Tag Archives: Hamlet

Much Ado in Mesa

The Mesa Arts Center is especially lovely as the evening sun sets

I headed out to Mesa Friday night eager to see Maren Maclean’s performance in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Much of what our youngest daughter Lizabeth knows about acting, Shakespeare and herself stems from time spent with Maclean, whose Beatrice in “Much Ado” is fantastically funny.

Before taking my seat, I headed to a long table featuring wares being sold to benefit the Southwest Shakespeare Company — where I found a nifty necklace, beaded bracelet and two sets of earrings. Mother’s Day shoppers take note — performing arts venues have some of the coolest stuff at some of the lowest prices.

A Shakespeare bust, perhaps, for the mother who has everything?

I also spied a group of teens and stopped the adult walking with them to ask whether they were part of a school program, since I always like to hear student reactions to Shakespeare’s works. Turns out they were attending “Much Ado” as part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s Open Doors program — and had the opportunity to chat with a trio of cast members after the show.

While a nearly full house was enjoying “Much Ado About Nothing,” which is directed for SSC by David Vining, folks in another theater were watching the Mesa Encore Theatre production of “Ragtime,” which runs through Sunday. Tall MET banners in the MAC lobby herald their next production, the musical “Hairspray,” and reveal some gutsy choices for 2012/13 — including “Spring Awakening” and a “TBA” show signified for now by a pair of eyes peeking out from a purple backdrop.

The East Valley Mormon Choral Association performed Friday evening at MAC

During intermission, I strolled outside the theater to snap photos of red and yellow walls illuminated by Mesa Arts Center — but found myself drawn to a wide flight of stairs, where girls of all ages were gathered in matching navy blue dresses that reminded me of daughter Jennifer’s old chorus uniform. Soon I found a mom — and asked what they were up to. She shared that her 12-year-old daughter is in her second year with the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization, which performed a concert called “From Classical to Broadway and Everything in Between” at the Mesa Arts Center Friday night.

She was kind enough to share her program with me, so I could learn more about the organization — which is currently holding auditions for the 2012/13 season (auditions for the EVMCO symphony take place in August). Friday’s “Easter Concert” featured “I Dreamed a Dream” (from the musical “Les Miserables”), “Stouthearted Men” (from the operetta “New Moon”), “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18” (by Sergei Rachmaninoff) and more. Their 2012 “Christmas Concert” takes place Dec. 1 at Mesa Arts Center.

Students in the ATC Open Doors program spoke with a trio of "Much Ado About Nothing" cast members after the opening night performance

After enjoying the second act of “Much Ado About Nothing,” I stayed for a talkback with members of the cast and creative tream — then made my way to the tiny Southwest Shakespeare Company studio where a trio of “Much Ado” cast members talked shop with Opens Doors participants. Truth be told, teens trump adults with better theater questions every time. Grown-ups eager to learn more about “Much Ado About Nothing” can consult the SSC play guide online and attend today’s 9am “Flachmann Seminar” with Maren Maclean Mascarelli, now the company’s education director.

Before Friday’s performance, artistic director Jared Sakren shared news of SSC’s 2012-13 season, which opens in September with “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and continues with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” opening in late November. A January “Winterfest!” features “Hamlet” and “The Tempest” presented in rotating repertory by a single company of players. And works by other playwrights include Noel Cowards’ “Private Lives” (Feb/March) and William Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” (April).

While admiring some of the Mesa Art Center’s architectual elements, I spied a poster for “Alice: A Wonder-Full New Musical,” coming to MAC in May thanks to Christian Youth Theatre in Phoenix — which is part of a national after-school theater arts training program started in San Diego. The pop/rock work by Jon Lorenz transforms two Lewis Carroll tales into a modern day adventure of high school students more smitten with listening to “The Red Queen” band than finishing their homework.

There’s a simple solution for that, by the way. Less pencil-and-paper homework, and more out-there-in-the-community arts education.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about additional performances, events, exhibits and classes coming to the Mesa Arts Center

Coming up: Tomfoolery meets tango

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Pardon my Pygmalion

Here’s a little something for those of you seeking just the right name for your baby boy: Pygmalion. The word, which has Greek origins, means “King of Cyprus” — which rather reminds me of Sara Bareilles’ “King of Anything.”

For others, the name Pygmalion conjures thoughts of playwright George Bernard Shaw — whose play titled “Pygmalion” references a Greek myth recounted by Ovid in which a sculptor who loathes women falls in love with his own statue of a beautiful woman.

Most know a later version of this story — the one told in the 1956 musical “My Fair Lady,” which is based on Shaw’s 1912 work. It’s the tale of a commoner, Eliza Doolittle, who undergoes a phonetics makeover at the hands of professor Henry Higgins.

Theater League brings “My Fair Lady” to two Valley stages this season — Mesa Arts Center Jan 31-Feb 1, 2012 and the Orpheum in Phoenix Feb 16-19, 2012. It features book, music and lyrics by Lerner and Loewe. Think “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

In his preface to “Pygmalion,” Shaw disparages the language skills of his peers. “The English,” Shaw writes, “have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.”

I suspect the Irish playwright, who lived from 1856 to 1950, would have plenty to say about most states deciding to drop cursive writing from the school curriculum. Blogging might take a beating as well.

Mesa Community College presents “Pygmalion” Jan 27-Feb 4, 2012 at Theatre Outback, located on the MCC campus. It’s one of four theater works in their “Theatre Arts and Film 2011-2012 Mainstage Season” — which includes some truly fascinating fare.

Those of you eager to experience Shaw’s work have another option as Desert Rose Theatre performs “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” July 21-30 at St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church in Scottsdale. Each 7:30pm show is preceeded by a 7pm “pre-show chat” and followed by a “fun Q & A with the actors.”

Desert Rose offers this summary of the play: William Shakespeare is out on the town to meet his Dark Lady, the woman who inspired his sonnets. But a sleepwalking figure interupts his tryst. Who is this new, mysterious and fascinating woman with regal bearing? Could she end up his new muse?

Tickets for “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” are just $10, and the fine folks at Brown Paper Tickets note a minimum age of 8 to attend. This production features Chris Michael Dennis, Diane Senffner, Kristina Rogers and Dave Edmunds.

George Bernard Shaw received the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature, and you can learn more about his work by visiting the Nobel Prize website. The Nobel Committee is currently reviewing productions nominated for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.

If you’re having twins, by the way, consider coupling the names Pygmalion and Hamlet. I owe that suggestion to my daughter Jennifer, though I think it might be a better choice for a pair of puppies you call “Pyg” and “Ham.”

— Lynn

Coming up: What would Robin Hood do?

What’s new: Shakespeare

Christine Williams (left) as Hermia, Michael Brusasco as Lysander, Ashley Smith as Demetrius and Tiffany Scott as Helena in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2005 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Photo by Karl Hugh)

There’s a lovely assortment of Shakespeare coming to the Valley during the 2011-2012 season — thanks to the Southwest Shakespeare Company in Mesa.

Shakespeare works they’ll be performing include “Titus Andronicus” (Sept. 8-24), “Romeo & Juliet” (Jan. 5-21) and “Much Ado About Nothing” (April 19-May 5).

True “Titus” fans, including my daughter Lizabeth (who tells me “Titus” makes Showtime’s “Dexter” look tame), can also experience the work as part of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season.

Other works being performed by the Southwest Shakespeare Company for 2011-2012 include “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (Nov 26-Dec 17) and “Art” by Yasmina Reza (Mar 1-17).

Those needing a faster Shakespeare fix can enjoy “Shakespeare at the Biltmore” June 2-11 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix — featuring the SSC performing Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Or head to the Utah Shakespeare Festival for the following works being performed June 23-Sept 3: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Richard III,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Utah Shakespeare Festival also presents Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” and Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” June 23-Sept 3. They’ll perform Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off!” June 23-Oct 29.

Those who head to the Utah Shakespeare Festival this fall can enjoy Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” (Sept 22-Oct 29) and Frederick Knott’s “Dial M for Murder” (Sept 23-Oct 29).

Stay tuned to the Southwest Shakespeare Festival website to learn when single show tickets for their 2011-2012 season will be available. Season tickets are available now.

Tickets for the 2011 Utah Shakespeare Festival are already on sale, but folks who aren’t yet Festival members will have to wait until June 23 to get tickets for 2012 productions.

Ashley Smith (left) as Laertes and Emily Trask as Ophelia in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2006 production of Hamlet (Photo: Karl Hugh)

In addition to “Titus Andronicus,” the 2012 Utah Shakespeare Festival line-up includes Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Hamlet.”

Also Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” a stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a modern adaptation of Moiliere’s “Scapin,” Marie Jones’ “Stones in His Pocket,” a Tony-Award winning musical titled “The Drowsy Chaperone” and a holiday show they’ve yet to announce.

Folks who assume Shakespearean companies proffer only “doom and gloom” or “satire and silliness” are quite mistaken — as demonstrated by the diversity of offerings noted above.

If you’ve never given Shakespeare, or the fine folks who perform his works, a fair shake — maybe this is the season you should give it a shot. There’s a good chance, I think, that you’ll like them a lot.

— Lynn

Note: Paradise Valley Community College performs “Twelfth Night” directed by Eric Schoen June 17-26. Click here for details.

Coming up: “Macbeth” meets movie theater — plus, Valley high school students review “Macbeth”