Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

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

Revolution in Scottsdale?

Bjorn Eriksson as Enjolras in Les Miserables School Edition at Greasepaint Youtheatre

I saw the “Les Mis” story anew last week during opening night for Greasepaint Youtheatre’s production of “Les Miserables School Edition.” It was my first time experiencing a stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel since the advent of “Occupy Wall Street” — a movement that’s translating the lingo of “haves” and “have nots” into numerical terms.

I felt like part of the 1% Friday night — not because the house was packed with people of great means. But because I had a ticket. This is the first Greasepaint Youtheatre show to completely sell out its run before opening night, according to producing artistic director Maureen Dias Watson. So 99% of the people hoping to see the show won’t have the opportunity. It’s a shame, because “Les Mis” at Greasepaint is big, bold and beautiful.

Much of the production’s grandeur comes from music elegantly and energetically performed by a 12-piece orchestra, and ensemble vocals approached the quality I’ve enjoyed during several touring productions of “Les Mis.” Musical direction for this production is the work of Reynaldo Saenz.

Rebecca Woodbury, who studies vocal performance at ASU in Tempe, makes her Greasepaint Youtheatre debut as Cosette in this production. It’s easy to imagine Woodbury singing this and other roles on a much larger scale, so I hope her sights are set on auditioning soon for national touring productions of various musical theater works.

Tanner Van Parys as Javert in Les Miserables School Edition at Greasepaint Youtheatre

Greasepaint Youtheatre assembled a first-rate creative team for this production, which is directed by Sara Bernstein and features choreography by Molly Lajoie. “Les Miserables” is only as believable as its barricade, and set designer David Weiss nails it. Brick walls and various vignettes for other scenes round out his work — which gives an authentic feel to each setting, from tavern to courtyard.

Still, I found myself wishing for a somewhat grittier vibe. Both sets and costumes could have used an extra layer of grime, since it’s hard to imagine prisoners working with pristine feet and peasants sporting nearly spotless clothing. Nonetheless, costume design by Jean Aiken, which features great attention to detail, is lovely. Every element of the show transports viewers to mid-19th century France.

Lighting design by Dori Brown and sound design by Pete Bish are best appreciated during the barricade scene and sewer scene that follows. Both battle and sewer sounds feel eerily real. Sound equipment for the production was provided by Nearly Naked Theatre of Phoenix.

Other community organizations assisted with the production as well. Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place provided researsal space. Southwest Shakespeare Company of Mesa and Tesseract School of Phoenix helped with costuming, and Great Scott Productions provided props. The loveliest of the latter was a pair of silver candlesticks that shone for a time on a lone table sitting center stage.

Boston Scott as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables School Edition at Greasepaint Youtheatre

Boston Scott exhibits a rare blend of acting and vocal performance skills. Despite struggling with a few of the high notes, Scott brings real depth to Jean Valjean. A great Gavroche is a must and Casey Likes, another newcomer to Greasepaint, delivers smile and spunk with playful precision.

Other cast members include Jessica Arnold (Fantine), Cheyanne Ballou (Little Cosette), Ryan Beamon (Thenardier), Bjorn Eriksson (Enjolras), Luke Powell (Marius), Tasha Spear (Eponine), Tanner Van Parys (Javert), Johnna Watson (Young Eponine). The stellar cast of 39 makes it easy to forget at times that you’re watching young non-professional performers.

The power of “Les Miserables” stems from Hugo’s insight translated into strong storytelling. Program notes evidence Dias Watson’s grasp of Hugo’s inspiration and intent, and the show reflects direction well-grounded in the plight of poor living in despair amidst the decadence of the rich.

Tasha Spear, Boston Scott, Jessica Arnold, Luke Powell and Rebecca Woodbury in Les Miserables School Edition at Greasepaint Youtheatre

“The best theatre impacts both individuals and societies,” writes Dias Watson, “enabling them to see those who may have been invisible to them before.” The Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Les Miserables School Edition” makes clear that the 99% have always been with us, and that revolution never ends.

– Lynn

Note: Greasepaint Youtheatre has added an additional performance Sun, Jan. 29 at 7pm. Click here for details.

Coming up: More French revolution tales

Photos: Barry Smith

I-Spy: Guitars

As the “Six-String Masterpieces” exhibit enjoys its final week at the Mesa Art Center museum, I’m revisiting a few of my own guitar images — collected during travels near home and beyond.

Soft toy guitars from the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix

Neon guitar that hangs in the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square

Culinary fare from the MIM that could pass as a guitar or violin

Guitar case belonging to an Occupy Wall Street protester in NYC 

Sign for the guitar exhibit at Mesa Contemporary Arts

The “Six-String Masterpieces” exhibit, which is curated by Curse Mackey, runs through Dec. 4 in the South Gallery of the MAC museum. It’s described as “a charitable art exhibition featuring a impressive collection of Dean Electric Guitars that have been hand-painted, illustrated and sculpted by leading musicians and contemporary visual artists.”

With more than $200,000 raised to date, the exhibit “continues to evolve as an ongoing charitable exhibition that serves to raise awareness and support for music education and carries a message of anti-violence.” All proceeds from “Six-String Masterpieces” benefit a music education charity called “Little Kids Rock.”

Folks eager to enjoy guitars in the hands of those who play them can head to Tucson for an exhibition titled “Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present.” The exhibit, organized by the Brooklyn Museum with guest curator Gail Buckland, runs through Jan 15 at the Tucson Museum of Art — and is part of a larger experience called “Tucson Rocks.”

The University of Arizona Museum of Art presents an exhibit titled “Good Vibrations: The Guitar as Design, Craft & Function” through Jan. 15, 2012. Students from the UA school of music will perform free guitar concerts Dec. 2 and Jan. 13.

Buck Owens guitar exhibited at the House of Broadcasting museum in Scottsdale

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has an Artist Gallery that includes guitars used by Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and the Jonas Brothers — and will soon be adding guitars played by John Denver, Toby Keith and Buck Owens. Their museum shop is full of guitar goodies from holiday ornaments to silver earrings. Fans of Buck Owens can see his “signature guitar” displayed at the House of Broadcasting in Scottsdale.

The world’s best artwork, of course, is created by students. You can enjoy an “Art Rocks!” art show featuring works by students at Marcos de Niza and Kyrene Middle School at Hoodlums Music & Movies in Tempe Dec. 10 from 6-9pm. “Art Rocks!” music will be provided by alumni bands.

– Lynn

Note: Mesa Arts Center offers classes for adults and kids in various visual and performing arts. Click here to learn about lessons in playing guitar and other musical instruments available at the MAC.

Coming up: Use your words, I-Spy: Elvis, More music education from the MAC

Occupy Bella

Wedding scene from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

As “Occupy Wall Street” protestors were facing off with their opponents on Thursday, “Twilight” fans were lining up in equally impressive numbers for the epic battle of team Edward versus team Jacob.

I began to think of the latest “Twilight” tale in terms of “Occupy Bella” while discussing the “Breaking Dawn” plotline with my oldest daughter Jennifer the other day. She’s taken issue with all those people butting into Bella’s business.

I’d been awakened in the wee hours the night before by our younger daughter Lizabeth, whose dorm in NYC was under the flight path of all those lovely helicopters flying to and fro as the city cleared both tents and campers from Zuccotti Park.

It’s rarely comforting to hear such noise overhead, or in the streets, when you live only blocks from the World Trade Center. And parents tend to assume the worst when phones ring just hours before dawn breaks.

Some might say that “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I” is the story of Bella’s occupation by her baby. But the baby isn’t the problem. Instead, it’s the friends and family around her – who each try to force their own beliefs onto Bella. They erect barriers, and she tears them down.

But first, of course, she’s got to walk down the aisle. As Bella goes bridal, there are plenty of moments we can all relate to – wistful parents, pre-ceremony jitters, tacky toasts and a handful of guests who are hardly on their best behavior. One-liners abound, most of them quite funny.

The wedding ceremony, like the nightmare of red rose petals falling from the sky that precedes it, is breathtaking. It’s held outdoors amidst trees dripping branches laced with white blossoms. Bella’s gown, designed by Carolina Herrera, is sure to launch a bevy of Bella-inspired bridal wear.

Wedding scene from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

Bella’s honeymoon with Edward is more complicated than most, despite taking place in a setting so swanky that it makes your average day spa look lackluster. Their lavish honeymoon digs, full of lush plants and opulent décor, open up onto the beach. A silvery full moon shines down on deep blue waters as the couple laps up waves, and each other, unfettered by clothing.

There’s sex and blood and bruising that makes the film’s PG-13 rating feel a bit of a stretch. Vampires, it seems, have unusual strength – and so do their offspring. There’s nothing pretty about Bella’s pregnancy, labor or delivery – except for the finished product. And all the glorious scenes of mountains, forests and rivers that surround it.

I’m not particularly wedded to the “Twilight” story arc, but found myself mesmerized by the visual feast of this film — which was shot in Rio, Baton Rouge and British Columbia. The photography is clean and crisp. The editing feels precise. And the directing seems more focused than in previous “Twilight” films. Music and sound ebb and flow as romance and revenge do their delicate dance.

Previous films have seen Bella preoccupied with self. But there’s considerably less brooding in “Breaking Dawn” – on both Bella and Edward’s part. Less whining means more time for other things, which makes both characters more interesting this time around. But one thing still eats at me.

Why is Jacob still hanging around? For younger viewers, there’s a simple answer — because he’s good at stripping shirts off his bulging biceps as he mounts his motorcycle or morphs into wolf mode. But let’s face it, no newlywed husband wants a man who pines for his bride getting too cozy in her presence.

Unless, of course, it’s the lesser of two or more evils. I suppose the fifth and final film in “The Twilight Saga” series will settle the rest of my burning questions. I just hope that Bella, who’s been occupied too often by the wishes of others, goes into it with her eyes wide open.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for information on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I” from Summit Entertainment, and here to visit the official movie website.

Coming up: Once upon a “War Horse”

The fine art of flags

Flag hung by Occupy Wall Street protestors at Zuccotti Park in New York City

After seeing the above flag flown by Occupy Wall Street protestors at Zuccotti Park in New York City last month, I felt inspired to search for other images of the American flag closer to home. Here’s a bit of what I discovered:

“Field of Blue,” a tribute to the Boy Scouts of America flag-folding ceremony, by Colorado artist George Lundeen, exhibited at Scottsdale Fine Art gallery…

Flag made of baseballs hanging in a Red Robin restaurant in Scottsdale…

Carving created in 2002 by Navajo folk artist Lorenzo Reed to depict the Navajo Code Talkers, who were instrumental to victory of the Allied forces in the Pacific theater during WWII (Part of the Heard Museum collection)…

“A New Sun Rising” by Jeanne Bonine, which will be exhibited Nov 25-27 at the Talking Stick Fine Art and Wine Festival at Salt River Fields…


Flag created by students at Herrera Elementary School in Phoenix…

LEGO flag by brick artist Nathan Sawaya of New York, currently exhibited at Mesa Contemporary Arts in the Mesa Arts Center…

“Pledge Allegiance” by James Poppitz, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy H. Turk to the ASU Art Museum at Arizona State University in Tempe…

Flag textile created by Navajo weaver Sadie Curtis and flown over both the Arizona and U.S. Capitol during bicentennial celebrations in 1976 (part of the Heard Museum collection in Phoenix)…

“Leading the Way” by Texas artist Kyle Polzin, exhibited at Legacy Gallery in Scottsdale…

“American” by California artist Robert Tate, exhibited at May Gallery in Scottsdale…

“National Unity Flag,” designed by Randy Cooney of Arizona, during a recent 9/11 exhibition at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts…

“4th of July Barn” by Cheyenne L. Rouse, exhibited at Ancient Light Gallery and available online at http://www.cheyennerouse.com/matted-prints

Thanks to all those who sent images for this post. Please stay tuned for additional works of art that I’ll be adding in the near future.

– Lynn

Note: Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website to learn more about the history and commemoration of Veterans Day, and to find related resources for teachers and students. Click here for details about today’s 11 am Veterans Day parade in Phoenix (several groups of students are participating in the parade).

Coming up: Valley veterans find healing through the arts

Once upon a concert

“Guess what Lizabeth is doing this evening?” My husband greeted me with the question after I got home from a day spent at the Arizona Humanities Festival in downtown Phoenix. Earlier in the week, our youngest daughter lamented being bored. “She lives in Manhattan,” James mused at the time, “and she can’t find anything to do.”

Of course, there’s always something happening in New York City. The trick is making it in Manhattan on a college student’s budget, and Lizabeth has long been mindful of the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. She called home while I was out to ask about getting tickets for the nosebleed section of a concert at Carnegie Hall.

Lizabeth called home after the concert too, eager to talk with us about her adventure. This was about 10:30pm our time, one of many clues that Lizabeth is adapting to life in the “city that never sleeps.”

She’d jumped a subway to make the trek from her university near the World Trade Center to the 59th Street/Columbus Street station – putting her near Columbus Circle, where big names in protest music had performed “We Shall Overcome” for “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators just a day before.

When I mentioned Pete Seeger’s participation in the march to Columbus Circle, Lizabeth noted that she’d seen Seeger-related materials while exploring some exhibits before taking her seat for the show. Seems one of Seeger’s most famous solo concerts took place at Carnegie Hall exactly thirty years to the day before Lizabeth, our youngest, was born.

Her favorite finds at the Rose Museum and Archive included a baton used by conductor Leonard Bernstein, a scarf worn by dancer Isadora Duncan and eyeglasses worn by singer Ella Fitzgerald. Also a signed photo of George Gershwin, a record signed by Judy Garland, a program signed by Luciano Pavarotti and a program signed by all four Beatles. 

Liz was thrilled to meet Audra McDonald in NYC

Lizabeth was at Carnegie Hall that evening to hear Audra McDonald, who’ll perform the role of Bess in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” which begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Dec. 17. Somehow we’d missed her performance at last year’s “ARTrageous” event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

I love talking with Lizabeth after she’s experienced a performance. She observes and describes them with what I’ve always considered a writer’s eye, though it’s clearly part of the acting craft as well – something Lizabeth is studying at Pace University. She started by telling me about McDonald’s stunning midnight blue gown, and shared that catching her first glimpse of McDonald on stage brought tears to her eyes.

Lizabeth started voice lessons several years ago, studying first with Toby Yatso – one of her beloved theater teachers at Arizona School for the Arts. He’d encouraged her to listen to McDonald’s recordings, and shared his love along the way for all things Audra. The majesty of her first Carnegie Hall experience left Lizabeth remembering Yatso, one of many teachers who helped her make all those dreams of studying acting in New York a reality.

Lizabeth stayed after the show for an hour or so, waiting by the stage door to tell McDonald how much she enjoyed the performance — eager to tell her about Yatso’s devotion to her work and the way she’d felt moved by that evening’s performance.

But a group of women, “groupies” in a not-so-lovely sense of the word, pushed their way past others waiting patiently in line — only to position themselves directly in front of the stage door, “practically jumping on McDonald” as she exited with her young daughter after the show.

Lizabeth was hoping to chat briefly with McDonald, but decided by the time they met, that keeping it brief would be best. She asked for two autographs — one for Yatso and another for herself — and accepted when McDonald graciously offered to pose with her for a photo. Lizabeth told me she thought it better to let McDonald’s daughter get home to bed than to keep her any longer.

Lizabeth thanked McDonald for making time to meet and greet the folks who’d come to hear her sing that evening, then hopped a subway back to her dorm — where foot blisters from all that NYC walking got bandaged as a proud mama relished telephone time with a daughter making all kinds of strides in the world.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy a recent NPR interview with Audra McDonald, here to read a review of the concert written by Stephen Holden of The New York Times and here to visit McDonald’s Facebook page. Click here to learn more about this year’s “ARTrageous” event in Scottsdale.

Coming up: Local stage offerings from Shakespeare to Disney

A tale of Times Square

On 9/11, it was Broadway performers who filled Times Square in NYC

The media has been flooding viewers with images of a recent mass demonstration in New York City’s Times Square – dubbed the world’s most visited tourist attraction. It was the site of an “Occupy Wall Street” march last Saturday night, which thousands of people attended.

I had plans that evening to meet my daughter at the Gershwin Theatre in the city’s famous theater district — home to all things wonderful and adored by Broadway fans. We had tickets to see the musical “Wicked” with fellow parent/student pairings from Pace University.

Mamma Mia! meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert in Times Square

I was already in the area exploring sites my husband recommended — the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum. I walked up Madison Avenue to 42nd street, then cut across to the theater.

I suspect this Mamma Mia! man wants to be a firefighter when he grows up

I could tell something was up because various police vehicles in my path were mobilizing and heading towards Times Square. My daughter discovered the protestors as she exited the Times Square subway station, and began to worry she wouldn’t make it to the theater on time.

The Godspell gang sang in Times Square for Broadway Unites on 9/11

Though she beat the curtain time for “Wicked,” a show we’ve previously enjoyed at ASU Gammage in Tempe, others weren’t so lucky — trickling in during the first half an hour of the show. I’m assuming it’s not a typical occurence along the “Great White Way.”

I like to see Times Square filled with folks from The Book of Mormom

The event reminded me that Lizabeth took a lot of pictures last month at a 9/11 commemoration in Times Square called “Broadway Unites.” As the world is watching for images of protests in places like Times Square, it seems the perfect time to remind folks of other gatherings that have taken place there.

Kara DioGuardi of Chicago poses with FDNYers attending Broadway Unites 2011

If you’re planning a trip to NYC, visit the Times Square Alliance online to learn about current offerings and events. Those of you who can’t get to New York for Broadway shows can enjoy touring productions at ASU Gammage, Mesa Arts Center and the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.

More Times Square fun with folks from Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Fans of “Wicked” will be thrilled to know that the musical returns to ASU Gammage early next year (tickets go on sale at 10am on Mon, Nov. 28). Theater League presents “The Wizard of Oz” in the Valley this December, and true fans of the classic L. Frank Baum story will want to enjoy both shows.

Protestors are popping up all over the place these days, but remember as you’re planning travel to NYC that Times Square is more than just a site for periodic protests. It’s home to shows that amaze and bedazzle — and some of the finest entertainment our great country has to offer the world.

– Lynn

Coming up: Reviews of “Wicked” and “Billy Elliot The Musical” on Broadway