Tag Archives: Student Films

Alice (and Phoebe) in Wonderland

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix presents "Alice in Wonderland" in downtown Phoenix

Lizabeth came downstairs one morning after watching a movie she’d rented online. She was eager to tell me about this tale of a family living with a young girl who is “different” — and who becomes involved with the world of theater.

The film, a 2008 ThinkFilm production, is titled “Phoebe in Wonderland.” It’s made the film festival rounds and earned accolades including a Heartland “Truly Moving Picture Award.”

It reminded me that our own Valley Youth Theatre, whose alumni include Emma Stone (recent nominee for a “best actress” Golden Globe Award), will perform “Alice in Wonderland” Feb 4-20 at the VYT theater in downtown Phoenix. Update: Show extended through Feb 27.

I was delighted to see familiar youth on the cast list, including Nathan Naimark (Footman/Executioner) — whose mom Dana Wolfe Naimark was the subject of a recent “Stage Mom” post.

While the young Naimark is readying for opening night, his mother — the head of Children’s Action Alliance — is contending with budget cuts that impact Arizona children in all sorts of ways.

I suspect she’ll be experiencing a few of her own “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum” moments in the coming weeks and months.

But back to the fabulous cast of VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which includes Maddy Rathbun (Alice), Alex Acosta (Mad Hatter), and Lindsey Brown (Queen of Hearts).

Couple VYT's non-musical "Alice in Wonderland" with a tea party, arts & crafts or puppet play

Were my girls a decade or so younger, I’d be working to put together an “Alice in Wonderland” weekend of sorts — having friends over to explore the Lewis Carroll tale via movies, books, puppet theater and the live VYT performance (which is a non-musical).

Kids can get some serious arts and crafts projects out of “Alice in Wonderland” characters and themes — objects changing size, roses painted different colors, playing cards that come to life.

Even a tea party at home, in the park or a charming Valley venue — such as the Teeter House at Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix — would be fun.

I suspect that the sets and costumes for VYT’s “Alice in Wonderland” will inspire hours of imaginative play. And who knows, your own son or daughter might discover that live theater is most wonderful wonderland of all.

— Lynn

Note: Heartland Truly Moving Movies is a non-profit organization whose work includes an annual film competition for works by high school students. Entries for the 2011 Heartland High School Film Competition are being accepted through June 1, 2011. Those who enter before April 15 pay no submission fee, and will be considered for a scholarship to attend “Prodigy Camp.”

Coming up: Other youth theater works coming to Valley stages, Arizona Girlchoir offerings, Musings on art and rock ‘n’ roll, Nuclear weapons take center stage, Summer camp meets glee club


Fun with film

I rarely pause to consider what life might be like as a lottery winner. It’s rather a moot point since I’m not much of a player, but something I read the other day got me to thinking. If I had extra time and money on my hands, how might I want to spend it?

Reading more books. Giving to favorite causes. Traveling the globe. These things have long been on my wish list. But something else now strikes my fancy — exploring the wonderful world of film festivals.

I could start close to home with the Scottsdale Film Festival — taking place this year from Oct 1 to Oct 5 at Harkins Camelview Theatre near Scottsdale Fashion Square, a longtime movie theater favorite for me and my kids (who all favor somewhat out of the ordinary fare).

The festival actually kicks off Friday evening with an opening film, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” followed by an opening night party. Festival offerings include Arizona premieres and Oscar contenders, as well as three “spotlight on Mexico” films and four “spotlight on France” films.

Scottsdale also is home to a festival-style experience termed “Talk Cinema.” It’s a film series presented at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and the 2010-2011 series kicks off Oct 19. All films are shown on Tuesday evenings at 7pm in their Virginia G. Piper Theater.

“Talk Cinema” film selections are kept under wraps until “shortly before each screening” and viewers have the option of going online to read a “spoiler” ahead of time or attending without knowing what to expect. All screenings are followed by moderated conversations with distinguished critics, and viewers get to write their own film reviews.

Paradise Valley Community College presents “Film Festival at PVCC” — a series of film events held monthly (Wednesday evenings at 6:0pm). The next film they’ll show is the 1985 Swedish movie titled “My Life as a Dog” — a PG-13 flick scheduled for Sept 29 at the PVCC Center for the Performing Arts.

PVCC also will present films from Germany, France, Norway and other countries — as well as two PVCC Student Film Festivals during the academic year. Student film festivals — scheduled for Dec 10 and May 9 — take place at 7:30pm and admission is free.

The Arizona Humanities Council presents “The Paul Espinosa Border Film Festival” on Saturday, Oct 2, from 4pm-10pm in Yuma. The free event, which explores “the dynamics of southwestern border history and culture,” features three award-winning films.

This festival takes place at the Yuma Arts Center and historic Yuma theatre. Films are introduced by filmmaker Paul Espinosa and followed by a discussion with experts and the filmmaker.

Finally, a film I wish every parent would see — the documentary “Race to Nowhere,” to be shown Nov 9 at 4:30pm and 7:30pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Amado (south of Tucson).  It’s rated PG-13, runs just 85 minutes and has Spanish subtitles.

“Race to Nowhere” is “about the pressures faced by American school children and their teachers in a system and culture obsessed with the illusion of achievement, competition and the pressure to perform.”

It sounds like a great excuse to grab some fellow parents or teachers for a grown-up field trip that’ll lend itself to plenty of lively discussion on the drive home.

If you stop on the way for lottery tickets, just make sure you promise to share the bounty.


ASU meets NYT

My husband James enjoyed a rare and simple pleasure this weekend when I left him with fresh copies of the Sunday papers so I could head out to the grocery store. It seemed the least I could do after seeing him stare at a bowl of cereal for which there was no milk.

When I returned, he handed me a lovely stack of papers that looked nothing like the pile he inherits from me most Sundays. Lopsided ads strewn about by our sometimes-frugal ASU student. Crossword puzzles ripped from arts sections so only half of most articles remain.

But most appreciated was The New York Times insert from the ASU Herberger Institute’s School of Theatre and Film — which details their 2010/2011 MainStage Season. Lizabeth and I enjoyed reviewing it together — over cereal complete with milk.

The School of Theatre and Film describes the season, which features seven plays and a student film festival, as “action-packed and innovative.” A central theme is exploring “the relationships that bind people together.”

The School’s director, Guillermo Reyes (also artistic director of the MainStage Season), says the season is “filled with contemporary and original works” focused on our relationships with “one another, our families and even our enemies.”

For those of you who missed it when we first announced the upcoming season, here’s a look at the many thoughtful works they’ll be presenting…

26 Miles by Quiara Alegria Hudes. Hudes wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights” (performed last season at ASU Gammage featuring composer and lyricist Lin Manual Miranda in the role he originated on Broadway). It’s a “coming of age dramedy” in which a Cuban-American teen explores her ethnic identify while taking a road trip with her estranged mother. I’m eager to experience the work, directed by Jerry Ruiz, with an eye to issues of both borders and boundaries. October 2010.

Big Love by Charles L. Mee. Kim Weild directs “an extavagent retelling of one of the oldest plays in Western history.” Picture “50 Greek sisters escaping by boat from what might be the world’s largest arranged marriage” — then imagine the tragedy, of Greek proportions, that ensues. I’ll be watching this with fond memories of my own ill-fated trip to see the tiny Greek isle of Patmos. November 2010 (contains nudity).

Allegra by Asher Wyndham. William Partian directs this MFA playwriting candidate work about a television newscaster who learns her unborn child might have Down Syndrome — then “grapples with the decision of whether to keep her unborn baby.” I suspect my experience with this work will be influenced by my many encounters with mothers, including Gina Johnson of “Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona” and Amy Silverman of “Girl in a Party Hat,” who parent children with Down Syndrome with both grit and grace. December 2010.

Dreaming Darwin by Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster. This workshop production, directed by Gharavi, is a new work created when these two professors “assembled a team of ASU student artists” to explore Charles Darwin as a “fantasy on a theme.” It’s the next stage in the evolution of the work, presented last season as a staged reading. I may experience this as a sort of intersection of my three children’s interests — wildlife biology, cultural anthropology and theater arts. February 2011 (just in time to celebrate Darwin’s birthday).

A Bridge to the Stars by Henning Mankell (adapted by John Retallack). This work, a “poignant and soulful tale of a boy’s search for family, community and meaning,” is set against the “endless night” of a mythical Scandinavian village. I’ll be seeing this one with fond memories of long days and nights, as well as “northern lights,” during my childhood years in Alaska — plus college travels to cold, crisp and clean cities in Scandinavian countries. March 2011.

“The Skriker” by Caryl Churchill. This fantasy, directed by Joya Scott, “depicts a fairy underworld that has begun to bleed into our own” as a shape-shifting ghost “befriends, manipulates and attempts to control two young women.” The piece features “rich, evocative language…brought to life through movement and music.” I suspect I’ll watch this one feeling ever so grateful I’m not at home in front of a television series toying with tacky variations on similar themes. April 2011.

In the Penal Colony by Christian Krauspe. Kyle Lewis directs this adapatation of Frank Kafka’s original short story by an MFA playwriting candidate. The work explores the “the boundaries of punishment, loyalty, morality and tradition.” I’m not sure what I’ll take along when I see this work, but I don’t doubt that I’ll come away with something altogether more profound. April 2011.

Of one thing I am certain. The only thing sweeter than relaxing with a copy of The New York Times on Sunday morning is opening the paper to find more exciting news about ASU arts offerings — along with knowing I’ll be able to enjoy them firsthand as their new seasons of theater, film, music and dance unfold.


Note: The ASU 2010-2011 MainStage Season also includes the 6th Annual ASU Student Film Festival — taking place at the Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe April 25 and 26, 2011. The event features “the best student films produced within the school, and features a 10-minute film competition sponsored by the ASU Film Association.” To learn more about season performance locations and ticket prices, visit www.mainstage.asu.edu.

Coming up: Animal art, Laugh your brass off, Spotlight on storytelling, Conversations with Cory English about life on the road with family and “Young Frankenstein”

There’s an award for that!

A week ago Monday, protestors took to the Arizona state capitol to protest immigration-related legislation—but the governor wasn’t there to witness the gathering.

David and Sonja Faeroy Saar (center) attend 2010 Governor's Arts Awards

She was already scheduled to appear at the 28th annual Governor’s Arts Awards, held at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix—an event presented by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Office of the Governor.

I spoke with a Valley artist attending the event that evening, who felt it a bit odd to be celebrating Arizona arts with the governor at a time when so many sectors of our community—including education, health care and the arts—feel ravaged by state budget cuts.

Still, it’s important to recognize the achievements of Valley artists and arts supporters. Now, more than ever, their work matters. I was especially proud that my 16-year old daughter Lizabeth was there, performing with Greasepaint Youtheatre.

She had strict orders to bring me a program and note names of the 2010 winners so I could pass the info along to you.

Dean Osborne performs at the Grand Canyon Music Festival

Here’s the happy news:

• Composer James DeMars of Tempe, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, received the Artist Award

• Preservationist Elisabeth Ruffner of Prescott, received the Individual Award

• Arts advocate Shirley Chann of Tucson, received the Shelley Arts Advocate Award

• The Grand Canyon Music Festival received the Education Award

Bank of America received the Business Award

The Drawing Studio in Tucson received the Community Award

Art for Kids Project at Webb Center

If you know of a deserving volunteer, artist, advocate, arts organization or business, there are plenty of other awards out there. Consider nominating/voting for the artists and arts lovers in your life if they’re eligible for the following…

• Arizona Central’s “Best” Poll. Vote on nominees online before tomorrow’s (April 28) deadline. Categories include art gallery, annual arts festival/event, regional arts center, theater company, live theater venue, museum, musical festival/event and more.

AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence. Nominations for two awards are being accepted through August 15, 2010. The “Outstanding Contribution Award” honors someone within the theater community and the “Distinguished Service Award” honors an individual, corporation or organization outside the theater community.

• Business in the Arts Awards. Nominations now being accepted for awards to be presented at the August 18, 2010 “New Artitude” event presented by Wells Fargo. Categories include large business partner, mid-size business partner, small business partner, arts organization, arts advocate, arts board member and special business volunteer.

Detour Company Theatre

Two other nifty bits of news in the arts award department…

Arizona Theatre Company’s own Latino Playwriting Award-Winner, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” by Kristoffer Diaz, was honored as a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (The Pulitzer was awarded to “Next to Normal” by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey—which will tour, beginning in November, with stops in Los Angeles and San Diego).

• Eight’s Third Annual Be More Awards™ will be announced at a May 20, 2010 luncheon and awards ceremony at Eight’s downtown Phoenix studios. Nominated arts organizations include the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, Rosie’s House and Valley Youth Theatre (for the “Be More Creative” award recognizing achievement in arts and culture) and Detour Company Theatre (for the “Be More Encouraged” judges’ choice award).

Rosie's House Music Academy

As always, I welcome your input if there are additional resources not included here. Please let me know of other award opportunities in the comment section below so our readers will have even more ways to recognize the artists, advocates and other arts leaders in our communities. There’s only one rule around here: Be nice.


NEW FEATURE! Watch for “Today’s Tidbits” at the end of Monday-Thursday posts so you’ll know of arts experiences you can enjoy during the week with your family or friends. Look for weekend arts events in Friday “Stage Mom” posts. More arts and other family-friendly activities are available every day at Raising Arizona Kids’ online calendar thanks to our amazing calendar editor Mala Blomquist.

Today’s Tidbits: ASU Theatre and Film presents their “5th Annual Student Film Fest” featuring both showcase and competitive formats at 7:30pm at Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe (info at 480-965-6447 or www.theatrefilm.asu.edu) • Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a free CGCC Community Choir and Orchestra Concert at 7pm (info at 480-732-7343) • Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe presents local author Tom Leveen with his debut teen novel “Party” at 7pm (info at www.changinghands.com) • Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents “Talk Cinema: Sneak Preview #7” featuring a film that “depicts the aspirations of all immigrants and the fulfillment of the American dream” followed by a moderated conversation with experts (tickets are $20; info at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org). If you have a visual or performing arts event to share, please drop me a line at rakstagemom@gmail.com. Calendar items can be submitted online.

It’s all caught on film

Most folks, whether film buffs or film know-nothings (I’m the latter), have heard of the Cannes International Film Festival in France, the Aspen Filmfest in Colorado and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah (and yes, Sundance fans, there is “an app for that”). But did you know there are quite a few film festivals that take place right here in Arizona?

One of these festivals, the Arizona Student Film Festival, is right around the corner. I’ve never been to a film festival, but I’d like to make this my first. You’ve got to admire youth who can create works in one of the three featured categories—30 second public service announcement (on water conservation), microshort (1-5 minutes) and short (5-12 minutes). It would take me that long to figure out how to turn on the video camera.

The festival comes to Harkins Valley Art Theatre on Mill Ave. in Tempe Saturday, Jan. 16th. I adore this theater venue—as does my youngest daughter Lizabeth—because it leaves me feeling transported to any earlier time when movie theaters felt at once both more quaint and more spectacular. The movies they show, one at a time because there’s just a single screen, are always edgy and endearing. I expect nothing less from the young filmmakers whose works will be shown during the festival.

The 16th Annual Sedona International Film Festival takes place Feb. 21st-28th and features “independent film programming in all genres” as well as various series or tracks including family, classics and green/sustainable. While it’s too late to submit work for consideration for this year’s event, the call for submissions for the 2011 festival will open this May.

Submissions are also closed for the 2010 Phoenix Film Festival, the event’s 10th anniversary, taking place April 8th to 15th at Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theatre. The festival will feature “independent films from around the world, celebrities, filmmaking seminars, student filmmaking seminars and parties all week long.” (I wonder whether a clever filmmaker might film the weeklong parties for consideration at the 2011 festival.)

There’s still time to submit works—“in the categories of narrative and documentary features, documentary, dramatic, comedy, experimental and animation shorts”—for the 2010 Arizona International Film Festival’s THEREEL FRON TIER Film & Video Competition. The AIFF’s “19th edition” of showcasing films takes place April 15th to 25th. They’ve issued a special call for works by young filmmakers (18 and under) for their Indie Youth program. Submissions will be accepted through Feb. 12th “in the categories of dramatic, comedy, documentary, experimental and animation shorts.”

The deadline is also fast approaching for submissions to the Annual Short Film and Video Festival presented by the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in Tempe. The festival “is open to all film and video makers worldwide” and reviews entries submitted by students of all ages. Projects should be “no longer than ten minutes in length” and must be submitted by Feb. 5th. The festival takes place in April.

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival takes place Feb. 20th to March 24th at the Harkins Scottsdale Camelview Theatre and the Harkins Chandler Crossroads Theatre. The festival “brings a terrific slate of new feature films to the Valley.” Organizers note that “you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy!”

Later this year, you can enjoy the 10th Annual Scottsdale International Film Festival, scheduled for Oct. 1st to 5th at the Harkins Camelview 5 Theatre (another venue that routinely shows movies you won’t find elsewhere but really ought not to miss).

If your New Year’s resolutions include trying new experiences, meeting new people or upping your C.Q. (culture quotient), film festivals may well be the way to go. Life’s too short to live on reruns and beer commercials.


Update: Get the scoop on another Arizona film festival in the comment section below. You’ll find further details at http://www.thea3f.net/

Note: Local, national and international creators of experimental and adventurous live theater are invited to submit work for consideration to the Phoenix Fringe Festival. Deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 5th. Festival is scheduled for April 2nd to 11th. Visit www.phxfringe.org for details.