Tag Archives: Little Theatre

Definition of a dream

Call those babysitters! The 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival starts tonight!

Many of us wake up every day in warm, secure houses with pantries full of food and closets brimming with clothes. We dream of smarter phones, faster computers, bigger television screens.

But the dreams of homeless teens are very different. You can get a rare glimpse into the lives of homeless youth in Phoenix by attending a play titled “Definition of a Dream.”

It’s being presented April 1-3 by homeless youth who developed the original work in conjunction with Sarah Sullivan and the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. The Center describes the work as follows:

“Through the artistic experience, young people take their stories to the stage, looking to change the conversation about homelessness in Phoenix, one show at a time. This year’s play takes a look at dreams — the dreams we have for ourselves, for the people in our lives and our community as a whole.”

“Definition of a Dream” asks a powerful question: “What are the things we have to fight for and against to make these dreams a reality?”

The play is one of many thought-provoking works being presented as part of the Phoenix Fringe Festival, which runs April 1-10 at various downtown Phoenix venues.

Tickets for tonight’s performance of “Definition of a Dream” were not available online when I checked Friday afternoon, but tickets for the Sat, April 2 (5:30pm) and Sun, April 3 (8pm) performances may still be out there — but don’t delay in checking the Phoenix Fringe Festival website if you’d like to attend this or other works.

“Definition of a Dream” is being performed at “Modified Arts” at 407 E. Roosevelt in Phoenix. Additional venues for 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival performances (most appropriate only for mature audiences) include Phoenix Theatre: Little Theatre, Third Street Theatre, Soul Invictus, Bragg’s Pie Factory and Space 55.

You can check out the full “Fringe” schedule (which also includes after-parties and such) at www.phxfringe.org. After reviewing the schedule the other day, I noticed that there are works dealing with religion, sexuality, border issues and a whole lot more. Even Greek myth and Shakespeare manage to get in the game.

Several “Fringe” works, including “Twisted: Greeting Card Moments Gone Bad” by “Tom T. and Twisted Tidings,” are presented by a single artist. Some are presented by local artists, others by artists from other regions (including Australia). A few include students from Arizona State University.

You can get a good feel for the festival by considering the titles of some of the pieces being performed. Schreibstuck. Oppressed. Borders and Bridges. Hamlet Machine. The Panic Opera Sacraments. Too Close to the Sun. Your Teacher Never Told You….

There’s even “Confessions of a Mormon Boy,” which may hold special appeal for those of you who, like myself, have yet to snag tickets to the new Broadway musical titled “The Book of Mormon” (billed by some as an atheist love song to believers).

The Phoenix Fringe Festival is an edgy, off-the-beaten-path experience that’s fun for date nights, outings with friends or solo adventures. Think of it as a way to up the job numbers for all those babysitters out there.

Consider an afternoon, evening or weekend out with the “Fringe.” You might be offended. You might be educated. You might be inspired. But I doubt you’ll be bored. It’s a great way to explore our smaller community theater venues, enjoy affordable performance art and meet folks who probably wouldn’t recognize a remote control if they saw one.

— Lynn

Note: Attend the Phoenix Fringe Festival and you can save $10 off your ticket to “Liz Lerman Dance Exchange: The Matter of Origins” Monday, April 11, at ASU Gammage (use the code FRINGE when ordering tix from the ASU Gammage box office or 480-965-3434).

Coming up: Jellly bean dreams, Chicago envy?


I have a dilemma

I ran into a friend Saturday afternoon during the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine 2011 Camp Fair. She almost always greets me with the same line: “You’re everywhere!”

Sometimes she goes so far as to suggest I’ve been cloned, but if that’s the case she must surely have met a similar fate. She’s only seeing me everywhere because she too is out there flitting to and fro in theater world.

Cloning feels particularly tempting on weekends — when there are far more music, dance and theater offerings than we can possibly enjoy in just two days time. Festivals, art exhibits and museum fare also abound.

Lizabeth hit the ASU Kerr Cultural Center, just up the street from our house, Saturday night for an improv work titled “Jane Austen UnScripted” performed by L.A.-based Impro Theatre.

Comedy meets classic lit. That choice was easy. Especially given that missing such a show would be tantmount to blasphemy in our family prone to musings on history, literature and philosophy.

Sunday brought a tougher challenge. As longtime season ticket holders for the Broadway Across America series at ASU Gammage, we were sad having to miss today’s matinee of the musical “9 to 5.”

I was too busy working “5 to 9” to take advantage of their ticket exchange program for season ticket holders. I kept thinking “the show’s not until February” — but alas, it’s now nearly March.

Lizabeth and I planned to see “Friends, Enemies, and People on the Subway” — a show featuring student-directed one act plays — together Sunday afternoon.

It was presented by fellow theater arts students at Arizona School for the Arts, whose next work — the play “Triangle” by Laurie Brooks — is being performed April 29, 30 and May 1 at the Phoenix Theatre Little Theatre.

But Lizabeth checked Facebook Sunday morning and found a reminder that a friend she’s studied with at Childsplay Academy, a friend who faithfully attends all of Lizabeth’s shows, was appearing in a show that ended its run Sunday afternoon.

Amanda was “Scar” one year when Lizabeth was “Pumba” during a musical theater workshop based on “The Lion King” — and they’ve been friends ever since.

“Mom,” Lizabeth told me Sunday morning over the breakfast table, “I have a dilemma.” She was torn, wanting to support both her classmates and her friend.

So we found a way to do both. She hit the Mesa Arts Center for the East Valley Children’s Theatre production of “Puss ‘N Boots” (which had two ASA students in the cast) while I enjoyed the ASA performance of five one-acts.

We got pizza together afterwards to swap notes on the shows, then headed home to watch the 83rd Annual Academy Awards — where I discovered that the thing I’m most interested in cloning is Helen Mirren’s stunning grey gown.

— Lynn

Note: David Hallberg, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre in New York, will be honored Tuesday with the inaugural Young Alumnus Award from Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix. Click here for information about the free ASA event at which Hallberg will be recognized for his outstanding achievements.

Coming up: Art meets dance, A mother/daughter costume tale

Teens taking direction

ASA students during rehearsal for a one-act play directed by Will Snider

As the 83rd Annual Academy Awards draw near, plenty of folks have been rushing to see nominated films like “The King’s Speech” and “The Kids Are Alright.”

You’re likely familiar with the names of nominated actors like Jeff Bridges and Nicole Kidman — but what about names like Tom Hooper and David O. Russell?

They’re two of five best direction nominees (counting Coen brother Joel and Ethan as a single nominee), but they’re hardly household names.

Too often we focus exclusively on actors, neglecting to recognize the contributions of other folks who make film and theater happen — producers, directors, writers and such.

Even Will Snider, a Phoenix 17-year-old theater arts student at Arizona School for the Arts who regularly performs in community theater productions, admits he rarely looks at directing credits for the shows he sees.

But I suspect that’ll change soon enough — because Snider is one of five ASA students directing one-act plays that the ASA theatre arts department is presenting this weekend at the Phoenix Theatre Little Theatre downtown.

He’s also been directed by peers in an ASA directing class, and admits it can be challenging to take direction from fellow students. “I’m probably harder to direct because I have my own opinions,” says Snider. “I’m very outspoken.”

“Now that I’ve directed,” adds Snider, “I see how it can be frustrating.” I’m eager to see the finished product this weekend, and have a little confession of my own at this point.

I’m rather enjoying the thought of teens giving and taking direction from each other. Just maybe, some of them will see parallels with the experience of parenting.

We parents typically know what we’re going for, but children so often have input to the contrary. Teens taking direction is something I’m quite eager to see — especially for the modest ticket price of $5 (which benefits the school’s thespian club).

As a high school junior, Snider is at the beginning of that lovely process of choosing which colleges he’ll apply to — something that’ll be a bit more complicated in his case because he’s planning a dual business/theater major.

Knowing there are plenty of options for Valley theater-goers this weekend, I asked Snider why people should come to the ASA performance of short plays titled “Friends, Enemies and People on the Subway.”

“It may seem,” says Snider, “like we’re just a bunch of high school kids.” But don’t forget that “high school kids come up with the funniest things.”

He shares with genuine enthusiasm that “we have a bunch of creative kids” and describes the students’ acting as “high energy.”

Do the math. At a buck a play, you’re getting some serious entertainment value.

Plus, you never know when the young actors and directors whose work you’re enjoying today will be there on the silver screen, or holding a golden statue, tomorrow.

— Lynn

Note: ASA notes that these plays are appropriate for all ages and that members of the general public are invited. Click here for specific showtimes and ticketing information. Tickets will be on sale at the door only if the shows do not sell out.

Coming up: The dance of motherhood, The fine art of homework, New eyes for old haunts, Neil Simon — here and there, Art galas galore!

Photos by Will Snider

Theater for grown-ups

Stray Cat Theatre. Nearly Naked Theatre. Folks offering mostly mature-theme works are hoping you’ll book the babysitter and experience some of their upcoming “theater for grown-ups” fare.

I’m as big a fan of “Jungle Book” and “Peter Pan” as the next person, but sometimes a change of scenery is in order. So here’s a sampling of some of your options…

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater presents adult puppet slams several times a year for the age 18 & up set. I’ve never been, but I’m told it draws a good crowd — and I’m eager to join the fun. Their next adult slam takes place at 8pm on Fri, Dec 3 and Sat, Dec 4.

Scene from New Carpa's American Pastorela by playwright James E. Garcia

New Carpa Theater, a company founded in 2006 that specializes in “Latino and multicultural theater works,” presents their latest production Dec 4-19 at the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix (near Symphony Hall).

“American Pastorela: Show Us Your Papers!” is an unabashedly political play written by James Garcia and directed by Arturo Martinez — who certainly have a lot to add to the Arizona dialogue.

Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe presents “Learn to be Latina” Dec 3-18. It’s written by Enrique Urueta and directed by Ron May — and features the tale of a Lebanese woman told she must feign being Latina to achieve pop singer stardom.

Enjoy a talkback with playwright Enrique Urueta after the 2pm performance on Sun, Dec 5

Both May and Urueta will join the audience for a talk-back session following the 2pm performance on Sun, Dec 5. It should prove an interesting discussion of various issues related to self-identity.

For grown-ups who aren’t particularly fond of holidays or musicals, Space 55 in Phoenix presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas” Dec 3-18 (all Fri/Sat eve shows). Reduced ticket price available with canned food item donation to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

And now for the naked part. Nearly Naked Theatre, which performs at Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre, presents an Arizona premiere titled “Devil Boys From Beyond” Jan 8-29.

It’s written by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott, with direction by Toby Yatso. Think campy space-invader movie from the ’50s or ’60s. This baby won the 2009 award for overall excellence for outstanding play at the 2009 New York Fringe Festival. (Maybe for this one someone will actually wear fringe?)

N2N presents a full season of Arizona premieres for 2010-2011, including Devil Boys From Beyond

If alternative theater is your vibe, save the dates April 1-10, 2011 — when the 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival takes place. Just get a sitter and a room for this one people. It makes for a great weekend “staycation.”

With any luck at all, the sitter will simply assume that you’ve developed a quaint fascination with fabric arts.

— Lynn

Note: Other theater companies with offerings enjoyed by adult (and sometimes younger) audiences include Actors Theatre, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Black Theatre Troupe, and Phoenix Theatre.

Coming up: Traveling tribe comes to ASU Gammage, Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “Twelfth Night,” Family-friendy theater options, Art venues and holiday shopping

From vampires to toy soldiers

I’ve enjoyed many a backstage moment at Symphony Hall helping young dancers prepare to take the stage for Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker”–placing round red stickers on toy soldier faces, tying bows on the backs of party girl dresses, pinning all sorts of headgear in place.

I suspect it’ll be a very different scene backstage before Lisa Starry’s “A Vampire Tale,” which opens its 7th annual production October 13 at Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre (adjacent to the Phoenix Art Museum). Red, indeed. Headgear, perhaps. And fangs?

I can’t say because I’ve never been clever enought to snag tickets before they sell out. Mark your calendar for Sept 1 and you can learn from my mistakes.

Also note the dates Sept 22-26, which is when Ballet Arizona presents another annual dance tradition–their free, outdoor performances of “Ballet Under the Stars.” They’ll perform at four parks Valleywide, which many families enjoy ala picnics and beach blankets.

Next up in annual dance delights is the “Arizona Dance Festival,” being presented by Desert Dance Theatre Oct 7-9 at Tempe Center for the Arts.

Young performers and their parents may want to note dance audition dates for upcoming productions of “The Nutcracker.”

Scene from Ballet Etudes' "The Nutcracker"

Ballet Etudes children’s auditions (ages 7-18) will be held in Gilbert on Saturday, Sept 9. Their production of “The Nutcracker” features a cast of more than 100, and is performed over the course of three weeks at both Chandler Center for the Arts and Mesa Arts Center.

Ballet Arizona children’s auditions for “The Nutcracker” take place the following day, Sunday, Sept 12 at their studios in Phoenix. They perform the state’s only professional production of “The Nutcracker”–which runs Dec 10-26 this year at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.

Be sure to check websites carefully for age, height, skill level and other requirements–and remember all those cardinal rules of auditioning such as being well rested, taking plenty of water and arriving early to register and warm up.

I’ve also enjoyed “stage mom” time behind the scenes with “The Snow Queen,” performed annually at the Herberger Theater Center (which will celebrate a glorious renovation with an Oct 1 grand reopening event).

Snow Queen is presented by Center Dance Ensemble, resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center–and runs Dec 4-19 this year.

Scene from Center Dance Ensemble's "Snow Queen"

Snow Queen auditions take place Sunday, Sept 26, at the Dance Theater West studios in Phoenix, and are open to dancers ages 7-17 with a minimum of two years dance experience.

This next annual dance event is a ways off yet, but it’s worth marking your calendar now…

It’s the Arizona State University “2011 Dance Annual,” which is just one of many dance events presented each year by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Dance.

Radio City Rockettes

Finally, don’t forget your tickets to see the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes” Dec 1 and 2 at Glendale’s Jobing.com arena.

For a sneak peek, and a chance to win a free ticket voucher, join talented hometown dancers with the Rockettes as they lead the Phoenix leg (tee hee) of a nationwide “Kicking Across America” event tomorrow (Thursday, Aug 12) at 11am at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

Stay tuned for news of other exciting dance performances coming to the Valley–including the Merce Cunningham Dance Company “Legacy Tour” coming next year to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts–as well as a wealth of offerings from our many local dance companies and college dance programs.


Note: After writing this post, I received an alert about the “first annual” production of “The Nutcracker” being presented by Ballet Academy of Arizona and Theater Works at the Peoria Center for the Arts. Visit www.balletacademyofarizona.org to learn about performance dates/times and how your child can participate.

Coming up: Musings on museums and Mountain Dew, Conversations with Radio City Rockettes, Season openers for Valley theaters, The amazing travels of “Curious George,” Broadway musings from a Phoenix Theatre pro