Tag Archives: Go Dog Go

Baby meets Broadway

Valley actor D. Scott Withers isn’t a father in real life, but says that hasn’t been a problem in tackling the role of a 40-something father of three in a musical titled “Baby” opening July 22 at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. Like all actors, Withers has done plenty of things onstage that he’s never done in real life.

He’s quick to point out that despite the musical’s appeal to parents or those expecting a child, it’s really a work about relationships. “The baby,” he says, “just puts a magnifying glass on them.” Seems his couple, the oldest of the three, experiences an unexpected pregnancy just as they’re preparing for life in the “empty nest.” One is thrilled, but the other — not so much, really.

The youngest expectant parents in “Baby” are college students. Another couple deals with infertility. “Parents will recognize these relationships,” says Withers. But plenty of folks without kids love the work for other reasons. Withers describes “Baby” as a cult favorite among musical theater lovers.

“The music,” says Withers, “is fantastic.” Think catchy, upbeat numbers and beautiful ballads. Just ask my daughter Lizabeth, who knows to crank up the volume every time the SiriusXM Broadway channel plays “The Story Goes On.”

Still, Withers says it’s “not a dance show.” Instead, it’s a “character driven” musical with a small cast. All the more reason to rejoice that seasoned actors like Withers are involved. Withers is a longtime “associate artist” with Childsplay in Tempe whose other plans this season include directing “The Music Man” and performing in “Gypsy.”

Baby” features book by Sybille Pearson, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. It was performed on Broadway in 1983 and 1984. Withers’ preference for the music over the writing is shared by several who’ve reviewed the work.

It’s infrequently performed in these parts (Withers recalls a Theater Works production from a decade or so ago), meaning that those who worship at the altar of musical theater will want to make the pilgrimage to Peoria for this production. For all its charms, “Baby” is a show that’s unlikely to come around again anytime soon.

After years of watching Withers perform in Childsplay shows like “Go, Dog. Go!” and “A Year With Frog and Toad,” I’m eager to witness his work with more mature fare. If his “Alan” in “Baby” is even half as engaging as his “Edna” in “Hairspray,” Valley audiences are in for a real treat.

– Lynn

Coming up: Performing arts “sneak peek” events, Childsplay’s 2011/12 season, Parenting meets performing arts, From book to stage, Girl power!

From peach to poodle

I headed out Saturday to see the opening performance of “James and the Giant Peach” at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. It’s being presented by Theater Works’ Youth Works through Feb 20 – and it’s a truly charming take on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name.

I ran into a fellow stage mom at the box office, who told me to “take a lot of pictures of the aunts.” A lovely idea but impossible because my camera is in NYC for a week with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth.

Zane Reisert (Old Green Grasshopper) and Evan Arganbright (James)

After the show, I hung around to chat with cast and family members — including a young actor named Evan Arganbright who performed the role of “James.”

He reminds me of Lizabeth during her early years with Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale.

For a time, it’s all about the cute factor — and Arganbright has it.

I’ll share a bit more of his story, and a review of “James and the Giant Peach” in a future post.

On my way home, I got a call from my 21-year-old son, Christopher, who finished a volunteer gig early and was waiting for the teen taxi.

I picked him up and we headed to Tempe to get my 19-year-old daughter Jennifer, an ASU student who still heads home on weekends for laundry, tech support and life’s little essentials like Dr Pepper.

We got to Tempe just before 4pm — and a lightbulb went off. I dropped Christopher off at a burger joint and headed back to the Tempe Center for the Arts, where Childsplay is performing “Go, Dog. Go!” (based on the book by P.D. Eastman) at 1pm and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays through March 6.

Scene from a former Childsplay production of "Go, Dog. Go!"

I got to TCA in the nick of time, and took a seat near one of three houses (the dog house) that anchor the set.

“Go, Dog. Go!” is performed “theater in the round” style, so preschoolers were seated all around the circular floor-level performance area.

They were giggling nearly non-stop, as were more than a few of the grown-ups sitting in rows behind them.

Both “James and the Giant Peach” and “Go, Dog. Go!” are performed in relatively small spaces — and even feature somewhat similar lighting for scenes with a starlit sky. One is done with a giant set piece (a rotating peach) in the center of the space, while the other features three houses around the perimeter of the performance area.

Each production puts a unique spin on things. The “James and the Giant Peach” set includes a screen showing puppetry mirroring the action of the play. The “Go, Dog. Go!” set extends to the theater’s first balcony — where a character named Hattie (sporting some serious pink) glides along while asking, “Do you like my hat?”

I had to duck out during the “Go, Dog. Go!” intermission to take care of some things for my own kids, but stopped on the way to admire the books, CDs and even pink poodle purse at the Childsplay display tables on the way out.

I’ll share more about the performance, and the educational lobby display, in a future post. I expect to see the show again with Lizabeth once she’s done with college audition travels.

It’s just as well, I suppose, that I got called away early. I fear my own uproarious laughter, more like snorting really, was a bit too much for the more subdued grown-ups in the audience — though someone from Childsplay did laud my “setting a good example” for those less inclined to let go and let dog.

Before scurrying out of the Tempe Center for the Performing Arts, I was lured by visions of glass in the venue’s dedicated exhibit space — stumbling first on a trio of works by Angela Cazel Jahn, co-founder and former artistic director for the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Today she’s part of the “eye lounge” artist collective in downtown Phoenix. Cazel Jahn also is a dedicated stage mom, in the most positive sense of the word, and I hope to share more of her story in a future post as well.

TCA's exhibit of glass art features several intriguing mixed-media works

The current TCA Gallery exhibit also features works coupling glass with neon, metal and other intriguing materials.

The exhibit space is modest in size with a very intimate feel–making it a perfect introduction for children to the world of art exhibits and museums.

My final stop before getting Jennifer and going home was a longtime Mill Avenue haunt called “The Shoe Mill” — where we found a rugged but stylish pair of black leather boots that we photographed via cell phone for Lizabeth. How odd, I thought, that a teen surrounded by NYC shopping options might find the finest boots back home in Tempe.

Eventually the three of us made our way home, happy to be off our feet and out of the cold (by Arizona standards) weather. Soon the washing machine was humming and we were waiting word from Lizabeth about her first day of auditions.

But that’s a story for another day — and it’s her story, not mine, to tell.

The little girl who once would have joined me for a day of peaches and poodles is making her own way in the world of theater, and I couldn’t be more proud of her hard work, talent and passion for the craft.

– Lynn

Note: Lizabeth has studied with each of the actors performing in Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!” — which makes watching them perform even more meaningful as a mom. Click here to learn about Childsplay summer classes. Click here to learn about Theater Works summer camps. Click here to learn about “Glee” camp with “Yellow Dog” actor Kristen Drathman. Finally, click here to learn about the 2011 RAK Camp Fair featuring diverse camp options for Valley children and teens.

Coming up: Valley teachers talk theater

Got glee?

Fond as I am of watching the FOX television series “Glee,” I’m a bigger fan of Valley kids who “do the glee” in real time.

Those snappy numbers and catchy tunes don’t come to life quite as quickly off-screen, according to Valley actor and Mesa Community College (MCC) student Tyler Pounds.

Still, they’re every bit as fun — and have much to offer in terms of fostering creativity, teamwork and self-expression.

If your child is game for a bit of glee, consider a spring break camp with plenty of acting, singing and dancing.

Your choices include the “Spring Glee Camp” at Chandler Center for the Performing Arts — which runs March 21-25 and features “professional coaching in all aspects of musical theatre” by Kristen Drathman.

The camp runs 9am to noon that week, is designed for campers ages 8 & up, and takes place at the Chandler Center for the Performing Arts.

Drathman describes the camp as “a wonderful motivator and social outlet to get kids off the couch and doing something artistic, athletic and fun for the break.”

“Musical theater,” she told me, “works the body as well as the mind.”

Then Drathman added this quip: “Singing and dancing all morning…I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that!”

Turns out Drathman also gets to spend many of her evenings singing and dancing because she performs regularly on Valley stages — though she’s currently performing for more of a matinee crowd as the “Yellow Dog” in Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!” at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Other options include the “Musical Theatre Glee Camp” being presented March 14-18 by an organization that’s fairly new to the Valley — Scottsdale Glee.

Camp hours are 9am to noon, but afternoon sessions focused on music appreciation and exploration are available at additional cost.

Scottsdale Glee instructors include Christine Kyhn, Nola Enge and Lisa Fogel. The camp (as well as other Scottsdale Glee programs) takes place at Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ in Phoenix — which is also home to one of the Valley’s “parent cooperative” preschools.

It’s just a hop, skip and jump away from Arcadia Music Academy, which is housed at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church — where my daughter Lizabeth first studied violin with Cynthia Baker.

Chandler Center for the Arts and Scottsdale Glee also offer summer options with a glee theme, plus other activities and opportunities for children interested in the arts.

As a mom whose children have missed far too many summer opportunities because of lingering too long over the oodles of choices out there, I offer three pieces of advice.

First, start asking around now. Second, attend the Raising Arizona Kids magazine camp fair next month. Third, get your child registered before popular programs like “Camp Broadway” at ASU Gammage are full.

While Pounds and others correctly note that characters on the television show “Glee” are often stereotyped to the extreme, I’m convinced that musical theater in real life does more to break down barriers than build dividing walls between students.

– Lynn

Note: Pounds is one of several students who’ll perform in the Arizona State University Lyric Opera Theatre Student Workshop production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” — which runs Jan 28-Feb 6. He’ll also be performing the role of “William Barfee,” as will William Marquez, in “The 39th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” being presented by MCC’s Act I Musical Productions March 3-12. Both contain mature content not suitable for children — so enjoy them with a friend, then take the kids to see a puppet show.

Coming up: More summer theater camps, Art in the round, Film festival meets Arizona politics, Art and healing, Talkback time: “Spring Awakening” at ASU Gammage, Valley students create art to commemorate “No Name-Calling Week”

Got GLEE? Send me a digital photo (or photos) of your Glee club or camp in action and it might be featured in a future post spotlighting Glee groups in the Valley. Please send by Fri, Feb 4 to rakstagemom@gmail.com.

From storybook to stage

Childsplay performs a a musical adaptation of P.B. Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!” at the Tempe Center for the Arts Jan 29-March 6

Telling and reading stories is one of the most enchanting parts of childhood. But today’s kids have additional options for enjoying their favorite tales — including movie and stage adaptations of classic and contemporary children’s books.

Consider the case of P.D. Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!” The book comes to life this weekend as Childsplay presents a preview at Tempe Center for the Arts.

I’m told the preview and opening night are already sold out, so don’t delay if you’re eager to take in the show.

Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!”– recommended for ages 3 & up – is adapted by Steven Dietz and Allison Gregory, with music by Michael Koerner. 

It runs Jan 29-March 6, with 1pm and 4pm shows both Saturdays and Sundays. An ASL interpreted performance takes place at 1pm on Sun, Feb 27.

Take the kiddos to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe Sat, Jan 22, at 10am if you’d like to enjoy some charming “Go, Dog. Go!” moments with Childsplay.

Changing Hands notes that children will be “exploring the world of story using dramatic play to guide kids through an exploration of scenes from P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog Go!” and promises that “They’ll even create some of their own!”

Another book for children was literally “on the go” last weekend as the cast of Cookie Company’s upcoming “Unstoppable Me!” took a bit of the show on the road — performing selections at Desert Ridge Marketplace.

The cast of Cookie Company's "Unstoppable Me!" performed last weekend at Desert Ridge Marketplace

Cookie Company is affiliated with Phoenix Theatre, which offers more mature fare in “No Way to Treat a Lady” through Jan 30.

“Unstoppable Me!” runs Jan 28-Feb 6 at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale. It’s based on the book by Wayne W. Dyer with Kristina Tracy. It has the shortest run of the shows noted here so you have just a small window of opportunity to see it.

This iPhone "app" is proof that some stories have moved to both stage and super-small screen

Though “Unstoppable Me!” is best for K-grade 4 students, I’m eager to see is myself — having recently seen one of its cast members, Walter Belcher, offer a moving performance in the Black Theatre Troupe production of August Wilson’s “Fences.”

Many adult actors who perform brilliantly here in the Valley in works for children also can be seen in works for older audiences (by older, I mean no longer required to do homework).

I’m especially excited about seeing Childsplay’s Yolanda London appear in an Actors Theatre production titled “This” which opens at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix this Friday. And Kristen Drathman, a Valley actor frequently seen in Phoenix Theatre productions, performing in “Go, Dog. Go!”

Youth Works, which is part of Theater Works in Peoria, brings “James and the Giant Peach” to the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts Feb 3-20.

Enjoy "James and the Giant Peach" at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts next month

It’s based on the book by Roald Dahl — which recounts the adventures of James as he finds a way to escape from two odd aunts who take him in after his parents die in a tragic rhinocerous accident.

The adventures of "James and the Giant Peach" exist in book, stage and movie form

Theater Works presents “The Desperate Hours” on another stage Jan 28-Feb 13.

I’ve always been a fan of reading books before seeing them portrayed on stage or screen (whether big screen or handheld device).

Childen who read these stories before seeing them performed have a chance to imagine the setting and characters free of someone else’s images.

But once your child reads or listens to a book, there’s nothing more fun than seeing it come to life on stage. Unless, of course, you finish off an afternoon at the theater by cracking open another exciting book.

– Lynn

Note: Childsplay and Cookie Company productions feature adult actors performing family-friendly works, while Youth Works features young performers presenting family-friendly fare.

Coming up: Theater cats (no Andrew Lloyd Webber required), Musings on “mature content” theater as ASU Gammage presents a touring production of “Spring Awakening,” Valley veterans participate in a national arts contest, It’s a jungle (and farm) out there!

Photos provided by Childsplay (photo by Heather Hill features cast members from a previous run), Phoenix Theatre and Theater Works.

The fine art of animals

Scene from Childsplay's "A Year With Frog and Toad"

I got to thinking about art with an animal theme as I was making plans to attend “A Year With Frog and Toad,” the opening production of Childsplay’s 33rd season, which runs Sept 18 to Oct 16 (Sat/Sun 1pm & 4pm) at Tempe Center for the Arts.

Turns out there are plenty of theater works for children who enjoy animals of all shapes and sizes — including another Childsplay offering (“Go, Dog, Go!”) scheduled for Jan 29-March 6 of next year, and a Phoenix Theatre Cookie Company production of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to run Nov 19-28 at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale.

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater closes its run of “Baby Bear Goes to School” on Sept 12, but has oodles of animal fare lined up for the rest of their season — including “Jack in the Beanstalk,” “Apolodo,” “Little Bunny’s Halloween,” “The Little Red Hen,” “Cinderella,” “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” “The Monkey and the Pirate,” “The Three Little Pigs” and more.

Scene from Childsplay's "Go, Dog, Go!"

I’m especially intrigued by “Apolodo” — which the puppet meisters will perform one night only, Sept 17, at 8pm. It’s based on a poem by Gellu Naum, “one of the greatest Romanian avant-garde poets.”

It’s the tale of a little penguin from a great circus in Budapest who has a full time job as a tenor and entertainer — and “is a bit of an actor on the ice rink.” Sounds like most of my multi-tasking theater friends.

Scene from Great Arizona Puppet Theater's "Apolodor"

Great Arizona Puppet Theater often presents work that increases youth appreciation for wildlife and their habitats.

In “Hotel Saguaro” (Feb 2-20, 2011), grandpa Sammy tells little Sammy about the relationship between desert animals and the saguaro cactus. With “Canyon Condor” (Feb 23-March 6) children learn about the importance of the condor and protecting its environmental niche.

I recall enjoying many a show by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater when my three children, now ages 17-21, were younger. It’s a wonderful introduction to the joys of storytelling, live theater and communal arts experiences.

"Dancing Bear" by Inuit artist Pauta Siala (from Heard Museum in Phoenix)

Many a Valley museum features animal-related arts and culture — including the Heard Museum (which has both Phoenix and North Scottsdale locations). I’m especially fond of the polar bears and other North American wildlife depicted in their “Inuit Art” collection, but visitors also can enjoy a host of other animal art from several different cultures — created in all sorts of mediums. The Heard Museum is an especially fun place to play games like “How many fish can you see in this room?” or “Can you find a wolf in this exhibit?”

Keep an eye out for animal-related art at local zoos, nature centers, animal rescue organizations and wildlife habitats. The Phoenix Zoo offers their next “Wild Art” class for 2-5 year olds at 9:30am on Sept 25. (Did you know that koalas are headed their way?) Take a sketch pad and some charcoal or colored pencils along on animal/nature adventures and create your own animal-inspired art.

"Animals and People" by Inuit artist Winnie Tatla (from Heard Museum in Phoenix)

If birds or butterflies are your thing, check the offerings at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Upcoming art gallery exhibits at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum include an “Art Institute Student Show” opening Oct 2 and “The World of Nature in Miniatures” opening Dec 11.

Several of the Native American petroglyphs at the Deer Valley Rock Art Center depict animals. The museum also offers an educational program called “Ollie’s Storybook Adventures” which offers “fun and interactive ways for children to learn about…plants, animals and archeology of the American southwest.”

Cat in the Hat” fans (of all ages) can now enjoy a new television series on PBS. “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” which first aired on Monday, introduces young children to the wonders of science and the natural world. Comedy lovers may be especially delighted with the choice of actors to voice the role of the Cat — Martin Short (featured just last season at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts).

"Raptors of Arizona" opens Sept 11 at the ASDM Art Institute (Pictured is Richard Sloan's "Harris' Hawk")

Movie buffs who love animal fare can look for a 3-D film about two wolves named Kate and Humphrey opening soon in theaters Valleywide. “Alpha and Omega” also features angry bears, prickly porcupines and a golfing goose with a duck for a caddy.

Remember too that museum gift shops often offer unique animal-related gifts like the mouse-shaped cheese grater I recently picked up at the Phoenix Art Museum gift shop for a certain pasta-lover at our house. I also found a fanciful stuffed animal (a “Deglingos” offering called “Pikos the Hedgehog”) at the Phoenix Art Museum online shop. Alas — I have so far been unsuccessful in landing the rare “Mr. Pricklepants” of thespian and “Toy Story 3″ fame.

Mireya Mayor (photo by Mark Thiessen) comes to the MAC in 2011

Finally, you can enjoy any or all of four “National Geographic Live!” events coming to Mesa Arts Center this season. The first, featuring “Ocean Adventures” with Jean-Michel Cousteau, takes place Oct 20. The final event in the series this season  (March 23, 2011) will feature Mireya Mayor — pictured above with a new lemur species she discovered.

If your organization or venue offers visual or performing arts with an animal theme, please comment below to let our readers know.

– Lynn

Kennedy Center tour hits Higley

Note: Higley Center for the Performing Arts presents a rare treat on Nov 16 for school children pre-K to 1st grade — the touring production of “Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Musical” presented by Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences. Reservations are required.

Coming up: Sampling of symphonies, A weekend of “Bollywood & beyond”

Here are the answers to trivia questions posed in a recent “Laugh Your Brass Off” post about this weekend’s production of “The Music Man” with The Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre: “The Music Man” received the 1958 Tony Award for “Best Musical” nominated alongside “New Girl in Town,” “Oh, Captain!,” “Jamaica,” and “West Side Story.” Actors who have performed the role of Winthrop Paroo on stage or screen include Ron (then “Ronnie”) Howard, Eddie Hodges, Cameron Monaghan and Christian Slater.

Sneak peeks

Looking for a taste of Valley theater? Check out these “season previews” offering a sneak peek at upcoming shows…

Trent Kowalik (Billy) and Ballet Girls-Photo by Alastair Muir

“The ASU Gammage Progressive Broadway Across America-Arizona 2010/2011 Season Preview” comes to ASU Gammage on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.

It’s your chance to enjoy a video presentation spotlighting 2010/2011 shows–seven offerings which range from “Hair” to “Fiddler on the Roof.”

"Hair" 2009 revival cast-Photo by Joan Marcus

ASU Gammage also presents three special engagements this season–to include the classic musical “Les Miserables.”

"Barricades" from "Les Miserables"-Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench

Their season preview event takes place Mon, Aug 2, from 6-8pm, and admission is free. They ask only that you RSVP to rsvp@asugammage.com or 480-965-5062 by Sun, Aug 1.

ASU Gammage bring Shrek, the Grinch, and Beauty and the Beast to the Valley this season

The event includes live “sneak-peek performances” from “Billy Elliot the Musical” and Dreamworks’ “Shrek the Musical”–as well as “complimentary refreshments, free food from La Bocca Pizzeria and a chance to win prizes.”

Just a few weeks later, you can enjoy a free sneak peek of Childsplay’s upcoming season at the “Childsplay 2010-2011 Preview Party.”

Childsplay presents "The Year of Frog and Toad"

It’ll be held Sat, Aug 21, from 10am-2pm at their Sybil B. Harrington Campus of Imagination and Wonder, located at 900 S. Mitchell Dr. in Tempe.

The event includes not only a sneak peek of season offerings, but also “family activities involving stagecraft, theatre games and hands-on fun.”

"Junie B. Jones" returns to Childsplay this season

What better way to discover which shows most interest your children than taking them along to sample the season’s upcoming fare?

If you go, let me know.

I’d love to hear what you and your family are looking forward to seeing this season…

–Lynn

"Go, Dog, Go!" performed by Tempe's own "Childsplay"

Note: If your arts organization or venue is holding a season preview event, drop a line to rakstagemom@gmail.com and let me know.

Coming up: Sneak peek at fall theater classes for children and teens–featuring everything from “Fancy Nancy” and “Harry Potter” to “Musical Theatre” and “Acting Technique.” As always, stay tuned to local theater companies for news of special master classes and educational programs.

Update: The Mesa Arts Center presents their season kick-off party Fri, Sept 10, from 6-10pm at Mesa Contemporary Arts, their visual arts exhibit space featuring five galleries. The event will include performances by founding resident companies, live outdoor entertainment, artist demonstrations, a Native American marketplace, a book signing by Jana Mashonee and special appearances.

Once upon a kindness

The finest of good deeds are done quietly. No expectation of rewards. No sense of self-importance. 

They’re just given. 

And not soon forgotten… 

Childsplay sets are stunning works of art

So it is with Childsplay, the Tempe-based professional theater company for young audiences and families, which opens its 33rd season in September. 

The first year I bought play passes for Childsplay productions, we weren’t able to use a single ticket. 

Our son was having a tumultuous year, as we all were, when a serious health condition became our constant shadow. A trip to the theater felt tougher than a trip to the moon. 

We mourned the loss of many things that year—the joys of children’s theater among them. 

I shared a bit of our story with one of the fine folks at Childsplay, who graciously offered us play passes for the following season. 

Life had settled a bit by then, and the light of theater chased many shadows from our midst. 

Childsplay extends learning beyond the classroom

I’ll always be grateful to Childsplay for that simple act of kindness. 

I remember it well each time they announce another season full of whimsy and wonder. 

I recently learned that Childsplay passes for the 2010-2011 season are an especially good value when purchased before June 30. 

When you purchase play passes, they’re deposited directly into an account created for you at the Tempe Center for the Arts box office, and you can exchange the passes for show tickets either in person, by phone or online. 

Friendship is a common theme for Childsplay

The play pass program gives you a chance to enjoy lower ticket prices, waived processing fees and the ability to obtain show tickets a week before they go on sale to the general public.

Tickets can be mailed to you, printed at home or held for you at the box office. 

This is especially lovely for those of us who find that dealing with tangibles like tickets and money is way beyond bothersome. 

Although passes will be available for purchase through September, you’ll enjoy the best discounts if you order before June 30. You can click here for all the juicy details. 

Childsplay offerings for the 2010-2011 season are:

“A Year With Frog and Toad.” Follows the adventure of two great friends—a cheerful frog and a grouchy toad. Sept 18-Oct 16. Ages 4+. 

Childsplay makes learning fun

“Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” Recreates the world of intrigue that is “Room One” in a trio of Barbara Parker’s best-selling books. Jan 29-March 6. Ages 5+. 

“Go, Dog. Go!” Brings the adventures of P.D. Eastman’s book to life in a frolicking musical dog party. Jan 29-March 6. Ages 3+. 

“The Imaginators.” Explores the power of make believe as three friends discover friendship, courage and cooperation. April 9-17 (two weekends only). Ages 5+. 

“The Borrowers.” Follows a family who live under the floorboards as their curious daughter begins to explore the world of the ‘human beans’ who live upstairs. April 30-May 22. Ages 7+. 

Each show has it’s own charm, and back-story. To learn more about individual shows, their creators and their characters, visit Childsplay online at www.childsplayaz.org

I lost my heart to Childsplay after that first act of kindness. But more than a decade later, I still feel a genuine heart-tug each time I see them perform. 

Childsplay is truly the gift that keeps on giving. 

–Lynn 

 
 

Childsplay shows make great play dates

Photos from previous Childsplay productions of “A Year With Frog and Toad,” “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” and “Go Dog. Go!” courtesy of Childsplay

Note: Childsplay will also perform “New Kid” (tour only) and “Ferdinand the Bull” (national tour only) this season. They offer classes year-round and are now booking school performances for the coming school year. Consider getting extra passes so you can take friends along and have some on hand for last-minute birthday gifts.  

Coming up: An intriguing season from Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Preview of weekend arts events (including the “I Matter” performance this Friday night by youth in the Free Arts theater camp program), Valley theaters present new works

Cats v. dogs, theater style

There are cat people, and there are dog people. 

The differences might make for an amusing Broadway show, but for now we have to settle for productions that feature one species or the other (the pets, not their people). 

Scene from "Seussical"-Photo by Sara Krulwich appeared in "The New York Times"

There’s “Cats” from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber—based on poet T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” I never got this one, despite being a cat-lover. 

There’s “Seussical” from Flaherty and Ahrens, a 2000 Broadway musical based on the works of children’s author Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t love the song “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think?” 

And there’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” a Tennessee Williams play that has nothing to do with cats, but still strikes my fancy. 

For dog lovers, you’ve got “Annie”–featuring the lovable mutt “Sandy”–which will soon enjoy another Broadway revival.

There’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” with everyone’s favorite: “Snoopy.” You gotta love a canine who sits atop his doghouse banging away at a Smith Corona

If you’re not old enough to know what that is, you aren’t old enough to see the shows I’ll be previewing after another couple of paragraphs.

I should confess at this point to being more of a cat person, though I try to be open minded. I grew up enjoying the companionship of both.

Scene from the musical "Annie"

My first pet was actually a little chihuahua named “Nikitita” (no relation to ABBA’s “Chiquitita”) who broke my heart by running away one night during a fierce Colorado thunderstorm. 

I was raised by a single mother who always felt safer with dogs in the house (though our Doberman was milder than milk toast). 

Still, I’ve never gotten the hang of enjoying another creature licking my face. Cats lick themselves. That I can live with. 

If there’s a local theater company dedicated to dogs, I have yet to discover it. (Those of you who find your minds racing with tacky humor at this point need a good lick in the face.) 

Scene from the musical "Cats"

But I so love the alternative theater folks whose name seems a bit of an homage to those fabulous felines. 

It’s Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe, performing at the space once occupied by Childsplay, another Tempe titan of irresistible theater. 

While Childsplay delivers mostly “G-rated” fare, Stray Cat has more of an “R-rated” feel. 

You won’t find anything outrageously controversial in Childsplay’s 2010-2011 season, which includes “Go, Dog. Go!” based on the books by P.D. Eastman. 

Scene from "Reasons to be Pretty"-Photo from "The New York Times"

But Stray Cat Theatre, home of artistic director Ron May, is another story… 

Stray Cat’s ninth season opens with Neil Labute’s “Reasons to be Pretty” directed by April Miller. The show (Sept. 24-Oct. 9) is “a love story about the near impossibility of love.” I can’t wait to see Greg and his girlfriend Steph go at it after he casually mentions a few of her physical imperfections. 

Next up is Enrique Urueta’s “Learn to be Latina” directed by Ron May. At this point, I’d settle for merely learning to speak Spanish. The show (Dec. 3-18) is a comedic look at serious issues of cultural identity and making it in the music business. I’m eager to witness pop singer Hanan’s attempt to transform herself from Lebanese to Latina! 

Stray Cat’s first production of 2011 will be Steve Yockey’s “Octopus,” also directed by Ron May. How terribly thoughtful of them to choose something in keeping with my animal theme. Isn’t it just like a cat to do it’s own thing while leading the humans to believe it was all their idea? This baby (March 25-April 9) deals with the fallout of group sex, so leave the kittens at home if you go there. 

"Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party" at SF Playhouse-Photo by Zabrina Tipton

Finally, there’s Aaron Loeb’s “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” directed by Ron May—who clearly takes pride in being a provocateur par excellence. This piece (no pun intended) closes out Stray Cat’s 2010-2011 season with a bang (May 20-June 11). It features the “trial of the century” in which Lincoln’s teacher faces charges of asking whether Lincoln might have been gay. I’m not sure how you get from courtroom drama to dance party, but have no doubts that May will pull it off and more. 

For those of you who prefer tamer fare, I’ll offer a future post on the 2010-2011 Childsplay season. I have to wonder, though, whether their choice of “Go, Dog. Go!” reveals a clear canine bias… 

–Lynn