Tag Archives: sister cities

You had me at “cherry tree”

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There’s a small parking lot at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts that’s covered with yellow blossoms these days — dropped from the Palo Verde trees that bring a splash of color to the desert each spring. I’ve taken to imagining these trees are cherry blossoms, picturing them in pink instead of yellow, because I’m still learning to love the Arizona landscape — but cherry blossoms have always tugged at my heart.

I saw the season’s first cherry tree blossom inside the Brooklyn Botanic Garden earlier this month and get wistful for Washington, D.C. each time the cherry blossoms emerge. So when I learned that a new theater work titled “Sakura no Ne” (“Root of the Cherry Tree”) included footage of trees in bloom, I knew I had to see it. Folks who feel the same have just one more opportunity (April 22 at 2pm) to see the family-friendly production being performed at Theater Works in Peoria.

“Sakura no Ne” is part multi-media production, part performance art, part morality tale and part homage to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix (along with sister city Himeji in Japan). At times it has the feel of a fine work of theater for children. Other times it reads like a Japan-inspired version of “Riverdance” or “Stomp.” Everything about it is lovely, but it may need a bit more pruning as it evolves to reach wider audiences.

Children in the audience Saturday afternoon clearly loved the humor, drumming, martial arts component and digital projections. The 80-minute show also features diverse dance elements rarely scene on Valley stages. I chatted with a couple after the show, eager to see whether a storm scene filled with lightning and a fire-breathing serpent had scared their preschool-age son. “This is the first time he’s sat through an entire show,” they told me.

“Sakura no No” is the work of playwright Soji Kashiwagi (of Grateful Crane Ensemble) and music composer Scott Nagatani.  It’s directed by Dominik Rebilas. “Sakura no Ne” is produced by Yoshi Kumagai (who also serves as art director and fight choreographer) and Ken Koshio (who also serves as music director), sponsored by the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix and funded by a Sundome Performing Arts Association grant. Kumagai shared with me after the show that they’re hoping to present the work in additional Valley venues.

The show’s most dramatic element is drumming by Ken Koshio in the role of Ikazuchi (Thunder God). The cast also includes John Tang (Taro “Tama” Yamazajura), Urashima Taro, Old Man), Dale Nakagawa (Justin, Sea Turtle) and Sandy Harris (Haley, Sea Princess, Crane). Most delicate is Koshio’s title song, sung in Japanese and English with harmonica and guitar. I also enjoyed creations by Zarko Guerrero (mask and turtle outfit) and Derrick Suwaima Davis (crane feather outfit).

“Sakura no Ne” follows the adventures of two tween-age siblings — a boy rarely parted from his Nintendo and a girl attached to her cell phone. Think “I’m so bored” and “O-M-G.” They’re left one day at the Japanese Friendship Garden by parents hoping they’ll find a bit of bliss. But the pair finds something more — a renewed appreciation for nature, family and community. Even each other.

The simple storyline is punctuated by music, dance and martial arts performance. There’s traditional Japanese dance featuring Mari Kaneta (whose choreography and dance I enjoyed with daughter Lizabeth during the 1996 Arizona Opera production of “Madama Butterfly”), taiko drumming by Fushicho Daiko and Jakara, martial arts by a trio from Arizona Aikiko and dance by the ASU Japanese Student Association’s Soran Bushi Dancers. It all comes together in the service of a single message.

Only the cherry tree’s strong roots make its beautiful blossoms possible.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Strolling in Yukata” (taking place April 28 at the Japanese Friendship Garden) and here to learn about a new musical titled “Allegiance” (which explores the World War II experiences of a Japanese-American family).

Coming up: Another tree tale, Don’t cry for me Shakespeare?


Remembering Japan

I learned a bit of Japanese and followed the adventures of John Fulton in Japan last night after my daughter Jennifer invited me to watch an episode of one of her favorite television shows — the Discovery Channel’s “Must Love Cats.”

Turns out the episode featured all sorts of cat fare in Japan — including the story of a cat called Maneki Neko thought to bring good fortune, an island where cats exposed to radiation are cared for, and several cat cafes for cat-lovers who can’t enjoy cats in their own homes.

Knowing that it’s been a year since Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, Jennifer remarked that “we have our 9/11 and Japan has its 3/11.” Those eager to show solidarity with the people of Japan have several options, including donations to assist with ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts.

Also attending a “Special Anniversary Remembrance Event” being presented today by the Japanese Culture Club of Arizona. The 2pm event features the screening of a film titled “The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom,” which was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for short subject documentary.

This Arizona premiere screening takes place in the Arizona Historical Society’s Steele Auditorium, located at 1300 N College Ave. in Tempe. A charitable donation of $10 is suggested.

The Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix is accepting donations at its gift shop today to benefit earthquake and tnunami victims. It’s open from 10am to 3pm, and admission is $5. Upcoming events at the garden include the following:

March 23: Anime Night at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix — presented in partnership with the Himeji Sister Cities Committee

March 24: Taiko Experience 2012 with Fushicho Daiko Dojo (includes the opportunity to learn taiko with special ticket purchase)

March 31: Children’s Day (with Valley of the Sun Koi Club) at Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix

April 13-22: “Sakura no Ne” production at Theatre Works/Peoria Center for the Performing Arts

April 28: Strolling in Yukata (traditional Japanese attire)

They’ll hold “The Spirit of the Garden Anime/Manga Contest” (all ages welcome, but no mature content allowed) in early May.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about the Phoenix Sister Cities Program that includes Himeji, Japan.

Coming up: Celebrating National Poetry Month

Truckin’ through Tempe

I found myself “truckin’ through Tempe” today while searching for a new installation of public art along Mill Avenue. Six utility boxes between Rio Salado Parkway and 7th Street have been painted by artists whose designs also grace new library cards for Tempe Public Library patrons.

I spied the “Sonoran Afternoon” utility box painted by Bud Heiss on Feb. 4 first, because it’s on the same corner as the Shoe Mill — my favorite haunt when new shoes beckon, and a splendid place to fondle handbags I can scarcely afford.

While making my way up Mill Avenue to check out other utility boxes, I stopped to chat with a woman named Susan who was playing her violin along the street — but was soon distracted by a painted truck whizzing past so quickly I couldn’t catch a photo.

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I turned my attention to exploring other shops in the area — including a charming hole-in-the-wall bookstore called Old Town Books that reminded me of taking my babies to Changing Hands Bookstore back when it occupied a similar space along that very strip.

While there, I spied a book about Helen Keller — reminding me that “The Miracle Worker” opens later this month at Scottsdale Community College. I’ve no young children to buy such books for anymore, but snapped a picture that’ll help me rekindle memories of reading to my children when they were small.

I also lingered over artwork and furnishings with a vintage/retro vibe at Loft a Go Go, a shop I’ve been eager to explore since spotting it one evening on a hurried walk from parking structure to Stray Cat Theatre. Its diverse offerings include all sorts of goodies plastered with the likenesses of Elvis, Audrey and Marilyn.

I spotted a few more painted utility boxes in my travels, and one of the unpainted variety that made me appreciate the others even more. Colton Brock’s “Mill District” work is located near the light rail stop most convenient for folks eager to explore the Mill Avenue District.

Dawn DeVries Good’s “Be the Good,” painted on Feb. 6, sits at the corner of 6th Street and Mill Avenue. I’m saving others for another trip once my bum knee is on the mend. They include Lucretia Torva’s “Tempe Shine,” Oliverio Balcells’ “Tempe Roots” and Linda Parker’s “Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake.”

I was about to head home when I spotted the painted truck again — parked and perfectly primed for an impromptu photo session. As I suspected, it was covered with assorted paintings, each bearing the name and city/state of its creator. There was just a single catch — it was a beer truck. While I snapped photos, a driver for Crescent Crown Distributing did his delivery thing. To the restaurants, not the nearby dorms.

Then, after a successful dig for more parking meter change, I made one final stop — to a brick building called Hackett House that was once Tempe Bakery. Hackett House is home to the Tempe Sister Cities program, so folks who hit their gift shop or cooking classes can help a worthy cultural cause in the process.

I spotted all sorts of rabbits, chicks and other fare with a whimsical Easter vibe. Even a trio of ceramic “see, hear and speak no evil” bunnies. Also Raggedy Ann dolls, tiny tea sets in charming picnic baskets, richly textured scarves, accessories for wine lovers and glass flowers to hold birthday candles. Even plenty of bobbles and bling for those thinking ahead to Mother’s Day.

I’ve been truckin’ through Tempe for a good twenty years now. First pushing a stroller. Now strolling with camera in hand. It never gets old — thanks to book stores, beer trucks, bunnies and beyond.

— Lynn

Coming up: Sunday at Seton, Conversations with local artists, Poetry meets drumroll, A prophet tale

Celebrating Chinese Culture

Mahjong lessons. Kung fu demonstrations. A dragon boat display. All were part of the Phoenix Chinese Week’s “Culture and Cuisine Festival” at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix. I did a little exploring Sunday afternoon, and discovered all sorts of interesting people and programs.

Andre Mangum, a Phoenix boy who studies Kung Fu in Beijing, was there with his family spreading the word about the film recounting his journey from Arizona to China. Mom Margot was excited to share the news that Andre is making his first trip to St. Petersburg next month.

So was artist Michael Papaianni, who shared a  copy of his poem titled “Portraits” and a new poster he’s created called “China Mary.” He also introduced me to the director of a local Chines school. I found plenty of artworks at the festival — including tissue paper flowers, paintings and more. Also Chinese food and children’s arts and crafts with a Chinese theme.

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I enjoyed a lovely conversation with women volunteering at a booth for the Desert Jade Women’s Club, and picked up information about annual scholarships they award to graduating high school seniors of Chinese descent. Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, school and community involvement, and financial need. Applications are due March 10 and folks can learn more by calling Mary Tang (480-775-1990) or Barbara Yim (602-439-1162).

Phoenix Sister Cities also had a booth, highlighting the city’s ties to Chengdu, China. Other sister cities include Hermosillo (Mexico), Taipei (Taiwan), Jimeji (Japan), Ennis (Ireland), Grenoble (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Catania (Italy), Calgary (Canada) and Ramat-Gan (Israel).

Click here to learn more about the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center, which is home to a Chinese supermarket, several retail shops and a relaxing sculpture garden.

— Lynn

Coming up: S.O.S. for school libraries, Hometown history, Art meets mental illness

A day to discover and dream

I caught a wonderful whiff of curry Tuesday night as I passed an Indian restaurant on my way to a “Talk Cinema” event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, which reminded me of this weekend’s “Discover India” festival at “Historic Heritage Square” — home to the Rosson House Museum in downtown Phoenix.

Event organizers describe “Discover India” as a “free celebration featuring a cultural show, food fair, festival parade, clothing & jewelry bazaar, cooking demonstrations” and more — including special activities for children.

My daughter Jennifer at a previous Discover India festival

I attended a “Discover India” festival many years ago with my daughter Jennifer and her best friend Brenna, who had their pictures taken in traditional Indian garb, shopped for matching bracelets and tasted all sorts of street food with Indian flair. They’re still close friends, though one attends ASU in Tempe and another UA in Tucson.

Heritage Square is located near the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, so you can make a whole afternoon of it. Youth who head to the museum today can participate in something called the “Dream Rocket Project,” which will culminate in the creation of 32,000 sq. ft. work art “providing a tangible demonstration of the beauty of individuals collaborating to meet universal challenges.”

The hectic holiday season is rapidly approaching, making today one of your last chances to enjoy family time unfettered by thoughts of cooking, cleaning or hunting for holiday gifts. Seize the moment, wherever it may take you.

— Lynn

Note: For additional ideas on enjoying family together time, visit the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Coming up: Holiday happenings on Valley stages

Chinese arts and culture

Patricia Saewert work on exhibit at SCC

While searching through photos of my kiddos the other day, I found some old photos of a trip to China — taken as part of a “fam” (familiarization) tour during my days working in university affairs. People exploring blocks of bird markets. Men playing Mahjong in the streets. Tourists strolling along the Great Wall.

It reminded me that Scottsdale Community College is exhibiting “experimental Chinese painting” in their art building through Sat, Nov. 3. The exhibit — and reception Sat, Oct 8 (4pm-6pm) — is free and open to the public.

Rosemary Ramos White work on exhibit at SCC

The works, which portray a variey of subjects, were created by SCC artists during an Experimental Chinese Painting class first offered in the spring of 2011. It’ll be offered every two years by art professor Robert You, who trained in Beijing.

These paintings integrate Eastern and Western styles — and feature  representational and non-representational imagery.  They were executed with Chinese brushes and fine Chinese black and colored inks on shuen paper. Each painting has a unique “chop.” which is the artists signature.

Joy Smith work on exhibit at SCC

Custom-created chops, which look like rubber stamps on large blocks of wood, are popular with tourists who visit big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Sadly, mine is likely lost to the ages unless someone from the A & E television network disovers it during an episode of “Storage Wars.”

You can enjoy a taste of Chinese culture at the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center near Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix — home to the Super L Ranch Market, which is a great place to introduce children to life beyond burgers and fries.

The Chinese Cultural Center’s gardens, designed by Madame Ye, feature replicas of landmarks from five ancient Chinese cities and adhere to Feng Shui and Ying Yang principals. Keep an eye on the center’s calendar for festivals and special events featuring Chinese culture and traditions.

Christine Dennis work on exhibit at SCC

The National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China perform Wed, Oct 5 (7:30pm) at the Mesa Arts Center. The Beijing group of 35 sets martial arts, acrobatics and illusion to traditional Chinese music.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents a “Museum Encounter” with three instrumentalists and two vocalists from Phoenix sister city Chengdu, China. The Sat, Oct 15 (11am) “Chengdu Performing Arts Showcase” is free with museum admission. They’ve also got an impressive collection of instruments from various regions of China.

I’ve got an impressive assortment of souvenirs. One day I hope to actually find and enjoy them.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about Scottsdale Community College at www.scottsdalecc.edu, COFCO Chinese Cultural Center at www.phxchinatown.com, Mesa Arts Center at www.mesaartscenter.com and the Musical Instrument Museum at www.themim.org.

Coming up: Music and dance of India

Ireland meets Japan

Famous castle in Himeji, Japan -- one of nine Phoenix sister cities, which also include Ennis, Ireland (Photo: http://www.famouswonders.com)

As wearers of the green celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, all of our hearts go out to the people of Japan. It turns out both countries have cities considered “sisters” of Phoenix, Arizona (we have nine global “sisters” in all).

Families who attend the free “WorldFEST” this weekend can enjoy all sorts of hands-on activities and exhibits in the “Sister Cities Village” — including “making fairy wreaths with Irish colors from Ennis, Ireland” and “competing in a chopstick challenge by Himeji, Japan.”

Festival guests are invited to participate with the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission as they launch a fund drive to assist relief efforts in Japan by making donations at the Himeji, Japan booth in the “Sister Cities Village.”

Other hands-on activities include “learning cattle roping from Calgary, Canada” and “making carnival masks from Catania, Italy.” Just make sure the siblings in your brood know better than to practice the roping techniques on one another.

You can even enjoy “writing your name with Chinese characters from Chengdu, China” and “face painting and pinata-breaking by Hermosillo, Mexico.” Sibs will want to avoid trying those last two on one another too — not that the little darlings would ever consider such things.

Parades are another matter. These are plenty safe to try at home assuming you don’t expect the family cat to lead the march. There’s just a single parade time for the festival so don’t miss it if your family is fond of floats and such.

This weekend’s “Sister Cities Parade” — complete with “colorful flags and festive floats” from Phoenix sister city regions — kicks off at 1pm on Sat, March 19 as part of “WorldFEST,” which takes place at Heritage and Science Park in Phoenix (home of the Arizona Science Center).

“WorldFEST” hours are Fri, March 18, 4-10pm; Sat, March 19, Noon-11pm; and Sun, March 20, Noon-5pm. It features “sights, sounds and tastes from around the world.” Think art, dance and music — plus food/drink and more.

Grown-ups can enjoy “beer sampling & pints” (not so free) and cooking demonstrations by various chefs. But the kiddos will have more interest in “KidsWORLD” — described as “an interactive, educational playground engaging children to travel over seven continents.”

I’m told there’ll be areas where children can “explore rain forests in South America,” “dodge icebergs in Antarctica,” and enjoy “a mini safari through the African jungle.” Not sure how that works — but I’m eager to find out. Let’s hope my height (or grey hair) won’t give me away…

— Lynn

Note: Heritage and Science Park is located at 115 N. 6th St. in Phoenix — near plenty of Valley attractions, including the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Coming up: Finding voice lessons in the Valley