Tag Archives: diversity

A city inside a museum

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I first fell in love with children’s museums when my young daughters, like hundreds of fellow citizens, got involved in developing the Children’s Museum of Phoenix (then dubbed the Phoenix Family Museum) at the grassroots level. Today it’s recognized by Parents magazine as one of the country’s top ten children’s museums.

Both daughters, and our son, are now grown and attending college — one of them in New York City. Each time I visit her, I make a point of exploring another bit of NYC’s vast expanse of arts and culture. I reported on the art of Occupy Wall Street early in the movement’s history, saw “War Horse” and “The Book of Mormon” before they earned Tony Awards for best play and best musical and explored places like the Poets House in Battery Park.

Lately I have the museums of NYC on my radar, wishing I’d discovered them several decades earlier somehow. Many years ago I visited MoMA and the Met, but lately I’ve been focusing on smaller fare like the Morgan Library & Museum in midtown Manhattan (a favorite for one of my friends at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts), which is currently exhibiting drawings by Rembrandt and a look at animals throughout art, literature and music.

Top of my list for next time is the Brooklyn Museum. I missed the opening of their Keith Haring exhibit by just two days last time around and am still experiencing the museum-goers version of mourning. I didn’t really favor Haring’s work at the height of his heyday, but nowadays I’m simply mesmerized. I’m also hoping to enjoy the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

I hit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum during my last trip to visit daughter Lizabeth at Pace University. She’s been busy with rehearsals for an upcoming production of “Our Lady of 121st Street,” so I’ve had more time to kick around NYC on my own. Typically adults aren’t allowed to visit the museum without children, but they graciously let me do my press thing with camera in tow so I could share reflections and images with Arizona readers.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was “the first museum created expressly for children when it was founded in 1899″ — 15 years before Arizona achieved statehood. Still, I first encountered one of its offerings — a traveling exhibit called “Pattern Wizardry” — during the fall of 2009 at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa (proving that you should never overlook the treasures in your own back yard).

I found two remarkable things at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. First, a city within a museum. And second, the world. My favorite exhibits featured rooms devoted to various cultures found in the diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and an expansive upstairs gallery highlighting objects and people from around the globe. I’ve come to love the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the same reason I love New York City — diversity.

I get the feeling, when I’m there, that differences are to be embraced rather than feared. That living amidst diverse cultures helps us to appreciate both our own heritage and the heritage of others. That human beings from all walks of life can love, respect and empathize with one another. That mere tolerance falls short when what we need is true celebration.

– Lynn

Coming up: Prison meets performance art

Faces of diversity

Today Muslims the world over are observing Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham’s selfless devotion to God. Valley mosques are hosting special morning prayers, and local Muslims will be gathering with family and friends to celebrate at Encanto Park, Castles N’ Coasters and other child-friendly venues.

The occasion got me thinking a bit more about Islamic arts and culture. I’ve long admired the architecture of the mosque in Tempe located near the little theater that was once home to Childsplay. It’s right next to Salam’s Market & Deli – where I sometimes join my daughter Jennifer, a cultural anthroplogy major at ASU, for lunch.

I’m looking forward to exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art next time I’m in New York City visiting my other daughter Lizabeth, an acting major at Pace University. The museum recently opened fifteen new galleries, which now house more than 1,000 items from its extensive collection of Islamic art.

During my last trip to NYC, I viewed an exhibit titled “NYChildren,” which runs through Dec. 21. It features “a salon-style presentation of over 160 beautiful color portraits of children.” Each hails from a different country, and each lives in NYC.

The exhibit is located at Park51 Community Center, a site some of the more fearful among us once dubbed “the mosque at Ground Zero.” It sits on the same unassuming street as the Amish Market and The Anne Frank Center USA. Visitors pass a small room filled with prayer rugs as they enter the exhibit, but otherwise it looks like any other gallery space.

The following photos include a couple I took that day, plus three sent to me by the center. Each photograph in the exhibit is the work of artist Danny Goldfield, who shares that NYChildren “was inspired by the idea that the better we know our neighbors, the more open and healthy our lives become.”

Park51 Community Center in New York City

One portion of the NYChildren exhibit at Park51 in New York City

Danny Goldfield photograph of an NYC child from Afganistan

Danny Goldfield photograph of an NYC child from Ireland

Danny Goldfield photo of an NYC child from Mali

Every culture gives us children, and children are the future. Love them, cherish them, respect them and appreciate them.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy the faces and artwork of children closer to home. Click here to learn about a companion book to the NYChildren exhibit.

Coming up: Anne Frank exhibit returns to Arizona

Update: The Islamic Center of Tucson has rescheduled its Eid Al-Adha picnic due to anticipated poor weather. It’s now scheduled to take place Sun, Nov. 20 from 1-5pm at McCormick Park in Tucson.

Two spirits

I stumbled on the film “Two Spirits” while searching Valley venues for upcoming events. It’s being shown Thurs, June 16, at 6:30pm at the Mesa Arts Center – a free presentation of City of Mesa Community Cinema.

The film explores the life and death of Fred Martinez, “a boy who was also a girl,” and considers the spiritual nature of sexuality within American Indian culture. Martinez was murdered, the victim of a hate crime, when he as just 16 years old.

The film is also being shown on PBS starting this week, as part of the “Independent Lens” series — though I suspect that seeing it screened in a community setting makes for a much more powerful experience.

The “Two Spirits” website links to all sorts of resources related to gender identity, sexuality and spirituality — suggesting ways people needing help can find it, and connecting people who want to help with ways of doing so. It’s also got a great reading list.

It includes “The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Other Identities” — an anthology of original essays, poems and true stories written by young adults in their teens and early 20s. It’s edited by David Levinthal and Billy Merrell.

Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation created to honor her 21-year old son after his 1998 murder, describes “Two Spirits” as “a beautiful film.”

“Fred Martinez was murdered,” says Shepard, “simply because he dared to be himself, and the violence against young people like him must stop. We will never be the society we hope to be until we replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.”

– Lynn

Note: While surfing the “Two Spirits” website, I learned of another film — titled “Blessing.” It’s described as “a Gay Mormon film in conjunction with Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Mormons.” To learn more about the early history of the American gay rights movement, watch the PBS “American Experience” piece titled “Stonewall Uprising.” Also check out this book recommended by Project Q in Atlanta: “A Scout is Brave” by Greg Novak–in which “A Native American is bullied at a Boy Scout summer camp as he faces his own sexuality and the traditions of his family.”

Coming up: New season announcements

Art, film and bullying prevention

Learn how you can be a part of "No Name-Calling Week" 2011

The Anti-Defamation League is partnering with Scottsdale Community College for the sixth year of a film series titled “The Many Faces of Hate.”

The film “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History” will be presented at SCC on Wed, Jan 26, from 6:30-8:30pm in the Turquoise Room.

The film recounts the story of “a student who stood up to his anti-gay tormentors and filed a federal lawsuit against his high school district.”

It’s free and open to the public, and includes a moderated post-film discussion.

The film is being presented as part of “No Name-Calling Week” — a national initiative inspired by a young adult novel titled “The Misfits.” This year’s “No Name-Calling Week” takes place Jan 24-28.

The project is headed by the “No Name-Calling Week Coalition” — created by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing (a company I call to mind each time I hear a Carly Simon song).

The project includes “a week of educational and art activities aimed at stopping name calling and bullying in schools” — which leaves me wondering about grown-up plans to curtail their own bad behavior.

I’m not so sure we set the best example as we cut each other off in traffic, gossip about friends over dinner or hurl wild accusations during political discourse. I’d rather see folks armed with crayons than with guns.

Individual students in grades K-12 are invited to participate in the “No Name-Calling Week 2011 Creative Expression Contest” before the Mon, Feb 28 deadline. Grown-ups, of course, are always free to color on their own.

The contest is “an opportunity for students to submit essays, poetry, music, original artwork, or other pieces that convey their experiences and feelings about name-calling, and their ideas for putting a stop to verbal bullying in their schools and communities.”

James Howe's book has much to offer tweens, teens and adults

The statistics about bullying are sobering, according to Melissa Medvin, associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Arizona regional office.

Medvin points to GLSEN studies showing that 65% of LGBT teens or those perceived to be LGBT report being verbally or physically harassed.

About one-third of the general student population reports being bullied.

Often bullying is based on perceived differences in race, religion, sexual orientation or physical characteristics. 

Medvin notes that victims of bullying have increased rates of absenteeism, use of dangerous and illegal substances, and suicide/bullycide — as well as lower grades and lower graduation rates. We all have a stake in reducing bullying in our communities.

Additional films in the series will be shown at SCC on Feb 16, March 23 and April 27. All are documentaries dealing with the subject of hate, and all are free and open to the public.

In the meantime, banish bullying from your own behavior. You can’t expect your children to do the right thing if you’re not leading by example.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about free “Bullied” kits available (one per school) from Teaching Tolerance — a program of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Click here to learn more about GLSEN in Phoenix.

Coming up: Puppetry with a purpose

Don’t blink in Chandler

"Multicultural Harmony" by Sara, 10, Zehra, 12, and Ayla, 11 - Funkor Child Art Center

A bevy of alerts from the fine folks in Chandler crossed my virtual desk today — all noting upcoming events with a multicultural twist.

I got the feeling after reading them that you should never blink in Chandler, lest you miss something truly remarkable.

Here’s a quick review of just a few of the multicultural arts experiences you can enjoy during a single month — January 2011 — in Chandler:

First, the initial fundraiser for the Tolerance & Holocaust Museum to be built in Chandler. It features a premiere of the award-winning documentary “Rene & I” on Sat, Jan 8, at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

The film — which is being presented by the East Valley Jewish Community Center — shares the story of Rene and Irene Guttman, twins sent to Auschwitz at the age of six who survived cruel experiments by Joseph Mengele. 

“Rene & I” is described as “an uplifting story about overcoming adversity against all odds” and “a tribute to tolerance, endurance of the human spirit, and the triumph of good over evil.”

Holocaust survivor Helen Handler, who was sent to Auschwitz at age 15, will speak prior to the film’s screening. Handler is the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust and has dedicated her life to “preventing hate and genocide.”

The evening will also include a “bookstore event” in the lobby and opportunities to learn more about how you can support the building of the museum or become a museum volunteer.

A second event designed to foster greater awareness and acceptance takes place just one week later — on Sat, Jan 15, in the courtyard of the downtown Chandler Public Library.

The “16th Annual Chandler Multicultural Festival” brings together “a collection of nations and cultures” for a day of dance, music, art, ethnic foods and more.

Think flamenco, Native American and step dancing. Think music from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Africa and the Dominican Republic. Think Russian/Jewish folk music and Middle Eastern music played on the Oud.

Students from the International School of Arizona are scheduled to perform songs in French, Spanish and Italian at 12:10pm on the “Unity Stage,” while students from Hope Chinese School are scheduled to perform at noon on the “Celebration Stage.”

The event also features live entertainment, diverse artisans and “an interactive area for children where they can experience a rock wall, bounce activity, coloring, and arts and crafts.”

A third event, also part of Chandler’s “2011 Celebration of Unity,” is “an inspirational multi-media jazz concert based on poetic masterwork by poet/playwright Langston Hughes.”

The concert takes place Fri, Jan 28, at Chandler Center for the Arts. “Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods of Jazz” will be performed by Dr. Ron McCurdy and his jazz quartet.

“Ask Your Mama” is a 12-part epic poem that pays “homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad beginning in the 1960s.”

Hughes scored the poem with “musical cues drawn from blues and Dixieland, gospel songs, boogie woogie, bebop and progressive jazz, Latin ‘cha cha’ and Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indies calypso, and African drumming.”

The performance will be accompanied by “video images of the Harlem Renaissance by African American artists and photographers including Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Romare Bearden.”

Now, perhaps, you understand my admonition to avoid blinking in Chandler. But do feel free to clap, scat or tap your toes.

– Lynn

Note: Learn more about the “Rene & I” event at www.evjcc.org and more about the other two events at www.chandlercenter.org. Details about Chandler’s multicultural festival are available at www.chandleraz.gov/special-events or the city’s special events hotline at 480-782-2735. Click here to learn more about the Funkor Child Art Center.

Coming up: What do “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” Vanderbilt University and The Dramatist Guild have in common?

Theater + Science = Tolerance

Crayons -- a simple tool for teaching children that different is beautiful

Childsplay of Tempe has long produced and performed works that help folks see more of each other’s similarities than differences — and to embrace and appreciate the differences.

This weekend Valley families will enjoy a rare opportunity to see Childsplay perform “New Kid” at the Arizona Science Center — a performance meant to enhance the principles of tolerance promoted by the current “RACE: Are We So Different?” exhibit.

The “RACE” exhibit is a “limited engagement” offering you can enjoy at the Arizona Science Center only through Jan 2, 2011. It’s a multi-sensory, hands-on exhibit that’ll help you separate fact from fiction on the topic of race in America.

“New Kid” is appropriate for grades K-8, and addresses multiple themes relevant to the everyday lives of today’s youth — including bullies and targets, stereotypes and prejudice.

It’ll inspire your children to think more about immigration and emigration, language and communication, and different cultures and customs — and to consider ways we can all transcend differences and celebrate diversity.

“New Kid,” written by Dennis Foon, recounts the tale of Nick and his mother, who leave “Homeland” for the U.S. — where they must learn many new things. Think new language, new foods, new sports, new customs.

While one peer befriends Nick, another bullies him — and both Nick and his mom experience challenges along the way.

“Eventually,” notes Childsplay, “everyone begins to adjust and Nick learns to maintain his respect for his family’s culture and heritage, while embracing his new homeland.”

Childsplay’s “New Kid” resource guide, available online, suggests the following links to supplement learning about tolerance and related issues: www.teachingtolerance.org, www.bullying.org, www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov and www.census.org.

Childsplay also recommends three book titles — “Hannah’s Journal: The Story of an Immigrant Girl” by Marissa Moss, “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes and “The Recess Queen” by Alexis ONeill.

Local mom Dana Wolfe Naimark, who heads the Children’s Action Alliance in Phoenix, recommends “The Sneetches and Other Stories” by Theodor Giesel (known to most as Dr. Seuss).

“New Kid” is being performed Sat, Dec 18, from 10:30-11:30am at the Arizona Science Center, located at 600 E. Washington St. in Phoenix. It’s free with paid general admission to the museum — but space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The lobby and ticketing at Arizona Science Center will open that day at 9:30am for members and 10am for the general public. (Savvy parents who aren’t yet members can join the Arizona Science Center today to enjoy this and other member benefits.)

I’ve raised three Arizona kids — and together we’ve enjoyed countless trips to the Arizona Science Center and to Childsplay productions. It’s no surprise, I suppose, that they’ve chosen careers in theater, cultural anthropology and science — and that they’re all active supporters of diversity and social justice.

Theater + Science = Tolerance

– Lynn

Note: The Arizona Science Center presents “Bio Buzz Family Series” free with general admission from 1:45-2:15pm on “third Saturdays.” The Dec 18 topic is “Vitamin D: Disease Fighter and Fountain of Youth.”

Coming up: More art and science — as “Stage Mom” explores a traveling Smithsonian exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth and the diverse exhibits of the Arizona Museum for Natural History

Hanukkah happenings

Menorah lightings. Family-friendly parties. Storytimes. Arts & crafts. There’s plenty to do as Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days beginning at sundown Wed, Dec 1, this year. Many festivities are open to both those who celebrate Hanukkah and those who do not.

I often wonder what it’s like to be Jewish — or Muslim, or Hindu or Buddhist — in a country so focused on Christmas this time of year. And I wish there were more opportunities for our children to explore other religions and philosophies.

I want my children to know, and appreciate, that we are a country of many faiths and world views. Attending diverse holiday celebrations is one way to assure your children know about and respect others’ beliefs. Here are some ideas (and children’s books) to get you started…

Several menorah lightings take place each Hanukkah around the state. This year’s offerings include a “Grand Menorah Lighting” on Thurs, Dec 2, at 5:30pm at the Westgate City Center in Glendale. Lightings will also be held in Phoenix, Mesa, Fountain Hills and Anthem. You can click here to see a list of options.

These ceremonies are lovely even for those who don’t celebrate Hanukkah, but it’s important to remind your children that lighting a menorah and lighting a Christmas tree aren’t merely different ways to celebrate a single season.

Hanukkah and Christmas fall at similar times each year, but commemorate vastly different events. Each tradition, like all traditions, is worthy of our respect and worth knowing about as educated members of a global community.

Storytimes can help introduce young children to the events commemorated during Hanukkah, and give them a greater appreciation of the holiday’s origin, meaning and significance. Barnes and Noble at Desert Ridge Marketplace holds a “Chanuhak Storytime” with stories and crafts Tues, Dec 7, at 5pm. Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe hosts a “Hanukkah Celebration” with stories, songs and shopping on Sun, Dec 5, at 1:30pm.

Several Valley organizations offer family-friendly Hannukah parties open to all. Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale hosts a free and open to the public “Hanukkah Family Holiday Party, Boutique and Vendor Fair” Sun, Dec 5, featuring an “Israeli style party with arts anc crafts for children.”

The vendor fair — featuring artwork, jewelry, clothing, books, toys and more — takes place 11am-4pm. The party runs from 1-3pm, and includes a premiere screening of the new “Shalom Sesame” DVD series — in which Grover invites children to help him search for the missing menorah.

Comprehensive lists of Hanukkah events and resources are available from various Jewish organizations and businesses, such as the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. Those eager to find more events can also check with their local synagogues, Jewish community centers and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix.

Check the calendars of local museums, libraries, bookstores and arts/cultural organizations throughout the year for free and easy opportunities to teach your children not only about your own beliefs and values, but also those of their friends, neighbors and classmates.

My favorite holiday — “Diversity Day” — doesn’t exist yet. Maybe someday we’ll all know and respect enough about the beliefs and traditions of our fellow human beings to make such a holiday obsolete. That’s my holiday wish this year…

– Lynn

Note: Those of the Hindu, Jain and Sikh religions celebrated Diwali on Nov 5 this year, and Muslims celebrated Eid al Adha on Nov 16. Kwanzaa takes place Dec 26, 2010. To learn more about 2011 holidays of the world’s major religions, click here to see an interfaith calendar.

Coming up: Experience Jewish arts and culture with the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company; Schools, performance art & tax credits; One woman’s “Hair” obsession; News from Arizona’s 2010 Thespian Conference

How ‘state of the art’ is Arizona?

I enjoyed a lovely patio dinner at Sam’s Café at the Arizona Center a few years ago with a diverse group of seriously smart folks including attorneys, artists, mental health advocates and others I hope will forgive me for the lapse in memory.

Among them was Robert C. Booker, who’d just arrived in Arizona from Minnesota after accepting the position of Executive Director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts is an agency of the Arizona state government. It was established in its earliest form during the mid-1960s, and currently has legislative approval through 2012. The commission is funded by the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The mission of the commission is ‘an Arizona where people broaden, deepen and diversify their engagement with the arts—as creators, audiences and supporters—in ways that are satisfying and integral to their lives.’

I ran into Booker recently during the 19th Annual AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence ceremony at the Herberger Theater Center. (The AriZoni Awards are a local take on the Tony Awards.) He was there to accept a Distinguished Service Award.

When I decided to share a bit of perspective on the arts in Arizona with our readers, my first call was to Booker. Despite his admission that he’s hardly a morning person, Booker had been at the office since 5:30am, going through “piles of stuff” as so many of us do before staff arrive for the daily hustle and bustle.

He also sipped a cup of coffee (I wonder how many of those he goes through in a day), while listening to Macy Gray, Jefferson Airplane and the soundtrack from the movie Forrest Gump.

No wonder I like this fellow.

What follows is the first of a three-part series featuring the observations and reflections Booker shared with me that morning.

First we’ll look at the many strengths of Arizona’s art community. Next we’ll examine some of the challenges. Finally, we’ll explore actions we can all take to move arts in Arizona forward.

Reflecting on the arts in Arizona, Booker says we’re great in some aspects and lousy in others. Atop the ‘great’ list is the diversity of the arts in our state.

Booker notes that we have a very broad range of amateur, avocational and professional artists throughout our larger and smaller communities.

Once case in point: Yuma.

“Yuma,” observes Booker, “is a small community but it has an historic theater and an incredible arts center offering state of the art exhibition facilities.” They have a city arts council, arts festivals, dance and theater companies and a number of working artists (both independent and college affiliated).

“People generally think of Jerome, Bisbee and Sedona as arts towns,” says Booker. “Yuma doesn’t often get the attention it deserves as a town grounded in the arts.”

Booker recommends the book “The 100 Best Art Towns in America” by John Villani for those interested in learning more about hidden art treasures from coast to coast.

Still, he sees in Arizona a depth and breadth of art not enjoyed in other states.

In many ways, reflects Booker, the arts in Arizona reflect the core values of our state.

As a relatively young state, Arizonans treasure their independence. We’re mavericks, he says, and it shows in the independence shown by individual artists throughout the state.

Booker observes that Arizona politicians are rarely the “cookie cutter type,” citing Goldwater as an example of a moderate Republican concerned with the arts and social issues.

The people of Arizona also have a great appreciation for the handmade—such as the jewelry and silversmithing of Navajo and Zuni artists. Because we take pride in the work of our own hands, many of us are creating and buying handcrafted art.

Arizonans also pride themselves in working hard. Consider the many hard working traditions essential to our state—ranching, mining, landscaping and more. These traditions require discipline, a trait that serves Arizona artists—from actors and dancers to painters and poets—well.

Finally, says Booker, Arizonans appreciate other cultures. Consider, for example, our enthusiasm for art from Latino culture.

So there you have it—the good news about art in Arizona. I hadn’t realized there was so much of it. (Are we guilty, perhaps, of only spotlighting our shortcomings to the exclusion of some really wonderful things we are doing here?)

“The arts,” muses Booker, “are thriving in corners all across our state.”

It’s up to us, I suppose, to get out there and enjoy them…

–Lynn

Next: Challenges facing the arts in Arizona

World travels and hometown wonders

I was quite the world traveler during my college and early adult years (my children are probably wondering how dinosaurs managed to coexist with airplanes). I enjoyed much of Europe (including Scandinavia and the British Isles), China, Hong Kong and Israel. (Students were cautioned against making the trip to Egypt at that time, and I’ve always regretted following that advice.)

While studying to prepare for my week in Israel, I was especially struck by the story of Judah Maccabee, the Jewish hero whose victory is commemorated each year during Chanukah. Maccabee successfully led the second century B.C.E. Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrians and rededicated the temple desecrated by their oppressors.

Chanukah is an eight day festival of lights, celebrating one day’s worth of pure oil lasting eight days during this rededication of the Jewish Second Temple. The story of the Maccabees is recounted in an ancient text known as The First Book of Maccabees—one of many sources I studied during my doctoral studies in the philosophy of religion.

As part of my doctoral work, I was expected to read Hebrew, Greek, German and French with proficiency. My children wouldn’t find this all that fun (Jennifer might), so I’m glad there are other ways for them to get a glimpse of diverse cultures and traditions. For many of us, the theater is infinitely more enjoyable than the textbook. So here’s a family-friendly way to introduce your children to the Chanukah story, or help them enjoy a familiar story with a bit of a twist…

Curtain Call Youth Theatre, affiliated with Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, presents Mac Abee: Ace Detective on Saturday, Dec. 12th (at 7pm) and Sunday, Dec. 13th (at 2pm) at the John Paul Theatre at Phoenix College. “The play is a new tale for Chanukah,” says Janet Arnold, producing director for Arizona Jewish Theatre Company. “It’s written and directed by Curtain Call director Layne Racowsky.”

The show tells the tale of the fictional Mac Abee’s quest for the missing lead candle (shamash) in the Chanukah menorah. Arnold describes it as “a fanciful play with music performed by 23 young actors from around the Valley.” Racowsky says the show is “lively and fun” and “helps to give some insight into the holiday of Chanukah.”

Curtain Call will offer items for sale before and after each show and the company’s teen improve troupe, All Rights Reserved, will perform at 1:45pm prior to Sunday’s show. Chanukah begins at sundown on December 11th this year, so this gives you an opportunity to find special gifts during the eight day celebration.

“We love being able to present a show that helps to represent diversity,” reflects Racowsky. I was raised to celebrate a multitude of holidays, showing respect for many religious traditions and the people who celebrate them. My children enjoy doing the same. (Just this evening Jennifer shared with me her excitement about attending a Chanukah event at ASU yesterday.)

Opportunities to learn about holidays other than Christmas—including Chanukah, Ead, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice and more—are rare indeed. Whatever your faith or world view, I encourage you to seize them. Tolerance is no longer enough. We need genuine understanding, appreciation and respect. We need acceptance—in words and in deeds.

I chatted the other day with Robert C. Booker, executive director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, who shared that he’d recently attended an event celebrating Diwali, an important Hindu festival also known in India as the Festival of Lights. It’s a holiday Jennifer and I have enjoyed together—both at a festival in downtown Phoenix and at a Hindu Temple in Scottsdale.

“The arts,” reflects Booker, “have a way of helping us understand each other’s culture.” Next time you feel like theater (or music or dance) is a mere frivolity, consider the rich opportunities it offers for exploring—even embracing—diverse cultures and traditions.

In a world growing simultaneously smaller and larger in so many ways, the arts open doors to people and places we might otherwise never know.

It’s the next best thing to world travel…

–Lynn

Note: All Rights Reserved will perform at 7pm on Sunday, Dec. 6th, at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale. Tickets are $5 at the door. For more information, call 602-264-0402.

Also: Curtain Call Youth Theatre, the education arm of the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company established in 1989, is offering several winter camp workshops this month. Classes are held from 9am to 4pm at Temple Chai in Phoenix (dates vary by workshop; each runs three days and costs $125). Topics include Music of the Decades (a musical theatre workshop taught by Miciah Dodge), Brush up your Shakespeare (taught by Julie Cotton), Character Creation (also taught by Cotton) and Audition Techniques (taught by Layne Racowsky). Call 602-264-0402 to register or learn more.