Tag Archives: Free Arts of Arizona

A delightful detour

Detour Company Theatre was founded in 2000 to “provide quality and authentic arts education and performance opportunities for adults with developmental and other challenges, including deafness, blindness, and autism.”

I learned about Detour from Susan Silverman, director of the classical ballet program at Dance Theater West and artistic director for Story Book Ballet Theater (both in Phoenix). Story Book Ballet Theater collaborates in performance with Detour Company Theater, Free Arts of Arizona and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Detour’s founder and artistic director, who goes by simply “Sam,” holds an M.F.A. in theatre from ASU — and is currently working with more than forty five performers and “coaches” who blend story, music and dance as their work together builds confidence and self-esteem.

I attended Tuesday night’s rehearsal for their next show — a musical review featuring songs from shows performed during the last decade. Think “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oklahoma,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Grease,” “Guys and Dolls” and more. Then check out a few rehearsal photos — featuring cast members, coaches, interpreters and director Sam — below…

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The rehearsal was held at the John Paul Theatre on the Phoenix College campus, which you’re already familiar with if you attend Arizona Jewish Theatre Company productions. Turns out Detour is actually performing two shows at the John Paul Theatre this month.

“Into the Woods,” their first production featuring Detour actors as well as Detour coaches, opens Thurs., Jan. 5 and is also being performed Jan. 7, 8, 13 & 14. “Some of Our Best,” which sounded amazing during Tuesday’s rehearsal, runs Jan. 6-8, 12 & 14. There’s no cost to attend because the company has a “free for all, donate as you can policy.”

Detour recommends making reservations on their website or by calling 480-538-0874 so you’ll be assured a seat. To learn more, visit them online at detourcompanytheatre.org.

— Lynn

Coming up: The fine art of costumes, Learning from the masters

Photos: Lynn Trimble


Tea times three!

It’s been a while since I did the tea party thing with my children, who now range in age from 18 to 22. But recently I’ve learned of three tea parties that almost leave me wishing I could turn them very tiny again.

The Ballet Academy of Arizona is holding their “Fairy Godmother’s Tea Party” Sun, Sept 25 from 3-5pm in the Camelback Ballroom at the Phoenician Resort & Spa in Scottsdale. It features a high tea (with menus for children and adults), singing, dancing and a silent auction.

Also an appearance by the fairy godmother and a performance by “Jolly Roger” the magician, who’s entertained at several parties my own children once attended.

Ballet Etudes holds their Nutcracker Sweet Tea in November

Yet another charming tea takes place this fall as Ballet Etudes presents its “Nutcracker Sweet Tea” both Sat, Nov 12 (at 10am and 11:30am) at the Wright House Reception Hall in Mesa and Sat, Nov 19 (at 11am) at the Johnson Ranch Golf Course in Queen Creek.

The “Nutcracker Sweet Tea” invites those who attend to explore the “Land of Sweets,” enjoy a light luncheon buffet, decorate their own cookies and listen in on storytime. They’ll also experience a Ballet Etudes performance.

Scottsdale Ballet Foundation presents their “Nutcracker Sweets Tea” Sun, Dec 4 from 11:30am-2pm at the Phoenix Country Club ballroom.

Another delightful dance event takes place Sun, Sept 18 at 1pm. Storybook Ballet, the student ballet company of Dance Theater West in Phoenix, and children from the Professional Artist Series program at Free Arts of Arizona present “Wonderland” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Free Arts of Arizona is dedicated to healing abused and homeless children through artistic expression, and Dance Theater West is one of many community partners who join them on the journey. RSVPs for this free event are requested by Wed, Sept 14 (602-258-8100 or info@freeartsaz.org).

Like many parents, I spend far too much time chasing espresso when I should be sipping tea instead. How lovely that Valley arts organizations give us opportunities to slow down and really linger over time with our little ones, who don’t stay little for long.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about these family-friendly tea parties at www.balletacademyofarizona.org, www.balletetudes.net and www.scottsdaleballetfoundation.org. Visit Dance Theater West at www.dancetheaterwest.com and Free Arts of Arizona at www.freeartsaz.org. Local resorts like The Ritz-Carlton, The Phoenician, and The Arizona Biltmore offer high tea. Check with Girly Girlz for girl-friendly tea parties (www.girly-girlz.com).

Coming up: Celebrating holidays arts and culture style

Fun with Free Arts

Participants in a 2010 Free Arts of Arizona multicultural arts camp

After Phoenix arts therapist Margaret Beresford met with Malibu arts therapist Elda Unger in 1993, she gathered a small group of citizens whose work evolved into an organization called Free Arts of Arizona — now one of a group of four Free Arts affiliates.

Early on, Free Arts of Arizona had just five volunteers serving 60 youth and a budget of $30,000. Today, Free Arts reports a staff of 16 and a million-dollar budget. More than 350 Free Arts volunteers work with more than 5,300 children each year.

Child donning a mask created through a Free Arts of Arizona program

The organization cites a study by the British Columbia School of Art Therapy which indicates that art helps abused and neglected children heal in several ways — enhancing their self-esteem, creativity, expression of feelings, insight and more.

Free Arts of Arizona programs include weekly mentoring, professional artist series, free arts experiences and arts camps. Youth served by Free Arts are currently enjoying multicultural arts camps — and the showcase event being held this Friday is free and open to the public. Think world drumming, spoken word, social dance, visual arts and more.

The showcase, being held at 11:30am on June 17, takes place at Desiderata Alternative High School — located near Thomas Rd. and 35th Ave. in Phoenix. RSVPs to 602-258-8100 or info@freeartsaz.org are requested no later than the Thursday before the event.

For more Free Arts of Arizona fun, head to the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix for a free performance of an original work developed by theater camp participants. It’s set for Fri, June 24 at 7pm. 

A teen performs as part of a 2010 Free Arts of Arizona theater camp

The “I was, I am, I will be” production features performance by “20 teens from group homes, shelters and treatment facilities.” The 45-minute work was developed during a two week theater camp experience, and is based on the campers’ “own life experiences.” It’s open to the public, and will be followed by a reception. RSVPs are requested by June 20 to 602-258-8100 (ext 10) or info@freeartsaz.org.

While you’re at the Herberger Theater Center, pick up a brochure featuring their diverse offerings for the upcoming season. There’s music, dance, theater and plenty more. Take time as well to enjoy local artworks located in the Center’s second-story art gallery.

Folks eager to support the Free Arts of Arizona cause of helping children heal through the visual and performing arts can make a difference in all sorts of ways. Attend their art exhibits and live theater productions to cheer on the children (and those who work with them). Volunteer your time, talent or financial resources. Tell others about Free Arts and their important work.

In the world of making a difference, it doesn’t get more fun than helping kids explore, make and share art. And who knows, you might even enjoy a few therapetic benefits of your own.

— Lynn

Note: Ever feel like there’s a friend or family member you just never get to spend enough time with? Consider volunteering together on a regular basis.

Coming up: Theater geek alert!, Do the math, Art adventures: Gilbert

Photos courtesy of Free Arts of Arizona

Update: This post amends an earlier version which incorrectly noted an additional showcase event–please note that a multicultural camp showcase is not being held on June 24. The June 24 event is a theater showcase as noted above.

Free Arts & free arts

“Free” and “arts” — Add the word “children” and you might just have three of the most appealing things on the planet (at least for those lucky enough to enjoy the luxuries of shelter, food and clean water).

Previous "Don Quixote" performance (Harrison Hurwitz Photography)

You can enjoy them all this Sunday, Sept 19, at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — when Dance Theater West’s student company (Storybook Ballet) presents “Don Quixote: A Free Arts Day.”

The 1pm-1:45pm atrium performance, which is free and open to the public, will feature dancers from the “Don Quixote” multi-disciplinary art program offered at Free Arts of Arizona in collaboration with Dance Theater West. Free Arts notes that they have 14 youth, including boys and girls from about 12 to 15, performing on Sunday.

"Don Quixote" with Dance Theater West (Harrison Hurwitz Photography)

The performance, and reception that follows from 1:45pm-3pm, showcase what the two groups have achieved together through professional dance workshops that “invite youth to experience new avenues and possibilities that they might not know exist in the performing arts.”

I recall my daughters dancing in a Dance Theater West “Les Mis” summer camp performance many years ago in this same atrium. It’s a bright, lovely space with plenty of room for children and others to sit and enjoy the offerings.

Just RSVP to info@freeartsaz.org if you can so they’ll have a rough idea of how many to expect for the event.

My daughters also enjoyed many a cultural festival featuring the song, dance, history and art of other countries — including Ireland, India and Japan.

Chinese Cultural Center event

I’ll be sure and alert them to Saturday’s free “Mid-Autumn/Moon Festival” taking place from 6:30pm-9pm at the Chinese Cultural Center near Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. It’s an opportunity for all ages to celebrate this Chinese tradition with moon cakes, live entertainment, demonstrations and other activities.

If you’re reading this post Friday morning, you may still have time to get over to the Edna Vihel Center in Tempe for “Free Art Friday“–featuring art projects, music and movement for preschoolers (plus snack) and their parents. It’s being held from 9am-11am, and is one of many family-friendly events presented by the City of Tempe. (Another cool find: Tempe’s “Public Art Walking Tour.”)

Japanese Friendship Garden event

More weekend events and activities — including several involving live theater for youth and families — are noted in Raising Arizona Kidsonline calendar. But read on for some of my favorite events taking place during the week…

The Japanese Friendship Garden, located at Margaret T. Hance Park near downtown Phoenix, will celebrate the United Nations’ “International Day of Peace” with “Sunrise Yoga” including Sun salutations and more from 6am-8:30am on Tuesday, Sept 21. Participate (with yoga mat or blanket and comfy clothes) or just “enjoy the beauty of the morning.”

Remember too that places like the the Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En), Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo make great locations for wandering with sketch pad and pencils/pastels (or camera) in tow.

Sunrise at the Japanese Friendship Garden

Finally, check out the “Fall Faculty Concert” this week at the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute. The institute is “one of only a handful of academic programs in the nation to focus on the ancient art of storytelling.”

The concert — which takes place Wednesday, Sept 22,  at 7pm (at the SMCC Performance Hall) — features “a variety of intriguing and entertaining tales from a diverse array of cultures” presented by five members of the college’s storytelling institute. Maricopa Community College students (with student ID) can attend at no charge, and general admission tickets are just $10.

If you’re especially excited about a family-friendly event taking place this weekend or during the week ahead, feel free to comment below to let fellow readers know.

— Lynn

Note: The Franciscan Renewal Center and The Arizona Peace Alliance present a “Peace Ceremony” on Tuesday, Sept 21, from 6pm-8:30pm at the center, to include music, dance, inspirational messages, an aerial group photo (people stnding together to spell the word “peace”) and winnings works from a peace-themed art/writing contest for youth.

Coming up: The fine art of fences, Finding peace in art

From lavender to life lessons

It’s hard to forget Gilroy. 

Gilroy has its garlic festival

You can smell the California city for miles both coming and going, because of pungent crops that have earned it the name “Garlic Capital of the World.” I used to drive through Gilroy every now and then when I lived in the Bay Area as a teen.

I never made it to their annual Gilroy Garlic Festival (celebrating its 33rd season July 23-25) because, like many folks, I too often overlook the most fabulous attractions in my own neck of the woods. (I also suspect it was never a popular dating destination.) 

Don’t make the same mistake this weekend, when you’ll have a much more odoriferous option right here in Arizona. Alas—the sweet onion and strawberry festivals have already passed for this month. But the Lavender Festival in Concho started yesterday. 

Concho has its lavender festival

Think cutting your own lavender, cooking demonstrations and crafts. And cooler weather. Concho is located in the White Mountains in Central Arizona, and the festival runs both this weekend (June 24-27) and next (July 1-3). 

There’s also the Prescott Bluegrass Festival, a free event taking place June 26-27 at Prescott’s historic Courthouse Plaza–which is surrounded by charming antique shops, unique eateries and much more.

Or head to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park in Superior, where you can enjoy a Butterfly Walk (free with admission) on Sat, June 26. Or Tucson, where the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is holding special “Summer Saturday Evenings” through Aug 28. 

If theater is more your style, you have plenty of options suitable for young audiences, including “Charlotte’s Web” at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, “The Big Bug Circus” at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, “Princess and the Pea” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert and “The Enchantment of Beauty and the Beast” at Mesa Arts Center.

Pine has its strawberry festival

Film aficionados have a couple of options for outings with friends or teenage children, including a 1pm showing of “Throw Down Your Heart” at the Phoenix Art Museum on Sun, June 27—plus a 6pm showing of “Food, Inc.” (followed by a discussion with local health/nutrition advocate Bobbi Bennett) at Hoodlums Music & Movies in Tempe on Sat, June 26. 

In the heart-tug category, arguably the most important category of all, there’s “I Matter: Theater Camp Final Performance,” a live theatrical event crafted and performed by Free Arts of Arizona teens examining issues of identity and their own significance. 

Tombstone has its sweet onion festival

It takes place tonight, June 25, at 7pm at Greenway High School in Phoenix. Admission is free but RSVPs are requested at 602-258-8100 or info@freearts.org

Free Arts of Arizona is a non-profit organization that provides “therapeutic, creative arts programming to abused, neglected and at-risk children” ages 3-21.

Tonight’s “I Matter” performance was created by 20 teens from local group homes and shelters based on their own life experiences. The teens worked with professional artists to express their challenges, hopes and dreams through creative drama. 

I’ve got a feeling it’ll be even more unforgettable than Gilroy, in a good way…


Note: A comprehensive listing of family-friendly events is always available online from Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Please check with event sponsors prior to attending to confirm date, time, location, cost and other details.

Once upon a kindness

The finest of good deeds are done quietly. No expectation of rewards. No sense of self-importance. 

They’re just given. 

And not soon forgotten… 

Childsplay sets are stunning works of art

So it is with Childsplay, the Tempe-based professional theater company for young audiences and families, which opens its 33rd season in September. 

The first year I bought play passes for Childsplay productions, we weren’t able to use a single ticket. 

Our son was having a tumultuous year, as we all were, when a serious health condition became our constant shadow. A trip to the theater felt tougher than a trip to the moon. 

We mourned the loss of many things that year—the joys of children’s theater among them. 

I shared a bit of our story with one of the fine folks at Childsplay, who graciously offered us play passes for the following season. 

Life had settled a bit by then, and the light of theater chased many shadows from our midst. 

Childsplay extends learning beyond the classroom

I’ll always be grateful to Childsplay for that simple act of kindness. 

I remember it well each time they announce another season full of whimsy and wonder. 

I recently learned that Childsplay passes for the 2010-2011 season are an especially good value when purchased before June 30. 

When you purchase play passes, they’re deposited directly into an account created for you at the Tempe Center for the Arts box office, and you can exchange the passes for show tickets either in person, by phone or online. 

Friendship is a common theme for Childsplay

The play pass program gives you a chance to enjoy lower ticket prices, waived processing fees and the ability to obtain show tickets a week before they go on sale to the general public.

Tickets can be mailed to you, printed at home or held for you at the box office. 

This is especially lovely for those of us who find that dealing with tangibles like tickets and money is way beyond bothersome. 

Although passes will be available for purchase through September, you’ll enjoy the best discounts if you order before June 30. You can click here for all the juicy details. 

Childsplay offerings for the 2010-2011 season are:

“A Year With Frog and Toad.” Follows the adventure of two great friends—a cheerful frog and a grouchy toad. Sept 18-Oct 16. Ages 4+. 

Childsplay makes learning fun

“Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” Recreates the world of intrigue that is “Room One” in a trio of Barbara Parker’s best-selling books. Jan 29-March 6. Ages 5+. 

“Go, Dog. Go!” Brings the adventures of P.D. Eastman’s book to life in a frolicking musical dog party. Jan 29-March 6. Ages 3+. 

“The Imaginators.” Explores the power of make believe as three friends discover friendship, courage and cooperation. April 9-17 (two weekends only). Ages 5+. 

“The Borrowers.” Follows a family who live under the floorboards as their curious daughter begins to explore the world of the ‘human beans’ who live upstairs. April 30-May 22. Ages 7+. 

Each show has it’s own charm, and back-story. To learn more about individual shows, their creators and their characters, visit Childsplay online at www.childsplayaz.org

I lost my heart to Childsplay after that first act of kindness. But more than a decade later, I still feel a genuine heart-tug each time I see them perform. 

Childsplay is truly the gift that keeps on giving. 



Childsplay shows make great play dates

Photos from previous Childsplay productions of “A Year With Frog and Toad,” “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” and “Go Dog. Go!” courtesy of Childsplay

Note: Childsplay will also perform “New Kid” (tour only) and “Ferdinand the Bull” (national tour only) this season. They offer classes year-round and are now booking school performances for the coming school year. Consider getting extra passes so you can take friends along and have some on hand for last-minute birthday gifts.  

Coming up: An intriguing season from Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Preview of weekend arts events (including the “I Matter” performance this Friday night by youth in the Free Arts theater camp program), Valley theaters present new works

What do saws, ribbons and pianos have in common?

I stumbled on some interesting lists while surfing the websites of Valley arts organizations the other day. I’m always amazed at what I find when I take even a few minutes to check up on music, dance, theater and other arts organizations that feature family-friendly fare.

Did you know that the Children’s Museum of Phoenix has an emergency need for a working wheelchair of any size? Or that Free Arts of Arizona is seeking Polaroid 600 film? Or that the Phoenix Boys Choir hopes to secure a cherry picker?

I certainly didn’t—until I discovered these items listed on their respective online ‘wish lists.’ It turns out that several Valley arts organizations have them, but too often the lists seem like ‘best kept secrets.’ That seems a pity, really, so I’m going to spread the word.

The following are partial or complete ‘wish lists’ from a sampling of Valley arts organizations serving youth and families. I hoped to find more, but it appears that many arts organizations don’t have them or haven’t yet put them online. Perhaps this post will help change that.

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix needs changing table pads, laptop computers, ceramic condiment jars and receptacles from other countries, flashlights and batteries, flower pots (terra cotta and ceramic), toy building blocks (all shapes and sizes) and other items. See www.childrensmuseumofphoenix.org to learn more.

Free Arts of Arizona needs good quality paint brushes, gift cards (for craft stores, home improvement stores, discount stores, etc.), 8” wooden embroidery hoops, new white t-shirts (adult, youth and children’s sizes), clay (Sculpey and Model Magic) and other supplies. See www.freeartsaz.org to learn more.

Greasepaint Youtheatre needs power tools (saws, drills, a gas type welder with wire feed), house paint and brushes (for murals), graphic design and printing services, repair services for their building marquee, office supplies, a color printer, black foam poster boards and other materials. Visit www.phoenixtheatre.com to learn more.

The Phoenix Boys Choir needs a new or gently used computer monitor, pianos for rehearsal rooms, American Express points (in groups of 20,000 points), a Yamaha P85 88-key digital piano and a $1,000 sponsor for a Clear Channel Billboard production (plus that fabulous cherry picker). See www.boyschoir.org to learn more.

I love the ‘wish list’ concept because it allows me to give and get involved in meaningful ways in lots of different places. You’ll never see my name on the side of an arts venue, but that’s okay—because my contributions are made in smaller ways. Still, I love to make them.

I remember going with my 18-year-old daughter to get Post-It notes for a political campaign office not so very long ago (the brownies we baked never made it because they were on her dad’s ‘wish list’). We didn’t have tons of time or money to give, but we made time to help fill a simple need.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that if we all took some time this week to buy and share some construction paper, some paint brushes, some scissors or some glue sticks—we’d make the world a better place. (And if ever there was a week to deliver wiggly eyes and sequins to Capitol Hill, this might be it.)

Every dollar an arts organization saves through donations like these is another dollar they have for programs that teach our children to enjoy and experience a myriad of art forms—from music and dance to painting and poetry.

So make time for ‘wish lists’—they really do matter.


Note: My 16-year-old daughter is touring Washington, D.C. and NYC with some schoolmates this week. If they wander past any offices strewn with brightly colored feathers or pipe cleaners, they’ll know who sent them…