Tag Archives: toys

Books & beyond

This new book will appeal to fans of musical theater

Mall it if you must, but I’m hitting the bookstores instead. Places like Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe feel more like community gathering places than retail shopping spaces.

Bring your holiday shopping list along, but be prepared to enjoy much more than their extensive collection of books and gift items.

Author visits and book signings are a frequent occurence at Changing Hands — and feature local as well as nationally-renowned authors. Some write for adults, others for children and teens.

A lovey selection for young music and cat lovers

My own personal favorite is fellow Arizona parent Amy Silverman — mom of two daughters, managing editor of Phoenix New Times and half of a dynamic “Mothers Who Write” duo offering writing workshops.

Silverman presents “Holidaze: How to Write About the Happiest Time of the Year,” at Changing Hands Bookstore on Tues, Dec 2.

For poetry lovers, Changing Hands offers “First Friday Poetry,” “Poetry Roundtable” and other events. There’s plenty for photographers too.

One of several Twyla Tharp titles for creative types

My fellow magazine readers will find an eclectic selection of titles for folks of all ages and interests — including many you won’t find at more traditional book stores or magazine stands.

“Workshop for Toddlers” with Ramie Manch on Mon, Dec 6, mixes toddler/parent together time with strategies for using puzzles to enhance academic and social skills.

Changing Hands has a charming children’s area full of colorful books, toys, puzzles, craft kits, stuffed animals, puppets and more.

Teen events include writing workshops, author visits and much more. Teens love the Changing Hands vibe, and will have a great time exploring Hoodlums Music & Movies right next door.

Gift idea for art managers and leaders

If music is your thing, check out the “East Valley Music School Concert” Sat, Dec 4. If stories rock your world, you’ll find plenty of storytimes at Changing Hands. They’ve even got opportunities to learn a bit of Spanish.

Changing Hands has diverse holiday offerings — commemorating Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and more. They also host local artisans on a regular basis so you can enjoy even more holiday gift ideas.

While reviewing their December calendar (I’m on their e-mail list to receive info on author series, workshops and community events), I stumbled on sign language, physics, wildlife, volunteerism and more.

One of many titles on my holiday reading list

Books are just a bit of the bounty you’ll find at Changing Hands Bookstore. Go. Listen. Read. Create. Meet. Explore.

– Lynn

Note: Changing Hands Bookstore, like Raising Arizona Kids Magazine, is a member of Local First Arizona. Click here to learn about local businesses that appreciate your support during the holiday season and beyond.

Coming up: Art adventures–Arizona Science Center

“Hairspray” is big fun

Shawna Quain, Chase Todd, Lillian Castillo, Antyon Le Monte and D. Scott Withers (center) of Phoenix Theatre's "Hairspray" Photo: Laura Durant

Big hair. Big props. Big set pieces. Big band. Big vocals. Big dance numbers. Big talent. Big message. Big fun.

You’ll find it all in Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Hairspray,” which runs through Dec 12.

I’m often drawn to particular shows for sentimental reasons. They remind me of an early childhood experience, relate somehow to a cause I support or feature folks we know as teachers or friends.

This time around it was three actors in particular.  

D. Scott Withers, who’s been with Childsplay in Tempe just a wee bit longer than I’ve been a mom, perfectly plays Edna Turnblad’s transformation from mousy to magnificent. (Though, sadly, his ironing skills appear to be lacking.)

Toby Yatso, a Phoenix Theatre artist-in-residence and member of the theater faculty at Arizona School for the Arts who plays Corny Collins, offers a performance that blends pristine attention to detail with a big, bold bundle of energy. (An observation shared with me by an astute ASA student who also attended on Saturday.) 

And Dion Johnson, who we first met a decade or so ago when Lizabeth was one of many daughters to his King in the Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “The King and I,” makes for a hilarious hat-donning and hip-thrusting Wilbur Turnblad. (With him, Edna doesn’t hear the bells — she feels them.)

I also give big marks to Antyon Le Monte, who makes his Phoenix Theatre debut as Seaweed, and Chase Todd, whose performance as Link Larkin makes you wonder whether the stork delivered him in a skinny tie and dancing shoes.

My daughter Lizabeth was thrilled to see Yolanda London make her Phoenix Theatre debut in “Hairspray” (Kamilah, Hooker, Female Ensemble). She’s another longtime favorite from Childsplay, where Lizabeth has enjoyed London’s big talent and big heart as an instructor in their Childsplay Academy.

She’s one of many women whose performances made us smile ourselves silly and tap our toes like there’s no tomorrow.

Jacqueline Rushing (Little Inez) was last seen in Mesa Encore Theatre’s “Once on This Island” and I became a fan the second I read these words in her “Hairspray” bio — “In her spare time she enjoys writing stories and inhaling books.”

Andi Watson, who plays the delightfully devious Velma Von Tussle, was last seen as Poppy in Phoenix Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Her off-stage adventures include “photography and maternity casting.” She’s also co-founder of Living Arts Studio.

Daughter Amber Von Tussle is capably played by Jacqueline Dunford, a music major at Scottsdale Community College making her professional theater debut.

Shawna Weitekamp (Penny Pingleton) is a Phoenix Theatre repeat offender (it’s a good thing) whose bio advocates the benefits of eating healthy chocolate. Perhaps she can get the folks in San Francisco to replace all those banned Happy Meal toys with candy bars.

Lillian Castillo plays trailblazing teen Tracy Turnblad in Phoenix Theatre's "Hairspray" Photo: Laura Durant

Audience favorites included Lillian Castillo as the spunky and single-minded Tracy Turnblad, whose insistence on racial integration on the dance floor shows that one person (often a teen) truly can change the world.

Also De Angelus Grisby (Motormouth Maybelle), whose bio includes this note to sons Roman and Elijah — “Thank you for allowing your mother to dream out loud on the stage.” Her vocal performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been” left the woman sitting next to me dabbing tears away with a tissue while other audience members stood to applaud.

They didn’t wait until the show was over, which tells you just how moved they were by her soul — and the collective strength of the ensemble singing behind her. It was the finest vocal performance I’ve ever experienced in Valley theater.

The creative team is no less impressive. It includes director Michael Barnard, choreographer Robert Kolby Harper, and resident music director Alan Ruch. Michael J. Eddy, also well loved in youth theater circles, is production manager and lighting designer.

Phoenix native Katie McNamara, a graduate of Southern Utah University and one-time prop artisan with the Utah Shakespearean Festival (now the Utah Shakespeare Festival), does property design with pizzazz. The equally impressive scenic design is by Robert Andrew Kovach.

Wig designer Gerard Kelly did “Hair” on Broadway, but my one criticism of the show is that not all the coiffed cast members turned it loose during their final dance numbers — looking like they feared their hair might end up flying across the room. So ladies, let your hair down.

A few things of note in this particular musical…

References to bygone days and ways are plentiful. The more you know about Geritol, Perry Como, Ripple, Cooties, Mydol and Green Stamps — the more lines you’ll meet with laughter.

The sexual inuendo is relatively tame but there’s enough of it to satisfy those who go for such things. And “Hairspray” is a dream for one-liner lovers with quips like “I lost my man and my hair deflated in one day.”

Lillian Castillo and D. Scott Withers of Phoenix Theatre's "Hairspray" Photo: Laura Durant

Whether you go just for the fun of it or for the fabulous social justice vibe of this “Welcome to the ’60s” musical, you’ll find plenty of what you’re looking for.

I think it’s an especially powerful show for teens in an age of face-to-face and online bullying.

The message is simple, but timeless.

Big is beautiful. Black is beautiful. Being yourself is beautiful.

Above all, follow your dreams. Remain loyal. And keep moving forward.

– Lynn

Note: The musical “Hairspray” features book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman. Click here for Phoenix Theatre ticket information. Read yesterday’s post titled “Saturdays & serendipity” to learn more about Lynn’s “Stage Mom” adventures before and after the show.

Coming up: Art in the animal world, Pearls from “Playing for Change,” Art adventures: City of Surprise, Museum exhibit that asks “Are we that different?”

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