Tag Archives: CALA Festival
For two years, a unique collaboration of Valley artists and arts organizations have worked together to bring “The Sun Serpent” by José Cruz González to Valley audiences. It’s being performed through Nov. 13 by Childsplay, a Tempe-based theater company specializing in works for young audiences and families.
“The Sun Serpent” is an adventure tale on a grand scale. It depicts the collision of worlds old and new as a boy struggles to save his family and preserve the memory of his Aztec culture, bringing the conquest of Mexico to life through captivating media, masks, music and more.
Entering the studio theater at Tempe Center for the Arts Saturday evening, I felt transported to another world. Lush rainforest scenes, the work of projection designer Adam Larsen, were projected onto three giant panels layered on each side of the stage.
Lights with a beautiful blend of blue and green, the work of lighting designer Tim Monson, shown down onto large Aztec images painted on the stage — the work of scenic designer Carey Wong. A gentle cloud of mist hovered over the stage as sounds of birds and other rainforest creatures, the work of sound designer Christopher Neumeyer, floated through the air. It was breathtaking.
“The Sun Serpent” marries the best of traditional storytelling with technology. As its three main characters — a young boy, his widowed grandmother and his older brother — face cultural shifts with diverse motivations and dreams, projections reflect their changing world.
We see foreign ships approaching the shore, villages consumed by fire, and journeys trekked over mountaintops — all part of a visual feast best suited for audience members ages 8 & above. There’s greed, death and betrayal. But also hope and courage. “The Sun Serpent,” says director Rachel Bowditch, “portrays the strength of the human spirit.”
The creative team also includes composer Daniel Valdez, costume designer Connie Furr-Soloman, mask designer Zarco Guerrero and puppet designer Jim Luther. Amy Gilbert, who recently made the move from Atlanta to Arizona, serves as stage manager.
David Saar has directed and taught for Childsplay since it began in 1977. Managing director Steve Martin, also president of the board for Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts, is enjoying his 11th season with Childsplay.
Just three actors peform 30 roles in the Childsplay production of “The Sun Serpent.” Andrés Alcalá (Tlememe), an associate artist with Childsplay since 2007, has also performed with Actors Theatre of Phoenix, the Southwest Shakespeare Company, Nearly Naked Theatre and Phoenix Theatre.
Ricky Araiza (Young/Elder Anáhuac), an Arizona native who attended Brophy College Preparatory, graduated from ASU in 2004 with a B.A. in theatre before pursuing additional training in ensemble-based physical theater. Araiza is a freelance acting and movement teacher studying mask-making with Zarco Guerrero.
Andréa Morales (Anci) previously spent five seasons as a Childsplay company member, but now lives in Chicago, where she is a company member of Halcyon Theatre and an artistic associate of Polarity Ensemble Theatre.
As I chatted with cast members after the show, I marveled at the amazing depth and breadth of Childsplay offerings. It seems only yesterday that I was watching Childsplay associate artists D. Scott Withers and Jon Gentry bounce, run, bark and drive around in circles during a theater-in-the-round performance of “Go, Dog. Go!” You never know where the artistry of Childsplay might take you.
Coming up: Border tales
Update: Playwright José Cruz Gonzaléz writes about developing “The Sun Serpent” and his experiences with Childsplay in an article titled “Chasing the Sun” published in the January 2012 issue of “American Theatre” magazine. 1/4/12
I’m heading out Saturday to enjoy the Herberger Theater Center “Festival of the Arts,” a one-day festival in Phoenix featuring music, dance, theater, visual art and film. It takes place from 1-5pm, which means I have plenty of time to coffee and catch up on other things ahead of time.
The festival is $5 (free for those under 12), but I’m taking a little extra cash along too so food vendors can feel the love. Think hots dogs, gourmet tacos and more. I’ll be visiting vendor booths, enjoying performances both indoor and out, and exploring the work of more than a dozen featured artists.
Folks who attend with children can enjoy the festival’s “Kids Zone,” featuring various art and science activities, demonstrations, play areas and more. Think Free Arts of Arizona and the Arizona Science Center. Even the APS Clowns are joining the fun.
It looks like there will be about two dozen vendor booths, where you can meet all sorts of artists and those who love them. Theater groups doing the booth thing include Arizona Broadway Theatre, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Grand Canyon University, the Scottsdale Community College Theatre Arts Program and Spotlight Youth Theatre.
I love the fact that several hail from parts other than downtown Phoenix so you can get a feel for the true breadth and depth of Valley art offerings. This is a great way to chat with folks who offer programs for children and gather information about their camps and such. (Yes, you should also watch for the 2012 Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair.)
Dance groups joining the vendor booth fun include Arizona Youth Ballet, Center Dance Ensemble and Scorpius Dance Theatre. Music will be well represented too — thanks to the Phoenix Boys Choir and Arizona Girl Choir. Also keep an eye out for various art studios and others who offer family-friendly fare (like bobbles for wayward hair).
Several of the folks noted above will also perform at some point during the event on one of the Herberger Theater Center’s many stages. As will plenty of other groups — the Dance Shoppe Performance Company, EPIK Dance Company, Grand Canyon University Dance Ensemble, Theater Works and more.
An outdoor stage will feature music by the Bald Cactus Brass Band, Chicks with Picks and Take Cover! Porangui and String Serenade will perform inside Bob’s Spot, a lovely lounge adjacent to the Herberger Theater Center’s upstairs art gallery.
Performers who participate in the Herberger’s “Lunch Time Theater” series will also be on hand to entertain you. Think New Carpa Theater, Grey Matters Productions, Annie Moscow and Friendly People Productions. Sounds a bit like a smorgasbord, only sexier somehow.
Film shorts run a little later than other festival offerings, starting at 4pm on The Kax Stage and wrapping up at 6pm. They’ll be introduced by emcee Ricky Faust, who will facililate Q & A sessions between films.
If critical body parts don’t give out (for me this means feet and knees), I might also hit the Rainbow Festival taking place Oct 1 & 2 from 10am-6pm at historic Heritage Square. It’s a “free admission street fair that celebrates the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” The event features “an international food court, artists, vendors and entertainment.”
If your city or town is offering festival-style fare with arts and culture flair, please comment below to let our readers know.
Note: The “Arizona Humanities Festival: Stories of Us” takes place Sat, Oct 22 from 10am-6pm at Civic Space Park in Phoenix. The festival features storytelling, children’s activities, author readings, dance performances, live music and film screenings. Info at www.azhumanities.org.
Coming up: Festivals featuring multicultural fare
Photos from organization Facebook pages
All three of our children grew up attending Phoenix Symphony concerts several times a year. They appreciated them more, I think, because they all played instruments at the time. Violin for Lizabeth. Flute for Jennifer. And saxophone for Christoper. Plus piano for all three.
Often our favorites were concerts from the “Family Series” — works selected by the Phoenix Symphony because of their appeal to children and families. When their 2011/12 season brochure landed in my mailbox recently, I turned first to the “Family Series” portion — which may well be their best family offering yet.
The series runs December 2011 through May 2012. All “Family Series” concerts take place at 2:30pm on Saturdays — making them easy for busy parents to remember. And late enough in the day that most children have finished morning dance lessons, soccer practice and such.
Mark you calendars now, just to be on the safe side. And consider getting a “Family Series” subscription. Especially for younger children, it’s nice to have the familiarity of sitting in the same seats for each performance.
There are plenty of benefits for the grown-ups, too. Special event concert pre-sales. A discount dining card. Prepaid parking privileges. And ticket exchange flexibility. And my personal favorite, the ability to get duplicate tickets when mine get mysteriously misplaced.
So here’s the rundown on this season’s “Family Series” events: “Holiday Celebration” (Dec 3), “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” (Jan 7), “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham” (March 17), “Musical Fables” (April 28) and “High Flying! Cirque de la Symphonie” (May 26). I love that so many have links to literature.
The “APS Pop Series” sounds just as fun. Think Gershwin. Motown. Rat Pack. Rodgers and Hammerstein. More Cirque de la Symphonie. Even “Broadway Rocks” — featuring “three Broadway soloists” performing hits from shows like “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys,” “Hairspray,” “Rent,” “Dreamgirls,” and “Mamma Mia!”
My baby, who’ll soon be turning 18, starts college this fall just a few blocks from Broadway. I’m going to miss her something fierce — especially when I hear the Phoenix Symphony performing showtunes, or partnering with Phoenix Theatre on numbers from “Carousel,” “Cinderella,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific,” and “The Sound of Music.”
The Phoenix Symphony offers additional 2011/12 series — including “Classics,” “Coffee Classics” and “Scottsdale” as well as special concerts. There’s an annual event to benefit their education and community outreach programs. Performances of “Handel’s Messiah” throughout the Valley. And a “New Year’s Eve Celebration.”
Remember, as you’re planning trips to hear the Phoenix Symphony perform at Symphony Hall in Phoenix, that the downtown area is also home to all sorts of kid-friendly fare. The Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Valley Youth Theatre. The Arizona Science Center. Burton Barr Central Library. The Heard Museum. And more.
If vacations to other parts feel too cumbersome or costly, consider enjoying a bit of arts tourism right here at home. Symphony Hall is near several hotels, and places like the Arizona Center have food options for even finicky young eaters. Why not make a whole weekend of it?
Coming up: More musings on arts tourism, Valley choirs for children and teens