Tag Archives: Pepperdine

More fun with “ThesCon” photos

More than 75 schools are participating in this year’s Arizona Thespian Festival, taking place Nov. 18 & 19 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Most are from the Phoenix metropolitan area, but other parts of the state are also represented. Think Tucson, Bisbee, San Tan Valley, Vail, Yuma, Holbrook, Payson, Sahuarita and Wickenberg.

Agua Fria High School students who decided to really dress for the occasion on Friday

The event program features a graphic with paw prints that reads “Thespians Can’t Be Tamed” and this year’s “We Were Born This Way” theme. Theater students, more than any others perhaps, combine respect for individual differences with love of working together. They’re some of the country’s most creative and hard-working youth, yet perpetually strive to get to the next level.

A group of high school theater students deciding which workshops to attend

So it’s no surprise that more than 80 workshops are being offered this year – on everything from “The Rap & Rhyme of Shakespeare” to “Advanced Playwriting.” Even “Rigging Safety,” “Intermediate Juggling,” “Speaking the British Dialect” and “Hand to Hand Combat.”

A couple of attendees check out the amazing number of festival offerings

The festival helps high school theater students hone on-stage and behind-the-scene skills, and helps teachers connect with others working to improve arts education despite budget shortfalls and other challenges.

Students from Notre Dame Preparatory High School enjoying a bit of down time

Two schools were selected to perform full-length productions at this year’s festival – Perry High School (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and Desert Mountain High School (“Ruthless!”).

Students having a great time at the No Fear Ballroom Dancing workshop

Seventeen schools are presenting one-act plays, and some students are participating in competitions spotlighting specific abilities such as delivering monologues, designing costumes and creating short films.

More students demonstrating the fine art of ballroom dance

Between workshops, competitions and performances, students visit with representatives from various colleges and universities – some in Arizona, some from other states (including California, New York, New Mexico and Nevada). I was especially excited to see my own alma mater, Pepperdine University, on the list of places eager to recruit Arizona students.

Students from Glendale High School doing their ballroom dancing thing

An event of this magnitude takes extraordinary effort by dedicated individuals, and an incredible amount of teamwork. This year’s program lists 31 Arizona adult state board members, including Linda Phillips of Agua Fria High School, who serves as Arizona Thespian Chapter Director. It also notes the names of 22 Arizona student state board members, including Captain Thespian Chris Rodriguez of Desert Ridge High School.

A delightful gathering of several students volunteering at the festival this year

I’ll be heading out the festival again on Saturday morning, eager to glean tips I can share with young readers on topics like auditioning, applying for college theater programs, marketing shows and pursuing careers in theater.

Students from Sahuaro High School in Tucson with a piece entered in the tech challenge

Something tells me I’ll come home with enough stories to carry me through until next year’s festival. Have you ever heard the one about the horse’s head?

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Arizona Thespians, an affiliate of the Educational Theatre Association

Coming up: A playground dispute takes center stage


Last chance: Latino roots

Learn about the Latino roots of American pop music at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix through May 18

Arizona is home to all sorts of Latino arts and culture. There’s nothing last chance about that. But one offering, the “American Sabor” exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, will hit the road in just a few shorts days so folks in other parts can experience its splendor.

“American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music” is the first touring exhibit to land at the MIM, a global instrument museum that recently celebrated its first anniversary. But the exhibit’s last day is May 18 — so your opportunity to enjoy it will soon pass.

Though this might not apply to those of you who feel about Latino music the way others feel about Springsteen or the Grateful Dead. I suppose you could just jump into your van with a couple of friends and follow “American Sabor” to future destinations. I can imagine worse fates, like following people whose heads sport giant cheese wedges.

American Sabor features musical intruments, costumes, artifacts and more

Maybe you don’t consider yourself a fan of Latino music. But that means you’ve never turned on a radio or been to a dance featuring DJ stylings.

Because there are Latino roots in all sorts of places you might not expect them. Figuring out where is half the fun of experiencing “American Sabor.”

If you’re still picturing museums as stuffy, boring places — you’ve yet to see, hear and feel all that is the MIM. You don’t visit the MIM. You experience the MIM. And “American Sabor” is a perfect match with its “use of film, artifacts, historic musical instruments, listening kiosks, and a full-sized dance floor.”

Normally I don my tennis shoes for trips through the MIM (which truly are trips around the world). But I may have to see if I can squeeze into Lizabeth’s character shoes for this one, just in case the mambo, rhumba or cha cha beats lure me to the dance floor.

The “American Sabor” exhibit is a window into “the excitement, diversity, and beauty of Latin music as it developed in five key U.S. cities.” Think Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Also San Francisco, a favorite of my 20-year-old daughter Jennifer. And NYC, a favorite of 17-year-old Lizabeth.

The “American Sabor” exhibit was developed by the “Experience Music Project” in Seattle and the University of Washington. It’s a well-kept secret that Seattle has actually given the world all sorts of things every bit as glorious (and maybe more glorious) than Starbucks.

“Latino musicians and the contributions they have made to musical styles like jazz, country, rock, and hip hop, among others, have scarcely been acknowledged until now,” reflects MIM exhibit manager April Salomon.

“American Sabor” aims to change all that — with its “collection of instruments, costumes. and other artifacts from musical icons.” Think Fania All-Stars and Flaco Jimenez. Celia Cruz and Carlos Santana. Los Lobos and Tito Puente.

Even a singer my hubby seemed a bit sweet on during college — Linda Ronstadt (whose vinyls still rest on the lower shelf of a towering bookcase). He once helped fellow Pepperdine students fill sandbags to protect her beachfront home. But listening to her mariachi music is a whole lot more fun…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to watch the May 12, 2011 episode of “Horizonte” on Eight, Arizona PBS — which features the “American Sabor” exhibit and a local expert on Latino arts and culture.

Coming up: The Sleeping Beauty

Images courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

Real drama in Wisconsin

Citizens opposing proposed changes to collective bargaining options in Wisconsin have been protesting at the State Capitol in Madison since mid-February. For folks unfamiliar with American theater history, it might feel like the first time high drama has come to Wisconsin.

But those who know the story of acting duo Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne, who graced American stages from the 1920s through the 1950s, know that plenty of drama took place at their summer home — an estate called “Ten Chimneys” that’s now a historical landmark.

This weekend is your last chance to see Arizona Theatre Company perform "Ten Chimneys" (Photo by Ed Flores)

It’s high on my list of places to tour if I ever find myself in that neck of the woods — a small town called Genessee Depot that’s just 60 miles from Madison. In the meantime, I can get my Lunt & Fontanne fix from Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “Ten Chimneys.”

This world-premiere by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, with direction by David Ira Goldstein, is being performed through Sun, March 6 at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix. The uber-eager can go online for a play guide covering all things Lunt & Fontanne, which I read with rapt attention from front to back.

The play “Ten Chimeys” imagines Lunt & Fontanne working at their summer home to prepare for roles in Chekhov’s “The Sea Gull.” I’m especially grateful now that I attended a production of this Chekhov classic during my last trip to Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Next time you’re glued to the television watching something mediocre that passes for real drama, remember the tale of “Ten Chimneys.” Then make your way to the Herberger Theater Center for a magic blend of classic and contemporary theater.

Because that, my friends, is real drama.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about a new PBS “American Experience” titled “Triangle Fire” which examines historical events and issues related to labor unions. (Students from Arizona School for the Arts perform the play “Triangle” next month). Another episode titled “Hoover Dam” also examines these issues. Click here to enjoy a taste of the “Odd Wisconsin” exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Coming up: A plethora of puppets, Theater tales from Scottsdale Community College

Mixed reviews for Ronald Reagan

The reviews for Ronald Reagan — first as an actor, then as a politician — have always been mixed. Reagan served as our country’s 40th president from 1981-1989, and before that served as Governor of California.

I say “served” out of more than respect for traditional lingo on the topic — because I still believe that holding elected office is an act of public service. We do it a grave injustice today by reducing it to politics and punditry.

I remember my daughters considering service in the Senate when they were younger, having been raised to appreciate and admire the role of legislators.

They liked the idea of getting to know people in the community, listening to their diverse ideas, and working with others to craft ways to move collective dreams forward.

But one politician in particular, who rallies Reagan’s name to further her own causes, gives me serious pause (an expression attributed to Shakepeare’s “Hamlet”).

Lately I’ve been wondering whether actors, like Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger (Governor of California from 2003-2010), make good politicians — and whether politicians are becoming more skilled as actors.

I wasn’t terribly steeped in politics as a child. I suspect my mother, holding a more circular than linear view of time, was “apolitical” at best. As a young adult I didn’t pay careful attention to Reagan’s policies.

But I distinctly recall two bookends of his presidency — the 1981 release of American hostages and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany (Reagan’s famous call to “Tear down that wall!” came during a 1987 speech).

Like most people, it’s the history to which I have some personal connection (however remote) that I remember best. Having studied in Heidelberg as part of the Pepperdine University “Year in Europe” program, I’ve always been finely tuned to events taking place in Germany.

When Pepperdine students learned that the Iranian hostages had been released and would be flown to a military hospital in Wiesbaden, we felt a surge of patriotism —  traveling by train to join the relatively small crowd welcoming them to this stop on their journey home.

We rushed to make signs, including a long banner that somehow made its way to the balcony from which the rescued hostages would wave to supporters there to greet them. It read: YOU’RE FREE! “AFTER ALL, WE ARE AMERICANS” (Click here to see the sign in an AP file photo.)

Our son Christopher, now age 21, was born the year the Berlin Wall fell. Parenthood has fueled my growing interest in history and public policy — and motivated me to act each day (if even in small ways, like writing these posts) to make some measure of difference for both my own family and the community we all share.

Ronald Reagan died June 5, 2004 — and was honored with a seven-day state funeral in Washington, D.C. I was attending a national mental health conference at the time, as executive director and non-compensated lobbyist for an Arizona non-profit.

Like many Americans, I stood several hours in line to write a message in one of many condolence books that reside now at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

I didn’t agree with everything Reagan said or did as President, but I respect the office — and those who sacrifice so much of self and family to faithfully carry out their duties each day (and night). I was humbled to witness our nation’s capitol mourn his loss.

I got to thinking about Ronald Reagan the other day as the airwaves broadcast celebrations of what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday. One interview struck me in particular — I believe it was with his son Ron Reagan (just two years my senior) and another man who knew Reagan well.

Two thoughts offered during the interview left me feeling empathy with Reagan in ways that hadn’t ever occured to me before.

First, that Reagan’s political optimism was fueled by his dogged determination as a child to will painful experiences into positive perspectives somehow.

And second, that Reagan — despite being a deeply caring and genuine man — had very few, if any, close friends.

In both these ways I feel a certain sympatico with Reagan that I might never have developed otherwise.

But what, you might wonder, does this have to do with the arts?

I also heard a gentleman explain that Ronald Reagan loved inviting a few friends over for politics-free evenings of swapping stories. He noted that Reagan’s favorite storyteller of all time was his father.

Whatever your reviews for Ronald Reagan, on screen or off, embrace the power of storytelling. Make sure your children know about your own experiences with pivotal moments in history.

Remind them that public service is a noble profession. And work alongside them to create a better future for all Arizona families.

— Lynn

Note: Visitors to the website for the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Library can enjoy an introduction by actor Gary Sinise, who will be attending this month’s 2011 “Sedona International Film Festival

Coming up: A week of firsts