Tag Archives: Mother’s Day gifts

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

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I’d rather be…

It's "Plan B" time as a bout of bronchitis has me reading "Blue Like Jazz" and watching the "Olivier Awards" online during a weekend I'd hoped to spend at Valley theaters

I did something last week that surely shocked the folks who know me really well. After learning the second leg of my Southwest flight between Newark and Phoenix was delayed, I ended up spending another night in NYC. Too frugal to pop for another night at a hotel, the wheels started turning. What to do with an extra night in NYC?

Too tired for Springsteen? That should have been my first clue.

I remembered that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were performing at Madison Square Gardens, and daughter Lizabeth quickly jumped online to discover that StubHub tickets were posted for prices lower than your average hotel room.

Then things got really weird — becaused I just didn’t have the oomph to get up and go. I love me some Bruce and the band, and was especially eager to see young musicians in his new brass section rock the house, but figured hiking all those arena stairs might be the death of me. (There are worse ways to go, but “gone” is one place I’d rather not be.)

Lizabeth suggested other options more suitable for a mom still recovering from recent knee surgery, including mother-daughter craft time at Make Meaning — but decided to save that adventure for her summer back home since the NYC-based company also has a Scottsdale Quarter location — which buys us more time to choose between glass, soap, jewelry, paper, candles, ceramics and other creative options.

Folks in Arizona can enjoy the Tribeca Film Festival online

We ended up taking the subway to Tribeca — where this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (which has an online component for folks like me who can’t get to the NYC event) opens in just a few days. We enjoyed a splendid stoll, stopping at some her favorite NYC haunts — including Strand Book Store, where I wistfully admired the black and white photo of Springsteen she’d spotted weeks before on a postcard rack near the entrance.

Also dinner at a diner with festive orange and yellow walls that’s called “S’MAC” because the only dish they serve is macaroni and cheese. Think oodles of noodles delivered skillet-style in endless gourmet variations. When I texted James to tell him where we’d landed, he shot back a brief “How hipster of you” reply. I quickly responded in praise of sporting a vocab that includes “hipster.”

Let's hope someone tells the Mother's Day fairy about this baby

I wasn’t hip enough, apparently, because I’d forgotten that it was my last chance to see Simon Callow perform Jonathan Bate’s “Being Shakepeare” at the Brooklyn Music Academy — which prides itself on being America’s oldest performing arts center (think 1861). Silly, really, considering that my last trip to NYC opened with a glorious exploration of Keith Haring works exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum.

After dropping Lizabeth off at her dorm after dinner, I played “musical Starbucks” until the last of them located near Pace University shut out the lights. I was ready to move on after enduring far too many boisterous barista solos. I hailed a cab for the Newark airport, where I snagged the lone electrical outlet at a Dunkin’ Donuts and curbed the urge to indulge as the smell of freshly baked glazed goodies wafted through the air. It beat sleeping on the floor.

I landed at Sky Harbor Airport just as James was hopping a flight to NYC for his turn at Liz time, but realized later that day that pulling the all-nighter was a serious mistake. I was pooped, and in the early stages of the bronchitis that now finds me bedbound during a weekend I’d hoped to enjoy nearly back-to-back shows from a long list of options.

Think Childsplay’s “Tomas the the Library Lady,” Theater Works’ “All Through the Night” and/or “Sakura no Ne” (a collaboration with the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix), Cookie Company’s “Charlotte’s Web,” Valley Youth Theatre’s “Freckleface Strawberry,” Rising Arts’ “Sleeping Beauty,” and Desert Stages Theatre’s “Altar Boyz” and/or “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying.” They’re all places I’d rather be at this point — but nobody wants to sit by the constant cougher, it’s never nice to share such things.

I'm rooting for RSC and Roald Dahl while watching the Olivier Awards online

Instead, I’ve developed a bit of a plan B. Watching streaming video of Britain’s Olivier Awards, especially eager to see how the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Matilda the Musical” (based on the book by Roald Dahl) fares. Cuddling up with Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” and Paul Torday’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (hoping I’ll bounce back enough this week to catch them on the big screen). And reading online guides for upcoming productions like “Red” (Arizona Theater Company) and “Much Ado About Nothing” (Southwest Shakespeare Company).

Those of you with more bounce in your step can find plenty of ways to enjoy the rest of your weekend by exploring the Raising Arizona Kids calendar in print or online. If you experience an especially nifty concert, art exhibit, dance performance or show — feel free to comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Coming up: Art meets Earth Day, Musings on Mental Health Month

Note: Remember too that you can explore a comprehensive list of summer camps on the Raising Arizona Kids magazine website — click here to find this and other resources for readers. (Final shameless plug — Subsciptions to Raising Arizona Kids magazine make easy, practical and affordable Mother’s Day gifts.)

Truckin’ through Tempe

I found myself “truckin’ through Tempe” today while searching for a new installation of public art along Mill Avenue. Six utility boxes between Rio Salado Parkway and 7th Street have been painted by artists whose designs also grace new library cards for Tempe Public Library patrons.

I spied the “Sonoran Afternoon” utility box painted by Bud Heiss on Feb. 4 first, because it’s on the same corner as the Shoe Mill — my favorite haunt when new shoes beckon, and a splendid place to fondle handbags I can scarcely afford.

While making my way up Mill Avenue to check out other utility boxes, I stopped to chat with a woman named Susan who was playing her violin along the street — but was soon distracted by a painted truck whizzing past so quickly I couldn’t catch a photo.

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I turned my attention to exploring other shops in the area — including a charming hole-in-the-wall bookstore called Old Town Books that reminded me of taking my babies to Changing Hands Bookstore back when it occupied a similar space along that very strip.

While there, I spied a book about Helen Keller — reminding me that “The Miracle Worker” opens later this month at Scottsdale Community College. I’ve no young children to buy such books for anymore, but snapped a picture that’ll help me rekindle memories of reading to my children when they were small.

I also lingered over artwork and furnishings with a vintage/retro vibe at Loft a Go Go, a shop I’ve been eager to explore since spotting it one evening on a hurried walk from parking structure to Stray Cat Theatre. Its diverse offerings include all sorts of goodies plastered with the likenesses of Elvis, Audrey and Marilyn.

I spotted a few more painted utility boxes in my travels, and one of the unpainted variety that made me appreciate the others even more. Colton Brock’s “Mill District” work is located near the light rail stop most convenient for folks eager to explore the Mill Avenue District.

Dawn DeVries Good’s “Be the Good,” painted on Feb. 6, sits at the corner of 6th Street and Mill Avenue. I’m saving others for another trip once my bum knee is on the mend. They include Lucretia Torva’s “Tempe Shine,” Oliverio Balcells’ “Tempe Roots” and Linda Parker’s “Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake.”

I was about to head home when I spotted the painted truck again — parked and perfectly primed for an impromptu photo session. As I suspected, it was covered with assorted paintings, each bearing the name and city/state of its creator. There was just a single catch — it was a beer truck. While I snapped photos, a driver for Crescent Crown Distributing did his delivery thing. To the restaurants, not the nearby dorms.

Then, after a successful dig for more parking meter change, I made one final stop — to a brick building called Hackett House that was once Tempe Bakery. Hackett House is home to the Tempe Sister Cities program, so folks who hit their gift shop or cooking classes can help a worthy cultural cause in the process.

I spotted all sorts of rabbits, chicks and other fare with a whimsical Easter vibe. Even a trio of ceramic “see, hear and speak no evil” bunnies. Also Raggedy Ann dolls, tiny tea sets in charming picnic baskets, richly textured scarves, accessories for wine lovers and glass flowers to hold birthday candles. Even plenty of bobbles and bling for those thinking ahead to Mother’s Day.

I’ve been truckin’ through Tempe for a good twenty years now. First pushing a stroller. Now strolling with camera in hand. It never gets old — thanks to book stores, beer trucks, bunnies and beyond.

— Lynn

Coming up: Sunday at Seton, Conversations with local artists, Poetry meets drumroll, A prophet tale

Greasepaint musings

A jar of theatrical greasepaint created by Ross (Photo: http://www.cosmeticsandskin.com)

In times past, the term “greasepaint” referred to a specific type of stage make-up. I’m told it was a lard-based improvement of sorts over lead-based make-up once worn by theater folk.

Though today’s performers have better options, the term is still used by some to harken back with nostalgia to the early days of on-stage acting. And it was the name chosen back in 1984, when a new youth theater was formed in Scottsdale.

I was a newlywed at that point, still five years away from having my first child. So I didn’t experience my first Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre performance until many years later.

I came across some old Greasepaint programs the other day, including one for an April 2000 performance of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” And another for an April 1999 performance of “Pinocchio.”

I spotted a familiar name in the “Pinocchio” cast list — Jennifer Trimble (performing the role of “Bella”). Her bio reads like this: “Jennifer is a 7-year-old 2nd grader at Desert View Learning Center. She studies dance and the piano, and is a member of the Phoenix Girls Chorus.”

The bio also notes her performance earlier that season in “Hansel and Gretel” with Greasepaint — which conjures memories of putting icing on gingerbread cookies with young cast members in the green room, spray painting angel wings with glow-in-the-dark colors, and adjusting Jennifer’s peasant blouse and cotton floral skirt.

I got to looking for other names too — like Katie Hart, Tyler Smalley and Amanda Glenn — knowing the three Greasepaint alumni will soon be joining current Greasepaint performers on stage at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center.

Sure enough, Smalley was there — along with siblings Krysten and Tanner. Back then, Tyler was a 12-year-old home-schooling 7th grader studying dance. He was already represented by the Ford/Robert Black Agency and had several Valley Youth Theatre and Greasepaint shows among his list of credits.

Tubes of greasepaint make-up from Max Factor (Photo: http://www.cosmeticsandskin.com)

There are plenty of reasons to attend the April 16 “Greasepaint for Tomorrow” event taking place this Saturday night at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale. Catching up with young adults who’ve acted with Greasepaint in years past should be especially fun.

“Greasepaint for Tomorrow” — scheduled from 6pm to 10 pm — features a reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres, a live performance titled “Broadway Heroes & Villains” directed by Kelli James, a silent auction and more.

“Broadway Heroes & Villains” includes selections from diverse musicals including “13,” “Billy Elliot,” “Hairspray,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Les Miserables,” “Mamma Mia,” “Spring Awakening,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Wicked.”

Producing director Maureen Dias-Watson, who heads the theater company now known as Greasepaint Youtheatre, promises more than 70 items for silent auction shoppers — including trips, gift certificates, theater tickets and more.

Think Fleming’s and Neiman Marcus. Sailing and skiing. Athlete and rock star memorabilia. Jewelry and art. Clever Mother’s Day and Father’s Day shoppers take note — because silent auctions present opportunities to snag good deals on unique fare. (The time for finding year-end teacher gifts is fast approaching too.)

You can learn more about Saturday’s “Greasepaint Youtheatre” fundraiser by visiting www.greasepaint.org — where you’ll also find information on their next show, an upcoming master class and summer theater camps for kids.

Folks who attend “Greasepaint for Tomorrow” will want to hang on to their programs — because you never know when the children and teens performing today on local stages might be listed down the road in programs from Broadway to London’s West End and beyond.

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about the history and uses of greasepaint, as well as other forms of cosmetics, visit www.cosmeticsandskin.com. The above photos are just a few of those featured on this website.

Coming up: “Jersey” girls, Pinky’s picks

Theater tackles “No Child” policy

Ever wonder what actors do when they’re not on stage? I got a glimpse while speaking by phone recently with actor and playwright Nilaja Sun.

Sun’s one woman show about “everyday life in a low-income Bronx classroom” comes to Phoenix later this month, so we chatted a bit about how she gave birth to—and continues to nurture—the work.

But first Sun shared with me that she’d recently seen the movie “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Seems we’re fellow Fey fans (that woman can write), and that Sun felt the flick was “a lot of fun.”

If a genie shows up at my door anytime soon, I’m using one of my three wishes to arrange a coffee and cheesecake fest with these two women. Then I’m asking for a ticket to every single performance of Sun’s show, being presented by Actors Theatre at Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West April 23-May 9.

In case you’re wondering, my third wish will be for world peace. But never mind that right now. I’m keen on making sure you get yourself, your teens, your kids’ teachers and pretty much everyone else you know to this show—called “No Child.”

Think Mother’s Day gifts. Think teacher gifts. Think parent date night. Think girls night out. Just get those tickets—before my genie gets to the box office.

I happen to think that more time at the theater for us all might just bring my third wish to life. If you doubt the transformative power of live theater performance, prepare for a conversion. I suspect that Sun’s prophetic piece may change the way we look at education forever.

It’s about time.

“The passing of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act was not without its share of criticism” is the diplomatic statement offered by Actors Theatre in their “What It’s Really About” description of Sun’s work.

You know the basics. Lagging in education performance worldwide, U.S. officials decided it was time for math and English to take not just center stage—but nearly all the stage. It was back into the wings for the arts, or all the way out to the gutter.

So has it proven effective in preparing our children for the many challenges of the modern world? I’m all for math and English, but something is missing when music, theater, dance and the visual arts fall by the wayside.

What Sun has wrought, by her own admission, is “a bit of a revolution happening.” She didn’t wait for someone else to start it, fix it or spread it. She did it—and it sounds amazing.

I’ll share a bit more about Sun’s journey from student in the New York public schools to portrayer of all that is possible for our schools going into the future in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, I leave you with Sun’s final remarks as our call drew to a close. “What value,” I asked, “do the arts have for students who won’t grow up to work as artists?”

“The arts,” shared Sun, “begin opening up kids’ hearts and souls to the world and to their own humanity.

“The arts,” she added, “help us all to be a little more human and to have a greater grasp of all that we can do.”

–Lynn