Tag Archives: stage mom

Silly old bear

Silly old bear. It’s one of my favorite lines from A.A. Milne tales of the little boy named Christopher Robin whose fluffy companions include a bear called Winnie the Pooh. I’ve got Pooh on the brain today after reflecting a bit more on the transition to a new blog site. I’m remembering my early days with our oldest son Christopher, whose room as a toddler was decorated with all things primary colors and Pooh.

Christopher has been a part of our lives for more than two decades, and I’ve been affiliated with Raising Arizona Kids for nearly that long — joining the staff when my three children were still small enough to read Winnie the Pooh tales in lap mode. They’re all in college now, so the nature of our relationships is evolving. Still, this will always be their home.

That’s how I feel about Raising Arizona Kids. Folks concerned that my new adventures mean their stories won’t get shared with RAK audiences needn’t fret. I’m continuing to cover Arizona arts and culture for the magazine, but in online article rather than blog mode. Also continuing to write an arts page for each month’s print magazine. Your stories are no less near and dear to me now than they were some 1,250 + posts ago when I started blogging.

Like all artists, writers need to explore and grow. We need fresh eyes on new landscapes. I never worry, when seeing associate artists for Childsplay direct or act in other settings, that their love for Childsplay is diminished in any way. I suspect their diverse adventures fuel both their individual creativity and work together as an ensemble. That’s how I feel about both writing for RAK and doing my own “Stage Mom Musings” thing.

Similarly, our children’s college adventures don’t mean they love us any less. It’s just that there are more paths for them to travel. And that’s as it should be. I fully expect that the road back home will stay well trodden. And so it is for my relationship with Raising Arizona Kids. I’ll be sharing arts adventures both there and here, which’ll help me champion Arizona arts both locally and beyond our borders.

I hope you’ll follow along on my road trip. Covering Arizona arts and culture — and those who nurture and create it — continues to be my great joy and privilege. So no worries, silly old bear.

– Lynn

Note: Please send arts and culture news my way at stagemommusings@gmail.com. That’ll get your events and programs on both my RAK and Stage Mom Musings radar. Once RAK recovers from flood mode, we’ll get old “Stage Mom” posts moved over to the “Stage Mom Musings” site at www.stagemommusings.com, where new posts appear each day.

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Pitfalls of pushing too hard

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical stage mom. She may push her child into performing arts despite his or her complete lack of interest. She may assign worth to her child depending on how well he or she does during an audition, casting or performance. She may expect her child to go quickly from singing into a hairbrush to nailing a Disney audition.

“There is always that kid who knows what he wants to be when he’s just eight years old,” reflects Valley actress Michelle Hakala, who also has many years of experience teaching in an arts setting and training youth in vocal performance. But beware of pushing a child too early or too hard.

Some performance arts are generally better suited to the very young than others, observes Hakala. Dancers often begin training early, though classes for the youngest children typically focus on movement and musicality rather than exacting technique.

Similarly, early theater classes often focus on storytelling and imagination. Formal voice training usually begins a bit later when the vocal cords are more fully developed (generally age 12 or so, says Hakala, although there can be exceptions).

If you find your child resisting a performing arts activity, ask yourself a few questions. Did your child initiate the activity or was it something you were pushing for? Is your child physically, socially and emotionally ready for the activity? Does your child have ample opportunities to explore his or her other interests too?

Be sure your child’s performing arts teachers are well versed both in their craft and in children’s developmental needs and abilities. The fact that your ten year old insists on going on Pointe in ballet class doesn’t mean she is physically ready. The best teachers balance what they teach with the way they teach it—assuring children gain not only skills, but also self-confidence and a healthy well-rounded attitude.

As children get older, even those who genuinely enjoy their participation in the performing arts can face pitfalls. “Sometimes big stars of local theater go on to college and they are no longer the stars,” quips Hakala. “A lot of kids get ripped apart in college with negative comments.”

Students who outperform their peers in high school may be distressed to find themselves at the same level as their college peers. “It can be a huge blow to their ego and identity,” adds Hakala. “There is a lot you can do to give your child experiences of the arts without the focus on becoming a star.” Hakala says she prefers companies like Greasepaint Youtheatre that give young performers “a whole child experience.”

Whole parenting is equally important. Volunteer but don’t hover. Drive to and from rehearsals but don’t direct your child on how to read lines. Help your child find age-appropriate music for auditions but don’t tell your child what he or she has to sing. (Discouraging a few of the songs from Avenue Q is fine—but anything beyond that is stage mothering.) Help with sewing costumes but don’t swap your child’s costume out for another you like better. If you think you might be crossing the line, chances are that someone else thinks so too.

Should your child choose a career in the performing arts, observes Hakala, it will involve a whole lot more than being talented. Your child will need the character and other skills to endure periods without steady work in the arts, to balance the demands of performance art with the demands of family, and more. Training a child in technique to the exclusion of other qualities isn’t doing a child any favors.

Even the child who dreams of being a star, and wants to do the work it takes to get there, needs plenty of time to enjoy being young. “Every child should have a childhood,” says Hakala. “Every child needs to be a child.” Think playing tag, roller skating, riding bikes with friends.

Plenty of good things happen outside of studio and stage—and many foster the very personal and professional qualities your child will need if he or she wants to enjoy fulfillment and success as an artist. Physical activities are especially important, notes Hakala. Singing, dancing and acting are much more physically demanding than many of us realize—so things like stamina and muscle development really matter.

Some children enjoy early acting careers, but they’re children who are self-driven, not parent-pushed. Those who attain very early success often sacrifice bits of their childhood they may never reclaim. “The danger of being a childhood star,” cautions Hakala, “is that you are older much longer than you are young.”

Beware of setting unrealistic expectations for your child. Few children go from singing along with their favorite pop star to singing with exceptional technique within just a short period of time. The performing arts are demanding. Progress isn’t always fast, and it isn’t always cumulative. Your child will experience ups and downs. Preparing for each is important.

Don’t push, cautions Hakala, saying she doesn’t believe in making all of your life decisions before you are eight years old. Suppose your child is a wildly successful performer in his or her youth, but goes on to feel a sense of failure in early adulthood. It’s not good. “No one,” says Hakala, “wants the best moment of their life to be when they are eight or twelve.”

–Lynn

Coming soon: Dance studios with competitive programs, Art experiences for children who are hospitalized, Little House on the Prairie cast builds with local Habitat for Humanity, Arts advocacy 101

Cookies, crayons and Cinderella

“I had a mouse once. I named it Annette Funicello.” I may have embarrassed myself over this one. Friday night I enjoyed opening night of Cookie Company’s “Cinderella Confidential,” their first production at the historic Stagebrush Theatre in Old Town Scottsdale.

Cookie Company's "Cinderella Confidential"

From left: Kristin Hailstone as Deb Jabber, Daniel Cardenas as Sonny Glamour, Brianna Quijada as Cinderella. Photo by Laura Durant.

I let out more than a few hearty laughs (some might consider them roars—even snorts) when the actors delivered this and other lines amidst a flurry of physical comedy and costumes ala Mardi Gras. I wasn’t alone. On the giggle-o-meter, this show clearly hit 5 stars with kids and grown-ups alike.

It’s the best type of family entertainment. Plenty for mom and dad to enjoy and plenty for kids to love too. “I’m a reporter,” quips one of the characters. Another replies, “I thought you said you weren’t a puppet.” And at another point in the show: “This woman is the love of my life,” exclaims the prince, “at least for now.”

I admit the lines lose something in translation. So take in the show for yourself. It plays Oct. 25th and Oct. 31st-Nov. 1st and tickets are just $15 each. You can learn more at cookiecompany.org. Elfin sweatshop humor. Royalty sporting galoshes. Free milk and cookies after the show. And autograph signing with the cast. What’s not to love?

Stagebrush Theatre holds a special place in my heart. My two daughters each performed there with Greasepaint Youtheatre during their early elementary school years. I wondered, as young viewers came through the lobby in their princess dresses and crowns, how many of them I might be watching on stage one day. (And never fear. Plenty of princes came for the show too. I worked a volunteer table of coloring crafts, and dads decorated some of the finest shoes.)

Volunteering can tell you a lot about an organization. I’ve been really impressed with the organization and communication in all my volunteer experiences with Phoenix Theatre. Tomorrow I get promoted from crafts table diva to storyteller, so let’s hope I rise to the occasion. I feel a pink feather boa coming on but suspect I will cop out with jeans and a tasteful tee.

I met some really warm, genuine people at my little crafts station—including a Raising Arizona Kids magazine subscriber who does music therapy (more on that in a future blog). She told me about a lovely wine bar located right behind the theater (within walking distance for adult patrons but not too close for the younger set). It’s called Su Vino Winery. I usually hit Sugar Bowl on Scottsdale Rd. après-Stagebrush, but I’m always thrilled to learn of other options. Man cannot live on ice cream alone (but you wouldn’t have wanted to tell my mother that).

Before I sign off, let me leave you with some Cinderella trivia I gleaned from a map and display in the Stagebrush Theatre lobby: Cinderella is one of the oldest fairy tales in the world—about 1,160 years old. You can proudly tell your children that it is even older than you are.

Check out the display yourself and learn what makes the Native American version of Cinderella unique, the country where the original story began, and the origin of the first written version—plus a bit about the original woman with the lost shoe. (I always thought it was me.)

I like to learn. I love to laugh. I got it all Friday night (in one hour, no less). I’d have enjoyed it even without the crayons and free cookies…

Lynn

Coming soon: The sparkle returns—Kristin Chenoweth’s performance at ARTrageous to help celebrate the grand opening of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts newly remodeled Virginia G. Piper Theater.

The following is a Cinderella Confidential review just submitted by Riley, a 3rd grader, who attended the show:

My favorite part of the play was the beginning because of the fake, huge t.v. and the two reporters. One reporter was a “Glitter” reporter and the other was an “Information” reporter. The play was very hilarious. The characters made me laugh. The prince was so funny and playful. I had one encounter with the prince and two encounters with the boy reporter. This story is different from the storybook Cinderella because Pinnochio and Jack are in it. I recommend coming early to get good seats. It’s very nice for kids. At the end of the play, we got milk and cookies. We even had a chance to take pictures and get autographs from the cast. I would go again to see the same play.

(Riley: I love the fact that you are so concise and use examples and descriptions. Thanks for sharing this. Keep writing! And let us know if you ever decide to audition and do a show. We’d love to come see you perform! –Lynn)

Take Two

This is my second take with Raising Arizona Kids Magazine. I wrote features and columns for the magazine for nearly a decade when my children were younger, and I’m delighted about returning now.

It complements in some ways my second take on parenting—that time when our children begin to set out on their own and we have more time to return to other loves. For me, one of those loves is the arts. Especially the performing arts: theatre, dance, music and more.

I lost my own mother all too quickly to pancreatic cancer in the years before I discovered the pleasure and power of writing. One of the memories I cherish the most is sitting snuggled up against my mother’s arm during a live performance of the Nutcracker ballet every holiday season.

My mother was a single mom—and a really, really good one—but there was never much money for things like the season tickets that I take for granted today. Adventures in the arts, outside a plethora of homemade arts and crafts and basement talent shows, were few and far between.

When my own children (two now in college and another in high school) were barely hip-height, we often headed to live performances. We enjoyed everything from puppet theatre to symphony concerts featuring familiar movie themes.

I think it was instinctual, like so much of parenting. It was fun. It felt good. I didn’t think about the possible benefits. I just loved the laughter, the sometimes tears, and the joy of doing it all together. I’ll share a bit in future blogs about the ways the arts have touched our lives, and I hope you’ll share with me the ways they have touched yours too.

I’ll also share news about upcoming events in Arizona—plays, concerts, dance performances and more. Sometimes I’ll remind you about something wonderful coming our way (you can always get this info online at http://www.raisingarizonakids.com ). Sometimes I’ll share expert advice from Valley artists on everything from how to prepare for an audition to how to really appreciate a performance. Sometimes I’ll share the stories of young performers.

I’ll have tips for parents of preschoolers through parents of teens. Before long, I hope, you’ll be sharing your tips too. That’s the beauty of blogging. It really captures the very essence of the RAK mission—connecting families with information, resources and support as we face everyday parenting decisions and search for ways to enrich our lives together.

I wish we could all grab a cup of coffee together. But until technology makes that possible, I’ll see you in the blogosphere…

Lynn

Coming soon: Valley welcomes Broadway star. Cinderella Confidential. The arts & school achievement.