Tag Archives: Alice in Wonderland

A new twist on “Alice”

Christian Youth Theater performs “Alice” through May 20 at Mesa Arts Center

Friday was opening night for the Christian Youth Theater production of “Alice” that runs through May 20 at Mesa Arts Center. This twist on the classic Wonderland tale finds Alice in a classroom full of kids who know just what they’d like to be when they grow up. But Alice, who struggles to finish even a single bit of homework, hasn’t the slightest idea.

“Alice” is the story of one teen’s search for her identity. Her world is populated with uniform-clad classmates, an overachieving sister and a mother guided by the latest parenting guru. She dreams one night of a place filled with strange creatures from talking flowers to tea-sipping quick change artists — all issuing a sort of wake up call for the girl who thinks only of the here and now.

L to R: Brianna, Lindy and Beth from CYT’s “Alice”

“Alice” features book, music and lyrics by Jon Lorenz, musical director and member of the acting company for Lamb’s Players Theatre in San Diego. It’s based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” Despite the deliberate “campy” vibe, the show feels more funny than punny. This production, an Arizona premiere, is directed by Tambra Lamb — who founded CYT Phoenix in 2005 and serves as its artistic director. Music direction is by Sara McDermott. The show has a cast of more than 50 youth who deliver a polished performance.

I especially enjoyed the choreography (by Kathleen Brazie, Shelley Jenkins and Tamra Lamb), set design (by Kris Tyler) and costume design (by Mary Jane McCloskey). Also ensemble vocals and performances by Jackie Tyler (Alice) and Cory Malkin (Mad Hatter/White Knight). Both are seniors who’ll graduate this month — Tyler from Veritas Preparatory Academy and Malkin from Scottsdale Preparatory Academy.

Though the musical has a message, it’s never elevated above good storytelling. Several scenes are laugh out loud funny, and scenes involving the youngest actors are especially charming. Friday’s audience was filled with kids of all ages who seemed genuinely entertained. Also proud parents who did a good job of tempering their enthusiasm (there’s nothing worse than sitting in an audience that feels like a cult).

L to R: Emma Tuten, Jackie Tyler and Cory Malkin after opening night for CYT’s “Alice”

Christian Youth Theater Phoenix is a non-profit theater company that provides after-school theater experiences for youth ages 6 to 18. Their “Alice” program notes that “each family contributes at least twenty hours of volunteer time to some aspect of the production.” All that TLC shines through in this show, creating a true land of wonder.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy the CYT blog, and here to learn more about CYT nationwide. Click here to explore the education guide for an NYU production of “Alice” (which includes a Q & A with the playwright). Click here for show/ticket info.

Coming up: Painting meets performance art


From Shakespeare to slam

Childsplay meets The Hunger Games July 9-20

I returned home from NYC to a modest stack of mail that included a piece I anticipate reading each spring — the Childsplay Summer Academy schedule. I’m amazed each year by the collection of offerings they put together, and know firsthand that these puppies can fill up fast before dawdling parents decide on summer camp options with their children. So here’s a roundup of a few selections I found especially fanciful…

First, two options in mixed age classes — weeklong “Musical Theatre Marathon” classes for ages 8-15 and one-day “Midsummer Days” classes for ages 7-12. Musical theater themes include Footloose, Aladdin, Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Glee Club, Mary Poppins, Lion King and Alice in Wonderland.

I’m especially delighted with that last one given a recent blurb in The New York Times noting a Variety report that Broadway director and choreographer Rob Ashford was recently tapped for a staged musical adaptation of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” film.

Four “On Stage Classes” including voice, choreographed movement and character work culminate with a performance at the Tempe Performing Arts Center. And there are two special “Middle School/High School” options, including “Deconstruction Zone: To Kill a Mockingbird” and
“Exploring Literature: The Hunger Games.”

Childsplay meets Fancy Nancy in June

Childsplay also offers eight classes in each of four age groups. Options for ages 4-6 include “Story Journeys” a la Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious. Kids ages 5-7 can enjoy “Step into Spanish,” “Fractured Fairytales” and more. Classes for ages 6-9 include “Story Journeys: Magic Tree House” and “Poetry in Motion,” and choices for ages 8-12 include “Shakespeare’s Tempest,” “Poetry Slam” and “Story Drama: Harry Potter.”

Like many of the works performed by Childsplay for young audiences, several of their camps are literature-based and feature literacy-related themes. Think fairy tales, young adult novels, classic children’s series and more. (The Childsplay production of “Tomás and the Library Lady” opens with an April 7 preview at Tempe Center for the Performing Arts.)

They’ve got “Music Makers” for kids who dig music — plus options tailored to children who love pirates, dinosaurs, superheros and other sorts of adventure tales. Favorites are already filling up, so now’s the time to do your parent homework on the subject of summer camps.

You can jump online to see a full range of options, or call to request their nifty brochure that breaks everything down by age, theme and dates — and shares fun details about everything from extended care options to performances for family and friends.

Childsplay meets Shakespeare's Tempest in June

Camps are offered at two locations — the Campus for Imagination and Wonder and the Tempe Performing Arts Center (home to Childsplay before their move to a new Tempe campus at Mitchell Park named for Sybil B. Harrington).

There’s little sincerity when the orphans in “Annie” chime “We love you Miss Hannigan,” but I’m genuinely grateful for generous donations by Harrington and others that make theater experiences possible for our children and teens.

In a world where developing intellect, creativity, problem solving and social skills is so critical to learning, working, loving and being an active, engaged citizen, theater companies and other arts organizations serving youth are a necessity, not a luxury.

— Lynn

Note: Raising Arizona Kids subscribers receive our summer camp issue each year, and additional information about summer camp options is available at www.raisingarizonakids.com.

Coming up: Tears for two daughters, Women’s art goes global

Anthem tales

I met a 12-year-old named Sarah Miller, and her mother Ruth, during intermission for Tuesday night’s performance of “Mamma Mia!” at ASU Gammage

I was delighted to learn that Sarah has performed in several community theater productions in Anthem, where she lives and plans to attend The Caepe School come fall.

I spoke with Sarah by phone Wednesday evening, after she’d finished a dance class with Dynamic Motion Dance Academy in Anthem — where she studies jazz, musical theater and tap. She’s also trained in ballet and hip hop.

I spotted Sarah in the huge “Mamma Mia!” crowd thanks to her powder blue t-shirt with a large “Mamma Mia!” logo. Although Sarah told me she loves the show, she was most eager to talk about her hometown theaters — Starlight Community Theater and Musical Theatre of Anthem.

Sarah has performed in several Starlight Community Theater productions — including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella,” plus her very favorite piece of musical theater — “Annie.” Sarah’s last “Starlight” role was “Tweedle Dum” in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Both Starlight and MTA of Anthem feature performances by and for youth

She’s excited about Starlight’s 2011/12 season, which includes “Willy Wonka,” “Miracle of 34th Street – The Musical,” “Fame!,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Rapunzel,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Playwright and director Jim Gradillas, artistic director for Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, will be heading the “Rapunzel” production. Sarah praises Gradillas for working directly with each actor, for being a master at motivating kids to do their best, and for using games and other strategies to keep theater time fresh and fun.

So far Sarah has performed in just a single Musical Theatre of Anthem production — “The Wizard of Oz.” But she hopes to perform in more MTA shows down the road.

The 2011/12 lineup for Musical Theatre of Anthem includes “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” “13,” “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” “Seussical, Jr.,” and “Annie.” Sarah describes it as “a good selection” but already knows at least one show will conflict with other plans for the coming year.

Sarah is especially excited about auditioning for “Annie.” While she’d love to play the lead, Sarah told me that young actors have the best chance of getting major roles when they indicate a genuine willingness to accept any part they’re offered.

When I asked Sarah for additional audition tips for children and teens, she happily shared quite a few of them. Be present. Don’t act nervous. Make eye contact. Be easygoing. And most of all, don’t be fake. “Act like yourself,” suggests Sarah.

The approach seems to be working for Sarah, who shared that she’s already recording her singing and working with a producer at Island Def Jam Recordings.

She’d love to break into the music business or land an acting gig with Disney or Nickelodeon. She even shared this link to her performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Whatever the future holds for Sarah, it’s clear that her time on Anthem stages is serving her well — and that the memories she’s making right here in the Valley will last a lifetime.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the websites for Musical Theatre of Anthem and Starlight Community Theater to learn about current productions and summer programs. And watch for a photo of Sarah coming soon…

Coming up: Transformers — opera style, New plays — festival style

Update: An open call audition for the roles of Annie and the orphans in a new Broadway production of “Annie” is taking place June 12 for girls ages 6-12. Click here for details.

Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center

After dropping one of my kids off for a meeting in downtown Phoenix on Saturday, I had an hour or so of spare time on my hands. Recently armed with a new camera, I decided to go in search of art venues I could explore and maybe snap some photos.

The view as I walked east towards ALAC and Symphony Hall

I found a metered parking spot along Adams, and headed a block or so up the road to the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center. I entered through the gift shop, lured by a vast array of colorful objects of art, attire, jewelry and more.

ALAC has a humble exterior but boasts great works of imagination within

There I met two cheerful gentleman who welcomed me to the Center, and assured me they’d be happy to answer any questions. I got permission to use my flash and off I went.

This bracelet with hearts might make a nice Valentine's Day gift

While going from room to room, I enjoyed works ranging from small metal sculptures to giant artworks drawn with colored pencils.

Sweet Dreams by David Romo sits at a nice height for younger viewers

I enjoyed artwork featuring cars, owls, desert animals, children, butterflies, the wide open sky and so much more. It’s a place you can explore in less than an hour, and I saw plenty of works that have strong kid-appeal.

Detail, Til the Road Ends by Ray Rivas

The Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center is in a great location for walking city streets and enjoying all sorts of shops, restaurants, galleries and performing arts venues.

Untitled by Carlos Navarrete is part of a Visions of Guadalupe exhibit

You could easily make a day of it by taking in a show at Valley Youth Theatre nearby or htting the Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library. (Both have small art exhibits on site.)

Like many musems, ALAC uses technology to enhance cultural exhibits

But back to my ALAC adventures — which included a lengthy and lively chat with one of the young men who’d greeted me when I arrived.

This metal and found objects sculpture (R) is Cicso's Ride by David Romo

I learned late in our conversation, after mentioning my fondness for the colored pencil works, that I was talking with artist Carlos Rivas.

Detail, Must Not Sleep by Carlos Rivas - Part of the "Off the Grid" exhibit

Rivas is a 33-year-old “self-taught” artist from El Paso, Texas who has been creating art since childhood, but only embraced his talent within the past few years. His passion for art and community are evident as he speaks.

Detail, Lord Ganesh by Carlos Rivas - My favorite work on exhibit at ALAC

I mentioned seeing yet another Arizona-related story on the front page of The New York Times — regarding recent changes to policies regarding ethnic-studies courses in high school.

We agreed that it would be nice to read good news about Arizona for a change, and Rivas shared his conviction that the Center serves the community by increasing knowledge, understanding and dialogue.

I hadn’t yet heard the tragic news of the shooting in Tucson, and it occured to me that the national media should visit the Center to find a bit of what’s beautiful here in Arizona.

You can enjoy the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center free of charge during regular operating hours — but a glass jar welcomes donations by those who wish to support the Center’s work.

ALAC has a room/stage dedicated to performance and educational events

Or head to the Center for Phoenix “First Fridays” so you can enjoy several arts and cultural activities in one evening.

Remember ALAC next time you enjoy a symphony, opera or ballet downtown

If you’re a teacher taking students on a field trip to the Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix Symphony Hall or other nearby venue, leave some extra time to explore the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center.

The Herberger Theater Center has a stunning new look both inside and out

The Center is also a nice pairing with an afternoon spent at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. I left the Center with a wee bit of time left on my parking meter, so I scurried over to the Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery to enjoy their new “Sacred Places” exhibit.

This James Van Fossan work titled Sky IV is part of the Sacred Places exhibit

On my way back to get Lizabeth, I drove past the Phoenix Center Theater and noticed a long line of folks heading into the theater for a performance of “Grease” by youth in an afterschool program titled “Art & Sol.” The show runs through Sat, Jan 22.

Enjoy true community theater just off the Loop 202 at 3rd St. in Phoenix

I’ll share more of my Saturday afternoon adventures in another post. In the meantime, feel free to suggest other venues you’d like me to explore and share with our readers.

Watch for roving Phoenix Ambassadors eager to assist downtown visitors

Inspired by the work and words of Carlos Rivas, I expect to take not only my camera, but also a sketch pad and colored pencils, on future art adventures.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about arts and cultural attractions in the downtown Phoenix area.

Coming up: Art at the Herberger — inside and out

Photos (decent and lousy) by Lynn Trimble

Art adventures: Queen Creek

Part of the San Tan Historical Society Museum collection

My father has a rather interesting decorating style that reflects his small town upbringing in South Dakota farm country — and his years of buying and selling land in Colorado.

He has a fondness for farm implements and tools, which have adorned several walls and other spaces in his various homes through the years.

Big wheels keep on turnin' in Queen Creek

I can still picture the authentic wagon wheel suspended on a wall, the heavy black anvil sitting atop his cream-colored carpet and the assortment of rusty old parts he managed to display with a true measure of good taste.

I was reminded of his collection when I took my 21-year-old son Christopher on a bit of an art adventure last week. We went to Queen Creek, which is about an hour drive from our Scottsdale home.

With cooler weather, it's time for happy trails again

The weather has finally turned tolerable, and we’re making the most of it. I was lured to Queen Creek by the prospect of exploring the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center — and the nearby San Tan Historical Society Museum.

The museum is located at the southwest corner of Queen Creek and Ellsworth. During your visit, you’ll learn about Frank Lloyd Wright’s connection to the San Tan area, as well as how this community benefited from the German POWs.

The drive to Queen Creek reminded me of bygone field  trip days when I used to have the kids and their friends play “I-Spy” for sights along the streets and freeways.

We spied farm land, farm tools and farm animals

There were no video players in cars, or portable DVD players, back then. I consider it a good thing — because it gave us more time for observation and conversation.

Were Christopher younger, I’d have broken the drive into two smaller jaunts by stopping along the way to explore the airport and museum at Falcon Field in Mesa. (Were I younger, we wouldn’t have needed the pit stop at McDonald’s.)

We headed to the San Tan Historical Society Museum first, since it’s open just one morning during the week (plus Saturday). It’s a red brick building from the mid-1920s that’s listed on a national registry of historic buildings.

See if your kids can guess what once traveled through this chute...

Behind the museum sits a small yard with a half dozen or so pieces of weathered farm equipment once used in the area, which still sports impressive citrus groves.

It took me right back to those weekend visits with dad — and made me wish I’d packed a picnic basket to enjoy on the building’s short stack of steps.

Queen Creek High School is home to the mighty Bulldogs

Next we hit the the performing arts center, which is adjacent to Queen Creek High School — home of the mighty Bulldogs. A bronze bulldog statue sits atop the overhang you pass under to reach the school office.

I’m eager to return to the center to enjoy a live performance — and it looks like I’ll have plenty of options to choose from. They have a main theatre series, a family theatre series and a special events series.

Check out these performing arts offerings in Queen Creek

I have my eye on “Tap Kids,” billed as a “joyous celebration of youth culture” featuring “eight of the nation’s most talented tap dancers.” It’s coming up on Nov 6.

Emmy Award winner Robert Wuhl performs “Assume the Position” on Feb 5. I’m told it “delivers an imaginative, irreverent comedic history lesson” that includes a look at “facts, myths and myths-that-became-facts.”

I’m going to start warming up my smile muscles now.

“One Man Star Wars” hits Queen Creek on Oct 30 and contemporary country group “Gloriana” takes the stage Dec 3.

See "The Brothers Grimm: Out of Order" this weekend

This weekend you can enjoy one of two remaining performances of “The Brothers Grimm: Out of Order” — either Sat, Oct 23 at 2pm or Mon, Oct 25 at 7pm.

Upcoming family theatre productions include “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr.” (Nov 20), “Unstoppable Me!” (Mar 12, 2011) and “Hairspray” (April 9, 2011).

When you head to Queen Creek to take in a show, consider making a day (or even weekend) of it. And tell the fine folks at Eddie Maroni’s pizza joint that we loved the lunch special.

Driving in and around Queen Creek, we spotted all sorts of fun sights — including cattle, horses and sheep. (Alas — my son has little patience for me stopping to photograph every cute animal that crosses my path.)

Being a bit of a sign fanatic, I also took note of the cardboard sign advertising “fresh organic milk” and the yellow diamond-shaped traffic sign with the cattle icon.

As we headed home for dinner, I was reminded of why I spent so much time on similar adventures when my three kids were younger. It was something Christopher said as we left Queen Creek…

“There’s a whole lot of world out there.”

— Lynn

Note: To suggest a Valley city for an upcoming “Art adventures” post, drop me a line at rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Coming up: Pirates meet opera, Once upon “The Wiz,” Stop the “Glee” bashing!

Think pink

Think pink. What comes to mind?

Cotton candy? A Cinderella-style ball gown? Naked mole rats? Bubble gum? Flamingos? Rainbow sherbet? Maybe even Barbie’s vast collection of houses, cars and fashions?

At our house, it’s a smoky gray long-haired cat named “Pink” and a couple of talking bears–along with oodles of bygone toys from Polly Pocket to Strawberry Shortcake.

But pink isn’t just a color these days. It’s a pop star. It’s a women’s health movement. It’s a musical.

Yup, you can now enjoy all things pink with “Pinkalicious, the Musical,” which “celebrates all things pink while showing that being yourself is best of all.”

It’s part of an exciting new season just announced by Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Here’s the rest of the scoop…

“Grease” is the word when VYT opens its 2010-2011 season August 12-29. Never mind that the song “Summer Nights” only serves to remind me of Arizona’s blistering heat. There’s also “Hopelessly Devoted,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “We Go Together”–which remind me of a fabulous roll through the 50s, a decade I just missed experiencing firsthand.

“Pinkalicious, the Musical” hits the VYT stage October 1-17. It’s based on the book “Pinkalicious” by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann—which is refreshing in a day and age when our kids too often watch rather than read. Parents of pink-lovers take note: Pink outfits donned for the show can double as nifty 50s Halloween costumes. That’s more pink for less plastic. Priceless.

“Alice in Wonderland” devoid of Johnny Depp (some consider that a good thing) runs February 4-20 at VYT, which leads me to conjure images of tea party play dates and charming Valentine’s Day celebrations ala a trip to the theater. It’s another serious dress-up opportunity and chance to engage your child in both literature and live performance. Not everything happens on a movie screen, you know.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” comes to VYT April 1-17. What’s not to love about seeing someone else have an absolutely wretched day for a change? Of course, I wouldn’t pitch it to my kids that way. For children, its a great opportunity to realize that bad days happen to everyone—and that sharing feelings is a good thing when no flying objects are involved. Treat yourself to a good read of Judith Viorst’s tale of the same name before and after you enjoy the show.

“Annie” closes out the VYT 2010-2011 season at the Herberger Theater Center June 10-26. At this point, our country will either continue to be plagued by economic challenges or experience improvements that leave more Americans feeling secure and optimistic. Either way, Annie’s tale is a good investment. It’s a classic musical that serves to remind us that we’ve faced tough times before—as a nation and as individuals—and that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

“A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail” also returns to VYT this season for a December 3-23 run. I find this one especially fascinating given that our family seems an odd pairing of Eeyores and Tiggers. I think everyone finds a bit of themselves in the charming characters of A.A. Milne’s “Hundred Acre Woods.” And what better anecdote to the stress of winter holidays than sharing the adventures of a bear and his honey—along with ‘sure to cheer’ characters like Piglet and Roo.

With that we’ve come full circle. So grab your pink pen and mark the above shows and dates in your calendar. If you’re not a fan of pink now, I suspect you will be after a simply “Pinkalicious” season with all things Valley Youth Theatre.


Note: Auditions for “Pinkalicious” will take place at VYT on Aug 2 & 3 at 3:30pm. For information on upcoming auditions, and ways to save money with VYT “season memberships,” visit Valley Youth Theatre online at www.vyt.com. Show tickets and memberships are also available through the VYT box office at 602-253-8188.

Coming up: “Twilight” tales, Summer of Shakespeare, Art and…babies?

What’s your Jabberwocky?

Johnny Depp in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland."

My two daughters, both teens, admit to being a little ‘creeped out’ by all things Alice in Wonderland—all that growing and shrinking, all those talking and disappearing animals, all the playing card and chess piece soldiers.

I remember feeling the same way at one time. But the way we see things changes as we age.

I saw something entirely different when I took myself to see the film “Alice in Wonderland” Monday morning at the Harkins IMAX theatre at Arizona Mills in Tempe.

It’s not about a Mad Hatter and his tea party, though Johnny Depp’s hatter—and the teacup-tossing rabbit—are ever so endearing.

It’s about a young woman’s dreams, and her father’s insistence that she pursue them instead of merely populating the dreams of others.

In Tim Burton’s take on two classic Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) tales, Alice has grown from a girl who has fallen but once down a magical rabbit hole into a young lady taking a second tumble into a land consumed by a single question…

“Is she the real Alice?”

It seems that Alice has long had a single dream—of blue caterpillars and grinning cats—that recurs each and every night. Once she asks her father whether she might be going mad.

‘You’re mad, bonkers, off your head,’ he tells her. ‘But I’ll tell you a little secret Alice—all the best people are.’ Seems Alice’s father was himself a bit of a dreamer, prone to ‘doing six impossible things before breakfast.’

After her father’s death, Alice clearly recalls—and embodies–his optimism and adventurous spirit. Yet she has doubts.

After falling down the rabbit hole into “Underland” (no longer “Wonderland”), Alice learns that she is destined to win freedom for its people (and animals) by slaying the dreaded Jabberwocky (which looks a bit like a dragon crossed with creatures from the movie “Alien”).

“This is impossible,” Alice tells the Mad Hatter.

“Only,” he replies, “if you believe it is.”

Alice becomes more brave and sure of herself—more Alice—as she makes her way. When a traveling companion suggests to Alice that she may have lost some of her “muchness” since her first visit, Alice proves otherwise by bobbing over a bog full of heads severed by the Red Queen.

This movie might have been too intense for my children when they were younger. Still, I wish my daughters, now in high school and college, would give Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” a chance.

I love the positive portrayal of a strong young woman, the depiction of a tender father-daughter relationship, and the recognition that people who are different (like Alice when she ponders painting white roses red) are the most wonderful of all.


Note: Not all movies recognize that “mad” isn’t “bad.” Saturday’s post will feature artists battling stigma against those living with mental illness. To support the effort, sign up for NAMI WALKS, a 5K walk at 1pm (noon registration) on Saturday, March 27, at Tempe Beach Park on Tempe Town Lake. Info at www.nami.org/walk. Children and families are encouraged to participate.