Tag Archives: ASU Theatre and Film

Musings on Mother’s Day

James’ mother nicely shared with us that she “really doesn’t need anything for Mother’s Day.” Many of us find that “less is more” as time goes by, although I find it hard to believe that a grandmother can ever have too many homemade gifts.

Through the years we’ve made plenty of them—photo albums loaded with pictures and favorite quotes or notes from the kids, homemade candles and glycerin soaps, hand-painted vases and trinket boxes, bouquets of tissue paper and pipe cleaner flowers, and more.

But this year my mother-in-law suggested we simply make a donation to charity on her behalf, graciously trusting us to make the choice about which cause we’d like to support while honoring her special day. There are oodles of options given my children’s diverse interests, including nature and wildlife, civil and human rights, and AIDS/HIV awareness.

James’ dad is often recognized for his contributions to higher education so we’ll keep that in mind for Father’s Day. But I’m leaning towards a museum membership for his mom. Museum memberships are something moms can enjoy alone, with family and with friends.

For a truly memorable Mother’s Day, consider taking your special moms to a museum. Sometimes the greatest gift of all is time together, enjoying new experiences that create lifelong memories. Take a camera along to capture the fun for après-museum scrapbooking.

Some museums have cafes or restaurants where you can treat mom to a special meal or dessert. The Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix has both Arcadia Farms cafe and lush grassy grounds perfect for picnic celebrations.

River of Time Museum Shop

Remember too that many museums have museum shops filled with a variety of unique gift items—some whimsical, some nostalgic, some humorous, some elegant, some practical. The Phoenix Art Museum, for example, has everything from jewelry and books to kitchen utensils and family-friendly games.

Sarah Weber, president of the Central Arizona Museum Association, was kind enough to put out the call to member museums asking for Mother’s Day gift suggestions for our readers.

Here’s a sampling of items they shared with me…

Arizona Capitol Museum in Phoenix. Turquoise jewelry. Copper bracelets. State seal brooches, donkey pins and elephant pins with crystals. Cactus jams and jellies. Books on notable Arizonans (past and present). www.lib.az.us

Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum in Phoenix. Various items related to rocks, fossils and minerals. Jewelry. Books. Decorative items (such as amethyst towers). www.admmr.state.az.us

Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg. Contemporary Navajo jewelry. Glitterflops (high-end flip flips with leather uppers and Swarovski crystals). Cowgirl hats and “bling” cowgirl shirts. www.westernmuseum.org

Mesa Historical Museum in Mesa. Wallace and Ladmo DVDs. Items featuring historic citrus labels from Arizona citrus companies. Aprons, bonnets and other pioneer-theme items. www.mesahistoricalmuseum.org 

More River of Time Goodies

River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills. Southwestern jewelry and pottery. Handmade silk scarves. Coffee table books. Books on history, wildflowers, cooking and more. www.riveroftimemuseum.org

Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction. Collection of books by or about women who had great influence on the people and places of the early West. Gardening, cooking, home décor gifts. T-shirts and turquoise. Pottery and pendants. Christmas ornaments and cacti. www.superstitionmountainmuseum.org

Information about these and additional museums, including the newly-opened Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, is available through the Central Arizona Museum Association. Please check with individual museums for gift shop hours and offerings before visiting.

Remember too that many performing and visual arts venues—including the Mesa Arts Center, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Tempe Center for the Arts—have gift shops featuring everything from original art to fine jewelry. Some venues and museums even offer catalogues and/or online shopping.

Making museums a part of your Mother’s Day celebration is a great way to support the arts in Arizona (and local businesses whose wares are featured in museum gift shops). You can even bring mom along and let her choose her own special gift.


Update: The day after this post was published, I had the opportunity to visit the museum shop at the Phoenix Art Museum, where patrons were enjoying special Wed. eve free admission hours (check museum website for details). Here’s a list of some of my “fun finds”: Exquisite boxes with inlaid burl and other materials in assorted sizes (perfect for jewelry, special desktop items and such), Ikebana (the art of Japanese flower arranging) note cards, “Furoshiki” (traditional Japanese wrapping cloths), Turkey baster complete with bright orange turkey (plus blue whale ice cream spade, white mouse cheese grater, red porcupine scrubber, orange monkey peeler and more), Bright yellow “Swiss cheese” doorstop complete with holes, Andy Warhol theme plasticware, Tres chic trash cans, Funky spins on your boring old ‘to do’ notepads, Magnetic Poetry Kits-Artist theme, Unique wearables (scarves, “Fear No Art” & other T-shirts, purses), Art-theme jigsaw puzzles (Jackson Pollock, Monet, Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, Diego Rivera), Pens and paperweights, Art prints and posters, Soleri bells, Reading glasses, Bridge and playing cards, Luggage tags & travel accessories and plenty more. They also have an extensive offering of books, music and DVDs. Just a few of the books I noticed–The DC Vault, Weird Arizona and Shoe Design. Couple the latter with a gift card for shoe shopping and you’ll win points for thoughtfulness and creativity! I just happened to be at the Phoenix Art Museum, but I know from visiting many other museum shops that each has its own special offerings, so keep both our best-known museums and your smaller neighborhood museums in mind each time you shop for parents, children, teachers and friends.

Note:  Single or season tickets for theater, music or dance performances also make terrific Mother’s Day gifts

Coming up: A weekend of dance delights

Today’s tidbits: ASU Herberger School of Theatre and Film presents “Interrobang” as part of their New Works Series featuring the works of emerging artists in the MFA graduate school cohort. See “And What She Found There,” which examines questions about the nature of theatre and performance, tonight (May 4) at 7:30pm at the Lyceum Theatre at ASU’s Tempe campus. Tickets: $7.

MORE MUSEUM NEWS: Save the date! The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum presents “From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide” Monday, May 10, at 7pm with Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the museum’s Director of Research and Projects, Committee on Conscience. Event is free and open to the public but reservations are requested at www.ushmm.org/events/templesolelaz, 972-490-6300 or southwest@ushmm.org. Event takes place at Temple Solel, located at 6805 E. McDonald Dr. in Paradise Valley.



Sleuthing for weekend adventures

I kicked off my weekend a bit early with last night’s performance of Susan Zeder’s The Death and Life of Sherlock Holmes” at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on ASU’s Tempe campus.

I was eager to see the work of Valley musician and designer Todd Hulet, who teaches Lizabeth’s production studies class at Arizona School for the Arts–especially given his experience in everything from “traditional opera and contemporary musicals to experimental theatre and grand straight plays.” Hulet’s scenic design didn’t disappoint.

Hulet managed to make a single set look like several different backdrops–with different shapes, colors and patterns coming to the fore as the show’s lighting shifted thanks to exceptional lighting design by Chris Peterson. I enjoyed Peterson’s lighting more than any I’ve seen since Arizona Theatre Company’s “The Glass Menagerie.”

The show has a charm best appreciated by those who know at least a little something about Sherlock Holmes and his creator. Its strongest appeal may be to writers and those who love them. The work is every bit as much about author Arthur Conan Doyle’s relationship with Holmes as Holmes’ own sleuthing strategies or the ordinary-by-comparison folks who populate his world.

I’ll be seeing four other shows this weekend—featuring saguaros and satire, teaching in the trenches, an oversized optimist and a coddled child. Had I mastered the pesky time/space continuum, I’d also attend some of the following arts-related events your family might enjoy…


Dancing with the Docs features Valley physicians paired with professional dancers competing for audience votes ala “Dancing with the Stars.” Sat, May 1, 6pm at Chandler Center for the Arts. $45-$85 (benefits Chandler Regional Medical Center).

Levanto features Calo Flamenco music and dance performance with Chris Burton Jacome. Sun, May 2, 3pm at Chandler Center for the Arts. $25 (includes signed CD).


A Taste of Greece features Greek music, dancers and more. Fri, April 30 and Sat, May 1, 11am-11pm (plus Sun, May 2, 11am-7pm) at Tempe Beach Park. $2 (ages 12 & under free).

El Dia de los Ninos features hands-on activities, live entertainment and more. Fri, April 30, 9am-1pm at Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix. Free.


Los Texmaniacs features a blend of Texas rock, conjunto and well-cured blues from 2010 Grammy winners with a “unique Tex Mex groove.” Sun, May 2, 2:30pm at the MIM Music Theater in Phoenix. $32-$36.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park features live music in an outdoor setting perfect for family picnics. Sun, May 2, 7:30-9pm in Scottsdale. Free (Train/carousel rides $1-$2/each).

Melody of China features a synergy between ancient traditions and American youth culture from San Francisco’s premier Chinese music ensemble. Fri, April 30, 7:30pm at the MIM Music Theater in Phoenix. $25-$30.

Phoenix Boys Choir features Academy-Award nominated songs during their “Hooray for Hollywood” spring concert. Fri, Apr 30, 7:30pm at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. $20-$25 (less for seniors/12 & under).

For other family-friendly activities, including several arts events at the Arizona Museum for Youth and the Special Olympics Summer Games, visit the Raising Arizona Kids magazine daily calendar online.

Have a great time sleuthing with your family for arts and adventures this weekend!


Note: The shows I’ll be reviewing next include Arizona Theatre Company’s “Second City Does Arizona, or Close, But No Saguaro” and  Actors Theatre’s “No Child” at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, as well as Childsplay’s “Big Friendly Giant” at Tempe Center for the Arts and Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s “The Secret Garden” at Phoenix College. Stay tuned!

Coming up: A review of the movie “Oceans” from Disneynature, My 200th “Stage Mom” post—featuring more reflections on the beauty of blogging and how I decide what’s worthy of a bit of banter, A night of Shakespeare with Richard III and some of my favorite theater students

Tom Leveen’s “Party”: Mission Accomplished

Lizabeth was eager to tell me about her day when I picked her up after school yesterday.

She’d taken Tom Leveen’s new young adult novel—titled “Party”—to school with her so she could finish reading it as soon as possible. Apparently Leveen’s first published book has that “can’t put it down” quality so many authors hope for.

Lizabeth, a high school junior, was one of just a few teens in the audience Tuesday night as Leveen packed the house for a reading at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Leveen opened his talk with a confession: “I’m ditching my creative writing class to do this.” Pity his classmates weren’t there to share tales of his journey and join in the celebration.

Leveen shared that a novel he wrote long before “Party”—originally titled “Gothic Rainbow”—may soon become published book number two, but with a new title. Leveen fans longing for more can look forward to reading “Zero” when it debuts. Unless, admits Leveen, the title is once again changed.

After a reading from the opening chapter of “Party”—which features the gripping experiences of the first of 11 characters who attend a single party one night in Santa Barbara, California—Leveen answered audience questions about everything from character development to the nuts and bolts of getting published.

“Why write for juniors?” asked one of Leveen’s listeners. “Because,” he replied, “that’s where the change happens.”

Referencing both his own life experiences and the many challenges facing today’s young adults, Leveen reflected on “the importance of books and people stepping in at critical junctures.”

“A lot of people,” shares Leveen, “just need a little bit of help or just need someone to look at them.” He recounts wondering what it might be like to be homeless on the streets of Phoenix—imagining disheartening days without a single person making eye contact or offering even a quick hello.

Leveen shared several of the book’s themes—including faith (and the lack of it), relationships and racism. You’d be amazed by what teens encounter in the mix of family, friends, school and social media these days.

Leveen hopes that his revelation of these 11 teens—with all their triumphs and travails—will magnify the necessity of a single act in the lives of young and old alike…

“Say words,” affirms Leveen.

The characters in his books, who use other means to deal with their passion and their pain, don’t fare all that well. Leveen hopes for a different outcome among young readers. (And, yes, the language gets intense—but that’s real life rather than a literary device.)

Lizabeth shared with me yesterday that she felt Leveen’s work was “powerful”—noting that the first and final pages are especially profound. “He definitely succeeded,” she told me, “in his mission to teach and to touch.”

She described feeling transformed by Leveen’s work—noting that even her posture changed as she moved between classes. Rather than walking with her head down hoping to avoid the many complexities of high school encounters, Lizabeth stood tall—making eye contact with fellow students scurrying to and fro.

The impact of the book really hit her, I suspect, when she found herself offering a cheerful hello to a girl she’s long considered a bit of a bully. To Lizabeth’s surprise, the greeting—and smile—were reciprocated.

So Tom, from a mom: “Great job using your words.”


Coming up: Reviews of five shows I’ll be seeing between now and Sunday–starting with ASU Theatre and Film’s “The Death and Life of Sherlock Holmes”

Today’s Tidbit: Changing Hands Bookstore presents a poetry workshop with ASU English professor Cynthia Hogue at 7pm. (Tickets: $25. Info: 480-730-0205)

There’s an award for that!

A week ago Monday, protestors took to the Arizona state capitol to protest immigration-related legislation—but the governor wasn’t there to witness the gathering.

David and Sonja Faeroy Saar (center) attend 2010 Governor's Arts Awards

She was already scheduled to appear at the 28th annual Governor’s Arts Awards, held at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix—an event presented by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Office of the Governor.

I spoke with a Valley artist attending the event that evening, who felt it a bit odd to be celebrating Arizona arts with the governor at a time when so many sectors of our community—including education, health care and the arts—feel ravaged by state budget cuts.

Still, it’s important to recognize the achievements of Valley artists and arts supporters. Now, more than ever, their work matters. I was especially proud that my 16-year old daughter Lizabeth was there, performing with Greasepaint Youtheatre.

She had strict orders to bring me a program and note names of the 2010 winners so I could pass the info along to you.

Dean Osborne performs at the Grand Canyon Music Festival

Here’s the happy news:

• Composer James DeMars of Tempe, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, received the Artist Award

• Preservationist Elisabeth Ruffner of Prescott, received the Individual Award

• Arts advocate Shirley Chann of Tucson, received the Shelley Arts Advocate Award

• The Grand Canyon Music Festival received the Education Award

Bank of America received the Business Award

The Drawing Studio in Tucson received the Community Award

Art for Kids Project at Webb Center

If you know of a deserving volunteer, artist, advocate, arts organization or business, there are plenty of other awards out there. Consider nominating/voting for the artists and arts lovers in your life if they’re eligible for the following…

• Arizona Central’s “Best” Poll. Vote on nominees online before tomorrow’s (April 28) deadline. Categories include art gallery, annual arts festival/event, regional arts center, theater company, live theater venue, museum, musical festival/event and more.

AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence. Nominations for two awards are being accepted through August 15, 2010. The “Outstanding Contribution Award” honors someone within the theater community and the “Distinguished Service Award” honors an individual, corporation or organization outside the theater community.

• Business in the Arts Awards. Nominations now being accepted for awards to be presented at the August 18, 2010 “New Artitude” event presented by Wells Fargo. Categories include large business partner, mid-size business partner, small business partner, arts organization, arts advocate, arts board member and special business volunteer.

Detour Company Theatre

Two other nifty bits of news in the arts award department…

Arizona Theatre Company’s own Latino Playwriting Award-Winner, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” by Kristoffer Diaz, was honored as a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (The Pulitzer was awarded to “Next to Normal” by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey—which will tour, beginning in November, with stops in Los Angeles and San Diego).

• Eight’s Third Annual Be More Awards™ will be announced at a May 20, 2010 luncheon and awards ceremony at Eight’s downtown Phoenix studios. Nominated arts organizations include the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, Rosie’s House and Valley Youth Theatre (for the “Be More Creative” award recognizing achievement in arts and culture) and Detour Company Theatre (for the “Be More Encouraged” judges’ choice award).

Rosie's House Music Academy

As always, I welcome your input if there are additional resources not included here. Please let me know of other award opportunities in the comment section below so our readers will have even more ways to recognize the artists, advocates and other arts leaders in our communities. There’s only one rule around here: Be nice.


NEW FEATURE! Watch for “Today’s Tidbits” at the end of Monday-Thursday posts so you’ll know of arts experiences you can enjoy during the week with your family or friends. Look for weekend arts events in Friday “Stage Mom” posts. More arts and other family-friendly activities are available every day at Raising Arizona Kids’ online calendar thanks to our amazing calendar editor Mala Blomquist.

Today’s Tidbits: ASU Theatre and Film presents their “5th Annual Student Film Fest” featuring both showcase and competitive formats at 7:30pm at Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe (info at 480-965-6447 or www.theatrefilm.asu.edu) • Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a free CGCC Community Choir and Orchestra Concert at 7pm (info at 480-732-7343) • Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe presents local author Tom Leveen with his debut teen novel “Party” at 7pm (info at www.changinghands.com) • Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents “Talk Cinema: Sneak Preview #7” featuring a film that “depicts the aspirations of all immigrants and the fulfillment of the American dream” followed by a moderated conversation with experts (tickets are $20; info at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org). If you have a visual or performing arts event to share, please drop me a line at rakstagemom@gmail.com. Calendar items can be submitted online.

“Arts in Crisis” tour hits Arizona

I felt like I was on the set with James Lipton of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio” yesterday as I faced two empty leather chairs on the stage at Phoenix Theatre.

The seats were for Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and Michael Kaiser, president of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Kaiser explained that the afternoon—an hour and a half spent with Valley artists and arts advocates—was his 49th stop on a 69-city tour dubbed “Arts in Crisis.” He’d just come from a similar “community conversation” hosted by the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Kaiser was introduced by Rod Castillo, president of the Arizona Alliance for Arts and Education, a member of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network.

Booker asked Kaiser several questions, many addressing how arts organizations can remain vibrant and healthy amidst challenging economic times. Local artists and arts administrators took turns asking questions at a designated microphone.

It was a rare opportunity to interact with the man renowned for his “turnaround” work with arts organizations including the Royal Opera House, American Ballet Theatre and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation.

At Booker’s behest, Kaiser shared 10 tips featured in the latest of four books he’s authored—“The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations”—published in 2008.

These days, Kaiser’s admitted pet project is the “Any Given Child” initiative, which “seeks to bring access, balance, and equity to each child’s arts education.”

So what was the take-away message from all this?

That “you can’t save your way to health.”

The key to thriving in tough economic times may be more about mission than money.

In most cases, says Kaiser, it’s a mistake to focus on cutting back on show quality or quantity. Likewise, there’s little benefit to merely adding more performances, even for popular shows.

Don’t concentrate on doing less. Dream about ways you can begin to do more.

It’s tempting to think fundraising first and production quality second. Don’t.

The winning combo is simply this: high quality projects and consistently sound marketing.

“Arts organizations don’t work in a vacuum,” quips Kaiser. If you’re not delivering new works, taking risks and offering material that’s interesting and exciting, patrons will play elsewhere.

Forget about simply filling slots—searching for material to plug into holidays or other times of the year. Think big. Be bold.

For everything you do, ask yourself this question: “How can I make this project big, excellent and transformative?”

Don’t assume you’ll need big bucks to get big ideas rolling. Don’t assume everything has to happen right away. Invest more time in planning, collaboration and engaging others who share your dreams.

Never undervalue the work you do as an artist, insists Kaiser. “The work we do is important,” he says, “not extraneous or superfluous.”

Kaiser recalls his decision to reopen the Kennedy Center the day after 9/11—a tragedy that took place while his staff was meeting in a room overlooking the Pentagon.

Though some artists worried the move might seem disrespectful, Kaiser held fast to his belief that “people need us now more than ever.”

Every performance was full, he shares, because people wanted a diversion from the 24/7 news cycle.

“They wanted to be inspired,” he says. After seeing the worst of humanity, they longed to be reminded of the best.

That’s the ongoing gift of artists and their art to our communities…

Embrace it.


Photos (from top to bottom): Page from original art print calendar by Mesa Arts Center; Cool Kids campers at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts; Childsplay production of “Tomato Plant Girl;” Visions Gallery at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (photo credit: Michael Lundgren); “The Death and Life of Sherlock Holmes” from ASU’s School of Theatre and Film; Musica Dolca

Note: I’ll tuck away my notes from Monday’s “Arts in Crisis” gathering so I can share more of Kaiser’s insights in future posts. To enjoy more of his work and wisdom, visit artsmanager.org. Learn about additional opportunities to create, cultivate and support the arts in Arizona—and to participate in shaping Arizona arts and culture—by visiting azarts.gov and signing up for arts commission e-newsletters.

Coming up: Conversation with “No Child” playwright and actress Nilaja Sun, whose one woman show presented by Actors Theatre comes to Herberger Center for the Arts later this month