Tag Archives: Lyric Opera Theatre

Arizona Humanities Festival

Ballet Folklorico Esperanza performs at the Arizona Humanities Festival in Phoenix

I headed to Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix Saturday for an event called the “Arizona Humanities Festival: Stories of Us,” presented by the Arizona Humanities Council — and sponsored by APS and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

The all-day festival was designed as “a celebration of the cultures that surround us, the stories that define us, and the histories that connect us.”

A family activity area featured storytelling, face painting, Chinese calligraphy, Day of the Dead mask-making and much more. Characters like Maya & Miguel strolled through the crowd, posing with children for pictures. And various performers, including those pictured below, took to the stage. 

Face painting at the festival’s Dias de los Muertos Activity Center

Miguel and Maya with two girls attending the Arizona Humanities Festival

A pair of works (L) from the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center activity area

Traditional Chinese Lion Dancers preparing for a second performance

One of several groups that performed works with multicultural flair

Scenes from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown by ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre

The first of several dances performed by Ballet Forklorico Esperanza

A high-energy performance by Fushicho Daiko/Phoenix Taiko Drummers

Various speakers gave presentations in ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism building — on topics ranging from Anne Frank to pioneering women artists in Arizona. Nearby, attendees learned about things like hip hop and Arizona’s identity in Western movies.

Plenty of humanities-related organizations had booths at the festival — including the Central Arizona Museum Association, the Braille and Talking Book Library, the Arizona Authors Association and many more.

One of several exhibitors at Saturday's Arizona Humanities Festival in Phoenix

Folks who missed Saturday’s festival can enjoy other events presented by the Arizona Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities founded in 1973. Visit them online at www.azhumanities.org to learn more.

— Lynn

Note: According to the Arizona Humanities Council, the humanities include history, literature, languages, linguistics, philosophy, law, archeology, comparative religion, anthropology, ethics, art history and more.

Coming up: More fun with festivals

Photo credit: Lynn Trimble


Opera alert!

Opera is best viewed from furniture like this offering from the Diary of a Smart Chick website

I had a lovely time watching an opera one Sunday morning from the comfort of my couch. Looks like I’ll have another opportunity this weekend as Eight, Arizona PBS airs a Metropolitan Opera performance of “Il Trovatore,” Verdi’s tale of two brothers wooing the same woman.

When I’m ready to make the move from couch to cinema, I can head to the UltraLuxe Scottsdale Cinemas (located at The Pavilions at Talking Stick) for Opera Australia performances of works that include “Rigoletto” (your last chance is Thurs, Aug 25 at 7pm), “Mikado” (Sept), “”Der Rosenkavalier” (Oct) and “La Boheme” (Nov).

The Elixer of Love performed by San Francisco Opera

Or I can drive up the road to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to enjoy a bit of their “Grand Opera Cinema Series,” featuring works performed by the San Francisco Opera. First up is “The Elixer of Love” on Oct 26 — then “Tosca” (Jan), “Lucia di Lammermoor” (March) and “La boheme” (June).

Broadway aficianados know that the musical “Rent” is based on the “La Boheme” story, making this a “must see” opera for musical theater fans. The “Opera in Cinema” series at select Harkins Theatres includes a live simulcast production of “La Boheme” in March.

Other “Opera in Cinema” offerings this season include “Faust” (Sept), “Don Giovanni” (Dec) and “Rigoletto” (April). There’s also a “Ballet in Cinema” series — with titles that include “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Coppelia,” “Swan Lake” and more.

Madama Butterfly is one of five offerings in the Arizona Opera 2011-12 season

There’s no substitute for the experience of live opera and Valley families have several options, including performances by Arizona Opera and Phoenix Opera — as well as university opera programs like Lyric Opera Theatre at ASU in Tempe.

Arizona Opera, which performs in both Phoenix and Tucson, opens its 2011-12 season in October with two offerings — “Cavalleria Rustica” and “Pagliacci.” Other season selections include “Faust” (Nov), “Madama Butterfly” (Jan/Feb), “Aida” (March) and “Orfeo ed Euridice” (April). (The tale of Aida is also told in a Broadway musical.)

This season’s calendar for Phoenix Opera includes several themed performances, including holiday offerings celebrating Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Love/s Labour/s Lost is part of the Opera in Cinema series

If you’re new to opera or eager to up your opera game, spend a little quality time with the multimedia guide “How to Enjoy Opera” recently published by “The Guardian.” Or watch a performance of Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” online (for free) through Sept 12.

“The Guardian” offers additional primers, including a list of The Top 50 Operas from 1607 to 1978, a tutorial on how to survive your first opera and a look at opera in the modern age. Plus Simon Callow’s take on why “opera has never been more alive.”

Online opera guides from Arizona Opera and other opera companies are also fun to explore. Never say you don’t like opera if you’ve never tried it.

— Lynn

Coming up: ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre

Got glee?

Fond as I am of watching the FOX television series “Glee,” I’m a bigger fan of Valley kids who “do the glee” in real time.

Those snappy numbers and catchy tunes don’t come to life quite as quickly off-screen, according to Valley actor and Mesa Community College (MCC) student Tyler Pounds.

Still, they’re every bit as fun — and have much to offer in terms of fostering creativity, teamwork and self-expression.

If your child is game for a bit of glee, consider a spring break camp with plenty of acting, singing and dancing.

Your choices include the “Spring Glee Camp” at Chandler Center for the Performing Arts — which runs March 21-25 and features “professional coaching in all aspects of musical theatre” by Kristen Drathman.

The camp runs 9am to noon that week, is designed for campers ages 8 & up, and takes place at the Chandler Center for the Performing Arts.

Drathman describes the camp as “a wonderful motivator and social outlet to get kids off the couch and doing something artistic, athletic and fun for the break.”

“Musical theater,” she told me, “works the body as well as the mind.”

Then Drathman added this quip: “Singing and dancing all morning…I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that!”

Turns out Drathman also gets to spend many of her evenings singing and dancing because she performs regularly on Valley stages — though she’s currently performing for more of a matinee crowd as the “Yellow Dog” in Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!” at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Other options include the “Musical Theatre Glee Camp” being presented March 14-18 by an organization that’s fairly new to the Valley — Scottsdale Glee.

Camp hours are 9am to noon, but afternoon sessions focused on music appreciation and exploration are available at additional cost.

Scottsdale Glee instructors include Christine Kyhn, Nola Enge and Lisa Fogel. The camp (as well as other Scottsdale Glee programs) takes place at Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ in Phoenix — which is also home to one of the Valley’s “parent cooperative” preschools.

It’s just a hop, skip and jump away from Arcadia Music Academy, which is housed at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church — where my daughter Lizabeth first studied violin with Cynthia Baker.

Chandler Center for the Arts and Scottsdale Glee also offer summer options with a glee theme, plus other activities and opportunities for children interested in the arts.

As a mom whose children have missed far too many summer opportunities because of lingering too long over the oodles of choices out there, I offer three pieces of advice.

First, start asking around now. Second, attend the Raising Arizona Kids magazine camp fair next month. Third, get your child registered before popular programs like “Camp Broadway” at ASU Gammage are full.

While Pounds and others correctly note that characters on the television show “Glee” are often stereotyped to the extreme, I’m convinced that musical theater in real life does more to break down barriers than build dividing walls between students.

— Lynn

Note: Pounds is one of several students who’ll perform in the Arizona State University Lyric Opera Theatre Student Workshop production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” — which runs Jan 28-Feb 6. He’ll also be performing the role of “William Barfee,” as will William Marquez, in “The 39th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” being presented by MCC’s Act I Musical Productions March 3-12. Both contain mature content not suitable for children — so enjoy them with a friend, then take the kids to see a puppet show.

Coming up: More summer theater camps, Art in the round, Film festival meets Arizona politics, Art and healing, Talkback time: “Spring Awakening” at ASU Gammage, Valley students create art to commemorate “No Name-Calling Week”

Got GLEE? Send me a digital photo (or photos) of your Glee club or camp in action and it might be featured in a future post spotlighting Glee groups in the Valley. Please send by Fri, Feb 4 to rakstagemom@gmail.com.

The sparkle in her eyes

Brian Anderson (Frederic) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

I met a delightful girl and her mother recently during intermission at a matinee performance of “The Pirates of Penzence” by Arizona Opera. The young girl’s eyes got wide with excitement when I asked what she thought of the show so far.

It must have been some sparkle, because it distracted me from the delicious brownie she was nibbling on. Though tempted by the cheesecake and such at the nearby coffee stand, I managed to walk away with only an iced espresso.

But back to my friend with the brownie, whose mom shared with me that she’s one of the magazine’s subscribers.

The daughter’s face completely lit up as we talked about the show. “I love it!,” she exclaimed. So I asked whether anything was a particular favorite — the music, the costumes, the humor. “I love it all!,” she beamed.

Korby Myrick (Ruth) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

The last time I saw a young girl that excited about going to the opera, it was my own daughter — a good decade or so ago.

I was thrilled to see several children and teens in the audience for Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” conducted by Joel Revzen and directed for Arizona Opera by David Ira Goldstein of Arizona Theatre Company.

The other parents and youth I spoke with — including a dad named Steve and his daughter, and a dad (also a magazine subscriber) there with his wife and two sons — also seemed to be enjoying the show. Even a group of teens I spoke with gave it high marks, noting they have plans to see more operas together.

I gave several of the folks I talked with my business card and suggested they get in touch to share a bit about what their schools are doing in terms of theater, music and other arts. I’m always on the prowl for school and community art offerings.

Sarah Jane McMahon (Mable) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

It just so happens that Arizona Opera offers several education programs, including a special opera week, teacher workshops, school tours, opera “look ins,” student dress rehearsals, study guides and opera in a box. I’ll share a bit more about those in a future post.

For now, I’m still reliving my swashbuckling good time. 

I was thrilled to see the name of Lizabeth’s longtime violin teacher, Cynthia Baker, in the program — and rushed to the pit (after the lengthy standing ovation) to chat a bit before she headed out with violin case in tow.

Then I stuck around for a talkback session with several cast and creative team members during which audience members asked about how opera singers train, how performers find just the right comedic balance, how opera differs from musical theater and more.

Curt Olds (Pirate King) in Arizona Opera's "The Pirates of Penzance" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

There was plenty to love about the show itself. The endearing word play. The performance of Curt Olds (Pirate King) — part Johnny Depp, part Jon Stewart (and ever so easy on the eyes). Baton-twirling bobbies. Chest-pounding odes to duty. Even the splits and several cartwheels from Sarah Jane McMahon (Mabel).

But the most fulfilling moments by far were the ones I spent talking with the parents, children and teens who were gracious enough to share their time and thoughts with me.

It’s the sparkle in their eyes that we all work and write for each day.

— Lynn

Up next for Arizona Opera is Georges Bizet's "Carmen"

Note: Opera buffs can enjoy the Harkins Theatres and Emerging Pictures “Opera & Ballet in Cinema” series presentation of “Das Rheingold” in three Valley movie theaters on Thurs, Nov 18. ASU Lyric Opera Theatre opens “The Secret Garden” in Tempe on Fri, Nov 19. Arizona Opera presents “Carmen” at Tucson Music Hall on Nov 13 & 14 and at Phoenix Symphony Hall on Nov 19, 20 & 21. And Phoenix Opera presents “The Magic Flute” at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix on Dec 3 & 5.

Coming up: From D.C. to Higley, Thespian tales, Holiday shopping museum-style, Dancing your way through the holidays

Free music under the stars

It’s a well-known mom-ism. Do your homework now and there’ll be more time for fun later. But now the tables are turned. Because it’s the moms (and  dads) who tend to pull all nighters this time of year.

I’m as guilty as the next person. One year it was crafting those fairy wings and crown with coat hangers, netting and botanicals. Once it was stitching yellow felt stripes onto a black sweat suit a la bumble bee. 

Whether you’re ahead of schedule or falling behind with Halloween preparations, make some time Friday night (Oct 29) to hit Arizona State University in Tempe with your family.

Their ever popular “Music Under the Stars” event returns from 7:30-10pm for an “outdoor evening of family friendly musical entertainment for people of all ages.”

ASU notes that “the evening showcases a wide range of performances including the ASU African Drum Ensemble, Heatwave (vocal jazz ensemble), and musical theatre and opera performances by the School of Music Lyric Opera Theatre students.”

For those of you who doubt the appeal of opera to children, I’m pleased to share that I attended an Arizona Opera performance of “The Pirates of Penzance” last weekend, where I chatted with several children and teens who were genuinely excited about the experience. (More on that in a future post.)

The event — which also includes “refreshments, raffle prizes and kids craft activities” — is free. After all that spending on Halloween costumes, candy and decor, I suspect that plenty of parents feel ready for some fabulous fun and freebies!

For help in planning the rest of your weekend, check out the online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine — which lists daily events in several categories, including “on stage” and “on exhibit” for fellow arts aficionados.

— Lynn

Note: “Music Under the Stars” takes place at the Nelson Fine Arts Center Plaza on ASU’s Tempe campus. It’s co-sponsored by Liberty Mutual, ASU Alumni Association, ASU Gammage and Arizona Opera.

Coming up: A series of posts on art and politics as midterm elections near — starting with today’s “bonus blog” — a look at “Rhinoceros,” being performed through Nov 6 at Scottsdale Community College. It’s “theatre of the absurd” featuring playwright Eugene Ionesco’s comedic take on the dangers of blind conformity.

AriZoni awards a la Lynn & Liz

AriZoni 2009-2010 winner "The Goats Gruff" by East Valley Children's Theatre

Talented actors at all ages and stages. An honest-to-goodness hilarious accountant. Women whose sign language sings. A professor who specializes in stage combat.

They all came together Monday evening at the Tempe Center for the Arts for the 2009-2010 AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence, produced in association with Childsplay.

The event, a celebration of 20 years for the AriZoni organization, was hosted by Katie McFadzen of Childsplay and Ron May of Stray Cat Theatre. Katie was the one in the red dress.

The evening, meant to honor the finest of Valley theater from the previous season, had three “acts” — a youth awards ceremony, an adult awards ceremony and an after party (held at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center). What happens at the after party stays at the after party.

Both ceremonies opened with a video montage of Valley theater productions through the years and a performance of “If They Could See Us Now” — with hosts McFadzen and May exercising enormous restraint in saving the raciest content for act two.

During the youth awards, a bit about dancing cheek to cheek included only a charming bit of face to face time, but the adult ceremony had them bumping cheeks of a different sort (tastefully, of course). The adult ceremony also included more subtle (and not so subtle) political humor.

With the rest of the nation poking fun at Arizona politicians, pink boxer sorts and such, it only seems fair that we reserve the right to poke fun at ourselves.

Speaking of poking, the topic was one of many covered by McFadzen and May during their reading of the rules for the ceremony. “You may not poke me on stage,” quipped May, “or on Facebook.”

The duo also noted that acceptance speeches should be “deliciously short” at 20 seconds or less — although an exception was granted for a young man whose thank yous consisted of a long string of showtune lyrics.

It was sometimes difficult to hear the names of award winners because of the roar of the crowd. I remember Theater Works Youth Works being particularly rowdy at last year’s youth ceremony, but I’d have to give this year’s “loud and proud” award to Spotlight Youth Theatre — who have a real “the little theater that could” vibe.

I promise myself every year that I’m going to use my very best audience member etiquette — and there are plenty of times when I pull it off. But Lizabeth and I couldn’t help ourselves when one of her teachers at ASA, Toby Yatso, won two awards. I fully expect to see him holding a Tony Award one day because, as Lizabeth once told me, “he sparkles.” (To the people who sat behind, beside and in front of us — please pardon our enthusiasm.)

“Thank you mama for being here again to always support me,” chimed Yatso during one of his acceptance speeches. Plenty of award recipients thanked parents and fellow professionals, while some thanked their children for getting them involved with theater and inspiring them in a myriad of ways.

Several spouses (in all combinations of genders) thanked partners who worked alongside them at the theater or tended to home and family so the other could do their theater rat thing. My favorite was a gentleman who thanked his wife for staying home alone most nights to play “Halo” so he could indulge the lure of greasepaint.

Especially touching moments included the presentation of scholarships to three students studying theater, one of whom (Chelsea Groen) Lizabeth recalls acting with at Greasepaint Youtheatre as a young child. I’ll write a bit more about distinguished service and outstanding contribution honorees in a future post because their accomplishments are worthy of a higher word count.

Attendees paused for a moving moment of silence during the adult ceremony to remember three members of the theater arts community who died during the past year — Eleanor Hofmann, Scott Jeffers and Noah Todd — reflecting together that ‘there are now more stars in the sky to light our way and guide our hearts.’

I suspect we could all have some fun inventing our own awards based on Monday night’s ceremonies. My “shiniest” award goes to Katie McFadzen for a sparkling silver bustier (likely borrowed from Betty White) and Zachary Tatus, who donned a gold lame jumpsuit to perform the role of “Conrad” in a number from Spotlight Youth Theatre’s “Bye Bye Birdie.”

The “funniest five seconds” award goes to McFadzen and May for popping up through round holes in the stage to reveal a Viking headpiece and clown wig before the presentation of awards for hair and make-up design. Their use of a Childsplay prop in a rather unconventional manner might win second place — though the competition was stiff.

My “cuter than spit” award would have to go to AriZoni winner Zoe Whiting of “The Goats Gruff” with East Valley Children’s Theatre, who beamed alongside the podium as a tiny bundle of sincerity and enthusiam. I like her style.

Big winners in the 2009-2010 youth theater category included EVCT’s “The Goats Gruff” (Overall Production-Play), Spotlight Youth Theatre’s “The Diary of Anne Frank” (Overall Production-Play) and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Overall Production-Musical), and Theater Works Youth Works’ “Beauty and the Beast” (Overall Production-Musical).

In the adult category, winners among non-contracted theaters included ASU Lyric Opera Theatre’s “The Rocky Horror Show” (Overall Production-Musical), Nearly Naked Theatre’s “Evil Dead: The Musical” (Overall Production-Musical), Desert Foothills Theater’s “Unnecessary Farce” (Overall Production-Play), Stray Cat Theatre’s “Speech & Debate” (Overall Production-Play) and Theater Works’ “All My Sons” (Overall Production-Play).

Winners among contracted theaters included Actors Theatre’s “No Child” (Overall Production-Play) and Phoenix Theatre’s “The Light in the Piazza” (Overall Production-Musical).

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around Childsplay’s McFadzen performing in “Speech and Debate” and Dwayne Hartford (now appearing in “A Year With Frog and Toad”) directing “The Rocky Horror Show.” Watch for a future post toying with the many talents of Childsplay artists on and off the Childsplay stage.

Click here for a listing of winners in each youth theater and adult theater award category — and to join the AriZoni mailing list if you’d like to receive e-mail alerts including monthly newsletters. It’s a great way to stay informed about Valley theater offerings, resources and opportunities.

— Lynn

Coming up: Real-life high school musicals, Social justice takes the stage, More season previews, The fine art of sign language, Fun with film, Arts organization fundraisers

Seek and ye shall find

Recently I went in search of arts events with a multicultural flair for an upcoming post featuring music, theater, dance and visual art inspired by other parts of the world.

I had only to open my newspapers on Sunday–unsoaked by sprinklers for the first time in a week–to find what I was looking for. And more.

It was the “2010/2011 season ASU Herberger Institute School of Music” calendar, a lovely fold-out poster that I quickly tacked to the bulletin boards in my tiny home office (formerly known as the dining room). First I had my son Christopher scan the cover so I could give you a peek.

I’ll share my multicultural finds another day so I can focus on ASU offerings today–noted in the calendar by categories that include choral concerts, lyric opera theatre, an organ series, a guitar series, jazz concerts, percussion concerts, a faculty artist series, a guest artist series and more.

There’s even a “Musical Instrument Museum” series being performed at the MIM in Phoenix, as well as a “Performance with a View” series at the Tempe Center for the Arts (also home to Childsplay performances–with ASU theatre and film alumni David Saar at the helm).

If your child is involved with music, dance or theater here in the Valley, there’s a good chance ASU music graduates have crossed your path as teachers, performers, directors and more.

Lizabeth started her senior year at Arizona School for the Arts on Monday, where she studies in the theatre arts department headed by Toby Yatso, whose long list of credentials includes a music degree from ASU.

Yatso is directing the ASA fall musical, a Flaherty and Ahrens work titled “Lucky Stiff,” to be performed Sept 29 (preview) to Oct 3 at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale. Yatso also heads up the new (and yet to be named) ASA glee club, and is an artist in residence with Phoenix Theatre.

There are plenty of treasures in the ASU School of Music mix this season–including a celebration of music and the visual arts, a concert featuring ‘composers in the concentration camp,’ an ‘around the world in song’ choral concert, an African drum ensemble and various student competitions (talent show, jazz composition and more). Here’s a peek at this season’s ASU Lyric Opera Theatre poster…

The ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts includes several departments beyond music, dance and theatre/film. There’s also architecture/landscape architecture, art, arts/media/engineering and design.

If they’ve got nifty poster-style calendars like the music department, I may have found a new ‘small space decorating’ solution–lining my office walls with all things ASU and the arts.

Though, come to think of it, that would require a bigger space…


Note: Several events are being presented this month, so call right away for a calendar (or click here for online info) if you want to pick your own favorites and join the fun. Visit ASU Gammage in Tempe during exhibit hours to see a collection of poems and pictures titled “When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina” (through Oct 12).

Coming up: Forget the “freshman 15“–that’s nothing compared to the bounty of blogging. Watch for musings on the perils and perks of writing a daily arts blog in an upcoming post celebrating 300 consecutive days of blogging.