The Boxer

My kids, now in college, know it’s best not to turn the radio dial when I’m listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” because it was one of my mother’s favorite songs. I’ve still got the album she used to spin between vinyls by John Denver and members of the Rat Pack.

But I’ve got another sort of boxer on the brain today — the sort who takes delight in building houses, cars, puppet theaters and such out of giant cardboard boxes. My kids were magnificent “boxers” during preschool, when teachers would snag discarded appliance boxes and turn the students loose with poster paint and cheap brushes.

To this day, I sigh a little each time my husband takes a cardboard box out to the recycling bin — feeling sad there’s no one around to transform it, and guilty about not shepherding it over to the preschool. I still slow to admire jumbo TV boxes discarded by neighbors, like other people linger over coveted gardens or sports cars.

Now I’m told that boxes have finally made the big time. A group called Polyglot Theatre is coming to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for a little something called “We Built This City.” No relation to Jefferson Starship, but I still like their vibe. Polyglot will present four interactive performances that involve kids 12 and under in building a city out of cardboard boxes. No need to BYOB. I’m told they’ve already got thousands, which means I’ll have to overcome some serious box envy.

A pair of Polyglot Theatre fans helping to build a city (Photo: Wendy Kimpton)

There’s a 10:30am and 2:30pm performance on both Sat, May 12 and Sun, May 13 — meaning “We Built This City” is perfectly timed for those of you who like to spend Mother’s Day making memories rather than racking up more flowered coffee mugs. Admission is free and no tickets are needed to attend.

When our children were younger, we’d enjoy family picnics on the lush lawns surrounding the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — bringing our own blanket along in case we weren’t lucky enough to snag one of their picnic tables. The venue notes that refreshments from Shine Coffee and picnic foods will be available.

Jump for joy — it’s Polyglot Theatre time in Scottsdale! (Photo: Wendy Kimpton)

The event itself goes something like this. Thousands of boxes get used to make buildings, tunnels, archways, towers, labyrinths and such. You know, everything but a car elevator. Things go up, then get pulled down. Things get designed, redesigned and reconstructed. I imagine it’s like watching a teenager getting dressed for a date.

Performers facilitate the build while rocking the construction worker vibe — or portraying other fun characters. There’s even a DJ spinning tunes. At the end of the day, “everyone joins in trampling down the city into a gloriously chaotic heap of cardboard rubble.” Warn your kids ahead of time if you think they’ll struggle with seeing their work undone, and bring a camera along to document the occasion.

I’m told that “We Built This City” has been performed in four languages in 10 countries. Previous venues include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London and the Opera House in Sydney. I told you boxes made the big time.

“We Built This City” is free and there’s no need to BYOBox (Photo: Wendy Kimpton)

Polyglot Theatre’s “We Built This City” is part of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Art’s 2011-12 “Discovery Series” exploring the arts of Australia and New Zealand, made possible in part by a grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Their 2012-13 “Discover Series” exploring the arts of India opens with musician Ravi Shankar on Oct. 21, and also features performance by the Chitresh Das Dance Company. It concludes with a free outdoor community concert called “OrigiNations: A Festival of Native Cultures” on April 7, 2013.

Their 2012-13 season also includes the “The Daily Show Live: Indecision Tour 2012” (Oct  20), performance by Garth Fagan Dance (Nov. 16; Fagan’s choreography has earned Tony and Olivier Awards), an “ARTrageous” benefit gala with Bernadette Peters (Dec. 1) and “The Complete World of Sports” by The Reduced Shakespeare Company (March 15).

“ARTrageous” holds special meaning because my very first “Stage Mom” blog was inspired by an “ARTrageous” event featuring Kristin Chenoweth. I’m also over the moon about the return of Mandy Patinkin (Feb. 2), whose “Kidults” CD got lots of play at our house after Lizabeth and I saw him perform there when she was just in grade school.

Still, when our new season brochure for Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts came in the mail the other day, it was word of a performance by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia that I rushed to tell my hubby about first. They’re presenting “A Brown Bear, a Moon and a Caterpillar: Treasured Stories by Eric Carle,” featuring music, puppetry and more (Feb. 24). Having three kids in college hasn’t dampened my zeal for such things. I hope nothing ever will.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about Polyglot Theatre’s “We Built This City” and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts offerings at

Coming up: Culture pearls for Mother’s Day, What a scream!


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