Tag Archives: Oliver

The power of a smile

Finale of "Wonderland" featuring Dance Theater West students (Photo: Harrison Hurwitz)

I remember seeing lots of smiles when my young daughters (now in college) trained at Dance Theater West — on the faces of students, parents and teachers. Even their teen dancers, who always struck me as more collaborative than competitive. It’s something too often taken for granted or undervalued by parents who consider dance a solely individual enterprise in which having perfect technique is all that truly matters.

In reality, very few of the little girls and boys who study dance go on to careers in anything even remotely related. Long after the finer points of leaps and turns once mastered fade away, the person who executed them is still there. As are memories of experiences both in the studio and backstage. So watch for smiles as you’re looking for summer dance programs for your children — considering the intangibles being modeled and taught.

I smiled after learning that the Summer Dance 2012 program at Dance Theater West includes three musical theater workshops, remembering my daughter Jennifer’s final performance for one of their workshops with a “Les Miserables” theme. This year’s themes are “Chicago” (June 11-5), “Mary Poppins” (June 18-22) and “South Pacific” (June 25-29).

Kendall Brauer, Zebrina Tull and Emily Byler making DTW proud during the recent Scottsdale Arts Festival (Photo: Karen Travis)

These musical theater workshops include ballet, character dance, tap, jazz, singing, sign language and acting for ages 10 through teens. Workshops meet Mon-Thurs (10am-2:30pm) and times for Thurs/Fri performances are TBA. Each workshop is $200 (a $25 deposit is required with registration).

A ballet intensive for ages 11 through teens who’ve had at least two years ballet training takes place June 4-8 with an “Aladdin” theme. It features classical, lyrical, character and pointe (optional). The ballet intensive meets Mon-Thurs 10am-2:30pm — and there’ll be a final performance on Friday. The cost is $200 and a $25 deposit is required.

Dance Theater West also offers several summer dance options for children ages six to nine,” including “Kids on Broadway” — which features songs from kid-friendly musicals including “Annie,”  “Oliver,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and more. This baby meets June 4-8 from 10am to noon with a final performance at 11am on Fri, June 8. The cost is $125.

“Once Opon a Mattress” for the ages six to nine set includes musical numbers from a Broadway musical based on the tale of “The Princess and the Pea.” Dance inspired by peas sounds a lot more fun than actually eating the darn things. This session takes place June 11-15 from 10am to noon, and the final performance is scheduled for 11am on Fri, June 15. It’s also $125.

“Creating a Musical” for ages six to nine takes place June 18-22 from 10am to noon. After each child picks a favorite musical, they’ll create a collective revue featuring monologues inspired by each musical’s history or fun facts — and participants will get to try their hand at group choreography. This session takes place June 18-22 from 10am to noon, with a final performance at 11am on Fri, June 22. Yup, this puppy is $125 too.

I suppose I should mention a final reason to smile here. While your little darlings are off dancing, you can enjoy a few of your own creative pursuits.

— Lynn

Note: Aftercare from noon-2pm is available for dancers in the 10am-noon sessions for six to nine year olds. It’s $15/day or $50 for all four days. Fans of “Once Upon a Mattress” will be pleased to learn that it’s being performed this month by Starlight Community Theater in North Phoenix.

Coming up: Justice tales, Art meets women’s wellness, Dance classes for grown-ups, Playing in the dirt

Update: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that Karen Travis does not, in fact, leap about in a pink tutu and funky socks.4/2/12


Once upon a theater camp

Aaron Zweiback performs in Green Eggs & Ham with The Phoenix Symphony on St. Patrick's Day

I was reminded while reading Mala Blomquist’s post this morning that spring break camps will soon be upon us, and was busy trolling for camps with an arts and culture twist when interrupted by a call from 12-year-old actor and ASA student Aaron Zweiback, whose theater teachers include Xanthia Walker.

I first met Zweiback last summer when my daughter Lizabeth, who now studies acting in NYC, was a teacher assistant with Childsplay Academy in Tempe. She’d invited me to see the final performance of a summer workshop with a “Hairspray” theme. Zweiback was one of several campers performing snippets of the musical for family and friends — and his Edna a la bathrobe was a hoot. He’s also done theater camps with Phoenix Theatre.

I ran into Zweiback after a recent Valley Youth Theatre performance of “Charlotte’s Web” — during which he rocked the rat role — and put fist to ear with the typical “call me” sign after chatting with his dad. In a rather spooky coincidence, I’d been wondering earlier this morning whether he’d ever have time to actually pick up a phone.

Today was the day, and the call couldn’t have been better timed. Turns out Zweiback is performing in several shows I’ll be seeing in coming days and weeks. I learned yesterday that I’ll need a little snip to a torn part of my left knee, but decided to postpone all things arthroscopy for another two weeks in order to keep my review calendar mostly intact.

Aaron Zweiback recently performed in Charlotte's Web at Valley Youth Theatre

So life looks like this for me and my knee: See Zweiback and others perform in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre this weekend, limp my way through a trip to visit Lizabeth over spring break, then catch a returning flight in the wee hours that gets me home just in time to hit another Zweiback gig — The Phoenix Symphony performing “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then squeeze in the surgery thing (with a doc who took his kids to see a friend from the Valley perform in “Grease” on Broadway a few years ago). I’m told the wait won’t worsen what ails me.

Turns out “Green Eggs and Ham” includes all sorts of amazing folks from Valley stages. ASA teacher and renowned Valley actor Toby Yatso, with whom both Lizabeth and Zweiback have studied voice, is narrating the story. Zweiback does his “boy soprano” thing as “Sam I Am” and shared that the theatrical piece of the concert is being blocked, choreographed and directed by Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

There’s another Sam in Zweiback’s life as well — an actor named Sam Primack whose little mittens I once guarded with care as backstage mom for a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Oliver.” He and Zweiback were in “A Christmas Story” at Phoenix Theatre earlier this season, and both are cast in Childsplay’s world premiere production of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars.”

Sam Primack poses with a VYT fan after performing in Charlotte's Web

After Zweiback shared a bit about auditioning for all these shows, I invited him to write a guest blog with audition tips for young actors — and he graciously agreed. It takes a generous spirit to share one’s own “secrets to success” and Zweiback certainly has one. I fully expect to see him performing on Broadway stages one day, and hope he’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to audition for roles in works by William Shakespeare where his intellect and gift for comedy would shine.

If the ticket fairies are working in my favor, I’ll be able to enjoy the work of another Valley-trained actor while in NYC next week. Nick Cartell, who has performed with VYT, Phoenix Theatre and other Arizona companies makes his Broadway debut this month in a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Katie Czajkowksi and Aaron Zweiback after a Childsplay summer camp performance based on the musical Hairspray

I’m also looking forward to the Homestead Playhouse production of “Holes,” being performed at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale March 28-30, because another young performer I met after the Childsplay “Hairspray” camp performance landed the warden role. Katie’s mom, Deb Czajkowski, recently got in touch to share the happy news — and her thoughts on the many benefits of theater for youth.

I hope those of you still wondering what your children or teens might enjoy doing over spring break will do a little theater camp legwork. One day, perhaps, you’ll get to turn to your child and share the old theater adage for good luck — “Break a leg!” Just try to keep your own body parts intact in the meantime…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read Mala Blomquist’s post on spring break camps and here to learn about all sorts of summer camps. Find additional spring break camps at Voices Studio, Creative Stages Youth Theatre and Mesa Arts Center (if you’ve got one, send me the scoop at rakstagemom@gmail.com).

Coming up: Spring break NYC-style, Hometown boy makes Broadway debut

What the Dickens!

Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens!

I started celebrating Dickens’ 200th birthday early, after my hubby James suggested last year that I hit the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City — which is hosting an exhibit titled “Charles Dickens at 200” through Feb.  12. Those of you who can’t race right off to NYC can still enjoy it thanks to an online exhibition.

Remind your children, if they’ve ever read the tale of “Oliver Twist” or seen a staged adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” that today is the birthday of the man who brought Oliver and Ebenezer to life. No need for 200 birthday candles, but it’s nice to help kids remember the artists behind the arts we enjoy every day.

Several children’s books about Charles Dickens have been released in recent months — including “A Boy Called Dickens” by Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix, “Charles Dickens: England’s Most Captivating Storyteller” by Catherine Wells-Cole, “Charles Dickens: Scenes From an Extraordinary Life” by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, and “Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London” by Andrea Warren.

Adults eager to learn more about Dickens can visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London — in person or online. Folks visiting London can also see Dickens’ grave, located inside Westminster Abbey — where England held a ceremony today in the writer’s honor. Participants included actor Ralph Fiennes, who plays Magwitch in a BBC film adaptation of “Great Expectations” being released later this year.

I suppose the best way to honor Dickens is to revisit his work, but if your bookshelves (or e-readers) are short on Dickens titles, you can still explore his work — and life story — by visiting PBS online. They’ve got a lovely list, with links, to ten good sources of Dickens lore. Also succinct summaries of his writings and serial publications — plus his thoughts on both America and the social injustices of his day.

While Dickens lived through changes wrought by the industrial revolution, we’re living through changes born of the technological revolution. And social injustice still exists. Perhaps revisiting Dickens’ works — whether by tablet or traditional book — will leave us all inspired to do something about it.

— Lynn

Coming up: I’m just a bill…

“A Christmas Carol” for all ages

Mike Lawler (Jacob Marley) and Kim Bennett (Ebenezer Scrooge) performed in the 2005 Actors Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol" and will reprise these rolls for the 2010 run

Enjoying both Dickens’ classic tale and the stage adaptation presented by Actors Theatre for nearly two decades have long been part of our family holiday tradition.

This year’s cast includes plenty of familiar names, including two Valley actors Lizabeth performed with at Greasepaint Youtheatre when she was in grade school — Natalie Ellis (Nurse) of Scottsdale and Maxx Carlisle-King (Young Scrooge) of Phoenix.

There’s also Robert Kolby Harper (Bob Cratchit) of Phoenix, who Lizabeth has enjoyed working with at Phoenix Theatre thanks to their Arizona School for the Arts partnership — and Manuela Needhammer (Hair and Make-up Design), who was Lizabeth’s art teacher at Desert View Learning Center.

Chelsea Groen (L), who performed the role of "Fan" in the 2005 Actors Theatre production, first performed in the Valley at age 5 in a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of "Hansel and Gretel" (my own daughter Jennifer was also in that GY cast)

Just last season, we got to know young Valley actor Christopher Moffitt, who previously performed the role of Tiny Tim with Actors Theatre, when he and Lizabeth were part of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “Oliver!” cast (Moffitt was the orphaned boy Oliver).

I spoke recently with two of the cast members who’ve performed in “A Christmas Carol” for many years — a mother and son, Stephanie and Casey Likes, of Chandler.

They shared with me — as did Matthew Wiener, the company’s artistic director — that “A Christmas Carol” is a morality tale meaningful in many times and places.

It’s about a change of heart experienced by the miserly Scrooge, and the impact this change of heart has on those around him, including the ailing Tiny Tim.

But I stumbled on another layer of the work the other day while reading a book titled “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas C. Foster.

The 2005 cast of "A Christmas Carol" enjoys a bit of fuzzywig dancing -- a stress-buster others might wish to consider this holiday season

Foster begins chapter 13 (“It’s All Political”) by noting that Dickens “was actually attacking a widely held political belief” in 1843.

“The tale,” writes Foster, “attacks one way of thinking about our social responsibility and valorizes another.”

Seems the Puritanism of the two previous centuries was seized upon by “British social thinker” Thomas Malthus. Foster cites Malthus’ belief that by “helping the poor…we would in fact encourage an increase in the number of the impoverished.”

It’s a view not so different from that held by some of America’s contemporary candidates and commentators.

You may or may not agree with Foster’s assertion that “Dickens is a social critic, but he’s a sneaky one.” Or Foster’s belief that “nearly all writing is political on some level.”

For Foster, political writing “engages the realities of its world” and “thinks about human problems, including those of the social and political realm….”

Kim Bennett as Scrooge in the 2005 production of "A Christmas Carol" by Actors Theatre. Head to the Herberger Theater Center Dec 4-24 to enjoy his performance in the 2010 production

When my children were very young, going to see “A Christmas Carol” was all about enjoying a good bit of storytelling that transported us to another place and time.

Before long they were old enough to consider Scrooge’s individual shortcomings and discuss the implications for their own behavior.

Now that all are young adults, they can enjoy it from a whole other perspective — with an eye towards social, economic and political conditions of Dickens’ day.

Experiencing "A Chistmas Carol" with family and friends may inspire you to try your own twirling dance like the one performed here during the 2005 production

And they can take it a step further, wondering about possible parallels with contemporary thought and public policy — considering lessons Dickens lends to a global community in a modern world.

“A Christmas Carol” is still a well-loved holiday tradition — but it’s so much more.

Explore the many wonders of this tale for all ages as Actors Theatre presents their adaptation for a final season.

You’ll still miss it when it’s gone, but at least you’ll enjoy the special spirit of this season’s production as we all prepare to say goodbye.


Photos, by Jeff Kida, courtesy of Actors Theatre of Phoenix

Note: Click here to learn more about “A Christmas Carol” performed by Actors Theatre — as well as their current production of “In the Next Room” (through Nov 14). Other 2010-2011 season offerings include “This” (Jan 21-Feb 6, 2011), “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?” (March 4-20, 2011) and “Circle Mirror Transformation” (April 22-May 8, 2011).

Coming up: Dancing your way through the holidays — plus a show that left Lizabeth saying “My cheeks hurt from smiling so much.”

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

Notes from an NYT award winner

By Lindsey Stegemoller, Guest blogger

Lindsey Stegemoller performs at VYT during a recent National Youth Theatre awards ceremony

The National Youth Theater Awards are always something to look forward to every year, whether it be the performances, the speeches, or the outstanding podiums.

This year it was held on September 12 at Valley Youth Theatre in downtown Phoenix. The theater was filled with people from different areas in Arizona and they were lively and spirited with everything that happened.

"The Ugly Duckling" cast members (Desert Stages Theatre)

I usually try to dress formal-casual for the event with some stunning heels and apparently the rest of the audience picked up on that idea.

Everyone in the theater was wearing a suit or a nice dress with their hair done amazingly.

Madeline Wessel (Musical Theatre of Anthem) performs "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

One of the funniest speeches was done by a male winner. He wrote a 1 1/2 page speech with theater puns in every sentence. The crowd loved it!

Everyone had great speeches and touching remarks but I think D. Scott Withers’ speech was great. He set up a standard for accepting the award with his choice of words and honest point of view.

Part of "The Laramie Project" ensemble (Greasepaint Youtheatre/QSpeak) accepting an award

I had a great time at the NYTs this year and from what I saw, so did everyone else. Going to events like this really creates a special experience whether you’re 47 or just 7.

When the NYTs come around next year, you know I’ll be there just to experience the lively atmosphere and the great people.


Above photos courtesy of Rob Hopper, executive director of National Youth Theatre

Pinnacle High School student Lindsey Stegemoller (Photo by Laura Durant)

Note: Lindsey Stegemoller, of Phoenix, is a 16-year-old Pinnacle High School student. Stegemoller was one of five Valley actresses to receive the “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical” award and also performed during the NYT award ceremony. She was honored for her work in Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “Oliver!,” directed by D. Scott Withers.

Fun fact: You can click here to read my ‘review’ of “Oliver!” (I’m only so objective because my daughter Lizabeth was also in the cast). My first draft of the review likened Stegemoller’s vocals during “Oliver!” to vocals I enjoyed during the touring Broadway production of “Wicked”–a line I deleted prior to posting (now to my great embarassment) after I was told that Stegemoller wasn’t the world’s greatest “Wicked” fan. I hope she won’t mind me making the comparison now. It’s a good thing.

Art at the heart of healing

While many of us were gathering around the menorah or singing Christmas carols, some Arizona families sat bedside waiting and watching for hospitalized children to heal. It got me wondering what the role of the arts might be in the healing process. Did you know there are actually studies showing the health benefits of laughter? Maybe I should just take to the pediatric hospitals with my stick figure drawings and see if I can spread some cheer.

Happily, I got some better ideas while brainstorming with kids from the cast of Oliver! Saturday was my last day to wrangle (watch the kids when they’re not on stage), and they were gracious enough to help me with ideas for art projects children can do in the hospital. All agreed art projects are a great way to pass the time when you’re stuck at home sick or in the hospital for a spell.

Art projects are especially handy to have around when your child might be anxious waiting for a doctor to do his or her rounds, and when young friends or family members come to visit. Having materials to craft something wonderful together can ease that awkward silence that comes when we don’t know what to say to loved ones experiencing pain or suffering.

Pediatric specialists like Banner Health Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa and Phoenix Children’s Hospital already know that art is at the heart of healing. Their child life specialists work with children in several ways to assure they feel more comfortable with medical procedures and feel less stress while hospitalized and away from home, school and friends.

Child life specialists work with children both bedside and in hospital playrooms to assure that art is part of the healing process, according to Erin Sinnema, MSC, CCLS, certified child life specialist with Cardon Children’s Medical Center. The center also features a variety of support programs including humor therapy and music therapy. Especially for children, the expressive arts truly are at the heart of healing.

Sinnema says the center provides standard art materials like crayons, markers, paint and paper for many reasons. Because art is a universal language, it builds bridges between anxious patients and professionals who enter their world bearing familiar art materials.

A child who is used to drawing at home or in school will take comfort in being able to continue a familiar activity while isolated from familiar surroundings, reflects Sinnema. He or she may also feel a sense of satisfaction at being able to ‘give back’ by creating artwork for others. Most importantly, perhaps, art helps children express their feelings about the experience of being sick and separated from family and friends.

Child life specialists at Phoenix Children’s Hospital note that art is also an important resource for siblings of sick children. Brothers and sisters are welcome to send in artwork or photos to be displayed in their sibling’s hospital room, and sibs are also welcome to visit the child life playrooms (when healthy and accompanied by an adult).  Pediatric specialists recognize the role of the arts in treating the whole child and the whole family, and see firsthand the impact of art on health and hope.

If finding appropriate art materials for a hospitalized child or teen just isn’t your forte, plenty of folks—including the hospital’s child life specialists and your child’s teacher/s—can offer suggestions. Sometimes the simplest way to go is an art kit available from the hospital gift shop, or local businesses like bookstores, art supply stores or craft stores.

Many art museums—including the Phoenix Art Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and others—have gift shops featuring kid-friendly arts and crafts projects. So do many of the Valley’s family-friendly destinations, such as the Desert Botanical Gardens and the Phoenix Zoo.

Creativity for Kids and Klutz are great online resources if you can’t get out for supplies.

A few guidelines as you’re making your selections…

Think neater rather than messier (a principle you don’t need to worry about at home). Think easy to transport, clean up after and store. Maybe you have a fun tote or plastic crate that can become the designated crafts center for your hospitalized child—something he or she knows will always be full of fun surprises. Think frugal. You’d be amazed what a child can do with simple and inexpensive materials like pipe cleaners or felt and a pair of scissors.

Consider not only your budget, but also your child’s age, motor skills and energy level. Your child’s own preferences, safety considerations and any hospital rules about what parents and other visitors can bring for patients should also influence what you choose.

Consider magazines like American Girl and FamilyFun that offer ideas, directions and/or templates for kid-friendly arts and crafts projects. If you’re not feeling particularly gifted in the arts, you can turn to online resources for project ideas and directions. When in doubt, give a simple sketch book with special pencils or pens. (This idea was especially popular among the boys in the Oliver! cast.)

At the bottom of this post you’ll find just a portion of the incredible list of ideas shared by girls from the Oliver! cast yesterday (the first time I wrangled, I interviewed more boys than girls, so this will balance the scales). I’ll see them later today for strike (theater term loosely translated as tearing a show down after that final performance), so I may have more ideas to add to the list this evening (or even tomorrow).

I’ll also share a few of our own family favorites (think thumbprints, multicolor ink pads and a Sharpie pen)–but first I’m off to whip up some goodies for the post-strike pot luck…

Until then, happy doodling!


*Fun hospital art projects…

  • Drawing supplies: Sketch pads, paper, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, erasers, pencil sharpeners and “how to” drawing books (how to draw animals, etc.)
  • Scrapbook making supplies: Blank scrapbook, miniature photo album or wire-bound unlined index cards with assorted papers, scissors, markers, glue sticks, etc. (fun scrapbook themes include family, friends, pets, dreams for the future)
  • Fiber arts: Yarn for making yarn dolls, embroidery floss for making friendship bracelets, felt for making finger puppets, crochet/knitting needles with yarn for making a blanket to sleep with or put around a favorite stuffed animal
  • Bookmark supplies: Bookmark templates for needlepoint with embroidery floss and needle or card stock bookmarks with stickers, stamped art, etc.
  • Button art: Buttons with wire or fishing line for making bracelets or flexible dolls
  • Card creations: Large unlined index cards or folded card stock with stickers and other embellishments to make thank you cards for hospital staff, friends who bring gifts, fellow patients, etc.
  • Collage art: Heavy cardstock or flat canvas with glue or glue stick for attaching magazine cut outs, get well cards, torn pieces of tissue paper, etc. (hole punch at top and add yarn or ribbon to hang up in hospital room)
  • Book-making supplies: Paper or card stock your child can staple into booklet form after writing a tall tale, a playful poem, etc.
  • Magnetic toys: Flat screens with magnets you manipulate into various designs or 3-D magnetic toys for creating a myriad of unique sculptures
  • Puppetry: Socks, paper lunch sacks or tall envelopes with fun face-making supplies like googly eyes, pom poms, felt, foam pieces, etc.
  • Paper crafts: Origami paper (plain or with designs such as animal prints) with instruction booklet for paper folding or paper cutting (kirigami); Roll of gift wrap for making long paper doll chains
  • Pom pom people: Furry little pom poms with glue, googly eyes and foam pieces for making people or animal faces with feet (foam core pieces make great people and animals too)
  • Hanging art: Yarn or fishing line for hanging art or mobiles (think snowflakes, butterflies, sports equipment, cars and trucks, etc. (thick pipe cleaners or thin hangers make handy mobile frames)
  • Puzzle art: Blank puzzle with markers for coloring custom design or heavy card stock with markers and scissors for drawing and cutting out a one-of-a-kind puzzle
  • Stuff to fluff: Felt, embroidery floss and stuffing for making teddy bears; Napkins or fabric squares, stuffing and needle/thread for making special hospital pillow; Soft cloth with ribbon and scented beads or potpourri for a refreshing sachet or compress

*Special thanks to Adele, Alex, Barrette and Madeleine and all the other Oliver! cast members who contributed ideas to this list of art projects–you’re one bright and creative bunch! Their best ideas were sentimental ones that might be easiest to accomplish with kits–dreamcatchers for capturing wishes and worry dolls for releasing fears.

Coming soon: Creating an art-friendly home