Tag Archives: Playwriting

Writer, writer on the wall…

Want to be the fairest writer of them all? Read often. Write daily. And learn from the masters.

Amy Silverman and Deborah Sussman Susser just announced that registration is now open for the next “Mothers Who Write” workshop, a 10-week series that starts Feb. 23 at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. It meets Thursday evenings from 6-8pm and costs $200 (Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts members pay just $175).

A teen writing workshop called “Fems with Pens,” for girls in grades 7-12, begins Jan. 23 at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The six-week series also include 5-6pm sessions on Jan. 30, Feb. 6, Feb. 13, Feb. 27 and March 5. Participants write fiction and non-fiction using various exercises, then discuss and edit their work in a “creative, supportive environment.” The series costs $60.

Phoenix Public Library and Changing Hands Bookstore present a “Young Adult Writing Conference” featuring writing classes and a writing panel on Sat, Jan. 28 at the Burton Barr Central Library. Presenters and panelists include authors Adam Rex, Bree Despain, James Owen, Anna Carey, Kiersten White, Aprilynne Pike, Amy Fellner Dominy, C J Hill (Janette Rallison), Robin Brande, Cecil Castellucci and Tom Leveen. The event runs 9am-3pm and costs $85 ($75 through Jan. 19).

A “Yallapalooza” event for teens and tweens takes place at the library that same day at 4pm. The 11 authors noted above will attend, and the event also features free pizza — plus games, prizes and book signing opportunities. Admission is free.

ASU’s Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing holds its 2012 “Desert Nights, Rising Stars” conference Feb. 23-26 at the center, located on ASU’s Tempe Campus. Conference faculty include Sally Ball, Robert Boswell, Bernard Cooper, Denise Dumahel, Carolyn Forche, Pam Houston, Adam Johnson, Mat Johnson, A. Van Jordan, Antonya Nelson, Alix Ohlin, Jem Poster, Melissa Pritchard, Jeannine Savard, Eleanor Wilner and Xu Xi. Writers of all levels are welcome, and general registration is $375 (master class tuition is an additional $125).

The UA Poetry Center in Tucson is presenting several classes and workshops in coming months, including “Poetry in the 21st Century” with Joel Arthur. The eight week literature class, which begins Feb. 6, will explore trends including conceptual poetry, Gurlesque, flarf, virtual poetics, Vispo and more. Participants will read, discuss and listen to American poetry from 2000 to the present. The class costs $200 (plus a $10 materials fee).

The Poetry Center also offers “Possibilities of Short Plays” with Laura Owen, an eight-week writing workshop on writing short form theatrical pieces — monologues and ten-minute plays. Participants will explore voice and dialogue, as well as the intersection of poetry and other forms. Students can expect to complete several dialogues and at least one complete ten-minute play. The workshop, which starts Feb. 8, costs $200 (plus a $5 materials fee).

Scottsdale Public Library and the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers present a “Local Writers Workshop” at the Mustang Library at 1:15pm on Feb. 19. The free workshop covers writing, publishing, an online author toolkit and networking. It’s one of many free writing-related events offered by Scottsdale Public Libraries. (Check your local library for additional options.)

If your organization offers writing classes for youth or adults, feel free to comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: An organization called Friends of the Phoenix Public Library needs donations of children’s books to help economically-challenged schools stock their libraries and classrooms. Click here for donation details, and to learn about the Friends’ annual “Winter Book Sale” taking place later this month.

Coming up: Celebrating black history on stage and screen

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A homecoming tale

Costume rendering (Lyf) for Childsplay's production of "With Two Wings"

Playwright Anne Negri is experiencing a homecoming of sorts as Childsplay in Tempe prepares its production of “With Two Wings,” a work Negri wrote while enrolled in ASU’s M.F.A. in theatre for youth program. Negri now lives, and teaches public school drama classes, in Illinois –but she’s been in the Valley this week for Childsplay rehearsals of her work.

“I’ve been in the room since the the day the actors read it,” says Negri. She’s also attended production meetings, spent time in the prop shop and more. Negri says she’s thrilled to have “all these smart people” talk about her work and debate the finer points about how best to give it wings.

The impetus for writing “With Two Wings” was a personal experience — coupled with a teacher’s expectation that she not only study playwriting but also give it a try. Negri shares that her older sister, who suffered malnutrition and other challenges before being adopted from India, has learning disabilities.

Though Negri’s sister, now in her late 30s, is now divorced — she was married for a time to a man with learning disabilities, and they had a son. Negri notes that Will, now 10 years old, “somehow missed those genetic hits.” And it got her wondering.

Costume rendering (Mom) for Childsplay's production of "With Two Wings"

What would it be like for a child to surpass his own parents in many ways? By age 8 or 9, says Negri, her nephew Will was already reading better than his mom. Early in the process of thinking about Will’s story, Negri had a dream about people with wings — which led her to revisit the myth of Icarus.

The myth describes an escape by Icarus and his father Daelalus using wings made with wax. Seems Icarus ignored his father’s advice to avoid flying near the sun, then died once the wax in his wings melted from the sun’s heat. Negri imagined the story with a different ending — in which the father, rather than the son, fell into the sea.

Negri describes “With Two Wings” as a “fantasy world.” Its inhabitants include a boy named Lyf (Nathan Dobson), his dad (Jon Gentry) and his mom (Kate Haas). Also two kids — Taur (John Moum) and Meta (Kaleena Newman) — who live in town but stumble one day onto the family’s isolated home.

Costume rendering (Dad) for Childsplay's production of "With Two Wings"

Lyf’s encounter with the pair sparks his first realization that his world is different. How and why it’s different are at the heart of the play — which is being performed weekends Jan. 22-Feb. 5 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Families who attend a Jan. 22 “Storybook Preview Performance” pay just $12 per ticket and receive a free book.

The back of my lovely “With Two Wings” postcard notes that there’s a “Backstage Tour” after the 1pm performance on Feb. 4. Also a “Family Improv” event that morning at Childsplay’s “Campus for Imagination and Wonder.” Parents can learn more by visiting Childsplay online at www.childsplayaz.org.

— Lynn

Note: Costumes for the Childsplay production of “With Two Wings” are designed by D. Daniel Hollingshead. Childsplay recommends this play for ages six & up. “With Two Wings” is also part of Childsplay’s 2011-12 “School Tours” season. Click here for details.

Coming up: More about the “With Two Wings” journey from class project to Childsplay world premiere

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

The power of the page

A copy of Anne Frank's diary on exhibit in Amsterdam (Photo: Heather on her travels)

I hit the newly-relocated Anne Frank Center during my most recent trip to New York City, where director of education Maureen McNeil was kind enough to take a break from settling in so we could talk a bit about the center’s work.

Something McNeil said that morning struck me as especially profound. She spoke of the power of the blank page, describing it as “the great equalizer.” Nazis thought they had all the power during WWII, but Anne Frank had a pen.

Frank was powerful too, as are young people today who wield the pen to explore and express their feelings – about themselves and the world around them. I shared her observation with a 3rd grader named Sofia after we met during an Occupy Wall Street march from Zuccotti Park to Wall Street.

I try, at every opportunity, to encourage young people to write – partly because I’ve witnessed my own children wrestle with thinking their writing isn’t good enough when nothing could be farther from the truth.

After seeing “Billy Elliot The Musical” on Broadway with Lizabeth one night, we headed across the street to join folks who’d attended opening night of “The Mountaintop” – a play that imagines events of the last night of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life.

There we met a mother and son, and got to chatting about the show. I asked the boy, just 12 years old, whether he enjoyed writing – and got a mixed reply. I meet a lot of children that age who love creative writing but find their passion for the pen dampened by the rigors of academic writing.

I invited him to write a review of “The Mountaintop” for our readers, and hope he’ll decide to follow up with me before too long. Children and teens so often see things we adults overlook – so I’m eager to know what he thought, and felt, about the work by playwright Katori Hall.

Theater students at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix are actually learning to write reviews of theater productions, something too few theater students ever have the opportunity to explore. Still, I don’t expect perfect theater criticism from the youth. Sometimes their raw reflections are every bit as insightful.

Resources for young writers in Arizona include the Young Writers Program at the Virgina G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University in Tempe. A national organization called the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, where a young actor named Nick Cartell known to Valley theater buffs now works, also offers plenty of writing opportunities for youth.

Watch for a future post detailing more of the Anne Frank Center’s work, which blends writing, theater, visual art and more with themes of social justice inspired by the life of a little girl whose diary has become a gateway to hope and healing.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to view about an online video clip of Anne Frank. Click here for details on the newly-extended deadline for Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012 Arizona Playwriting Award.  Click here for information about an open call for submissions to the “Scholastic Art & Writing Awards” competition for 7th-12th grade students.

Coming up: A visit to the New York Public Library

Photo from www.heatheronhertravels.com

Who let the “Wolves” out?

Mexican Gray Wolf - Photo from the Brookfield Zoo

Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe let the “Wolves” out Saturday night as four Valley actors presented a staged reading of a new Steve Yockey play titled “Wolves.” Yockey’s “Octopus” was part of Stray Cat’s last season and his work appears a perfect fit for Stray Cat audiences.

Seems Yockey has a thing for fairy tales and lava lamps, and for blending comedy with horror. He describes “Wolves” as a “predatory fairy tale for adults” — even referencing Little Red Riding Hood with a red sweat jacket we’re left to imagine hanging on the back of a chair in an apartment shared by two men with very different sorts of delusions.

Imagined because few props are present during a staged reading. In this case the set consisted of several chairs and rooms outlined in tape, and props included a red guitar and an axe. “Wolves” is a bloody affair, but audience members have to use their imagination to get there until the work is farther along in the production process.

Yockey praised founding Stray Cat artistic director Ron May, who’ll soon be presenting his 10th season, for his work with “Wolves” — and noted that the four actors involved made significant contributions to refining the work. After two days of work starting with the customary “table read” (actors reading through the script together), Yockey made several revisions to “Wolves.”

It sounds like he’ll be making plenty more, given his receptivity to several observations and insights offered by audience members. Yokey was enthusiastic about their comments, joking that they beat some of the usual questions (like “How did you memorize all those lines?”) asked by less savvy crowds.

We’re fortunate in the Valley to have a wealth of fresh and experienced talent like performers featured in the Stray Cat reading of “Wolves” — including Drew Leatham and Jonathan Furedy, both seen in Stray Cat performances last season. Also Adam Pinti, who’s sporting a nifty new MFA from ASU. “We snatched him up quick-like,” quips May.

Mexican Gray Wolf - Photo from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Of course, I’m partial to Yolanda London. Her credits last season include “THIS” with Actors Theatre, “Avenue Q” at Phoenix Theatre and “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” with Black Theatre Troupe — but we’ve been enjoying her work at Childsplay in Tempe for years.

I’m also partial to wolves of the real variety because my son Christopher is big on wildlife education and conservation, having surpassed 1,000 hours of volunteer work with the Phoenix Zoo several years ago (after that I stopped counting).

After you’ve checked out Yockey’s online portfolio and future offerings by Stray Cat Theatre, take some time to explore the wild life and times of wolves in Arizona and throughout the Southwest. Believing their fate isn’t tied to our own is its own form of misguided thinking.

• Eight, Arizona PBS airs “Wolves in Paradise” Wed, Aug 3, at 10pm.

• The Phoenix Zoo participates in wolf conservation and offers related information online.

• The Arizona Fish and Game Department provides information on wolf-related policies and programs.

• The “Howling for Justice” blog offers musings on wolf-related advocacy.

My apologies to octopus lovers for the missed opportunity to cover octopus-related issues during Stray Cat’s last season. But hey, at least I did justice to all those sparrows.

— Lynn

Note: Steve Yockey’s “Wolves,” featuring direction by Ron May, was Stray Cat Theatre’s first staged reading of a new work. Stage directions were provided by Kelly Coughlin-Celaya, and “special thanks” to Childsplay and Alfredo Macias were noted.

Coming up: AriZoni nomination night, More playwriting pearls from Steve Yockey, To baby or not to baby…

From JFK to Father’s Day

This poster resembles a T-shirt my daughter Jennifer loves to wear

For most, the name Kennedy conjures thoughts of politics. My own daughter Jennifer, a 20-year-old antroplogy student at ASU who aspires to work for the United Nations, loves wearing a T-shirt that bears the likeness of a 1960 poster supporting JFK’s presidential campaign.

John F. Kennedy was born in Massachusetts on May 29, 1917. Had he not been assassinated in November 1963, today would be JFK’s 94th birthday. And while opinions of his politics may vary, it’s hard to find fault in his avid support for the arts.

After Kennedy’s death, a work in progress originally dubbed the National Culture Center became the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It’s located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and there are three ways folks in Arizona can enjoy its offerings.

Those visiting D.C. can attend diverse music, dance and theater performance at the Kennedy Center — assuming tickets are available when you’re ready to buy them. The rest of us can watch for touring productions of Kennedy Center programs like the Theater for Young Audiences performance of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” presented last year at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, Or go online for daily webcasts from the Center’s Millennium Stage.

The Kennedy Center offers free daily performances (at 6pm EST) on its Millennium Stage. Saturday night I watched streaming video of the Beach Fossils. Sunday night will feature a D.C. trio called “Medications,” described as “an 18-year collaboration between multi-instrumentalists Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter with drummer Mark Cisneros” that “combines a love of ’60s and ’70s pop, as well as the visceral pulse of ’70s punk.”

There’s plenty of live performance art right here in Arizona, but Kennedy Center Millennium Stage offerings are perfect for evenings you’re content to stay home but still want to get your daily dose of arts and culture. While you’re online, consider exploring the Kennedy Center website to learn about its many collaborations with Arizona artists.

Ballet Arizona performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Center’s “Ballet Across America II” program in June 2010. And Childsplay, a Tempe-based theater company presenting works for youth and families, has participated four times in the Center’s “New Visions/New Voices” playwriting development program — with “The Yellow Boat,” “Even Steven Goes to War,” “Salt & Pepper,” and “Telemera: Stories My Mother Told Me.”

But the Kennedy family legacy goes beyond the realms of politics and art.

Patrick J. Kennedy, son of JFK’s brother Edward M. Kennedy and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is coupling his personal experience with bipolar disorder and addiction with his expertise in public policy to further the work of the newly-established “One Mind for Research” campaign — which aims to unify the science, technology, research and knowledge needed to battle brain disorders.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, JFK’s sister, founded the Special Olympics in 1968. The organization — which describes itself as “the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities” — serves more than 3.5 million people through a variety of programs. From June 25 to July 4, 7,500 athletes from 185 countries will participate in the Special Olympics “World Summer Games” in Athens — which includes 22 Olympic-type sports.

Today the only surviving child of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, continues making her own contributions to arts and culture. She serves as honorary chairman of the American Ballet Theatre governing board and has authored several books including “A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children” and the recently released “She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems.”

I imagine what it must have been like to grow up surrounded by the countless words of others attempting to decipher or describe your father’s legacy. If you’d like to try writing about your own father, consider attending a “Father’s Day Writing Workshop” Fri, June 9, from 6-8pm at MADE Art Boutique on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Here’s a little blurb about the event from the “Mothers Who Write” website:

A good dad is hard to find. If you’ve got one, let him know how you feel by writing something for him this Father’s Day. And if you don’t, write about him anyway — it just might be cathartic. Bring 17 copies of your two-page (typed, double spaced) piece to MADE and fine-tune it with MWW instructors Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussman (ASU Art Museum). Spaces are limited; registration is required. To register, call 602.256.MADE.

We all spend far too much time delving into the private lives of other families, famous and otherwise. And while I find the topic of JFK fascinating, I can assure you that my own father is every bit as interesting and complex — albeit in a wholly different sort of a way. Maybe he’s the one I should be writing about…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about Special Olymics Arizona

Coming up: Local twists on the Tony Awards®, Last chance! Art camps, Do the math: Arizona arts & culture by the numbers

Weekend of new beginnings

Center Dance Ensemble performs "The Snow Queen" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

I’ve been enjoying Center Dance Ensemble works for more than a decade. If dance companies were shoes, they’d be a cross between my favorite well-worn pair and my shiniest new pair. Both make me smile.

For years they’ve treated Valley audiences to Frances Cohen Smith’s “The Snow Queen” at the Herberger Theater Center. It’s based on a delightful Hans Christian Andersen tale and has terrific appeal to both children and adults.

But this weekend, you can enjoy a performance titled “New Beginnings.” It features the premiere of a new work by Center Dance Ensemble as well as new performances by several guest artists.

It’s being held through Sat, Oct 16 at the newly-renovated Herberger Theater Center, so those of you who’ve been waiting for an excuse to check it out now have one (actually, there are several).

Center Dance Ensemble performs New Beginnings this weekend (Photo: Tim Fuller)

Other weekend happenings in the Valley (and yes, weekends start on Friday for stage moms) include the following:

Goof & Giggle. Fri, Oct 15 at 10am. Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Features a fun class for 1-3 year olds with parents/caregivers. Activities include dance, song, exploring musical instruments and movement.

Tot Art. Fri, Oct 15 at 10:30am. Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa. Features artmaking for 2-5 year olds with parents/caregivers. Activities include painting, sculpture and collage.

Artful Tales. Fri, Oct 15 at 11am. Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa. Features an interactive storytime followed by art activities based on the theme of the featured book.

Comprised Voices. Sun, Oct 17 at 4pm. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Features symphonic music by Musica Nova.

International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival. Madcap Theaters in Tempe. Through Sun, Oct 17. Features indie, retro and other horror and science fiction titles in this 6th annual event. (It’s not for the kiddos, but parents enjoy the arts too.)

ASU presents 26 Miles this weekend

26 Miles. Lyceum Theatre at ASU in Tempe. Through Sun, Oct 17. Features a coming-of-age “dramedy” about a Cuban American teen who explores her identity while on a road trip with her estranged mother. Playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical “In The Heights.” (One for parents to enjoy with their older teens, perhaps?)

Cars and Guitars. Through Sat, Oct 16. Tempe Center for the Arts. Features exhibit of some mighty fancy guitars, cars and cool retro finds (including old storybook art). I had a great time exploring this one the day I saw Childsplay’s “A Year With Frog and Toad” at the same venue. (The cars/guitars exhibit makes a cool father/son outing.)

This weekend is your last chance to see this new work by James E. Garcia

The Eagle & The Serpent: A History of Mexico Abridged. Through Sun, Oct 17. Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center in Phoenix. Features New Carpa Theater Company presenting seven actors in 50 roles recreating the history of Mexico from 30,000 B.C. to the present “in 90 minutes or less.”

Romantic Fools. Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Through Sun, Oct 17. Features vaudeville-style comedy “examining love, lust, dating, and romance.” (Also for grown-ups only due to mature content.)

Watch for a second post Friday featuring weekend (and upcoming) theater by youth and for youth.

Ridiculous rulers. Bumbling bears. Colorful cupcakes. They’ve got it all.

–Lynn

Note: Please check details for all events before attending since prices vary, tickets may have limited availability and such.

Coming up: Making art in Mesa, Stage moms changing the world, Playwriting perspectives