Tag Archives: Phoenix for kids

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


The fine art of bugs?

While traveling through Canada many years ago, I explored the Montreal Insectarium — where I learned that bugs can be beautiful. Big, but beautiful. Plus useful to people and the planet in all sorts of ways.

If bugs have a bad rap in your house, it might be time to get to know them better — starting with events, lectures and classes being offered by the Desert Botanical Garden as part of the “David Rogers’ Big Bugs” exhibit.

The exhibit features eleven giant bugs Rogers created from fallen or found wood, cut saplings, twigs, raw branches, twine, bark and other naturla materials. The sculptures weigh from 300-1,20o pounds and range from seven to 25 feet long.

Recently I toured the garden with my son Christopher, a college student who never lost his little boy fascination with bugs. You can enjoy the exhibit with your family through Jan 1, 2012.

Several garden features seem to mirror the materials used for Big Bugs…

This praying mantis greets visitors right after they enter the garden…

This laby beetle in one of several Big Bugs along the garden’s main trail…

Every piece of sculpture is accompanied by a sign with details about the work…

The daddy-longlegs looks like a friendy storybook character…

Compare the grasshopper’s legs to cactus and you’ll see something in common…

We were both most impressed by the spider and web hanging below…

The “Spider-Man” musical on Broadway has nothing on this giant arachnid…

Catch a glimpse of this damselfly both from the path and from the bridge…

Challenge your kids to find differences with the dragonfly below..

The giant assassin bug is hidden away along the wildflower trail…

Thanks to the fine folks at Chase and PetSmart for sponsoring Big Bugs…

We hit the gift shop to look at bug books, calendars, puppets and more…

If you’re both bug and film buff, check out the garden’s “Big Bug Movie Nights” — which start Sat, Oct 1 with “Antz.” Other featured films include “Charlotte’s Web,” “A Bug’s Life,” “The Fly” (1958 version), “Beetlejuice,” and “Arachnophobia.”

The garden clearly has bugs on the brain. Their “Music in the Garden Fall Concert Series” includes a Nov 4 “Get Back: A Tribute to the Beatles!” concert. They’re presenting a “Bug Brunch” Nov 5 & 6. Also classes and lectures to up your B.Q.

Those of you wishing to “be the bug” can don your bug mask or butterfly wings for the garden’s Sept 30 gala fundraiser titled “Moonlight Masquerade.” It’s an adults only evening, so leave the kiddos at home with a sitter who’s not afraid to crack open a bevy of bug books.

Think Eric Carle’s “The Grouchy Ladybug,” “The Very Busy Spider” or “The Very Quiet Cricket.” Throw in some colorful tissue paper, pom poms and pipe cleaners and they can get crafty while you’re tripping the light fanstastic.

“The Big Bug Circus” is also coming to town. The marionette show from the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix heads to Gilbert for two performances on Sat, Oct 8 at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts.

Clearly bugs have gone big time.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the Desert Botanical Garden online at www.dbg.org and David Rogers at www.big-bugs.com. Find Eric Carle at www.eric-carle.com, the Great Arizona Puppet Theater at www.azpuppets.org and Higley Center for the Performing Arts at www.higleycenter.com.

Coming up: For the love of Lilly!, Festivals with multicultural flair, VYT debuts “Dora the Explorer”

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Museum art features CDs, milk jugs, paper, metal, lights, fabric and more…

This stunning piece is part of the three-story climber you see as you enter…

This boat with dangling legs is also part of the Schuff-Perini Climber…

This system of tubes delights kids as scarves get sucked through it…

One of many art exhibits at the museum features paper art by Catie Raya…

It’s fun to play games like “I-Spy” with these and other museum objects…

Just one portion of a hands-on art studio on the museum’s second floor…

Another section of the art studio where kids explore all sorts of mediums…

One of my children’s preschool teachers has a photo exhibit at the museum…

Young used to watch over my children as they rode trikes just like this…

This pretend car wash for tricycles allows kids to model grown-up actions…

Even parking for parents is done with child-friendly flair at the museum…

This market features small shopping carts, cash registers and even a broom…

This scale and other museum elements are designed for kids 10 & under…

Children can load this container on wheels with groceries, then roll it around…

A huge area for pretend play features a kitchen with lots of unique items…

Ceilings at the museum are just as interesting as walls, floors and exhibits…

The museum has large and small contraptions kids love rolling balls through…

One of many museum activities designed with a child development spin…

These pickle, toothpaste and pencil cars are in an area called Ian’s Corner…

The museum has lots of kid-friendly vehicles in different shapes and sizes…

Kids can actually walk amidst these pool noodles hanging on the third floor…

Kids and adults leave the museum thinking of everyday objects in new ways…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to see the Children’s Museum of Phoenix photo gallery online. Also check their website for details of a “community call” for blue jeans to be used in a future exhibit at the museum.

Coming up: Ballet on the big screen and beyond, Festival celebrates Latino arts and culture, Dora the Explorer moves from screen to stage, Theater meets medicine

My “Peanuts” pilgrimage

A pilgrimage of sorts has been taking place in Phoenix for the past several days as baseball devotees, including my husband James, have made their way to MLB All-Star Game activities.

But I took my son Christopher on a different baseball-related pilgrimage not too long ago — to enjoy the artwork of Charles M. Schultz on exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.

Arizona Museum for Youth is currently showing several types of art with baseball-related themes, making the museum a “must see” for anyone here in the Valley to enjoy all things “baseball.”

My favorite is the “Peanuts at Bat” exhibit, which features 43 digital prints from five decades of original Schultz drawings plus vintage “Peanuts” baseball memorabilia. Think bobble head dolls, banners, board game and more. 

The exhibit also features a Louisville Slugger Joe Shlabotnik bat and over-sized Snoopy doll decked out in his favorite team uniform. Shlabotnik, by the way, is Charlie Brown’s favorite player. He’s a serious “underperformer” never actually seen in the strip. 

The lackluster baseball games of “Peanuts” lore were inspired by Schultz’s own childhood experiences playing sandlot baseball. Schultz has said that Charlie Brown’s string of losses was inspired by a game his own team once lost with a score of 40 to 0.

As an adult, Schultz often played pickup games on baseball diamonds he had built at his home and near his studio. I’m told that Schultz followed major league baseball and was a keen admirer of Willie Mays and other talented athletes.

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While exploring “Peanuts at Bat” at the Arizona Museum for Youth, we saw one young boy having fun at Schroeder’s “live playing piano” and another perfecting his pitch at the “baseball toss range.”

A father joined the fun as his three daughters enjoyed the “do-it-yourself interactive comic strip design center” and several toddlers crawled through Snoopy’s “life-sized dog house and fireplace nook.”

Our personal favorite was Lucy’s giant “psychiatry booth” — complete with nickels. It’s nice to know that Lucy’s rates haven’t changed through the years, since it sometimes feels like hers are the only mental health services not being cut these days.

We had a great time exploring the gift shop, which has plenty of affordable fare related to current and past exhibits. Outer space-related items were on sale the day we stopped by, and there were all sorts of items featuring “Peanuts” characters like Snoopy and Woodstock.

Superheros come and go, but the “Peanuts” gang and America’s love affair with baseball are here to stay. As the freckle-faced character Peppermint Patty might say —  “Thanks, Chuck!”

— Lynn

Note: An exhibit titled “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” runs through Aug 7, 2011 at the Arizona Museum for Youth

Coming up: Art meets water, Babies ala Broadway

J is for Jersey — and Juneau

“Alaskan Fiddling Poet” Ken Waldman, who’ll be performing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix next weekend, does plenty of traveling as a sort of modern day troubador.

I’ll bet Waldman didn’t expect to be in New Jersey late last week – but he was a stowaway of sorts as I traveled to the East Coast with one of my daughters.

When I went to rev up my laptop, I discovered Waldman’s bright green “D is for Dog Team” CD inside.

I’d listened to several of his CDs, and read two of his books, just a few weeks before. He was kind enough to send them my way so I could get a feel for his work before he hits the Valley with his family-friendly blend of music, poetry and storytelling.

One book, a memoir titled “Are You Famous?,” is a detailed read standing in sharp contrast to the mini-memoirs I write in many of my posts. Perhaps he’s not ready to accept rumors of readers’ shortening attention spans. Or maybe he just gives people more credit than most.

Waldman’s “D is for Denali” — featuring Alaskan acrostics from A to Z — is more my style. There’s “A is for Avalanche,” “I is for Iditarod,” “R is for Reindeer” and more.

It reminds me of the years I spent living in Anchorage — and my mom’s brother Bob, who lived with his family in Juneau.

Its development was “made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey-based Puffin Foundation” — an organization dedicated to “continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people.”

The name of the non-profit caught my eye because my daughter Jennifer, who’ll turn 20 this week, was quite the puffin fan during childhood.

Animals are a common subject in Waldman’s works. The “D is for Dog Team” CD includes “Stubborn Old Mule,” “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” “Duck River” and several other selections.

Another offering — a pair of CDs titled “All Originals, All Traditionals” — features one CD with 28 instrumentals and another with fiddle tunes and poems.

When you open the packaging, you see a poem titled “Suffering Democracy” — one of my favorite little gems from Waldman’s world.

Head to the Musical Instrument Museum this Friday (April 29) at 4pm for “Experience the Music: Ken Waldman and Poetry and Storytelling for Kids.” The event, designed for kids ages 4-8 (with a parent), is just $15/child.

Waldman also performs a series of three free events at the MIM on Saturday, April 30. Other MIM activities that weekend include “Listen to the World” — a celebration of the museums’s first anniversary, complete with music, dance and workshops.

If “M is for Moose Pass” — then “MIM” is for music, imagination and memories. It’s unlikely you’ll see a moose around these parts. But thanks to the MIM — music exhibits, performance and education are always available right here in Arizona.

Now if only I could get New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen to pay a visit to the MIM…

— Lynn

Note: Waldman is currently a featured poet on the website for “49 Writers,” an Alaskan non-profit supporting writers and their work. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: Costume shop treasures

Alice (and Phoebe) in Wonderland

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix presents "Alice in Wonderland" in downtown Phoenix

Lizabeth came downstairs one morning after watching a movie she’d rented online. She was eager to tell me about this tale of a family living with a young girl who is “different” — and who becomes involved with the world of theater.

The film, a 2008 ThinkFilm production, is titled “Phoebe in Wonderland.” It’s made the film festival rounds and earned accolades including a Heartland “Truly Moving Picture Award.”

It reminded me that our own Valley Youth Theatre, whose alumni include Emma Stone (recent nominee for a “best actress” Golden Globe Award), will perform “Alice in Wonderland” Feb 4-20 at the VYT theater in downtown Phoenix. Update: Show extended through Feb 27.

I was delighted to see familiar youth on the cast list, including Nathan Naimark (Footman/Executioner) — whose mom Dana Wolfe Naimark was the subject of a recent “Stage Mom” post.

While the young Naimark is readying for opening night, his mother — the head of Children’s Action Alliance — is contending with budget cuts that impact Arizona children in all sorts of ways.

I suspect she’ll be experiencing a few of her own “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum” moments in the coming weeks and months.

But back to the fabulous cast of VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which includes Maddy Rathbun (Alice), Alex Acosta (Mad Hatter), and Lindsey Brown (Queen of Hearts).

Couple VYT's non-musical "Alice in Wonderland" with a tea party, arts & crafts or puppet play

Were my girls a decade or so younger, I’d be working to put together an “Alice in Wonderland” weekend of sorts — having friends over to explore the Lewis Carroll tale via movies, books, puppet theater and the live VYT performance (which is a non-musical).

Kids can get some serious arts and crafts projects out of “Alice in Wonderland” characters and themes — objects changing size, roses painted different colors, playing cards that come to life.

Even a tea party at home, in the park or a charming Valley venue — such as the Teeter House at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix — would be fun.

I suspect that the sets and costumes for VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” will inspire hours of imaginative play. And who knows, your own son or daughter might discover that live theater is most wonderful wonderland of all.

— Lynn

Note: Heartland Truly Moving Movies is a non-profit organization whose work includes an annual film competition for works by high school students. Entries for the 2011 Heartland High School Film Competition are being accepted through June 1, 2011. Those who enter before April 15 pay no submission fee, and will be considered for a scholarship to attend “Prodigy Camp.”

Coming up: Other youth theater works coming to Valley stages, Arizona Girlchoir offerings, Musings on art and rock ‘n’ roll, Nuclear weapons take center stage, Summer camp meets glee club