Tag Archives: Arizona arts and culture

Silly old bear

Silly old bear. It’s one of my favorite lines from A.A. Milne tales of the little boy named Christopher Robin whose fluffy companions include a bear called Winnie the Pooh. I’ve got Pooh on the brain today after reflecting a bit more on the transition to a new blog site. I’m remembering my early days with our oldest son Christopher, whose room as a toddler was decorated with all things primary colors and Pooh.

Christopher has been a part of our lives for more than two decades, and I’ve been affiliated with Raising Arizona Kids for nearly that long — joining the staff when my three children were still small enough to read Winnie the Pooh tales in lap mode. They’re all in college now, so the nature of our relationships is evolving. Still, this will always be their home.

That’s how I feel about Raising Arizona Kids. Folks concerned that my new adventures mean their stories won’t get shared with RAK audiences needn’t fret. I’m continuing to cover Arizona arts and culture for the magazine, but in online article rather than blog mode. Also continuing to write an arts page for each month’s print magazine. Your stories are no less near and dear to me now than they were some 1,250 + posts ago when I started blogging.

Like all artists, writers need to explore and grow. We need fresh eyes on new landscapes. I never worry, when seeing associate artists for Childsplay direct or act in other settings, that their love for Childsplay is diminished in any way. I suspect their diverse adventures fuel both their individual creativity and work together as an ensemble. That’s how I feel about both writing for RAK and doing my own “Stage Mom Musings” thing.

Similarly, our children’s college adventures don’t mean they love us any less. It’s just that there are more paths for them to travel. And that’s as it should be. I fully expect that the road back home will stay well trodden. And so it is for my relationship with Raising Arizona Kids. I’ll be sharing arts adventures both there and here, which’ll help me champion Arizona arts both locally and beyond our borders.

I hope you’ll follow along on my road trip. Covering Arizona arts and culture — and those who nurture and create it — continues to be my great joy and privilege. So no worries, silly old bear.

– Lynn

Note: Please send arts and culture news my way at stagemommusings@gmail.com. That’ll get your events and programs on both my RAK and Stage Mom Musings radar. Once RAK recovers from flood mode, we’ll get old “Stage Mom” posts moved over to the “Stage Mom Musings” site at www.stagemommusings.com, where new posts appear each day.

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Going rogue?

I've always got my eye out for art -- like this "Right Eye from an Arthropoid Coffin" (1539-30 B.C., Egypt) recently spotted at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

I feel a bit rogue sometimes — writing for an Arizona magazine, but finding such delight in covering NYC arts and culture. So I decided maybe it was time to share with readers in both states, plus others, my rationale for marrying the two. The initial lure, of course, was our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Like many born and raised in Arizona, she’s chosen to further her arts education in NYC — so I visit several times a year in “mom mode.”

But the bridge between Arizona and NYC (plus Chicago and other communities with a heavy arts footprint) is a two-way street. Many who teach and create art in Arizona communities hail from NYC or other parts of the country, and I enjoy giving voice to the places and spaces that’ve nurtured the gifts enjoyed by Arizona art lovers.

Art is all around and deep within us. Traveling without covering regional arts and culture would be like refusing to breath another city’s air. Suffocating. Rather than distracting Arizona readers from the beauty of our own arts bounty, I hope my writing “on the road” inspires a greater appreciation for the multitude of marvels here at home. Photos from a children’s museum in Manhattan or Las Vegas might inspire a family to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix or the Tucson Children’s Museum. So it’s all good.

Sometimes it feels like the art is keeping an eye on you -- like "Curious and Curiouser" by Mary Lucking and David Tinapple in the Arizona Science Center lobby

I’m fortunate to have lots of “Stage Mom” readers in NYC, and hope my blogging on both states’ offerings inspires them to consider the depth and breadth of Arizona arts and culture. We get plenty of bad press, and I’m privileged to cover what’s best about our state. Young poets, skilled playwrights, talented musicians, inspiring dancers, gifted actors. Also arts educators in our schools, museums and various community venues. Tourism takes place in both directions — and I’m an unapologetic missionary for the Arizona arts scene.

I suppose some of my kinship with NYC was born of years attending touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage. I take special delight on reporting from NYC about shows I’ve seen on Valley stages — plus shows that’ll likely head our way during future tours. Only seeing “War Horse” performed at Lincoln Center in NYC enabled me to appreciate how fortunate we are that it’ll gallop into ASU Gammage during their 2012-13 season.

Some people seem to spy art wherever they go -- like this "Untitled" (1961) by Lee Bontecou that's exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum

Some assume that Arizonans are settling for mediocre on-stage and museum fare, but trips to NYC have heightened my appreciation for local offerings. Sometimes I find things that Arizona could use a lot more of — like arts and culture originating in Africa. Other times, I find modest NYC exhibits of Native American or Latino artworks that make clear the excellence of Arizona collections.

Stumbling on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s “Pattern Wizardry” in NYC years after I’d taken my children to enjoy the traveling exhibit at Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth reminded me, like Dorothy in her ruby red slippers, that you needn’t head over the rainbow to find what’s good and right in the world.

Still, we know that plenty of Arizona families travel — making choices when they do about where to invest precious resources like time and money. In an amusement park world, I’m keen on reminding parents to consider arts and cultural destinations too. Youth theater in San Diego. Orchestral concerts in Los Angeles. Public art in Las Vegas. Dance performance in Orlando. It’s all part of upping their appreciation for aesthetics, and the arts and culture industry so critical to a healthy American economy.

Teach your kids to look for art wherever they go -- like this eye detail on the glass house by Therman Statom located just outside the SMoCA young@art gallery in Scottsdale

It’s easy to take Arizona arts and culture for granted, forgetting just how exceptional our own theater companies from Childsplay to Valley Youth Theatre can be. Seeing touring productions from other parts of the country often reminds me that some of the country’s best artists live right here among us. Wowed as I was by a touring Kennedy Center production of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” performed a while back at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, it confirmed my suspicion that Childsplay in Tempe routinely achieves the same high quality of theater performance for students and families.

Seeing works performed during the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City each summer always makes me more committed to attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions here at home. Admiring works of glass art at the Brooklyn Museum last week left me eager to explore more glass art here at home. Similarly, performances enjoyed here in the Valley up my appreciation for works by artists in other places. During my last trip to NYC, I spent an evening watching local arts programming from Thirteen WNET New York Public Media — eager to watch a show about young poets after covering state Poetry Out Loud finals here in the Valley.

Comparing and contrasting are essential to the craft of theater criticism and other elements of arts reporting, so I’d be foolish to check my memories of places like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the door when entering “Stage Mom” mode. The more I experience, the more I have to share with Arizona readers. “Going rogue” has a lovely ring to it, but there’s a circle to what I do — and Arizona will always be my center.

— Lynn

Coming up: Let’s talk “Bully”

I’m just a bill…

Arts advocates gathered at the Arizona Capitol yesterday for the 2012 Arts Congress.

First, a heartfelt thanks to all of you who made it to yesterday’s Arizona Arts Congress — and to the legislators who took time to meet with all the lovely folks who care about arts and culture, and the role it plays in our economy, community, schools and everyday lives.

Thankfully, those of us who couldn’t make it can still weigh in with our legislators about just how much we value arts and culture. Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts has details about three issues noted on its website — and makes it easy for folks to send e-mails to the folks who vote on such things.

Arizona Representative Steve Farley meeting with arts advocates during the 2011 Arts Congress at the Arizona State Capitol

Seems there’s already a bit of good news on that front. Today the Arizona House of Representatives committee considering HB 2265 decided to move it forward for consideration by the larger legislative body. HB 2265 authorizes the continuation, for another ten years, of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

This makes me a happy camper, because they’re an invaluable resource for artists, educators and citizens. If you’re not getting their newsletters, you’re missing the latest and greatest news about arts-related events, arts education, funding opportunities, calls for student artwork and much more.

Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego meeting with David Hemphill of the Black Theatre Troupe during the 2011 Arts Congress attended by more than 200 advocates

But HB 2265 is just one of three arts-related issues working its way through this legislative session. Another, SB 1348, would establish an Arizona poet laureate. We need a state poet; don’t I know it. Finally, there’s a section of the governor’s proposed budget that would further cut funding for arts — and advocates can still weigh in on that prospect.

Those of you who remember the musical “Schoolhouse Rock” can probably still sing David Frishberg’s lyrics for “I’m Just a Bill.” But nothing is ever “just a bill.” Every piece of legislation working its way through both the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona Senate has the potential to impact our daily lives. Click here to join fellow citizens championing the arts in Arizona.

— Lynn

Note: If you have photos from this year’s Arizona Arts Congress to share, I’d love to see them — and you may find them featured in a future post. Click here to learn more about this weekend’s “Arizona Best Fest” Phoenix taking place at, and around, the Arizona Capitol Mall (and watch for a future post highlighting monuments your family can explore during your visit).

Coming up: Reflections from Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director for Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts

Photos: 2011 Arts Congress photos courtesy of Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts

Big MAC attack!

Sunday is your last chance to see Mesa Encore Theatre perform The Music Man, which beat out West Side Story to win the 1958 Tony Award for best musical

Knowing the 2011 Tony Awards are right around the corner, I decided to go in search of local productions of Tony Award-winning musicals. I started with shows coming to the Mesa Arts Center after getting an e-mail alert that tickets for their 2011-2012 Broadway series, which includes four shows, start at just $95.

Watch the Tony Awards on CBS this Sunday night to see who wins best musical for 2011

The series includes “Rock of Ages,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Rat Pack is Back” — plus “My Fair Lady,” winner of the 1957 Tony Award for best musical. The 1958 Tony Award for best musical went to “The Music Man,” which is being performed at MAC by Mesa Encore Theatre through June 12.

I’ll have to share other Tony Award winners coming to Valley stages in a later post, because I’m experiencing a bit of a”big MAC attack” at the moment. Turns out there’s a ton of good stuff happening at the Mesa Arts Center, so I’ve got MAC on the brain instead.

The Mesa Arts Center has offerings in four main areas — shows, classes, events and museum exhibits. Upcoming shows sound plenty intriguing. There’s “Retro,” “Live Love Dance!,” and even Steve Martin and his banjo buddies. Events to watch for include fall and spring “out to lunch” concert series, the Mesa Arts Festival and celebrations of Dia de los Muertos.

This girl should have signed up for music classes through Mesa Arts Center

Mesa Arts Center offers classes in visual and performing arts. Think blacksmithing for the grown-ups and ceramic “mud pups” for children. Also American tribal dance and belly dance classes. Plus “scenes for teens” acting classes and a “dance sampler” for kids who want to explore various dance options.

Exhibits opening today at MAC’s “Mesa Contemporary Arts” space — a collection of five galleries — include “Picturing Maricopa” and “Women’s Work.” Other current exhibits include “Chicanitas,” “Vermilion Remains,” and “Wood & Substance, Substance & Spirit.”

Another snappy dresser from the Mesa Encore Theatre production of The Music Man

That’s a lot of art for an admission fee of just $3.50. Kids age 7 & under are always free — and admission is free for all on Thursdays (the museum is closed on Mondays). I’m going to have to move this to the top of my “me time” to do list. My grown children would enjoy the works, but they’re already off and running in a million directions this summer. Bummer.

— Lynn

Note: The Theater League 2011-2012 Broadway series also performs at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix

Coming up: Art meets science — with a twist of creative genius

Photo credit: Sarah Rodgers and Wade Moran

Last chance: Latino roots

Learn about the Latino roots of American pop music at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix through May 18

Arizona is home to all sorts of Latino arts and culture. There’s nothing last chance about that. But one offering, the “American Sabor” exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, will hit the road in just a few shorts days so folks in other parts can experience its splendor.

“American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music” is the first touring exhibit to land at the MIM, a global instrument museum that recently celebrated its first anniversary. But the exhibit’s last day is May 18 — so your opportunity to enjoy it will soon pass.

Though this might not apply to those of you who feel about Latino music the way others feel about Springsteen or the Grateful Dead. I suppose you could just jump into your van with a couple of friends and follow “American Sabor” to future destinations. I can imagine worse fates, like following people whose heads sport giant cheese wedges.

American Sabor features musical intruments, costumes, artifacts and more

Maybe you don’t consider yourself a fan of Latino music. But that means you’ve never turned on a radio or been to a dance featuring DJ stylings.

Because there are Latino roots in all sorts of places you might not expect them. Figuring out where is half the fun of experiencing “American Sabor.”

If you’re still picturing museums as stuffy, boring places — you’ve yet to see, hear and feel all that is the MIM. You don’t visit the MIM. You experience the MIM. And “American Sabor” is a perfect match with its “use of film, artifacts, historic musical instruments, listening kiosks, and a full-sized dance floor.”

Normally I don my tennis shoes for trips through the MIM (which truly are trips around the world). But I may have to see if I can squeeze into Lizabeth’s character shoes for this one, just in case the mambo, rhumba or cha cha beats lure me to the dance floor.

The “American Sabor” exhibit is a window into “the excitement, diversity, and beauty of Latin music as it developed in five key U.S. cities.” Think Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Also San Francisco, a favorite of my 20-year-old daughter Jennifer. And NYC, a favorite of 17-year-old Lizabeth.

The “American Sabor” exhibit was developed by the “Experience Music Project” in Seattle and the University of Washington. It’s a well-kept secret that Seattle has actually given the world all sorts of things every bit as glorious (and maybe more glorious) than Starbucks.

“Latino musicians and the contributions they have made to musical styles like jazz, country, rock, and hip hop, among others, have scarcely been acknowledged until now,” reflects MIM exhibit manager April Salomon.

“American Sabor” aims to change all that — with its “collection of instruments, costumes. and other artifacts from musical icons.” Think Fania All-Stars and Flaco Jimenez. Celia Cruz and Carlos Santana. Los Lobos and Tito Puente.

Even a singer my hubby seemed a bit sweet on during college — Linda Ronstadt (whose vinyls still rest on the lower shelf of a towering bookcase). He once helped fellow Pepperdine students fill sandbags to protect her beachfront home. But listening to her mariachi music is a whole lot more fun…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to watch the May 12, 2011 episode of “Horizonte” on Eight, Arizona PBS — which features the “American Sabor” exhibit and a local expert on Latino arts and culture.

Coming up: The Sleeping Beauty

Images courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

Home sweet Herberger?

This weekend is your last chance to see ATC perform Lost in Yonkers

The recently renovated Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix has everything a devoted audience member could ask for — except for a place to sleep and shower.

It’s something I mention here only because I so often feel, after reviewing the wealth and diversity of arts offerings at the Herberger, that I might as well just live there. That way I could just pop in for everything on their calendar with ease.

Check out this sampling of April through July productions and you might just find yourself fighting me for that imaginary top bunk. I’ve noted them by genre here, but you’ll find a complete listing by date on the Herberger Theater Center website.

Circle Mirror Transformation is on my must-see list

Upcoming theater offerings include “Lost in Yonkers” presented by Arizona Theatre Company (through April 10), “Circle Mirror Transformation” presented by Actors Theatre (April 22-May 8), and “The Mystery of Irma Vep” presented by Arizona Theatre Company (May 5-22).

Families will be especially eager to learn that Valley Youth Theatre is closing its 2011-2012 season at the Herberger Theater Center with a performance of the classical musical “Annie” — a show that’s caused many a child to fall in love with musical theater and the performing arts. “Annie” opens June 10 and runs through June 26. I wonder if agented dogs are already jockeying for audition slots for the role of the lovable mutt “Sandy.”

Valley Youth Theatre presents theater the whole family can enjoy

In the dance department, there’s “Coppelia,” presented by the Yen-Li Chen Ballet School of Chandler. “Coppelia” has special appeal for children (and adults who appreciate the inherent irony in love and life). It’s a comical tale of an inventor who brings a large doll to life. Apparently the doll is so lifelike that the village hunk attempts to court her, while a real woman resorts to creative means to compete for his affections.

Center Dance Ensemble, the resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center, presents “American Voices” April 23. It’s a celebration of National Poetry Month featuring new choreography set to the words of America’s great poets. I’m guessing no tweets have made the cut, but perhaps I shouldn’t rush to judgement.

Center Dance Ensemble couples dance with poetry

“American Voices” is also being performed at the Herberger Theater Center April 21 and 22 as part of the venue’s “Lunch Time Theater” series — which includes “Chicken Soup for Lunch” and “Wacky, Wickedly Wonderful Women” (both in June) as well.

The Ballet Academy of Arizona presents a narrated performance of “Peter Pan” featuring children ages 3-17 on May 15.

Scottsdale Ballet Foundation presents “An Evening of Ballet” at the Herberger Theater Center May 21 and 22 — featuring students from the Scottsdale School of Ballet performing “The Ballet Class,” “The Enchanted Room,” and “Paquita.”

An Evening of Ballet features the Scottsdale School of Ballet

Fans of improvisational theater can enjoy talent from around the country performing at the 10th annual “Phoenix Improv Festival” April 14-16. The festival opens Thursday night with an “AZ Showcase” featuring local talent from “Chaos Comedy” to “Valley Fever.”

A Saturday 4:30pm event described as “family friendly” includes performances by “EXiT 185,” “Grandma Hates Technology,” “Jester’Z,” and “Bare.” Mature audiences can watch for the “Light Rail Pirates” and “Dr. God” on Friday, and “Men in Shirts” and “Mail Order Bride” on Saturday. Performers from “Second City” in Chicago will also be in the house.

The Phoenix Improv Festival includes several family-friendly offerings

Those of you eager to experience the work of smaller or less traditional theater companies have plenty of choices at the Herberger Theater Center. Improbable Theatre Company performs “Funny As A Crutch” (short plays exploring the concept of disability with humor and sensitivity) May 3-12.

“The Return of…Jackie Fontaine’s Cavalcade of Celebrities, Super Spotlight Salute to the Troops” is being presented at the Herberger Theater Center by iTheatre Collaborative May 6-21. Other May productions include “It’s…Nothing Serious” presented by Class 6 Theatre.

Irma Vep better stay away from my bunny slippers!

Friendly People Productions presents “The Family Tree” June 21-30 at the Herberger Theater Center, and Theatre Artists Studio presents “With Friends Like These” July 12-21.

You can see why camping out at the Herberger Theater Center sounds so inviting. Knowing it’s also home to a lovely art gallery, swanky lounge and beautiful outdoor plaza only makes me love it more. If you see a woman holding a sleeping bag standing in bunny slippers near the box office one evening, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just me asking whether my room is ready.

— Lynn

Coming up: Children’s dreams versus parents’ expectations

Copper rush

Not long after I watched a late-night pundit predict a copper run with possible catastrophic consequences, a copper-related press release crossed my virtual desk.

It described a coin drive that’s engaging students and other citizens in collecting pennies to help fund the renovation of Arizona’s own state capitol building copper dome.

Tempted as I might be to riff on all sorts of issues related to revenue and state capitols, the arts are pulling me — for now — in another direction.

I was grateful last week for the alert that came across my laptop as I watched television news headlines of violent revolution and pirates taking children hostage.

I quickly switched my attention to the live feed of a ceremony taking place at the White House. President Obama was honoring recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts and the 2010 National Humanities Medal.

As he placed a large medallion on a long ribbon over the head of James Taylor, Obama whispered something in Taylor’s left  ear. I imagine it might have been something like “Im a fan.”

It’s easy to understand why Taylor was one of 20 Americans honored. Consider the beautiful images conjured by the simplicity of his “Copperline” lyrics from the “New Moon Shine” album:

Took a fall from a windy height
I only knew how to hold on tight
And pray for love enough to last all night
Down on copperline 

Or another verse from the same song…

One time I saw my daddy dance
Watching him moving like a man in a trance
He brought it back from the war in France
Down on copperline

Closer to home, we’ve got the Copperstar Repertory Company, a community theater that works to “entertain, educate and enrich community members of all ages.”

Copperstar performs at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts in the East Valley. Their next production, the musical “Into the Woods” with book by James Lapine and music/lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, runs April 8-16.

I imagine it’ll be refreshing for a change to watch a show where the only feared characters are those who live in fairy tales.

— Lynn

Note: A special “Into the Woods” performance for student groups takes place Thurs, April 14, at 9:45am at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts  (in partnership with Copperstar Repertory Theatre and Higly Community Education). The target audience is grades 4-12 students in language arts and music. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: Field trips with an arts focus, A parent perspective on PBS