Tag Archives: Phoenix

Ireland meets Japan

Famous castle in Himeji, Japan -- one of nine Phoenix sister cities, which also include Ennis, Ireland (Photo: http://www.famouswonders.com)

As wearers of the green celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, all of our hearts go out to the people of Japan. It turns out both countries have cities considered “sisters” of Phoenix, Arizona (we have nine global “sisters” in all).

Families who attend the free “WorldFEST” this weekend can enjoy all sorts of hands-on activities and exhibits in the “Sister Cities Village” — including “making fairy wreaths with Irish colors from Ennis, Ireland” and “competing in a chopstick challenge by Himeji, Japan.”

Festival guests are invited to participate with the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission as they launch a fund drive to assist relief efforts in Japan by making donations at the Himeji, Japan booth in the “Sister Cities Village.”

Other hands-on activities include “learning cattle roping from Calgary, Canada” and “making carnival masks from Catania, Italy.” Just make sure the siblings in your brood know better than to practice the roping techniques on one another.

You can even enjoy “writing your name with Chinese characters from Chengdu, China” and “face painting and pinata-breaking by Hermosillo, Mexico.” Sibs will want to avoid trying those last two on one another too — not that the little darlings would ever consider such things.

Parades are another matter. These are plenty safe to try at home assuming you don’t expect the family cat to lead the march. There’s just a single parade time for the festival so don’t miss it if your family is fond of floats and such.

This weekend’s “Sister Cities Parade” — complete with “colorful flags and festive floats” from Phoenix sister city regions — kicks off at 1pm on Sat, March 19 as part of “WorldFEST,” which takes place at Heritage and Science Park in Phoenix (home of the Arizona Science Center).

“WorldFEST” hours are Fri, March 18, 4-10pm; Sat, March 19, Noon-11pm; and Sun, March 20, Noon-5pm. It features “sights, sounds and tastes from around the world.” Think art, dance and music — plus food/drink and more.

Grown-ups can enjoy “beer sampling & pints” (not so free) and cooking demonstrations by various chefs. But the kiddos will have more interest in “KidsWORLD” — described as “an interactive, educational playground engaging children to travel over seven continents.”

I’m told there’ll be areas where children can “explore rain forests in South America,” “dodge icebergs in Antarctica,” and enjoy “a mini safari through the African jungle.” Not sure how that works — but I’m eager to find out. Let’s hope my height (or grey hair) won’t give me away…

— Lynn

Note: Heritage and Science Park is located at 115 N. 6th St. in Phoenix — near plenty of Valley attractions, including the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Coming up: Finding voice lessons in the Valley


Got Spam?

"Spamalot" opens tonight (Feb 15) at the Mesa Arts Center

You can “Spamalot” this week as Theater League brings the 2005 Tony Award winner for best musical to Mesa and Phoenix stages.

Spamalot” creators say the musical — complete with cows, killer rabbits, show girls and french people — is “lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

It’s a very grown-up take on the legendary tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, though the legend may be fading fast in the absence of disco versions of knight battles made for various home and pocket entertainment systems.

Even worse perhaps, is the fact that so few of our children have ever met a can of actual Spam, a product of the Hormel Food Corporation. It faded from popularity as things like sushi and arugula marched in, but I think a Spam-sushi mash up of sorts might be fun.

The fine folks of “Spamalot” will gladly take you through the tale of King Arthur’s quest in a little online ditty titled “What is all this rubbish?” They also make a convincing case for “Spamalot” as the world’s oldest musical.

The “Spamalot” you’ll see on Valley stages this week features book by Eric Idle and score by Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Hence you’ll enjoy both words and music in addition to dancing knights in tights.

But what, you may be wondering, is a Monty Python? And has it anything to do with that “Flying Circus” of yore? It does indeed, as explained ever so eloqently by a BBC piece you can enjoy by clicking here.

Whether you’re a lover of musical theater, of British comedy or of unadulterated genius, check out the touring production of “Spamalot” at the Mesa Center for the Arts and/or the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.

And always look on the bright side of “Spam.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here for an overview of the legends of King Arthur by Michael Wood for the BBC.

Coming up: Reflections on Rosie’s House, The fine art of stage combat, ASU Gammage readies to unveil its 2011-2012 season, Tales of Tom Chapin

Storytellers grace Arizona stages

Twenty-some years ago, I had a Sunday morning habit some might find a bit odd.

I’d join a small group of fellow doctoral students in the philosophy of religion to listen to a radio variety show called Prairie Home Companion. We’d gather at the home of a Norwegian friend who’s since returned to his native land, sharing fresh tomato and brie on crusty french bread with a hearty sprinkling of fresh-ground salt.

I wonder how many of those friends are still listening today. It’s not often, I suppose, that our tastes in art and leisure activities go unchanged over time. But as I write this post, I’m listening to a National Public Radio broadcast of Prairie Home Companion from the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.

The weekly two hour show features the exquisite storytelling of writer and humorist Garrison Keillor, whose first broadcast—from St. Paul in July of 1974—was attended by just a dozen or so folks. His current radio audience numbers about four million.

Though Keillor’s listeners are diverse, his musings have special appeal to folks like me who share his Midwestern Lutheran roots. I was especially intrigued to learn of his Norwegian and Scotch ancestry since it’s been such a fine mix in our family.

I took our son Christopher to see Keillor many years ago when he performed at an outdoor venue in the west Valley. It was Independence Day weekend and Keillor’s guests included fiddler extraordinaire Mark O’Connor.

Once, when we were running errands, we stumbled on one of Keillor’s joke shows featuring his picks of the finest jokes and other amusements submitted by listeners. I sat in the car with Christopher and laughed like the dickens until long after the store we’d driven to opened for the morning.

There’s good news for those of you who don’t find the automobile a particularly appealing venue. Master storyteller Garrison Keillor will be performing at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 28th at 7:30 pm.

Tickets, including a limited number for premium seating and a post-show reception with Mr. Keillor, are available through the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Warning: Those of you who attend are likely to get hooked.

You’ll want to save another date, Feb. 4th, when a live broadcast of Prairie Home Companion will be shown at movie theaters throughout the country, including several in Arizona.

Storytelling buffs (if you’re not one, chances are you haven’t yet given the genre a chance) might also enjoy the following performances…

  • Trailblazing Sadie. Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Jan. 26th through Feb. 4th. This one act, one woman piece depicts a day in the life of Sadie Alexander, who was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in economics and to practice law as a member of the Pennsylvania bar.
  • Mark Twain Tonight featuring Hal Holbrook. Mesa Arts Center. Saturday, Feb. 6th. Holbrook earned a Tony Award for this one man piece capturing the wit and wisdom of one of this country’s finest authors, who died just a century ago.

Twain gave remarks in 1907 that were later dubbed the “watermelon speech” and included the following words: “I like a good story well told. This is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.”

Stay tuned for a future post featuring an Arizona college student’s perspective on taking a storytelling class, reflections on storytelling by a local playwright and information on local opportunities to learn the fine art of storytelling.

If storytelling is anything like writing (a craft honed by frequent feasting on the works of other writers), and you have a genuine interest in learning to deliver “a good story well told,” listening to our country’s great storytellers is a dandy way to dig in…


Note: I’ll be attending two shows on Sunday—so look for posts featuring theater reviews during the coming week. And don’t forget to check my reviews of shows in the Broadway Across America in Arizona series at the ASU Gammage website (including the scoop on a meeting of local artists and arts advocates with Estelle Parsons of August: Osage County).

It’s all caught on film

Most folks, whether film buffs or film know-nothings (I’m the latter), have heard of the Cannes International Film Festival in France, the Aspen Filmfest in Colorado and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah (and yes, Sundance fans, there is “an app for that”). But did you know there are quite a few film festivals that take place right here in Arizona?

One of these festivals, the Arizona Student Film Festival, is right around the corner. I’ve never been to a film festival, but I’d like to make this my first. You’ve got to admire youth who can create works in one of the three featured categories—30 second public service announcement (on water conservation), microshort (1-5 minutes) and short (5-12 minutes). It would take me that long to figure out how to turn on the video camera.

The festival comes to Harkins Valley Art Theatre on Mill Ave. in Tempe Saturday, Jan. 16th. I adore this theater venue—as does my youngest daughter Lizabeth—because it leaves me feeling transported to any earlier time when movie theaters felt at once both more quaint and more spectacular. The movies they show, one at a time because there’s just a single screen, are always edgy and endearing. I expect nothing less from the young filmmakers whose works will be shown during the festival.

The 16th Annual Sedona International Film Festival takes place Feb. 21st-28th and features “independent film programming in all genres” as well as various series or tracks including family, classics and green/sustainable. While it’s too late to submit work for consideration for this year’s event, the call for submissions for the 2011 festival will open this May.

Submissions are also closed for the 2010 Phoenix Film Festival, the event’s 10th anniversary, taking place April 8th to 15th at Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theatre. The festival will feature “independent films from around the world, celebrities, filmmaking seminars, student filmmaking seminars and parties all week long.” (I wonder whether a clever filmmaker might film the weeklong parties for consideration at the 2011 festival.)

There’s still time to submit works—“in the categories of narrative and documentary features, documentary, dramatic, comedy, experimental and animation shorts”—for the 2010 Arizona International Film Festival’s THEREEL FRON TIER Film & Video Competition. The AIFF’s “19th edition” of showcasing films takes place April 15th to 25th. They’ve issued a special call for works by young filmmakers (18 and under) for their Indie Youth program. Submissions will be accepted through Feb. 12th “in the categories of dramatic, comedy, documentary, experimental and animation shorts.”

The deadline is also fast approaching for submissions to the Annual Short Film and Video Festival presented by the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in Tempe. The festival “is open to all film and video makers worldwide” and reviews entries submitted by students of all ages. Projects should be “no longer than ten minutes in length” and must be submitted by Feb. 5th. The festival takes place in April.

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival takes place Feb. 20th to March 24th at the Harkins Scottsdale Camelview Theatre and the Harkins Chandler Crossroads Theatre. The festival “brings a terrific slate of new feature films to the Valley.” Organizers note that “you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy!”

Later this year, you can enjoy the 10th Annual Scottsdale International Film Festival, scheduled for Oct. 1st to 5th at the Harkins Camelview 5 Theatre (another venue that routinely shows movies you won’t find elsewhere but really ought not to miss).

If your New Year’s resolutions include trying new experiences, meeting new people or upping your C.Q. (culture quotient), film festivals may well be the way to go. Life’s too short to live on reruns and beer commercials.


Update: Get the scoop on another Arizona film festival in the comment section below. You’ll find further details at http://www.thea3f.net/

Note: Local, national and international creators of experimental and adventurous live theater are invited to submit work for consideration to the Phoenix Fringe Festival. Deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 5th. Festival is scheduled for April 2nd to 11th. Visit www.phxfringe.org for details.

Let’s talk art walks

Let’s face it. Sometimes we overdo it during the holiday season. Too much eating. Too much racing around. Too much spending. Too much lounging on the sofa. It’s easy to go to extremes, which makes it tough to recalibrate when regular routines return come the New Year.

Consider easing into 2010 with one or more art walks–programs that feature free, self-guided tours of arts-rich areas within our communities during certain dates and times. You’ll find them in several Arizona cities, including Flagstaff, Jerome, Phoenix, Prescott and Scottsdale.

Resolved to enjoy more family time in the year ahead? Resolved to get more exercise or outdoor time? Start with a stroll through one of our state’s many amazing arts districts.

Many have designated evenings, generally monthly, when galleries and nearby amenities like restaurants are open late—and set up to welcome visitors of all ages. Most feature live music and other entertainment, plus conveniences like special parking or shuttles to various arts venues.

You can walk through your local arts district anytime, as I often did during my early years of parenting—when I had a baby in my backpack, a toddler in my stroller and a preschooler on my arm. They enjoyed the fresh air and new sights every bit as much as I did.

The fact that these areas are often dotted with ice cream stands—now frozen yoghurt stands, I suppose—is an added bonus. And to this day, we all get nostalgic when we see “Ollie the Trolley” roll through the charming streets of Old Town Scottsdale.

The Scottsdale Gallery Association (SGA) notes that “Scottsdale is home to more than 100 galleries.” All member galleries open their doors for a “large, easy-going open house” every Thursday evening year-round from 7pm to 9pm (the one exception is Thanksgiving Day). They’ve dubbed it “America’s Original ArtWalk.”

The SGA describes the event as “casual” and “eclectic”—welcome traits when introducing children to a taste of all the art the world has to offer. I recall my children being truly smitten by the vast collection of paintings, glass work, sculpture, ceramics and more.

I was enchanted watching my three young children respond to so many shapes, textures and colors—and equally enchanted to be among so many neighbors and friends. The folks we didn’t yet know made for interesting people-watching. There’s a real art to being a person too, you know.

As my children got older, one daughter in particular took a shine to the visual arts (another to the performing arts)—and art walks became a treasured one-on-one activity we’d often enjoy together. It didn’t cost us a thing, but it was such a smart investment.

A special event—the “Fiesta Bowl ArtWalk”—will hit the Scottsdale art district on Saturday, Jan. 2nd from noon to 4pm. Other themed walks are planned for 2010, and you can learn more about them at the Scottsdale ArtWalk website.

You can hit the Artlink Phoenix website to learn more about the “First Friday” art walks they’ve offered since 1994, which they hail as “the largest monthly art walk in the United States.”

The Phoenix art walk takes place the first Friday of each month between 6pm and 10pm, and features “more than 70 galleries, venues and arts-related spaces.” Free event shuttles are based at the Phoenix Art Museum (N. Central Ave. and McDowell Rd.) and carry visitors between various First Friday venues.

Along the way, you can enjoy diverse eateries as well as live music and entertainment. I’m always partial to the young performers, such as actors, musicians and dancers from Phoenix-based schools for the arts. The next First Friday is just around the corner on Jan. 1st.

Prescott holds “4th Friday Art Walks.” Their First Art Walk of 2010 takes place Jan. 22nd “beginning at 5pm and continuing through the weekend.” I’m intrigued by the names of some of the venues featured on this walk—including Van Gogh’s Ear, Random Art and The Stone Goat.

Flagstaff has a “First Friday ArtWalk” scheduled for 6pm to 9pm on Jan. 1st—with arts venues featuring contemporary art, photography and other mediums. The next “Jerome Art Walk” takes place Jan. 2nd—and includes arts venues featuring paintings, bead work and more.

By now, you’re pretty much out of excuses if you’re tired of being in mall rat or couch potato mode. Stop whining about your busyness or boredom, and make a date to really walk the talk.


Coming soon: Preview of upcoming theater productions for young children

Note: Lizabeth and I were at ASU Gammage Tuesday for the opening night of The Broadway Across America production of Annie. My video review, part of my “Gammage Goer” gig, will be posted at the ASU Gammage website later this week so you can see what we thought of the show.