Tag Archives: Harkins Valley Art

What matters most?

Kathleen Turner as Eileen Cleary in a scene from “The Perfect Family.” Photo by Oana Marian. Courtesy of Variance Films/The Perfect Family LLC.

I was disappointed when my last trip to NYC ended before this year’s Tribeca Film Festival got underway. But today I enjoyed a bit of last year’s festival with my daughter Jennifer thanks to a review copy of “The Perfect Family”– which was an official selection of both the Tribeca Film Festival 2011 and Outfest 2011.

Outfest is an L.A.-based film festival that spotlights “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film images and artistry.” Folks who missed last year’s festival can still see some of the films as they hit movie theaters or become available in DVD mode. “The Perfect Family” opens Fri, May 18 at Harkins Theatres Valley Art in Tempe. It stars Kathleen Turner, seen last year on Broadway during a brief run of Matthew Lombardi’s “High” (performed last month in Minneapolis).

Jennifer is especially fond of old movies, as in black-and-whites. So the last movie we watched together, just a few days ago, was a little 1940 number called “Irene.” She was eager to watch “The Perfect Family” after reading a blurb about the nonconfirmist family at the heart of the film.

Dad is a recovering alcoholic. Mom has a perplexing preponderance of guilt. Their son left his family for a manicurist who elevates the hand to an errogenous zone. And their daughter is carrying “a turkey baster baby” she plans to raise with the woman she’s marrying. All rather ordinary in some ways these days.

Unless you happen to be up for the coveted Catholic Woman of the Year Award, which requires letters from family members and a home visit from an esteemed clergyman from Dublin. Such is the case for suburban supermom Eileen Cleary, whose good works are evident but atypical family could cost her the honors.

Unlike a second nominee for the award, Cleary isn’t in it for the glory. She’s gunning for the prize that comes with it — a special blessing meant to absolve the recipient of all sins. She’s an uber-anxious woman whose only solace seems to be time spent in prayer or confession. When life intervenes, she’s a hot mess. And frankly, it’s not that much fun to watch her self-imposed suffering.

But the movie is a clear reminder, especially for those of us in midlife, that good deeds aren’t only those works performed outside the home. That absolution by others is hollow unless we’ve first forgiven ourselves. That children forging paths different from our own doesn’t mean they’re failures. That hypocrisy and lying are plenty sinful sometimes.

“The Perfect Family” is about what matters most. We forget too often, assuming we’ve been wise enough to figure it out in the first place. The film is poignant fare for women looking back over the choices they’ve made, couples who’ve spent too little time talking with each other and folks who prefer judging others’ families over tending their own.

Click here to learn more.

— Lynn

Note: “High” imagines the life of a young gay addict and the no-nonsense nun who works to rehabilitate him. Click here to learn more about September’s Recovery Month campaign from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Coming up: A weekend of new plays in Scottsdale


2012 Film festival fare

For true movie buffs, just one movie never enough. But 145 movies just might be. That’s the number of selections being featured at the 2012 Sedona International Film Festival, which takes place Feb. 18-26. Think full-length features, shorts and documentaries. Also animated, foreign and student films.

I’m told that Kevin Clash, the puppeteer featured in the documentary “Being Elmo” (which is narrated by Whoopi Goldberg) will be making an appearance at the 18th annual festival. “Being Elmo” won the special jury prize for documentary at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The Sedona International Film Festival is partnering with Arizona Musicfest to present a jazz concert featuring the Brubeck Brothers, and the screening of a new film about Marian McPartland, at the Sedona High School Performing Arts Center.

Advance-sale passes for the 18th annual Sedona International Film Festival are now available through www.sedonafilmfestival.com. Full-time students can purchase a 10 ticket package for just $80 by calling the festival box office at (928) 282-1177.

The 2012 Arizona International Film Festival takes place April 13-29 in Tucson and other southern Arizona communities. They’re currently seeking works by filmmakers age 18 and under to be featured in their “Indie Youth” program.

Submissions are welcome in several categories — dramatic, comedy, documentary, experimental and animation short. Information about opportunities for youth and adult filmmakers is available at www.filmfestivalarizona.com.

The 2012 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, featuring works that honor Jewish tradition and heritage, takes place Feb. 12-26 at three Harkins Theatres in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

The festival includes numerous Arizona and “area” premieres, and several guest speaker presentations. I’m especially pleased to see “The People v. Leo Frank” and “Hidden Children” in the festival line-up.

If you’re eager to sample a bit of independent film fare before 2012 festivals open, check out FilmBar in Phoenix (which has a nifty “Arizona Storytellers Project” event taking place Mon, Dec. 5 to benefit Republic Charities), The Loft Cinema in Tucson (which is doing a fun Eames chair giveaway on Thurs, Dec. 8) and Reel Arts 6 in Tucson (which is just wrapping up this year’s “Native Eyes Film Showcase“).

Or head to Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale, Harkins Valley Art in Tempe, or the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — which is featuring an especially controversial mature content movie for this month’s “Talk Cinema” selection.

— Lynn

Coming up: More film festival news, Family fun in Prescott

“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

There’s an award for that!

A week ago Monday, protestors took to the Arizona state capitol to protest immigration-related legislation—but the governor wasn’t there to witness the gathering.

David and Sonja Faeroy Saar (center) attend 2010 Governor's Arts Awards

She was already scheduled to appear at the 28th annual Governor’s Arts Awards, held at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix—an event presented by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Office of the Governor.

I spoke with a Valley artist attending the event that evening, who felt it a bit odd to be celebrating Arizona arts with the governor at a time when so many sectors of our community—including education, health care and the arts—feel ravaged by state budget cuts.

Still, it’s important to recognize the achievements of Valley artists and arts supporters. Now, more than ever, their work matters. I was especially proud that my 16-year old daughter Lizabeth was there, performing with Greasepaint Youtheatre.

She had strict orders to bring me a program and note names of the 2010 winners so I could pass the info along to you.

Dean Osborne performs at the Grand Canyon Music Festival

Here’s the happy news:

• Composer James DeMars of Tempe, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, received the Artist Award

• Preservationist Elisabeth Ruffner of Prescott, received the Individual Award

• Arts advocate Shirley Chann of Tucson, received the Shelley Arts Advocate Award

• The Grand Canyon Music Festival received the Education Award

Bank of America received the Business Award

The Drawing Studio in Tucson received the Community Award

Art for Kids Project at Webb Center

If you know of a deserving volunteer, artist, advocate, arts organization or business, there are plenty of other awards out there. Consider nominating/voting for the artists and arts lovers in your life if they’re eligible for the following…

• Arizona Central’s “Best” Poll. Vote on nominees online before tomorrow’s (April 28) deadline. Categories include art gallery, annual arts festival/event, regional arts center, theater company, live theater venue, museum, musical festival/event and more.

AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence. Nominations for two awards are being accepted through August 15, 2010. The “Outstanding Contribution Award” honors someone within the theater community and the “Distinguished Service Award” honors an individual, corporation or organization outside the theater community.

• Business in the Arts Awards. Nominations now being accepted for awards to be presented at the August 18, 2010 “New Artitude” event presented by Wells Fargo. Categories include large business partner, mid-size business partner, small business partner, arts organization, arts advocate, arts board member and special business volunteer.

Detour Company Theatre

Two other nifty bits of news in the arts award department…

Arizona Theatre Company’s own Latino Playwriting Award-Winner, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” by Kristoffer Diaz, was honored as a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (The Pulitzer was awarded to “Next to Normal” by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey—which will tour, beginning in November, with stops in Los Angeles and San Diego).

• Eight’s Third Annual Be More Awards™ will be announced at a May 20, 2010 luncheon and awards ceremony at Eight’s downtown Phoenix studios. Nominated arts organizations include the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, Rosie’s House and Valley Youth Theatre (for the “Be More Creative” award recognizing achievement in arts and culture) and Detour Company Theatre (for the “Be More Encouraged” judges’ choice award).

Rosie's House Music Academy

As always, I welcome your input if there are additional resources not included here. Please let me know of other award opportunities in the comment section below so our readers will have even more ways to recognize the artists, advocates and other arts leaders in our communities. There’s only one rule around here: Be nice.


NEW FEATURE! Watch for “Today’s Tidbits” at the end of Monday-Thursday posts so you’ll know of arts experiences you can enjoy during the week with your family or friends. Look for weekend arts events in Friday “Stage Mom” posts. More arts and other family-friendly activities are available every day at Raising Arizona Kids’ online calendar thanks to our amazing calendar editor Mala Blomquist.

Today’s Tidbits: ASU Theatre and Film presents their “5th Annual Student Film Fest” featuring both showcase and competitive formats at 7:30pm at Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe (info at 480-965-6447 or www.theatrefilm.asu.edu) • Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a free CGCC Community Choir and Orchestra Concert at 7pm (info at 480-732-7343) • Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe presents local author Tom Leveen with his debut teen novel “Party” at 7pm (info at www.changinghands.com) • Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents “Talk Cinema: Sneak Preview #7” featuring a film that “depicts the aspirations of all immigrants and the fulfillment of the American dream” followed by a moderated conversation with experts (tickets are $20; info at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org). If you have a visual or performing arts event to share, please drop me a line at rakstagemom@gmail.com. Calendar items can be submitted online.

The fine art of Darwin?

Life can take some surprising turns…

I went with my 20-year-old son Christopher (a budding wildlife biologist) to see the movie “Creation” the other day, expecting to see Darwin portrayed as a man pummeling his peers with hypotheses about the origin of species.

What I discovered, instead, was a refreshing alternative to today’s divisive and polarizing treatments of the topic of evolution.

If the movie depicts Charles Darwin—a British naturalist who lived from 1809 to 1882–with any degree of accuracy, he wasn’t anything like modern-day caricatures that paint him as an egotistical heretic hell-bent on destroying faith in God or respect for the church.

It seems quite possible, after seeing this film, that he valued faith and its institutions as the very fabrics of a society that might run amok without them–at least until tragedy struck too close to home.

I’m no Darwin scholar, so I can’t claim any insight into the ‘real’ Charles Darwin.

But the man I saw on film this week seemed humble rather than heretical, and far more tempered in his skepticism than peers who used his work to further their own anti-faith agenda.

If you’ve ever struggled to balance work with family, to embrace friends or family members with vastly different world views, to reconcile your own dreams with the expectations others have for you, “Creation” may speak to you in unexpected ways.

This movie surprised me on several fronts.

I hadn’t realized it was so exquisite visually—with its lush depictions of everything from forests and oceans to indigenous peoples and European architecture. Nor had I expected such a stunning soundtrack—alternating moving moments of silence with delicate violin and piano solos.

But what truly touched me was the tender relationship of Darwin to his children, especially eldest daughter Anne who appears to have shared his curiosity and love of the natural world. His interactions with animals—including an orangutan named “Jenny”—were equally profound.

Darwin with daughter "Annie"

Darwin and his wife Emma had ten children together, two of whom died in infancy. I loved watching Darwin tell “Annie” stories of the people and animals he encountered in his travels.

Whatever your view of the theory of evolution, you’ll likely find this movie is less about the origin of species than the bond between father and beloved daughter. It’s quite enchanting and, in time, heartwrenching.

I was no less surprised, when checking for movie times online, to uncover something called “The Charles Darwin Experience.” It’s an all-improvisation comedy troupe at the University of Arizona in Tucson that performs Tuesday evenings at 10pm at the Gallagher Theater at the U of A Student Union Memorial Center.

For those more serious moments, there’s something called the “Darwinfest,” presented last year by Arizona State University to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his On the Origin of Species. Transcripts and podcasts are available online.

So there you have it—the fine art of Charles Darwin—via everything from film to iTunes. I’ll bet he never saw that one coming…


Note: “Creation” plays for a limited time at the Harkins Valley Art in Tempe. Visit www.harkinstheaters.com for show times.

  • To learn more about Darwin and related topics, visit the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change at www.shesc.asu.edu.
  • Save the date…The ASU Herberger Institute of Theatre and Film “New Work Series” will feature “Dreaming Darwin” by Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster Feb. 11th to 19th next year at Prism Theatre on the ASU Tempe campus. Visit http://theatrefilm.asu.edu/ learn more about this piece as well as the institute’s newly-announced MainStage 2010-2011 Season.
  • If you’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C., consider a visit to the newly-opened Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History. Visit http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent/humanorigins/?src=e_h to learn more.

Coming Friday: Sampling of family-friendly arts events happening this weekend