Tag Archives: Broadway Cares

Artists battle AIDS

I was delighted to stumble onto two panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt while attending Thursday’s “Empty Bowl” event at Scottsdale Community College. These portions of the quilt are being exhibited through Dec. 2 in a foyer just outside the SCC cafeteria.

A representative of the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS was on hand the afternoon I stopped by, and talked with various students and staff who stopped by to see the quilt and watch the multimedia presentaion featuring AIDS-related facts and statistics.

The following photos show just a few of the quilt panels and educational slides I saw while visiting the World AIDS Day 2011 exhibit at SCC.

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Those of you eager to explore some of the ways artists have tackled the topics of HIV and AIDS can visit the online gallery for “Art for AIDS,” which benefits the University of California San Francisco AIDS Health Project.

Broadway fans can support efforts to treat and eradicate HIV/AIDS by doing their holiday shopping with “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.” Online offerings include all sort of show-related fare. Think holiday ornaments, tote bags, books, music, Playbill® items, clothing, jewelry and more — lots more. Even “dancers responding to AIDS” items.

Folks lucky enough to be in NYC early next week can attend the 23rd annual “Gypsy of the Year” event, which is “the culmination of six weeks of intensive fundraising by Broadway, Off-Broadway and national touring companies.”

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS notes that “it’s also a sensational display of the most talented singers and dancers in the chorus of shows.” These are the folks affectionately referred to as “gypsies.”

Each show is being hosted by Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky, beloved by many for his many radio and live performance gigs. My daughter was thrilled to meet Rudetsky and Betty Buckley after their Scottsdale concert last year, and recently raved about her first stint in the Sirius XM “Seth Speaks” audience.

Awards will be presented to the top Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraisers, with special recognition going to the musical “Billy Elliot,” which closes in early January, and has raised more than $1 million for the cause during its three year run. I saw “Billy Elliot” with Lizabeth and fellow Pace University families during my last trip to NYC, and it’s truly spectacular.

If you’ve yet to help the cause of fighting HIV/AIDS and helping those affected by it, now is the time to get involved — whether via Broadway or on your own block.

— Lynn

Coming up: We’re off to see the Wizard…

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Thespian crossing

The streets of Phoenix are overrun each fall by high school students who look like they just inherited the world’s largest candy store. Dressed in colorful garb, they chatter with wide-eyed excitement — thrilled to be out of the classroom and into the spotlight of Arizona’s Thespian Festival.

These Santa Rita High School students enjoyed the thespian marketplace on Friday

A teacher from Higley High School who had 28 teens in tow was the first to cross my path, pointing me to the right part of the massive Phoenix Convention Center — where I soon encountered all sorts of thespians dressed for the day’s “jungle theme.”

Students from Desert View High School doing the jungle theme proud

Linda Phillips, state director for the Arizona Thespians, gave me a warm welcome — then set me up with a nametag and such before I headed out to explore the exhibitor area.

These students from Notre Dame Preparatory High School rocked safari gear and dialect

I hit the silent auction area first, eager to see this year’s offerings — which include amazing autographed items (Playbills, posters and such), gift baskets and more. Proceeds benefit student scholarships and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Samples of amazing silent auction items at this year's Arizona Thespian Festival

Soon I was trading Shakepearean insults with a charming fellow from Dramatic Publishing, and talking with a lovely woman about some of their newer offerings — including “The Bully Plays.” I bought a couple of things and made my way to several vendor tables.

I said hello to the fine folks from Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, talked with Amanda Melby of Verve Studios about their relocation from downtown Phoenix to the Scottsdale Airpark, and chatted with a gentleman from Jester’Z Improv Comedy in Scottsdale.

Valley Youth Theatre was there to share news of their many programs and shows

Next I strolled through a hallway running past several rooms full of students taking classes in everything from singing for actors to theater lighting. A class titled “No Fear Ballroom Dancing” seemed the clear favorite Friday morning, with well over 100 students taking part.

This Friday morning ballroom dancing workshop was packed

More thespians crossed my path after workshops let out for lunch, and the convention center seemed a sea of t-shirts — all bearing the names of shows the students recently performed, from “The Yellow Boat” to “The Elephant Man.”

Sudents from Cienega High School in Vail gathered during lunch on Friday

Watch for future posts featuring thespian tales from this year’s festival. And watch as well for thespians crossing the road. They bring an amazing energy to the streets of downtown Phoenix, and I can’t wait for them to cross my path again as they start making their way to stages in Arizona and beyond.

— Lynn

Note: If I snapped your picture but didn’t include it here, there’s a good chance you’ll see it in a future post — so stay tuned for more thespian tales.

Coming up: Spotlight on spring musicals

Easter bonnets, Broadway style

As Easter Sunday drew to a close last weekend, it suddently dawned on me. For the first time since we’ve had children, there were no Easter baskets at our house.

We’ve long celebrated Easter as more of a cultural tradition than a religious observance, so bunnies and baskets are the mainstay of our celebration.

I suggested to my husband James a few years ago that it might be time to let the baskets go. All three kids were in high school and college — so they knew not to wait up for the bunny to magically appear.

But he wasn’t ready to give up the tradition. I suspect his affection for chocolate was to blame, or perhaps it was his hesitance to admit that our children weren’t really children anymore.

Oddly enough, I found myself missing those Easter baskets on Monday. Even wondering how Christmas might be different once our youngest heads to college in the fall.

But then I heard about the “Easter Bonnet Competition” — a 25-year-old tradition that “celebrates and concludes six intensive weeks of fundraising by the theatre community benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.”

I’m starting to question my decision last Saturday to actually get on that plane from the East Coast back to Arizona. Were Lizabeth and I still near NYC, I’d be hopping over to the Minskoff Theatre for Monday or Tuesday night’s “Easter Bonnet” event.

This year’s “Easter Bonnet Competition” features “more than a dozen companies of Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring productions offering skits, songs and dances, as well as bonnets created specially for the event.”

The celebration features a cast including “many of the season’s biggest Broadway performers.” Those scheduled to appear include Robin Williams, Judith Light, Dan Lauria, Christie Brinkley, John Leguizamo, Heidi Blickenstaff, Roger Rees, Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells, Jose Llana, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jayne Houdyshell, Maxwell Caulfield, Ron Kunene and Tshidi Mayne.

Think “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” “Lombardi,” “Chicago,” “Ghetto Klown,” “The Addams Family,” “The Book of Mormon,” Wonderland,” “Good People,” The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Cactus Flower,” and “The Lion King.”

You get extra points if you can match the actors to their respective shows, although the only prize I might have to offer is a cracked or crushed chocolate bunny from the half-price bin up at the local drug store.

You can click here to check your answers. Or here to see highlights of last year’s competition. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS reports that “the previous 24 competitions have raised more than $42 million.” Makes me wonder if we need to suggest a similar event for Congress.

Tuesday night’s performance will honor select actors with “top fundraising” and “best presentation” awards. Awards are being presented by Harvey Fierstein (“La Cage aux Folles”), Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes”) and Daniel Radcliffe (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”).

For those of you who missed the memo, consider this a gentle reminder that we can all stop calling Radcliffe “Harry Potter” now. And you can drop the “Equus” wand jokes too. Better to tastefully applaud Doris Eaton Travis — an original Ziegfeld Girl who died last year at the age of 106.

Several productions, including “Billy Elliot,” are scheduled to perform and present their own fabulous takes on the Easter bonnet. I’m big on “Billy” this week because the touring production opens Tuesday night, April 26, at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

Also “The Addams Family,” “Avenue Q,” “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” “Chicago,” “Freud’s Last Session,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “The Lion King,” “Mamma Mia!,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”

Others taking part include the national tours of “Les Miserables,” “The Lion King,” and “Wicked” — all shows we’ve enjoyed at ASU Gammage in recent years. Those who’ve missed it on previous tours can watch for “Wicked” to return to Tempe Feb 15-March 11, 2012.

Valley families eager to see the school edition of “Les Mis” can head to Peoria for the Creative Stages Youth Theatre production running through April 30. The new 25th anniversary production of “Les Miserables” comes to ASU Gammage June 7-12, 2012.

Folks attending the 2011 “Easter Bonnet Competition” in NYC will also experience the work of “Dancers Responding to AIDS” and “R.Evolucion Latina.”

I’ll be glued to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS website later this week in search of photos of the 2011 event and news of dollars raised in the ongoing effort to beat AIDS.

But first, I’m off to hit the clearance bins in search of hollow chocolate bunnies and fluffy marshmallow chicks. I just hope James hasn’t beat me to it.

— Lynn

Coming up: More new season announcements

Gifts of art

James told me a proper "Stage Mom" needs a Broadway Cares tote bag

The arts were front and center as we celebrated Christmas this year. Everyone got books — and mine included Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat.” There were Broadway Cares T-shirts, totes and such — all in support of Equity Fights AIDS.

My son Christopher gave me a nifty camera that’ll fit in my pocket or purse for those times I find myself unexpectedly at the scene of an arts adventure — whether a street fair, a gallery collection, a museum exhibit or a student performance.

Jennifer made me a lovely piece of original art — an homage of sorts to my “Stage Mom” blog. It’s a twist on an IOU for a notebook she’s putting together with copies of each of my nearly 500 posts.

Since so many of my art musings double as miniature memoirs, I want to be sure my children have them to read once I’m farther along in the circle of life.

The Sondheim, of course, was a gift from Lizabeth — who is enjoying her last Christmas living at home before heading off to college in the fall.

This gift spent plenty of time in others' hands before I got to really enjoy it

I called that one before I even unwrapped the box, since the book has a rather distinctive size and shape — and since I’d just seen a Sondheim appearance on “The Colbert Report.”

I held the wrapped book up to my forehead a la Johnny Carson’s “Carnac the Magnificent” from “The Tonight Show” of so many years ago — predicting that it contained Stephen Sondheim.

The Carnac bit went over the heads of everyone in the room except my hubby and his parents as Lizabeth assured me that she had not, in fact, stuffed Sondheim into the package. Alas.

My in-laws gave me a lovely piece of garden art and other treasures — including a tote bag from the National Audubon Society, which I dearly love because it pictures two owls. My mother collected owls for many years and they remind me of her still. (Figurines, not live birds.)

Apparently friends and family prefer that I write about art rather than making it myself. No fingerpaints. No canvas. No clay. It would be enough for them, I suppose, if I could master the art of taking a really good photo.

A very special friend thought to hunt down a book I adore but haven’t been able to locate in town — “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11.” That darling child caught on video snubbing a book he got from Santa has much to learn.

Several of the gifts we exchanged, like this 2010 Tony T-shirt, support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

I have much to be grateful for this holiday season — including the opportunity to experience the riches of art, music, theater and dance in a world where so many people don’t even have a roof over their heads or food to feed their families.

If you’ve been especially moved by an arts experience in your community, consider giving something of yourself to assure that Arizona arts and culture remain vibrant for future generations.

A financial gift before the end of the year. A regular committment of volunteer service during the New Year. A resolution to spend more time enjoying the arts with friends and family.

With all the arts have given us, now is the perfect time of year to give back…

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about the arts scene in Arizona and ways you can get involved, visit the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts and the Arizona Humanities Council.

Coming up: Stage Mom’s “Best of Broadway” quotes, Music & memories, Outdoor concert fun

Habitat for Humanity enlists Little House cast

“I’m headed out to the build,” I hollered to my family as I ran out the door Thursday morning. The last time I heard that line, it was uttered by a serial killer on the Showtime television series Dexter. You don’t want to know what ends up in the “Trinity Killer’s” concrete. I felt perfectly safe since the concrete portion of this job looked to be complete, and the most prevalent material was the “blue stuff” making up the still-in-progress walls.

I had a hard time finding the place I was looking for—a home lot where cast members of the musical Little House on the Prairie, playing now at ASU Gammage as part of the 2009/2010 Broadway Across America series, were assisting Habitat for Humanity folks with building a home for a Phoenix family. But as I drove by the site, windows down, and radio blasting a South Pacific tune—someone recognized me.

I walked up to the build, past a chain link fence with a sign that read “Lot #16”—and indicated that its sponsor is Bank of America. Every build on the block had a similar sign, but with its own lot number and sponsor. Other sponsors included the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, the University of Phoenix, UPS Freight and more.

I mention this because I always make time to review the sponsors listed in programs for the performances I attend. I wonder if they know how much I appreciate their support for the arts, that I go out of my way to give them business, that I wish I’d followed through more often on my plans to send a thank you note or make a thank you call.

I didn’t get to see Melissa Gilbert, who plays the role of Ma in the musical, in her hardhat—but I did get to don one of my own. It brought back memories of the construction of Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. I’ll bet they have plenty of “blue stuff” in their walls too.

My own “ma”—among others—might be mystified by my lack of finesse for naming building materials. Not to worry, I am able to fathom more than the color when choosing a new car—something that happens every few years during the holiday season when I manage to kill a vehicle racing from rehearsals and shows to recitals and volunteer gigs.

My mother was a nurse, an R.N., who earned a master’s degree in public administration while raising me single-handedly in Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and California. She developed substance abuse treatment programs for native populations in northern Alaska. I was always so impressed to see pictures of her in her heavy parka with a fur-rimmed hood about to board one of those tiny planes that land and take-off from the water.

My mom knew her way around a tool box and a great deal more, flipping houses for extra income before anyone thought of divine designing or trading spaces. When she was younger, she once told me, women just didn’t go into construction. Her parents would have been mortified.

So she learned to be content with her garage workshop filled with the finest in hand and power tools. You never had to wonder what kind of gift certificate to get for my mom’s birthday. And I never had to go far to explore a variety of visual arts forms. Our garage was project central for weaving rugs, making sterling and turquoise jewelry and more.

Maybe that’s where I first felt the power of the arts to connect people, to bridge distances and to expand my horizons. I discovered that the arts are fun and fulfilling. And I got a glimpse of the person behind my mom, a privilege too few children enjoy before losing a loved one.

The Habitat for Humanity build was a giant canvas of hammers, levels and saws. Despite my mother’s attempts to teach me her craft, I’ve never been gifted in this area. I didn’t really feel at home on the site until I saw a roll of chicken wire. Aha, I thought, this is something I know how to use—for gardening, and for constructing the innards of some theater set pieces.

On this crisp and sunny Phoenix morning, Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers were joined by touring Broadway cast members—a cause they have supported in other cities as well. You have only to learn of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the wildly successful industry-based non-profit that does AIDS fundraising and grant-making, to know that theater folk have long loved a good cause.

But love is never enough. Action must follow—as it did at today’s Little House build. But why the Habitat for Humanity project, with so many worthy causes in our Valley of the Sun? Because, shares the cast, home is what the musical Little House on the Prairie is all about.

I have tickets to see the show at ASU Gammage this weekend—in addition to watching my daughter offer an amusing portrayal of a gin-guzzling wench (not her official role) in Greasepaint Youtheatre’s Oliver! I hope they’ll be taking voluntary donations after the show so anyone with an interest can join the Little House cast in supporting Habitat for Humanity. I love these types of opportunities to give back because they allow me to do good works while enjoying the things I love most. (My girls do too–when I took them to see Springsteen earlier this year, the food bank folks seemed charmed by the fact that they’d drop money in every single donation bin each and every time they passed it!)

When the Broadway Across America production of Rent came to ASU Gammage a while back, folks had the opportunity to take home autographed Rent souvenirs (Playbills, posters, etc.) with certain donation levels. No pressure involved—ever. But the opportunity is there. I spotted a little something for Lizabeth at the recent Arizona Thespian Festival, which featured a sale of Broadway memorabilia to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I get the double joy of treating her to a special holiday gift and supporting a cause I believe in.

I remember learning of Habitat for Humanity many years ago, thanks to the involvement of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter. Come to think of it, they’ve introduced me to many a good cause—including the Carter Center in Atlanta, which houses a renowned mental health program dedicated to policy goals such as reducing stigma, raising awareness, improving prevention and achieving health care equity.

I’m certain I’ll fall in love with Little House on the Prairie when I see it this weekend. But it’ll be more than the heartwarming story, charming dance numbers and moving dialogue—it’ll also be a renewed appreciation for the role of theater and theater folk in promoting social justice.

I love them for that…

–Lynn

Coming up: The Southwest Shakespeare Company, Holiday art book selection