Tag Archives: Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre

NYC in Scottsdale?

My husband James stumbled on a great pizza joint last Friday night while making a pet store run. Lovebirds can’t do pizza, so Trixy got bird food and we got slices from Joe’s New York Pizza in Scottsdale. Cheese for Lizabeth and Hawaiian for me.

March for gay rights in NYC, 1976 (Photo: Warren K. Leffler)

He walked in the door with dinner just after I’d watched a CNN broadcast of a short speech by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The occasion for Cuomo’s remarks was the passage of a marriage equality act in the New York legislature.

I already had New York on the brain because I was readying for this week’s trip to NYC for Lizabeth’s college orientation. Lizabeth starts a B.F.A. in acting program this fall.

As Lizabeth weighed possible colleges earlier in the year, I was mindful of the political landscape in the various states where she might go to school — though I never mentioned things like my Cuomo versus Christie musings.

Cuomo spoke last Friday night of New York as a “social justice” state. “I’m always proud to be a New Yorker,” said Cuomo. “But tonight I’m especially proud to be a New Yorker.” Cuomo was among those leading the fight for marriage equality in New York.

In his remarks, Cuomo spoke of New York’s leadership in several fights for equal rights — the movement for women’s rights, the push for worker’s rights after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the most recent battle — equal marriage rights for gay and straight couples.

“Social justice,” said Cuomo, “is an evolutionary process.” He recognized others who’d championed this cause for New York citizens, and praised “the advocacy community from across the nation.” I’m sure some in Scottsdale embraced the vote with a “we’re all New Yorkers tonight” mindset.

I’m thrilled to be enjoying NYC with Lizabeth this week, but there are folks in Scottsdale that I’ll be missing while we’re away. Trixy, Pinky, Rugby — plus James and our other two children, also college students. But also Lizabeth’s teachers from the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, where she studied theater last summer.

Before we marched for marriage equality, we marched for women's rights and workers' rights

The conservatory presents its 2011 performance at the Scottsdale Community College Performing Arts Center Wed, June 29 and Thurs, June 30. They’re presenting “Strange Bedfellows,” which is set in my daughter Jennifer’s favorite city — San Francisco. They have a thing for civil rights too.

“Strange Bedfellows” is the tale of Senator Cromwell, “a politician who keeps his women under stern rule.” His son, Matthew Cromwell, is a young congressman who “dutifully follows in his father’s political footsteps — except when he marries a beautiful and determined suffragette.”

It examines “the coming of age of a woman’s right to vote” — and features “the escapades that ensue as the suffragette converts the women in the Cromwell family to her way of thinking.” Who doesn’t love a good conversion story?

I’m told that “shades of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and San Francisco’s brothel district come into play as each side tries to out-maneuver and out-smart the other.” Aristophanes, by the way, was a comedic playwright of ancient Greece.

I know the actors, theater professionals and teachers of Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre played a part in helping Lizabeth achieve her dream of studying and making theater in NYC — and I’m grateful.

Thanks to James and Joe’s New York Pizza, we can always enjoy a bit of NYC in Scottsdale. But this week, we’re carrying thoughts of Scottsdale with us in New York.

– Lynn

Note: Check out the “Stay Fancy Free” blog for more nifty black-and-white photos of suffragettes — plus lovely fiber arts fare. Click here to check out the site where I found the photo shot while the Democratic National Convention was in NYC during 1976.

Coming up: Shakespeare NYC-style, A stroll through the theater district, NYC: museum highlights

Shakespeare: Made in Japan?

The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently performed a touring production of "Macbeth" for Valley students at Higley Center for the Performing Arts

I learned while attending a Shakespeare-in-the-Schools Tour of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by the Utah Shakespeare Festival that the stilts used by the three witched in this particular production are actually “Air-Trekkers” that originated in Japan.

During a talk back after the show, cast members explained to the 1,200 students in attendance that the use of various props — from ladders to red-colored gloves — reflected the director Christopher Clark’s choice to present the piece “caravan-style” — much like it would have been performed during Shakespeare’s time.

Because there was no fake theatrical blood back then, and the use of real blood in settings like the Higley Center for the Performing Arts is frowned on, various stab wounds “gush forth” with long strips of ragged red cloth.

Low budget. High imagination. The cast noted during the talkback that this is all anyone really needs to perform the works of Shakespeare. There was no Broadway for the Bard, and his work may well be better for it.

Lizabeth and I saw the Utah Shakespeare Festival performance of “Macbeth” last summer — which had an extra layer of drama as rains drenched the outdoor theater just as curtain time approached. We ended up seeing the first act inside, and enjoyed the dark mood set by lingering clouds and rolling thunder once the audience moved back outside.

Lizabeth at one of many Utah Shakespeare Festival "Greenshows" we attended together last summer

Lizabeth first experienced Shakespeare in a summer camp workshop with Arizona’s own Childsplay, when she was still in elementary school.

Her love for Shakespeare blossomed after studying with Maren Mascarelli, a Southern Utah University graduate, at both Arizona School for the Arts and Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre.

Lizabeth has also studied Shakespeare with Randy Messersmith, who heads the theater department at Scottsdale Community College and co-founded the Southwest Shakespeare Company (located in Mesa).

Most recently, she studied Shakepeare in summer classes with the Utah Shakespeare Festival. We’re already making plans to return to the festival this summer to see diverse works ranging from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to “The Music Man” and “Noises Off!”

A couple of the ten company members taking “Macbeth” on the road this season (including 7 actors in 20 roles) hail from Utah, but plenty of other states are represented. California. Pennsylvania. Iowa. New York.

The company manager for this tour, a high-energy fellow named Joshua (from Juneau), noted during introductory remarks that they’ve performed the piece 75 times so far — before a total audience of 35,000 people.

Higley was just a single stop on their 13-week (Jan to April) tour — which is part of “Shakespeare for a New Generation” — a program funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Even before the performance could begin, students greeted the company with thunderous applause usually reserved for football games. The show itself was condensed quite effectively from a 3-hour play into an 75-minute work. Applause offered after the final line was uttered and the stage went dark was equally enthusiastic.

Hopefully many of the students who attended "Macbeth" in Higley will make it to Cedar City for some of the eight shows offered between June 23 and Oct 29

The company manager kicked off the talkback by asking students to raise their hands to show which of two possible explanations of Macbeth’s heinous deeds they favored — one blaming the three witches who predict Macbeth’s rise to the throne, or another blaming his ambitious wife.

He then suggested that those who felt Macbeth was responsible for his own actions, and the horrific outcome, raise both hands. This was clearly the explanation favored by most students — though one student with each hypothesis was invited to share his or her reasoning.

The first felt the witches, having initially placed the idea in Macbeth’s head that he would one day be king, caused Macbeth to commit the murder that snowballed into so many acts of disloyalty and destruction.

The second felt Macbeth alone was responsible, because he made his own choices about how to act on the information pesented to him. The third felt the wife was responsible — because she “messed with his head” and “insulted his manhood.”

Their remarks leave no doubt that Shakespeare, though made in England and performed with ideas and implements from around the globe, is perfectly relevant in 21st century America — where struggles related to love, power and justice seem never to die.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about upcoming productions and school programs of the Southwest Shakespeare Company in Mesa. Click here for information about The Shakespeare Society of Japan. Click here to read a CNN article with tips for helping Japan in the aftermath of today’s devastating natural disaster.

Coming up: Art adventures: Japanese Friendship Garden, “Beastly” meets “Rango”

Three things are necessary…

Three things are necessary for a theater career, according to Randy Messersmith, director of the theater arts program at Scottsdale Community College.

Talent. Training. Discipline.

The stuff that talent is made of remains a mystery to most, but discipline can be developed in all sorts of ways. Ballet. Daily blogging. Regular music practice. Consistent fitness routines.

Good training takes a bit of sleuthing to find that best fit between what you want or need to learn and the folks who are ready and able to provide it.

Don't delay -- auditions for this acting intensive take place in early April

One Valley option for serious acting students at all levels is the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre at Scottsdale Community College, for which Messersmith serves as producing artistic director.

James Vallejo, who has taken several SCC theater classes, describes Messersmith and other SCC theater faculty as “amazing.” He’s working to become the first member of his family to graduate from college.

“Their program enriches you in so many ways and on so many levels,” reflects Vallejo. “Especially,” he adds, “for the price you pay for it.”

Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre is a five-week program that works on Shakespeare, classics and new plays with students from diverse theater backgrounds.

Students enjoy classes, rehearsals, labs and live performance — and college credit is available. Vallejo says it’s “like getting years and years of training.”

Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre runs Mondays through Thursdays May 31-June 30 this year, which is a lovely fit for folks who want to leave time for other summertime adventures — acting and otherwise.

I first experienced Messersmith’s work after my daughter Lizabeth auditioned and interviewed for the 2010 Scottsdale Theatre Conservatory program.

She was one of the youngest students ever accepted (between her junior and senior years in high school), but always felt both respected and challenged.

Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, which describes its program as “aggressive and nurturing,” recently issued the call for applicants.

Three things are necessary to apply. An application, an audition and an interview.

Auditions (by appointment only) take place Sat, April 2, from noon to 4pm.

You can click here to learn more.

– Lynn

Note: The Scottsdale Community College theatre arts department presents two works by playwright Eugene Ionesco — “The Bald Soprano” and “The Chairs” — March 31-April 9 at SCC.

Coming up: Zen as art, Shakespeare: Made in Japan?

Resumes & regrets

I was struck by RAK publisher Karen Barr’s recent “Saving the Mail” post for several reasons. First, because Barr has an uncanny ability to make the most of every single moment of life.

Driving to and from the magazine’s office, or other destinations that round out her days, would never be enough for Barr. She’s listening all the while to other storytellers, including hosts and guests of NPR talk shows, whose work is delivered through mobile means.

Read a letter, send a letter...

And second, because Barr’s post addresses the topic of saving. Not money, but memories. I’m grateful she shared the idea of saving letters written by children away at college, traveling the world and such.

It makes me want to dig a little deeper for the letters I once exchanged with my own mother while studying abroad during my senior year of college.

She was trying at the time to put a happy face on days touched by domestic violence, not wanting to let on about the pain she knew would find me on the next plane home.

Eventually my mother escaped the physical and emotional abuse, but I think she’d enourage me today to focus instead on helping my own children spread their wings.

Part of Lizabeth’s college application process was tightening the performance resume she’s long taken along to community theater auditions.

She ended up needing a detailed account of nearly every training and performance experience she’s had in theater, dance and music (including vocal work).

But alas –programs from her many years performing in works from Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker” to varied plays and musical theatre productions have long been strewn here and there.

We were sentimental enough to save each one, but never clever enough to keep them in a single place. Perhaps this is to our credit, since it clearly signals we haven’t been plotting “toddlers and tiaras” moments for her from birth.

Take a pearl, give a pearl...

But it feels now like a pearl we should share with other parents whose children are involved with the arts.

Save that paperwork from “Poetry Out Loud” competitions, those registration forms from summer theater camps, those programs from music recitals.

Life in college application world would have been so much easier had we thought early on to assemble the many pieces of her performance art into a single source — perhaps a chart noting each class, teacher and performance with date/s.

The thespian festivals. The master classes. The Utah Shakepeare Festival high school competitions. The college theater courses. All should have been better documented and tucked away for future feathering of our impending “empty nest.”

We’re fond of saving all sorts of things around our house, sometimes without rhyme or reason. But if you’re the parent of a budding artist, every little bit of info is part of helping your child build the resume they will one day take into the world.

For a time, it’s about holding on. Soon enough, you’ll be learning to let go.

– Lynn

Note: College arts programs have different requirements for resumes and other application materials, so check them early and often as your child readies for the college admissions process.

Coming up: Dreaming Darwin, “Fiddler” then & now, Kiva Elementary talent show musings, Valentine’s Day gifts for arts lovers