Tag Archives: Mad Hatter

Art adventures: Historic Glendale

When I found myself with unexpected free time last weekend, I headed to Glendale to explore their historic district in search of all things arts and culture.

First I headed to a street lined with antique shops, cafes and other charming offerings — and then hit the Glendale Civic Plaza, where I admired the city’s public safety memorial.

After driving just a few blocks, I discovered Catlin Court, but failed to notice until after I’d parked that the lot I’d chosen was adjacent to the Manor at Catlin Court — where a young couple was exchanging wedding vows during an outdoor ceremony.

I tip-toed away from my car, camera in hand, and strolled the neighborhood in search of a bit of local flavor — and am pleased to share some photos from my adventures below:

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If you’re eager to enjoy some casual outdoor time this weekend, consider attending the free “Artwerks First Saturdays” event April 2 from 10am-4pm.

To learn more about arts and culture in the city of Glendale, check out their online “Glendale Public Arts” brochure  — available at the www.visitglendale.com website.

— Lynn

Note: Say a special hello to the fine folks at “A Shot of Java” and “The Open Door” — who were especially gracious during my visit to their neck of the woods. I’m sorry to report that you can no longer enjoy The Bead Museum because it’s been permanently closed.

Coming up: Phoenix Improv Festival, Fringe gets twisted

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I am what I am

As events unfolded last Sunday, I couldn’t help repeating the chorus of a song called “I Am What I Am” over and over again in my head. From the Broadway musical “La Cage aux Folles,” the song is a sort of anthem to self-acceptance.

Ironic considering my failure to execute my one big goal for the day — attending an Arizona Jewish Theatre Company production called “My Name is Asher Lev” — which tackles the topics of identity and self-acceptance.

Because it was to be my third theater outing of the weekend, I felt even guiltier than usual about leaving my husband behind to care for more mundane tasks like paying bills and caring for pets.

I assuaged my guilt by attempting to squeeze in just one more load of laundry before leaving for the afternoon. That’s where it all started to go horribly wrong. Turns out I had just enough time to make the show, but I breezed right past the final turn that would take me to my destination.

I was distracted, I suspect, by the song that was playing on the SiriusXM Radio “On Broadway” channel at the time. It was “Bring Him Home” from the musical “Les Miserables” — which has always reminded me of my 21-year-old son in poignant ways that only my husband and I fully understand.

When I got to the John Paul Theatre on the campus of Phoenix College in Glendale, where the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company performs, it was about ten minutes past showtime. And to their credit, they’d started the show on time — with a nearly packed house that would make it hard for me to find a seat without being disruptive.

So I snagged a program, information of their upcoming “Curtain Call” youth theatre production of “A Rockin’ Tale of Snow White,” and their “Summer Theatre Day Camps.” I hoped to find a little coffee joint nearby where I could review the program or read one of the daily papers I keep in my car for just such occasions.

When in doubt, follow this advice from a Cafe Press bumper sticker

I drove away, planning to return two hours later for a post-show talk back with Janet Arnold, Layne Racowsky and the show’s three cast members.

And I remembered that I’d been meaning to get to the historic district in Glendale to check out local arts offerings and photograph a bit of local flavor.

I found the flavor I was looking for at a coffee joint called “A Shot of Java” — which has a rare blend of cozy charm and quirkiness that makes it especially appealing. I stumbled on this little gem after parking nearby to photograph a sign that caught my eye because of its “Mad Hatter” motif.

I asked for directions to local museums. We used to have a bead museum, they told me, but it just shut down. “I know,” I said — vowing to photograph it anyway as a reminder of what can happen when we take local repositories of arts and culture for granted.

I used the time I’d allotted for “My Name is Asher Lev” to explore the City of Glendale further — and I’ll be sharing more about my fun finds in a future “Art Adventures: Historic Glendale” post complete with photos of plenty of signs.

My kids often tease me about my fondness for taking pictures of signs, but I felt somewhat vindicated as I watched a story about an artist with a similar affliction on the “CBS Sunday Morning” program earlier in the day.

I returned for the “My Name is Asher Lev” talk back, and discovered that audience members included students taught by one of the show’s actors. Their questions, and those of others who actually managed to see the play, were enlightening — and will be included in a future post that I’ll publish before the show’s final weekend performances (it runs through April 3).

My final stop of the day was a coffee shop I frequented when my daughter Lizabeth trained with the School of Ballet Arizona. Sitting at one of the outside tables was a friend I first met while Christopher attended New Way Academy in Scottsdale. I sat to catch up a bit before heading home to make dinner, asking how she’d spent her day.

Turns out she was lucky enough to catch one of the many productions I just didn’t have time to take in — the Ballet Arizona performance of “Modern Masters.” She described each of the three pieces they performed in beautiful and exquisite detail — leading me to wonder whether she might be a budding arts critic, or interested perhaps in writing a guest blog about a future dance performance.

Tonight I was planning to attend opening night of “Fiddler on the Roof” at ASU Gammage — a piece that feels especially poignant as James and I ready to send our youngest daughter off to college in the fall. But I knew better than to leave late in the hopes of making it in time. Once again, my plate is full with family responsibilities.

Still, I’ll be taking time out later this evening to write a post about the show — which I saw performed at ASU Gammage many years ago. It was a different production, but the story in all its grandeur does not change — and it’s one that all parents can relate to and learn from.

“Fiddler on the Roof” runs through this weekend at ASU Gammage, and if you’re not going tonight, there’s still time for you to learn from my mistakes. Get through all that work you brought home now. Make the kids use paper plates, and tell your family you’re boycotting laundry.

It rarely seems to work for me. But I never give up trying.

After all, I am what I am…

— Lynn

Note: My “Art Adventures: Historic Glendale” will post just in time for you to get a taste of the city’s historic district before it holds a free event titled “Artworks First Saturdays” from 10am-4pm on Sat, April 3. Watch for musings on “Family and Fiddler” tomorrow (Wed, March 30).

Coming up: New season announcements!, A new “Women of Broadway” series hits the Valley

Alice (and Phoebe) in Wonderland

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix presents "Alice in Wonderland" in downtown Phoenix

Lizabeth came downstairs one morning after watching a movie she’d rented online. She was eager to tell me about this tale of a family living with a young girl who is “different” — and who becomes involved with the world of theater.

The film, a 2008 ThinkFilm production, is titled “Phoebe in Wonderland.” It’s made the film festival rounds and earned accolades including a Heartland “Truly Moving Picture Award.”

It reminded me that our own Valley Youth Theatre, whose alumni include Emma Stone (recent nominee for a “best actress” Golden Globe Award), will perform “Alice in Wonderland” Feb 4-20 at the VYT theater in downtown Phoenix. Update: Show extended through Feb 27.

I was delighted to see familiar youth on the cast list, including Nathan Naimark (Footman/Executioner) — whose mom Dana Wolfe Naimark was the subject of a recent “Stage Mom” post.

While the young Naimark is readying for opening night, his mother — the head of Children’s Action Alliance — is contending with budget cuts that impact Arizona children in all sorts of ways.

I suspect she’ll be experiencing a few of her own “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum” moments in the coming weeks and months.

But back to the fabulous cast of VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which includes Maddy Rathbun (Alice), Alex Acosta (Mad Hatter), and Lindsey Brown (Queen of Hearts).

Couple VYT's non-musical "Alice in Wonderland" with a tea party, arts & crafts or puppet play

Were my girls a decade or so younger, I’d be working to put together an “Alice in Wonderland” weekend of sorts — having friends over to explore the Lewis Carroll tale via movies, books, puppet theater and the live VYT performance (which is a non-musical).

Kids can get some serious arts and crafts projects out of “Alice in Wonderland” characters and themes — objects changing size, roses painted different colors, playing cards that come to life.

Even a tea party at home, in the park or a charming Valley venue — such as the Teeter House at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix — would be fun.

I suspect that the sets and costumes for VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” will inspire hours of imaginative play. And who knows, your own son or daughter might discover that live theater is most wonderful wonderland of all.

— Lynn

Note: Heartland Truly Moving Movies is a non-profit organization whose work includes an annual film competition for works by high school students. Entries for the 2011 Heartland High School Film Competition are being accepted through June 1, 2011. Those who enter before April 15 pay no submission fee, and will be considered for a scholarship to attend “Prodigy Camp.”

Coming up: Other youth theater works coming to Valley stages, Arizona Girlchoir offerings, Musings on art and rock ‘n’ roll, Nuclear weapons take center stage, Summer camp meets glee club

What’s your Jabberwocky?

Johnny Depp in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland."

My two daughters, both teens, admit to being a little ‘creeped out’ by all things Alice in Wonderland—all that growing and shrinking, all those talking and disappearing animals, all the playing card and chess piece soldiers.

I remember feeling the same way at one time. But the way we see things changes as we age.

I saw something entirely different when I took myself to see the film “Alice in Wonderland” Monday morning at the Harkins IMAX theatre at Arizona Mills in Tempe.

It’s not about a Mad Hatter and his tea party, though Johnny Depp’s hatter—and the teacup-tossing rabbit—are ever so endearing.

It’s about a young woman’s dreams, and her father’s insistence that she pursue them instead of merely populating the dreams of others.

In Tim Burton’s take on two classic Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) tales, Alice has grown from a girl who has fallen but once down a magical rabbit hole into a young lady taking a second tumble into a land consumed by a single question…

“Is she the real Alice?”

It seems that Alice has long had a single dream—of blue caterpillars and grinning cats—that recurs each and every night. Once she asks her father whether she might be going mad.

‘You’re mad, bonkers, off your head,’ he tells her. ‘But I’ll tell you a little secret Alice—all the best people are.’ Seems Alice’s father was himself a bit of a dreamer, prone to ‘doing six impossible things before breakfast.’

After her father’s death, Alice clearly recalls—and embodies–his optimism and adventurous spirit. Yet she has doubts.

After falling down the rabbit hole into “Underland” (no longer “Wonderland”), Alice learns that she is destined to win freedom for its people (and animals) by slaying the dreaded Jabberwocky (which looks a bit like a dragon crossed with creatures from the movie “Alien”).

“This is impossible,” Alice tells the Mad Hatter.

“Only,” he replies, “if you believe it is.”

Alice becomes more brave and sure of herself—more Alice—as she makes her way. When a traveling companion suggests to Alice that she may have lost some of her “muchness” since her first visit, Alice proves otherwise by bobbing over a bog full of heads severed by the Red Queen.

This movie might have been too intense for my children when they were younger. Still, I wish my daughters, now in high school and college, would give Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” a chance.

I love the positive portrayal of a strong young woman, the depiction of a tender father-daughter relationship, and the recognition that people who are different (like Alice when she ponders painting white roses red) are the most wonderful of all.

–Lynn

Note: Not all movies recognize that “mad” isn’t “bad.” Saturday’s post will feature artists battling stigma against those living with mental illness. To support the effort, sign up for NAMI WALKS, a 5K walk at 1pm (noon registration) on Saturday, March 27, at Tempe Beach Park on Tempe Town Lake. Info at www.nami.org/walk. Children and families are encouraged to participate.