Tag Archives: Phoenix Comicon

The Story of Hansel and Gretel

EVCT opens a musical called “The Story of Hansel and Gretel” June 14 at Mesa Arts Center (Pictured L to R: Rachel Primrose as Gretel and Leonel Gallego as Hansel)

Fairy tales and fables are big business these days. Soon “Snow White and the Huntsman” will be working the movie theater crowds who’ve already enjoyed a taste of twisted storytelling ala TV shows like “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm.” I do better with the latter since human faces morphing into menacing figures isn’t the sort of imagery I want to carry around in my head.

Emily Trask (L) as Portia and Tony Amendola as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” (2010). Photo by Karl Hugh. Courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Our youngest daughter Lizabeth chatted with the actor behind one of my favorite “Once Upon a Time” characters during last weekend’s Phoenix Comicon. She first met Tony Amendola during one of our annual trips to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where he rocked the role of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice.” For some, he’s best known as today’s television version of Geppetto — but others consider him a sci-fi icon.

Despite all the modern-day takes on fairy tales and fables, I’m still partial to enjoying them in books or on stage. Hence my delight upon learning that East Valley Children’s Theatre in Mesa is presenting a musical production based on one of my favorite tales — Hansel and Gretel. Remembering our oldest daughter’s performance in “Hansel and Gretel” at Greasepaint Youtheatre still brings a smile to my face.

East Valley Children’s Theatre performs “The Story of Hansel and Gretel” June 14-24 at Mesa Arts Center. They’re one of several resident companies at MAC. Others include Ballet Etudes, Mesa Encore Theatre, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Sonoran Desert Chorale, Southwest Shakespeare Company, Symphony of the Southwest and Xico.

Nowadays Jennifer studies cultural anthropology at ASU

Mesa Arts Center holds a free “Educator Preview Night” featuring arts and culture offerings for elementary, junior high and high school students on Mon, Aug 23. It’s designed to introduce educators to a wide range of arts and culture resources for the classroom. Think museum experiences, live performance art and more.

Educator Preview Night begins with MAC campus tours, drinks and treats, goodie bags and door prizes from 4:30-5pm. A preview of their “Performing Live Season for Students,” featuring a “surprise performance,” takes place from 5-6pm. From 6-6:30pm educators can enjoy “desserts and entertainment,” plus the chance to pre-register for “National Geographic Live!” and “Performing Live for Students” before other folks get a shot at them.

— Lynn

Note: Phoenix Comicon 2013 takes place May 23-26, 2013 and the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 51st season opens June 21

Coming up: Art meets shopping, Easing on down the road, Dance recital roundup


Mischief with metal

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I learned that mischievous metal artists were in town, I knew I had to take a peek. I’m sure members of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, in town for their annual conference, are plenty tame in everday mode, but some of them are bringing a delightfully odd twist to metal in a pair of exhibitions running through Sunday at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

After previewing the 30 or so works in each juried exhibition (selected from a total of about 700 submissions), I got to thinking how much the folks attending Phoenix Comicon this weekend would enjoy these works. One artist imagined Darth Vadar as a little girl, and another created a jousting helmet for a newborn. Both are part of “Humor in Metal.” The other exhibition is titled “Hot Under the Collar: Survey of Contemporary Necklaces.”

While enjoying the exhibitions with my son Christopher, I ran into another mom who was there with her 7-year-old daughter, Arianna. Seems we’d each hit the center looking for something interesting to do that’d keep us out of the midday heat. I asked Arianna to show me her favorite piece, and she was quick to choose one featuring LEGO bricks.

I recalled Christopher’s many years of building elaborate LEGO towns on a large table in his bedroom when he was younger as Arianna told me about her favorite LEGO sets. Soon her mom, Arianna, was telling me about LEGO builds they’ve attended at Chandler Fashion Center together — and I was sharing tales of a long-ago babysitter who once taught at the school Arianna attends in Scottsdale.

As we got to talking about art, Arianna told me about her favorite programs for making art on the computer and Starrla spoke of her daughter’s love for drawing — mentioning that Arianna was once invited by a muralist to help paint a skull on the Barrio Cafe building after driving by one day and seeing the artist at work. I stopped to photograph that very mural today on my way to retrieve the cell phone misplaced during this year’s Arizona Press Club awards ceremony at the Duce.

It gets harder to meet fellow parents once kids leave the stroller stage, so I was delighted to meet a fellow art afficionado at the center that day. We parted ways as Christopher and I set out to explore Father’s Day gift options at The Store at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, but ran into each other again afterwards.

Arianna and her mom had just come from the young@art gallery, which is operated by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art but located inside Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts — and Arianna was clearly excited about all she’d seen there, telling us we should be sure to check it out.

We did, of course, and found plenty of fun works. A pair of white buckets filled with body parts made of plaster. A box filled with little toy soldiers. A mannequin donning a skirt made of colorful comic strips. And much more — all created by students from various high schools who’ve participated in the museum’s “Visions” program for teens. There’s another exhibition of youth work in a hallway just off the center’s foyer.

Take it all in if you hit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to enjoy this weekend’s exhibitions by the Society of North American Goldsmiths. Both “Humor in Metal” and “Hot Under the Collar” take place Sat, May 26 from 10am to 5pm — plus Sun, May 27, from noon to 5pm. Some of the works featured are being offered for sale, and The Store will gladly give you all the fine print.

I spied a lovely “Chicken Choker” that’d be all the rage at Phoenix Comicon. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if someone beats you to that baby. For those with exotic tastes, finding just the right accessories can be brutal. And there’s nothing quite like artists who take pride in making mischief with their metal.

— Lynn

Coming up: Veterans who write, Musings on “First Position”

One amateur’s take on “The Avengers”

Two rules of war. Never start one. Never lose one. It’s one of many gems I picked up while watching “The Avengers” — the Marvel movie based on a comic book series first published when I was three years old. It took several decades for the darn thing to get on my radar. It’s only there now because I have a daughter who digs it and respect for a critic who panned it. Take note, theater folk. There’s actually some truth to that whole “no publicity is bad publicity” mantra.

I took my 22-year-old son Christopher along for a Saturday afternoon screening. Seated to our left was a young father with his son, who looked like kindergarten might be in his future come fall. I saw “Jaws” as a teen, and spent half the movie covering my eyes. All the little guy two seats over needed during “The Avengers” was a few brief plot points and a little lap time during the final battle scene.

I wasn’t a fan of letting my kids see all that shoot ’em up bang bang stuff before their teens, but I’m even less inclined to tell other parents how to make such choices assuming there’s no real danger involved. Just be sure any kids you take along know that Hulk-esque moves won’t be tolerated on the playground. And remember that it’s rated PG-13 for a reason.

There’s a single scene in the film that’ll stick with me for some time. It features a lone elderly gentleman standing up amidst a crowd of people who’ve obeyed villain Loki’s “kneel before me” command. The setting is a street in Stuttgart, Germany — and the Holocaust reference is clear. The choice costs him dearly, but it was the right thing to do.

There’s plenty of philosophical fodder in “The Avengers.” Freedom is life’s great lie. The world is growing ever stranger. Sometimes people need a hero. The world is full of people we can’t control. We all follow our true nature. Failure stems from lack of conviction. It’s best to pay one’s debts. Seems superheroes also have their politics. Think nuclear proliferation as a lousy deterrent.

I give the action much higher marks than the acting in this baby, but it’s the writing that really rocks. Lizabeth told me as much after seeing a midnight premiere of “The Avengers” in NYC with some friends. She’s a longtime fan of Joss Whedon, who directs the film and wrote the screenplay.

At one point Loki tells Iron Man he’s got no idea what he’s dealing with. Iron Man responds with, “Shakespeare in the Park?” (Seems Iron Man feels Loki is a “full tilt diva.”) When Loki plays the “I’m a god” card, Hulk give him a jab and a “puny god” quip. When someone marvels over the differences between brothers Thor and Loki, Thor retorts with “He’s adopted.” There’s even a nifty reference to flying monkeys.

I don’t speak “Marvel,” but still enjoyed the film in novice mode. It’s funny enough that nodding off is a luxury rather than a necessity. I suppose I’ll have to delve deeper into “The Avengers” backstory now, though Lizabeth will likely advise against it. She’s already explained that only the true geeks really get it. But that won’t stop me from trying — because now I know just enough to be dangerous.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “The Avengers,” and here for the scoop on Phoenix Comicon (coming to the Phoenix Convention Center May 24-27). Guests include Ed Asner, longtime friend of Arizona Jewish Theatre Company (whose Curtain Call youth theater performs “Annie” next weekend), and author Tom Leveen (known to Valley theater geeks for all those years at Chyro Arts in Scottsdale).

Coming up: Art meets Mother’s Day, Memoir tales

Tony Award meets comic book?

I’d be getting ahead of myself by speculating at this point about whether or not the new and improved “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will garner future Tony Award® nominations. But for reasons beyond my mere human powers to decipher, I’ve been inundated during the last day or so with comic-related news.

I’m not a huge fan of comic books or comic book characters, mostly because I know very little about them. Maybe “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will turn out to be my gateway drug. Until now, my biggest contribution to the comic book universe was giving my daughter Lizabeth a lift to “Comic Zone” in Scottsdale so she could visit friends with a higher C.Q. than my own. But alas — no superhero came to the rescue as they readied to close up shop last month.

Lizabeth is headed out tonight to see a midnight showing of “X-Men: First Class” with a friend from her graduating class at Arizona School for the Arts. Last weekend it was “Phoenix Comicon.” My only recent brush with comic books was watching an MSNBC segment titled “Superhero Success” — with Deepak Chopra and son Gotham Chopra discussing a new book titled “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes.”

Seems mama Chopra used to fret about her son reading too may comic books, but father and son were quick to praise characters like “Batman” during the MSNBC interview for illustrating the importance of drawing strength from adversity. I’d love to read their review of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

Just the superhero I've been waiting for...

It appears I may finally have found a bit of comic book fare that I can relate to — because Scottsdale Public Art has just announced all sorts of free public events being held in conjunction with the “ZAP! POW! BAM!” exhibition you can enjoy through Sept 2 in a gallery located at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. The exhibition was organized by The Bremen Museum in Atlanta.

Here’s an exhibit lowdown from event organizers…

“ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950” explores the genesis of cultural icons such as Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Captain America, and the way those figures shaped popular opinion.

During the economic and political turmoil of the 1930s and 1940s, comic books offered Americans champions who shaped the value of an entire generation. The exhibition examines the creative processes and influences that drove young, largely Jewish artists to express their talents through the story lines and art of graphic novels.

I’m told there’s a “ZAP Costume Ball” Thurs, June 9 in the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts atrium and a “Family Movie” Tues, June 14 at the Center’s “Stage 2.” On Wed, June 22 kids can enjoy a “Drawing Comic Panels” workshop with Albert Morales at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library.

Come Thurs, July 21 the age 18 & up crowd can show their comic book pride with a “Metropolis RetroMovie Night” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. And a “ZAP! POW! BAM! Water Battle” takes place Thurs, July 21 at the Fountain Stage in the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall (think outdoor entertainment area, not shopping mall).

Who knows — maybe this time next year I’ll be penning a post praising the superhero powers of the “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” cast, crew and creative team. For now, I can just dip my big toe in the water of the comic book universe a bit closer to home in Scottsdale.

— Lynn

Note: Always check event details (date/time, location, age recommendations, registration requirements, cost and such) before attending.

Coming up: Puppetry meets Tony Awards®

Comicon tales

A few of Lizabeth's fun finds from Friday night at Phoenix Comicon 2011

It was “show and tell” at our house this morning — something my daughter, now 17, hasn’t done since circle time during kindergarten at Desert View Learning Center in Phoenix.

She awoke eager to show me her first day’s haul from Phoenix Comicon, taking place this weekend at the Phoenix Convention Center, which is billed as “the signature pop culture event of the Southwest.”

Autographed photos. Freebie like luggage tags and treat bags featuring faces of fan favorites. Posters to line the walls of her college dorm in NYC this fall — including one from a movie called “The Roommate” that’ll hardly make a glowing first impression.

We got our first taste of Phoenix Comicon 2011 while lunching at Majerle’s Sports Grill, across the street from the stage door at Symphony Hall, which we first discovered when Lizabeth performed the role of “party girl” in the Ballet Arizona production of “The Nutcracker.” The streets were dotted with folks wearing superhero T-shirts and other pop culture fare.

James was struck, while picking Lizabeth up after the event Friday night, by the blend of people intermingled in the streets — those finely dressed for an evening graduation ceremony, those donning patriotic garb for the Phoenix Symphony’s “Boogie Woogie Pops” concert and those whose tastes trend more towards Marvel’s “Green Goblin.” The city, like our three children, is growing up all around us.

Having a mom who blogs is a mixed bag. My kids know to offer a disclaimer for arts-related conversations that aren’t meant for public consumption. But sometimes they enjoy the opportunity blogging brings to spotlight the good things we discover during our daily travels.

Lizabeth was particularly animated while describing finger puppets she’d seen at one of the exhibitor booths at this year’s Phoenix Comicon. Finger puppets of cute, furry animals aren’t hard to come by. But “bacon” finger puppets — and even “finger” finger puppets — have a different sort of magic altogether.

Lizabeth took special care to snag a business card for Stacey Rebecca Gordon, proud puppet crafter and performer whose business is dubbed “Puppet Pie.” I was delighted to discover that Gordon — who describes herself as improviser, mom and wife — has a charming, cheeky blog complete with photos of her works.

One of Lizabeth's favorite actors is working to create a culture of literacy

Lizabeth was equally smitten with the “Kids Need to Read” booth. “Kids Need to Read” is a non-profit organization based in Mesa that enourages literacy, promotes social responsibility, fosters leadership and inspires imaginations. Canadian-born Nathan Fillion, one of Lizabeth’s favorite actors, is a co-founder of “Kids Need to Read.”

“I felt like such a geek,” Lizabeth told me during one of her many Comicon tales. I expected her to follow with a story of being the only person at the Convention Center sporting regular street clothes (if that’s what you call a purple “I’m Not Dead Yet” T-shirt from the musical “Monty Pyton’s Spamalot“).

But she was referring to gushing over someone she met at Comicon. Not a celebrity or actor protraying a super-hero, but a real super-hero — a librarian. Lizabeth shared with the librarian how much trips to our local libraries, still a favorite pastime for James and the girls, have meant to her through the years.

Libraries make the world feel bigger and more intimate at the same time, and no child should ever have to do without them. Lizabeth mentioned to the librarian she met at Comicon the fact that librarians she met as a child were always so nice, friendly and helpful.

Lizabeth shared that the librarian seemed genuinely touched by her words. Perhaps she, like many others, feels unappreciated or doesn’t receive nearly the recognition she deserves. It can’t help that so many libraries and other keepers and creators of culture are taking a hit during budget battles that strip pounds while trying to save pennies.

Tonight’s Phoenix Comicon events include the “Kids Need to Read Geek Prom,” sponsored by Bookman’s — with all proceeds benefiting “Kids Need to Read.”

Comicon also includes a film festival — with films sporting titles like “Laptop’s Revenge,” ” Paint-B-Que” and “Peace, Love & Tacos” (plus others with a more offensive vibe). But it’s Lizabeth’s flyer for a 2010 independent film titled “Beautiful Boy” that looks most intriguing. The movie hits Valley theaters in June.

As James headed out this morning to drive Lizabeth to downtown Phoenix for more Phoenix Comicon adventures, I commented that Lizabeth seems to be having the time of her life. He readily agreed, adding an insight of his own…

“She’s with her people.”

— Lynn

Note: Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix is home to the “Arizona Pop Culture Experience.”

Coming up: From Sondheim to South Park, Father’s Day meets JFK

Contemporary art meets Comicon

Potential by Laura Favela of South Mountain High School

My youngest daughter Lizabeth, who’ll turn 18 next month, will be enjoying one of her holiday gifts next weekend — tickets to Phoenix Comicon, taking place May 26-29 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

I’ve encouraged her to swing by the SMoCA and Scottsdale Public Art table while she’s there, so she can get the scoop on comic book-themed tandem exhibitions conceived by Phoenix artist Jon Haddock — showing at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art May 21-Oct 2.

The comic exhibition is titled “Idios Kosmos: Koinos Kosmos” — meaning “Us Versus Them” and “Masters of Collective Reality.” Seems a fitting exhibit in light of the fact that we’re all still here today despite predictions to the contrary.

If you head to SMoCA before June 5, you can see the work of Brazilian conceptual artist Rivane Neuenschwander in an exhibit titled “A Day Like Any Other” that was organized by the New Museum in New York City.

Trapped by Andrea Kidd of South Mountain High School

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art presents 10-14 exhibitions of contemporary art, architecture and design every year. But my favorite SMoCA exhibit space, the young@art gallery, is actually located at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The young@art gallery houses only works by youth, and exhibits change several times each year. Each summer SMoCA presents works by students at area high schools who’ve participated in an education program for teens titled “Visions.”

The current “Visions” exhibit is titled “Picture I.D.” It features works by students from five Valley high schools — Central, Chaparral, McClintock, Saguaro and South Mountain. Think photography, painting and sculpture. Then think talented. And enjoy the “sneak peeks” throughout this post.

Work by Kalynda Barton of McClintock High School

To learn more about experiencing these works in person, visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art website at www.smoca.org.

Thursday nights, by the way, are always free — as is admission for museum members and youth 15 and under whenever the museum is open.

My children enjoyed many a SMoCA exhibit when they were younger, but their favorite times took place at Scottsdale Civic Center Mall — where low, gentle hills make for fun play areas. The museum is holding two family-friendly events in June.

The June 24 “Summer Opening Celebration” includes hands-on craft activities for adults and children — thanks to the Scottsdale crafting community and a new family-friendly store called “Splendid” (coming soon to Scottsdale Fashion Square).

The June 30 “Summer Family Night at the Museum” includes a kid-friendly tour of comic-theme exhibitions, an outdoor make-your-own comic book creature activity and a bit of giant bubble play coupled with splash time in outdoor fountains.

Bring your towels and bathing suits…

— Lynn

Note: SMoCA participates in a reciprocal museum program so membership in SMoCA entitles you to free admission to several other museums around the country. Click here to explore a list of reciprocal museums before planning your next vacation. Also check with SMoCA before attending their events to confirm dates/times, costs and other details.

Coming up: Remembering JFK, From Sondheim to South Park

Updated with corrections 4/26/12 LT