Tag Archives: puppet Works

Need a puppet fix?

Enjoy Big Bug Circus at Great Arizona Puppet Theater in May

It’s Theater Works meets Puppet Works in Peoria as Pinocchio takes to the stage. The company’s Youth Works presents “Pinocchio” March 9-25 at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, and children can enjoy a Pinocchio-theme puppet show every Saturday this month at either 10:30am or noon.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents a series of puppet shows in coming months — each held on a Saturday at 11am at the EVCT rehearsal studio in Mesa. They’ll perform “Bird Brains” March 31, “Hoppy Hearts” April 28 and “Summer Smiles” May 26.  Their next theater production — “The Story of Hansel and Gretel” featuring book by Vera Morris, and music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur — runs June 14-24.

Puppetry is always plentiful at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, which is featured in the “American Puppet Theaters 2012 Calendar” along with 11 other groups including Puppeteers of America, the Owl Glass Puppet Center, Melchior Marionettes, Puppetry Arts Institute and more.

The Three Little Pigs in Party Mode at Great Arizona Puppet Theater

Great Arizona Puppet Theater presents several works during March and April — including “Jack and the Beanstalk” (March 7-18), “Jack Rabbit & The Easter Basket” (March 21-April 8) and “The Metamorphisis of Karaghiozis” (May 2-6). The latter features “hilarious traditional Greek shadow puppets by guest artist Leonidas Kassapides.

The third Saturday in April is the “National Day of Puppetry” so GAPT plans a day full of puppet shows, activities and celebration on April 21. For grown-ups, GAPT offers several adult “puppet slams” each year featuring content too “edgy and quirky” for folks under 18.

Great Arizona Puppet Theater performs “Jack Rabbit and the Desert Tortoise” on April 28 at Higley Center for the Performing Arts. It’s one of more than ten desert theme shows they offer. Others include “Canyon Condor,” “Oh, Coyote!,” “Hotel Saguaro” and “Zoner & The Drip.”

Other GAPT shows suitable for younger audiences include “Big Bug Circus” (May 9-27), “Little Red Riding Hood” (May 30-June 17), “The Three Wishes” (June 20-July 1), “Goldilocks” (June 5-15), ” Old Macdonald” (Jul 18-Aug 5) and “The Princess, the Unicorn, and the Smelly Foot Troll” (Aug 8-26).

Characters from Jack Rabbit and the Desert Tortoise at Great Arizona Puppet Theater

Princess Harriet is having a “Unicorn Party” Aug 26, and young puppet lovers are invited to dress as a princess or troll to enjoy an afternoon of “themed activities, character appearances, and tasty cake.” You can also arrange to use “Peter’s Party Room” at GAPT when your child’s own birthday rolls around.

Upcoming fare at GAPT also includes “Baby Bear Goes to School” (Aug 29-Sept 16), “Hansel and Gretel” (Sept 19-Oct 7) and “Little Bunny’s Halloween” (Oct 10-28). While you’re there, check out their nifty gift shop complete with tabletop puppet theaters, finger puppets, marionettes, hand puppets and my personal favorite — Peepers!

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn how you can support GAPT by attending “Community Night Out With The Suns” on April 7

Coming up: Transformation tales


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

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

Gilbert & Sullivan on Valley stages

Kids Alive at Theater Works in Peoria is performing H.M.S. PINAFORE by Gilbert & Sullivan May 17, 20 & 23

When I learned from Theater Works in Peoria that their “Kids Alive” program was readying to perform “H.M.S. Pinafore,” an operetta by the famed team of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, I went in search of Gilbert & Sullivan lore.

Soon I was exploring the “Learn About Opera” section of the Arizona Opera website — which has three nifty sections: 1) interactive games, 2) composers and 3) backstage pass. I clicked on composer bios and uncovered all sorts of gems about “G & S.” I also revisited the “Gilbert and Sullivan” chapter of Kathleen Krull’s “Lives of the Great Musicians.”

Gilbert and Sullivan created works that include “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” and “The Mikado” — and they were the darlings of 1880s theater in England. Their work is brisk and biting, but always good-natured and fun.

Theater Works’ “Kids Alive” performs “H.M.S. Pinafore” Tues, May 17 and Mon, May 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are just $5 at the door. They’ve also announced a “performance for special needs patrons” on Fri, May 20 at 10am, noting that “a donation of $2/person is requested.”

“Kids Alive,” a program of the company’s youth theater (“Youth Works”), is a “performing group of children that travel to different venues to entertain and inspire the community by singing, dancing and performing short plays.”

Both “Theater Works” and “Youth Works” perform at Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, an intimate facility with several small theaters that enable them to present more than one work at any given time.

If you head to Theater Works June 10-12, you can see Yolanda London (a member of the acting company at Childsplay in Tempe) perform the role of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” — presented by Theater Works and the Black Theatre Troupe of Phoenix. London is a nuanced, versatile actress who “brings it” every single time she’s on that stage.

The 2011/12 line-up for “Theater Works” includes “Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet,” “The King & I,” “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,” “The Dixie Swim Club,” “A Little Night Music” and “All Through the Night.”

Their 2011/12 “Youth Works” productions include “Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland,” “Hairspray,” and “Pinocchio.” Also for youth, three “Puppet Works” productions — “Trick or Treat!,” “Saving Santa” and “The Magical Adventures of Pinocchio.”

Reading about Gilbert & Sullivan is almost as fun as seeing their work performed on stage

If you discover, after seeing the “Kids Alive” production of “H.M.S. Pinafore,” that a single “Gilbert & Sullivan” offering isn’t enough for you, head to Chandler-Gilbert Community College next month for their production of “The Mikado” — which runs June 24-29 at the CGCC Performing Arts Center in Chandler.

The works of Gilbert & Sullivan are a fun introduction to the “operetta” genre — a sort of middle ground between musical theater and opera. Even if it’s not your thing, a bit of time spent with Gilbert & Sullivan will up your arts and culture I.Q. more than most things you can access with a mere remote control.

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about Gilbert & Sullivan, read Carolyn Williams’ new book titled “Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody” (part of the “Gender and Culture Series”). Or enjoy “The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan” by Jonah Winter (pictured above).

Coming up: Ten minute plays

Update: Eight, Arizona PBS will broadcast a new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore” from the Guthrie Theater Fri, Oct 14 at 9pm. It’s followed by an episode of “Arizona ArtsBeat” at 11:30pm.

Avenue G?

Fond as I am of the racy Broadway musical “Avenue Q,” I know most parents would feel more comfortable with a puppet show set on “Avenue G” — a place where the Internet is for puppies rather than porn, and puppets drink apple juice instead of Long Island iced tea.

So I went in search of puppet shows that are perfectly suitable for children, and found several options for Valley families…

Christopher Michael is a puppet who learns to recycle in a show opening soon at Theater Works/Puppet Works

Theater Works’ Puppet Works presents a new play titled “Christopher Michael Who Wouldn’t Recycle” by Jeremiah Clay Neil and Louis Farber.

The work, designed for ages 3-6, combines music, poetry and puppetry to tell the story of a boy who “learns the value of recycling from a magical time traveling Recyclerbot named Rocky.”

“Christopher Michael Who Wouldn’t Recycle” opens Sat, March 19 at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. It’s a 35 minute show that’s followed by a talk back with puppeteers about recycling, the puppets and the art of puppeteering.

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix performs “Rumpelstiltskin” through April 3 — then opens “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” on April 6 and “The Monkey & The Pirate” on April 27.

They’ll perform “Canyon Condor” at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts April 28-30, and open “The Three Little Pigs” back at their own puppet theater on May 11.

An online study guide for “The Three Little Pigs” is already available online. It features information about the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, the show and the puppets — and notes ways the show relates to various arts standards for Arizona schools.

The study guide suggests pre- and post-show activities that parents or teachers can share with students, but my favorite part by far is the page students (or whimsical grown-ups) can use for coloring or making their own rod puppets.

One of my best investments as a young parent was a sturdy stand-up puppet theater my children often used to create and stage their own shows. I’ve long been a believer in the power of puppetry to fuel imagination, language skills, creativity, social skills and more.

Keep an eye out for puppet shows at local children’s museums, libraries, bookstores and community centers — as well as the venues noted above. Think puppet shows for playdates and birthday parties, and keep simple craft supplies for making puppets on hand for rainy or sick days.

Who knows — maybe puppets can even make the world a more playful, and more peaceful, place.

— Lynn

Note: The Great Arizona Puppet Theater also performs adult only “puppet slams.” Theater Works also offers theater productions for adults and youth.

Coming up: Opera everywhere!

Puppetry & playwriting

Playwright Geoffrey Gonsher found early inspiration in Howdy Doody, pictured here with Buffalo Bob

I’ve accompanied my three children to well over a hundred birthday parties through the years, but the memory of one party in particular still makes me smile.

It was for a young boy named Aaron who, along with his older brother Charles and the rest of the family, loved spending time at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix.

“For years it was our Saturday morning home,” recalls their father Geoffrey Gonsher.

I learned from Gonsher just yesterday that Aaron is now in New York studying and practicing the craft of theater criticism, while Charles works in the financial sector in Boulder, Colorado.

Their dad is a playwright who’ll present his latest work tonight (Sat, Nov 6) at Playhouse on the Park in Phoenix.

I met Gonsher when our children attended Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley — where children love reading in the desert, performing for peers and parents each Friday, and taking all sorts of arts-related field trips.

They even study art with Sonja Saar, Valley fiber artist and wife of Childsplay founder David Saar.

I reconnected with Gonsher after seeing his name on the list of playwrights participating in tonight’s “An Evening of New Works” (hosted by Phoenix Theatre in association with the Dramatists Guild of America) and called him Friday morning to ask about his work.

He’s presenting “Dinner at Six” — a short comedic piece that grew out of a larger dramatic play.

“Above all,” shares Gonsher, “it is a play about relationships.” Gonsher urges playwrights young and old to write what they know, and he’s followed his own advice here by writing about middle-aged men and their mothers.

His own favorite playwrights include Rod Serling, best known for the original “Twilight Zone” television series.

If you’re even a fraction as intrigued as I am, head to the Playhouse on the Park tonight to enjoy this — and several other short works — for yourself.

An audience discussion and Q & A session will follow the performance of each work, so patrons can offer input and playwrights can benefit from audience feedback.

The esteemed list of playwrights participating this evening also includes Theatre Artists Studio member and Raising Arizona Kids magazine contributor Debra Gettleman, who’ll present a work titled “I Just Killed Mickey Rooney.”

Gettleman honed her writing craft during a “Mothers Who Write” class with Amy Silverman (Phoenix New Times) and Deborah Sussmann Susser (Jewish News of Greater Phoenix), and she’s especially skilled in dry wit and “unmotherly insights.”

I asked Gonsher about other works he’s written — which include “The Twelve Nights of Political Christmas” and “Border Patrol.” His first work, it seems, was a puppet show written on the occasion of his own 60th birthday.

The piece, titled “Dilly Dally,” was a gift to his two sons — and it was coupled with a monetary gift that became the “Dilly Dally Fund” managed by Arizona Community Foundation.

Gonsher admits there weren’t many folks in attendance for the puppet show, held at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater (which Gonsher describes as “one of the treasures of Arizona”).

But he filled the empty seats with stuffed animals and puppets his sons enjoyed during their youth. The stars were his own original Howdy Doody puppets.

I shared with Gonsher my most recent trip to the Great Arizona Puppet Theater — during which I enjoyed 14 short puppet shows written by students in grades 2 through 8 at Kenilworth Elementary School in Phoenix.

The show, titled “Imagine This!,” took place Thursday evening and it was a true delight. You can enjoy it yourself through Sun, Nov 7.

A giraffe teased by others for his unusually long neck. A worm named “Lulu” that cut back to just one cupcake a day in order to make it through a tunnel in the ground. A mischievious bear who came alive at night only to leave his young owner’s toys in complete disarray. A competition of sorts between a real chicken and a robotic one.

Bigotry and bullying. Nature versus machine. Healthy habits and wellbeing. These students tackled some pretty big topics with a playful innocence that trumps the preachiness of some adult works.

I felt honored to be among some of the Valley youngest, and greatest, playwrights.

I’ll share a bit more about my “Imagine This!” experience in a future post. For now, I leave you with Gonsher’s advice for playwrights young and old.

“Write,” says Gonsher. “Write no matter what it is or how good it is, and do it as often as possible.”

“Write what you know,” adds Gonsher. Don’t struggle to research something far from your own life. “Write about your own life, your own struggles, your own relationships,” he says.

“There are stories there,” muses Gonsher, “and this is what people can relate to.”

— Lynn

Note: Valley resources for aspiring playwrights include a playwriting contest presented by East Valley Children’s Theatre, one of several resident performing arts companies of the Mesa Arts Center. A new Valley resource for puppet performance art is Puppet Works at Theater Works in Peoria, which mounts its first show in December.

Coming up: Playwriting opportunities for children and teens