Tag Archives: Grease

Once upon a theater camp

Aaron Zweiback performs in Green Eggs & Ham with The Phoenix Symphony on St. Patrick's Day

I was reminded while reading Mala Blomquist’s post this morning that spring break camps will soon be upon us, and was busy trolling for camps with an arts and culture twist when interrupted by a call from 12-year-old actor and ASA student Aaron Zweiback, whose theater teachers include Xanthia Walker.

I first met Zweiback last summer when my daughter Lizabeth, who now studies acting in NYC, was a teacher assistant with Childsplay Academy in Tempe. She’d invited me to see the final performance of a summer workshop with a “Hairspray” theme. Zweiback was one of several campers performing snippets of the musical for family and friends — and his Edna a la bathrobe was a hoot. He’s also done theater camps with Phoenix Theatre.

I ran into Zweiback after a recent Valley Youth Theatre performance of “Charlotte’s Web” — during which he rocked the rat role — and put fist to ear with the typical “call me” sign after chatting with his dad. In a rather spooky coincidence, I’d been wondering earlier this morning whether he’d ever have time to actually pick up a phone.

Today was the day, and the call couldn’t have been better timed. Turns out Zweiback is performing in several shows I’ll be seeing in coming days and weeks. I learned yesterday that I’ll need a little snip to a torn part of my left knee, but decided to postpone all things arthroscopy for another two weeks in order to keep my review calendar mostly intact.

Aaron Zweiback recently performed in Charlotte's Web at Valley Youth Theatre

So life looks like this for me and my knee: See Zweiback and others perform in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre this weekend, limp my way through a trip to visit Lizabeth over spring break, then catch a returning flight in the wee hours that gets me home just in time to hit another Zweiback gig — The Phoenix Symphony performing “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then squeeze in the surgery thing (with a doc who took his kids to see a friend from the Valley perform in “Grease” on Broadway a few years ago). I’m told the wait won’t worsen what ails me.

Turns out “Green Eggs and Ham” includes all sorts of amazing folks from Valley stages. ASA teacher and renowned Valley actor Toby Yatso, with whom both Lizabeth and Zweiback have studied voice, is narrating the story. Zweiback does his “boy soprano” thing as “Sam I Am” and shared that the theatrical piece of the concert is being blocked, choreographed and directed by Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

There’s another Sam in Zweiback’s life as well — an actor named Sam Primack whose little mittens I once guarded with care as backstage mom for a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Oliver.” He and Zweiback were in “A Christmas Story” at Phoenix Theatre earlier this season, and both are cast in Childsplay’s world premiere production of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars.”

Sam Primack poses with a VYT fan after performing in Charlotte's Web

After Zweiback shared a bit about auditioning for all these shows, I invited him to write a guest blog with audition tips for young actors — and he graciously agreed. It takes a generous spirit to share one’s own “secrets to success” and Zweiback certainly has one. I fully expect to see him performing on Broadway stages one day, and hope he’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to audition for roles in works by William Shakespeare where his intellect and gift for comedy would shine.

If the ticket fairies are working in my favor, I’ll be able to enjoy the work of another Valley-trained actor while in NYC next week. Nick Cartell, who has performed with VYT, Phoenix Theatre and other Arizona companies makes his Broadway debut this month in a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Katie Czajkowksi and Aaron Zweiback after a Childsplay summer camp performance based on the musical Hairspray

I’m also looking forward to the Homestead Playhouse production of “Holes,” being performed at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale March 28-30, because another young performer I met after the Childsplay “Hairspray” camp performance landed the warden role. Katie’s mom, Deb Czajkowski, recently got in touch to share the happy news — and her thoughts on the many benefits of theater for youth.

I hope those of you still wondering what your children or teens might enjoy doing over spring break will do a little theater camp legwork. One day, perhaps, you’ll get to turn to your child and share the old theater adage for good luck — “Break a leg!” Just try to keep your own body parts intact in the meantime…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read Mala Blomquist’s post on spring break camps and here to learn about all sorts of summer camps. Find additional spring break camps at Voices Studio, Creative Stages Youth Theatre and Mesa Arts Center (if you’ve got one, send me the scoop at rakstagemom@gmail.com).

Coming up: Spring break NYC-style, Hometown boy makes Broadway debut

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Desperately seeking dogs

In a desperate attempt to ready our cat “Pinky” for upcoming auditions at Valley Youth Theatre, my daughter Lizabeth tried in vain to get the feisty feline to sit on command this morning. Attempts to train “Pinky” to answer to the name “Sandy” — the name of the dog in the musical theater classic “Annie” — were equally futile.

Madison Kerth & Mikey performed in a touring production of ANNIE at ASU Gammage in Tempe (Photo: Phil Martin, 2009)

Perhaps we should send “Pinky” up the street to the local dog park with a pawful of posters publicizing tomorrow’s auditions. “Sandy” hopefuls should be at Valley Youth Theatre Wed, May 11 at 3:30pm. I’m told no headshots or resume are needed.

The original “Sandy” was a stray beige terrier mix. I suppose that means “Bonnie” — constant companion of RAK calendar and directories editor Mala Blomquist — is out of the running. Pity because she’s better than most of us at taking direction.

Maybe VYT should try a humorous tack, substituting a “Sandy” of another sort as Annie’s newfound friend for their June 10-26 production of “Annie” at the Herberger Theater Center. Perhaps the syrupy-sweet “Sandy” who falls for “Danny” in the musical “Grease.”

Or they could run with an idea my daughter Jennifer suggested — turning to local animal rescue organizations for help with finding the perfect mutt, then partnering with them to spread the word about animal health and wellness.

VYT has long facilitated the collection of animals of another sort — helping Chandler teen Dennis Fries gather stuffed animals for hospitalized children as part of his “Operation Noah” program. Maybe the perfect terrier is actually a soft, cuddly toy.

For all the roles she’s performed through the years — mostly with Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale and Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix — Lizabeth is still known to many for those beautiful barks she bellowed during the ASA production of “Lucky Stiff.”

If all else fails, I suppose VYT could recruit her to don some sort of “Sandy” suit — though I think they’d have better luck training “Pinky” to sing “Tomorrow.”

— Lynn

Note: Auditioners of the human variety (mostly ages 13 +) can try out for VYT’s production of “Hairspray” — either Fri, May 13 at 3:30pm or Sat, May 14 at 9:30am. Click here for comprehensive information on Valley auditions from Durant Communications.

Coming up: Arizona art adventures

Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center

After dropping one of my kids off for a meeting in downtown Phoenix on Saturday, I had an hour or so of spare time on my hands. Recently armed with a new camera, I decided to go in search of art venues I could explore and maybe snap some photos.

The view as I walked east towards ALAC and Symphony Hall

I found a metered parking spot along Adams, and headed a block or so up the road to the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center. I entered through the gift shop, lured by a vast array of colorful objects of art, attire, jewelry and more.

ALAC has a humble exterior but boasts great works of imagination within

There I met two cheerful gentleman who welcomed me to the Center, and assured me they’d be happy to answer any questions. I got permission to use my flash and off I went.

This bracelet with hearts might make a nice Valentine's Day gift

While going from room to room, I enjoyed works ranging from small metal sculptures to giant artworks drawn with colored pencils.

Sweet Dreams by David Romo sits at a nice height for younger viewers

I enjoyed artwork featuring cars, owls, desert animals, children, butterflies, the wide open sky and so much more. It’s a place you can explore in less than an hour, and I saw plenty of works that have strong kid-appeal.

Detail, Til the Road Ends by Ray Rivas

The Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center is in a great location for walking city streets and enjoying all sorts of shops, restaurants, galleries and performing arts venues.

Untitled by Carlos Navarrete is part of a Visions of Guadalupe exhibit

You could easily make a day of it by taking in a show at Valley Youth Theatre nearby or htting the Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library. (Both have small art exhibits on site.)

Like many musems, ALAC uses technology to enhance cultural exhibits

But back to my ALAC adventures — which included a lengthy and lively chat with one of the young men who’d greeted me when I arrived.

This metal and found objects sculpture (R) is Cicso's Ride by David Romo

I learned late in our conversation, after mentioning my fondness for the colored pencil works, that I was talking with artist Carlos Rivas.

Detail, Must Not Sleep by Carlos Rivas - Part of the "Off the Grid" exhibit

Rivas is a 33-year-old “self-taught” artist from El Paso, Texas who has been creating art since childhood, but only embraced his talent within the past few years. His passion for art and community are evident as he speaks.

Detail, Lord Ganesh by Carlos Rivas - My favorite work on exhibit at ALAC

I mentioned seeing yet another Arizona-related story on the front page of The New York Times — regarding recent changes to policies regarding ethnic-studies courses in high school.

We agreed that it would be nice to read good news about Arizona for a change, and Rivas shared his conviction that the Center serves the community by increasing knowledge, understanding and dialogue.

I hadn’t yet heard the tragic news of the shooting in Tucson, and it occured to me that the national media should visit the Center to find a bit of what’s beautiful here in Arizona.

You can enjoy the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center free of charge during regular operating hours — but a glass jar welcomes donations by those who wish to support the Center’s work.

ALAC has a room/stage dedicated to performance and educational events

Or head to the Center for Phoenix “First Fridays” so you can enjoy several arts and cultural activities in one evening.

Remember ALAC next time you enjoy a symphony, opera or ballet downtown

If you’re a teacher taking students on a field trip to the Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix Symphony Hall or other nearby venue, leave some extra time to explore the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center.

The Herberger Theater Center has a stunning new look both inside and out

The Center is also a nice pairing with an afternoon spent at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. I left the Center with a wee bit of time left on my parking meter, so I scurried over to the Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery to enjoy their new “Sacred Places” exhibit.

This James Van Fossan work titled Sky IV is part of the Sacred Places exhibit

On my way back to get Lizabeth, I drove past the Phoenix Center Theater and noticed a long line of folks heading into the theater for a performance of “Grease” by youth in an afterschool program titled “Art & Sol.” The show runs through Sat, Jan 22.

Enjoy true community theater just off the Loop 202 at 3rd St. in Phoenix

I’ll share more of my Saturday afternoon adventures in another post. In the meantime, feel free to suggest other venues you’d like me to explore and share with our readers.

Watch for roving Phoenix Ambassadors eager to assist downtown visitors

Inspired by the work and words of Carlos Rivas, I expect to take not only my camera, but also a sketch pad and colored pencils, on future art adventures.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about arts and cultural attractions in the downtown Phoenix area.

Coming up: Art at the Herberger — inside and out

Photos (decent and lousy) by Lynn Trimble

VYT alumna stars in new movie

By Joe DiGiovanni, Guest Blogger

Guest blogger Joe DiGiovanni of Scottsdale

I had the privilege of seeing an early screening of the new movie “Easy A” starring the Valley’s own Emma Stone.

It is about a girl in high school who is a good student and kind of goes under the radar at school. In other words, she isn’t really noticed much!

She is in a situation where she feels that she needs to tell a little lie, which in turn…turns to one lie after the other.

This one lie snowballs into more lies, which never ends up well. It also hurts a lot of people. Lies usually do!

This movie is about her journey through these lies and the consequences of them all.

The different characters portrayed throughout the movie show a wide range of all kinds of people and how they are perceived in our society.

It is very funny, but at the same time tells the story about how lying never quite turns out the way you would like it to!

Emma Stone was extremely funny and witty. This movie truly shows how talented this young actress from Arizona really is.

I would recommend seeing this movie, not only to support our local actress but because it really was a good story and I laughed throughout.

This movie is for pre-teen and up.

Joe DiGiovanni is an 11-year-old student from Scottsdale who has performed with Valley Youth Theatre. DiGiovanni is in the 6th grade at Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics in Phoenix. Watch for him in the upcoming VYT production of “Pinkalicious.” “I love to play the drums,” writes DiGiovanni, “and LOVE to see as many movies as I can!!!!”

Note: Click here to learn more about “Easy A” and here to learn more about Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Check out the photos below to enjoy a glimpse of VYT’s current production of “Grease” — playing through Sept 5. Tickets were sold out when Lizabeth and I decided to hit a matinee this weekend, so don’t delay if you want to see this lively musical (you might just see the Valley’s next Emma Stone in action).

Coming up: Storytelling for young and old; Valley schools for the arts mount musicals and more

VYT earns an “Easy A”

"Easy A" opens in movie theaters nationwide on Sept 17

Note: This post has been corrected subsequent to its initial posting.

Usually a stickler for staying home on school nights, I made an exception last Wednesday to take Lizabeth to a preview of “Easy A” at the AMC Movie Theatre at the Arizona Center in Phoenix.

We learned of the movie’s Arizona premiere because we get e-alerts from several Valley theaters — including Valley Youth Theatre, where Lizabeth volunteered not too long ago on the technical crew for “Cinderella” at the Herberger Theater Center.

“Easy A” stars Emma Stone — well known to Valley theater buffs as one of many young actors who honed their skills performing with Valley Youth Theatre, which is headed by the highly acclaimed and heavily awarded Bobb Cooper.

Stone, known to Valley audiences for years as “Emily,” has performed in several VYT productions — including Old Queen Maude in “The Princess and the Pea” and Portia in “Cinderella” (both earned AriZoni Awards).

Cooper proudly introduced the movie after sharing that VYT’s current production of “Grease” has just been extended due to popular demand (you can now enjoy the work being performed at VYT through the Labor Day weekend).

I met an especially delightful mother and son during the “Easy A” premiere. The son first caught my eye while going in and out of the aisle where we were sitting. I always choose an aisle seat, so other folks have to step over me for those fabulous popcorn runs.

Stone's character "Olive" only pretends to be "easy"

“Excuse me,” he said each time he passed. Always a stickler for manners with my own children, I’m ever impressed when I see other youth (and their parents) shine in good manners mode.

We got to chatting after the movie — which easily earned an “A” in my book (despite rampant use of words I’d rather not print here). It’s smart, funny and best described by Lizabeth as “sophisticated.”

The screenwriter pretty much rocked our world, for a whole host of reasons that I’ll share in an upcoming post.

Anyhow, the mom shared that her son will soon be performing in his third VYT production. Recently he appeared in “The Hobbit” and “Willy Wonka.” Next up is “Pinkalicious” — being performed at VYT Oct 1-17.

Seems he’s also a film buff, so I invited him to shoot me a review for possible posting. I can’t wait to see what he does with it — especially since I gave him a rather short deadline.  He shook my hand and I knew he’d work hard at crafting a strong piece.

VYT alumna Emma Stone

I expect to post a detailed review as the movie hits theaters nationwide on Sept 17. For now let me just share how delightful it was to enjoy a movie premiere featuring more than one longtime local talent.

Lizabeth noted that the cast also includes Max Crumm, who first gained national attention as the winning “Danny” on NBC’s reality show titled “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” and went on to star in a Broadway revival of the musical “Grease.”

Hit the VYT website to learn about the many acting gigs and other adventures of VYT alumni — and the many shows you can enjoy seeing them perform this season (including “Annie” at the newly-renovated Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix).

And stay tuned for a guest blogger review of “Easy A” — which has already earned high marks with at least a solid 4 out of 5 stars in my book.

— Lynn

Note: Auditions for VYT’s “Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tale” (a musical) will be held Sept 20 and 21 at 3:30pm at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Click here for audition details. Or click here for a comprehensive listing of Valley auditions for youth and adults provided by Durant Communications.

Coming up: Shakespeare ala symphony, opera and ballet; Multicultural music and dance

Weekend whimsy

There’s a little something for everyone when it comes to family arts and entertainment this weekend. Here’s a roundup by category–featuring everything from concerts and musicals to nature walks and museum exhibits–with a bit of whimsy thrown in just for fun…

From sweeping beauties to singing mermaids

Theater performances include “Cinderella: A Ragtime Musical” at Desert Stages in Scottsdale, “Grease” at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, “The Little Mermaid” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, “Two Bad Mice” by Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, “Into the Woods” at Theater Works in Peoria (featuring a fabulous raffle)

From choral auditions to singing with Elmo

Music events include “Phoenix Boys Choir auditions” at the Phoenix Boys Choir in Phoenix, “Andreas Klein” (piano) and “Rahim Alhaj” (Iraqi oud) at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, “Breakfast with Elmo” (including song and dance) at Family Time in Gilbert

From movies in the park to movies at the museum

Community movie events include “Movie Night at the Park” (“Hoot” plus lessons on burrowing owls) at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, “Dinner and a Movie” (“G-Force”) at Eddie’s House in Scottsdale, “Movies in the Ballpark” (“Cars”) at Goodyear Ballpark, “Kid’s Night Out Movie Night” (“Spirited Away”) at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa

From art walks to hands-on art projects

Art activities include “Downtown Chandler Art Walk” (art/entertainment), “Free Art Friday” (art projects/games) in Tempe, “Great Expectations and Dreams: Arizona Teens Speak Up” at ASU Downtown (to benefit PCH cancer/blood disorder patients)

From baseballs to carved dolls

Museum exhibits include “Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear” and “Solarville” at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” and “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art” at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, “Therizinosaur: Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur” at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa (adjacent to the Arizona Museum for Youth), “What Moves Us: Art of Transportation from the Permanent Collection” at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, “Visions: Text Messages” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, “Hopi Katsina Dolls: 100 Years of Carving” and “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix

From flashlight tour to wildflower walk

Nature activities include “Wildflower Walk” at The Arboretum at Flagstaff, “Hummingbird Banding” (professionals band, onlookers watch) at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, “Summer Saturday Evenings” at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, “Silent Sunday” at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, “Flashlight Tours” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

For additional details–including dates/times, fees/reservations, recommended ages and such–check with hosting venues. Additional information on many of these events/activities is also available through the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

–Lynn

Note: If you’re on the prowl for art-related books, music or movies, try your luck at the free “Bargain Book Sale” from 9am-4pm today at the North Valley Regional Library in Anthem.

Coming up: From lemons to lemonade, Multicultural performance art, Season openers from Valley theaters, ASU Libraries’ Child Drama Collection, All about art walks, More movie reviews

Graphics from Cafe Press. Click here to see their extensive selection of gift items in black, white and beyond.

Update: Thanks to Carley Conder for sharing the news that renowned choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, freelance choreographer/teacher/dancer originally from Denmark, is in Arizona for a six day residency. To enjoy a free showing of Boye-Christensen’s new work set for CONDER/dance, attend a Sat, Aug 21, performance at ASU FAC122 (11:45am-noon).

“Weekend” is the word?

Weekend” is indeed the word–unless you’re one of the young performers opening Valley Youth Theatre’s 2010-2011 season tonight with the musical “Grease,” first produced on Broadway in 1972. Or you’re set to see the show performed at Valley Youth Theatre between now and Aug 29–in which case the word is “fun.”

The word might be “win” if you get to tonight’s opening 30 minutes before the 7:30pm showtime and wow them with your 50s costume or dance abilities. Think poodle skirts and letter sweaters.

"Word Pointillism" from Childs Elementary School

The word is “audition” if your child wants to try out for Theater Works’ “Kids Alive” on Sat, Aug 14, between 1pm and 6pm. The performing troupe offers acting, singing and dance training to selected kids ages 6 to 19 with “a small tuition fee.”

Free” is the word if you attend the storytime being held at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe on Sat, Aug 14, at 11am. They’ll be reading “The Sundae Scoop” by Stuart Murphy–and giving participants a coupon for a free ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins in Tempe Square. (They’ll also hold an afternoon writing workshop.)

The word is “farce” if you’re a fan of playwright Neil Simon, because Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale opens “Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party” tonight in their Actor’s Cafe. Depending on your take on love, you might find the play’s reputation as a “farcical romance” redundant.

Film” is the word if you head to the Phoenix Art Museum for the “high-seas adventure” film being presented by Arizona Opera. It’s “Captain Blood” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland. Watching a classic with fellow film buffs in this setting may leave you feeling downright sorry for folks who settle for movies ala handheld device.

More word play from Childs Elementary School

The word is “rhythm” for families who make their way to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix on Sat, Aug 14, for a “Circle of Rhythms” event that gives children the opportunity to “explore various percussion instruments” in a facilitated drumming circle. Times vary by age and it’s free with museum admission–but space is limited.

Drums” is the word for folks who attend the “Bonga and Vodou Drums of Haiti” concert tonight at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix–which features “traditional Afro-Haitian roots music” complete with drums, chanting and other instuments that include the conch and didgeridoo. (Youth can sign up for a 10am workshop with Bonga that morning.)

Keeper” is the word for my hubby James–who not only makes the Buzzberry runs that fuel my wee hour wordsmithing, but also alerts me to stories of possible interest to RAK “Stage Mom” readers (click here to see his latest find on art and the immigration debate and here to see an article he sent me as a follow-up to a recent post titled “The Lion King–and leukemia”).

Whatever words you choose, I hope you’ll weave them into a story worthy of that charming back-to-school tradition–the “what I did this summer” essay.

–Lynn

Note: Always call ahead to confirm dates/times, locations, ages welcome, costs, registration requirements and such. For a comprehensive listing of family-friendly activities, visit the online calendar each day at www.raisingarizonakids.com.

Coming up: Real Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall 

Update: Enjoy an “Artist of the Month” reception (with DJs spinning vinyl) at Buffalo Exchange in Tempe on Sun, Aug 15, from 1-5pm–featuring Jake Michael, who “works primarily with recycled and reinvented materials.”