Tag Archives: Elmo

Scottsdale Street Fair

I love the way exploring arts and culture always leads from one remarkable path to another. Thursday I attended the “Visions of Arizona” reception at the Arizona Capitol, where an artist told me about the Arizona Art Alliance Gallery in Scottsdale.

While checking out their website, I learned of a new Scottsdale Street Fair being held Sundays at The Pavilions at Talking Stick. I hit the gallery on Saturday, and the fair on Sunday — where I met more artists who’ll no doubt lead me to more art adventures.

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I took my son Christopher along, and the first folks we encountered were sharing news of an upcoming performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts of China at ASU Gammage in Tempe. I’ve had China on the brain of late — thanks to a documentary titled “A Boy in China” starring Andre Magnum of Phoenix.

Next we stumbled on the Jan’s Pies booth filled with homemade cheesecake slices, fresh fruit turnovers, miniature loaves of bread and more. I noticed a harmonica laying off to one side of a table and asked about it, launching a wonderful conversation with the man working the booth about his daughter’s love of all things music and Elmo.

I made sure he knew about the “Being Elmo” film and the Valley’s own Musical Instrument Museum (complete with hands-on “experience gallery” where kids love trying all sorts of exotic instruments) before moving on.

We chatted with a woman who creates copper works of art that look like they’d be lovely in both commercial and residential settings, and spoke to several people offering foodie fare — fresh produce, dried beans, flavored pasta, unusual spices. Then we went in search of street fair staples like Indian Fry Bread and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Next time we’ll try the pulled pork and Italian ice.

I was delighted to find several fun options for busy bodies — including a great assortment of bounce houses, a trio of giant balls allowing kids to make like hamsters and a tall climbing wall. Also face painting (featuring exquisite colors and designs) and other kid-friendly fare.

Several booths featured clothing, handbags, jewelry and such — and there was even live entertainment. A singer/songwriter was doing her thing when we arrived, but dancers dressed in costumes akin to those of Arabian dancers in “The Nutcracker” were taking the the stage as we left.

I suspect the Scottsdale Street Fair will grow as more vendors and visitors learn of its existence. You can check it out from 10am-4pm every Sunday at The Pavilions at Talking Stick through May 2012. To learn more, visit them online at www.scottsdalestreetfair.com.

— Lynn

Coming up: All thumbs, A revolution in Scottsdale?

Photos: Lynn Trimble

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Red fur meets red rocks

Kevin Clash and Elmo are appearing at the 2012 Sedona International Film Festival

The cheerful, chatty Sesame Street character named Elmo returns to Arizona in February for the Sedona International Film Festival. Prepare the paparazzi. He’s bringing Sesame Street puppeteer and producer Kevin Clash along, because the two appear together in a documentary being screened at the festival. It’s called “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”

Clash reminded me, when we spoke earlier this week, that he’s joined Elmo in journeying to Arizona once before — to film a one-hour video titled “Elmo’s World: Wild Wild West!” Clash also performs “Hoot the Owl” and “Baby Natasha” for Sesame Street, but Elmo seems to get more press as the television show’s most popular puppet.

Clash is the proud parent of a college-age daughter, but admits in “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” that she was well into her teens before he realized how much time he spent working with other children when his own daughter dearly needed more daddy time.

I chatted with Clash during the tail end of a typically busy day, shortly after he’d wrapped an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross for a segment of “Fresh Air” broadcast just yesterday. You can click here to listen to the interview, which features Clash both in and out of Elmo mode.

Turns out Clash has a few of his own puppet favorites. A furry blue fellow named Grover — first performed by one of Clash’s puppetry idols named Frank Oz. And Kermit the Frog, the smoother, greener fellow who reminds Clash of another friend and mentor, the late Jim Henson.

He’s keen on puppetry outside of Sesame Street too. In recent years, puppets have been featured in two Broadway shows. First a musical titled “Avenue Q,” which Clash describes as “really exciting.” Then a play called “War Horse,” which Clash calls “amazing.” He saw the play only recently, and says it was a “very emotional” experience. “It shows what puppets can do.”

Clash says he’s “curious about the next step” puppetry will take, though I suspect he’ll be pioneering much of what transpires. He’s thrilled that the Muppets’ popularity is once again soaring — thanks in part to “The Muppets” movie still playing at plenty of theaters. And he reveals that discussions about making a Sesame Street movie are underway. “We’re at the beginning stages of talks,” says Clash.

I’d hoped that Clash might reveal a little something folks don’t really know about Elmo. But there’s no mystery to Elmo, according to Clash. “What you see is what you get.” Elmo loves life — and hugs and kisses. It’s that simple, which is much of Elmo’s charm. Still, Clash says he “continues to tweak Elmo” — finding new ways to show Elmo’s “sense of humor” and “edginess.” Hence those snappy catchphrases like “Yeah, baby, yeah!”

To teens pursuing their passion for the performing arts, Clash offers some no-nonsense advice. “Start,” he says, “just do it.” For youth who share his passion for puppetry, Clash offers another suggestion. “Send me a DVD,” he says, “we’re always looking for new puppeteers.” Just find the address for the Sesame Street workshop and run with it.

— Lynn

Note: Stay tuned to the Sedona International Film Festival website for details about when Clash and Elmo will be joining the festivities, and information on the 145 + films being screened during the Feb. 18-26, 2012 event.

Coming up: Love & letting go, Puppets who call Arizona home

“Being Elmo”

The film Being Elmo is currently playing at the Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe

Kevin Clash began building puppets at the tender age of ten, and was often teased by classmates for “playing with dolls.” His sister, who enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls, couldn’t understand why their mother gave the puppets more attention. One day she threw Kevin’s puppets out of the window onto the snowy street below. Soon her cosmetics met a similar fate. Seems even the man who operates Elmo, one of the sweetest characters on Sesame Street, knows a thing or two about sibling rivalry.

Clash’s mom reveals, in the film titled “Being Elmo,” that she was never bothered by her son’s fascination with puppets. She knew that building puppets and bringing them to life was his gift and his passion. Once Clash landed a local television gig, kids at his Baltimore school decided he was cool — but that was never his goal. Clash merely wanted to do what he loved, and use his puppets to make others happy.

His earliest audience consisted of kids from the day care center his mom ran in their home. Soon Clash was performing at hospitals and other community settings, where he noticed the special affinity of kids with special needs for his playful puppet characters. Several “Being Elmo” scenes show Clash, and Elmo, interacting with children from the Make-a-Wish Foundation and other children’s charities.

Being Elmo features the journey of puppeteer Kevin Clash

Clash was thrown, quite literally, into the world of Elmo after another puppeteer couldn’t decide what to make of the furry red creature. Elmo’s original voice, much deeper than the voice Clash developed for Elmo, wasn’t resonating. Clash followed the advice of a mentor who’d once told him that every character needs a hook — one unique, defining characteristic.

As Clash watched the children around him, he noticed something they all seemed to need and appreciate — a hug. So Elmo — with his high, exuberant voice — became the Muppet who loved to kiss and hug. Elmo, like Clash, is all about making others happy. Toys like Tickle Me Elmo don’t gel with Clash, who says Elmo would never use the word “me.”

Folks who see “Being Elmo,” a documentary about Clash’s puppeteering journey, hear tales of his first trip to New York City and his first glimpse at the famous porch steps on Sesame Street. Also home movies from the day his daughter’s mother, once his wife, went into labor. Seems she didn’t take kindly to Elmo’s narration of the event.  

Several scenes show Clash working in the Jim Henson workshop, pulling out wide drawers filled with assorted plastic eyeballs and brightly colored facial hair. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Clash is well into the journey before realizing that he’s spent much of his daughter’s childhood entertaining other people’s children.

The film captures his attempts to right the wrong with a very special sweet 16 party. And other bittersweet moments too — including a gathering of puppeteers, and puppets, at the memorial held after Jim Henson’s death. As the film draws to a close, we see Clash opening the beloved eyeball drawer as he delights in the excitement beaming through a young puppet builder’s eyes. That’s the nature of “Being Elmo.”

— Lynn

Note: “Being Elmo” is currently playing, along with another documentary titled “We Were Here,” at the Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe’s Mill Avenue District. Click here for details and showtimes.

Coming up: Black Friday — Main Street style

Musings on “The Muppets”

As the new Disney movie “The Muppets” opens with the song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” we see two brothers as seemingly mismatched as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. There’s big brother Gary and little brother Walter, who seem to go just about everywhere together – often sporting matching outfits like plaid flannel pajamas and powder blue suits.

While watching television one night, they see an episode of “The Muppet Show” featuring funnyman Steve Martin. Soon life changes forever. Gary and girlfriend Mary, eager to celebrate their tenth anniversary, plan a trip to Los Angeles – and Gary suffers the first of many “Walter needs me” moments.

Walter has a bit of a one track mind, so the trio soon find themselves on a tacky tenth-rate tour of the old Muppets studio, where Walter overhears a Texas oil baron talk of tearing the joint down. Walter knows what he has to do – reunite the Muppets for a telethon to save their turf. He starts by tracking down Kermit, who helps him gather more Muppets during travels from Reno to Paris.

From a dusty hall in the old Muppets studio that’s lined with photos of celebs like Florence Henderson to the offices of Miss Piggy decorated with covers of magazines from Esquire to People, the journey is a nod to nostalgia – with a character named ’80s Robot behind the wheel. Lines like “gag me with a spoon” feel a tad less subtle. So does dialogue praising the Muppets of old over contemporary pop culture – though the converted won’t mind being preached to.

The movie stays remarkably true to the Muppets’ real roots while updating the vibe with dashes of rap and recovery mantras. Fans of musical theater will appreciate the film’s multiple homages to both the genre and classic works like “The Phantom of the Opera.” And let’s face it – there’s really nowhere else to go if you favor films that mix dancing butchers with singing chickens.  

The wee ones among us think Big Bird and Elmo when they hear talk of the Muppets, which might explain why grown-ups in the theater seemed more smitten with this movie than their children. After all, we’re the ones who built the city on rock and roll – and think others need us when it’s really the other way around.

Thank goodness for gags, like Fozzie’s fart shoes, that span the generations. For songs like “Rainbow Connection.” For movies that show even failure can lead to triumph. For musical tours de force from “mimimi” to “mahna mahna.” But most of all, for movies that mix the species without anybody giving birth.

— Lynn

Coming up: “Being Elmo,” Fixing what’s broken

From Tevye to Tintin

My daughter Lizabeth discovered, after heading to Times Square in New York to see the movie “Paranormal Activity 3” the night it opened, that there were no more tickets to be had.

It’s just as well from a mother’s perspective since there are plenty of other good films these days that won’t scare the bejeebers out of you — including the Julianne Hough dancefest called “Footloose,” a remake of the 1984 film that many of today’s parents enjoyed during their teens.

Also “Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness” — an intriguing documentary with special appeal for folks interested in the lives of writers, immigration history, modern Jewish identity or a work of musical theater called “Fiddler on the Roof.” 

Seems Aleihem is the writer behind the character we all know as “Tevye,” a man with several daughters who faced countless challenges to his fervent love of tradition.

Fans of Sesame Street should take note — next month’s Loft Film Fest in Tucson includes a screening of the film “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” — which offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street, the Jim Henson Workshop, and the work of puppeteer and father Kevin Clash.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I” also opens next month, though it’ll be a bit easier to find — coming to not one Arizona theater but to nearly all of them. Fans of the “Twilight” series have long had the date Nov. 18 circled, in red, on their calendars.

Legendary storyteller and filmmaker Steven Spielberg, once a student at Arcadia High School in Phoenix, has two films being released this fall — the “The Adventures of Tintin” (coming Dec. 21) and “War Horse” (coming Dec. 25). Both promise to be visual feasts that bring some of the world’s best storytelling to life.

As we all gear up for the holiday season we allow so often to become all too hectic, we should remember the power of movies to deliver us from everyday worries, to create cherished memories with family and friends, and to inspire both dreams and wonder.

— Lynn

Note: Always consult movie websites to check film ratings and age recommendations before talking children to the movies.

Coming up: Spielberg tales

Big Bird or Elmo?

Some say Elmo has got to go. At the very least, he’s got to get off the public dole. And what about Cookie Monster? Isn’t he eating up valuable taxpayer dollars?

I got to chatting with Tom Tiding, writer of all sorts of things he proudly dubs “twisted,” about moves by some politicians to end federal funding for things like NPR and PBS.

Tiding will be in Phoenix this weekend to perform an original work in the “Phoenix Fringe Festival” — but was gracious enough to chat with me about other matters when we spoke by phone the other night.

Elmo, world-famous artist, teacher and Sesame Street character--putting my taxes to good use

I wanted to get his take on the controversy surrounding federal funding for public broadcasting — but erred in leading with “Elmo,” the one thing on PBS Tiding says he could definitely live without.

Tiding is more of a “Big Bird” kind of a guy, but we still managed to enjoy a civil conversation. Because truth be told, the “Sesame Street” gang will rise or fall together whatever their fate.

Some suppose that an end to federal funding won’t hinder our furry little friends in any way, since most of public television is funded through corporate and individual contributions. But Tiding disagrees, in his usual “twisted” fashion.

“If you lost twenty percent of your body,” he muses, “it wouldn’t just grow right back.” Even folks who are terribly fond of public broadcasting won’t be in a position to make up the difference when they’re struggling to meet their own basic needs.

I asked Tiding why some folks are making so much noise about needing to defund public broadcasting. He suspects it’s a bit of a ruse. The more attention supporters of PBS and NPR pay to its naysayers, the more distracted we’ll be as other perilous policies move forward.

Seems “Elmo” and “Big Bird” are mere pawns in that old political strategy called “bait and switch.” I see where they may be going with this, but public broadcasting opponents seem to be forgetting that we’ve got “Miss Piggy” in our corner of the ring.

I chose the sports analogy because, oddly enough, it was sports-related content that Tiding most enjoyed as a boy growing up in Minnesota and East Texas. Seems public broadcasting was his only real lifeline to the soccer he loved as a boy.

He’s also keen on shows like the “PBS News Hour,” describing it as “one of the few places you can go and get really intelligent people from both sides.”

Those who live in large urban areas with thriving cultural resources might see NPR or PBS as mere niceties, but they’re necessities for Americans living in outlying areas that don’t have access to many of the things they offer.

Think live theater, music and dance. History and literature. Science and medicine. Health and fitness. Civics and education. Think easy, affordable and equitable access to elements that form the very foundation of a free and democratic society.

There’s plenty of noise out there about all sorts of budget-related issues. For today, it appears, public broadcasting has been spared the ax. But policy and budget discussions involving NPR and PBS will no doubt resurface. So I’m keeping my eye on the prize — preserving federal funding for both.

Trust me, you don’t want to get between me and my “Elmo” — or Tiding and his “Big Bird.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about this weekend’s “Phoenix Fringe Festival” (which features mature content fare) and the schedule for Tiding’s performances. Click here for details about “Sesame Street Live” coming to the Comerica Theatre April 29-May 1.

Coming up: Conversations with “Cosette”

Get a Q!

When the morning news turned too vitriolic last week, I knew just who to turn to — Elmo. The furry little puppet with the ever-happy face never fails to cheer.

But I’ll be enjoying puppets of another sort today as Lizabeth and I head out to see Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Avenue Q” — a Broadway musical with mature content and “full puppet nudity” you might not want to share with your little ones.

There are tons of competing activities out there this weekend — from the Scottsdale Arts Festival to the Ostrich Festival in Chandler. I’m making my choice about what to hit based on where the teen taxi takes me.

Lizabeth has a volunteer gig with “QSpeak” this afternoon, so I’ll be taking her there before heading out for a few art adventures of my own. Then we’ll meet back at Phoenix Theatre for the matinee performance of “Avenue Q.”

I’ll need to be quick, however, because there are quite a few things I’m eager to experience — including today’s “Devoured” event at the Phoenix Art Museum, just a short stroll from Phoenix Theatre.

Then I’m off to enjoy the quaint and quiet grounds of the Japanese Friendship Garden, where I’ll take some photos to share with you later as I preview their upcoming events — including the “Children’s Day Kite Festival” and “Zen Garden Music and Art Festival.”

Next I’ll experience some quintessential Irish fare at the Arizona Irish Festival, also taking place downtown. Think Irish food, music, dance and all-around merriment — plus another opportunity to whip out my camera.

If I haven’t yet inspired you to get out and enjoy the Arizona sunshine, perhaps you’ll find something else that strikes your fancy by browsing through today’s family-friendly events listed in the online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

I suppose I should quit now and get on with my plans — quixotic though they may be. I certainly don’t want to quibble with my teenage daughter over whether or not the teen taxi will be running on time today.

— Lynn

Note: I came home with lots of photos, some of which are included in a slide show at the end of this post (“Avenue Q” logo courtesy of Phoenix Theatre). Watch for another post coming soon with some of the many adorable children who attended this year’s Arizona Irish Festival — as well as a future post with more highlights from the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Coming up: Charlie Sheen “is only for now”

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