Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

Mothers making the journey home…

Women at Estrella Jail participating in the Journey Home program. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Mother’s Day was the farthest thing from my mind as I drove into the parking lot for visitors to the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, which is temporary home for “approximately 1,000 inmates, predominantly female.” I’d been invited to see a performance by women participating in Journey Home – one of many community outreach programs of ASU Gammage in Tempe, which is headed by executive director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack.

We use lots of labels to describe people who’ve been incarcerated. Criminal. Loser. Nobody. And worse. We rarely think of women in jail as women first. Or mothers. But plenty of people living behind bars are parents, including two mothers I chatted with after this year’s Journey Home performance.

They’d gathered with other inmates in a small room filled with several desks — the kind with seat and surface attached, like those most of us used in grade school. A long table at one end held two-liter bottles of soda, plus plastic plates and cups. Also the cake that’d been cut and served in celebration of completing the Journey Home program.

Women participating in a community outreach program called Journey Home. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

As I celebrate Mother’s Day with my family, I’m mindful of the women I met that day — especially the two mothers who spoke proudly of their children. One has custody of her children. Another does not, though she’s hoping to regain it. Both beamed when asked about their children, sharing their children’s accomplishments like so many of us do. Doing sports. Playing violin.

After arriving at Estella Jail, I joined several folks from ASU Gammage plus those who’ve worked with Journey Home participants, in a waiting area that’s perfectly welcoming but still feels a bit like the bland interior of a shoe box . I chatted with a woman seated next to me, a mental health provider who told me she wished more Journey Home programs were out there to curb the hopelessness that makes life after incarceration so tenuous.

Officials checked our identification before leading back to the room where 25 women, ages 23 to 50, would be performing and sharing a bit about their Journey Home adventures. We’d already been told to leave purses and other personal effects at home. Audience members filled several rows of chairs, admiring a line of self-portraits that ran across the wall while waiting for the women to arrive.

Journey Home participants at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Soon they entered, all wearing jail garb with wide horizontal black and white stripes, plus pink socks. The women performed several pieces featuring movement, stories and more — all met with warm and genuine applause. For six weeks prior to the performance, they’d met weekly for training in movement, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling.

The Journey Home program was inspired by a national prison project called Keeping the Faith, started by dancer/choreographer Pat Graney. It’s sustained by the partnership between ASU Gammage and Life Paradigms, a non-profit working to “educating and empowering women of color and their families.” Journey Home focuses on helping inmates to “develop tools to make positive choices” while encouraging them to “break the negative patterns of their lives.”

Journey Home participants at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

After the performance, several women spoke about the transformative nature of the Journey Home experience — and a common thread emerged. These women feel more confident, capable, caring and compassionate. They’re learning to believe in themselves and to imagine a future free of incarceration. The Journey Home program has served nearly 300 inmates during its first decade.

“Journey Home allows these women to develop creative tools that can help them make positive choices, and encourages them to break the negative patterns that lead to incarceration,” says Jennings-Roggensack. Ruth Acuna, an officer with Estrella Jail, says the program gives inmates a better understanding of their self worth. “We have seen the recitivism rate for the women who participate in this program significantly decrease.”

Fatima Halim (R) working with women at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Journey Home participants work with several folks from Life Paradigms, including executive director Fatimah Halim, who administers the program and works with inmates on creative writing and storytelling. Also program director Teniqua Broughton, who specializes in movement and theater arts — plus psychotherapist Imani Muhammad, who does visual arts.

After Journey Home participants finished their performance, those who’d been watching had a chance to share their reactions. Many, including Michael Reed, senior director of cultural participation and programming for ASU Gammage, spoke of being truly moved and inspired by the women’s journeys. Before the event drew to a close, each woman was asked to stand next to her own self-portrait.

A Journey Home participant reads from her work at Estrella Jail. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Many described their paintings, sharing both traumas from their past and dreams for their future. Then several of the women, now artists, handed their painting to a person in the audience whose earlier comments had stirred them somehow. It was a moving gesture, a gift genuinely appreciated. I hope so much for all the mothers of the world today. And for the mothers and daughters who shared such beautiful pieces of themselves with us that day. May they have a safe journey home.

– Lynn

Note: A 2006 report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that 61% of people in state prisons and 44% of those in local jails have a mental health problem. Click here to learn more about mental health and prison policy.

Coming up: Silver linings

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

Art meets Mother’s Day

Treat mom to time and art from the heart this weekend

Lately my kids have taken to asking me, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?” But you can’t buy what I really want in a store — because it’s time. More time on the planet. More time with my children. More time to myself. Hence I’m happy to share several places moms can celebrate with their family or escape for a blissful bit of solitude.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is offering brunch in the Café at MIM, prize giveaways throughout the day and museum tours for Mother’s Day. Kids can make crafts for mom ($2/craft), treat mom to something special from the MIM Museum Store or take mom to an evening concert by jazz pianist Brad Mehldau.

Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale is presenting a free “Music & Musings for Mother’s Day” performance featuring popular Broadway tunes and touching stories about moms presented by five studio members with special guests (followed by a champagne reception). Reservations are recommended for the Sun, May 13 at 2pm event (and there’s special seating for “Spring for the Studio” donors of $100 or more).

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s Curtain Call performs “Annie Jr.” this weekend

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is offering free admission to moms and grandmothers who bring a child to the museum on Mother’s Day (they’ll be open from 9am-4pm and kids can make a fun craft for mom). And plenty of theater companies are doing family-friendly shows. Think “Annie Jr.” by Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s Curtain Call youth theater — and more.

If you’re eager to avoid the Mother’s Day crowds, consider celebrating on Saturday with a stroll though one of Arizona’s many art districts. Folks in and around Gilbert can enjoy the “Emerge” exhibition at Art Intersection (open Tues-Sat 10am-6pm) — which features juried works by emerging photographic artists from Gilbert High School, Chandler-Gilbert Community College and ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Art Intersection is located in the Gilbert Heritage District near plenty of shops with fun fare for moms.

I snagged this flyer while checking out Scottsdale Civic Center Library renovations

Mothers Who Write/Mothers Who Read presents a free public reading by past and present participants in the “Mothers Who Write” workshop led by Amy Silverman of Phoenix New Times and Deborah Sussman of the ASU Art Museum. It’s taking place Sat, May 12 at 2pm at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts (Stage 2), and sponsored by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. (Please note that some material is not suitable for children. Darn.)

When in doubt about what to give, let mom pick a little something from the gift shop at your favorite museum, performing arts venue or local business that supports the arts. For more family-friendly events and special Mother’s Day offerings with an arts twist, click here to explore the Raising Arizona Kids calendar online.

– Lynn

Note: Always check hours of operation before heading to your favorite venue

Coming up: Art meets wellness, Gilbert art adventures

The Boxer

My kids, now in college, know it’s best not to turn the radio dial when I’m listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” because it was one of my mother’s favorite songs. I’ve still got the album she used to spin between vinyls by John Denver and members of the Rat Pack.

But I’ve got another sort of boxer on the brain today — the sort who takes delight in building houses, cars, puppet theaters and such out of giant cardboard boxes. My kids were magnificent “boxers” during preschool, when teachers would snag discarded appliance boxes and turn the students loose with poster paint and cheap brushes.

To this day, I sigh a little each time my husband takes a cardboard box out to the recycling bin — feeling sad there’s no one around to transform it, and guilty about not shepherding it over to the preschool. I still slow to admire jumbo TV boxes discarded by neighbors, like other people linger over coveted gardens or sports cars.

Now I’m told that boxes have finally made the big time. A group called Polyglot Theatre is coming to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for a little something called “We Built This City.” No relation to Jefferson Starship, but I still like their vibe. Polyglot will present four interactive performances that involve kids 12 and under in building a city out of cardboard boxes. No need to BYOB. I’m told they’ve already got thousands, which means I’ll have to overcome some serious box envy.

A pair of Polyglot Theatre fans helping to build a city (Photo: Wendy Kimpton)

There’s a 10:30am and 2:30pm performance on both Sat, May 12 and Sun, May 13 — meaning “We Built This City” is perfectly timed for those of you who like to spend Mother’s Day making memories rather than racking up more flowered coffee mugs. Admission is free and no tickets are needed to attend.

When our children were younger, we’d enjoy family picnics on the lush lawns surrounding the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — bringing our own blanket along in case we weren’t lucky enough to snag one of their picnic tables. The venue notes that refreshments from Shine Coffee and picnic foods will be available.

Jump for joy — it’s Polyglot Theatre time in Scottsdale! (Photo: Wendy Kimpton)

The event itself goes something like this. Thousands of boxes get used to make buildings, tunnels, archways, towers, labyrinths and such. You know, everything but a car elevator. Things go up, then get pulled down. Things get designed, redesigned and reconstructed. I imagine it’s like watching a teenager getting dressed for a date.

Performers facilitate the build while rocking the construction worker vibe — or portraying other fun characters. There’s even a DJ spinning tunes. At the end of the day, “everyone joins in trampling down the city into a gloriously chaotic heap of cardboard rubble.” Warn your kids ahead of time if you think they’ll struggle with seeing their work undone, and bring a camera along to document the occasion.

I’m told that “We Built This City” has been performed in four languages in 10 countries. Previous venues include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London and the Opera House in Sydney. I told you boxes made the big time.

“We Built This City” is free and there’s no need to BYOBox (Photo: Wendy Kimpton)

Polyglot Theatre’s “We Built This City” is part of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Art’s 2011-12 “Discovery Series” exploring the arts of Australia and New Zealand, made possible in part by a grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Their 2012-13 “Discover Series” exploring the arts of India opens with musician Ravi Shankar on Oct. 21, and also features performance by the Chitresh Das Dance Company. It concludes with a free outdoor community concert called “OrigiNations: A Festival of Native Cultures” on April 7, 2013.

Their 2012-13 season also includes the “The Daily Show Live: Indecision Tour 2012″ (Oct  20), performance by Garth Fagan Dance (Nov. 16; Fagan’s choreography has earned Tony and Olivier Awards), an “ARTrageous” benefit gala with Bernadette Peters (Dec. 1) and “The Complete World of Sports” by The Reduced Shakespeare Company (March 15).

“ARTrageous” holds special meaning because my very first “Stage Mom” blog was inspired by an “ARTrageous” event featuring Kristin Chenoweth. I’m also over the moon about the return of Mandy Patinkin (Feb. 2), whose “Kidults” CD got lots of play at our house after Lizabeth and I saw him perform there when she was just in grade school.

Still, when our new season brochure for Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts came in the mail the other day, it was word of a performance by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia that I rushed to tell my hubby about first. They’re presenting “A Brown Bear, a Moon and a Caterpillar: Treasured Stories by Eric Carle,” featuring music, puppetry and more (Feb. 24). Having three kids in college hasn’t dampened my zeal for such things. I hope nothing ever will.

– Lynn

Note: Learn more about Polyglot Theatre’s “We Built This City” and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts offerings at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

Coming up: Culture pearls for Mother’s Day, What a scream!

Sinews, saguaro and starlight

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The sun was just beginning to set as I arrived for Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal of “Topia,” a world-premiere by Ib Andersen being performed by Ballet Arizona through May 26 at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. After strolling a path lined with luminaria and topiaries, I arrived at the site of the 80 foot stage, set in front of the lush desert landscape that’s an intregral part of the production.

I plopped down at one of the bistro tables closest to the stage and watched final preparations like meticulously mopping a thin layer of desert dust from the stage. The rehearsal got underway just as strips of pink laced through a blue horizon transformed into a smoky gray sky layered with billowing clouds — creating a beautiful backdrop for the women’s creamy costumes and the men’s toned torsos, which mirrored the strong lines of two saguaro cactus towering over the stage.

As male dancers opened the performance, clad only in dance shorts matching the tones of their flesh, I felt a new appreciation for man as machine. These dancers have muscles that’ll give a swift kick to naysayers who think ballet is for sissies. Their athleticism is astounding, and they have the artistry to match. A machine without a muse is merely a lonely vessel, but Ballet Arizona marries them well.

The symphony of sinew feels transformed as female dancers enter the stage with poise and precision. “Topia” features every dancer in the company, in various couplings and combinations. Often Andersen’s choreography seems intended to frame or play off various elements of the desert surroundings. During one dance solo, a dainty white moth flit about for a spell before alighting near the front of the stage, perhaps relenting to its more graceful counterpart.

The work has five movements, and runs an hour or so in length. It features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, op. 68 — also called “The Pastoral.” Costume design is by Ib Andersen and Tenor Texidor, and scenery design is by Ib Andersen and Wrara Pleslow. Lighting design is by Michael Korsch.

Doors open at 5:30pm for folks who want to enjoy a bit of al fresco dining before tasting “Topia” for the first time. Choose a table seat closer to the stage if marveling at the majesty of individual dancers is your thing. Sit in rows of general seating if you’re more into appreciating the overall artistry of the thing.

“Topia” is a sort of master class in coupling visual and performance art. The lone prop is a large strip of white fabric a tad taller than the eight dancers who seem to manipulate it from behind by grasping a cord that runs through the center of the frame formed by 15 triangles. It’s a stand alone work of art, but also serves as backdrop for dances by three male/female duos — and the canvas for creations painted with movement and light.

Saguaro in bloom, and surrounding desert plants growing behind the stage, make for a stunning natural set piece. They soak up the lights that illuminate them like water, reflecting the colors beamed from five towers on each side of the stage — looking like plump mangos shaded with green, yellow and orange. Watching the landscape awash in color called to mind lava lamps, scoops of rainbow sherbet, Moses’ burning bush and all those cactus suckers sold to Arizona tourists.

When the rehearsal ended, dancers took a ten minute break before gathering for notes from Andersen and several run-throughs of various sections of the dance. With each correction, Andersen seemed to be finely pruning a topiary already beautifully crafted but needing just that extra little bit of attention to round out a stray leaf or two. They quit work for the evening at around 10:30pm.

“Topia” opens this evening, May 2, with the first of 17 performances. There’s a special Mother’s Day performance on Sun, May 13 featuring a sweet treat and flower for each mom who attends. They’ll even have chocolates and truffles available for purchase. Click here to learn more about the show, seating/tickets and dining options. Then sit back and let someone else work in the garden for a change.

– Lynn

Note: Ticket holders who arrive early can watch Ballet Arizona dancers take a company class on stage from 6:15-7pm. Doors open at 5:30pm and folks who show their “Topia” ticket can tour the garden before the performance begins at 7:30pm.

Coming up: Art awakenings, Once upon a diary, More Mother’s Day offerings

Musings on “Mecca”

I headed out to Theatre Artists Studio near Paradise Valley Mall Saturday night for a play called “The Road to Mecca.” The Roundabout Theatre Company production of “The Road to Mecca” closed just last month, and cast member Jim Dale has been nominated for a Drama Desk award for best featured actor in a play. Before leaving, I leafed through the RTC play guide – a comprehensive treatment of the play’s themes, setting and such.

“The Road to Mecca” was written by Athol Fugard — a South African playwright, director, actor and novelist known for mixing art and politics — whose productions were “the first in the country to feature actors of different races together on stage.” Fugard received a Special Lifetime Achievement Award at last year’s Tony Awards ceremony.

Debra Rich (L) and Judy Lebeau in "The Road to Mecca" at Theatre Artists Studio

The RTC play guide notes that “The Road to Mecca was inspired by the true life story of Helen Elizabeth Martins, the youngest of six children, born and raised in the small South African village of Nieu Bethesda in December 1897.” Seems she left the village for a time to teach, but returned to care for elderly parents — staying on even after they’d passed away.

“In her late 40s,” it notes, “with no overall plan and no artistic training, Martin began decorating the interior of her house.” Think walls covered in colorful crushed glass — plus various works featuring owl and sun face motifs. Later she created a yard full of sculptures — all facing east towards Mecca. Martin took her own life in 1976, but her house was restored and preserved thanks to Friends of the Owl House established in 1991.

L to R: Debra Rich, Don Erickson, Judy Lebeau

There’s a touch of Martin’s artistic impulse in the Theatre Artists Studio set designed, decorated and painted by Patti Suarez. A giant moon face painted on the floor. Brightly colored walls sparkling with glitter. Dolores D’Amore Goldsmith provided additional set decoration, and the end result is stunning — especially with shadows created by lighting designer Dale Nakagawa.

The set is strewn with candles, reflecting the play’s themes of darkness and illumination. But other themes abound — love and duty, adventure and habit, faith and religion, playfulness and maturity, creativity and conformity. Also trust, hypocrisy, friendship and freedom. If there’s a shortcoming in the work, it’s the attempt to pack too much into a single serving.

The play’s dialogue is dense, compact — though truly gripping only during the second half of the second act. It’s well acted at Theatre Artists Studio by Judy Lebeau (Miss Helen), Debra Rich (Elsa Barlow) and Don Erickson (Marius Byleveld) – though direction by Judy Rollings seems a tad too safe. Miss Helen feels frenetic rather than passionate, and I’m not sure I got a true picture of her complexity. I’d have enjoyed seeing her in the act of creating which was so essential to her existence and self-identity.

Debra Rich (L) and Judy Lebeau in "The Road to Mecca"

Before the play began, I spent some time enjoying works by studio artists exhibited in the theater lobby. Several mixed media works by Judy Lebeau and seven pieces by Debra Rich Gettleman — all woodburning, color washing and acrylic. Also several Mark Gluckman photographs and works of watercolor and ink by Barb McGuire. Keep them in mind when you’re on the prowl for original art.

Nowadays the studio is working to raise matching funds for a challenge grant and gearing up for a free Mother’s Day event called “Music & Musings for Mothers.” They’re presenting a little something called “Hot” in May and their annual 10-minute play festival, dubbed “New Summer Shorts,” in June. “The Road to Mecca” runs through May 6.

I’ll never make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but my journeys to Theatre Artists Studio feel plenty illuminating. Their work is funny, poignant, relevant and smart. Learn more at www.thestudiophx.org.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read the RTC play guide, which includes information on Helen Martin, the Owl House and Apartheid in South Africa, as well as pre-show and post-show activities. Click here to explore the Apartheid Museum online.

Coming up: Debra Rich Gettleman talks playwriting, Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with arts and culture

Photos by Mark Gluckman

Update: Peter Kaczorowski is nominated for a 2012 Tony Award for lighting design of a play for “The Road to Mecca” on Broadway — click here for a list of this year’s nominees. 5/1/12

Circle time

I first encountered “circle time” as a young mother, when I’d volunteer in my children’s preschool classroom and everyone would gather to share music, stories or “show and tell” type offerings.

Today I enjoyed “circle time” of a different sort, as Lizabeth and I headed to the Herberger Theater Center for the final Actors Theatre performance of an Annie Baker play titled “Circle Mirror Transformation.”

It opens with students in a community acting class lying in a circle trying to count from one to ten within certain parameters, for the purpose of developing a certain mindfulness of those around them — with mixed results.

Valley audiences can experience another Baker work, titled “Body Awareness,” during Actors Theatre’s 2011-2012 season. The work of playwright Sarah Ruhl (whose “In the Next Room” was a hit for Actors Theatre earlier this season) also returns as Actors Theatre presents “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”

Their 2011-2012 season opens with “A Conversation With Edith Head” by Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen — and also includes “Next Fall” (Geoffrey Nauffts), “Hunter Gatherers” (Peter Sinn Nachtrieb) and “Time Stands Still” (Donald Margulies).

We enjoyed our time with “Circle Mirror Transformation” — more than we might have otherwise were it not for astute acting by Valley veterans of the stage.

Though I’d have been happy to simply sit and linger over the stunning set, designed by Kimb Williamson of Scottsdale Community College.

After the show we chatted and shared hugs with Maren Maclean (one of five actors in the show), who is one of Lizabeth’s most beloved acting teachers. Lizabeth was eager to share her college decision with Maclean in person. Her choice of an NYC school drew a fitting response: Duh!

Soon we were talking all things East Coast. Maclean’s upcoming reunion at “Indian Hills High School” in Oakland, New Jersey. Our attempts to snag “The Book of Mormon” tickets when we’re in NYC for Lizabeth’s college orientation.

I was keen on showing off my Mother’s Day gifts from Lizabeth — a bracelet and sterling silver earrings with a very circle/mirror vibe. I suspect I’ll be wearing them next Mother’s Day too — my first one without all three kids roosting at least part-time in the nest.

When we got home from the show, I made dinner before sitting down to relax with the latest issue of “American Theatre” magazine, a subscription I enjoy as a gift from my husband for another occasion I’ve all but fogotten by now.

There in the “On Stage: May/June 11″ section I spotted a picture of Maclean, Staci Robbins and Rusty Ferracane performing in “Circle Mirror Transformation.”

Just more evidence of the “full circle” nature of my day, and of life. The only thing missing is a bit of “circle time” with two and three year olds. Don’t be surprised if you see me sitting cross-legged on the floor somewhere singing along with a bunch of preschoolers this week.

That’s the best “circle time” of all.

– Lynn

Coming up: More new season announcements

Gifts for mom

Soon I’ll be heading to the local nursery, searching for colorful blooms to freshen up flower pots my mother-in-law keeps on her front patio. I lost my own mom to cancer many years ago, but try to do justice to her love of nature.

Time is fleeting, and moms aren’t forever. What most moms wish for today is time. Time with family. Time with fellow moms. Time with hobbies too often sacrificed to the demands of family. Maybe even time alone.

If you’re running a little late in the gifts for mom department, forget about waiting for the mall to open — and consider gifts with an arts and culture twist instead. Because the best gifts are those that kindle or create fond memories.

Membership with a museum that features something your mom loves. Maybe modern art. Maybe nature and wildlife. Maybe music. Maybe history or science.

Season tickets for a music, dance or theater company your mom loves. Maybe a classical music series. Maybe ballet or modern dance. Maybe musical theater. (Most season tickets, like museum memberships, can be purchased online.)

Don't even think about getting mom a kitchen utensil for Mother's Day unless, of course, it comes from the Phoenix Art Museum gift shop

Most moms feel like they have plenty of stuff. For the moms who insist that gifts really aren’t necessary, or moms who hate the clutter that things can bring, consider making a donation in mom’s name.

To the arts program at her alma mater. Her favorite museum. Her favorite theater company. Her favorite performing arts venue. Her favorite art gallery.

If you must shop, think local. Hit the charming arts districts in Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa and other parts of the Valley where local artisans create and sell works as original as your mom.

Or take mom with you to pick out a special piece of jewelry at one of the Valley’s many museum gift shops. Maybe Phoenix Art Museum. Maybe the Heard Museum. Maybe the Musical Instrument Museum. All have unique, high quality items your mom will love to brag about you buying for her.

If your mom enjoys celebrating over Sunday brunch, consider a cafe located at or close to one of the Valley’s many cultural hubs. Maybe “Arcadia Farms” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Maybe the cafe at the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix.

And don’t forget the power of play. If you’re a dad still mulling over fun ways for mom and kids to spend time together today, Valley museums and performing arts venues offer lots of good options.

Think the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix. The Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa. The Children’s Museum of Phoenix. The Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix.

I’ll be heading out later to enjoy a play with my youngest daughter. I know that someday, when I’m no longer around, what seem now like merely simple outings will become the stuff that memories are made of.

– Lynn

Note: Please call ahead to check dates/hours these venues are open (and to ask about Mother’s Day specials). Remember that you can always find fun ways to spend family time by checking the Raising Arizona Kids calendar online.

Coming up: Take mom to the movies

It’s the “Billy” Bus!

I headed to Arizona State University Monday afternoon to get my daughter Jennifer and take her to a dentist appointment. But before she made her way to our designated meeting place, I stumbled on buses carrying sets and such for the touring production of “Billy Elliot The Musical” opening at ASU Gammage Tues, April 26.

Jennifer’s never been a big fan of Broadway, but was good-natured about my uncontrollable urge to shoot just a few more bus photos. When my other daughter Lizabeth called, I shared my excitement at the “Billy Bus” sighting.

For fellow theater geeks who find such things equally enthralling, I’ve posted a few of my hurriedly taken photos below. I’ll be seeing the show early in its April 26-May 8 run so I can share a review later this week. Watch the ASU Gammage website too — for reviews by this season’s “Gammage Goers.”

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Those who attend the show this Thursday, April 28, can stay afterwards for a free “TalkBack” with cast members — presented by 99.9 KEZ of Phoenix. Sunday, May 1 and 8, folks can enjoy Sunday brunch at ASU’s University Club before the 1:oo pm matinee. Click here for details on this and other special offers and promotions.

“Billy Elliot” received ten 2009 Tony Awards, including best musical — plus book of a musical, actor in a musical, featured actor in a musical, scenic design, lighting design, sound design, director, choreographer and orchestrations.

In my book, that makes it a “must see” musical. The fact that it’s touring the country in a whole slew of nifty trucks only adds to my glee. Now if I could just figure out which one is holding all those tutus…

– Lynn

Coming up: Easter bonnets — Broadway style

Musings on Mother’s Day

James’ mother nicely shared with us that she “really doesn’t need anything for Mother’s Day.” Many of us find that “less is more” as time goes by, although I find it hard to believe that a grandmother can ever have too many homemade gifts.

Through the years we’ve made plenty of them—photo albums loaded with pictures and favorite quotes or notes from the kids, homemade candles and glycerin soaps, hand-painted vases and trinket boxes, bouquets of tissue paper and pipe cleaner flowers, and more.

But this year my mother-in-law suggested we simply make a donation to charity on her behalf, graciously trusting us to make the choice about which cause we’d like to support while honoring her special day. There are oodles of options given my children’s diverse interests, including nature and wildlife, civil and human rights, and AIDS/HIV awareness.

James’ dad is often recognized for his contributions to higher education so we’ll keep that in mind for Father’s Day. But I’m leaning towards a museum membership for his mom. Museum memberships are something moms can enjoy alone, with family and with friends.

For a truly memorable Mother’s Day, consider taking your special moms to a museum. Sometimes the greatest gift of all is time together, enjoying new experiences that create lifelong memories. Take a camera along to capture the fun for après-museum scrapbooking.

Some museums have cafes or restaurants where you can treat mom to a special meal or dessert. The Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix has both Arcadia Farms cafe and lush grassy grounds perfect for picnic celebrations.

River of Time Museum Shop

Remember too that many museums have museum shops filled with a variety of unique gift items—some whimsical, some nostalgic, some humorous, some elegant, some practical. The Phoenix Art Museum, for example, has everything from jewelry and books to kitchen utensils and family-friendly games.

Sarah Weber, president of the Central Arizona Museum Association, was kind enough to put out the call to member museums asking for Mother’s Day gift suggestions for our readers.

Here’s a sampling of items they shared with me…

Arizona Capitol Museum in Phoenix. Turquoise jewelry. Copper bracelets. State seal brooches, donkey pins and elephant pins with crystals. Cactus jams and jellies. Books on notable Arizonans (past and present). www.lib.az.us

Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in Phoenix. Various items related to rocks, fossils and minerals. Jewelry. Books. Decorative items (such as amethyst towers). www.admmr.state.az.us

Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg. Contemporary Navajo jewelry. Glitterflops (high-end flip flips with leather uppers and Swarovski crystals). Cowgirl hats and “bling” cowgirl shirts. www.westernmuseum.org

Mesa Historical Museum in Mesa. Wallace and Ladmo DVDs. Items featuring historic citrus labels from Arizona citrus companies. Aprons, bonnets and other pioneer-theme items. www.mesahistoricalmuseum.org 

More River of Time Goodies

River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills. Southwestern jewelry and pottery. Handmade silk scarves. Coffee table books. Books on history, wildflowers, cooking and more. www.riveroftimemuseum.org

Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction. Collection of books by or about women who had great influence on the people and places of the early West. Gardening, cooking, home décor gifts. T-shirts and turquoise. Pottery and pendants. Christmas ornaments and cacti. www.superstitionmountainmuseum.org

Information about these and additional museums, including the newly-opened Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, is available through the Central Arizona Museum Association. Please check with individual museums for gift shop hours and offerings before visiting.

Remember too that many performing and visual arts venues—including the Mesa Arts Center, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Tempe Center for the Arts—have gift shops featuring everything from original art to fine jewelry. Some venues and museums even offer catalogues and/or online shopping.

Making museums a part of your Mother’s Day celebration is a great way to support the arts in Arizona (and local businesses whose wares are featured in museum gift shops). You can even bring mom along and let her choose her own special gift.

–Lynn

Update: The day after this post was published, I had the opportunity to visit the museum shop at the Phoenix Art Museum, where patrons were enjoying special Wed. eve free admission hours (check museum website for details). Here’s a list of some of my “fun finds”: Exquisite boxes with inlaid burl and other materials in assorted sizes (perfect for jewelry, special desktop items and such), Ikebana (the art of Japanese flower arranging) note cards, “Furoshiki” (traditional Japanese wrapping cloths), Turkey baster complete with bright orange turkey (plus blue whale ice cream spade, white mouse cheese grater, red porcupine scrubber, orange monkey peeler and more), Bright yellow “Swiss cheese” doorstop complete with holes, Andy Warhol theme plasticware, Tres chic trash cans, Funky spins on your boring old ‘to do’ notepads, Magnetic Poetry Kits-Artist theme, Unique wearables (scarves, “Fear No Art” & other T-shirts, purses), Art-theme jigsaw puzzles (Jackson Pollock, Monet, Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Diego Rivera), Pens and paperweights, Art prints and posters, Soleri bells, Reading glasses, Bridge and playing cards, Luggage tags & travel accessories and plenty more. They also have an extensive offering of books, music and DVDs. Just a few of the books I noticed–The DC Vault, Weird Arizona and Shoe Design. Couple the latter with a gift card for shoe shopping and you’ll win points for thoughtfulness and creativity! I just happened to be at the Phoenix Art Museum, but I know from visiting many other museum shops that each has its own special offerings, so keep both our best-known museums and your smaller neighborhood museums in mind each time you shop for parents, children, teachers and friends.

Note:  Single or season tickets for theater, music or dance performances also make terrific Mother’s Day gifts

Coming up: A weekend of dance delights

Today’s tidbits: ASU Herberger School of Theatre and Film presents “Interrobang” as part of their New Works Series featuring the works of emerging artists in the MFA graduate school cohort. See “And What She Found There,” which examines questions about the nature of theatre and performance, tonight (May 4) at 7:30pm at the Lyceum Theatre at ASU’s Tempe campus. Tickets: $7.

MORE MUSEUM NEWS: Save the date! The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum presents “From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide” Monday, May 10, at 7pm with Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the museum’s Director of Research and Projects, Committee on Conscience. Event is free and open to the public but reservations are requested at www.ushmm.org/events/templesolelaz, 972-490-6300 or southwest@ushmm.org. Event takes place at Temple Solel, located at 6805 E. McDonald Dr. in Paradise Valley.