Tag Archives: puppet shows

Theater works

Happy campers participating in Youth Works Academy through Theater Works in Peoria, which hosts a free Summer Camp Expo this Saturday

Theater works in all sorts of ways. Think jobs, creative outlets for artists, shared experiences for citizens, positive experiences for youth and more.

Theater Works in Peoria is introducing folks to its summer camp options for children and teens this Saturday via their 2nd annual Theater Works Summer Camp Expo, which features drama-related activities for children and the opportunity to talk with Theater Works youth program staff about summer camp options for preschoolers through teens.

More fun with Youth Works Academy

The Sat, March 31 event takes place from 11am-1pm. Admission is free, and lunch (think hot dogs) is included. Sometimes theater works for tummies too. Folks who attend can enter for the chance to win a pair of silver passes to Castles N’ Coasters. If you’re game, just RSVP by March 30 to Athena Hunting at 623.815.1791 ext. 107. Theater Works, by the way, is located at 8355 W. Peoria Ave.

Theater works as well in forming community collaborations, like the Theater Works partnership with Ro Ho En (the Japanese Friendship Garden) in Phoenix to present “Sakura no Ne” (“Root of the Cherry Tree”) April 13-22. Also in helping us reflect on historical events and their meaning for our lives. Hence the April 13-May 13 Theater Works production of “All Through the Night,” a play inspired by stories of German gentile women during and after the Third Reich.

Jay meets giggling girls during Youth Works Academy

Theater Works recently unveiled their 2012/13 season, which opens with “Doubt” and wraps up with “Accomplice.” In between, there’s everything from “The Music Man” and “A Christmas Carol” to “Burning in the Night: A Hobo’s Song” and “Musical of Musicals.” This season’s “A Little Night Music” opens tomorrow night — Wed, March 28.

When you hit this Saturday’s Theater Works Summer Camp Expo, be sure and ask about other ways they’re making theater work for youth — from theater workshops and classes to puppet shows and special programs for homeschool students.

When theater works, we’re all better for it.

— Lynn

Note: Theater Works is seeking designers for the 2012/13 season — and Robyn Allen is accepting resumes at rallen@theaterworks.org. Also, a friendly reminder — The Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards take place tonight, March 27, at the Herberger Theater Center. Click here for details.

Coming up: Fun with freckles!


Theater meets Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec. 6-11

More than a dozen Valley venues are presenting family-friendly theater fare with a Christmas theme. Here’s an early round-up, listed by city, to help families who celebrate Christmas with holiday planning…


Musical Theatre of Anthem presents a “Holiday Show” Dec. 16. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Theater presents “Christmas Jukebox” Nov. 25-Dec. 18. www.fhtaz.org.


Hale Theatre Arizona presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Nov. 26 and  “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-23. www.haletheatrearizona.com.


Spotlight Youth Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 2-18. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 25. www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 1-11. www.evct.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 26-Dec. 17. www.swshakespeare.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs A Christmas Carol Nov. 26-Dec. 17 in Mesa


Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th St.” Nov. 25-Dec. 29 and “A Broadway Christmas Carol” Dec. 9-17. www.arizonabroadwaytheatre.com.

The Homestead Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-4. www.dcranchnet.com.

Theater Works presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-18. Theater Works/Youth Works Puppet Works presents “Saving Santa” Dec. 3-24 (Sat only). www.theaterworks.com.


Grand Canyon University presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Dec. 2-11. www.gcu.edu.

New Carpa Theater Co. presents “American Pastorela” Dec. 9-18 at the Third Street Theater (Phoenix Center for the Arts). www.newcarpa.org. (Mature content)

Phoenix Theatre presents “A Christmas Story” Nov. 23-Dec. 18. www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Space 55 presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas II” Dec. 1-17 and “7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe” Dec. 17. www.space55.org. (Mature content)

The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity” Dec. 2-11. www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Valley Youth Theatre presents “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” Dec 2-23. www.vyt.com.


Theatre Artists Studio presents “Holiday Music & Musings: From the Page to the Stage” Dec. 2. www.thestudiophx.org.

Sun City

Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” Dec. 1-4. www.granddrama.com.

East Valley Children's Theatre presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 1-11


ASU Gammage presents “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (touring production) Dec. 6-11. www.asugammage.com.

If your Valley organization is presenting a theater production with a Christmas, or other winter holiday, theme — please comment below to let readers know.

— Lynn

Note: A calendar of family-friendly events is always available online at www.raisingarizonakids.com. This post will be updated as I learn of additional theater offerings with a Christmas theme. Although most of the events noted above are designed for family audiences, please note that some are “mature audience” only productions.

Coming up: Christmas concerts, A cup of cheer

Update: Some of these shows are extending their runs, so check theater company websites for the latest and greatest information. 11/26/11

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”

Costumes take center stage

I’m not a fashion designer but an artist who works in fashion-an engineer of color and form — Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo

So begins a recent e-mail from the Phoenix Art Museum alerting olks to a Sept 17-Feb 12 exhibit of di Sant’ Angelo’s works spanning the late ’60s to the early ’90s.  The exhibit includes dozens of ensembles and accessories — plus “never-released, original footage of runway shows and interviews, photographs and sketch books.”

The Florence-born artist, raised in Argentina and Brazil, moved to New York City after a brief stint with Walt Disney Studios in California. The museum touts his “pioneering use of stretch fabrics,” though I doubt di Sant’ Angelo expected they’d one day find their way into “mom jeans” sold by big box retailers.

Jennifer, age 10, rocking her hippie Halloween costume. This year savvy girls will be dressed as Edith Head.

Folks with a fondness for fashion can head to the Herberger Theater Center Wed, Sept 28 for a 7pm “pay-what-you-wish” performance of “A Conversation with Edith Head,” an Actors Theatre production about the costume designer to the stars whose work spanned six decades and garnered eight Academy Awards.

“A Conversation with Edith Head” is the work of playwrights Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen. Claassen, managing artistic director for Invisible Theatre in Tucson, performs the role of Edith Head — a woman who worked on 1,131 films featuring the likes of Mae West, Audrey Hepburn, Bette David, Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

Those of you readying to sew those darling Halloween costumes for your children may be seeking simpler inspirations — from ghosts and goblins to fairy princesses and forest animals. Perhaps this rundown of Halloween theater offerings will inspire you to new heights.

    • Fountain Hills Theater Youth Theater presents “Legends in the Attic” Oct 7-23. www.fhtaz.org.
    • Creative Stage Youth Theatre presents “Doctor of the Dead” (a student written and directed work) Oct 27-30. www.csyt.org.
    • Grand Canyon University presents “Dracula” Oct 21-30. www.gcu.edu.
    • Great Arizona Puppet Theater presents “Little Bunny’s Halloween” Oct 5-30. www.azpuppets.org.
    • Scorpius Dance Theatre presents “Lisa Starry’s A Vampire Tale VIII” Oct 13-22 (plus Oct 27-Nov 1 in Whitby, England). www.scorpiusdance.com.
    • Theater Works Puppet Works presents “Trick or Treat! A Halloween Puppet Show” Oct 8-29. www.theaterworks.org.

Once those costumes are ready to roll, take them for a spin at the “Hallowe’en and Zombie Walk” being presented Sat, Oct 29 by Rosson House Museum at historic Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix (also home to the Arizona Science Center — and close to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix).

Lizabeth, age 8, doing her corpse bride thing. Early signs of an acting bent, perhaps?

The 2-10pm event — which benefits the Rosson House Museum — features live music, children’s activities, costume contests, historic Hallowe’en games, food court and more. The walk itself, a wonderful alternative to traditonal “trick or treat” jaunts, begins at 6pm.

With three kids in college now, my days of sewing Halloween costumes are long gone. But I never tire of seeing what other children, who clamor eagerly at my front door for candy, come up with.

Jennifer, by the way, is still rocking the hippie vibe today.

— Lynn

Note: “Pay-what-you-wish” tickets for “A Conversation with Edith Head” are limited. Visit the Actors Theatre website at www.atphx.org for details. Learn more about the show at www.edithhead.biz. Find the Phoenix Art Museum online at www.phxart.org. And learn more about Invisible Theatre Company in Tucson at www.invisibletheatre.com. Reach the Rosson House Museum at www.rossonhousemuseum.org.

Coming up: Audition tales

Art adventures: Town of Gilbert

When summer temperatures soared last week, my 21-year-old son Christopher went online to search for fun places we could explore away from the heat — and found something I’d never heard of during my nearly three decades of living in the Valley.

It’s called the Gilbert Riparian Preserve. The preserve is located at Water Ranch in the town of Gilbert, within easy walking distance of the Southeast Regional Library. The preserve “was created in 1986 to provide open space, educational and recreational opportunities while reusing the town’s effluent water.”

Click here to begin your own exploration of the Riparian Institute — which offers all sorts of public, youth/scout and school programs. Think bird walks, garden tours and more. The preserve is also home to the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, which makes for a fun family outing on Friday or Saturday night.

After walking through the preserve, some time in the cool Southeast Regional Library was just what we needed. The library was bustling with families shopping for bargains at the Friends bookstore, admiring a giant dollhouse and searching for fun summer reads together.

Teens sat curled up with books in the “Teen Oasis” while children enjoyed a LEGO class or other hands-on activities. I scoured the library for news of upcoming events, and learned that the Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance Theatre will perform in the library’s assembly room Tues, June 21, at both 10am and 11:30am.

Event materials describe the drum and dance group as “a captivating performing arts company that offers a glimpse of West African culture through performance of drumming, dancing, singing, and storytelling.”

Other upcoming events include “Kids Summer Movies” (Thurs, July 14, 21 & 28 at 2pm) and the “Flat Stanley Puppet Show” Tues, July 26 at 10:15am and 11:30am (presented by SRP). Call 602-652-3000 before you go for all the fine print about tickets and such because space is limited.

Head to the library and preserve this summer if your kids start feeling restless. You can explore the preserve, then hit the library to find related books (the library has a special list of offerings on animals, birds, butterlies/moths/insects, plants and reptiles/snakes).

Or follow a trip to the library with one of two preserve hiking options (a 1/2 mile concrete path and a 1-1.2 mile hike through preserve habitats). You’ll find maps in a wooden box near the preserve entrance, though we did just fine without one the day we visited. I look forward to returning one day to explore the observatory.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

— Lynn

Note: Always check event details like location/directions, hours of operation and cost before attending. For a comprehensive list of family-friendly events, check the online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine daily.

Coming up: More art meets science

Puppetry meets Tony Awards®

Handspring Puppet Company will receive a special Tony Award on June 12 for puppets used in the Tony nominated play titled War Horse (Photo by Joan Marcus)

It’s tempting to associate puppetry with preschoolers, especially when you’re a Valley parent whose children first encountered the art form attending shows by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix.

Their production of “The Three Little Pigs,” recommended for ages “pre-K and up” runs through this Sunday, so folks with children who’ve yet to experience a live puppet show can check it out this weekend.

But the Great Arizona Puppet Theater knows that adults appreciate good puppetry too. Hence they offer monthly “Puppet Slams” — adults-only shows that they describe as “quirky” and “edgy.” (This month’s slams take place June 3 & 4.)

Cast members and puppets from the Phoenix Theatre production of Avenue Q

Puppets — and those who conceive, design, build and operate them — rarely get the credit they deserve. Creating puppets is an art form, and operating them a skilled blend of artistry and athleticism. Just ask the cast from Phoenix Theatre’s recent production of “Avenue Q.” I’m told even their fittest actors worked some body parts much harder than you might expect while venturing into puppet land.

Valley actress Manda Lee Blunt will soon be learning by doing in the puppetry department as she performs with (and without) a puppet in the upcoming Hale Children’s Theatre production of “Little Shop of Horrors” — being performed at the Gilbert venue this summer (and best, they tell me, for ages 12 & up).

I chatted Friday afternoon with producers assistant Cameron Tryon, who shared that they’ll be using four different puppets in the show. One of the show’s main characters is a plant that grows, and ultimately envelopes one of the show’s human characters. So the final puppet has to be substantial in size.

Puppetry in theater isn’t new, but it’s still rather rare. Broadway works incorporating puppets include not only “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Avenue Q” but also “The Sound of Music” and “The Lion King” — all musicals.

The Lion King, another Tony Award winner, features several types of animal puppets

But there’s a play on Broadway now that features life-size horse puppets. It’s called “War Horse” and it’s nominated for five Tony Awards® — for best play, best direction of a play, best scenic design of a play, best lighting design of a play and best sound design of a play.

The puppets used in “War Horse,” which is based on a novel of the same name, were created by master puppeteers at the Cape Town-based Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa. An article available on the Tony Awards® website notes that they’re crafted of cane, wire and fabric.

Handpsring Puppet Company will receive a Special Award at this year’s Tony Awards® — which will be broadcast on CBS on Sun, June 12. I’d love to catch the play when I’m in NYC helping Lizabeth get settled into college life, but have plenty of puppet-related theater to enjoy here in the Valley in the meantime.

Blakeley Slaybaugh as Pinocchio in the musical Shrek (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Though no puppetry will be used in the Hale Children’s Theatre production of “Pinocchio” opening Sat, June 11, I’m still eager to see the show. This tale of a wooden puppet who longs to become a real boy is one of my favorite works of children’s theater because it’s full of fascinating characters and lends itself to wonderfully imaginative sets, costumes and props.

My daughter Jennifer, now 20, performed in a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Pinocchio” more than ten years ago — so the show has sentimental appeal. It’s perfect for introducing children to live theater, and great fun to couple with frequent reading of the story about the little puppet with big dreams.

Theater Works in Peoria began adding “Puppet Works” shows just this season, so they’re another local resource for families who want to explore the live theater/puppetry mix.

Be ready to make your own puppets at home once you get back from seeing these shows. Theater inspires creativity long after the curtain closes, so stock up now on craft supplies like popsicle sticks, yarn, googly eyes, markers, construction paper and pom poms that you can turn into puppets or other characters.

War Horse is nominated for Best Play and four other Tony Awards (Photo by Joan Marcus)

And take a peek at the “War Horse” website. There’s more to puppetry than animating old white socks.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about a book titled “Handspring Puppet Company,” which explores their philosophy of puppetry and technical innovations. The book (at right) includes essays by theater professionals and writers who have collaborated with the company — and features numerous photos of the company’s work.

Coming up: Valley venue holds Tony Awards® contest

Puppets for grown-ups?

Great Arizona Puppet Theater is well known for offering good clean fun for children. Little Red Riding Hood. Goldilocks. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Rapunzel. But did you know it also offers adults-only puppet slams, perhaps best described as simply good fun?

If you’re 18 or older, head over to the puppet theater in Phoenix at 8pm tonight (Aug 6) or tomorrow (Aug 7) for “quirky edgy puppet shows by Arizona’s leading quirky edgy puppeteers.”

Younger puppet patrons can enjoy “Two Bad Mice” through Aug 22 (10am Wed-Fri, 10am and 2pm Sat, 2pm Sun)–and “Baby Bear Goes to School” opening Aug 25.

If your aim is escaping the Valley’s heat, you can hit the “2010 Prescott Film Festival” being held Aug 6-8 at Yavapai Performance Hall and various downtown locations.

Fare includes “innovative comedy, daring drama, thought provoking documentaries and a slate of Native American Films.

Music lovers can enjoy a free concert by The DelRayz on Aug 6 at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

Dance fans can enjoy a free “Night With the Artists” presented by Terpsicore Dance Company of Scottsdale on Aug 6 at the Madison Event Center in Phoenix. The event features a performance (8pm and 9:30pm) and the opportunity to meet many visual and performing artists (including an opera singer and metal sculptor).

“Dancing in the Heights,” which features dancers from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of America, takes place Aug 7 at 2pm at Tempe Center for the Arts–and benefits the Arizona Multiple Sclerosis Society.

If you’re a theater buff who also happens to be an Arizona Diamondback season ticket holder, you can take advantage of a special offer to see the Arizona Broadway Theatre production of the musical comedy titled “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” running through Sept 29.

Other theater options include “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun” or “The Little Mermaid” at Hale Centre Theatre and more.

For a bit of family-friendly cabaret-style fun, head over to Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale Aug 6 or 7 for a concert featuring songs from popular musicals sung by Valley favorites including Toby Yatso.

Visit the Raising Arizona Kids magazine online calendar for “on stage” and “on exhibit” listings featuring family-friendly performing arts and visual arts opportunities–and remember to check all those fun details like cost and age recommendations before you go.

If you know of something wonderful happening in the Valley or state this weekend with an arts focus and a family-friendly feel, feel free to share it with our readers in the comment section below.

Perhaps the finest art of all is sharing the arts with others…


Note: Hale has a limited number of $10 children’s tickets for “Annie Get Your Gun” performances before Aug 14–for phone/in-person orders only (no online discount available).

Coming up: News from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona theaters featuring performances by people with disabilities, Photos from the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Creative Stages Youth Theatre season preview