Tag Archives: 1950s

Once upon a witch hunt

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller is widely read by high school students, and the most fortunate among them have the opportunity to bring the tale to life on stage.

The Marcos de Niza Theatre production (directed by Patrick McChesney) opened Wed, Nov. 16, at the MdN Auditorium in Tempe — and runs through Sat., Nov. 19. 

 Program notes describe “The Crucible” as  “a dark drama about a terrible period in American history… the Salem witch trials” — and offer a summary of the story that goes something like this:

A small group of Puritan teenage girls in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts are caught dancing and conjuring love potions to catch young men. The girls invent stories about Satan invading their bodies, forcing them to take part in certain rites.

The play’s main characters include a young farmer named John Proctor and his wife. Also a young servant girl whose infatuation with the farmer leads her to accuse the wife of witchcraft.

Greedy preachers and landowners complicate the situation and hysteria soon spreads as “good people of pious nature and responsible temper begin condemning other good people to the gallows.”

Proctor brings the servant girl to court, hoping she’ll admit her lie so his wife will be saved. Instead, “the monstrous course of bigotry and deceit turns all accusations to him and ultimately sentences him to death.” 

The program notes that Miller wrote “The Crucible” as a social commentary on McCarthy-era “witch hunts” against so-called communists during the 1950s. It’s a profound and perpetually popular work because, sadly, we seem always to divide ourselves into the hunters and the hunted.

“The Crucible” received the 1953 Tony Award for best play, and feels no less relavant today — especially in the hands of our youth. They know better than most just how rapidly rumors spread, and can help us all embrace our own power to prevent and stop them.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to watch the school’s YouTube promo for “The Crucuble.” Upcoming events at Marcos de Niza include a fall dance show (Dec. 2), an orchestra concert (Feb. 22), a spring musical (“All Shook Up” March 7-10), a band pops concert (May 9) and more. Check their website for details.

Coming up: Thespian tales, More fun with “I-Spy” photos, The fine art of recycling, School shows & budget woes

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From new to nostalgic

Valley audiences are currently enjoying one of Broadway’s newest offerings at Phoenix Theatre — the first local theater production of “Avenue Q” in Arizona.

But the 2011/2012 season just unveiled by Phoenix Theatre is all about nostalgia. Good call in terms of capturing the likely mood of Valley audiences.

They’ll open the season with “Boeing, Boeing” — a comical farce “in the tradition of” last year’s “Noises Off.” Minus the sardines and plus three flight attendant “fiancees.” Think suave architect confronted with unexpected schedule changes. I’m looking forward to watching this man sweat.

Gypsy” takes to the stage in October — which conjures images in my mind of stage mamas donning “Mama Rose” costumes and charicatures for Halloween. It’s a classic musical about an age-old struggle with the temptation to live vicariously through our children.

A Christmas Story,” based on the classic film of the same name, opens just before Thanksgiving — and follows the adventures of a young boy who has his heart set on finding one particular toy under the tree. It’s your chance to step into the world of an “all-American 1940s family.”

Marvelous Wonderettes” recounts the lives and loves of teens attending their 1958 prom. Think lipstick, cotton candy and familiar tunes from “Lollypop” to “It’s My Party!” Again, I love the dress-up possibilities.

Their next production, “Nine to Five: The Musical,” offers brushstrokes of a later decade in which accomplished women too often overshadowed by underachieving men decided they’d had enough. It’s Dolly Parton meets revenge on the chauvenist pig.

Finally, Phoenix Theatre presents “The Spitfire Grill,” a story of second chances for a young girl who revitalizes a town as she “makes a new life for herself.”

I’m especially excited about Phoenix Theatre’s choices as the mom of two daughters, for whom performance art has always provided a peek into the past lives of girls and those who have paved paths before them.

In a hurried culture, it’s good to remember while we’re speeding forward.

— Lynn

Note: Next up for Phoenix Theatre this season is the musical “Nine” — which runs April 13-May8, 2011.

Coming up: Another Christmas classic comes to the Valley next season

More movie tales from Narnia

My oldest child, Christopher, has always been more of a doer than a reader. He wants to explore his own world rather than read about the worlds of others. 

But “Narnia” was a rare exception when he was in elementary school. I recall reading to and with him from C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series — and the excitement we shared each time we finished one and got to hit the bookstore for another.

We always bought the hard cover editions with gorgeous cover art, and regarded them as real treasures that would transport us on adventures of the mind and imagination.

Recently we enjoyed an advance screening of the latest “Narnia” movie — titled “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” I was eager to see it because I quite enjoyed “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” when it was in theaters several years ago. (As a Colorado native transplanted to Arizona, I was especially fond of the forest scenes and snowy settings.)

“Dawn Treader” has less snow, but more sea. The movie was filmed in a few places, but none more stunning than Australia. It’s a visually pleasing work with or without the 3-D experience. Plenty of scenes take place aboard a ship, so it’s a fab flick for pirate lovers and seafaring souls.

Who knew one could enjoy a swashbuckling adventure in the absence of Johnny (originally a “Christopher”) Depp? This was true revelation. (Of course, there’s always the new movie “The Tourist” for those of you desperately in need of a Depp fix.)

I typically balk when I hear assertions like “there’s nothing new under the Sun” or “no idea is a truly new idea.” But I am starting to develop an annoying habit of finding oodles of other movies in every new movie I see. “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was no exception.

Picture “Indiana Jones” meets “Pirates of the Caribbean” — then add a touch of “Ghostbusters,” “Harry Potter,” and final scenes of Disney’s “Enchanted.” Even echos of the television series “Lost.” Happily, it works. And that’s all that matters.

“Return of the Dawn Treader” is a sort of swashbuckling story meets theological treatise — with emphasis, luckily, on the storytelling. The religious views of C.S. Lewis, original author of the “Narnia” tales, inform much of his work — as do prevailing issues of the day. What’s the balance of destiny and free will? What gives the dark side of man its power?

I tend to view such films as gateways to analysis and dialogue. What was the historical context when C.S. Lewis wrote these works? What about the time period in which the action supposedly takes place? How does art reflect life in Lewis’ work? And what value are books and film in naming and critiquing individual values and cultural mores?

Then again, you can just wing it with the flying dragon vibe. No theological study needed to embrace the humor of the movie’s fencing mouse — or the other land, sea and air creatures the children encounter in their quest to save “Narnia.” (The creatures who bounce playfully on a single large foot are my favorites.)

If you favor thinking of the lion Aslan as a diety, then go for it. If you’re happy to leave his lionhood at that, you’ll still enjoy the tale. But either way you’ll notice religious and ethical concepts, such as the power and necessity of belief, throughout.

My one frustration with attending the UltraLuxe Scottsdale theater was that they have yet to work out a few of the kinks.

Clearly the person who designed this venue, despite its lush decor, wasn’t mother to a preschooler who needed a shelf in the bathroom stall, a super speedy concessions line or a cup holder that squared with the large size drink.

Take note theater folk: The truest test of a family-friendly venue is the ease of using it for the parents whose patronage you seek. Because this cinema has some nifty parent and child-friendly programs, I hope they’ll make some more strides in these areas.

Still, two out of my three “kids” have experienced this theater now — and they both give it high praise. The seats are comfy, the sound is excellent, and the staff are friendly and courteous.

But check it out yourself — and let me know both what you think of the luxury cinema atmosphere and what you think of some of the new movies out there this holiday season.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) from HarperCollins Publishers. And be sure to stay as the movie’s credits roll to enjoy delightful drawings by original illustrator Pauline Baynes (1922-2008) and the new Carrie Underwood song titled “There’s a Place for Us.”

Coming up: James Bond meets 39 Steps

Peace, love and HAIR

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have books in our lives know that family favorites are often handed down for generations.

As the child of a before her time hippie who stayed ever young at heart, I was raised on the likes of a book called “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.”

I hadn’t given it much thought until opening the program for “HAIR” while attending the show at ASU Gammage Wednesday night.

I discovered cast bios proudly listing astrological signs like Gemini and Aries, Virgo and Leo. And yes — even Aquarius.

I suspect one cast member takes her astrology especially seriously. Caren Lyn Tackett (Sheila) notes that she was “Born Sun in Leo Moon in Aries Aquarius Rising” — which leads me to believe I wasn’t the only person to experience the wonders of astrological charting as a child.

I’ve been told that I’m Scorpio “sun, moon and rising” but I’m guessing it only felt that way to my oft-times exasperated, though ever-supportive, mother.

Also of note in cast member bios are final words consisting of “love,” “peace,” “namaste” and such.

It’s hard to know where the hippie ends and the actor begins — which is part of the charm and appeal of this show.

I was especially moved by one particular monologue, which encourages parents to run right home and have a talk with their teenagers.

And to say something like this — be yourself, embrace your freedom and love your life.

Of course, you could just take them to see the show. I think they’d get the message.

Be forewarned, however, that the musical “HAIR” is “mature audiences” fare.

I’m completely supportive of my high school age daughter seeing the show, but other parents might make a different choice knowing there is nudity (albeit brief and tasteful), swearing and simulated sexual/drug activity.

If you’re uneasy with exposing your child to the questioning of authority — whether God, country, the military or parents — you may not be comfortable having your child or teenager see the show.

But having said that, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced a better multi-sensory snapshot of this particular period in American culture.

And since issues related to war, drugs and sexuality are still with us today — I don’t know that there’s a better way to expose youth to these issues.

It’s your call, of course, and you should know what you are getting into.

Certainly it would be a shame for anyone even remotely close to being “mature” to miss this show. It’s among the best Broadway productions I’ve ever seen.

Sorry, Phantom. The cape and mask have been replaced in my heart by fur and fringe. Believe me, my daughter Lizabeth has been waiting for this moment. That whole “music of the night” vibe just never spoke to her, I suppose.

I’ve never had more fun at the theater, and never heard those around me enjoying such profound conversations. One doesn’t always find this mix in a single show.

Everyone left dancing — that’s true. But I think they also left wondering about the modern-day American tribe, and whether we’re really living up to all that “peace” and “love” hype of the hippies who came before us — or who were us.

Especially strong performances were delivered by Phyre Hawkins (Dionne), Matt DeAngelis (Woof) and Paris Remillard (Claude). Josh Lamon makes a marvelous Margaret Mead.

Steel Burkhardt was clearly born to play Berger, and delivered one of the finest performances I’ve seen on the ASU Gammage stage.

Of course, some of his best performance art happens off stage — something it’s best to experience for yourself (rows one through five are especially lively).

Forget about that whole “fourth wall” thing when you see this show. 

Be ready to let your hair down, flash those peace signs and embrace whatever the goddess of musical theatre throws your way.

If you need a little something more concrete to go on, I offer this brief review…

Brilliant lighting. Incredible live band (on stage, no less). Strong acting. Moving vocals. Fever-pitch dancing. Oh yeah, and way cool costumes. (They give those Tony Awards for a reason.)

I suspect “HAIR” is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on stage before, and I don’t happen to think that anyone should miss this opportunity to see it.

Go. Dance. Hug. Sing. Love. Laugh. Shake your big hair. And be grateful for every last minute of this supremely unique and extravagant production.

— Lynn

Note: “HAIR” — described as “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” — runs through Sun, Dec 12 at ASU Gammage. Click here to learn more about the show, read reviews by “Gammage Goers” and find ticket information. Also visit ASU Gammage on Facebook to learn about Thursday night’s talkback and apres-show dance party/costume contest. I’m holding out for the biggest hair contest — I think I might have that one covered.

Coming up: Stage Mom reviews new movies