Tag Archives: MAC

A new twist on “Alice”

Christian Youth Theater performs “Alice” through May 20 at Mesa Arts Center

Friday was opening night for the Christian Youth Theater production of “Alice” that runs through May 20 at Mesa Arts Center. This twist on the classic Wonderland tale finds Alice in a classroom full of kids who know just what they’d like to be when they grow up. But Alice, who struggles to finish even a single bit of homework, hasn’t the slightest idea.

“Alice” is the story of one teen’s search for her identity. Her world is populated with uniform-clad classmates, an overachieving sister and a mother guided by the latest parenting guru. She dreams one night of a place filled with strange creatures from talking flowers to tea-sipping quick change artists — all issuing a sort of wake up call for the girl who thinks only of the here and now.

L to R: Brianna, Lindy and Beth from CYT’s “Alice”

“Alice” features book, music and lyrics by Jon Lorenz, musical director and member of the acting company for Lamb’s Players Theatre in San Diego. It’s based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” Despite the deliberate “campy” vibe, the show feels more funny than punny. This production, an Arizona premiere, is directed by Tambra Lamb — who founded CYT Phoenix in 2005 and serves as its artistic director. Music direction is by Sara McDermott. The show has a cast of more than 50 youth who deliver a polished performance.

I especially enjoyed the choreography (by Kathleen Brazie, Shelley Jenkins and Tamra Lamb), set design (by Kris Tyler) and costume design (by Mary Jane McCloskey). Also ensemble vocals and performances by Jackie Tyler (Alice) and Cory Malkin (Mad Hatter/White Knight). Both are seniors who’ll graduate this month — Tyler from Veritas Preparatory Academy and Malkin from Scottsdale Preparatory Academy.

Though the musical has a message, it’s never elevated above good storytelling. Several scenes are laugh out loud funny, and scenes involving the youngest actors are especially charming. Friday’s audience was filled with kids of all ages who seemed genuinely entertained. Also proud parents who did a good job of tempering their enthusiasm (there’s nothing worse than sitting in an audience that feels like a cult).

L to R: Emma Tuten, Jackie Tyler and Cory Malkin after opening night for CYT’s “Alice”

Christian Youth Theater Phoenix is a non-profit theater company that provides after-school theater experiences for youth ages 6 to 18. Their “Alice” program notes that “each family contributes at least twenty hours of volunteer time to some aspect of the production.” All that TLC shines through in this show, creating a true land of wonder.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy the CYT blog, and here to learn more about CYT nationwide. Click here to explore the education guide for an NYU production of “Alice” (which includes a Q & A with the playwright). Click here for show/ticket info.

Coming up: Painting meets performance art

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Much Ado in Mesa

The Mesa Arts Center is especially lovely as the evening sun sets

I headed out to Mesa Friday night eager to see Maren Maclean’s performance in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Much of what our youngest daughter Lizabeth knows about acting, Shakespeare and herself stems from time spent with Maclean, whose Beatrice in “Much Ado” is fantastically funny.

Before taking my seat, I headed to a long table featuring wares being sold to benefit the Southwest Shakespeare Company — where I found a nifty necklace, beaded bracelet and two sets of earrings. Mother’s Day shoppers take note — performing arts venues have some of the coolest stuff at some of the lowest prices.

A Shakespeare bust, perhaps, for the mother who has everything?

I also spied a group of teens and stopped the adult walking with them to ask whether they were part of a school program, since I always like to hear student reactions to Shakespeare’s works. Turns out they were attending “Much Ado” as part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s Open Doors program — and had the opportunity to chat with a trio of cast members after the show.

While a nearly full house was enjoying “Much Ado About Nothing,” which is directed for SSC by David Vining, folks in another theater were watching the Mesa Encore Theatre production of “Ragtime,” which runs through Sunday. Tall MET banners in the MAC lobby herald their next production, the musical “Hairspray,” and reveal some gutsy choices for 2012/13 — including “Spring Awakening” and a “TBA” show signified for now by a pair of eyes peeking out from a purple backdrop.

The East Valley Mormon Choral Association performed Friday evening at MAC

During intermission, I strolled outside the theater to snap photos of red and yellow walls illuminated by Mesa Arts Center — but found myself drawn to a wide flight of stairs, where girls of all ages were gathered in matching navy blue dresses that reminded me of daughter Jennifer’s old chorus uniform. Soon I found a mom — and asked what they were up to. She shared that her 12-year-old daughter is in her second year with the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization, which performed a concert called “From Classical to Broadway and Everything in Between” at the Mesa Arts Center Friday night.

She was kind enough to share her program with me, so I could learn more about the organization — which is currently holding auditions for the 2012/13 season (auditions for the EVMCO symphony take place in August). Friday’s “Easter Concert” featured “I Dreamed a Dream” (from the musical “Les Miserables”), “Stouthearted Men” (from the operetta “New Moon”), “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18” (by Sergei Rachmaninoff) and more. Their 2012 “Christmas Concert” takes place Dec. 1 at Mesa Arts Center.

Students in the ATC Open Doors program spoke with a trio of "Much Ado About Nothing" cast members after the opening night performance

After enjoying the second act of “Much Ado About Nothing,” I stayed for a talkback with members of the cast and creative tream — then made my way to the tiny Southwest Shakespeare Company studio where a trio of “Much Ado” cast members talked shop with Opens Doors participants. Truth be told, teens trump adults with better theater questions every time. Grown-ups eager to learn more about “Much Ado About Nothing” can consult the SSC play guide online and attend today’s 9am “Flachmann Seminar” with Maren Maclean Mascarelli, now the company’s education director.

Before Friday’s performance, artistic director Jared Sakren shared news of SSC’s 2012-13 season, which opens in September with “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and continues with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” opening in late November. A January “Winterfest!” features “Hamlet” and “The Tempest” presented in rotating repertory by a single company of players. And works by other playwrights include Noel Cowards’ “Private Lives” (Feb/March) and William Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” (April).

While admiring some of the Mesa Art Center’s architectual elements, I spied a poster for “Alice: A Wonder-Full New Musical,” coming to MAC in May thanks to Christian Youth Theatre in Phoenix — which is part of a national after-school theater arts training program started in San Diego. The pop/rock work by Jon Lorenz transforms two Lewis Carroll tales into a modern day adventure of high school students more smitten with listening to “The Red Queen” band than finishing their homework.

There’s a simple solution for that, by the way. Less pencil-and-paper homework, and more out-there-in-the-community arts education.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about additional performances, events, exhibits and classes coming to the Mesa Arts Center

Coming up: Tomfoolery meets tango

Get creative!

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The weather’s too lovely for living at my laptop these days, so I headed to the Mesa Festival of Creativity with my son Christopher recently after Mala Blomquist raved about her family’s last Mirazozo experience. He gravitated towards the LEGO brick creations from guitar to cactus, even a LEGO brick portrait of artist Dave Shaddix’s father.

We chatted at length with Brian Scott of Building Bonanza, who eagerly told me about their camp, school and community programs. The Chandler-based business, started in 2009 to provide after-school programs, is run by three friends seeking to teach students life skills like “communication, teamwork, problem solving and critical creative thinking.”

After watching several families working on a community LEGO build, we explored several other hands-on activities taking place around the Mesa Arts Center where I’m often found enjoying the works of resident performing arts groups — Southwest Shakespeare Company, Ballet Etudes, East Valley Children’s Theatre and plenty more.

We watched families folding origami birds at the Bookmans Activity Area, and spied several birds that’d been created earlier and hung on trees outside the Mesa Arts Center entrance. Then discovered James Reid juggling and sharing “how to” tips with children gathered all around while a nearby stilt walker from Taylor Family Troupe exchanged plastic bowling pins with a little girl who looked mesmerized. Also a trio doing mime time donned in white.

We saw seniors choosing fabric strips to tie onto a community weaving wall — a long bit of fencing outside the Mesa Contemporary Arts museum (currently home to several exhibits) which is also sporting all sorts of signs with creativity-related quotes during the festival that runs from noon to 9pm each day through Sun, March 18. And we enjoyed music on two outdoor stages.

Most of the younger set was busy exploring “The Desert is My Playground” — a group of interactive artworks created by a team of artists and technicians led by Boyd Branch and Daniel Roth. I tried my hand at playing a cactus pipe organ, and spotted children floating paper rocks down a water feature before heading over to a portion of the MAC parking lot transformed into a chalk art canvas — where we also marveled over the design and scale of the inflatable “Mirazozo” sculpture.

We went in search of the giant “Earth Harp” after Robin, who was rocking the Arizona SciTech Festival booth, told us it was a must see — but the knee my kids have taken to calling “delapidated” wasn’t up to the task after my first attempt to find it failed. Best to hit just two more high points, I decided — sample classes in the MAC Art Studios and, of course, the gift shop.

Christopher will be the first to tell you that there’s no such thing as seeing “just two more things” in my world. Soon we were talking with one artist about musical instruments made of paint cans and another about his hanging metal work depicting Arizona’s 5 Cs. After exploring the Mesa festival, I’m inclined to lobby for the addition of a sixth — creativity.

I might have walked right by the incredible classroom and camp spaces at MAC were it not for a teaching artist who beckoned me in with a silkscreened square of fabric bearing a shamrock. Lucky call. She introduced me to Billy Jones, arts education program coordinator, who described teaching high school English to one of my friends at MAC. I assured him that he’d done good — then paused to admire works crafted by young campers.

After exploring space used to throw and fire pottery, I realized that this might be just the place I was looking for — a home for my oldest daughter, Jennifer, who’s been creating with anything she can get her hands on since she was a wee little thing. And I remembered my own ceramic works created in high school art classes back when art and science weren’t seen as dichotomous.

The Mesa Festival of Creativity is a fun place to explore the overlapping worlds of art and science, best appreciated by parents who understand the importance of unhurried, open-ended play that lets children take the lead in their own journeys of discovery. Thanks to Mala and Mirazozo for inspiring us to take it all in.

— Lynn

Note: While at MAC, you can view artworks created through MAC’s creative aging program, enjoy student art exhibitions at the MAC Art Studios and sign up for the museum shop’s new gift registry. Click here to learn more about ticketed events from concerts to theater productions — and remember that the area is also home to three additional museums. The Mesa Festival of Creativity runs through March 18. Click here to enjoy Mala’s amazing photos of Mirazozo inside and out!.

Coming up: Musings from “Lynn’s Library,” Smashed!, Art meets U.N.

Musings on Main Street

We often strolled the main streets in Tempe and Scottsdale when our children were younger, but rarely made our way to Mesa. Nowadays, I often make my way down Main Street heading to and from the Mesa Arts Center, which is home to both visual and performing arts venues.

I paused one day to enjoy a relatively new bevy of small shops and businesses, plus longtime favorites like Linton-Milano Music, and found Main Street bustling with families enjoying the sculptures, friends chatting over coffee and folks supporting local fare from vintage clothing to used books.

I remembered playing I-Spy with my kids when they were little, calling out things that they could look for during all those drives between home, school and lessons. Red stars. Yellow cars. Round signs. White animals. Flashing lights.

So when I walked along Main Street in Mesa, I imagined doing a treasure hunt for various types of sculpture. If you’re game, give your kids some themes to look for, then see that they come up with.

Sculptures in Mesa include a trio of children playing baseball, a pair of boys playing on a tire swing, and more. Challenge your children to find a tool, a fish, a book, an orange and a newspaper. Even Humpty Dumpty and a high heel shoe.

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Consider these photos a cheat sheet of sorts. They’ll help you get the lay of the land before you head out with young explorers. When you go, take some drawing materials along. There are plenty of benches and places to sit and sketch your many finds.

While you’re there, check out the many museums located on or near Main Street — Mesa Contemporary Arts at MAC, the Arizona Museum for Youth and the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

Click here to learn more about Mesa’s permanent sculpture collection and find a map you can follow as you explore public art along and around Main Street.

— Lynn

Coming up: Peace out

Dance meets film

Breaking Ground 2012 takes place Jan. 28 at Tempe Center for the Arts

Choreographers, dancers and multimedia dance artists are gathering this weekend for “Breaking Ground 2012: Festival of Dance, Film, Art” at the Tempe Center for the Arts — presented by CONDER/dance. A 2pm showcase features works by student choreographers, and an 8pm showcase features professional works. Both take place Sat, Jan. 28 — and each is preceded by a 30 minute pre-show performances.

The student pre-show features “Speed Dating – Improvisational Structure” on stage and Nita Mallya’s “Thillana” in the lobby space. The 2pm showcase features several premieres, and plenty of works with intriguing titles — including “Primal” (Robert Ahlman) and “Making Noise [Insert Noise Here]” (Julie Akerly). “My Feet Keep Me up at Night” (Jessica Diaz) features a poem by Moses Alvarez, while “WOW” (Jordan Daniels) uses music from the Chemical Brothers. Sounds like a fascinating bunch.

Breaking Ground 2012 features works by choreographers from several states

Student choreographer Laural Wall-MacLane is interested in “how people experience and reflect on the world through movement arts” while Ackerly enjoys “incorporating new media into dance performance.” Jordan Daniels began his dance training in musical theatre at the Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, and Jessica Diaz plans to couple dance with psychology as “an innovative dance therapist.” Nita Mallya has trained for more than 25 years in a form of classical Indian dance called “Bharathanatyam.”

I’m equally intrigued by the professional fare, which opens with pre-show offerings in four different TCA spaces. “Tango Dreams” (Daniela Borgialli, Rommel Oramas, Jayne Lee) premieres in the lobby space, and three films are being shown in the lobby — “Lady-boy” directed by Carolyn Pavlik, “Moving Target” by Karen Jensen and “Glimpse” by Greta Schoenberg. “State of Affairs” (Eileen Standley) premieres on the second story landing and “Murmur” (Hannon Mockli) is being performed on stage. That’s just the 7:30pm pre-show lineup.

Breaking Ground 2012 includes a student showcase and a professional showcase

The 8pm professional showcase features choreographers from Arizona to Australia. States represented include California, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah. Carley Conder, founder and artistic director for CONDER/dance has two pieces in the showcase. “Replica 5.0” explores “the processes and foibles of human memory” while “Healing the Divide” explores “the subtleties of a seemingly quintessential relationship.”

Renata Sheppard’s “Wait of Gravity” features an interactive dance performance produced by Virtual Reality & Multi Media Park in Turin, Italy — where Sheppard recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship.  “Her Smile is Painted On…” (Jenna Kosowski) explores “the notions of femininity and freedom.” And “Rendicion Basquait” (Brad Garner) is drawn from themes of “deformation and redemption” in the works of American graffiti artist and painter Jean-Michel Basquait.

Breaking Ground 2012 features contemporary choreography and films

The “Breaking Ground 2012” program notes that one work in the professional showcase includes “text that contains adult content” and that one film being show during the pre-show “contains brief nudity.” This never worried me as a parent, because I wanted my children to feel comfortable with the fact that we all have bodies, and to embrace art as a vehicle for self-expression. But I respect folks who share these things ahead of time so parents can make their own choices.

Those of you who like what you see during this weekend’s “2012 Breaking Ground: Festival for Dance, Film, Art” will have several other opportunities to enjoy works presented by CONDER/dance, which provides dance instruction for children, teens and adults through the Mesa Arts Center.

Breaking Ground is presented annually by CONDER/dance of Arizona

CONDER/dance will be performing new work at this year’s “Phoenix Experimental Arts Festival,” taking place Feb. 11 at the Paradise Valley Community College performing arts center. Their season finale, “inexplicably linked,” will be performed April 14 at Tempe Center for the Arts.

Their “inexplicably linked” was “inspired by flight” and is “costumed entirely in vintage clothing.” It’ll explore “a chain of encounters that lead to a series of surprising, touching and amusing events” — and feature choreography by Carley Conder, Keith Johnson, Mary Fitzgerald and Alisa Gillespie.

For more information about “2012 Breaking Ground” or other CONDER/dance offerings, visit www.conderdance.com.

— Lynn

Coming up: Ode to homegrown musicians, Review: The Bully Plays

Need a film fix?

Fans of films that are a bit off the beaten path have plenty of options in coming months. Here’s a roundup for those of you needing a frequent film fix:

The Film Bar in Phoenix. Offerings include indie films, including the first screenings of “A Boy in China” Jan. 13 and 14. The film follows a boy from Phoenix who pursues Kung Fu training in China (Andre Magnum, plus his parents and coach, will attend both screenings). www.thefilmbarphx.com.

The Film Festival at Paradise Valley Community College. Offerings, focused this year on women in film, include “Catching Babies” (Feb. 2), “Caramel” (Feb. 8), “Water” (Feb. 22) and “Maria Full of Grace” (March 7). “Catching Babies” is a film about midwifery. Free. www.pvc.maricopa.edu.

The Loft Cinema in Tucson. Offerings include new indie works, mainstream and cult classics, film festival shorts, award-nominated shorts and more. Also National Theatre Live broadcasts — including “The Collaborators” (Jan. 15), “Travelling Light” (Feb. 26), “The Comedy of Errors” (March 25) and “She Stoops to Conquer” (April 15). www.loftcinema.com.

Mesa Contemporary Arts (part of the Mesa Art Center). Offerings include “Community Cinema” screenings (“Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” by Sharon La Cruise Jan. 19). Free. www.mesaartscenter.com.

Phoenix Art Museum. Offerings include individual films, National Theatre Live broadcasts (including those noted in the Loft Cinema list above) and the Masterpiece Film Challenge (a six-week challenge in which 15 filmmaking teams create 5-7 minute films inspired by art from the museum). Also the Ab/Ex Film Series (“The New York School” Feb. 12) and filmed museum tours (“Leonardo Live” exhibit at the National Gallery of London Feb. 19). www.phxart.org.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Offerings include the “Talk Cinema” series (Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 20, April 17, May 8) and the “Discovery Film Series” (“This Way of Life” Jan. 22). “Talk Cinema” titles are announced on the center’s website just days before screenings (this month’s film is “Declaration of War,” about a couple whose baby is diagnosed with a brain tumor). www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

The Anti-Defamation League and Scottdale Community College. Offerings include “The Many Faces of Hate” film series at SCC (including Jay Rosenstein’s “In Whose Honor” Jan. 18). Free. www.scottsdalecc.edu.

Harkins Theatres. Offerings include various film festivals and broadcasts of  “Opera & Ballet in Cinema Series” performances — including “Le Corsaire” (March 11), “La Boheme” (March 13), “Romeo and Juliet” (March 22), “Rigoletto” (April 17), “The Bright Stream” (April 29), “La Fille Mal Gardee” (May 16) and “Raymonda” (June 24). www.harkinstheatres.com.

Many museums, performing arts centers and universities offer film screenings, so check with your local venues for additional options.

— Lynn

Note: If your venue or organization offers film fare with an arts and culture twist, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Theater meets classic literature

There’s no place like home

Fun souvenirs from "The Wizard of Oz" spotted during intermission at Mesa Arts Center

There’s no place like home — but sometimes we need to be reminded. Hence the timeless appeal of stories like L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” which is being brought to life on Valley stages this week thanks to Oz Theatre Company.

The show, originally adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company by John Kane, features music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Yarburg. “The Wizard of Oz” is the first of four shows playing in Mesa and Phoenix as part of the 2011/12 Theater League season.

I attended a Dec. 7 matinee at the Mesa Arts Center, where several families — many spanning three generations — also enjoyed the show. A pair of elementary age boys told me the show was really funny, and several girls noted that “Dorothy did a really good job.” For some, it was the black terrier “Toto” who stole the show.

This family from Scottsdale (including a camera shy grandfather) told me they loved the show

Kerri McNeill, who recently earned a B.A. in theatre performance from Wagner College, makes her national touring debut as Dorothy Gale, and does a superb job. Her Dorothy is fresh and vibrant, with strong vocals — which explains the long list of “Past and Present of Wagner on Broadway” on the school’s website.

Patrick Pevehouse (Hank/Scarecrow) attended Oklahoma City University, Brian Maxseen (Hickory/Tinman) holds “a B.A. in make-believe from NYU/Tisch” and Brent Walker (Zeke/Lion) graduated with a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Central Florida. I notice these things more now that my own daughter is pursuing a BFA in acting at Pace University in NYC.

The trio’s collective performance is enchanting, bringing real warmth and humor to the stage. Audience members of all ages rewarded them often with laughter and applause, and also seemed especially smitten with Laurie Pascal in the roles of Miss Gulch and Wicked Witch of the West.

Kelly Karcher (Auntie Em/Glinda), Bryan Miner (Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard), and Bob Pritchard (Professor Marvel/The Wizard of Oz) round out the very capable cast. The ensemble, which often breaks into old-school song and dance ala television variety shows of bygone days, adds real charm throughout.

Greasepaint Youtheatre actors ages 8 to 12 perform the role of Munchkin

Our own local actors, ten “Munchkins” from Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, spend more time on stage than I’d expected — and fit right in with the rest of the cast. They’re perky, polished and professional, and I fully expect to be reviewing many of them in future touring productions. Enjoy them on Valley stages while you still can.

This production of “The Wizard of Oz” is a beautiful blend of storytelling and stagecraft for the young and young at heart. Never mind that cables are faintly visible as witches float through the air. It’s plenty magical for young audiences, as are projections that bring tornado debris, poppies and snow to life. The show features projections created by Second Home Productions, Aerographics by Flying by Foy and Special Effects by I & M Special Effects.

But I took more delight in the show’s colorful, creative costumes — plus imaginative wigs and hair props. The original set and costumes were designed by Tim McQuillen-Wright, and Bernie Ardia served as the original wig designer. Costume coordination and additional costume designs are the work of Jimm Halliday.

Head props, including tree branches that seem to grow like gravity-defiant pigtails dotted with shiny red apples, are the work of Liz Spray. Head wardrobe — no small feat in a show full of wonderfully whimsical hats, is by Jennifer Mohrman. Wigs are by Anthony Lauro. All enhance the show’s kid-friendly feel.

This Chandler family had lots of praise for the Wednesday matinee performance

After three performances at Mesa Arts Center, “The Wizard of Oz” now moves to the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix for a Dec. 8-11 run. It’s another intimate venue perfect for introducing young audiences to musical theater. Take your children now, before they’re grown and moved away. Memories created at the theater together remind us for a lifetime that there’s no place like home.

— Lynn

Note: Future shows in the 2011/12 Theater League season for Mesa and Phoenix include “My Fair Lady,” “The Rat Pack is Back!” and “Rock of Ages.” Learn more at www.theaterleague.com. Folks with a special interest in projections in theater design will enjoy David Barbour’s “The Prevalence of Projections” in the Dec. 2011 issue of American Theatre magazine.

Coming up: Strolling meets sculpture, Quilting for a cause