Tag Archives: art fundraisers

Rock the Presidents!

Childsplay's "Rock the Presidents" set designed by Holly Winginstad

Though Dwayne Hartford and Anthony Runfola of Childsplay in Tempe are both history buffs, they hadn’t realized that one-fourth of America’s presidents were generals until working on “Rock the Presidents” — a 90-minute musical celebration of the 43 who’ve served in the country’s highest office during the course of 223 years. Or that presidential pets have included a cow, bear cub, alligator and tiger.

The world premiere of “Rock the Presidents” takes place this weekend at Tempe Center for the Arts. The original Childsplay production, in the works for about two years now, features book and lyrics by Dwayne Hartford, an associate artist and playwright-in-residence with Childsplay. Also music by Sarah Roberts, who’s known Hartford for many years thanks to a common thread back in Maine.

Runfola, production manager for Childsplay, directs the work — which has music but no linear story like something you’d experience with a more traditional work of musical theater. Instead, it’s akin to 26 two-minute plays set to music. Think rap, rock, country, folk, blues and more — all part of a CD folks will be able to buy at the show.

Seems neither Runfola, Hartford nor Roberts remember learning more than a few basic facts about the biggies like Washington and Lincoln as they were growing up. All hope children who experience “Rock the Presidents” will leave feeling a little more interested in history. And more connected to history as well. “We don’t look at the past as often as we should to guide us towards the future,” reflects Runfola.

Still, Hartford says he “wanted politics to stay out of this.” He’s not interested in vilifying anyone. There’s a reason he chose to “rock” rather than “mock” the presidents — despite his experience with writing parody. “I grew up in a family that encourages participation in civics and being aware of your part in the community,” recalls Hartford.

“Our presidents were real people,” says Hartford. “They aren’t just statues.” Sure, they all made mistakes. But what he’s celebrating through the work is “their choice to get involved and make a difference.” Hartford sees a common thread binding everyone who’s held the office of president — a desire to help the country, and a belief that they can do just that. “They all believed in the country,” says Hartford, “and the possibilities.” They were optimists.

Both Roberts and Runfola praise Hartford’s decision to portray some of our more recent presidents as children. The approach takes the focus off particular aspects of their politics, and places it on their humanity. And it’s a powerful way to reinforce the show’s main message for children. Anyone, including you, can become president one day.

Your first chance to see “Rock the Presidents” will be this Sunday, Feb. 12 at 4pm — which is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It’s a preview performance so tickets are just $12. Regular performances, recommended for ages seven and up, will run Feb. 18-March 4. Folks who attend the 4pm performance of “Rock the Presidents” on Sat., Feb. 25 can enjoy an election workshop before and backstage tour after.

A Childsplay fundraiser on March 2 will feature a special VIP performance of “Rock the Presidents.” The “Rock the Presidents State Dinner” will raise funds for Childsplay arts-in-education programs. “Rock the Presidents” is also available for school tours (grades 2-12) March 13-May 25. Click here for details — and watch for news of the “Rock the Presidents” national tour.

— Lynn

Note: You can enjoy a free MP3 download of the show’s opening number, “Hail to the Chiefs,” a rap song featuring the names of all 44 presidents — click here for details.

Coming up: Favorite presidents — plus presidential pets


Home sweet theater

After learning of a recent “community day” at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale, I decided to head over and check it out myself.

I found dozens of volunteers sorting props on the back lot, building sets for upcoming productions and painting all sorts of candy images on black walls inside Cullity Hall, where Desert Stages opens their production of “Willy Wonka, Jr.” on Fri, May 20.

They even let me sit in as energetic children and teens peforming in “Willy Wonka, Jr.” packed into another performance space to practice various songs from the show.

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In keeping with the “Willy Wonka, Jr.” theme, Desert Stages Theatre presents their “Golden Ticket Gala” May 14 at the Scottsdale Hilton Resort. They’re also plenty busy with another show, “The Miracle Worker,” which runs through May 29.

As kids and grown-ups participating in last Saturday’s rehearsals and work day gathered around mid-day to share pizza and perky conversation, it was clear that these families truly relish their time together.

— Lynn

Note: Desert Stages Theatre has just announced that tickets for the “Golden Ticket Gala” can still be purchased through today, so act quickly if you want to be part of this evening featuring dinner, dancing, a silent auction and more. Tickets for adults or children are $60 each. Click here for details.

Coming up: Art by children at St. Joseph’s Hospital

Twist my arm

Arm twisting of the yoga variety

Truth be told, no arm twisting will be needed when the Women’s Metropolitan Arts Council holds their “In the Bag” event to benefit the Phoenix Art Museum.

The group consists of professional women who share a love of art and a gift for networking.

And it sounds as though they may have at least one other thing in common–the determination and drive to see to it that no designer bag ever finds itself homeless.

Designer handbag of the Kate Spade variety

In the Bag” on Sept 24, 2010 will feature signature cocktails, hor d’oevres, live entertainment and an auction of designer bags stuffed with all sorts of goodies.

Sip away, friends. It’ll up my odds of prevailing come bidding time!

Phoenix Art Museum presents “The pARTy” on Nov 6, 2010. The annual black-tie gala features cocktails in the sculpture garden, a gourmet dinner and dancing inside the museum’s wing for modern art.

Fundraiser treat of the adults-only variety

Rock on with your artsy self to support the “educational programs and exhibition schedule” of the museum.

Phoenix Boys Choir holds their “Fall 2010 Gala” on Oct 30 at Memorial Hall at Indian School Park. The “cocktail attire” affair features a performance by the choir as well as a jazz ensemble and a live auction. Practice hoisting those auction panels, maties!

“Night at the Museum,” the 2011 fundraising gala for Children’s Museum of Phoenix, takes place Feb 19–and it’s a lovely night of grown up fun “where your inner child comes alive.”

A designer purse of the children’s variety?

I went to their first fundraising gala many years ago, before they even had a building for the museum–and it was among the funnest fancy affairs I’ve ever attended.

Moondance 2010” shines on Heard Museum in Phoenix on Oct 23, featuring cocktails, dinner, dancing and a silent auction–which is your chance to own a work of art by an American Indian artist.

Mistake of the competitive auction bidding variety

More than 45 artists were invited by the Heard to paint a 12″ x 12″ canvas for the auction benefiting the museum’s education programs.

The Heard Museum describes the event as “Arizona Blacktie”–which they translate as “jewels, jeans and jackets.”

Once again, no twisting required.


Note: If your arts organization is holding a fundraiser not mentioned here, feel free to comment below to let our readers know–or send details to rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Coming up: Spotlight on recent Superintendent Candidates Forum at the MIM, Lynn and Liz explore Cedar City in Utah, Season preview for Creative Stages Youth Theatre, Theater awards honoring Valley youth

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12