Tag Archives: parenting

“Fiddler” & family

Jewish father and milkman Tevye likens the balancing act of life to a fiddler perched atop a roof (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

Most of my favorite musicals focus on family-related themes. There’s “Les Miserables” — which portrays a mother’s sacrifice for her sick child, “In the Heights” — which recounts the experience of immigrant parents who send their daughter to college, and “Fiddler on the Roof” — which follows the frustrations of parents whose three eldest daughters struggle to find independence in a world defined by tradition.

The touring production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is being performed through Sun, April 3, at ASU Gammage in Tempe — the venue at which I first enjoyed the musical with my husband and three children many years ago. For all the fun I’ve had at “mature-theme” musicals, this “family-friendly” show is still among my favorites.

Its characters, including Tevye (the papa) and Golda (the mama), are human in ways many parents find familiar. We wonder how to balance the past with the future. Ponder the meaning of family and home. Fret about fostering values without forcing them upon our children.

Tevye and his wife live in Tsarist Russia. The year is 1905, and the country is on the brink of revolution. They’ve got five daughters and little means. And the three eldest daughters are begining to develop, and act upon, their own ideas about life, love and the world around them.

The original production of “Fiddler on the Roof” opened on Broadway in 1964, and won nine of the 10 Tony Awards for which it was nominated in 1965 — including the award for best musical.

But its themes are every bit as relevant today. Think religious versus secular life. Economic hardship. Political upheaval. Think roles of women and men in society. Gossip. Keeping and breaking promises. Learning to start over.

"Fiddler on the Roof" runs through Sunday at ASU Gammage in Tempe (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

“Fiddler on the Roof” is a feast of music and dance, full of rich color and texture on all sorts of levels. It’s tender and joyous, playful and profound.

You can take it all in without any appreciation for its more serious themes. Or you can embrace it as a vehicle for bittersweet reflection on the many ways our personal, family and collective histories are moving forward.

In either case, it’s a classic musical that no parent should miss — and a fine choice for folks eager to introduce their children to the magic of musical theater.

– Lynn

Note: Tickets for “Fiddler on the Roof” at ASU Gammage start under $25. The show runs through April 3 and there are both matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday. Visit the ASU Gammage website to read reviews by “Gammage Goers” and learn about special offers and opportunities (including a “talkback” with cast/crew and a special brunch at the ASU University Club).

Coming up: Get your fringe on!, Reflections on a glass house, Tips for choosing a college theater program

What did you expect?

A title can be a telling thing.

MAC offers art in unexpected places

Take the play “Great Expectations,” based on the novel of the same name by Charles Dickens. You know what to expect. Musings on expectations. 

But themes of expectations – plus all the tragedies and triumphs that can accompany them – are sometimes found in unexpected places. 

What do we expect of ourselves as parents, as professionals, as people? What do our children expect of us, of themselves, of life? What do we expect of them – and when is that a bad thing? 

More outdoor "art" at the MAC

It’s all fair game when Mesa Encore Theatre tackles “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Mesa Arts Center through Sept 12. 

Lizabeth and I were eager to see the show last weekend because it’s directed and choreographed by one of her terrifically talented theatre arts teachers at ASA, which is affiliated with the neighboring Phoenix Theatre (as well as Ballet Arizona). 

MAC presents both visual and performing arts

Toby Yatso has a background in acting, directing and music – so we expected top-notch performances all around. The cast, crew and creative team met, and exceeded, our expectations. 

Great comedic timing. Genuinely funny homages to Arizona’s idiocyncracies. Stellar vocals. Whimsical choreography. Simple but charming set pieces. 

I fell in love with the ‘no bullies’ sign near one entrance to the theater, and had to resist the urge to snap a photo for posterity. I am a bit of a sign fanatic, as some of you may already have noticed. 

MET performs "Bee" through Sept 12

We’ve both seen the work before so I wasn’t sure how a subsequent viewing would fare. But as it happens, Lizabeth and I each concluded that the intimate space of this particular theater at Mesa Arts Center was perfect for this piece. 

Yatso has plenty of experience mounting works with large casts of students on relatively small stages – so he’s a master of making it work. (The Tim Gunn, perhaps, of theater fun?)

You should know before you go that this musical has mature content, including an entire song dedicated to a poorly-timed expression of a male student’s physical response to seeing the girl of his dreams in the audience. (Crossword lovers: Think eight letters.) 

Proof that missing letters matter

Also expect numerous stereotypes (the slow kid, the delinquent kid, the nerdy kid, the kid with a cause, the kid with meddling parents and more). 

One girl has a workaholic dad and a mom who’s escaped to an ashram in India. Another has two dads, one sporting an apron neither Julia Child nor Rachel Ray would be caught dead in. 

One dons a dinosaur t-shirt and a blue cape that likely doubles as a ‘blankie.’ Another wears a scouts uniform. Four of the spellers are wearing their everyday duds because they’re actually audience members who are invited to participate as spelling bee contestants for part of the show. 

Lizabeth was one of four to earn the souvenir juice box

Seems the company’s artistic director, Debra Jo Davey, is a former chorus teacher who remembered Lizabeth from ASA, and gleefully added her name to the list of willing participants. “It must be karma,” said Lizabeth, “for all those times I told my friends something wasn’t spelled correctly.” 

Better Liz than me, I thought, because people have such high expectations in the spelling department when it comes to writers and editors. I used to share the compunction, but have learned over time to let a bit of my prose perfectionism pass. 

Before blogging, I expected perfection of myself and everyone around me. Now I can take a typo or two if the thoughts are there. Imagine the brilliant ideas we might never see expressed if typo terror or grammar guerilla warfare reigned supreme. Let it go already. 

In the end, it’s not about the spelling. It’s about the choices we make – for ourselves, for others, despite ourselves, despite others. Nobody likes to hear the ‘ding’ of the bell after a word goes awry. But life goes on. We learn new words. We embrace creative spelling and the freedoms that come with it. 

Snack bars at MAC offer more sophisticated fare

Spelling Bee” is a lovely, lighthearted opportunity to ponder the perils of perfectionism – dressed up in witty dialogue and song accompanied by a lively four-piece band. You’d be hard pressed to find a more refreshing bit of theater to enjoy with family or friends this weekend. 

But what of taking your children or teens along? The younger audience members I spoke with after the show gave me good reviews when I asked (and there’s little in this musical that tops the themes and language of most PG-13 movies these days). 

MET raises funds to help students studying the arts

A teenage boy who wasn’t terribly talkative to begin with said he enjoyed it both for the sheer fun of it and for some of its deeper meanings, noting that it’s really up to parents to gauge what material is a good match for their child’s maturity level. 

My own take is this: Before children learn all those lovely four (or even eight) letter words, the words mostly fly right over their heads into the netherworld of the barely noticeable. 

Once they learn them, which happens far more often thanks to peers and television programming, you’ll do better to allow the occasional exposure – especially within the context of live performance art. That door won’t stay locked forever. 

I enjoyed chatting with enthusiastic MET volunteers

The youngest audience member I ran into was an eight-year-old girl, who’d come with her mom to hear her uncle play drums in the band (he rocked it). She seemed oblivious to elements of the play targeted to older viewers.

Still, her mom did share that the next musical they plan to see (along with her Brownie troupe) is “Beauty and the Beast” at ASU Gammage – which is where I first saw “Spelling Bee” with Lizabeth several seasons ago.

I expect they’ll have another great time.

–Lynn 

The cast makes time to mingle

Note: Check out the raffle gift baskets and other goodies at the MET display staffed by cheerful volunteers before you hit the show. Just a small donation to their theater scholarship fund earned me a classy “Lousy Donor” button. Or linger after the show to chat with cast and band members who make their way out to mingle. Despite the lack of espresso at the small snack bar nearest to this one particular theater at the MAC, the experience was ever so enjoyable. 

 

Coming up: From sardines to Starbucks?

Photos: Lynn Trimble

Pondering 300 posts

I think it’s fair to say that anything we do three hundred times–especially for 300 days in a row–is something we value.

Today marks my 300th RAK “Stage Mom” post, so I got to reflecting this morning on all the things I’ve done in my life–at least 3oo times.

As I share a few of the activities I’ve deemed worthy of so many hours of my time, I hope you’ll pause to consider the things you may be giving considerable portions of your time.

Time is our only real currency, and it’s a limited resource.

You may find, as did I, that some of the things you’re doing over and over again aren’t all that valuable–so perhaps today’s post also will help you ponder the things you might be ready to let go of.

On the mommy track, I’ve done plenty of things at least 300 times–changed dirty diapers, crafted a bedtime story, taken kids to and from school, and volunteered in the classroom.

I prefer not to count the number of times I’ve done dishes, laundry, dusting and such.

On the pet mommy track, there’s feeding all those lovely creatures–birds, a bunny, a cat–and cleaning all those not so lovely cages.

In my spare time, I’ve returned more than 300 times to favorite activities like gardening, reading a book, lingering over a newspaper or tackling a crossword puzzle.

My husband likely suspects that I’ve shopped for shoes at least 300 times, but I keep insisting that I’m being falsely accused on that one.

I’ve attended well over 300 college class sessions, though it’s hard to remember now what I might have learned in many cases. I suspect it’s all there, but doesn’t make for easy recall at this point.

I’ve unfortunately said “Ugh!” at least 300 times when looking in the mirror–more so lately now that I’m getting a lovely little something I refer to as “blogger’s butt.” I really should learn to blog while running in place or jumping rope, I suppose.

I’ve certainly taken the wrong turn or otherwise ended up on the wrong street at least 3oo times. I just count my blessings when I figure it out before I get to Las Vegas or San Diego (both lovely places to be unless your child is waiting on a friend’s doorstep).

My typo count easily tops 300, especially when blogging gets banished to the wee hours. But there’s an easy fix for that–my 300+ daily doses of espresso.

I haven’t yet been to 300 music, dance and theater performances–but I’m going to try my darnedest to get there.

And I certainly haven’t done enough to help the people on our planet whose ‘list of 3oo’ includes sleeping on the street, going a day without food, fighting to defend our country.

What’s on your ‘list of 300?’

–Lynn

Note: Graphics are from cafepress.com, which offers a huge selection of gifts with various themes related to the arts and other fun areas of human endeavor (even writing and editing)

Coming up: The U of A Poetry Center, Arts grants from the Flinn Foundation and Piper Trust, Arts and business awards, Lyric Opera Theatre at ASU

Isn’t parenting our greatest masterpiece?

I’ll never own an expensive piece of art—aside from the priceless pieces my children have created through the years. I’ll never have the money for private painting or cello lessons. I’ll never live next door to one of the world’s great art museums. I’ll never be remembered for a sketch or poem I leave behind.

But that’s okay. My ‘legacy’ will include children who create and appreciate art. I didn’t set out to instill the arts in their hearts. In many ways, I think, we’re a family of accidental artists. Yet as I look back on my twenty plus years of parenting, I think many of the activities and moments we’ve shared as a family fueled the artist in each of us.

I suspect there are entire books written on this subject, but what I’m reflecting on today is how the home we created for our children early on equipped and empowered them to pursue the arts in a whole host of ways, from photography and writing to theater and music.

We were never big on toys with bells and whistles. Our home was full of toys that children could use in any number of ways. They weren’t battery-powered. They were imagination-powered. Wooden blocks became towers, kitchens, roadways, animals and more. Balls got bounced and rolled on, over and through. Stuffed animals became doctors, teachers and friends it felt safe to disagree with.

We spent a lot of time outside—inspired, I think, by the nature of their elementary school. It was situated in a lovely desert setting, where children would read under trees and sketch surrounding plants and wildlife. It never occurred to me to consider the role of nature when I began looking at potential schools, but it’s a happy coincidence that it worked out this way.

Some of our most relaxing and reflective times together involved long walks through the neighborhood collecting found objects like prickly pine cones and pristine pebbles or hitting destinations like the Desert Botanical Gardens with a sketch pad and pouch of bold-colored pastels. It wasn’t just nature, but the time and space we made to enjoy it. It was taking time to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, to touch.

It was taking time to muse, making spaces to meander.

My son (now a budding wildlife biologist) has created more than a masterpiece or two using his computer, but I’m not sure that’d be the case had he not first learned the fine arts of observation, listening and reflecting. I don’t want technology to define him, only give him another tool to express who he is and who he is becoming. For us, the art-friendly house was gaming free until well into the teen years (and by then, frankly, the kids had all discovered things they found infinitely more interesting).

Jennifer (now a college freshman majoring in cultural anthropology) used to dream of being a food artist. I mention this because I suspect it’s the many materials my children manipulated during early childhood that fueled their impetus to create and their connection to the art created by others—whether by manipulating musical notes, words, body parts or clay. (Or kiwi slices.)

My children manipulated food when they helped me grate carrots or peel apples. They manipulated sand and water when they hit the back yard or park with their pail and shovel.  They manipulated soil when they helped me grow lettuce and tomatoes. Every time they had an opportunity to use one or more of their senses in a new way, they grew in their ability to find and foster art in just about everything.

What are the arts if not exploration and expression? Everything they explored gave them the heart and mind of an artist—whether museums and animal parks or libraries and playgrounds. They were especially fond of places like the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall (a city complex rather than a shopping center). As we strolled along the pathways, we encountered sculptures and flower beds, museums and outdoor cafes. It was all art. Art was like air—constantly moving in, through, out and around us.

Museums and messes. Parks and play dough. Libraries and ladybugs. This is the stuff great artists are made of…

Coming soon: Tips for making your home art-friendly