Tag Archives: SCC

“I Am Van Gogh”

Plenty of people have toured the “Van Gogh Alive” exhibition that’s running through June 17 at the Arizona Science Center, but reactions to the multi-media presentation of Van Gogh’s work and words vary. I stood in a single spot for a very long time, reading Van Gogh quotes projected onto an otherwise blank wall. Pasha Yamotahari recalls heading for a corner — looking at the silhouettes of people lingering in front of towering screens featuring rotating images of Van Gogh paintings and related fare. Yamotahari says he was struck by “people standing frozen in time with something timeless.” And then it hit him.

“Hey,” he recalls thinking to himself. “I wrote something about Van Gogh some time ago.” The exhibit conjured memories of a screenplay written about eight years ago when Yamotahari was studying theatre, film and television at Scottsdale Community College. It was about a little’s boy first museum experience, which included an unexpected encounter with one of Van Gogh’s paintings. He pictured Van Gogh coming alive to interact with the boy, but felt at the time that staging such a thing would be rather tricky. Hence the choice to write it as a screenplay.

But times are changing in theater world, as new technologies make all sorts of things more doable. Yamotahari knows this better than most as a member of the artistic staff for Phoenix Theatre, where he’s been known to wear lots of hats. He holds both an AAFA in theatre arts and film/TV from SCC and a BA in journalism from ASU’s Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix — but his talents also include directing, dramaturgy and more.

For years he’s been part of bringing Phoenix Theatre’s “Hormel New Works Festival” to life. But this year, he’s adding another hat — presenting a sit-down reading of his own full-length play called “I Am Van Gogh.” It’s an adaptation of his earlier screenplay reworked after that “Aha!” moment at the Arizona Science Center. His is one of two sit-down readings that’s free and open to the public.

Playwright Pasha Yamotahari still treasures this book his mother gave him

Yamotahari’s mother gave him a book during high school that contained letters written by Van Gogh. Yamotahari remembers reading it — fascinated that someone so gifted achieved success only after his death and curious about why so few people recognized Van Gogh’s greatness when the artist was alive. Nowadays it gives him pause to consider what counts as true greatness in the arts, to wonder about the ways we define success and to live with the ambiguity of never really knowing where one’s devotion to art might lead.

“I Am Van Gogh” runs about two hours and features four actors playing close to 20 characters. The play imagines a young son of devout parents who’s magically taken inside a painting where he meets Van Gogh. The artist tells the boy it’s his destiny to be the next Van Gogh, something complicated by the fact that 8-year-old Marc is simply “not that good at painting.”

Yamotahari was born in Iran but his family fled to France around the time of the Iranian Revolution, later moving to Toronto. Play goers meet Marc as an eight year old because that’s the age when Yamotahari first saw a Van Gogh work at a small gallery in Nice. Also because children develop rich memories around that age. Yamotahari notes that Marc “sees Van Gogh throughout his life pushing him.” Marc finds his destiny, but it’s not without sacrifice.

Knowing that Van Gogh is on most short lists of artists who lived with mental illness, I asked Yamotahari whether he’d integrated the issue into the play. Yamotahari notes that the more he worked with the protagonists, the more he realized that some artists feel the only way to truly reach art is to lose their mind. He describes it as “putting themselves in a constant state of pseudo-insanity.” Sometimes it’s merely an artist’s “obsession with a piece that gets misconstrued as mental illness.”

Though we don’t have works of Van Gogh here in the Valley, Yamotahari’s been able to study the artist’s works online via the “Google Art Project” featuring artworks from 17 of the world’s great art museums. Yamotahari recalls reading the words of Van Gogh, which felt fluid early on but changed somehow as if madness was brewing — especially near the end of Van Gogh’s life.

Yamotahari says he’s fondest of Van Gogh works depicting cornfields, and thinks it’s “cool to zoom in and see those brush strokes.” If you look closely enough, says Yamotahari, you’ll see mistakes — even moments of rage and passion. The playwright wants those who see “I Am Van Gogh” to wonder about the difference between destiny and free will. But don’t expect easy answers. Yamotahari hopes the play will “evoke ambiguity and mystery.”

— Lynn

Note: The 2012 “Hormel New Works Festival” takes place July 8-22. Click here to explore selections and learn about a related art contest. Click here to explore the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Coming up: Art meets asylum, James Garcia talks playwriting and social justice, Drawing a diary


Images in motion

Angela Rosencrans of Scottsdale Community College is one of several teachers being honored Friday by the Scottsdale Charros — but she’s also plenty busy preparing for this weekend’s “Images in Motion” dance performance at SCC — which features “original compositions of athleticism and artistry in many dance genres.” The event takes place Fri, April 27 and Sat, April 28 at 8pm at the SCC Performing Arts Center.

Rosencrans holds a BFA in dance from Centenary College in Louisiana and an MFA in dance performance and choreography from San Houston State University. She currently serves as dance program director for SCC, and will be receiving the Art DeCabooter SCC Teacher of the Year award named after a longtime president of SCC who’s now retired.

Dance is plentiful around these parts in coming days and weeks, as evidenced by these selections noted in the Arizona Dance Coalition’s April newsletter:

  • NYC-based DanceBrazil at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Thurs, April 26 at 7:30pm and Fri, April 27 at 8pm.
  • GCU Dance Concert at Grand Canyon University. April 27 & 28 at 7:30pm.
  • GCC Dance Benefit at Glendale Community College. Fri, April 27 at 6pm. Followed by GCC Dance: AEROS Spring Dance Concert at 7:30pm.
  • SIMPLY PUT by AZDance. Sat, April 28 at 2pm (Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center in Scottsdale) and Sun, April 29 at 2pm (Paradise Valley Community College Center for the Performing Arts in Phoenix).

A little something with a Kick-A vibe from Scorpius Dance Theatre

Come May, you can enjoy the first choreographer showcase from Scorpius Dance Theatre. They’ll present “Kick-A” — which features works by more than a dozen choreographers from Arizona and California, plus five new works by director/choreographer Lisa Starry — May 3-5 at Phoenix Little Theatre.

To find additional dance events in your area, check the calendars of local performing arts venues, schools and colleges, and the Arizona Dance Coalition. For additional family-friendly events with an arts and culture spin, check print or online calendars from Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

— Lynn

Note: Are you a parent with questions about finding the best dance education and experiences for your child? Send them to me at poisedpen@cox.net and you may find them included in a book I’m writing with a local dancer and dance educator.

Coming up: Once upon a dress rehearsal, Fresh art for new plays, A couple of crafty chicks

I feel the earth move

My relationship to the earth is changing. When post-knee surgery instructions included “no kneeling” and “no squatting,” I suspected my gardening days were behind me. But once my son Christopher — raised on nature walks and front yard veggie gardening — reminded me about an upcoming native plant sale, I resolved to get a bit back into the swing of things.

He’s lobbied me for years about making the transition to gardening with native plant species, puzzled by my attempts to explain the meaning behind other sorts of plants I’ve embraced through the years. Most remind me of places lived before moving to the desert — all located near forests where I feel most at home.

But water is scarce, and so too is time. Using native species makes practical sense — and I can only hope some measure of true inspiration for desert gardening will worm its way into my heart. Cactus never really cut it for me. This feels like the first time I’ve noticed that the darn things actually blossom for a spell.

I took a trusty rake to my long overgrown garden yesterday in a botantical spin on “out with the old and in with the new.” It broke off near the tines, apparently angry over all those seasons of neglect. But the little stub that remained was enough to get the job done. I’ve got a clean slate, a fresh palette. And the will to feel the earth move.

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This morning we strolled through the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park. And I’ll be hitting the plant sale at the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife at Scottsdale Community College later this week (Thurs and Fri 9am-1pm in Toad Hall, and open to the public). It’s a fitting way to celebrate Earth Day, which plenty of other folks will be doing this month at various Valley venues — from the Desert Botanical Garden to Phoenix Zoo.

Folks who favor the feel of playing in the dirt while keeping their own hands clean are eager to witness the unfolding of a new Desert Botanical Garden/Ballet Arizona collaboration called “Topia” — which’ll blossom beyond the traditional stage during its May 2-26 run at the garden. Choreographer Ib Andersen (artistic director for Ballet Arizona) is both dancer and visual artist, so I’m eager to experience his marriage of nature with movement.

Those who like their celebrations on the cooler side can head to Valley theaters for the Earth Day premiere of Disneynature’s “Chimpanzee.” Also Arizona libraries, colleges and museums offering special Earth Day fare. I’d love to list them all for you here, but I’ve spent far too much time at my laptop of late. It’s time I feel the earth move.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to find Earth Day celebrations and other family-friendly events featured in the Raising Arizona Kids magazine calendar (and to learn how you can submit calendar items to the magazine).

Coming up: Human rights and human rites

Photos: Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park

The circle of theater

Kylie Cochrane (Laura), Rebecca Steiner (Beatrice) and Scotlyn Mascarelli (Sara) backstage after Saturday's matinee performance of William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker" at Scottsdale Community College

Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation.” Elton John’s “The Circle of Life.” Even Shakespeare-in-the-round and the Roundabout Theatre Company. Theater is full of circles — some dizzying, some delightful. But I had another sort of circle in mind when heading out for a performance of William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker.”

The circle from child to adult, from teacher to mentor, from one mother to another. When high school felt torturous, theater was our daughter Lizabeth’s salvation. And Valley actress Maren Maclean, then teaching at Arizona School for the Arts, was there for her. To teach, to coach, to listen, to uplift and to embrace. I’ll never forget it.

Today I headed up to Scottsdale Community College for the matinee performance of “The Miracle Worker” so I could see Maclean’s daughter Scotlyn perform, knowing Liz would be right there with me if she could beam herself back from college acting studies in NYC. Our girls first met many years ago, and my how they’ve grown since.

Victoria Grace (L, Helen Keller) poses after the show with Sierra -- who brought lovely flowers to congratulate Grace on her performance

SCC  is another one of our circles. Our son Christopher earned his degree there and continues to take classes in career-related offerings, also working and volunteering with the school’s Center for Native and Urban Wildlife. It was actually Christopher who reminded me to hit “The Miracle Worker” — I kept feeling like late March was worlds away. The world spins quickly when we’re not watching.

Lizabeth also trained for two summers with Maclean — plus SCC theatre arts chair Randy Messersmith and other theater professionals — in the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, which celebrates its 25th season this summer. Auditions for the five-week program are open to folks ages 16 + and this year’s auditions take place Sat, April 21.

SCT “provides students with an opportunity to earn up to 10 semester hours of college credit while studying with professional actors who are currently working in their field.” This year’s program runs from May 29-July 3. The twenty students selected to participate will enjoy classes in stage movement, mask, voice and diction, and text analysis.

Carrie Rockwell (L, Aunt Ev) and John Viliott (Captain Keller) pose after Saturday's matinee of SCC's "The Miracle Worker"

The program’s founder and former director, Pamela Fields, will be teaching a master class in Anton Chekhov acting technique, and the college will be producing “The Good Doctor” by Neil Simon. I first met Fields while we were fellow ASU Gammage Goers, and recall being wowed by her theater expertise, insightful sense of humor and warm spirit. (I wasn’t yet in RAK “Stage Mom” mode.)

I suppose the circle is growing into something of a line at this point. Actually several of them. I’ll be following one to Mesa Arts Center for the April 19-May 5 run of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which features Jesse James Kamps and Maren Maclean as Benedick & Beatrice. I last encountered these characters during a Childsplay summer camp performance, which made me adore “Ado” even more.

The circle started long ago at Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley, where Lizabeth and fellow students enjoyed rich experiences in arts and academics. Lizabeth first took to the stage in Greasepaint Youththeatre productions of “Tom Sawyer” and “The King and I” (turns out a fellow actor from the latter is now a swing in “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway).

I remember her absolute delight — and that of her sister Jennifer (who performed with great aplomb in “Pinocchio” and “Hansel and Gretel” at Greasepaint) — when teachers came to see her perform, and made time after to chat about the experience and ask for autographs. Today it was my turn to make a little girl’s day, though Scotlyn hardly needed the encouragement. No time for autographs when you’ve got another show to prepare for. Your last chance to see SCC’s production of “The Miracle Worker” is tonight at 7:3opm.

Grace (L) posing with Bonanni after Saturday's matinee

It’s a lovely, charming piece directed with finesse by Ron Bonanni. The script is absolutely beautiful — and a real delight for those of us whose passion for words mirrors that of teacher Annie Sullivan. You’ll know both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan better for seeing it, and you’ll be impressed with the professionalism of this production — which features scenic design by Alex Keen and costume design by Elizabeth Peterson. It’s produced by Randy Messersmith.

Kirsten Zollars (Anne Sullivan), Victoria Grace (Helen Keller) and Christopher Masucci (James Keller) gave especially strong performances — and each excels at showing their character’s smart and saucy side. I especially enjoyed songs and spirituals sung throughout the play, and the playwright’s subtle digs at the politics and gender stereotypes of the time. That’s a whole other circle that just keeps turning.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for details about the application/audition process for this year’s Summer Conservatory Theatre at SCC. You can buy tickets for tonight’s performance of “The Miracle Worker” at the SCC Performing Arts Center at the door (SCC is located at 9000 E. Chaparral Rd.).

Coming up: A city inside a museum

Get out, get art!

After hitting just a single night of this year’s “Phoenix Film Festival,” I’m giving serious thought to running away from home. Not forever. Just through next Thursday when the festival comes to a close. With so many amazing offerings, it seems silly to drive back and forth from theater to laundry room and such.

All sorts of things caught my eye on this weekend’s festival schedule — including a free “Kids’ Day” for families presented by IFP Phoenix from 9am-2pm on Sat, March 31 (where you can also see three family films for just $5 each — including “Chimpanzee” from Disney at 1:05pm).

Also high school shorts, college shorts, animated shorts, a silent auction, a preview of Phoenix Comicon 2012 and plenty of live performance art by folks from Scorpius Dance Theatre to Carol Pacey & the Honey Shakers. Even workshops on topics like “Casting Indies” and “Life as an Indie Actor.”

A film titled “Kerry and Angie” that’s part of a Saturday morning “Arizona Showcase” is directed by Amanda Melby, head coach and owner at Verve Studios in Scottsdale — one of many performing arts groups to participate in this year’s RAK Camp Fair. Folks who attend the Actors Theatre production of “Body Awareness” at the Herberger Theater Center will get to see Melby in action.

Those seeking more family-friendly fare have another great option in the “Children’s Day & Kite Festival” taking place Sat, March 31 from 10am-3pm at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix — which features martial arts, games, food, face painting and other activities. Families are invited to wear kimonos and bring a kite along (or make kites during the festival). Best they not offer kimono-making. I would only embarrass myself.

Fans of Rodgers & Hammerstein can enjoy a double dose of musical theater this weekend as Greasepaint Youtheatre performs “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and The Phoenix Symphony performs “An Evening with Rodgers & Hammerstein” (don’t let the name “fool” you — Sunday’s show is actually a matinee). The latter is a collaboration with Phoenix Theatre featuring direction by Michael Barnard and a collection of vocalists that bears a startling resemblance to my list of favorite people.

Your last chance to see the Scottsdale Community College production of “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson is Sat, March 31 at 2pm and 7:30pm — and I happen to know first hand that at least one of the show’s young actors is cuter than the dickens. If acting is hereditary, she’s also rocking her role.

— Lynn

Note: Family-friendly activities are always available in print and online calendars from Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Coming up: Two of the most imporant hours of my life

Make some waves

Tile mural at the San Diego International Airport in California

The Phoenix Art Museum presents “Make Waves!” for teens who like to “mix, mingle and create” Fri, March 2 at 6:30pm. Youth who attend can create their own beach-ware accessories, hear sounds of the ocean and view sea-inspired garments during opening night for the museum’s newest fashion show, “The Sea.”

Mesa Community College Act I Musical Productions performs the musical “Rent” featuring book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson through Thurs, March 8 at Theatre Outback.

The Phoenix Municipal Art Collection has more than 1,000 works of art that’ll be featured in rotating exhibits in the newly renovated Gallery @ City Hall. Folks can get their first glimpse Fri, March 2, between 10am and 2pm — when the city unveils “Place: Images of the West,” which includes 23 paintings, photographs and prints from 21 artists inspired by western landscapes.

Scottsdale Community College opens its “13th Annual Spring Painting Exhibition” featuring more than 20 artists Fri, March 2. View the exhibition in the SCC art building Mon-Fri 8am-4pm or Sat 9am-3pm.

Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents the musical “Little Women” March 2-9 at the Arnette Scott Ward Performing Arts Center in Chandler. It’s based on the book by Louisa May Alcott, and features book by Allan Knee, music by Jason Howland and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein.

AZ Musicfest 2012 presents “From A to Z — Abba to Les Miz — Broadway’s Best” Sat, March 3 (a March 2 performance is sold out) at Scottsdale First Assembly. Nat Chandler and Teri Dale Hansen will be singing works from “Chicago,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent,” “Spamalot” and “Wicked.”

Scorpius Dance Theatre is looking ahead to their next performance of “A Vampire Tale” at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival this fall, raising funds for the trip through an all-day dance class marathon Sat, March 3 from 11am to 8pm. They’re offering hour-long master classes in ballet, modern technique, salsa/cha cha, centemporary jazz, burlesque and hip hop.

Tempe Center for the Arts presents a “Walk-in Artist Workshop” Sat, March 3. The “Plein Air Family Workshop with Ellen Waggener” takes place from noon to 4pm in the Gallery — where families can also enjoy an “Arizona Landscapes” exhibition.

The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and the Seventh Street Merchants Association unveil new artwork and poetry Sat, March 3 at 1:15pm during the “Melrose on Seventh Avenue Street Fair” (11am-5pm) in Phoenix. The works comprise series 8 of the “Seventh Street Streetscape.”

Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe presents a “Meet and Greet Booksigning” with Roxanna Green Sat, March 3 at 5pm. Green authored “As Good As She Imagined: The Redeeming Story of the Angel of Tucson, Christina-Taylor Green” after losing her daughter last January in the Tucson tragedy and now heads a foundation that bears her daughter’s name.

Arizona State University in Tempe holds an Arizona SciTech Festival event dubbed “Night of the Open Door” Sat, March 3 from 5-9pm. The Piper Writers House hosts author readings/book signings that night with Conrad Storad (author of more than 40 science and nature books for children and young adults) and Stephen J. Pyne (author of nearly two dozen books who specializes in history of the environment, exploration and fire).

Never fear if you’re over 21 but still eager to make waves. You can hit opening night for the “Phoenix Fringe Festival” Fri, March 2 — with offerings that include performance by Dulce Dance Company, a choreopoem presented by BlackPoet Ventures, a trio of short plays from Actors Alchemy and more.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to find additional events for families featured in the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine online calendar. Always check with venues before attending to confirm event details.

Coming up: Five freebies for families

The Miracle Worker

I once went a little overboard in the helping with a school project department. Jennifer got an assignment during elementary school that had something to do with creating a work of art about a famous person. The person was Helen Keller, and the project became a giant quilt of sorts with squares depicting various experiences in Keller’s life.

We’ve still got the nine-panel piece, framed in a beautiful mahogany-colored shadow box I’m afraid to hang because the darn thing is so heavy. I’ll have to give it another look, now that news of a local production of “The Miracle Worker” has crossed my path.

Turns out Scottsdale Community College is presenting the William Gibson work this semester, and holding auditions for select cast members early this week. Randy Messersmith, head of the SCC theatre arts department, is working to cast five girls ages five to 15 to portray five blind children in the play.

Playwright William Gibson based the 1957 play on Keller’s autobiography, titled “The Story of My Life” back in the good old days before every woman whose name starts with a K felt her life story needed 24/7 coverage.

“The Miracle Worker”opened on Broadway at the Playhouse Theatre in October of 1959 and earned the 1960 Tony Award for best play. It starred Patty Duke, who recently directed a production of “The Miracle Worker” for Interplayers Professional Theatre in Spokane, as Helen Keller. Plenty of productions, and a 1962 film, were done in between.

Most of us worry we’d never survive a day without luxuries like cars, televisions, computers and cell phones. It might be good for all of us to revisit the story of Helen Keller, who did just fine without the sight or hearing lost due to illness when she was just a toddler.

If you’re the parent of a young girl or teen who’d enjoy being part of SCC’s production of “The Miracle Worker,” take note of auditions scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday. They’re being held Jan. 30 from 6-9pm and Jan. 31 from 3:3o-7:30pm. Messersmith tells me auditioners can just show up — no appointment is needed.

No need for a monologue, adds Messersmith. Auditions consist of cold readings from the script. Auditions are being held at the SCC Performing Arts Center Mainstage, located at 9000 E. Chaparral Rd. in Scottsdale. Auditioners are asked to enter through the main lobby.

I hope the aspiring actors who take part will leave auditions feeling inspired to learn more about the life and times of Helen Keller. No quilting required.

— Lynn

Note: For comprehensive information about Valley auditions for youth and adults, visit Durant Communications at www.durantcom.com.

Coming up: The fine art of Valentine’s Day, Cell phones in the afterlife?, A trio of “39 Steps”

Artwork by Jenn Trimble (Photos by Lynn Trimble)