Tag Archives: Nickelodeon

Little explorers meet Dora!

Update: This show has been extended through Sunday, Nov. 6.

While attending a Sunday matinee of “Dora the Explorer LIVE! Dora’s Pirate Adventure” at Valley Youth Theatre, I snapped some photos of children and families who were there to enjoy the show. Many stuck around after the performance to get autographs and pose for photos with cast members.

Enjoy the following photos of my very own pirate adventure…

We love to see dads exploring live theater with their children…

Kids need great role models like Dora the Explorer and the actress below…

These boys’ moms are so much nicer than the “Dance Moms” on TV…

Dora had more fans lined up than some shows I’ve seen on Broadway…

Something tells me we should be watching for this smile on a stage one day…

The Dora cast was patient and cheerful with every child they met at the show…

This young fan might want to hold on to Sophia Deyden’s (Dora) autograph…

The kids loved meeting the map, backback and other Dora characters…

These young adventurers had a great time waving their special pirate flags…

Click here to learn more about the show or to purchase tickets.

— Lynn

Note: Visit VYT on Facebook to enjoy production photos from “Dora’s Pirate Adventure”

Coming up: A picture is worth…


Of pirates, maps & treasure

Enjoy Dora the Explorer LIVE! through Nov. 6 at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix is presenting the Arizona premiere of a kid-friendly musical called “Dora the Explorer LIVE! Dora’s Pirate Adventure” through Nov. 6. It’s based on Nickelodeon character Dora the Explorer and her faithful pals, including a boy named Diego and a monkey named Boots.

VYT music director Mark Fearey opened a Sunday matinee by inviting young audience members to sit “criss cross applesauce” on the floor in front of the stage. They happily obliged, many waving pirate adventure flags as Fearey offered child-friendly tips on theater etiquette.

The show features upbeat music, adorable critters well-animated by the actors who portray them, a delightful dose of Spanish and all sorts of audience interaction. Children get to sing along, dance along and even help Dora with a bit of old-fashioned problem-solving.

Characters travel through the theater several times during the show to engage young audience members, offering high fives and such to wide-eyed children with beaming smiles. They’ve no idea that the show doubles as a learning tool full of the repetition and sequencing so critical to things like reading and arithmetic.

This kid-friendly musical features lots of interaction with audience members

Dora’s Pirate Adventure” is full of feel-good messages and important life lessons too. Stop and think before you act. Friends can overcome challenges by working together. Life’s more fun when no one gets excluded. My only quibble with the work is the missed opportunities for adding a “please” or “thank you” here and there.

Youth theater productions can sometimes be hit or miss in the talent department, but these cast members are talented across the board. Sophia Deyden’s “Dora” is effervescent. Deyden’s high energy, which never wanes, is infectious.

The set for “Dora’s Pirate Adventure” is simple in the very best way possible. It’s colorful and well-crafted but doesn’t distract from the story. The costumes are equally adorable and polished, the music and choreography shine, and it’s clear that director Bobb Cooper has worked to finesse each detail.

The first act of “Dora’s Pirate Adventure” ran just 30 minutes and was followed by a 20-minute break before the second act. That’s important for the preschool set, who need time to hit the potty, get a drink and marvel at the wonder of “Dora” with all their friends.

After most shows at VYT, cast members do a meet and greet with audience members in the theater’s lobby. For the performance I attended, VYT had cast members sit on the edge of the stage instead — signing autographs, posing for pictures and talking with young fans about their favorite parts of the show.

Parents seeking unique and affordable play date or birthday party options will find it in “Dora’s Pirate Adventure.” You can even buy goodies like Dora plush characters and T-shirts at the show, meaning you don’t have to make an extra trip to find party favors. Let Dora do the exploring. You can just show up and be the hero.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for ticket information and to learn more about future auditions and shows at VYT. Click here for “Dora the Explorer” activities from Nickelodeon designed to help children develop in four areas — language, social/emotional, math and physical/wellness.

Coming up: Fun photos from my “Dora the Explorer” adventure at VYT

Kids remember 9/11

This 9/11 Peace Story Quilt on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was designed by Faith Ringgold. It features three panels created by NYC students ages 8-19.

Folks in NYC have plenty of art-related opportunities to reflect on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this week. An art installation “made from 9/11 dust” and paintings “which contain ash from ground zero.” A quilt featuring NYC’s skyline and a quilt with three panels crafted by NYC students (pictured above). www.metmuseum.org.

A roving memorial called “Dances for Airports.” A concert for peace featuring the Juilliard String Quartet. A release of balloons inscribed with poetry in several languages. Even a human chain open to anyone who wants to join hands in Battery Park at 8:46am on Sept 10.

Work by a student from the Calhoun School class of 2006

My favorite events and exhibits feature the words and works of youth — like a series of collages created by 31 thirteen year olds who started 8th grade together at Calhoun School that tragic day. Their “9/11: Through Young Eyes,” a project coordinated by teachers Helen Bruno and Jessica Houston, will be exhibited at the D C Moore Gallery in Chelsea Sept 8 – Oct 8. www.dcmooregallery.com.

Several Arizona youth are participating in a community memorial service called “Moving Memories — Moving Forward.” The Sun, Sept 11 event is being presented by the Arizona Interfaith Movement, which seeks to “build bridges…through dialogue, service and the implementation of the Golden Rule.”

It’s taking place from 11:30am-12:30pm at the 9/11 memorial located at Wesley Bolin Plaza. The plaza is adjacent to the Arizona State Capitol at 17th Avenue and Adams Street just west of downtown Phoenix. Program highlights include remarks by Donna Killoughey Bird, a mother of two whose husband Gary Bird (a UA grad and longtime resident of Tempe) died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

High school student Kris Curtis will play the national anthem on trumpet after emcee Pat McMahon opens the ceremony. Following several prayers and speakers, ten children will “say the Golden Rule from ten different faith traditions.” www.azifm.org.

Eighth grade students from the Temple Emanu-El Kurn Religious School in Tucson will lead a “9/11 Interfaith Memorial Service” Sun, Sept 11 (10am) at Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging. www.handmaker.org.

A new book titled “Art for Heart: Remembering 9/11” (with introduction by Alice M. Greenwald) features drawings, murals, paintings and poems by children who were affected by the terrorist attack.

“The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11” (by Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D. and Andrea Henderson Fahnestock) began as a project of the New York Child Study Center in NYC. It was published several years ago, but it’s every bit as compelling today.

Many of the works featured in “The Day Our World Changed” have been donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in Lower Manhattan, which first opens for families on 9/11 this year. The general public can visit the museum (with pre-purchased tickets due to high demand) starting 9/12. My daughter Lizabeth plans to tour the museum this week with other students from Pace University. www.911memorial.org.

NBC airs a Darlow Smithson Productions documentary titled “Children of 9/11” tonight, Sept 5, but folks who miss it can watch local listings for rebroadcast information. More than 3,000 children lost a parent on 9/11, and this special follows 11 of them for a period of one year.

The Day Our World Changed includes this work by Matthew Sussman

If you missed the Sept 1 broadcast of “What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001,” a 30-minute Nickelodeon program geared for younger viewers, you can watch it online — then read an online discussion guide created by psychologist Robin H. Gurwitch, Ph.D. for Nickelodeon and the American Psychological Association. www.nicknews.com and www.parentsconnect.com.

Stories of more than 40 twins who lost a sibling on 9/11 are the subject of a BBC Wales documentary titled “Twins of the Twin Towers.” It’s being broadcast on Sun, Sept 11 on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

Be thoughtful, in the days ahead, about how much time you spend watching programs that show the traumatic events of 9/11 in graphic detail. Most aren’t suitable for children, and even kids who didn’t lose a loved one on 9/11 can feel traumatized by exposure to the events of that day.

— Lynn

Note: Donna Killoughey Bird will share her story several times in comings days. Hear her speak Tues, Sept 6 (noon) at the Mustang Library auditorium or Thurs, Sept 15 (6pm) at the Civic Center Library auditorium in Scottsdale (Register at www.scottsdaleaz.gov). Or meet her Sun, Sept 11 (3pm) at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, where she’ll be signing “Nothing Will Separate Us” (part of the proceeds go to scholarships, service awards and educational support for young adults). www.changinghands.com/event.

Coming up: 9/11 takes center stage, Children’s books inspired by 9/11

Update: Find a collection of children’s drawings from “The Day Our World Changed” at www.pbs.org/newshour/multimedia/911children

Girl power!

Parents eager to introduce their daughters to “girl power” themes like “it’s okay to be smart” and “be your own person” have three especially fun choices in musical theater this season.

First up is “Dear Edwina, Jr.” featuring actors from the summer theater performance program at Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale. It follows the adventures of Edwina Spoonapple in Paw Paw, Michigan — who offers advice via “The Dear Edwina Show.” I’m told the production features an “advice-a-palooza extravaganza” and that tickets run just $5. “Dear Edwina, Jr.” is being performed Fri, July 29 at 7pm and Sat, July 30 at noon.

Next up is “Legally Blonde the Musical” presented by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. Though college student Elle Woods initially enrolls in law school only to get her man, she discovers along the way that she’s plenty happy doing her own thing. A national touring production of “Legally Blonde the Musical” was a huge hit during its ASU Gammage run in Tempe. This local production runs Oct 6-Nov 12 in Mesa.

Also coming in October is “Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer Live: Dora’s Pirate Adventure” — which features Dora the Explorer, her best friend “Boots the Monkey” and her cousin Diego as they search for “Treasure Island.” Nickelodeon’s “Dora” has been praised for being a smart and confident problem-solver who accomplishes great things with only “Boots” by her side. Valley Youth Theatre brings her to life Oct 7-23.

If you believe that kids model the attitudes and behaviors they see in others and want your daughters to experience life as capable and confident women, consider the role live theater can play in reinforcing these qualities.

— Lynn

Coming up: Dance meets imagination

Anthem tales

I met a 12-year-old named Sarah Miller, and her mother Ruth, during intermission for Tuesday night’s performance of “Mamma Mia!” at ASU Gammage

I was delighted to learn that Sarah has performed in several community theater productions in Anthem, where she lives and plans to attend The Caepe School come fall.

I spoke with Sarah by phone Wednesday evening, after she’d finished a dance class with Dynamic Motion Dance Academy in Anthem — where she studies jazz, musical theater and tap. She’s also trained in ballet and hip hop.

I spotted Sarah in the huge “Mamma Mia!” crowd thanks to her powder blue t-shirt with a large “Mamma Mia!” logo. Although Sarah told me she loves the show, she was most eager to talk about her hometown theaters — Starlight Community Theater and Musical Theatre of Anthem.

Sarah has performed in several Starlight Community Theater productions — including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella,” plus her very favorite piece of musical theater — “Annie.” Sarah’s last “Starlight” role was “Tweedle Dum” in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Both Starlight and MTA of Anthem feature performances by and for youth

She’s excited about Starlight’s 2011/12 season, which includes “Willy Wonka,” “Miracle of 34th Street – The Musical,” “Fame!,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Rapunzel,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Playwright and director Jim Gradillas, artistic director for Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, will be heading the “Rapunzel” production. Sarah praises Gradillas for working directly with each actor, for being a master at motivating kids to do their best, and for using games and other strategies to keep theater time fresh and fun.

So far Sarah has performed in just a single Musical Theatre of Anthem production — “The Wizard of Oz.” But she hopes to perform in more MTA shows down the road.

The 2011/12 lineup for Musical Theatre of Anthem includes “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” “13,” “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” “Seussical, Jr.,” and “Annie.” Sarah describes it as “a good selection” but already knows at least one show will conflict with other plans for the coming year.

Sarah is especially excited about auditioning for “Annie.” While she’d love to play the lead, Sarah told me that young actors have the best chance of getting major roles when they indicate a genuine willingness to accept any part they’re offered.

When I asked Sarah for additional audition tips for children and teens, she happily shared quite a few of them. Be present. Don’t act nervous. Make eye contact. Be easygoing. And most of all, don’t be fake. “Act like yourself,” suggests Sarah.

The approach seems to be working for Sarah, who shared that she’s already recording her singing and working with a producer at Island Def Jam Recordings.

She’d love to break into the music business or land an acting gig with Disney or Nickelodeon. She even shared this link to her performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Whatever the future holds for Sarah, it’s clear that her time on Anthem stages is serving her well — and that the memories she’s making right here in the Valley will last a lifetime.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the websites for Musical Theatre of Anthem and Starlight Community Theater to learn about current productions and summer programs. And watch for a photo of Sarah coming soon…

Coming up: Transformers — opera style, New plays — festival style

Update: An open call audition for the roles of Annie and the orphans in a new Broadway production of “Annie” is taking place June 12 for girls ages 6-12. Click here for details.

Growing up with the Grinch

One of my favorite books (and television cartoons) from Christmases past

For those of us born into the world that considered color television a high-tech wonder, certain holiday cartoons bring back warm childhood memories.

There’s Linus, waiting with his blanket for the “Great Pumpkin” to appear. Rudolph the reindeer fretting over his blinking nose. Charlie Brown choosing a humble Christmas tree.

For me, it’s Cindy Lou Who waddling around on Christmas Eve in her little pink pajamas, holding a red ornament that’s fallen from her Christmas tree mid-heist.

The thief, of course, is the Grinch — who hopes to steal not only every trace of Christmas, but the very heart of hope and love that it celebrates.

When the movie version starring Jim Carrey was released several years ago, I just couldn’t bring myself to see it. With Ron Howard directing, I’m sure it’s a perfectly wonderful bit of movie magic.

But I want to think of Cindy Lou Who — and the serene, singing folks of Dr. Seuss’ Whoville — when I conjure memories of Christmas past. Carrey, though wildly talented, simply isn’t as cute.

Still, I’m keeping an open mind about the touring production of “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” which runs at ASU Gammage in Tempe Nov 17 to 21.

Stefan Karl Stefansson and fellow cast members of "The Grinch" musical playing for a short time only at ASU Gammage in Tempe (Photo: PaparazziByAppointment.com)

The Grinch is none other than Stefan Karl Stefansson, an Icelandic actor your children may know as Nick, Jr.’s “Lazytown” villain, Robbie Rotten.

I’ll be seeing the show Thursday evening (Wednesday evening found me at a Mesa Cinemark movie theater for a special engagement showing of “The Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert”).

I’ll update this post with a review of sorts once I’ve experienced the Grinch in all his glory.

In the meantime, learn more about this enchanting story — and the Broadway version — by visiting the ASU Gammage website at asugammage.com (where “Gammage Goer” reviews get posted).

To enjoy a lovely walk down memory lane in the land of Dr. Seuss, visit his Random House website at seussville.com. It features information for parents and educators as well as games and activities for children.

And don’t forget about the touring production’s website at grinchmusical.com. It’s got the scoop on cast and creative team, as well as its own set of seriously fun activities.

Today’s children can still enjoy the mid-60’s classic that many of their parents grew up with. But why not add the enchanting experience of a live theater production?

No one has to know you’re the real kid at heart sitting in the audience…

— Lynn

Note: ASU Gammage has several special offers and opportunities for theater patrons, so click here to learn more about unique offerings related to “The Grinch.”

Coming up: Days of double posts as “Stage Mom” hits high gear to cover the Valley’s many holiday offerings in dance, music, theater and more. Once you’ve enjoyed “The Grinch” with your family, there’s plenty more to explore.

Update: I’m spending Thursday evening in “Nurse Mom” rather than “Stage Mom” mode — so when you see the show, why not add a comment below with your favorite moments from “The Grinch” at ASU Gammage. Thanks!

Nickelodeon “Parents’ Picks” 2010

I was thrilled to get word from Musical Theatre of Anthem that they’ve been selected as one of five finalists in this year’s “Parents’ Pick” competition in the “theatre group for kids” category.

Part of Vision Gallery StoryPeople exhibit

Nominations are accepted online from folks registered with Nickelodeon’s “Parents Connection” program, and finalists are then put up for a vote–again with registered users at www.parentsconnect.com.

Parents who want to participate simply take a few minutes to share some basic details such as name, birthday, zip code and such. Hats off to the parents supporting their local favorites through these and other ‘best of’ type programs.

Who doesn’t love to share the news when they find a wonderful resource for their child?

Four other Valley organizations presenting theater for youth also are nominated for a “Parents’ Pick 2010” award–Actor’s Youth Theatre in Mesa, Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre in Phoenix, Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix and Fountain Hills Community Theater in Fountain Hills.

Art by Brian Andreas of StoryPeople

The online voting period ends August 31. Winners get to display Nickelodeon’s seal of approval of sorts for the entire year they hold the “Parents’ Pick” award in their region and their category.

Nickelodeon is surverying several other types of kid-friendly fare as well, including museums. The five 2010 finalists in the Phoenix region this year are the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa and Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Glendale.

More Andreas art from Chandler's Vision Gallery

I’m delighted to see both our better known arts organizations and some we hear of less often included among the nominees. And while voting online has a certain appeal, I prefer to vote with my feet–visiting each of these venues to see what’s new and exciting amidst both familiar and relatively unexplored sites.

Go ahead and cast your votes for your favorites. But remember that what our arts organizations and youth need most of all is fun face-to-face encounters.

The joy of a child’s laugh or the twinkle in a child’s eye is the greatest recognition of all…


Note: Click here to learn more about StoryPeople

Coming up: Musings on “Les Mis” coupled with another new season announcement