Tag Archives: David Saar

To protect and preserve

Yolanda London, Eric Boudreau and Colin Ross in Childsplay's "Rock the Presidents"

With all the political bantering these days, I sometimes worry that the office of president isn’t getting the respect it deserves. So I was thrilled when Childsplay’s Sunday preview of “Rock the Presidents” at Tempe Center for the Arts opened with a rap number called “Hail to the Chiefs” — which recounts the name of each president while reinforcing our duty as Americans to protect and preserve the highest office in the land.

Think what you will of any given president, but know that the office is worthy of respect and dignity, and we do ourselves no favors by attempting to diminish it. “Rock the Presidents” is a perfectly non-partisan look at those who have served, which makes clear both their humanity and their dedication to the nation. It’s easy to sit back and criticize, and so little that’s worthy comes of it.

Better to teach our children to honor those who step up and lead, and to remind them that they too have the power to make a difference. Public service is a noble calling. And being an informed, engaged citizen is essential. These are the messages conveyed throughout “Rock the Presidents,” a musical salute to all 43 presidents featuring book and lyrics by Dwayne Hartford and music by Sarah Roberts.

Roberts plays guitar on the soundtrack, as does Jason Brown. Other musicians include Jonathan Ivie (piano and keyboard), Scott Miner (bass), Mark Stolper (drums), David Dickinson (Violin) and Scott Leader (ukelele and guitar). Jonathan Ivie is musical director for the work, which features everything from rock and rap to country and calypso. Think concert meets classroom.

The “Rock the Presidents” set, designed by Holly Windingstad, is a mix of stately and sparkly red, white and blue elements with a giant screen in the center onto which images of presidents and related fare from speeches to statues are projected throughout the show thanks to projection design by Limitrophe Films. It adds a fabulously nostalgic feel while upping the show’s educational value for children and teens.

Eric Boudreau, Yolanda London and Colin Ross rapping "Hail to the Chiefs"

Eric Bourdeau (Harry), Yolanda London (Amy) and Colin Ross (Ted) open “Rock the Presidents” donning black secret service gear by costume designer D. Daniel Hollingshead as they appear to sing into tiny spy mics hidden in the ends of their sleeves. They’re capable quick change artists who also rock general, cowboy, hippie and other vibes during the 90-minute gig that features choreography by Molly Lajoie. Think line dancing to shades of disco, all done in good taste.

Director Anthony Runfola strikes a perfect balance between rock concert and musical theater production. Lighting design by Tim Monson plays up the rock star vibe, as do cast member shenanigans with standing mics, high fives with children seated in the front row and shouts like “Thank you Tempe!” Their first crowd laughed and clapped with enthusiasm, rising to a standing ovation after the final number titled “Are You a President-to-be?”

The fact that every American president to date has been a man isn’t lost on Hartford, who included plenty of dialogue and lyrics hailing women who’ve made a difference while encouraging girls in the audience to aspire to the country’s highest office. But the favorite number by far, which closes the first act, was a little ditty on presidential pets from ordinary to odd called “They Got a Dog.”

The second act opens with “Not Made of Stone,” performed against the backdrop of an image of Mount Rushmore. It’s an ode to each president’s humanity which, when coupled with “I’m Not All Bad,” reminds folks that every president has both accomplishments and failures. Presidents, you see, are people too. In many ways, they’re like me and you.

Presidents we’ve lost are remembered in “What Could Have Been?,” while the contributions made by presidents after leaving office are celebrated in “I Am More Than Four Years.” Two rounds of “The Presi-tron” test audience member knowledge of presidential trivia, and “Who in the World is Millard Fillmore?” pays tribute to presidents too often forgotten.

Colin Ross in Rock the Presidents, being performed in Tempe through March 4

The song “John and Tom,” which praises the mutual civility demonstrated by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson despite conflicting ideas, feels most relevant for today’s society seeped in supercharged sniping. We don’t have to agree on everything to get along, or to get things done.

My own favorite song is “The Only Thing We Have to Fear,” inspired by FDR’s first inaugural address. Hartford says his greatest hope is that folks will be entertained by “Rock the Presidents.” That’s clearly the case. But I suspect something more will happen too, as those who “Rock the Presidents” with Childsplay reaffirm their responsibility to protect and preserve.

— Lynn

Note: The creative team for “Rock the Presidents” also includes Christopher Neumeyer (sound design). Samantha Monson serves as stage manager and Jenny Millinger serves as dramaturge. David Saar is Childsplay’s founder and artistic director, and Steve Martin serves as managing director.

Coming up: Let’s Play!

Photos: Heather Hill

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An idea takes flight

Childsplay costume rendering (Lyf) for With Two Wings

Playwright Anne Negri says the “seed” for future writing was planted during childhood, but admits she lost her zeal for creative writing for a good decade or so after taking so many middle and high school writing classes focused on academic style writing. Negri shares that “a graduate school playwriting class brought it back out of me.”

Negri now lives, and teaches theater to public school students, in Illinois. But she earned an M.F.A. in theatre for youth from ASU in Tempe, where she took a playwriting class because she “wanted to be around playwrights and talk to them.” The professor told her she had to write, and a ten-minute version of her first full-length play was born.

The initial piece took “a few weeks to a month” to write, according to Negri — who says she “shopped it around” with various playwrights at ASU and other folks in her college program. Negri recalls the day associate professor Pamela Stewart chased her down to adamantly tell her, “You have to see where this goes.”

Negri says the play grew with each draft as “new themes came to light.” Eventually Negri submitted it to a Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences playwriting competition, which recognized her work with its 2009 playwriting award.

Childsplay costume rendering (Meta) for With Two Wings

The play, though performed by friends of Negri at Space 55 the following year during the 2010 Phoenix Fringe Festival, wasn’t yet in final form. Even the name needed changing — because the original title referencing the name of the boy at the heart of the story puzzled those who tried to pronounce it.

It didn’t help that a man who saw Negri’s “fly/lyf” (pronounced like “life”) at the festival approached her after a performance to say, “I love those little flies.” Negri says the winged characters in her play “are sort of human creatures.” Despite the bird language used in the play, she says, they’re not birds. Or bugs.

Negri took her play, complete with new title, to a biennial national playwriting competition and symposium presented by Indiana Repertory Theatre. The Bonderman Playwriting for Youth event is “a forum through which each playwright receives constructive criticism and the support of a development team consisting of a professional director and dramaturg.”

“With Two Wings,” which shares the name of a folk song by Red Grammer, was selected as one of four 2011 Bonderman finalists. And it caught the eye of David Saar, who was there that summer directing a different production. “He heard me read the play,” recalls Negri, “and saw the finished product.” But then he did something more. He gave the play wings.

Childsplay costume rendering (Taur) for With Two Wings

Saar shocked Negri by calling soon thereafter to say he wanted to produce the play during Childsplay’s 2011-12 season. Normally, says Negri, the road from initial interest to full production takes many years. But Saar, founder and artistic director for Childsplay, was eager to bring the play back home to its Arizona roots.

It’ll take flight later this month as a Childsplay world premiere –perhaps inspiring other young writers to try their hands at playwriting. Negri’s advice for aspiring playwrights is simple — just write. And share your work with others. You never know when an idea might soar from page to stage.

— Lynn

Note: Costume renderings in this post feature designs by D. Daniel Hollingshead for Childsplay’s production of “With Two Wings.” Click here for show and ticket information.

Coming up: More wings & things

“The Sun Serpent”

An early rendering of "The Sun Serpent" set design

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.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for additonal show and ticket information, and here to learn about other works being presented as part of the CALA Festival.

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

For the love of Lilly!

D. Scott Withers (center) as Lilly's teacher, Mr. Singer

Childsplay recently opened its 35th season with “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Kling, a whimsical work based on books by Kevin Henkes.

Lilly (Yolanda London) doing her drama queen thing

It’s directed by Childsplay’s founding artistic director David Saar. But don’t tell Lilly. She’s “Queen of Everything.” Lilly is perfectly good-natured until a baby brother named Julius falls from the sky. Soon tantrums lead to time in the “uncooperative chair” as Lilly loses that ‘I’m so special’ feeling.

But it’s restored after a bit of quality time with grandma, who buys Lilly a purse unlike any other. Lilly discovers that her purple plastic purse makes music when she opens it, which is perfectly wonderful unless you’re sitting in a classroom with a teacher who takes the same “hush, hush” and “not now” tone as your parents. After Lilly writes a not-so-nice note to her teacher, things get a bit complicated.

Lilly (Yolanda London) enjoys a special outing with her grandma

You’ll love the way this story, recommended for ages four and up, weaves themes of family, friendship and forgiveness into a medley of music, mice and misadventures.

Lilly (Yolanda London) wants to be an opera singer when she grows up

“Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” features a cast of eight, including Yolanda London as Lilly, Dwayne Hartford as Dad and Debra K. Stevens at Mom. D. Scott Withers plays Lilly’s teacher, Mr. Slinger — who has a nifty trick for helping students deal with larger-than-life emotions. Jon Gentry and Nathan Dobson play best friends Wilson and Chester.

If your children have ever attended classes, camps or workshops with Childsplay artists, they’ll recognize these actors, who masterfully cultivate in children a love of storytelling that reflects the joy each actor exudes on stage.

Childsplay sets, costumes, choreography and such are always a delight, as evidenced by their many wins at this year’s Arizoni Awards. But it’s the music for “Lilly” — mostly jazz with a fun splattering of opera — that I enjoyed most in this production. “Lilly” gives opera, too often labeled “stuffy,” a serious kick of spunk.

Cailyn and Payton of Phoenix rocking the Lilly look

Like all Childsplay productions, there’s much to learn from “Lilly” — for kids and grown-ups alike. Lobby activities extend important lessons in lighthearted ways, and Childsplay offers souvenirs for sale to help the memories linger.

Before heading to my car after Sunday’s 1 pm performance, I stopped a pair of moms to ask about taking pictures of their daughters. Both were gracious — and one even mentioned being an RAK subscriber. The girls, both six years old, were rockin’ their “Lilly” gear — the truest testament to an afternoon well spent at the theater.

— Lynn

Note: “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” runs through Oct 16 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Visit www.childsplayaz.org to learn more. Additional cast and creative team members include Michelle Cunneen (Female), Kate Haas (Garland), Katie McFadzen (assistant director), Molly Lajoie (choreographer), Carey Wong (scenic designer), Connie Furr-Soloman (costume designer), Rick Paulsen (lighting designer), Anthony Runfola (sound and projection designer) and Samantha Monson (stage manager).

Coming up: The Arizona adventures of “Dora the Explorer”

From Lilly to Wiley

I should have taken a cot along to Tempe Center for the Arts on Sunday. I was there to see Childsplay’s production of “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” — and I’m returning this evening for the AriZoni Awards ceremony.

The ceremony features both a youth and adult portion. Though Childsplay performs for children, it’s not a youth theater — so I’ll be listening for their awards during the grown-up portion of the evening.

Several Childsplay artists act and direct throughout the community, so I’m accustomed to watching for them in both Childsplay productions and works by other companies.

Childsplay associate artist Debra K. Stevens, who performs the role of “Mom” in “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” has been with the company since 1982 — but she’s directing a show that opens this week at Mesa Community College.

Mesa Community College presents Wiley and the Hairy Man later this week

It’s “Wiley and the Hairy Man,” a work performed (along with David Saar’s
“The Big Yellow Boat”) during Childsplay’s 1993-1994 season. My own theater baby Lizabeth was born in 1993. This is the first year I’ve attended the AriZoni Awards without her, and she’ll be missed.

When Childsplay performed “Wiley and the Hairy Man” it garnered all sorts of AriZoni Award nominations — best director and choreographer for Michael Barnard (artistic director for Phoenix Theatre), best actor for D. Scott Withers and more.

I’m hoping to see “Wiley and the Hairy Man” when it’s performed at MCC’s Theatre Outback Fri, Sept 23 (10 am and 7:30pm) or Sat, Sept 24 (2pm). They’re performing an original adaptation by Justin Taylor.

Mesa Community College describes “Wiley and the Hairy Man” as the gripping story of a young boy trying to overcome his greatest fear. It’s set in the swamps of the south, where Wiley prepares to confront the creature who took his father away. MCC notes that the work is heavily influenced by Gullah culture.

“Gullah culture” is a broad descriptor for the traditions, skills and beliefs brought to this country by enslaved Africans — many of whom, according to a 2003 PBS broadcast on the topic, came ashore along the coast of Southern Carolina.

The play is an intriguing gateway to conversations about cultural preservation and assimilation. A 2001 piece picked up by National Geographic notes that similar issues have faced “American Indians, Cajuns in Louisiana and highlanders in Appalachia.”

Mesa Community College plans school tours of the production for October and November. Also coming this fall is “Next Fall,” being presented by Actors Theatre at the Herberger Theater Center Oct 28-Nov 13.

Stevens performs the role of “Arlene” in the Geoffrey Nauffts work, which explores the collision of ideas wrought by an actual collision. If you want to find fascinating theater in the Valley, just start at Childsplay.

Then see where their fine actors lead you…

— Lynn

Note: You’ll find Childsplay at www.childsplayaz.org, Mesa Community College at www.mesacc.edu, Tempe Center for the Arts at www.tempe.gov/tca, Actors Theatre at www.atphx.org and the AriZoni Awards at www.arizoniawards.com.

Coming up: Highlights from the 2011 AriZoni Awards ceremony, “Mixing It Up” in Tempe, Chinese arts and culture

Charmed (literally) by Childsplay

Though never big on bling, my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth was sporting a new piece of jewely Friday night. It’s a silver necklace with a crystal ball-shaped bobble and a silver charm set with the Childsplay minstrel logo.

I came home with a bright blue hobo style handbag that I can only hope to have the guts to actually carry in public one day. Not because it isn’t amazing, but because it’s such a stark contrast to my usual attack of the black.

Now Lizabeth can take a bit of Childsplay with her to NYC...

We found these puppies at the silent auction for Childsplay’s annual event to support their arts in education program — dubbed “Childsplay Celebrates Its Greatest Hits” this year.

It’s a good thing we snagged these babies, because there are still far too many kids who need companies like Childsplay to introduce them to the world of live theater.

Steve Martin, managing director for Childsplay, shared some truly sobering statistics about just how little art exists in Arizona schools, and how little we invest as a state in arts education.

We enjoyed the evening at a table of fellow Childsplay fans, who enjoyed chatting with Lizabeth about her experiences growing up with Childsplay and her plans to begin college theater studies in NYC this fall.

To my right sat a longtime supporter of Childsplay named Andy Dzurinko, whose third book espousing “the power of optimism” will be published later this year. I hope to review a copy since Dzurinko shared that the book offers plenty of insights for youth, parents and teachers as well as business folk.

Childsplay’s warm and genuine graphic designer was seated to our left. She gets to play with the Childsplay mistrel on a regular basis. And she was supremely excited to learn at the end of the evening that she’d won the auction prize of her dreams (which I’d best not share here in case it’s a surprise for her 15-year-old son).

Dinner tables were decorated with fiber artist Sonja Saar’s “Benjamin Bears” — Build-a-Bear teddies that tug at the heart with their handmade, no-two-alike sweaters. Guests were invited to purchase a bear and give it a good home, and we all heeded the admonishion to share rather than fighting over them.

The bears raise awareness and money for a special “Benjamin Fund” named in honor of artist Benjamin Saar, son of David and Sonja Faeroy Saar, who died of AIDS-related complications following a blood transfusion to treat his hemophilia. He was just 8 years old, and a well-worn bear named “Muffa” who lives on in each of Sonja’s sweaters, was his constant companion.

I enjoyed learning a bit more about David Saar during his remarks. Seems his first encounter with making theater came after Saar was recruited for a second prop master gig. Later he nailed the role of “Captain Hook” in a production of “Peter Pan,” a real thrill for a boy who’d years before fallen in love with the original “Peter Pan” starring Mary Martin.

Shopping is almost bearable when it's for a good cause...

We enjoyed running into all sorts of creative folk at the gala, including Frances Smith Cohen of Center Dance Ensemble, who was honored with the “Pied Piper Award” at last year’s Childsplay shindig. She was amazed to see Lizabeth, now several feet taller than when she started dance lessons with “Susie” and “Frannie” at Dance Theater West while in preschool.

This year’s “Pied Piper Award” — given to honor achievement in preserving imagination and wonder by supporting and advocating for quality art and education programs — went to Don Dolye and Lin Wright, founders of the “Theatre for Youth” graduate program at ASU.

This year’s “Sonja Award,” named for Sonja Saar and established to honor volunteer service of time given over time, was presented to Donna Gerometta, Jenny Lucier and Dan O’Neill, and the National Charity League-East Valley Chapter.

The evening concluded with a musical presentation by members of the Childsplay acting ensemble, each donning a glorious costume from one of Childsplay’s “greatest hits” — starting with “Still Life With Iris,” the first Childsplay production I enjoyed with my children.

The ensemble sent us off with “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think” — a fitting ode to all the imagination and wonder that is Childsplay. Perhaps Lizabeth will recall its lyrics each time she wears her Childsplay necklace, a talisman of sorts for carrying the good wishes of her many theater friends back home as she makes her own way amidst all the imagination and wonder that is NYC.

— Lynn

Note: Childsplay performs “The Borrowers” through May 22 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Click here for show and ticket information.

Coming up: Summer arts adventures, What’s new: Shakespeare

Puppetry & playwriting

Playwright Geoffrey Gonsher found early inspiration in Howdy Doody, pictured here with Buffalo Bob

I’ve accompanied my three children to well over a hundred birthday parties through the years, but the memory of one party in particular still makes me smile.

It was for a young boy named Aaron who, along with his older brother Charles and the rest of the family, loved spending time at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix.

“For years it was our Saturday morning home,” recalls their father Geoffrey Gonsher.

I learned from Gonsher just yesterday that Aaron is now in New York studying and practicing the craft of theater criticism, while Charles works in the financial sector in Boulder, Colorado.

Their dad is a playwright who’ll present his latest work tonight (Sat, Nov 6) at Playhouse on the Park in Phoenix.

I met Gonsher when our children attended Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley — where children love reading in the desert, performing for peers and parents each Friday, and taking all sorts of arts-related field trips.

They even study art with Sonja Saar, Valley fiber artist and wife of Childsplay founder David Saar.

I reconnected with Gonsher after seeing his name on the list of playwrights participating in tonight’s “An Evening of New Works” (hosted by Phoenix Theatre in association with the Dramatists Guild of America) and called him Friday morning to ask about his work.

He’s presenting “Dinner at Six” — a short comedic piece that grew out of a larger dramatic play.

“Above all,” shares Gonsher, “it is a play about relationships.” Gonsher urges playwrights young and old to write what they know, and he’s followed his own advice here by writing about middle-aged men and their mothers.

His own favorite playwrights include Rod Serling, best known for the original “Twilight Zone” television series.

If you’re even a fraction as intrigued as I am, head to the Playhouse on the Park tonight to enjoy this — and several other short works — for yourself.

An audience discussion and Q & A session will follow the performance of each work, so patrons can offer input and playwrights can benefit from audience feedback.

The esteemed list of playwrights participating this evening also includes Theatre Artists Studio member and Raising Arizona Kids magazine contributor Debra Gettleman, who’ll present a work titled “I Just Killed Mickey Rooney.”

Gettleman honed her writing craft during a “Mothers Who Write” class with Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussmann Susser (Jewish News of Greater Phoenix), and she’s especially skilled in dry wit and “unmotherly insights.”

I asked Gonsher about other works he’s written — which include “The Twelve Nights of Political Christmas” and “Border Patrol.” His first work, it seems, was a puppet show written on the occasion of his own 60th birthday.

The piece, titled “Dilly Dally,” was a gift to his two sons — and it was coupled with a monetary gift that became the “Dilly Dally Fund” managed by Arizona Community Foundation.

Gonsher admits there weren’t many folks in attendance for the puppet show, held at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater (which Gonsher describes as “one of the treasures of Arizona”).

But he filled the empty seats with stuffed animals and puppets his sons enjoyed during their youth. The stars were his own original Howdy Doody puppets.

I shared with Gonsher my most recent trip to the Great Arizona Puppet Theater — during which I enjoyed 14 short puppet shows written by students in grades 2 through 8 at Kenilworth Elementary School in Phoenix.

The show, titled “Imagine This!,” took place Thursday evening and it was a true delight. You can enjoy it yourself through Sun, Nov 7.

A giraffe teased by others for his unusually long neck. A worm named “Lulu” that cut back to just one cupcake a day in order to make it through a tunnel in the ground. A mischievious bear who came alive at night only to leave his young owner’s toys in complete disarray. A competition of sorts between a real chicken and a robotic one.

Bigotry and bullying. Nature versus machine. Healthy habits and wellbeing. These students tackled some pretty big topics with a playful innocence that trumps the preachiness of some adult works.

I felt honored to be among some of the Valley youngest, and greatest, playwrights.

I’ll share a bit more about my “Imagine This!” experience in a future post. For now, I leave you with Gonsher’s advice for playwrights young and old.

“Write,” says Gonsher. “Write no matter what it is or how good it is, and do it as often as possible.”

“Write what you know,” adds Gonsher. Don’t struggle to research something far from your own life. “Write about your own life, your own struggles, your own relationships,” he says.

“There are stories there,” muses Gonsher, “and this is what people can relate to.”

— Lynn

Note: Valley resources for aspiring playwrights include a playwriting contest presented by East Valley Children’s Theatre, one of several resident performing arts companies of the Mesa Arts Center. A new Valley resource for puppet performance art is Puppet Works at Theater Works in Peoria, which mounts its first show in December.

Coming up: Playwriting opportunities for children and teens