Tag Archives: Starbucks

Let’s get wild!

I love to check the community bulletin boards at local coffee shops for news of Valley offerings in arts and culture. I stopped Monday at the Starbucks at McDowell and 7th St. and discovered a poster for the “4th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival.”

This year’s festival takes place Thurs, Aug 18 at the Tempe Center for the Arts. A 5pm reception precedes the 6-9:30pm festival — which  features a new film titled “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time.”

The festival will also showcase several “shorter films that cover a variety of environmental issues” — and share a bit about the “Sonoran Desert Western Initiative,” a local campaign to protect West Valley public lands.

The reception features light appetizers and a cash bar, live music by “The Petty Thieves” and a raffle. Special ticket pricing is available for children, students and seniors.

The event has several dozen sponsors, including the Sonoran Institute, Changing Hands Bookstore, the Desert Botanical Garden, Sonoran Desert Heritage and the Phoenix Zoo.

The event is organized by the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. I’m having enough trouble surviving Arizona with all the oddly-named creature comforts we enjoy — like clean water and air conditioning.

I can’t imagine how other creatures, and plants, do the same. It must help that they waste less and depend on each other more. But humans can help too, and the coalition’s website offers plenty of ways to get involved.

Scottsdale Community College has also gone a bit wild — thanks to their Center for Native and Urban Wildlife, which has just announced 2011-12 field trip opportunities for fourth grade classes. The tours, which take place Tuesday and Thursday mornings, are free.

Tour highlights include Toad Hall (home to amphibians, lizards, snakes, arthropods and fish) and the Hall of Biodiversity Past (home to replicas of dinosaur and mammal artifacts, plus a giant wall mural painted by an SCC student).

Also time with birds, such as hawks or owls, handled by Liberty Wildlife — which educates students about their natural history and role in native ecosystems, also suggesting ways to keep native animals from harm.

Students bring lunches, and enjoy a bit of scientific Q & A time after they eat — then end their CNUW experience with a toad calling contest with prizes for the winners (the people, not the toads).

Predators and Prey of Arizona takes place through Sept 23 at The Arboretum at Flagstaff

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is presenting “Predators and Prey of Arizona” at The Arboretum at Flagstaff through Sept 23. It’s part of a wildlife program that “educates visitors about the role of plants and animals in a balanced environment.”

“Predators and Prey of Arizona” includes “a zone-tail hawk, a harris hawk, an antelope ground squirrel, and a pocket mouse.” It’s free with arboretum admission and can be viewed Wed-Sun from noon to 2pm. The arboretum is open daily from 9am to 5pm April through October.

— Lynn

Coming up: Art adventures: Las Vegas, No-cost and low-cost concerts


Musings on “The Book of Mormon”

The Book of Mormon sign on the Eugene O'Neill Theatre marquee in New York

My first love was a Mormon. His name was Donny Osmond, and though I never met him, I loved everything about him — from his bright purple socks to his pearly white smile. 

Shades of The Lion King as Elders Price (Andrew Rannells) and Cunningham (Josh Gad) arrive in northern African for their Mormon mission (Photo: Joan Marcus)

My latest love is a musical called “The Book of Mormon,” which I saw at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway while visiting NYC last month. I stalked the tickets online and by phone day and night until a single seat popped up for the week of my visit.

“The Book of Mormon” stars Josh Gad (Elder Cunningham) and Andrew Rannells (Elder Price) — plus Nikki M. James (Nabalungi), winner of the 2011 Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a featured role (musical). Also Rory O’Malley (Elder McKinley) and Michael Potts (Mafala Hatimbi).

Crowds gathering before a recent performance of The Book of Mormon on Broadway

I sat in a center seat of the seventh row in the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, a small venue jammed packed with people who’d been clever enough to buy tickets before the reviews made headlines, paid dearly for tickets via the secondary market, or gotten lucky in the daily ticket raffle or standing room only line.

To my left was an actor well-known to “Law & Order” viewers, who was perfectly charming until I stepped on his feet making a run for my seat. A father and his teenage son, also visiting from out of state, sat to my right — and shared that they’ve long been fans of the television series “South Park.”

“The Book of Mormon” is the brainchild of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone — who wrote the musical’s book, music and lyrics after meeting one night when Parker and Stone (creators of “South Park”) went to see “Avenue Q” (which Lopez co-wrote and conceived).

This doorbell that marks the Eugene O'Neill Theatre stage door is part of the show's impressive marketing campaign

His bio in “The Book of Mormon” playbill notes that “Lopez sang in church choirs throughout college and always suspected he’d return to sacred music.” Parker and Trey are best known for the profane. The show’s playbill notes that “It has been a long-time dream of Parker’s to write a musical for Broadway.”

The “South Park” duo hails from Colorado — Parker from Conifer and Stone from Littleton, a Denver suburb best known to some as the site of Columbine High School, where a tragic school shooting took place in 1999. If you’ve seen “South Park” or “Avenue Q,” you know what you’re getting into with “The Book of Mormon.”

Josh Gad and other cast members signed autographs after the show last Wednesday night

Apparently, at least one person in the audience came unprepared. Folks who waited in the autograph line after the show told me they’d heard a women protesting the show’s crude content — saying something like “You just don’t use the F-word on Broadway.” True enough for a time, but that time has clearly passed. And the “F-word” is mild compared to some of the show’s other language.

A truer test of this trio’s musical theater muster might be creating a show with less offensive fare. I’d have taken just as much pleasure from “The Book of Mormon” story were it told without colorful gestures, language and props — though it was clear from the steady hum of the audience that they were thrilled with every minute of it.

Andrew Rannells lights up the stage, and more than a few hearts, with his sparking smile and spectacular talent

“The Book of Mormon” pokes fun at American culture. The opening scene, which features a set full of signs for retail and fast food giants like Walmart, registers a high score on the mock-o-meter. The bright-eyed character with a pristine white smile, Elder Price, longs to live in a Disney-created paradise he simply calls “Orlando.”

The mock-o-meter also registers jabs at Americans who romanticize Africa — including obvious hits to “The Lion King” and celebrities who champion causes in other countries ala “We Are the World.” Changing the world, it seems, is easier than changing oneself. And here be the rub: For all its offense, this musical speaks the truth. The greater your ability to laugh at yourself, the less it hurts.

Tony Award winner Nikki M. James greets fans after a recent performance of The Book of Mormon

If an actual mock-o-meter existed, the needle would spin wildly out of control during depictions of the Mormon religion, known more formally as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. While Utah has the country’s highest population of Mormons, I’m told that Mesa — home to a beautiful temple and visitors center –ranks second.

The Mormon church has been relatively quiet, wisely I think, in their objections to portrayals of their faith in “The Book of Mormon.” The musical conveys all sorts of stereotypes about the religion’s founders, tenets and followers — but still manages to capture the earnestness of a people who desperately want to do right by God and each other.

“The Book of Mormon” is a powerful reminder of the ease with which we make assumptions. That God favors us over others. That others see us the way we see ourselves. That the afterlife trumps the everyday. That easy is good, and good is easy.

Nikki M. James, Andrew Rannells, Josh Gad and the cast of The Book of Mormon (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The show drew thunderous applause and a lengthy standing ovation. I didn’t want the experience to end, and was delighted when cast members shared in the audience afterglow by signing autographs and talking with fans. They’re a gracious bunch who seem genuinely grateful for their own “The Book of Mormon” experiences and those of us who travel from far and wide to see the show.

This sign reminds theater-goers that Mormons are more than musical theater fodder

Before jumping on the subway back to our hotel in lower Manhattan, I veered in and out of the crowds taking in all the noise and neon of Times Square. I stopped at Starbucks (which also registers on “The Book of Mormon” mock-o-meter), looking up at nearby signs while I waited for my drink.

I spied a giant sign featuring dozens of diverse faces and the words “I’m a Mormon” next to the mormons.org website. A fitting reminder that judging a person based on religious (or secular) beliefs might make for an outrageously funny piece of theater. But it’s never a good idea in real life.

— Lynn

Note: “The Book of Mormon” won the 2011 Tony Award for best musical, as well as several other awards

Coming up: Lynn & Liz see “War Horse” at Lincoln Center

Going green in NYC

Though large bags of trash get piled throughout the city before garbage trucks can get to them, New York appears to be way ahead of Arizona in the “green” movement. Circular trash bins sit on many a street corner, but in many indoor settings, you’ll find separate containers for paper, glass and the real rubbish that can’t be recycled.

When I attended parent orientation for the incoming class at Lizabeth’s university in NYC today, the food services director spoke with genuine enthusiasm about the school’s many “sustainable” practices — buying local foods and such. More evidence that New York trumps Arizona in the green department.

Our hotel in lower Manhatten is “green” is some deliberate and unintended ways. They’ve got low water usage toilets that turn flushing into a funky form of upper arm workout, and eating utensils in the dining area made by “Tater Ware” — whose slogan reads “We’re the Solution, Not the Pollution.” Both cutlery and wrap are biodegradable. And because the hot water goes out most days, we’re saving energy by taking cold showers.

I’ve encounted another sort of green with alarming frequency here in NYC. It seems there’s a Starbucks ’round nearly every corner. For a while I had great fun photographing them all. But I’ve seen enough now that they’re starting to bore me, with one exception — the dancing cups ala Starbucks in “The Book of Mormon.”

Parks are plentiful in NYC, and I never tire of seeing them. Many feature public art and paths lined with benches. Often they’re the landmarks that help me navigate the city. And they’re never empty, except when closed up for the night. I sat in a park around midnight one evening, and had plenty of company.

But my favorite “greens” in NYC are all those lush window flowerboxes, giant potted topiary and small rectangular plots of plants that surround the trunks of many a tree in all sorts of neighborhoods. I’ve met some lovely people while photographing their gardens, and hope you’ll enjoy these images of their handiwork…

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Coming up: Pianos meet public parks

Don’t bite my head off

Lizabeth was excited after discovering that Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village carries “Swan Lake” cupcakes, an homage to the ballet currently being performed by American Ballet Theatre.

I joked about what fun we could have, taking that first nibble — and biting the heads off. I assumed they’d have lovely swans, and the joke was a bit of a jab at all those years of ballet training. Some weren’t so terribly pretty.

But alas, they were merely frosted with an elegant combination of black and white, so I settled for a key lime cheesecake cupcake instead — sadly replacing the calories I’d burned walking all those blocks to get there.

We ate our cupcakes at a little park just up the street from the bakery, where children played in a fine mist of water and couples sat on benches near stone tables etched with chessboard patterns.

Earlier in the day, we’d enjoyed another park just off Fifth Avenue that has one entrance featuring a giant marble arch. Around a fountain, there were four sets of two chess tables — and men about my age or older stopped by to play.

Women pushed baby strollers (sorry, guys — but none of you were out doing the baby things at that point). Some had small white pizza take-out boxes on top. Squirrels darted on and off the paths. Folks fired up laptops on the lawn.

We stopped for lunch at a lovely eatery in Greenwich Village where we split a baked ziti and salad combo. Our table was elevated but just off the street, so we watched puppies walking their pedestrians and hoped the pigeons weren’t partial to Italian fare.

We made a few subway trips, which Lizabeth navigated with ease — even finding a Christopher station on Christopher Street, reminding us of her brother back home. We must fit in fairly well because we ended up giving directions more often than we asked for them.

Lizabeth could easily lead a “famous film locations” tour. “Law and Order” steps, “The Adjustment Bureau” warehouse, “Enchanted” skyscraper. She’s learning various landmarks that help guide her through the city, and I’m having fun playing “find the Starbucks.” If I don’t get my coffee, I really might bite someone’s head off.

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— Lynn

Coming up: Lynn & Liz do Lincoln Center, Fun finds in NYC, 9/11 tributes and memorials

Last chance: Latino roots

Learn about the Latino roots of American pop music at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix through May 18

Arizona is home to all sorts of Latino arts and culture. There’s nothing last chance about that. But one offering, the “American Sabor” exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, will hit the road in just a few shorts days so folks in other parts can experience its splendor.

“American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music” is the first touring exhibit to land at the MIM, a global instrument museum that recently celebrated its first anniversary. But the exhibit’s last day is May 18 — so your opportunity to enjoy it will soon pass.

Though this might not apply to those of you who feel about Latino music the way others feel about Springsteen or the Grateful Dead. I suppose you could just jump into your van with a couple of friends and follow “American Sabor” to future destinations. I can imagine worse fates, like following people whose heads sport giant cheese wedges.

American Sabor features musical intruments, costumes, artifacts and more

Maybe you don’t consider yourself a fan of Latino music. But that means you’ve never turned on a radio or been to a dance featuring DJ stylings.

Because there are Latino roots in all sorts of places you might not expect them. Figuring out where is half the fun of experiencing “American Sabor.”

If you’re still picturing museums as stuffy, boring places — you’ve yet to see, hear and feel all that is the MIM. You don’t visit the MIM. You experience the MIM. And “American Sabor” is a perfect match with its “use of film, artifacts, historic musical instruments, listening kiosks, and a full-sized dance floor.”

Normally I don my tennis shoes for trips through the MIM (which truly are trips around the world). But I may have to see if I can squeeze into Lizabeth’s character shoes for this one, just in case the mambo, rhumba or cha cha beats lure me to the dance floor.

The “American Sabor” exhibit is a window into “the excitement, diversity, and beauty of Latin music as it developed in five key U.S. cities.” Think Houston, Los Angeles and Miami. Also San Francisco, a favorite of my 20-year-old daughter Jennifer. And NYC, a favorite of 17-year-old Lizabeth.

The “American Sabor” exhibit was developed by the “Experience Music Project” in Seattle and the University of Washington. It’s a well-kept secret that Seattle has actually given the world all sorts of things every bit as glorious (and maybe more glorious) than Starbucks.

“Latino musicians and the contributions they have made to musical styles like jazz, country, rock, and hip hop, among others, have scarcely been acknowledged until now,” reflects MIM exhibit manager April Salomon.

“American Sabor” aims to change all that — with its “collection of instruments, costumes. and other artifacts from musical icons.” Think Fania All-Stars and Flaco Jimenez. Celia Cruz and Carlos Santana. Los Lobos and Tito Puente.

Even a singer my hubby seemed a bit sweet on during college — Linda Ronstadt (whose vinyls still rest on the lower shelf of a towering bookcase). He once helped fellow Pepperdine students fill sandbags to protect her beachfront home. But listening to her mariachi music is a whole lot more fun…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to watch the May 12, 2011 episode of “Horizonte” on Eight, Arizona PBS — which features the “American Sabor” exhibit and a local expert on Latino arts and culture.

Coming up: The Sleeping Beauty

Images courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

“The violin chose me…”

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Leslie Lyons

Charles Darwin. Lady Gaga. Starbucks. Sydney Opera House. Homeless Basketball. Abraham Lincoln. Children of Haiti.

A quick scan of his bio only served to increase my intrigue with the work and play of Haitian-American composer, performer, violinist and band leader Daniel Bernard Roumain — also dubbed DBR.

My daughter Lizabeth and I met Roumain a few years back when Roumain served as an artist-in-residence at Arizona State University.

She was nearing a decade of violin study and performance, and he was graciously working with several students from Arizona School for the Arts.

Recently we chatted about his own foray into the world — he might say “worlds” — of music. I began by asking Roumain when and why he started playing. Was violin his choice, or something his parents chose for him?

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Leslie Lyons

“The violin chose me,” he quipped — leaving me to wonder how exactly such a thing might be possible. Seems he was in kindergarten when he walked by a room in which the 6th grade orchestra was practicing.

Hearing the violin was all it took. “It called to me,” recalls Roumain. He asked the music teacher if he could play, but the teacher explained that students didn’t start playing at school until first grade.

The teacher suggested he come back the following day. Roumain suspects the teacher never expected him to return. But he did — and he got the okay to play.

Because his earliest violin lessons were at school, there was no charge. But eventually Roumain progressed to weekly private lessons, getting his first violin during 5th grade.

At first Roumain practiced just an hour or so a day — but admits he eventually hit six to eight hours a day. It hardly seems possible until you read reports that put teen technology use at nine hours a day.

Still, practice should never be a chore. “Music should always be fun,” shares Roumain. Who can really say what we will be when we grow up? There’s no reason to pressure young children when it comes to making music.

“When I grew up in Florida,” recalls Roumain, “music was everywhere.” Now music is scarce in American schools. “What’s becoming,” wonders Roumain, “of all the musicians, all the music, the world will never know?”

A violin certainly can’t speak to a child who never hears it.

Still, Roumain feels it would be “presumptuous” to offer a single “magic bullet” sort of solution to declining arts programs in our schools. It’s something parents, educators and community members have to work out in the context of a larger question.

What really comprises the ideal education — the perfectly balanced school day?

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by John Walder

Roumain, age 40, is the father of 18-month-old Zachary. He’ll be faced soon enough with evaluating arts offerings from a parent perspective.

The composer likens music to a “medicine” or “anecdote” in a world where “there are so many ills.” Music, he reflects, is like exercise. “It can never hurt or harm you.”

While he’d like to see every child exposed to music, Roumain says parents need to give children the freedom to forge their own relationships to it. Some will want to play night and day. Others will want to play casually. Others will want to attend concerts. And some are perfectly happy to listen to CDs.

And while schools can choose to reduce art offerings, Roumain is convinced that they lose something in the process — believing that decreased art programs in recent years are related to increased school violence.

“Music,” says Roumain, “is as vital as a school lunch.”

Roumain, who was born in 1970, recalls growing up with a diverse record collection — including music by ABBA, Al Stewart, Bach, Beethoven, The Jackson 5 and Stravinsky (the alphabetizing was his own).

As he got older and went to more concerts, Roumain listened to everything from Prince to Dizzy Gillespie. MTV was in its early days, and a lot of music contained political themes.

Roumain is a fan of the many technologies that make it possible for kids to hear more music, and more types of music, today. He speaks of watching a Lang Lang performance on television with his wife and son over a meal, of listening to the radio during long driving jaunts.

Today his personal favorites include Rhianna and Jay-Z. To get the Lady Gaga reference, you’ll have to read his bio. At home, he says, the family listens to “everything from Bieber to Bach.”

Roumain brings his own passionate blend of music, art and movement to ASU Gammage in Tempe on Sat, Feb 5. There’s a 7pm show for the kids, and a 9pm show for adults.

Daniel Bernard Roumain - Photo by Julieta Cervantes

He’ll be presenting a world premiere titled “Symphony for the Dance Floor,” featuring “the raw uncompromising photography of Jonathan Mannion” and DBR music “inspired by hip-hop, electronica and symphonic sound.”

The work is choreographed by Millicent Johnnie with lighting design by Miriam Crowe and direction by D.J. Mendel. Roumain describes it as “an ecstatic journey” traveled with “a soundtrack of our time.”

“I have hope,” reflects Roumain. “And hope is America’s greatest national resource.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Symphony for the Dance Floor” and other “Gammage Beyond” events presented by ASU Gammage in Tempe. And check your local PBS listings for days/times you can see “Children of Haiti” — a film for which DBR wrote the soundtrack — which will help you learn more about Haiti as we all remember the 2010 Haiti earthquake one year later.

Coming up: A touring production of “A Chorus Line” comes to Mesa and Phoenix this week

Photos from www.dbrmusic.com


The fine art of nursing

The American Red Cross (featured in this work by American artist Edwin H. Blashfield at the turn of the 20th century) has played a key role in American nursing

A parade of new people has passed through our lives of late — Chrissy, Phil, Aaron and others. All nurses we got to know while Christopher was in the hospital for a fracture fix.

The doctors and nurses at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn have taken fine care of many of our family members, so we’re familiar with many of its hallways.

My favorite place in the hospital is right outside the cafeteria. It just so happens that a Starbucks bar and barista beckon nearby — and that espresso heightens my appreciation for art.

There’s a wall that houses Young Arts of Arizona exhibits. The current exhibit features work by students from Hopi Elementary School in Scottsdale and the Greater Scottsdale Boys and Girls Clubs.

Common themes include nature (butterflies, expansive skies, bright flowers) and dreams and wishes (stars, unicorns, rainbows). There’s nothing like children’s art to brighten our days, and even hospital stays.

It got me wondering about the depiction of nurses and other medical professionals in the arts. They’re all around us in film, photography, painting and more.

Among the best known perhaps are Nurse Ratched from the novel and film “One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest” and Dr. Frankenstein from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” of Broadway.

Of course, I see a happier face when I think of nurses — because my mom spent her early career as a registered nurse in Colorado, working in private medical practice and hospital seetings (including the emergency room).

I recall reading years ago that nurses and teachers get high marks in all sorts of areas — from listening skills and empathy to patience and loyalty — skills our society would do well to value more vigorously.

I stumbled on a website while searching for nurses and the arts. It’s www.artbynurses.com. It was developed by a Canadian artist and nursing professional, and I hope you’ll spend some time exploring it.

Searching for something similar in the United States, I came upon a Georgia artist and medical professional named Marti Hand, whose website also offers insights into the healing power of art — for both patient and medical practitioner.

I also discovered a “Creativity in Health Care” blog that I’m going to spend part of the day exploring as my son sleeps off some of the wear and tear of surgery.

I’ll save explorations of artistic depictions of nurses for another day when I’m home and back to “Stage Mom” rather than “Nurse Mom” duties.

For now, I am off to enjoy the sleeping masterpiece called Christopher.

— Lynn

Note: Once we’re back on the “art adventures” road again, we’re going to do some homework on the American Museum of Nursing, which I learned of through the ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation. And if we ever get to Philadelphia, we’ll eagerly explore the Museum of Nursing History.

Coming up: Careers in the arts, Tips for college applicants with a performing arts focus