HONK! against hate

Back in the hippie heyday, bumpers stickers starting with “Honk if you…” were all the rage. Honk if you love Jesus. Honk if you’re horny. I prefer the more modern takes. Honk if you ♥ librarians. Honk if you love peace and quiet. Think about honking if you love conceptual art.

If Brenda Goodenberger of Glendale had her way, they’d all read “Honk if you hate hate.” Goodenberger is a mother of nine, grandmother of three and longtime theater professional making her directing debut with “Honk! Jr.” at Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria.

L to R: Kira Kadel (Cat), Marshall Scott (Ugly) and Ashley Sneddon (Ida) in Honk! Jr. at Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria (Photo: Steve Salik)

“Honk! Jr.” is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” — a tale Goodenberger embraces “given the startling statistics of bullying in the modern world.” She touts the show’s timeless message: “It’s who we are on the inside that truly matters!”

“As an artist,” says Goodenberger, “I have spent my entire life being a little different than many of my peers, and I have always been a loud supporter of equality for all peoples regardless of race, gender, class, religion or sexual orientation.”

“Honk! Jr.” is an adpatation of the musical “Honk!” featuring music by George Stiles and book/lyrics by Anthony Drewe. “Honk!” earned the British Olivier Award in 2000 for best musical, beating out both “Mamma Mia!” and “The Lion King.”

The Creative Stages Youth Theatre production includes a cast of 43 youth ages 7-16. CSYT is headed by artistic director Jim Gradillas, who worked several years ago with Theater Works, also in the West Valley.

Cast of Honk! Jr. at Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria

I’ll never forget the AriZoni Awards ceremony at the Herberger Theater Center the year Gradillas’ supporters did a bit too much of their own “honking” each time his name was mentioned on stage.

Those of you attending this year’s AriZoni Awards ceremony Monday night at the Tempe Center for the Arts might want to tone this down a bit for the benefit of those with smaller or humbler cheering sections.

As I wrote this post, a press release from Theater Works came across my virtual desk — noting their production of the “King and I” opening Fri, Sept 23. It’s another work with an “anti-hate” theme — one I often conjure when politicians do their “America is the center of the universe” dance.

The King looks rather foolish during “The King and I” when he unfurls a flag depicting his beloved Siam as a giant country when it’s really rather small. Sometimes theater is more effective than other means at conveying such things.

Still, “Honk! Jr.” is more than a morality tale. It’s also awfully good fun, with songs like “A Poultry Tale,” “Play With Your Food,” and “Warts and All.” You can see “Honk! Jr.” at Creative Stages Youth Theatre through Sun, Sept 25. Tickets are available online at www.csyt.org.

“The family that does plays together,” quips Goodenberger, “stays together.” She and husband Ken have a “blended family” of children ages seven to 28. Many share the couple’s fondness for performing.

I like to think that theater works wonders for families in the audience too. So drive on over to Peoria for a bit of theater time with your children — and let them give a little honk along the way.

— Lynn

Note: Program notes for CSYT’s “Honk! Jr.” include two anti-bullying websites — www.stopbullying.gov and www.thetrevorproject.org. Learn more about the Goodenberger family at www.goodenberger.com. Find Creative Stages Youth Theatre at www.csyt.org and Theater Works at www.theaterworks.org. Both theaters are located in Peoria.

Coming up: Spotlight on the 2011 AriZoni Awards (visit www.arizoniawards.com for info on the Sept 19 ceremonies)

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