Tag Archives: Pinky

Stray cat meets sparrow

Our family cat, Pinky, was a stray kitten with searing blue eyes and tiny gnashing teeth before we rescued her from the roof of a local school that borders a park where she used to play.

Nowadays Pinky loves to sit by a window near the kitchen table where I write. It gives her the best view of all those birds who find our backyard a welcoming habitat. Hummingbirds. Quail. Wrens. Grackles.

When I heard about a play titled “Sparrow” making its Southwest premiere later this year, I did a little homework and discovered — thanks to the Arizona Bird Committee — that Arizona is home to all sorts of sparrows. Fox Sparrow. Swamp Sparrow. Lincoln’s Sparrow. And more.

But Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe is bringing a different sort of sparrow to our neck of the woods. It’s a play titled “Sparrow” that originated at The House Theatre of Chicago in 2007 — a work conceived by Nathan Allen and written by Chris Matthews and Jake Minton. “Sparrow” is the tale of a young girl with special powers.

Emily Book is an elementary school student — the sole survivor of a school bus crash that leaves her hometown devastated. She moves away, only to return for her senior year. It’s a painful reminder, and few are happy to see her. What unfolds next will surprise and stir you.

The Strat Cat Theatre audition notice describes “Sparrow” as a “very physical, ensemble-based work” in which many actors play multiple roles. It’s storytelling intertwined with music and dance, plus sci-fi and graphic novel sensibilities. Reviewers have likened it to “Mean Girls,” “Carrie” and “Wicked.”

With direction by Stray Cat founding artistic director Ron May, “Sparrow” should prove edgy yet accessible, like his production of “Columbinus” a couple of seasons ago. I’m eager to experience all four of this season’s Stray Cat productions — including “Milk, Milk Lemonade,” “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” and “Heddatron.”

In the meantime, I have my own cat to keep watch over the world with me.

— Lynn

Note: “Sparrow,” which is recommended for teens & up, runs Sept 23-Oct 8 at the Tempe Performing Arts Center in the Mill Avenue District.

Coming up: Zoot suit tales, From ukes to clogs, Art in motion

Update: Head to Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Phoenix this Thurs, July 28 at 1pm for a “Bird-a-palooza” with the Arizona Animal Welfare League. Click here for details.

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

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The church of Broadway?

When the phone rang just after 7pm Sunday night, I joked with my daughter Lizabeth that people should know better than to call us during church. Neil Patrick Harris, last night’s reverend for the 2011 Tony Awards ceremony, had just delivered his sermon — known to the uninitiated as an “opening number.” Something about “it’s not just for gays anymore.” I suspect half of the pews emptied at that point, but no matter. The truly faithful just grabbed their remote controls and cranked up the volume.

I owe the theater as church analogy to an arts advocate I interviewed last week. After sharing her passion for theater, symphony and ballet, the woman very matter of factly said something I’ll never forget — “Church does that for some people.” More than one church was represented during this year’s Tony Awards. The opening number mingled missionaries from “The Book of Mormon” and nuns from “Sister Act.”

The church of Broadway is a place of gratitude — and this year’s remarks, by both presenters and those accepting awards, were mindful of those who make a life in theater possible. Parents. Partners. Teachers. Mentors. While accepting the Tony Award for best actor in a featured role (play), John Benjamin Hickey of “The Normal Heart” warned his family in Plano, Texas that they better not be watching the Mavericks game. Futile advice, because everyone knows that football is a religion in Texas.

I’ll be watching the headlines Monday to see whether Kathleen Marshall, winner of the Tony Award for best choreography, stuck with her vow to run right home and change the names of her baby twins to “Antoinette” and “Perry.” If you don’t get the reference, by the way, your church attendance is lagging. More time in the performing arts pew is clearly called for.

The Tony Award for best direction of a musical went to Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw for “The Book of Mormon.” While millions of Mormons may be offended by the work, Nicholaw’s acceptance speech — “I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life” — offended none. Parker thanked his mom, dad and “South Park” fans — plus a few others I missed while caught up in one of many “The Book of Mormon” moments.

Remarks offered during the acceptance speech for best musical were more controversial, but ticket sales aren’t suffering. Last week you could buy tickets for shows in August, but one day after snagging nine Tony Awards, “The Book of Mormon” is sold out well into September.

When Nikki M. James accepted the award for best actress in a featured role (musical), also for “The Book of Mormon,” she thanked her mother — who was in the house to witness James’ recollection of growing up with the story of a bumblebee who flew because no one ever told the bee it was impossible. “I come from a long line of bumblebees,” shared the actress. Thankfully, she had the good sense to avoid wearing a black and yellow gown.

John Larroquette, who won a Tony Award for best actor in a featured role (musical), thanked his three children, his wife and the show’s dance captain — acknowledging the talents of fellow “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying” actor Daniel Radcliffe as well with something along the lines of “without whom I would be sitting at home watching this in my underwear.”

Sometimes fellow faithful, even in the church of Broadway, need to call each other out. The last thing Kelsey Grammer needed was a spotlight as he uttered the words “Anything Goes.”

Still, the church of Broadway can change the way we see people. After watching Radcliffe perform with the cast during “Brotherhood of Man” we might finally see an end to folks who head to Broadway hoping to see that fellow from the “Harry Potter” films. Instead, they’ll wonder how someone so born to song and dance could have spent half a lifetime waving a magic wand. I’m a “Harry” fan, but there’s just no way to reconcile a cloak of invisibility with a loud plaid jacket.

Transformation on all sorts of levels appears to have taken place for U2’s Bono and The Edge, who wrote the songs for “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” scheduled to open on Broadway next Tuesday. “The last year,” they shared, “has been a real education in just how hard you people work.” A love song from the musical, which will be eligible for 2012 Tony Awards consideration, was performed at this year’s ceremony with beautiful simplicity against the backdrop of a delicate spider web and starlit sky.

Sometimes theater, like temple or church, changes the way we look at life. The first award shown during the Tony Awards broadcast went to Ellen Barkin of “The Normal Heart” for best actress in a featured role (play) — who says the show has taught her that “one person can change the world.” Members of the creative team spoke of the freedom to live, love and marry — and reminded the audience that “theater really matters.” They also praised Larry Kramer for the show they describe as “the ultimate love story.”

“The Normal Heart,” shared Kramer, “is our history.” He urges gay people to “learn from it and carry on the fight.” “We are a very special people, an extraordinary people,” he says. “Our day will come.” I know there are plenty of churches out there that frown on such dogma, but I’m proud to belong to the church of Broadway.

No matter the church, no one wants to listen to the same sermon time and time again. So Tony Awards watchers must have been thrilled by teasers of other shows making their way to Broadway stage. “Ghost,” a musical based on the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. “The Mountaintop,” a play featuring Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. And “Master Class,” another play — featuring Tyne Daly.

For all the splendor of this year’s Tony Awards ceremony (and yes, Mr. Colbert, I do mean watching you mix it up in that fetching red turtleneck), there were moments of sadness as the names and faces of theater folk who’ve died during the past year were shown — including 11-year-old actor Shannon Tavarez (pictured here), who performed the role of “Young Nala” in “The Lion King” on Broadway before being diagnosed with leukemia. Tavarez inspired thousands of people to join the bone marrow registry. One day, perhaps, her Broadway legacy will include saving someone else’s life.

— Lynn

Note: I mean no offense to those for whom time spent in traditional churches and other places with religious significance is a very serious and sacred matter.

Coming up: Two-spirit people, Ode to blue, Signs your child is a theater geek

Update: Click here to enjoy Sutton Foster singing for Sesame Street’s “Elmo” — and to enjoy similar YouTube offerings, including “Grover” appearing in “SpiderMonster, The Musical.”

Desperately seeking dogs

In a desperate attempt to ready our cat “Pinky” for upcoming auditions at Valley Youth Theatre, my daughter Lizabeth tried in vain to get the feisty feline to sit on command this morning. Attempts to train “Pinky” to answer to the name “Sandy” — the name of the dog in the musical theater classic “Annie” — were equally futile.

Madison Kerth & Mikey performed in a touring production of ANNIE at ASU Gammage in Tempe (Photo: Phil Martin, 2009)

Perhaps we should send “Pinky” up the street to the local dog park with a pawful of posters publicizing tomorrow’s auditions. “Sandy” hopefuls should be at Valley Youth Theatre Wed, May 11 at 3:30pm. I’m told no headshots or resume are needed.

The original “Sandy” was a stray beige terrier mix. I suppose that means “Bonnie” — constant companion of RAK calendar and directories editor Mala Blomquist — is out of the running. Pity because she’s better than most of us at taking direction.

Maybe VYT should try a humorous tack, substituting a “Sandy” of another sort as Annie’s newfound friend for their June 10-26 production of “Annie” at the Herberger Theater Center. Perhaps the syrupy-sweet “Sandy” who falls for “Danny” in the musical “Grease.”

Or they could run with an idea my daughter Jennifer suggested — turning to local animal rescue organizations for help with finding the perfect mutt, then partnering with them to spread the word about animal health and wellness.

VYT has long facilitated the collection of animals of another sort — helping Chandler teen Dennis Fries gather stuffed animals for hospitalized children as part of his “Operation Noah” program. Maybe the perfect terrier is actually a soft, cuddly toy.

For all the roles she’s performed through the years — mostly with Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale and Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix — Lizabeth is still known to many for those beautiful barks she bellowed during the ASA production of “Lucky Stiff.”

If all else fails, I suppose VYT could recruit her to don some sort of “Sandy” suit — though I think they’d have better luck training “Pinky” to sing “Tomorrow.”

— Lynn

Note: Auditioners of the human variety (mostly ages 13 +) can try out for VYT’s production of “Hairspray” — either Fri, May 13 at 3:30pm or Sat, May 14 at 9:30am. Click here for comprehensive information on Valley auditions from Durant Communications.

Coming up: Arizona art adventures

From catwalk to picket line?

Valley dance offerings this month include Billy Elliot The Musical (Photo above by Michael Brosilow), Catwalk by Scorpius Dance Theatre and Peter Pan by Ballet Academy of Arizona

As some of you know, my cat “Pinky” brings her own special brand of sophistication to theater criticism. And now, thanks to Scorpius Dance Theatre, she’s toying with a move into the dance world as well.

Scorpius Dance Theatre presents “CATWALK” — a blend of dance and fashion full of “runway attitude” — May 12-21 at Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre. It’s an original contemporary dance production that “fuses funky, local fashions and sexy athleticism” with the choreography of Lisa Starry.

“CATWALK” is staged on a runway. It “features 17 dancers, 10 choreographic works four independent designers, and one urban boutique.” Both new works and “returning favorites” are included in this year’s production.

If you need a faster dance fix, there’s still time to catch “Billy Elliot The Musical” at ASU Gammage. It’s another show best for mature audiences, but it’s set in a coal mining town rather than on a fashion runway. “Billy Elliot” features young dancers but don’t take your pre-teens along unless you’re comfortable with them hearing some rather colorful cursing.

For tamer fare, take your family to the Ballet Academy of Arizona performance of “Peter Pan” Sun, May 15 at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

Like ASU Gammage and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the Herberger often presents diverse dance performance it’s sometimes harder to find other places.

Ballet Arizona presents its “Celebration of Balanchine” featuring three works by this “father of modern ballet” June 2-5 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix. Music is by Ravel, Stravinsky and others.

Ballet Arizona presents a different program of Balanchine works each Spring — which are consistently breathtaking in the hands of Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen. Andersen danced with the New York City Ballet while Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer.

This time of year plenty of schools and dance studios present their spring dance recitals — which often feature works perfect for families at low or no cost. Check with your local high schools, colleges/universities, dance studios and performing arts venues to find the best fit for your dance tastes and interests.

I noticed while driving past Arcadia High School in Phoenix the other day that they have a dance performance scheduled for Thurs, May 5 and Fri, May 6 at 7pm. And Chandler-Gilbert Community College recently alerted me to their “Student Dance Showcase” taking place Fri, May 6 and Sat, May 7 at 8pm ($3-$5/ticket).

If your school or dance studio is presenting a dance performance (this month or next) that’s open to the public, please comment below to let “Stage Mom” readers know. To find other dance and art-related events for families, visit the online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

I’m off to see if I can interest Pinky is donning a tutu or some other dance fashion for a photo I can drop back into this post for your later amusement. But never fear, no pets are ever harmed in the making of my word art. What’ll become of the tutu, however, is anyone’s guess.

— Lynn

Note: Watch for the June issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine, which includes an “AZ Generations” column profiling the family of a Valley dancer and dance instructor who describes herself as a “bunhead by birth.”

Coming up: Childsplay actors — on stage and off