Tag Archives: Homestead Playhouse

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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Theater meets Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec. 6-11

More than a dozen Valley venues are presenting family-friendly theater fare with a Christmas theme. Here’s an early round-up, listed by city, to help families who celebrate Christmas with holiday planning…

Anthem

Musical Theatre of Anthem presents a “Holiday Show” Dec. 16. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Theater presents “Christmas Jukebox” Nov. 25-Dec. 18. www.fhtaz.org.

Gilbert

Hale Theatre Arizona presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Nov. 26 and  “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-23. www.haletheatrearizona.com.

Glendale

Spotlight Youth Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 2-18. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.

Mesa

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 25. www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 1-11. www.evct.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 26-Dec. 17. www.swshakespeare.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs A Christmas Carol Nov. 26-Dec. 17 in Mesa

Peoria

Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th St.” Nov. 25-Dec. 29 and “A Broadway Christmas Carol” Dec. 9-17. www.arizonabroadwaytheatre.com.

The Homestead Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-4. www.dcranchnet.com.

Theater Works presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-18. Theater Works/Youth Works Puppet Works presents “Saving Santa” Dec. 3-24 (Sat only). www.theaterworks.com.

Phoenix

Grand Canyon University presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Dec. 2-11. www.gcu.edu.

New Carpa Theater Co. presents “American Pastorela” Dec. 9-18 at the Third Street Theater (Phoenix Center for the Arts). www.newcarpa.org. (Mature content)

Phoenix Theatre presents “A Christmas Story” Nov. 23-Dec. 18. www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Space 55 presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas II” Dec. 1-17 and “7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe” Dec. 17. www.space55.org. (Mature content)

The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity” Dec. 2-11. www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Valley Youth Theatre presents “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” Dec 2-23. www.vyt.com.

Scottsdale

Theatre Artists Studio presents “Holiday Music & Musings: From the Page to the Stage” Dec. 2. www.thestudiophx.org.

Sun City

Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” Dec. 1-4. www.granddrama.com.

East Valley Children's Theatre presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 1-11

Tempe

ASU Gammage presents “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (touring production) Dec. 6-11. www.asugammage.com.

If your Valley organization is presenting a theater production with a Christmas, or other winter holiday, theme — please comment below to let readers know.

— Lynn

Note: A calendar of family-friendly events is always available online at www.raisingarizonakids.com. This post will be updated as I learn of additional theater offerings with a Christmas theme. Although most of the events noted above are designed for family audiences, please note that some are “mature audience” only productions.

Coming up: Christmas concerts, A cup of cheer

Update: Some of these shows are extending their runs, so check theater company websites for the latest and greatest information. 11/26/11

Ode to the Arizoni Awards

The Homestead Playhouse gang gathers after the 2011 Arizoni Awards youth ceremony (Photo by David Martinez)

While others sat glued to “Dancing with the Stars,” I enjoyed a festive evening with Arizona “theater folk” — attending Monday night’s Arizoni Awards at Tempe Center for the Arts. It’s actually two ceremonies, one for youth and another for adults.

This allows younger actors to finish homework and make their bedtimes. It also lets the hosts turn loose a little bit with off-color humor and language during the second half of the evening.

The 21st annual Arizoni Awards — formally known at the Arizoni Theatre Awards of Excellence — featured “dream hosts” Yolanda London, Robert Kolby Harper and Kurtis Overby. All looked fetching in their white sequin gowns and mostly-blue evening attire (Overby, sporting a red tie, didn’t get that memo.)

A few fashion trends of note: purple shirts for the gentlemen and long blue gowns for the ladies. My “best dressed” picks include Eric Chapman, president of the executive board for the Arizoni Awards, who rocked a black and white jacket with a jumbo check pattern and red lining.

Also Rebecca Hammer, one of four presenter assistants for the youth ceremony, who wasn’t afraid to share with me in the lobby that her royal blue gown with tasteful silver trim at the waist was a “My Michelle” from JC Penney.

Two shoe trends of note — flip flips and gladiator sandles. I’m not sure which is worse. Footwear that looks like a glittering granola bar or shoes that appear they could easily double as a weapon. (This from a woman who thinks black Fossil flats qualify as evening wear.)

The youth ceremony included performances by Greasepaint Youtheatre (“Bare Necessities” from “Disney’s The Jungle Book”), DFT Gecko Teatro (“Biggest Blame Fool” from “Seussical, Jr.”) and Actor’s Youth Theatre (“One Day More” from “Les Miserables School Edition”). Think lots of animal print and red, white and blue.

A gathering of Actor's Youth Theatre after the Arizoni Awards youth ceremony

It’s impossible, it seems, to curb excessive displays of enthusiasm during such ceremonies — but many of the grown-ups I chatted with were genuinely concerned it might takes days to regain full use of their throbbing eardrums. Maybe we should all try a little harder to emulate the calm of the Tony Awards we all hope to see our children participate in one day.

Director Chanel Branham (in blue) with Arizoni Award nominees Cambrian James (L), Andrea Martinez and David Vigari (R) (Photo by David Martinez)

Director Chanel Branham (in blue) with Arizoni Award nominees Cambrian James (L), Andrea Martinez and David Vigari (R) (Photo by David Martinez)

Results of the 2011 Arizoni Awards should be posted online once folks recover from the after-party, which landed a corporate sponsor for the first time this year. Thanks to the Arizona Ford Dealers Association — and a wag of the finger to those of you still driving Chevys to auditions and rehearsals.

If you followed the Arizoni Awards on Twitter last night, you’ve already got the scoop on big winners — which included Childsplay’s “The Borrowers.” Audience members seemed especially delighted when young actress Sara Matin was honored for her portrayal of Helen Keller in Desert Stages Theatre’s production of “The Miracle Worker.”

Alaina Beauloye, Jimmy Shoffman and the cast of Desert Stages’ “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” performed “Love is My Legs” during the adult ceremony. And Fountain Hills Community Theater performed “Along Came Bialy” from “The Producers” — complete with well-endowed grannies rocking tap-dancing walkers.

But the most applause went to Dion Johnson and D. Scott Withers, who performed “Timeless to Me” from the Phoenix Theatre production of “Hairspray” that resulted in awards for both Withers and Phoenix Theatre. Withers, who somehow made time to serve as director for this year’s Arizoni Awards, was teary- eyed as he accepted the award. Waterproof mascara is such a blessing.

Alex Slocum, Camille Gibbons, Jason Washburn, Brenda Goodenberger, Jennell Angel, Sydnie Greger and Victoria Fricker at the Arizoni Awards

Folks who offered thank yous chose the usual suspects — parents, children, fellow theater folk and volunteers. One thanked the ‘moms and dads set construction union,’ another the siblings ‘who never get jealous,’ and another the make-up artist who bestowed a full head of hair. Two thanked God for their ‘amazing talent.’ (God knows it’s there, no need to share.)

Four students received Arizoni Award scholarships during the youth ceremony — all ASU students, one in a doctoral program. The Virginia G. Piper Trust was honored during the adult cermony for its ongoing and outstanding support of Arizona arts and culture.

Chuck Disney, Linda Ferington, Patrick Moyse, Alexander Blilie and Ross Collins of Fountain Hills Community Theater (Photo by Patty Torrilhon)

Before leaving for the evening, I handed my business card to several folks gathered for impromptu picture-taking. I’ll update this post as their handiwork rolls in (and more gems from the ceremonies come to mind).

Congratulations to every Arizoni Award nominee and winner. You make it fun to sit atop the fifth wall.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the Arizoni Awards online at www.arizoniawards.com. If you have photos of last night’s ceremony to share, feel free to send them my way at rakstagemom@gmail.com. A selection will be featured in an updated version of this post.

Coming up: Conversations with Arizoni Award winners, Shopping takes center stage, Musical instrument photo opp, For the love of Lilly!