Tag Archives: ASU events

Touched with fire?

Victor Hugo, one of many poets believed to have had a mood disorder

There’s nothing romantic about suicide. Or mental illness. Romeo and Juliet make for compelling characters, but no one should envy their fate. Those who champion the cause of suicide prevention are gathering at the Hayden Lawn at ASU in Tempe this Saturday for one of more than 40 “Out of Darkness” walks taking place around the country. They’re being presented by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which estimates that close to one million Americans attempt suicide each year. More than 36,000 Americans die by suicide each year. Think every 15 minutes.

Irving Berlin, one of many composers thought to have had a mood disorder

Depression and suicide get too little attention from a nation that seems at times incapable of focusing on more than a single challenge. I’m all for research and supports for people living with autism, cancer and diabetes. But 1 in 10 American adults report experiencing depression, which also strikes our youth — and it’s a disease that can kill.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes that 90% of all suicides are related to some form of mental illness, most often depression — which is actually quite treatable. Events like this Saturday’s “Out of Darkness” walk at ASU, which already has more than 250 registered walkers, remind us all to take suicide seriously — and to support prevention strategies that save lives. “Out of Darkness” campus walks help the foundation with research, education, public awareness, screenings, programs to support survivors of suicide and more, according to Dawn Hunter, chair of the group’s Arizona chapter.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of many writers considered to have had a mood disorder

For folks with a special interest in the intersection of art and mental illness, Kay Redfield Jamison’s “Touched With Fire” is an enlightening read. I first read the work when it was released in 1993. James and I were already several years into our journey of parenting a child with mental illness.

I’m revisiting the book this week, looking for insights into the relationship of creativity to mental illness — because “Touched With Fire,” which is subtitled “Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament,” is a comprehensive scholarly treatment of a topic that continues to hold great relevance.

Emily Dickinson, one of many poets thought to have had a mood disorder

The book includes an appendix listing writers, artists and composers with “probable cyclothemia, major depression, or manic-depressive illness” — which includes names familiar to those with even a cursory background in arts and  culture.

It seems the longest list belongs to poets. Think William Blake, Robert Burns, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Victor Hugo, John Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Sexton, Walt Whitman and more. Also writers — Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henrik Ibsen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennessee Williams, Virginia Woolf and others.

Victor van Gogh, one of many artists thought to have had a mood disorder

Composers on Jamison’s “probable” list include George Frideric Handel, Gustav Mahler, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Robert Schumann and Peter Tchaikovsky — and “nonclassical composers and musicians” noted include Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Stephen Foster and Cole Porter.

Jamison writes that “Many if not most of these writers, artists and composers had other health problems as well, such as medical illnesses, alcoholism or drug addiction.” Artists on the list include Thomas Eakins, Paul Gaugin, Vincent van Gogh, Michelangelo, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock and many more.

Virginia Woolf, one of many writers thought to have had a mood disorder

“They are listed,” explains Jamison, “…because their mood symptoms predated their other conditions, because the nature and course of their mood and behavior symptoms were consistent with a diagnosis of an independently existing affective illness, and/or because their family histories…coupled with their own symptoms–were sufficiently strong enough to warrant their inclusion.”

For those of you wondering what qualifies Jamison to draw such conclusions, I offer two important facts. Jamison herself is living with manic-depressive illness, also called “bipolar disorder.” And she’s a professor of psychiatry with The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her own struggles with mental illness are recounted in other works she’s published — including “An Unquiet Mind” and “Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide.”

Click here to learn more about Saturday’s “Out of Darkness” walk — and here to get additional information about suicide and suicide prevention. “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults and the second leading cause of death for college students,” according to Hunter. Every parent, educator and artist should be literate on the topic of suicide prevention because denial is a dangerous thing.

— Lynn

Note: NAMI Walks, another event raising mental health awareness, is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2012 (starting at the Arizona State Capitol). Click here to find additional resources through the Arizona Coalition for Suicide Prevention. Click here for details about an exhibit featuring Vincent van Gogh at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix and here for details about an Arizona Theatre Company production of “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” at the Herberger Theater Center.

Coming up: More books from Lynn’s library


New season “sneak peeks”

Families can enjoy a taste of Broadway in Arizona this month as ASU Gammage in Tempe presents their 2011-2012 season preview event Mon, July 25 at 7:30pm. The event features a free “sneak peek” at the upcoming season — which includes classics like “West Side Story” and “South Pacific” plus newer works like ‘Million Dollar Quartet” and “American Idiot.”

ASU Gammage promises pre-event family activities in the ASU Gammage lobby, special guest appearances and free dessert after the preview event. The preview event will be your first opportunity to purchase mini-package subscriptions if you’d like to attend only some of the shows in this season’s line-up.

Tempe Center for the Arts presents their “TCA Fall Arts Kick-off” Fri, Aug 19 from 6-8pm. It features live music, artist demonstrations, gallery tours and more. Fall season information and special advance ticket pricing will be available.

Popular TCA programs include the Lakeshore Jazz Series, Performance With a View, Poetry in April, Songwriters’ Showcase, Sonoran Chamber Music Series, Tempe Symphony Orchestra and Walk-in Wednesday Open Mic Night.

Several “partner groups” perform at the TCA — including A Ludwig Dance Theatre, Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts, Arizona Wind Symphony, Childsplay, CONDER/dance, Desert Dance Theatre, Tempe Community Chorus, Tempe Live! Theater and Tempe Symphonic Wind Ensemble.

The last “sneak peek” event I attended was presented by Mesa Arts Center, which has a lovely complement of founding resident companies including Ballet Etudes, East Valley Children’s Theater, Mesa Encore Theater, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Sonoran Desert Chorale, Southwest Shakespeare Company, Symphony of the Southwest and Xico Inc.

I had a great time gathering information about diverse programs, meeting fascinating artists and chatting with fellow art lovers. The next MAC preview event is a three-day “Season Kick-Off Festival” taking place Sept 9-11.

Keep an eye on Valley venues like Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts because many hold fall or spring “preview” events that offer a taste of their dance, music and theater menus. Who doesn’t love a free nibble now and then?

— Lynn

Note: A “Fall for the Arts Festival” presented by Arizona Broadway Theatre and Leadership West Oct 8 from 10am-4pm will feature live performance by various arts groups, creative activities for children and more.

Coming up: Introducing kids to classical music, Disney musicals on Valley stages, Art promoting peace

Free family fun day

Face painting. Finger puppets. Book marks. Bracelets. Key chains. Journals. Goofy glasses. Buttons. Wind chimes.

They’re all free activities your children can enjoy this weekend at ASU’s “Family Fun Day” on the Tempe campus.

There’s free entertainment too. Think Blue Bike Kids Show and Zumbatomics with Melinda Mills-Walkey. Plus the chance to visit with “Super Why” from KAET/PBS.

Families can enjoy the “Words of Art” exhibition at the ASU Art Museum too. It’s also free of charge during the event, which runs Sat, July 9 from 10am to 2pm. Don the sunhats, lather up with sunscreen, pack the water bottles and join the fun at Mill Avenue and 10th Street.

Even Changing Hands Bookstore of Tempe is joining the fun with author/illustrator events at their “pop-up booth.” They’ve got all sorts of monthly activities for kids — including reading clubs, storytimes for preschoolers and bilingual storytimes.

There’s a costume storytime the first Saturday of each month, an animal talk with the Phoenix Zoo the third Saturday of each month and an explore-a-story event with Childsplay each fourth Saturday of the month. They’re all free.

Other Changing Hands offerings this month include a pajama storytime for preschoolers (Thurs, June 14), an animal collage workshop (Sat, July 16), a family pirate event (Sat, July 23), a family comedy improv show (Mon, July 25) and more.

There’s plenty for parents and teachers to enjoy this month at Changing Hands. Educator and motivational speaker Sandra Zerner discusses her new book “It’s Good 2B Good” Wed, July 6. Music education advocate Scott Lang presents “Leader of the Band,” his book profiling the professional and personal lives of nine music teachers, Fri, July 8.

Changing Hands Bookstore partners with Hoodlums Music & Movies for “Community Movie Night” Fri, July 22. They’ll be screening “Why We Fight,” a PG-13 film by Eugene Jarecki that “examines the rising influence of the military-industrial complex.” The uber-studious among you can click here to read a study guide.

Just don’t bother the rest of us. We’ll be busy playing with our finger puppets.

— Lynn

Coming up:  Tropical heat — Arizona style, NYC’s first “green” library goes orange!

Evolution of a play

"Dreaming Darwin" opens Feb 11 at ASU in Tempe

Ever wonder how a work performed on stage goes from initial idea to polished performance?

You’ve seen a bit of the process if you’ve been following the development of “Dreaming Darwin” since its 2009 staged reading at Arizona State University.

My son, Christopher, is likely tempted to correct me here. As a student of native plants and wildlife biology, he enjoys sharing the finer points of how evolution differs from adaptation.

I suppose there’s good reason I’ve never authored a “Science Mom” post. Still, I’m fascinated by the work of Charles Darwin — and intrigued by the attempt in “Dreaming Darwin” to explore the famous naturalist’s inner world.

School of Theatre and Film faculty members Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster assembled a team of ASU student artists to create this new work, intended as a “fantasy on a theme” about Charles Darwin.

“Dreaming Darwin” is being performed at ASU’s Prism Theatre in Tempe Feb 11-19.

After seeing the 2009 film “Creation” with Christopher last year at the Harkins Valley Art Theatre, I’ve come to think of Darwin as a family man first and a scientist second.

I haven’t any way of knowing what truly occupied his thoughts or his time, but I relish the opportunity to do some imagining of my own — inspired by the “Dreaming Darwin” performances at ASU.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the many offerings of the School of Theatre and Film at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU

Coming up: You be the judge, Mixed reviews for Ronald Reagan

Photo Credit: Original illustration by Ben Swift (www.nonsinthetik.co.uk) for SIN Cru, a Hip Hop dance, music and art company in Cambridge, UK (www.sincru.co.uk)

Growing up with the Grinch

One of my favorite books (and television cartoons) from Christmases past

For those of us born into the world that considered color television a high-tech wonder, certain holiday cartoons bring back warm childhood memories.

There’s Linus, waiting with his blanket for the “Great Pumpkin” to appear. Rudolph the reindeer fretting over his blinking nose. Charlie Brown choosing a humble Christmas tree.

For me, it’s Cindy Lou Who waddling around on Christmas Eve in her little pink pajamas, holding a red ornament that’s fallen from her Christmas tree mid-heist.

The thief, of course, is the Grinch — who hopes to steal not only every trace of Christmas, but the very heart of hope and love that it celebrates.

When the movie version starring Jim Carrey was released several years ago, I just couldn’t bring myself to see it. With Ron Howard directing, I’m sure it’s a perfectly wonderful bit of movie magic.

But I want to think of Cindy Lou Who — and the serene, singing folks of Dr. Seuss’ Whoville — when I conjure memories of Christmas past. Carrey, though wildly talented, simply isn’t as cute.

Still, I’m keeping an open mind about the touring production of “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” which runs at ASU Gammage in Tempe Nov 17 to 21.

Stefan Karl Stefansson and fellow cast members of "The Grinch" musical playing for a short time only at ASU Gammage in Tempe (Photo: PaparazziByAppointment.com)

The Grinch is none other than Stefan Karl Stefansson, an Icelandic actor your children may know as Nick, Jr.’s “Lazytown” villain, Robbie Rotten.

I’ll be seeing the show Thursday evening (Wednesday evening found me at a Mesa Cinemark movie theater for a special engagement showing of “The Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert”).

I’ll update this post with a review of sorts once I’ve experienced the Grinch in all his glory.

In the meantime, learn more about this enchanting story — and the Broadway version — by visiting the ASU Gammage website at asugammage.com (where “Gammage Goer” reviews get posted).

To enjoy a lovely walk down memory lane in the land of Dr. Seuss, visit his Random House website at seussville.com. It features information for parents and educators as well as games and activities for children.

And don’t forget about the touring production’s website at grinchmusical.com. It’s got the scoop on cast and creative team, as well as its own set of seriously fun activities.

Today’s children can still enjoy the mid-60’s classic that many of their parents grew up with. But why not add the enchanting experience of a live theater production?

No one has to know you’re the real kid at heart sitting in the audience…

— Lynn

Note: ASU Gammage has several special offers and opportunities for theater patrons, so click here to learn more about unique offerings related to “The Grinch.”

Coming up: Days of double posts as “Stage Mom” hits high gear to cover the Valley’s many holiday offerings in dance, music, theater and more. Once you’ve enjoyed “The Grinch” with your family, there’s plenty more to explore.

Update: I’m spending Thursday evening in “Nurse Mom” rather than “Stage Mom” mode — so when you see the show, why not add a comment below with your favorite moments from “The Grinch” at ASU Gammage. Thanks!

ASU meets NYT

My husband James enjoyed a rare and simple pleasure this weekend when I left him with fresh copies of the Sunday papers so I could head out to the grocery store. It seemed the least I could do after seeing him stare at a bowl of cereal for which there was no milk.

When I returned, he handed me a lovely stack of papers that looked nothing like the pile he inherits from me most Sundays. Lopsided ads strewn about by our sometimes-frugal ASU student. Crossword puzzles ripped from arts sections so only half of most articles remain.

But most appreciated was The New York Times insert from the ASU Herberger Institute’s School of Theatre and Film — which details their 2010/2011 MainStage Season. Lizabeth and I enjoyed reviewing it together — over cereal complete with milk.

The School of Theatre and Film describes the season, which features seven plays and a student film festival, as “action-packed and innovative.” A central theme is exploring “the relationships that bind people together.”

The School’s director, Guillermo Reyes (also artistic director of the MainStage Season), says the season is “filled with contemporary and original works” focused on our relationships with “one another, our families and even our enemies.”

For those of you who missed it when we first announced the upcoming season, here’s a look at the many thoughtful works they’ll be presenting…

26 Miles by Quiara Alegria Hudes. Hudes wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” (performed last season at ASU Gammage featuring composer and lyricist Lin Manual Miranda in the role he originated on Broadway). It’s a “coming of age dramedy” in which a Cuban-American teen explores her ethnic identify while taking a road trip with her estranged mother. I’m eager to experience the work, directed by Jerry Ruiz, with an eye to issues of both borders and boundaries. October 2010.

Big Love by Charles L. Mee. Kim Weild directs “an extavagent retelling of one of the oldest plays in Western history.” Picture “50 Greek sisters escaping by boat from what might be the world’s largest arranged marriage” — then imagine the tragedy, of Greek proportions, that ensues. I’ll be watching this with fond memories of my own ill-fated trip to see the tiny Greek isle of Patmos. November 2010 (contains nudity).

Allegra by Asher Wyndham. William Partian directs this MFA playwriting candidate work about a television newscaster who learns her unborn child might have Down Syndrome — then “grapples with the decision of whether to keep her unborn baby.” I suspect my experience with this work will be influenced by my many encounters with mothers, including Gina Johnson of “Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona” and Amy Silverman of “Girl in a Party Hat,” who parent children with Down Syndrome with both grit and grace. December 2010.

Dreaming Darwin by Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster. This workshop production, directed by Gharavi, is a new work created when these two professors “assembled a team of ASU student artists” to explore Charles Darwin as a “fantasy on a theme.” It’s the next stage in the evolution of the work, presented last season as a staged reading. I may experience this as a sort of intersection of my three children’s interests — wildlife biology, cultural anthropology and theater arts. February 2011 (just in time to celebrate Darwin’s birthday).

A Bridge to the Stars by Henning Mankell (adapted by John Retallack). This work, a “poignant and soulful tale of a boy’s search for family, community and meaning,” is set against the “endless night” of a mythical Scandinavian village. I’ll be seeing this one with fond memories of long days and nights, as well as “northern lights,” during my childhood years in Alaska — plus college travels to cold, crisp and clean cities in Scandinavian countries. March 2011.

“The Skriker” by Caryl Churchill. This fantasy, directed by Joya Scott, “depicts a fairy underworld that has begun to bleed into our own” as a shape-shifting ghost “befriends, manipulates and attempts to control two young women.” The piece features “rich, evocative language…brought to life through movement and music.” I suspect I’ll watch this one feeling ever so grateful I’m not at home in front of a television series toying with tacky variations on similar themes. April 2011.

In the Penal Colony by Christian Krauspe. Kyle Lewis directs this adapatation of Frank Kafka’s original short story by an MFA playwriting candidate. The work explores the “the boundaries of punishment, loyalty, morality and tradition.” I’m not sure what I’ll take along when I see this work, but I don’t doubt that I’ll come away with something altogether more profound. April 2011.

Of one thing I am certain. The only thing sweeter than relaxing with a copy of The New York Times on Sunday morning is opening the paper to find more exciting news about ASU arts offerings — along with knowing I’ll be able to enjoy them firsthand as their new seasons of theater, film, music and dance unfold.


Note: The ASU 2010-2011 MainStage Season also includes the 6th Annual ASU Student Film Festival — taking place at the Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe April 25 and 26, 2011. The event features “the best student films produced within the school, and features a 10-minute film competition sponsored by the ASU Film Association.” To learn more about season performance locations and ticket prices, visit www.mainstage.asu.edu.

Coming up: Animal art, Laugh your brass off, Spotlight on storytelling, Conversations with Cory English about life on the road with family and “Young Frankenstein”