Tag Archives: ARTrageous

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 www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

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


Once upon a concert

“Guess what Lizabeth is doing this evening?” My husband greeted me with the question after I got home from a day spent at the Arizona Humanities Festival in downtown Phoenix. Earlier in the week, our youngest daughter lamented being bored. “She lives in Manhattan,” James mused at the time, “and she can’t find anything to do.”

Of course, there’s always something happening in New York City. The trick is making it in Manhattan on a college student’s budget, and Lizabeth has long been mindful of the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. She called home while I was out to ask about getting tickets for the nosebleed section of a concert at Carnegie Hall.

Lizabeth called home after the concert too, eager to talk with us about her adventure. This was about 10:30pm our time, one of many clues that Lizabeth is adapting to life in the “city that never sleeps.”

She’d jumped a subway to make the trek from her university near the World Trade Center to the 59th Street/Columbus Street station – putting her near Columbus Circle, where big names in protest music had performed “We Shall Overcome” for “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators just a day before.

When I mentioned Pete Seeger’s participation in the march to Columbus Circle, Lizabeth noted that she’d seen Seeger-related materials while exploring some exhibits before taking her seat for the show. Seems one of Seeger’s most famous solo concerts took place at Carnegie Hall exactly thirty years to the day before Lizabeth, our youngest, was born.

Her favorite finds at the Rose Museum and Archive included a baton used by conductor Leonard Bernstein, a scarf worn by dancer Isadora Duncan and eyeglasses worn by singer Ella Fitzgerald. Also a signed photo of George Gershwin, a record signed by Judy Garland, a program signed by Luciano Pavarotti and a program signed by all four Beatles. 

Liz was thrilled to meet Audra McDonald in NYC

Lizabeth was at Carnegie Hall that evening to hear Audra McDonald, who’ll perform the role of Bess in “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” which begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Dec. 17. Somehow we’d missed her performance at last year’s “ARTrageous” event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

I love talking with Lizabeth after she’s experienced a performance. She observes and describes them with what I’ve always considered a writer’s eye, though it’s clearly part of the acting craft as well – something Lizabeth is studying at Pace University. She started by telling me about McDonald’s stunning midnight blue gown, and shared that catching her first glimpse of McDonald on stage brought tears to her eyes.

Lizabeth started voice lessons several years ago, studying first with Toby Yatso — one of her beloved theater teachers at Arizona School for the Arts. He’d encouraged her to listen to McDonald’s recordings, and shared his love along the way for all things Audra. The majesty of her first Carnegie Hall experience left Lizabeth remembering Yatso, one of many teachers who helped her make all those dreams of studying acting in New York a reality.

Lizabeth stayed after the show for an hour or so, waiting by the stage door to tell McDonald how much she enjoyed the performance — eager to tell her about Yatso’s devotion to her work and the way she’d felt moved by that evening’s performance.

But a group of women, “groupies” in a not-so-lovely sense of the word, pushed their way past others waiting patiently in line — only to position themselves directly in front of the stage door, “practically jumping on McDonald” as she exited with her young daughter after the show.

Lizabeth was hoping to chat briefly with McDonald, but decided by the time they met, that keeping it brief would be best. She asked for two autographs — one for Yatso and another for herself — and accepted when McDonald graciously offered to pose with her for a photo. Lizabeth told me she thought it better to let McDonald’s daughter get home to bed than to keep her any longer.

Lizabeth thanked McDonald for making time to meet and greet the folks who’d come to hear her sing that evening, then hopped a subway back to her dorm — where foot blisters from all that NYC walking got bandaged as a proud mama relished telephone time with a daughter making all kinds of strides in the world.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy a recent NPR interview with Audra McDonald, here to read a review of the concert written by Stephen Holden of The New York Times and here to visit McDonald’s Facebook page. Click here to learn more about this year’s “ARTrageous” event in Scottsdale.

Coming up: Local stage offerings from Shakespeare to Disney

Tony Award winners heading to Scottsdale

Sometimes good news is bittersweet. I’m thrilled with the line-up of Broadway talent coming the the Valley during the 2011/12 season, but lamenting the loss of my best theater buddy. My 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth graduated Thursday night from Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, and heads to NYC this fall to start B.F.A. in acting studies.

I suppose it heralds a new stage in a relationship forged largely through our shared love of theater. I’ll be attending Valley theater events on my own, and she’ll be enjoying live theater on Broadway and throughout the region. Hopefully she’ll find time to call home now and then so we can swap stories.

Bebe Newerth has Tony Awards for her performances in Chicago and Sweet Charity

I’ll have plenty of Tony Award® winning powerhouses to take my mind off missing Lizabeth — Bebe Neuwirth, Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, Jane Krakowski. Though it’s unlikely even their performances will never top my memories of watching Lizabeth perform in her final ASA Showcase at the Orpheum — where she and fellow theater students rocked “21 Guns” from “American Idiot” and did a twisted take on “Little Red Riding Hood” proud.

We’ve been enjoying art exhibits and live performances together at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for as long as I can remember. Dance recitals. Outdoor symphony concerts. And most recently, an evening with Broadway legend Betty Buckley and Seth Rudetsky.

We were thrilled to see Kristin Chenoweth during her ARTrageous performance at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, though disappointed we’d missed her latte run to the local Starbucks. ARTrageous 2011, titled “An Evening on Broadway,” stars Marvin Hamlisch, Linda Eder and J. Mark McVey.

ARTrageous takes place Sat, Dec. 3 — making tickets or an evening of music together the perfect holiday gift. Choose the VIP ticket option if you’d also like to enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and an apres-concert desert reception — as well as local entertainment and a silent auction — to benefit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Hamlisch has not only a Tony Award®, but also three Oscars, four Emmys, four Grammys and three Golden Globes. When last Lizabeth was asked to write about a composer whose work she admired, Hamlisch was the logical choice. His music for “A Chorus Line” was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize, and we adore it.

Eder is a versatile vocalist who elevates everything she sings, from Broadway and jazz to country and pop. Her newest CD, titled “Now,” couples Eder’s artistry with that of Broadway and pop composer Frank Wildhorn. McVey made his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” after his touring performance earned the Helen Hayes Award for “Outstanding Actor.”

Ben Vereen brings his musical autobiography to Scottsdale in November

Broadway fans should take note of at least two other offerings from the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts 2011/12 season. Tony Award® winner Ben Vereen performs a “musical autobiography” of his life titled “Steppin’ Out” on Sat, Nov 19. And the Tues, Dec 6 “Keyboard Conversations”® with Jeffrey Siegel (think concert plus commentary) features a “Gershwin and Friends” theme. (Check out the “Keyboard in the Sky”™ while Siegel tickles the ivories.)

I’d live on Broadway if they’d let me. I’d love to pop in and out of all sorts of theaters, and sneak occasional peaks at the daughter who’ll be honing her own acting craft just a few blocks away. But something tells me Lizabeth won’t be missing the theater together time nearly as much as me. And that’s as it should be.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read a companion post featuring news of a new exhibit at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library — and related events that’ll up the exhibit’s fun factor.

Coming up: From Sondheim to South Park

“Little Red Riding Hood” lives!

Never fear, my dears… 

Contrary to what you may have read in yesterday’s post, “Little Red Riding Hood” is alive and well. She’ll soon appear on a West Valley stage for Theater Works’ “Into the Woods” opening in August. 

I find this thrilling for many reasons, not the least of which is my eagerness to feature images of other characters from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm

“Into the Woods” is a creative take on the famed brothers’ fables in musical theater form–complete with music and lyrics by contemporary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, proud recipient of oodles of Tony Awards.

“Into the Woods” features the intertwined adventures of beloved characters such as Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack (of beanstalk fame) and many more.

The work “explores both the whimsy of wishing and the darker side of the forest.” It’s fun for all ages because it can be enjoyed, and interpreted, on so many levels. I find something new each time I see it. 

Fun-loving theater goers needn’t wait until August to get their fix… 

If your child is still searching for the right summer camp fit, consider the four remaining camps offered by Youth Works, which include: 

“Enchanted Forest” for ages 4-6. Three sessions: June 28-July 2, July 5-9, Aug 2-6. All 9am-noon. $150/session. 

“Build a Play Workshop” for ages 7 to high school. July 5-9, 9am-4pm, $150. 

“Honk! Junior The Musical” for ages 7 to high school. July 12-30, 9am-4pm, $450. 

“Monster Mash Inside Out Techie Workshop.” Aug 2-6, 9am-4pm, $150. 

If you’re a fan of cabaret-style entertainment, mark your calendar for two Theater Works cabarets taking place this summer.

Their “On The Air!” cabaret, being performed July 16-20, features a “live broadcast” over the fictional oldies station “KDOG.” Theater goers will enjoy 18 chart toppers originally sung by Connie Francis, Bobby Darin, The Platters, The Drifters, Elvis Presley and more—plus comedy routines including a reprise of Abbott & Costello’s famed “Who’s on First.”

Their Aug 13-15 cabaret theme has yet to be announced—so stay tuned to www.theaterworks.org for further details. Theater Works cabarets are presented at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts and include entertainment and appetizers for $29. Wine is available at additional cost, though this is hardly a concern of the “sippy cup” crowd. 

By now you may have surmised something noted by Theater Works executive director Jack Lytle, one of several eloquent speakers featured in a recent video from the City of Peoria…

“We have something,” says Lytle, “for everyone.” 


Note: Theater Works has just announced that there are still scholarship opportunities for summer campers, and that discounts apply when your child attends more than one camp or you enroll siblings in their summer camps. Get details by visiting the Theater Works website or calling Robyn Allen at 623-815-1791, ext. 103. Also note that Theater Works recently posted a job opportunity in their youth theater program—details also available online.

Coming up: Summer movie reviews, Spotlight on CONDER/dance, Weekend arts picks

Fun FAQs: “Into the Woods” earned three Tony Awards in 1987–“Best Score” for Stephen Sondheim, “Best Book” for James Lapine and “Best Actress in a Musical” for Joanna Gleason (“Baker’s Wife”). Bernadette Peters, “The Witch” in both the 1987 Broadway premiere and the 1997 Broadway revival, will star at the Dec 4, 2010 ARTrageous event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Sexy in the city?

I was thrilled to discover yesterday that fellow RAK blogger Debra Rich Gettleman—who writes “Unmotherly Insights” amidst other gigs that include parenting, acting, playwriting and more—made the daily ‘best of blogs’ for WordPress for the second time.

Big '80s hair is back...But is it sexy?

I shared the news with my husband and daughters over dinner as we celebrated Jennifer’s move to on-campus housing, and we got to wondering whether a “Stage Mom” post might fare as well if I jazzed up some of my titles (as if yesterday’s “potluck” teaser wasn’t exciting enough).

Debra’s post (titled “Sexy mama!”) features a photo of the orange and pink Dunkin’ Donuts logo. Jennifer suggested I try a little “social experiment”–punctuating my posts with words like “sexy” for a week or so to see what happens.

I started wondering whether any of my upcoming topics might actually warrant this description. Classes offered by private performing arts studios? Nope. Museum-related careers? Nope. Teaching tolerance through the arts? Nope.

Then it came to me…

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts recently announced their upcoming season. If you think of “sexy” as intriguing, exciting and provocative, this venue clearly qualifies. Those who consider the brain a bonafide erogenous zone may be especially inclined to agree.

One of King Tut's sexier moments?

For the ‘smart equals sexy’ crowd, they’ll present the likes of singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, comedian and banjoist Steve Martin, and Tony-Award winning actor John Lithgow (known to fans of Showtime’s “Dexter” as “The Trinity Killer”).

For the ‘exotic is sexy’ arts lover, there’s the taiko drummers of Kodo—and The Mystical Arts of Tibet.

If jazz is what turns you on, get ready for jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, trumpeter Doc Severinsen & El Ritmo de la Vida, the Count Basie Orchestra and The Manhattan Transfer.

Sexy covered by a cat suit

Broadway buffs will delight in performances by Tony Award winners Bernadette Peters (who’ll grace the stage of the Virginia G. Piper Theater for the ARTrageous celebration in December) and Betty Buckley of CATS fame.

Fans of “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” on SIRIUS XM are no doubt wondering whether the “a-mah-zing” Seth Rudetsky might accompany Buckley on piano, which would merit a “sexy” and “donuts” designation from some theater folk.

If you’ve read a good sampling of my 200 + “Stage Mom” posts (I never miss a day), you can likely guess what my personal favorite for the Center’s upcoming season might be…

It’s the Merce Cunningham Dance Company “Legacy Tour,” which offers your “last opportunity to see this great American dance company perform the choreography of the late Merce Cunningham before it disbands.”

My mother told me long ago that you don’t have to reveal everything to be sexy. And so I’ll offer just a few more peeks at what the Scottsdale Center for the Arts has in store…

Sexy in a Shakespearean sort of way

Film screenings. Holiday shows. Family fare. Classical music. Shakespeare. Rock opera. Political humor. Best-selling authors. Acting workshops. Hispanic heritage celebrations. Native American song and dance. And Scottsdale traditions including “Sunday A’Fair” and the “Scottsdale Arts Festival.”

Holding back a bit also gives me another excuse to go “sexy” with future posts. So stay tuned, and check the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website in the meantime for more juicy details about all things “sexy” in their upcoming season.

When it comes to the Arizona arts scene, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts brings “sexy” to the city…


Lynn and Liz get ARTrageous!

I better state my objections right up front on this one. Shoulder pads appear to be back and four little dessert squares (no matter how divine) will not fit on a napkin smaller than my palm. Other than that I really have only good things—make that glowing things—to say about Saturday night’s ARTrageous celebration of the renovated and just reopened theater at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

I went with my daughter, Lizabeth, a high school theatre arts student studying for an onstage career. She got the front row seat. I sat farther back so we could compare notes. Turns out Liz’s seat required infinitely more self-control. After sharing that she’s been a bit under the weather, the evening’s star entertainer gleefully threw her tissue (and I don’t mean a clean one) into the audience.

Did you catch that clue? Ask your tween son or daughter who recently appeared on the Fox television hit Glee and they’ll know in a heartbeat: the incomparable Kristin Chenoweth, known to many as the original Glinda in Wicked on Broadway. She’s also done West Wing and Pushing Daisies proud. Then there’s her Emmy. And her Tony. And oodles of other awards. (You can learn about all things Chenoweth at http://www.kristin-chenoweth.com.)

“You could probably get three dollars for that thing on e-Bay,” Chenoweth told the man who scooped up the truly one of a kind souvenir. Liz—I’m proud of you for not making a run for it. Let’s send Chenoweth a clean tissue and a Sharpie and see if we can get it back with an autograph, sans snot. After hearing Chenoweth’s soulful rendition of “Taylor the Latte Boy” I suspect we ought to send her a Starbucks gift card too. She’s got it bad for the espresso. I like that in a woman.

The fun began well before the lush yellow curtain opened and the giant red velvet bow marking the ribbon cutting ceremony was cut. From the moment we approached the new theater on wide pedestrian paths that meander along spacious lawns at the Scottsdale Civic Center, we were surrounded by festive sights and sounds.

Pulsating music and lights. Fast-paced video art projected on a lovely smooth exterior wall of the theater. Sculptures old and new. Beautiful people young and old. Even roving artists donning Nick Cave “Soundsuits,” which left me feeling we may well have witnessed the birth of the southwestern version of Rio’s Carnival. (To really get a feel for it check out http://www.smoca.org for pictures of the Cave creations that so beautifully tied everything together.)

When we entered the theater, it literally took my breath away. Organic lines. Rich colors. Glowing light.

Lizabeth was especially impressed with students from the Scottsdale Community College dance department, who served as a sort of moving exhibit as they danced individually throughout the theater while guests were buzzing about the venue’s changes and getting seated for the concert. Liz has studied with their theatre arts department but this was our first entrée into SCC dance. (It won’t be our last!)

Our family enjoyed plenty of special moments in the original theater. We saw Jennifer perform during Dance Theater West recitals. We took Lizabeth to see Mandy Patinkin when she used to fall asleep each night listening to his “Kidults” CD. (I’m still mourning the loss of Patinkin and Chicago Hope with its powerful themes of losing a child and living with mental illness.)

During Lizabeth’s decade of classical ballet training, we took her to see Mikhail Baryshnikov at this theater, sitting close enough to see beads of sweat dancing across his brow. When she studied violin (another decade long pursuit for the real artist in our family), James took Liz to see Joshua Bell.

One thing about this venue remains unchanged—the incredible diversity of top notch performers who make their way to its stage. (And don’t even get me started on the daytime attractions at Scottsdale Civic Center—like flowers beds and swans perfect for family photography fun, and a gift shop brimming with unique and affordable gifts that make it a joy to shop for teacher gifts.)

Still, on this night, I felt we had been transported to another place.

It was BIG—still intimate size-wise, but something so substantial that it really took me quite some time to take it all in. I wanted to flip open my phone and send my husband just one simple message—OMG—but somehow that seemed tacky. I just didn’t have the words for it.

When Chenoweth’s petite feet first peeked out from behind the curtain, they were dripping with sparkles. Like a disco ball might look if only it could get some respect. Her strapless hot pink dress shone beautifully against the backdrop of three puddled cream-colored curtains and a delicate chandelier. Even her elbows were sexy.

Chenoweth raved over and over again about the beauty of the space. “And the acoustics are awesome,” she shouted. As she sang, the theater was otherwise bathed in silence. The audience was rapt. Except for the gentleman bouncing with the beat just one row ahead of me. I liked his style too.

This “new” venue—the Virginia G. Piper Theater at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts—really is a remarkable place. Exquisite. Breathtaking. Soul-stirring. Treat yourself to a night on the town. This theater will not disappoint. You can learn about upcoming shows at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

If you happen to bump into Chenoweth someday at Starbucks, pretty please ask her where she gets her fancy footwear…


Coming soon: ASU Gammage welcomes The Phantom of the Opera. Celebrating Halloween while enjoying the arts.