Tag Archives: racism

Hale Centre Theatre performs “Mockingbird”

L to R: Zoe Zamora (Scout Finch), Rob Stuart (Atticus Finch) and Dale Mortensen (Jeremy “Jem” Finch) perform in “To Kill a Mockingbird” through June 30 at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert

I headed out to Gilbert Saturday for a matinee performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is being presented by Hale Centre Theatre through June 30. It’s directed by D. Scott Withers and stars Rob Stuart as Southern gentleman and lawyer Atticus Finch, who’s charged with defending a black man accused by a white woman of rape.

The setting is Maycomb, Alabama during 1935. Hale’s production is a Christopher Sergel adaptation of the Harper Lee novel published in 1960. The cast includes three young actors — Casey Pettyjohn (Dill), Dale Mortensen (Jeremy “Jem” Finch) and Zoe Zamora (Scout Finch). Each did a terrific job.

There’s much to love about the Hale Centre Theatre experience. The theater is located near several great eateries and arts destinations — and there’s a park across the street where children can run off steam. Hale also has a children’s theater, which presents “Rapunzel” through June 30.

The day I attended, the vibe was warm and friendly. There’s a concessions area with an old-time feel, and the fellow who staffed it Saturday wheeled a two-level cart onto center stage during intermission for folks who wanted a water or candy fix without moving far from their seats. The same spot was raffle central before the show started.

Four sections of seats surround a center stage at Hale Centre Theatre, and three small balconies serve as extended portions of the set. Actors sometimes enter and exit the stage from these areas, which is especially fun for folks who like to see them up close. For much of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a central set piece is a tire swing suspended from exposed beams above.

Before “To Kill a Mockingbird” began, David Dietlein (half of the owner/producer team that includes his wife Corrin Dietlein) unveiled the theater’s 2012-2013, noting that they’re honoring requests for more musicals by doubling their musical theater offerings. Think “The Secret Garden,” “Annie,” “Forever Plaid,” “South Pacific,” “Damn Yankees” and “Hairspray.”

They’ll perform “The Price of Freedom,” a musical tibute “dedicated to those who served in World War II and the loved ones they left behind” during Sept/Oct and the holiday musical “A Christmas Carol” during late Nov/Dec. Comedies for 2012-2013 include “The Hit” (an Arizona premiere by Mike Buckley), “The 39 Steps” and “The Man With The Pointed Toes” (billed by Hale as its “most popular show ever”).

Dietlein noted that folks who buy tickets for ten shows will save $10 per show, and that tickets for patrons ages 6 to 18 are always $10 each. I learned after the show, while talking with actors who greet folks via reception line in the lobby, that students from Mesa Preparatory Academy were in the audience on Saturday – having read the novel to prepare for seeing the work.

Parents who take children to see the show should be ready for questions about mature content, including references to rape and use of what we’ve come to call “the N-word.” Both have been cited by folks who’ve sought to ban Lee’s book, and folks eager to learn more about that fight can find resources through Banned Book Week, taking place Sept 30-Oct 6 this year.

I checked the interest level of various teens in the audience several times during Saturday’s performance. Many leaned forward, showing more interest in the play, during the courtroom scene that dominates the play’s second act. This was clearly the most compelling part of the production, and the most humorous piece as well.

Parents and teachers interested in learning more about Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird” can read the Utah Shakespeare Festival study guide and consult several PBS pieces available online. Click here for details on upcoming Hale Centre Theatre productions.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read about a recent screening of the film “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the White House. Click here to learn about the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 51st season, which includes “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Coming up: Art meets Father’s Day, The secret life of paper

“Memphis” meets movie theater

Alert: Click here to learn how you can help victims of flooding in the Memphis area.

Lizabeth and I are heading to a Broadway musical Thursday night — not in the theater district in NYC, but right here in the Valley — as Fathom Events presents a filmed performance of “Memphis” at several AMC movie theaters.

Memphis” was nominated for eight 2010 Tony Awards, and won four of them. It beat out “American Idiot,” “Fela!” and “Million Dollar Quartet” for the 2010 Tony Award for “Best Musical.”

You wouldn’t have expected as much had you read an early review of “Memphis” by theater critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times – who described it in an Oct 20, 2009 review as “the Michael Bolton of Broadway musicals.”

Isherwood decribes the musical as “slick but formulaic entertainment,” but that hardly dampens my interest. If anything, it ups the intrigue factor — already quite high because the music for “Memphis” comes from Bon Jovi pianist David Bryan.

“Memphis” explores issues of sex, race and rock & roll in 1950s America. Seems a white high school dropout stumbles into a black nightclub and wows the crowds with his powerful piano licks — then hits plenty of highs and lows before landing a DJ gig that appears his true calling. Falling for a black singer doesn’t make his life any easier.

The club where character Huey Calhoun first finds his bliss is located on Beale Street, an actual music row located in Memphis, Tennessee — where something called the “Beale Street Music Festival” takes April 29-May 1 this year.

I suppose those who get really inspired when “Memphis” meets the movies on Thursday night can hop a plane and live a bit of Memphis in real life this weekend. Other fab events on the Memphis horizon include a May 2-8 “International Salute to Belgium” and a May 12-14 “World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest.”

Memphis has influenced or been home to plenty of famous actors — from Dixie Carter and Justin Timberlake to Kathy Bates and Morgan Freeman. Also musicians Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis (depicted in the musical “Million Dollar Quartet“).

As every loyal Elvis fan knows, Memphis is home to Presley’s “Graceland.” Tennessee museums include the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, the Memphis Zoo and the Children’s Museum of Memphis.

I have a feeling I’ll want to jump on a plane bound for Tennessee come Friday morning. Thankfully, I’ve got lots of reasons to stick around — including tickets to see the Arizona School for the Arts performance of “Triangle” and the Actors Theatre performance of “Circle Mirror Transformation.”

Come to think of it, perhaps the good folks of Memphis ought to think about coming here to enjoy a bit of Arizona arts and culture…

– Lynn

Note: “Memphis” is also being shown at Cinemark Mesa 16 (home to performances from the Metropolitan Opera in NYC and other special events).

Coming up: Like everyone else…

Update: We had a great time attending “Memphis” at a Mesa movie theater Thursday night. The movie theater venue lets viewers see actors up close, enjoy behind the scenes happenings and watch interviews with cast/creative team members that they can’t experience during live theater performance. I liked the musical as a story of the difference one person, or a small group of people, can make — but Lizabeth and I agree we’d enjoy it more as a concert or play rather than a piece of musical theater. You still have the weekend to see “Memphis” in select movie theaters. It’s perfect for those who enjoy rock and soul, those interested in the history of the civil rights movement, those who appreciate the marriage of history and music, those who like a lot of dance with their Broadway, and those who want to see what happened when Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan got inspired to write music that might help us all like each other more than we hate each other.

Pinky’s picks

Update: Pinky has asked me to share this link to a raffle benefiting an organization called “Save the Cats Arizona” — which we learned of from our friends at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The raffle runs through July 31, 2011.

Several community theaters recently rolled out their 2011-2012 season announcements. But I imagine my cat “Pinky” fancies the new season for Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert more than most.

Hale opens their 2011-2012 season on Sept 2 with an Agatha Christie mystery titled “The Mousetrap” — a work that now holds the distinction of being “the longest running play in the world.”

Pinky isn’t terribly concerned that a murderer may be loose in London’s Monkswell Manor. But she’d love to be on the guest list if there’s any real prospect of finding mice trapped at mealtime.

It’s a Wonderful Life,” which opens at Hale on Oct 14, might seem to hold less cat-appeal, until you recall that the work — featuring one man’s struggle with doubt and disappointment — is set in a small town readying to celebrate Christmas.

We could treat Pinky to piles of pet store treats and toys come Christmas time, but she’d still find her bliss jumping into piles of crinkled up and discarded wrapping paper — and rubbing her wet little nose up against the corners of shiny packages under a tree sporting ornaments she’s sure were placed for her swatting pleasure.

Hale follows “It’s a Wonderful Life” with “A Christmas Carol,” which opens at the Gilbert theater on Dec 1. Even Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, who takes such delight in denying comfort to the poor and downtrodden, couldn’t ignore the pitiful pleas of Pinky when she’s ready for dinner.

I imagine Pinky would eagerly curl up beside the fire with Tiny Tim, offering a gentle purr as warming as the fire’s glow — and have great fun sitting with Tiny Tim in a chair by a window overlooking bustling holiday season streets.

Hale opens “See How They Run” Dec 31, giving Valley theater-goers a chance to welcome the New Year with comedic farce and fast-paced frivolity. Pinky might not know what to make of this one — with its cockney maid, men dressed as clergymen and a whole lot of misadventures spawned by mistaken identity.

Pinky might favor a different “See How They Run” plot — perhaps something featuring plump quails bobbing their tiny heads as they cross the road, or quivering dogs terrified by cats with an inflated sense of self.

Hale notes that folks who attend their production of “42nd Street” — which opens Feb 16, 2012 — will “love seeing the underdog succeed.” But Pinky”s never pleased when the word “dog” and “success” appear in the same sentence, so this will be a harder sell.

Perhaps she’d be more receptive if we decked her out in a slick tux with tails, then gave her a tophat and cane, so she could try a little soft-shoe during songs like “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” or “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

I’m afraid to tell Pinky about “Barefoot in the Park” — a Neil Simon comedy featuring the adventures of two newlyweds and a matchmaking mother-in-law — which opens at Hale on Feb 21, 2012. She’s perfectly fine with living the barefoot life, but might resent the “park” mention given her indoor-cat status.

Rabbits hold plenty of interest for cats, so Pinky might be thrilled to learn that a rabbit named “Harvey” is coming to Hale on April 5, 2012. But only until she learns that Harvey, the imaginary companion of Elwood P. Dowd, is more than six feet tall — and invisible.

Pinky spends plenty of time watching our own bunny, named “Rugby” — as well as a pair of lovebirds named “Taffy” and “Trixy” — who occupy pet pads near a staircase perfect for panoramic viewing of all things potentially edible.

I’ll need to have a little talk with Pinky about this next one — “To Kill a Mockingbird,” opening May 25, 2012. It might be a lot like a conversation I had with my husband recently that ended with the quip “you’re so literal.”

The classic work, based on the novel by Harper Lee, is set in the Deep South of the 1930s. It has nothing to do with killing birds — or leaving them as trophies on a “Welcome” mat outside the front door. Instead, it’s a tale of friendship and love amidst of world filled with prejudice and hate.

Hale closes its 2011-2012 season with “Bye Bye Birdie,” opening July 13, 2012 — which follows a teen singing sensation drafted into the military during the 1960s. Having used more than my fair share of “cat eats bird” fodder already, I suppose I’ll have to find a different link to all things feline.

Happily, the musical’s songs include not only “Put on a Happy Face” but also “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” — no doubt a reference to the “nine lives” of cats.

I know pets aren’t typically allowed at community theater productions, so I suppose Pinky will have to settle for nibbling on programs we bring home from Hale Centre Theatre productions.

But you can’t really blame me for conjuring images of my cat with every mention of birds, mice or bunnies. I can only imagine how the dogs living next door might react to seeing the musical “Cats.”

– Lynn

Coming up: Dance and identity

Photo: Christopher Trimble

SMCC performs “Mockingbird”

The South Mountain Community College theatre department presents “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the play based on a classic novel by Harper Lee, April 13-16.

The novel’s 50th anniversary was celebrated just last year, but its themes of “racism, classism and coming of age in America” feel no less relevant today.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is set in the Deep South of 1930s America — where “the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by…one man’s struggle for justice.”

I learned about this particular production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” shortly after running across something called a “hate map” put together by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama — which identifies “more than 1,000 hate groups operating across this country.”

The SPLC “hate map” lists 22 groups in Arizona — including “Faithful Word Baptist Church” in Tempe (Anti-gay), “Free American” in Tucson (White nationalist), “Vinlanders Arizona” in Mesa (Racist skinhead), “White Knights of America” in Tonopah (Neo-Nazi) and “United for a Sovereign America (USA)” in Phoenix (Anti-immigrant).

In addition to tracking hate and extremism, the Southern Poverty Law Center helps children at risk, fosters immigrant justice and teaches tolerance through publications and other tools you can learn more about at their website.

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” has endured controversy since its publication — even making the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 banned 20th century novels. Other banned titles include F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

The South Mountain Community College production of “To Kill a Mockingbird”– which is being directed by Julie Holston – offers Valley parents the opportunity to introduce their children to this classic piece of American literature through live performance art.

Most students read the book in school, and families can always watch the 1962 film (starring Gregory Peck) together. But there’s something especially powerful in seeing such works performed on stage by young actors living in our midst.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” at SMCC opens Wed, April 13, at 7:30pm. Additional 7:30pm shows take place April 14-16. The show’s only matinee is Sat, April 16, at 2pm.

All seats are general admission and tickets run just $10 (though Maricopa Community College District students attend for free with valid student I.D.). Tickets are available online at www.showup.com and at the SMCC box office before each show.

To learn about additional arts offerings from South Mountain Community College, including several storytelling events taking place this month, click here.

– Lynn

Coming up: A day spent with PBS, Herberger happenings, Of moose and music, Movie theater meets “Memphis”

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

White noise

Years ago the airwaves were full of infomercials for white noise generators — nifty devices that supposedly produce something capable of drowning out other distractions. I never tried one, though, since sound has been such a profound part of my parenting experience.

I wonder at times whether my children developed their own white noise force fields as teens – because it sometimes felt like everything I said bounced right back to me before making that split second journey from ear canal to brain.

White Noise, A Cautionary Musical is now on stage in Chicago

Recently I learned of a musical titled “White Noise” — currently playing at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago. The news came across my desk with a host of other alerts from the “Teaching Tolerance” program of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I was disappointed by the timing of my discovery, which came just days after Lizabeth returned from Chicago, though harrowing hamster tales and tidbits she shared about dark moments from another show did serve to slightly assuage my guilt.

Lizabeth saw “God of Carnage” at the Goodman Theatre over the weekend, and even thought to get me a souvenir pen for future writing ventures. She revealed that her dad, not a giggling sort of a guy, laughed throughout — and that they also enjoyed their time together at the Art Institute of Chicago.

After James and I first married in Southern California more than two decades ago, both our homes and his offices were decorated with prints of famous pieces of art — many from the Art Institute of Chicago collection. I imagine he was especially pleased to visit the museum with one of our three children.

“Chicago” is one on a small list of shows he didn’t want Lizabeth to see when it came to the Valley several years ago – fearing she was too young for some of the content. But she’s grown into all sorts of mature-content theater since then.

God of Carnage is part of the 2011-2012 season for Arizona Theatre Company

“God of Carnage” is being mounted next season by Arizona Theatre Company – which Lizabeth expects will do it great justice. And Broadway World reported recently that a film adaptation to feature Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet (as two moms of children who have a bit of a playgound tussle) is in the works.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking for ways to see “White Noise,” which is being produced by Whoopi Goldberg. The cautionary tale is described as “an edgy new rock musical about a white separatist singing duo.” The musical “challenges conventional notions of free speech, media and the power of pop culture.”

An educational guide for working with high school and college age students has been developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center — which says the musical “raises important issues about the power of hate speech in our culture and should inspire people of conscious to call out those who engage in it.”

It feels particularly timely as tragic events continue to unfold in the aftermath of one man’s decision to burn a book held sacred by millions across the globe. Sometimes we fight on the playground, other times on the world stage.

I’m grateful for works like “God of Carnage” and “White Noise,” which help us hear the hate — then work together in peaceful ways to not merely mask it, but to eradicate it from our personal and collective lives.

– Lynn

Note: Scottsdale Community College presents the next film in its “The Many Faces of Hate” film series on April 27, 6:30-8:30pm in the Turquoise Room on the SCC campus (take the 1o1, exit at Chaparral, then head east to land at SCC). The documentary, “Strange Fruit,” will be followed by a moderated discussion.

Coming up: Musings on “Macbeth” from Valley students

Art adventures: Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center is currently undergoing expansion

The Arizona Science Center, originally called the Arizona Museum of Science and Technology, opened in 1997 — when my children were all about grade school age.

Rosson House hosts especially charming events during the holiday season

My husband, James, then an attorney with a large Arizona law firm, served on the board of directors for Rosson House, located at what we now know as Heritage and Science Park.

Exploring Heritage and Science Park makes for a great day with family and friends

So we were close to some of the action surrounding the museum’s opening, and among its earliest and most frequent visitors — thanks to its vast offerings of hands-on exhibits and activities of interest to children and adults.

View of the Children's Museum of Phoenix from the entrance to Heritage and Science Park, itself home to several museums

Today the corner on which Rosson House sits is adjacent to several other downtown attractions, including the Children’s Museum of Phoenix (in the historic Monroe School building) and the ASU downtown Phoenix campus.

Like Mesa, Glendale and other Valley cities -- downtown Phoenix is rich in arts and culture

The Arizona Science Center is just blocks from other arts and cultural cornerstones — including the newly renovated Herberger Theater Center, Symphony Hall, the Orpheum Theatre and more.

The ASU downtown Phoenix campus houses programs in nursing, journalism, teaching and more

I hit the Arizona Science Center with my 21-year-old son recently, eager to see how it’s expanding and improving — and excited to explore the “RACE: Are We That Different?” exhibit (there through Jan 2, 2011).

Arizona Science Center visitors are greeted by this giant photo, plus audio recordings of people sharing their definitions of "race"

Our photos don’t do justice to the exhibit, at once comprehensive and accessible, but I hope they’ll inspire you to hit the Arizona Science Center yourself to explore “RACE” and other offerings.

Arizona Science Center visitors walk across this giant world map as they enter the RACE exhibit

"Race," according to exhibit materials, "is a recent human invention."

The RACE exhibit considers controversies surrounding the U.S. Census, and invites visitors to "vote for the census of the future"

The exhibit features a portion of the Declaration of Independence, adopted July 4, 1776 by the Continental Congress

Exhibit images show just how far we sometimes fall from the ideals of our nation's founders

The RACE exhibit features several interactive areas and conversation spaces

This part of the exhibit asks "How do you experience race?" and shares video clips of others sharing their experiences

This Arizona Science Center exhibit invites visitors to ponder the intersection of race and privilege

Have your children ever asked you why so many dolls feature white faces? How might you answer them?

These puppets represent a more accurate picture of humanity -- and children are free to play with them on a large round carpeted space at the center of the RACE exhibit

One wall features pictures of various people with their own handwritten notes about their identity

The RACE exhibit features people telling their own stories about race, inviting Arizona Science Center visitors to consider their own stories

This notebook features children's answers to the question, "How does race affect you at school?"

You'll leave the exhibit wondering how we can all focus less on our perceived differences and more on our common humanity

Having witnessed the Arizona Science Center growing from a new to an expansive museum, I’m reminded again of Phoenix’s growth in arts and culture during the past two decades — and eager to see what we’ll all create together during the next twenty years.

– Lynn

Note: On a sad note, the Phoenix Museum of History — located next to the Arizona Science Center and Rosson House — has closed due to lack of funding. Please don’t take our arts and cultural resources for granted. Your visits, your volunteerism, and your donations are truly critical to keeping them here for our own and future generations.

Coming up: More art adventures — but where will Stage Mom strike next? Send your suggestions to rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Photos by Lynn and Christopher Trimble