion story

Photo (of Bella with Edward) by Kimberley French/Summit Entertainment appeared June 30, 2010 in "The New York Times"

Ever find yourself laughing at inappropriate moments? I nearly let loose a few howls of my own while watching the first two films in “The Twlight Saga.” Too maudlin. Too morose. Too melodramatic. 

But I’m closer to conversion with the newest film in what looks to be a series of five films about all thing fangs, fur and friendship. (I may even have to revisit the first two….)

Still, I came dangerously close to releasing a gaggle of giggles when watching the movie with my 17-year-old daughter, Lizabeth. As the credits rolled, I found myself thinking “this is clearly the most believable of the three.” 

What’s so believable about a love triangle involving humans, vampires and werewolves? The depths of teen emotions that each portrays. Their struggles with identity. Their bids for independence. Their search for meaning amidst lives fraught with emotional mayhem. 

For “The Twilight Saga,” the third time is definitely a charm (a wolf charm, to be exact.) 

We saw the film with fellow RAK staffers whose children were all old enough for things like teenage trysts and flying limbs, though I have to compliment filmmakers for opting to go mild in the sex and violence department. 

“Eclipse” is actually quite tame compared to prime-time television standards. Of course, the fact that I’ve written my posts of late tuned to reruns of Showtime’s “Dexter” (which features more alarming fire and ice characters) may have skewed my perceptions.

I invited RAK’s calendar and directories editor, a woman I admire for her infinite patience, persistence and attention to detail, to offer a brief review of “Eclipse”–thinking it might be fun to assemble a few “Twilight in 20 words or less” type reviews. 

Here’s the scoop from Mala and her two daughters (both of whom wore their “Twilight” shirts with pride while watching Edward engage Jacob in a food fight of sorts). To their credit, they exercised extraordinary self-control during scenes full of sizzle (and sparkle). 

One word—Jacob! My favorite line: “I’m hotter.” Watch for it! (Mylan, 16). This movie was scarier than the last two—I covered my eyes a couple of times. (Solvay, 11). This was definitely my favorite of the three! Very suspenseful with awesome effects! (Mala, who lists her age as “undisclosed”). 

Way to go, girls. You picked up on the very same line that caught the attention of “The New York Times” writer A.O. Scott, whose Wednesday review titled “Global Warming Among the Undead” noted the movie’s opening homage of sorts to actual “Fire and Ice” poet Robert Frost.

“I’m hotter” is one of several one-liners I enjoyed during this film—although my own personal favorite was “Stay, Jacob.” What’s next? Sit? Beg? Fetch? Jacob is a werewolf, after all, so he has more than a few dog tricks up his sleeve (on those rare occasions when he’s actually wearing one). 

The movie did leave me with several burning questions—which is appropriate, I suppose, given the story’s ‘fire and ice’ motif. 

Why no babies in a movie full of ‘newborns?’ If a wolf isn’t wearing a sheep’s clothing, shouldn’t he at least wear some of his own? Where are the Ewoks of “Star Wars” forest fight fame when you really need them?

What gives with the werewolf telepathy? Why is there so much spooning in Forks? Since when do white tents make for effective camouflage?

And, the most important question of all for me: Doesn’t Bella ever wonder what’s behind door #3?

I’ll save my questions about the biology of the undead for the next film, lest I give anything away to those who have yet to read the entire “Twilight” series.

Movie-going should be fun, and I had a great time watching the latest film version of Arizona author Stephenie Meyer’s work. I plan to see it again with my 19-year-old daughter Jennifer–and I’m looking forward to it. 

The nature scenes featuring vast fields of wildflowers, expansive mountain ranges and lush green forests are stunning. The writing is well-paced and genuinely humorous (in a good way). The music is powerful without being overwhelming. The storyline is compelling–and growing in complexity and intrigue.

With that, it appears I’ve gone over my own 20-word limit…

If you, or any of the tweens and teens you know and love, want to take a stab at “Twilight” in twenty words or less, I’d love to read your thoughts.

Of course, you’ll have to compete with the likes of Ariel Shelton (13) of Peoria, whose aunt sent me this review soon after they enjoyed the trilogy together: Eclipse was the funniest and most romantic of the three. It made the love triangle stronger and had the most action.

Just comment below, and we’ll have some fun seeing what various RAK readers think of the latest big-screen “Twilight” adventure.

 –Lynn 

Note: If your children are too young for “Twilight” tales, take them to see “The Big Bad Musical” at 3pm or 7pm today (Thursday, July 1). The theater production by summer campers with Arizona Jewish Theatre Company features the trial of the “Big Bad Wolf,” famously accused of eating both “Little Red Riding Hood” and her grandmothers. It’s free (though donations to their camp scholarship program are welcome) and taking place today only at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale. 

Coming up: Weekend arts adventures devoid of blood and brooding

Three gifts & “The Diviners”

I spoke many years ago at a memorial service for my mother, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer just a few short months after diagnosis.

I thought beforehand about how to convey all that she’s meant to me in a short period of time—knowing many others would want, and need, the time to do the same.

I was reminded of the service, a celebration of life really, as I drove home from Theatre Artists Studio last night.

Reflecting on “The Diviners,” a play set in a tiny 1929 town, a single word finally settled into the silence of the night…

Gratitude.

SCC's "The Diviners" is a soothing light in a sometimes dark night

I’d spoken at my mother’s service of the three gifts she gave me as a child—three gifts I carry with me to this day: Gratitude, optimism and determination.

I felt I’d been given these gifts anew after seeing “The Diviners,” a play written by Jim Leonard, Jr.—now a writer and producer for the Showtime series “Dexter”—when he was a 19-year-old freshman at Hanover College in Indiana.

I’m struck by so many things after experiencing this work.

The back of the program says the following (referring to the theatre arts program at Scottsdale Community College): The empty space. Fill it.

It could just as easily read the opposite: The full space. Empty it.

As the work drew to a dramatic close—my heartbeat, my breathing—felt momentarily suspended.

The clutter of the day was washed away. The emptiness, like the play itself, was poignant and profound. Yet light, delicate. Not heavy.

SCC”s “The Diviners” is all-consuming, but never overbearing.

Each element of a production both pristine and passionate is there—directing that transports you from your seat into the very heart of the story; acting that harkens to both past and future while grounding each witness to the now; creative elements that serve the story without embellishment.

If you experience only a single piece of theater this season, make it “The Diviners,” which ends its two week run all too quickly after 2pm and 7pm performances today.

The venue (located near Paradise Valley Mall) is spectacular but small so seats can go quickly—and tickets run just $10 ($8 for students/seniors).

Like my mother, this play will stay with me for a long time.

I am grateful to directors Randy Messersmith and Daniel Good for bringing this work to life, and to all the cast and crew who’ve given me plenty to ponder in its aftermath…

Is heaven up above, deep within or all around us? When is the cure worse than the ailment? Can the selfish replicate the results of the sincere? Why do some see a blessing where others see a curse?

Should we distain our differences or our sameness? Does the value of a machine ever outweigh the value of a man? Why do some see signs where others see none? Who are the truly damaged among us?

For all its serious subject matter—economic hardship, religious doubt, childhood loss, helplessness and guilt, mixed feelings about vulnerable siblings and more—the play has plenty of lighthearted moments.

Imagine a former preacher explaining to his love interest that the air bubbles they’re witnessing while fishing are actually “fish farts.” Or two adolescent boys learning to dance with one another before trying their hand at dancing with girls.

Picture a world full of “Schwinns” but devoid of SUVs. Or the moral perils of “fancy dancing.” Or a reticent prayer consisting of “Thanks for the donut!” (It’s also a world full of “cussing” so take note if this is something your children might be too young for.)

Gratitude, optimism, determination…

It’s always good to be reminded.

–Lynn

Note: Today I’m seeing “Tomato Plant Girl” performed by Childsplay at Tempe Center for the Arts, so look for a review of that show tomorrow. This is the final weekend for “Tomato Plant Girl,” so don’t delay if you’ve been meaning to see this baby.

Coming up: Spotlight on upcoming community college productions (featuring dance, music, theater and more)—including some taking place this week!

Photo credit: SCC student Christopher Trimble

Faith, photography and conservation?

Ever known someone who always seems to be up to something intriguing? I know a couple of them—mostly theater people—including Randy Messersmith.

Messersmith is the theater arts director at Scottsdale Community College, as well as professional actor, director and producer.

Recently a regional board of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (representing Arizona, southern California, southern Nevada, Utah and Hawaii) honored Messersmith with their “Excellence in Education” award.

You may have seen some of his recent work…

Last fall, Messersmith directed the SCC production of Lisa Loomer’s “Distracted” at Theatre Artists Studio. Earlier this year he directed Howard Sackler’s “The Great White Hope” for Mesa Community College.

So what’s next for a director who just tackled racism and Ritalin?

Try faith and doubt, scarcity of resources, common bonds among outcasts, a back-sliding preacher, an emotionally disturbed yet uniquely gifted boy.

Messersmith is co-directing “The Diviners“–a Depression-era play by Jim Leonard, Jr.–with Daniel Good. I suspect Good is equally fascinating but I’ve never met him, so I can’t speak from personal experience on that one.

“This show,” says Messersmith, “is a beautiful exploration of the importance of faith, friendship and community at a time when hope was fading fast.”

Good adds that “Each of us has those moments of doubt—those times when our patience and faith are tested. This play will speak to that disquiet and hopefully ask the audience some hard, but enlightening questions.”

Many of you may have seen the work of Jim Leonard, Jr.—who writes plays, movies and television works— without knowing it. He’s a consulting producer for the Showtime series “Dexter,” which features a well-meaning serial killer who makes my list of ‘most fascinating among the fictional.’

Leonard also serves on the board of The New Harmony Project, which “creates, nurtures and promotes new works for stage, television and film that sensitively and truthfully explore the positive aspects of life.”

At least one thread within “The Diviners” has special appeal to desert dwellers. It’s the scarcity of water, something I last saw tackled in “Urinetown: The Musical” performed by ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre.

“The Diviners” will be performed April 9,10,16 and 17 at Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale. The studio has more than a few fascinating people in its midst too—including the magazine’s own “Unmotherly Insights” blogger Debra Rich Gettleman.

If seeing this play inspires you to take greater care with water conservation at home, check out tips provided by Salt River Project (SRP) on the education portion of their website, or try playing water-related games from the “Water Use It Wisely” campaign.

If animal or plant conservation is more your thing, get to know SCC’s “Center for Native and Urban Wildlife.” It’s another one of those “who knew?” resources so close to home but too far from mind.

CNUW is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, as well as its own 10th anniversary, with a poetry and photo contest based on this John Muir quote: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Contest guidelines are available online, and works must be properly submitted to Emma Olsen at CNUW no later than April 15. Yes, there are prizes for winners!

The brevity of blogging prevents me from saying more here, so just know that I’m a big fan of their work and hope you’ll have some fun creating poetry and photographs inspired by Muir’s words.

–Lynn

Note: Gail Cochrane wrote about CNUW for Raising Arizona Kids in her 2006 article titled “Helping Kids Connect with Nature.” Debbie Wohl Isard wrote about “Distracted” and SCC’s Messersmith for her A.D.D. (Attention Dear Debbie) blog titled “Distracted: An Arizona Premiere.”

Coming up: Celebrating National Poetry Month, Diverse offerings of William Shakespeare works, The fine art of funny, The Phoenix Fringe Festival (“Family Fringe” takes place Friday, April 2, at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix–and it’s FREE!)