Though never big on bling, my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth was sporting a new piece of jewely Friday night. It’s a silver necklace with a crystal ball-shaped bobble and a silver charm set with the Childsplay minstrel logo.
I came home with a bright blue hobo style handbag that I can only hope to have the guts to actually carry in public one day. Not because it isn’t amazing, but because it’s such a stark contrast to my usual attack of the black.
We found these puppies at the silent auction for Childsplay’s annual event to support their arts in education program — dubbed “Childsplay Celebrates Its Greatest Hits” this year.
It’s a good thing we snagged these babies, because there are still far too many kids who need companies like Childsplay to introduce them to the world of live theater.
Steve Martin, managing director for Childsplay, shared some truly sobering statistics about just how little art exists in Arizona schools, and how little we invest as a state in arts education.
We enjoyed the evening at a table of fellow Childsplay fans, who enjoyed chatting with Lizabeth about her experiences growing up with Childsplay and her plans to begin college theater studies in NYC this fall.
To my right sat a longtime supporter of Childsplay named Andy Dzurinko, whose third book espousing “the power of optimism” will be published later this year. I hope to review a copy since Dzurinko shared that the book offers plenty of insights for youth, parents and teachers as well as business folk.
Childsplay’s warm and genuine graphic designer was seated to our left. She gets to play with the Childsplay mistrel on a regular basis. And she was supremely excited to learn at the end of the evening that she’d won the auction prize of her dreams (which I’d best not share here in case it’s a surprise for her 15-year-old son).
Dinner tables were decorated with fiber artist Sonja Saar’s “Benjamin Bears” — Build-a-Bear teddies that tug at the heart with their handmade, no-two-alike sweaters. Guests were invited to purchase a bear and give it a good home, and we all heeded the admonishion to share rather than fighting over them.
The bears raise awareness and money for a special “Benjamin Fund” named in honor of artist Benjamin Saar, son of David and Sonja Faeroy Saar, who died of AIDS-related complications following a blood transfusion to treat his hemophilia. He was just 8 years old, and a well-worn bear named “Muffa” who lives on in each of Sonja’s sweaters, was his constant companion.
I enjoyed learning a bit more about David Saar during his remarks. Seems his first encounter with making theater came after Saar was recruited for a second prop master gig. Later he nailed the role of “Captain Hook” in a production of “Peter Pan,” a real thrill for a boy who’d years before fallen in love with the original “Peter Pan” starring Mary Martin.
We enjoyed running into all sorts of creative folk at the gala, including Frances Smith Cohen of Center Dance Ensemble, who was honored with the “Pied Piper Award” at last year’s Childsplay shindig. She was amazed to see Lizabeth, now several feet taller than when she started dance lessons with “Susie” and “Frannie” at Dance Theater West while in preschool.
This year’s “Pied Piper Award” — given to honor achievement in preserving imagination and wonder by supporting and advocating for quality art and education programs — went to Don Dolye and Lin Wright, founders of the “Theatre for Youth” graduate program at ASU.
This year’s “Sonja Award,” named for Sonja Saar and established to honor volunteer service of time given over time, was presented to Donna Gerometta, Jenny Lucier and Dan O’Neill, and the National Charity League-East Valley Chapter.
The evening concluded with a musical presentation by members of the Childsplay acting ensemble, each donning a glorious costume from one of Childsplay’s “greatest hits” — starting with “Still Life With Iris,” the first Childsplay production I enjoyed with my children.
The ensemble sent us off with “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think” — a fitting ode to all the imagination and wonder that is Childsplay. Perhaps Lizabeth will recall its lyrics each time she wears her Childsplay necklace, a talisman of sorts for carrying the good wishes of her many theater friends back home as she makes her own way amidst all the imagination and wonder that is NYC.
Note: Childsplay performs “The Borrowers” through May 22 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Click here for show and ticket information.
Coming up: Summer arts adventures, What’s new: Shakespeare