Tag Archives: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

For the love of Lilly!

D. Scott Withers (center) as Lilly's teacher, Mr. Singer

Childsplay recently opened its 35th season with “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Kling, a whimsical work based on books by Kevin Henkes.

Lilly (Yolanda London) doing her drama queen thing

It’s directed by Childsplay’s founding artistic director David Saar. But don’t tell Lilly. She’s “Queen of Everything.” Lilly is perfectly good-natured until a baby brother named Julius falls from the sky. Soon tantrums lead to time in the “uncooperative chair” as Lilly loses that ‘I’m so special’ feeling.

But it’s restored after a bit of quality time with grandma, who buys Lilly a purse unlike any other. Lilly discovers that her purple plastic purse makes music when she opens it, which is perfectly wonderful unless you’re sitting in a classroom with a teacher who takes the same “hush, hush” and “not now” tone as your parents. After Lilly writes a not-so-nice note to her teacher, things get a bit complicated.

Lilly (Yolanda London) enjoys a special outing with her grandma

You’ll love the way this story, recommended for ages four and up, weaves themes of family, friendship and forgiveness into a medley of music, mice and misadventures.

Lilly (Yolanda London) wants to be an opera singer when she grows up

“Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” features a cast of eight, including Yolanda London as Lilly, Dwayne Hartford as Dad and Debra K. Stevens at Mom. D. Scott Withers plays Lilly’s teacher, Mr. Slinger — who has a nifty trick for helping students deal with larger-than-life emotions. Jon Gentry and Nathan Dobson play best friends Wilson and Chester.

If your children have ever attended classes, camps or workshops with Childsplay artists, they’ll recognize these actors, who masterfully cultivate in children a love of storytelling that reflects the joy each actor exudes on stage.

Childsplay sets, costumes, choreography and such are always a delight, as evidenced by their many wins at this year’s Arizoni Awards. But it’s the music for “Lilly” — mostly jazz with a fun splattering of opera — that I enjoyed most in this production. “Lilly” gives opera, too often labeled “stuffy,” a serious kick of spunk.

Cailyn and Payton of Phoenix rocking the Lilly look

Like all Childsplay productions, there’s much to learn from “Lilly” — for kids and grown-ups alike. Lobby activities extend important lessons in lighthearted ways, and Childsplay offers souvenirs for sale to help the memories linger.

Before heading to my car after Sunday’s 1 pm performance, I stopped a pair of moms to ask about taking pictures of their daughters. Both were gracious — and one even mentioned being an RAK subscriber. The girls, both six years old, were rockin’ their “Lilly” gear — the truest testament to an afternoon well spent at the theater.

– Lynn

Note: “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” runs through Oct 16 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Visit www.childsplayaz.org to learn more. Additional cast and creative team members include Michelle Cunneen (Female), Kate Haas (Garland), Katie McFadzen (assistant director), Molly Lajoie (choreographer), Carey Wong (scenic designer), Connie Furr-Soloman (costume designer), Rick Paulsen (lighting designer), Anthony Runfola (sound and projection designer) and Samantha Monson (stage manager).

Coming up: The Arizona adventures of “Dora the Explorer”

From Lilly to Wiley

I should have taken a cot along to Tempe Center for the Arts on Sunday. I was there to see Childsplay’s production of “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” — and I’m returning this evening for the AriZoni Awards ceremony.

The ceremony features both a youth and adult portion. Though Childsplay performs for children, it’s not a youth theater — so I’ll be listening for their awards during the grown-up portion of the evening.

Several Childsplay artists act and direct throughout the community, so I’m accustomed to watching for them in both Childsplay productions and works by other companies.

Childsplay associate artist Debra K. Stevens, who performs the role of “Mom” in “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” has been with the company since 1982 — but she’s directing a show that opens this week at Mesa Community College.

Mesa Community College presents Wiley and the Hairy Man later this week

It’s “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” a work performed (along with David Saar’s
“The Big Yellow Boat”) during Childsplay’s 1993-1994 season. My own theater baby Lizabeth was born in 1993. This is the first year I’ve attended the AriZoni Awards without her, and she’ll be missed.

When Childsplay performed “Wiley and the Hairy Man” it garnered all sorts of AriZoni Award nominations — best director and choreographer for Michael Barnard (artistic director for Phoenix Theatre), best actor for D. Scott Withers and more.

I’m hoping to see “Wiley and the Hairy Man” when it’s performed at MCC’s Theatre Outback Fri, Sept 23 (10 am and 7:30pm) or Sat, Sept 24 (2pm). They’re performing an original adaptation by Justin Taylor.

Mesa Community College describes “Wiley and the Hairy Man” as the gripping story of a young boy trying to overcome his greatest fear. It’s set in the swamps of the south, where Wiley prepares to confront the creature who took his father away. MCC notes that the work is heavily influenced by Gullah culture.

“Gullah culture” is a broad descriptor for the traditions, skills and beliefs brought to this country by enslaved Africans — many of whom, according to a 2003 PBS broadcast on the topic, came ashore along the coast of Southern Carolina.

The play is an intriguing gateway to conversations about cultural preservation and assimilation. A 2001 piece picked up by National Geographic notes that similar issues have faced “American Indians, Cajuns in Louisiana and highlanders in Appalachia.”

Mesa Community College plans school tours of the production for October and November. Also coming this fall is “Next Fall,” being presented by Actors Theatre at the Herberger Theater Center Oct 28-Nov 13.

Stevens performs the role of “Arlene” in the Geoffrey Nauffts work, which explores the collision of ideas wrought by an actual collision. If you want to find fascinating theater in the Valley, just start at Childsplay.

Then see where their fine actors lead you…

– Lynn

Note: You’ll find Childsplay at www.childsplayaz.org, Mesa Community College at www.mesacc.edu, Tempe Center for the Arts at www.tempe.gov/tca, Actors Theatre at www.atphx.org and the AriZoni Awards at www.arizoniawards.com.

Coming up: Highlights from the 2011 AriZoni Awards ceremony, “Mixing It Up” in Tempe, Chinese arts and culture