Tag Archives: Laramie Project

What’s in a weekend?

I hardly know where to start…

This is one of those way-beyond-wonderful weekends when just about everything I’ve ever wanted to experience is here in all its splendor—an art gallery opening, a teen poetry competition, an annual dance event, a school musical, a movie ala ‘wonderland,’ a classic piece of social justice theater, a festival featuring all things native.

If I can’t make it to everything, I plan to at least have one heck of a good time trying—all the while saving a bit of energy for the equally exciting week ahead, featuring other fun happenings like the Arizona premiere of “Avenue Q” at ASU Gammage (remember, parents, that this one contains mature content and language).

If you read my ‘weekend wish list’ below and feel I’ve overlooked something, please share your arts-related plans in the comment section below. I’d love to hear how you and your family plan to enjoy the weekend together.

Alice in Wonderland. This 3-D Disney movie—featuring the work of writers Lewis Carroll and Linda Woolverton, director Tim Burton, and actors Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter—opens Friday, March 5th. The film spans three genres—action/adventure, family and science fiction/fantasy—and has a “PG” rating due to “violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.” It follows Alice, now 19, as she “embarks on a fantastical journey to find her destiny and end the Red Queen’s reign of terror.” (Check future posts for my review—or let me know what you think if you’re lucky enough to see it before I do.)

Sweeney Todd. This production—the spring musical presented by Verde Valley School in Sedona—is free and open to the public. It’s being performed twice at VVS’s Brady Hall: Saturday, March 6th at 7pm and Sunday, March 7th at 3pm. The original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd opened in 1979 with Sweeney Todd (a bitter barber bent on revenge) played by Len Cariou and Mrs. Lovett (a brazen baker bent on bolstering business) played by Angela Lansbury. If you’re only seen the 2007 film version (rated R for “bloody violence”)—directed by Tim Burton and featuring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter—you really should see a live production. The original Broadway run garnered seven Tony Awards, including best musical book (Hugh Wheeler) and best score (Stephen Sondheim).

Warehouse 1005. This studio and gallery opening—featuring works by artists affiliated with Art Awakenings—takes place Friday, March 5th, between 9am and 4pm. Art Awakenings is a program of PSA behavioral health agency focusing on “empowerment and recovery through creativity.” Established in 1971, Art Awakenings seeks to “enhance and empower the mental health community through creativity, innovation, and diversity.” Their studios and galleries, including the new site at 1005 N. 1st St. in Phoenix, serve more than 800 artists annually. Friday’s events at Warehouse 1005 include a meet and greet from 9-10am, opening ceremonies and reception from 10am to 1pm, and an open house from 1-4pm. From 6-10pm, they’ll participate in the First Friday Art Walk.

Target Day of Music. This event–featuring The Phoenix Symphony–takes place Sunday, March 7th at Phoenix Symphony Hall. The event is free, and designed for “families and music lovers of all ages.” Highlights include “festival activities” (such as an “instrument petting zoo”) starting at 1pm and “a special performance by The Phoenix Symphony” beginning at 3pm.

Pirates of Penzance. This production–the spring musical presented by Chandler-Gilbert Community College–takes place March 4th-6th, 8th and 12th at 7:30pm (plus 2pm show on March 6th) at the CGCC Annette Scott Ward Performing Arts Center in Chandler.  The work, originally a late 19th century opera by Gilbert and Sullivan (libretto by W.S. Gilbert, music by Arthur Sullivan), has been adapted through the years. The 1981 Joseph Papp production on Broadway–featuring Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kiline–earned a Tony Award for best revival. The 1983 film version featured the original Broadway cast with one exception: Angela Lansbury (currently in “A Little Night Music”) replaced Estelle Parsons (currently in “August: Osage County”) as Ruth. For tickets (general: $10, student: $7, matinee: $5), call 480-732-7343.

Remember too that there are plenty of other fun things going on this weekend—many of which have been featured in previous posts. Here’s a brief sampling, complete with links to the organizations sponsoring them and our earlier posts with additional details.

ASU Dance Annual. Features the “best works created by the ASU dance department.” March 5th to 7th at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on the Tempe campus. Friday: 6:30-8:30pm, Saturday: 7:30-9:30pm and Sunday 2-4pm. $7-$20.
Poetry Out Loud. State finals in the national Poetry Out Loud recitation competition. March 5th from 7-9pm at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix. Free.
Indian Fair & Market. Features the works of more than 700 top American Indian artists at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. $15/day includes admission to museum exhibits.
The Laramie Project. A “breathtaking theatrical collage developed from interviews surrounding the Matthew Shepard murder in Laramie, Wyoming.” (Recommended for ages 13 & up.) Presented by QSpeak/Greasepaint Youtheatre March 5th-14th at Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale. $12.

For an ongoing list of fun activities for families, visit the Raising Arizona Kids magazine online calendar at www.raisingarizonakids.com.

Have fun out there!



Phoenix library welcomes young poets

I know the temptation is there…

It’s Friday night. You’ve worked hard all week—juggling meetings and appointments, ferrying children to and fro, overseeing homework and chores, caring for family or friends facing tough times. The lure of the couch seems irresistible.

But fight it you must…

Because nothing is as invigorating or inspiring as seeing young people perform—and next Friday night, March 5th, affords an opportunity we only enjoy once a year around these parts.

It’s our annual state finals for the Poetry Out Loud competition, which takes place this year at the Burton Barr Public Library in Phoenix and is free and open to the public.

Students representing 24 Arizona high schools will compete next Friday for the state championship and the opportunity to represent Arizona in the 2010 national Poetry Out Loud competition.

They were selected from among 11,000 Arizona high school students who participated in this year’s competition.

Poems selected by these 24 semifinalists include works by Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats and many others.

I won’t get to hear the work of my favorite poet, Robert Frost, but I’ll enjoy experiencing other works not yet on my radar.

I’m especially pleased to learn that Lewis Carroll will be represented—because I fret that too many folks will rush to see Disney’s new “Alice in Wonderland” movie without any real appreciation for the man who wrote the 1865 title (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) that inspired it.

The final round of this year’s state competition takes place at Burton Barr Central Library Friday from 7pm to 9pm, but you can hit the library sooner if you’d like to see the semifinals between noon and 5pm. (Visit the ‘Friends’ gift shop while you’re there for great deals on used titles.)

I was thrilled to learn about the afternoon session since I long ago promised my 16-year-old daughter Lizabeth that I’d attend her opening night performance of The Laramie Project with QSpeak Theatre and Greasepaint Youtheatre that evening. (I’m so annoyed by all those limitations of time and space.)

The 2010 state champion will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national competition. His or her school will receive a $500 stipend for purchasing poetry books. One runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library.

Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends at the national finals, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the national Poetry Out Loud champion.

The Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The program encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

With so many folks fearing the demise of literary and language skills in today’s too often ‘plugged-in yet tuned-out’ culture, I’m downright delighted to know that thousands of high school students across the state are giving poetry more than a passing glance.

Many, including Arizona’s 2008 and 2009 state champion Erik Hollis, transform poetry into a passionate performance art. “It was an experience I will remember for a lifetime,” recalls Hollis. “I learned never to set limits for myself regarding goals that I am passionate about.”

The 2010 Poetry Out Loud competition is a program of the Arizona Commission on the Arts in partnership with the Young Writers Program (YWP) at Arizona State University.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts, an agency of the State of Arizona that supports a statewide arts network, is one of 56 state and jurisdictional art agencies across the United States. (It’s an agency you may want to keep your eye on as Arizona budget battles continue to loom.)

The YWP provides Arizona’s K-12 community with standard-aligned creative writing opportunities through mutually beneficial partnerships, using various arts-based strategies to create positive arts opportunities that foster student achievement.

Friday’s event will feature special guest Alberto Rios, an Arizona poet and author, who serves as the Regents’ Professor and the Katherine C. Turner Chair of English at Arizona State University. Rios will give a reading of his works and serve as a judge in the final competition.

So how does the Poetry Out Loud competition manage to engage so many teens in appreciating and sharing poetry? Simply put, they rely on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance. The program brings “the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class.”

Participants enjoy opportunities to “master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage”—abilities valued by parents and peers, as well as college recruiters and potential employers.

If you snicker when you think of poetry, these students may well have the last laugh.

I hope you’ll go out and support our state finalists next Friday night. You can always curl up on that couch Saturday night, though I suspect you’ll want a book of fine poetry rather than the remote control as your trusty companion for the evening.

Should Friday’s event leave you inspired to enjoy more performance art by Arizona youth, you can take in one of the many productions running that weekend.

Every day Arizona children and teens pour their hearts and souls into preparing for performances they so hope we’ll all come to see.

Let’s not disappoint them…


Note: If you’re looking for something family-friendly and arts-related to enjoy this evening (Friday, Feb. 26th), check the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine. It features a wide variety of activities throughout the Valley–including competitive improvisational comedy, an outdoor fair, assorted plays and musicals, and puppet theater. Or consider “Still Life with Iris” at Theater Works in Peoria (show ends Feb. 28th).

Social justice in theater: Reflections & resources

“Theatre brings a community of people together who are all there for a shared purpose,” reflects Ron May of Actors Theatre and Stray Cat Theatre, who directed the October 12, 2009 reading of The Laramie Project: Epilogue mentioned in yesterday’s “The Fine Art of Social Justice” blog.

“Granted, not all theatre is there to encourage reflection or action on social issues,” May adds. “But in the best cases, it has the power to nudge the collective consciousness a bit.”

The Laramie Project addressed the October 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. The murder, observes May, made us “look at ourselves as a culture.” There was a national panic, adds May. “And wherever panic is happening, something profound is happening that needs to be listened to.”

“What are we teaching our children about religion, violence, homosexuality…where they feel they have to kill someone else? There certainly aren’t any easy answers to that,” notes May. Yet art “rarely if ever provides the right answers,” he adds. “Hopefully it asks all the right questions.”

If learning a bit about Matthew Shepard and the Laramie Project from yesterday’s blog left you wanting to explore more, here are some resources to get you started…


The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Members of Tectonic Theater Project (script of the original play)

The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed by Judy Shepard


www.laramieproject.org. Comprehensive audience guide includes overview, chronology, information on hate crimes legislation, list of resources, description of ‘moment work’ and more

www.matthewshepard.org. Resources and news from the Matthew Shepard Foundation

www.tectonictheaterproject.org. Information on the company, the film version of the project, other company works, Laramie Project online community and more


The Laramie Project. HBO film (2002) directed by Moises Kaufman.


QSpeak Theatre. Grassroots theatre celebrating its fifth season (recently moved to its new home at Phoenix Theatre). QSpeak presents theatrical productions and trainings/workshops on LGBTQ issues, bullying and harassment (as well as theatre skills). To learn more, contact A. Beck at a.beck@phoenixtheatre.com.

“I have heard and seen firsthand the brutalities our youth are faced with for being who they are,” shares Beck. “I have seen youth right here in Phoenix and Scottsdale and Ahwatukee beat up, hospitalized, terrorized, and tormented at school, at their homes and on the streets.”

Thanks to The Laramie Project and Epilogue, and the countless people who have performed and witnessed the work, our individual and collective reflections and actions can help carry discussions of these issues forward.

As President Obama noted Wednesday as he signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act—“At root, this isn’t just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another—whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.”

Coming soon: Audition tips for children and teens

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

The fine art of social justice

Part of the fun of blogging is checking out other people’s blogs. Wednesday I was on “The White House Blog” (www.whitehouse.gov/blog), which opened with these words: “Today the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law…a victory decades in the making and steeped in blood and pain.” The law adds federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“I remember when Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming,” reflects A. Beck, Education Director for Phoenix Theatre and Founder/Director for QSpeak Theatre (which writes and produces works about “what it is like to live as an LGBTQ young person in the Valley today.”)

Shepard, a 21-year old gay college student, was savagely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in October of 1998. Beck recalls: “Growing up in a small, rural community in Nebraska, this crime felt very close to home. It was only a few years earlier that Brandon Teena was murdered in my home state for living as a transgendered teen.”

After Shepard’s murder, Moises Kaufman and fellow company members from Tectonic Theater Project in New York, repeatedly traveled to Laramie to interview residents. They also studied court documents and media coverage of the event—which they refer to as “a watershed historical moment in civil rights in America.” The result was the 1999 play “The Laramie Project.”

Last weekend Beck, along with a member of the Tectonic Theater Project, led a three-day workshop for 19 local youth ages 14-22. My 16-year-old Lizabeth was among them. She’s always been deeply moved by works with social justice themes—such as Rent (which addresses HIV/AIDS, homelessness and substance abuse) and Urinetown (which addresses scarce resources and their unjust distribution).

We’re fortunate to have several local theater companies that tackle these types of works. Two of our favorites from last season were Columbinus by Stray Cat Theater in Tempe (which addressed the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado) and Closet Drama by Chyro Arts Venue in Scottsdale (which addressed religious extremism and sexuality). Lizabeth shared with me that she enjoys these types of works because they allow her to explore issues that people sometimes have a hard time talking about.

On October 12th we had the privilege of participating in a one-of-a-kind theater event as Tectonic Theater Project presented “The Laramie Project Epilogue” at the Lincoln Center in New York. We saw one of more than 120 simultaneous readings of the work presented at universities, stages and theaters nationwide—including the University of Arizona in Tucson and Arizona State University in Tempe—which included a live feed of remarks and discussion occurring in New York before and after the reading.

If you’ve never seen the Laramie Project (or even if you have), you’ll have the opportunity this spring when Greasepaint Youtheatre, which is now affiliated with Phoenix Theatre, presents the piece. It’s a great opportunity to witness the fine art of social justice, and to see the unique approach to theater—called “moment work”—that makes this work so powerful and unique.

But you won’t have to wait that long to enjoy a piece of controversial theater in the Valley. Scottsdale Community College Theatre Arts and ImageMakers Theatre Club are debuting a new work called “Distracted,” written by Lisa Loomer and directed by Randy Messersmith. SCC describes the work as “a fast-paced and disarmingly funny look at parenting in the age of the Internet and Ritalin.” 

For location and show dates/times, visit http://www.scottsdalecc.edu/news/distracted or call the Theatre Artists Studio at 480-423-6359. (Please note that the show contains strong language and mature content, and is therefore not recommended for students under age 16.)

If you’ve seen the Laramie Project and/or the Epilogue, I’d love to read your comments about the works. Also let me know if you have comments to share after seeing “Distracted.”

Tomorrow I’ll continue the theme of theater and social justice by sharing resources for parents, students and teachers who want to learn more—and tell you a bit more about QSpeak Theatre.

I’ll also share reminders about shows that close soon—so you can get out there and see them before it’s too late—and about weekend ticket specials.

As always, I invite you to send comments about the shows you recommend and the deals you are finding out there!


Coming Soon: Childsplay, Valley Youth Theater and other family-friendly theater companies