Tag Archives: CBS

Seasons of change

Home Free, Cheyne - Sanctuary Art Center

With just a week before next Sunday’s CBS broadcast of the 2011 Tony Awards®, I’ve got a serious case of Tony fever. How kind of the Metropolitan Men’s Chorus to open Friday night’s benefit performance of “At the End of the Day…” with the song “Seasons of Love” from the Tony Award®-winning musical “Rent.” Also “Not While I’m Around” from “Sweeney Todd,” another Tony Award® winner, and two other selections.

I loved the fact that chorus members donned street clothes instead of traditional choir garb. Think red check flannel and Hawaiian print shirts. Khakis and flip-flops. And that they sang surrounded by set pieces resembling old aluminum siding spray painted with brightly-colored graffiti.

Open Heart, 2004, Gary - Sanctuary Art Center

“At the End of the Day…” — presented by QSpeak Theatre (of Phoenix Theatre) in collaboration with Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in Phoenix — is “a play based on true stories and experiences of LGBTQ and homeless youth living in the Phoenix Valley.”

The play was “written in collaboration with program participants of START and GreenHouse Project programs at Tumbelweed Center for Youth Development, and youth participants at 1n10 and Y.E.P.” The one night benefit performance was directed by A. Beck, who describes it as the outgrowth of work with more than fifty youth during the course of nearly a year.

My daughter Lizabeth participated in several QSpeak projects (including “At the End of the Day…”) while attending high school at Arizona School for the Arts. Tomorrow afternoon, June 5, we’ll be seeing “Like Everyone Else” — developed by Xanthia Walker’s “Theatre for Social Change” class at ASA in partnership with Phoenix Theatre and the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center.” Both works feature snippets of stories meant to convey youth experiences in their own voices.

The 12-member cast did an exceptional job conveying the hopes and fears of LGBTQ youth struggling with homelessness and all that can entail — poverty, hunger, unwanted sexual encounters and more. Plus the issues that plague all teens and young adults, from self-identity to choice of values.

Choose, 2006, Ashley - Sanctuary Art Center

The work sheds light on complexities of societal supports for people experiencing homelessness. Bed shortages. Inadequate training for professionals. Budget cuts. And the tendency of too many to say they want to help the homeless without taking a single step to actually do so.

One message in particular stood out. These youth and young adults don’t want to be stereotyped or stigmatized. They’re people. Period. Yet portions of the dialogue revealed stereotypes some homeless youth hold against peers with mental health disorders, described in the work as “crazy,” “mental” or “psycho.”

Some aspects of life on the streets, including encounters with law enforcement, were deliberately excluded from the piece. The depiction of a youth who feels forced into prostitution by the need to pay rent was done with real artistry, but the sheer number of encounters “shadowed” through a piece of hanging cloth made this scene feel almost gratuitious to some in the audience.

At times, comments by cast and creative team during the post-show talk back were needed to elucidate points conveyed somewhat vaguely during the show. The fact that churches and temples, even those offering free food and clothing, feel unsafe to youth who grew up feeling judged by religious family and friends. And the aversion to accepting help that comes with strings attached. Think sermon first, meal later.

Coffee Shop, 2004, Scott - Sanctuary Art Center

If you missed the performance of “At the End of the Day…” but want to learn more about helping LGBTQ and/or homeless youth, click here to visit the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in Phoenix. And stay tuned for future “theater for social change” fare from Phoenix Theatre and its many community partners.

— Lynn

Note: Additional information on programs and policies related to homelessness is available from the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness.

Coming up: Valley stages featuring Tony Award®-winning works

All artwork from the Sanctuary Art Center in Seattle at www.sanctuaryartcenter.org

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Puppetry meets Tony Awards®

Handspring Puppet Company will receive a special Tony Award on June 12 for puppets used in the Tony nominated play titled War Horse (Photo by Joan Marcus)

It’s tempting to associate puppetry with preschoolers, especially when you’re a Valley parent whose children first encountered the art form attending shows by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix.

Their production of “The Three Little Pigs,” recommended for ages “pre-K and up” runs through this Sunday, so folks with children who’ve yet to experience a live puppet show can check it out this weekend.

But the Great Arizona Puppet Theater knows that adults appreciate good puppetry too. Hence they offer monthly “Puppet Slams” — adults-only shows that they describe as “quirky” and “edgy.” (This month’s slams take place June 3 & 4.)

Cast members and puppets from the Phoenix Theatre production of Avenue Q

Puppets — and those who conceive, design, build and operate them — rarely get the credit they deserve. Creating puppets is an art form, and operating them a skilled blend of artistry and athleticism. Just ask the cast from Phoenix Theatre’s recent production of “Avenue Q.” I’m told even their fittest actors worked some body parts much harder than you might expect while venturing into puppet land.

Valley actress Manda Lee Blunt will soon be learning by doing in the puppetry department as she performs with (and without) a puppet in the upcoming Hale Children’s Theatre production of “Little Shop of Horrors” — being performed at the Gilbert venue this summer (and best, they tell me, for ages 12 & up).

I chatted Friday afternoon with producers assistant Cameron Tryon, who shared that they’ll be using four different puppets in the show. One of the show’s main characters is a plant that grows, and ultimately envelopes one of the show’s human characters. So the final puppet has to be substantial in size.

Puppetry in theater isn’t new, but it’s still rather rare. Broadway works incorporating puppets include not only “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Avenue Q” but also “The Sound of Music” and “The Lion King” — all musicals.

The Lion King, another Tony Award winner, features several types of animal puppets

But there’s a play on Broadway now that features life-size horse puppets. It’s called “War Horse” and it’s nominated for five Tony Awards® — for best play, best direction of a play, best scenic design of a play, best lighting design of a play and best sound design of a play.

The puppets used in “War Horse,” which is based on a novel of the same name, were created by master puppeteers at the Cape Town-based Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa. An article available on the Tony Awards® website notes that they’re crafted of cane, wire and fabric.

Handpsring Puppet Company will receive a Special Award at this year’s Tony Awards® — which will be broadcast on CBS on Sun, June 12. I’d love to catch the play when I’m in NYC helping Lizabeth get settled into college life, but have plenty of puppet-related theater to enjoy here in the Valley in the meantime.

Blakeley Slaybaugh as Pinocchio in the musical Shrek (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Though no puppetry will be used in the Hale Children’s Theatre production of “Pinocchio” opening Sat, June 11, I’m still eager to see the show. This tale of a wooden puppet who longs to become a real boy is one of my favorite works of children’s theater because it’s full of fascinating characters and lends itself to wonderfully imaginative sets, costumes and props.

My daughter Jennifer, now 20, performed in a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Pinocchio” more than ten years ago — so the show has sentimental appeal. It’s perfect for introducing children to live theater, and great fun to couple with frequent reading of the story about the little puppet with big dreams.

Theater Works in Peoria began adding “Puppet Works” shows just this season, so they’re another local resource for families who want to explore the live theater/puppetry mix.

Be ready to make your own puppets at home once you get back from seeing these shows. Theater inspires creativity long after the curtain closes, so stock up now on craft supplies like popsicle sticks, yarn, googly eyes, markers, construction paper and pom poms that you can turn into puppets or other characters.

War Horse is nominated for Best Play and four other Tony Awards (Photo by Joan Marcus)

And take a peek at the “War Horse” website. There’s more to puppetry than animating old white socks.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about a book titled “Handspring Puppet Company,” which explores their philosophy of puppetry and technical innovations. The book (at right) includes essays by theater professionals and writers who have collaborated with the company — and features numerous photos of the company’s work.

Coming up: Valley venue holds Tony Awards® contest

Scottsdale meets Dr. Strangelove

I’ve got L.A. on the brain this week as Lizabeth prepares for West Coast audition travels. While she’s readying for the trip, L.A. Theatre Works will be performing at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

They’ll present “The Real Dr. Strangelove: Edward Teller and the Battle for the H-Bomb” based on Peter Goodchild’s biography of Teller this Thursday (Feb 10) at 7:30pm.

Susan Albert Loewenberg is the producing director for this “classic black comedy” you may know from the 1964 film directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Teller was “a Hungarian-born physicist who believed in peace through strength.” His life and times, and his work on nuclear weapons, make for fascinating historical and theatrical fare.

Folks who register can learn acting tips from L.A. Theatre Works cast members Thursday afternoon. Lizabeth would love to attend, but I suspect the ASA theater teachers whose classes she’s missed while auditioning in NYC would rather see her smiling face over at Phoenix Theatre.

Happily, we own a radio — which means we can tune to broadcasts of L.A. Theatre Works productions.

Finally, something that doesn’t involve a chalkboard and little cut out figures strung together to form conspiracy theories and end of days scenarios.

Fond as I am of radio broadcasts, I’m delighted by the opportunity to see a live production featuring this non-profit media arts organization devoted to presenting, preserving and disseminating classic and contemporary plays.

Their distinguished company members are too numerous to name here. But think John Lithgow and Annette Benning. Hilary Swank and Ed Asner. Neil Patrick Harris and Hector Elizondo.

Cast members for this production include John Getz (Oppenheimer), who is featured in the film “The Social Network,” as well as John Vickery (Teller), who was the original Scar in “The Lion King” on Broadway.

There’s also Michael Canavan (“Bones,” “Big Love,” “Mad Men” and more) and Geoffrey Wade (“Law & Order,” “Bold and the Beautiful” and more).

L.A. Theatre Works’ outreach efforts benefit all sorts of audiences — from Americans living in rural communities to students studying in underfunded classrooms. They also house a huge collection of recorded plays.

Original docu-dramas produced by L.A. Theatre Works include “The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial” and “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers.”

Recently I heard an education expert address the need to return science and art to equal footing with math and language in American classrooms.

This play, and other L.A. Theatre Works offerings, do a brilliant job of elevating both art and science — and demonstrating the natural connections between the two.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about American physicist Edward Teller (1908-2003) — and check back later today for a post on ASU’s “Dreaming Darwin.”

Coming up: Musings of a “negligent” stage mother, Fun with fruit, Artsy alternatives to those pesky “pajamagrams”