Tag Archives: The Imaginators

Once upon a kindness

The finest of good deeds are done quietly. No expectation of rewards. No sense of self-importance. 

They’re just given. 

And not soon forgotten… 

Childsplay sets are stunning works of art

So it is with Childsplay, the Tempe-based professional theater company for young audiences and families, which opens its 33rd season in September. 

The first year I bought play passes for Childsplay productions, we weren’t able to use a single ticket. 

Our son was having a tumultuous year, as we all were, when a serious health condition became our constant shadow. A trip to the theater felt tougher than a trip to the moon. 

We mourned the loss of many things that year—the joys of children’s theater among them. 

I shared a bit of our story with one of the fine folks at Childsplay, who graciously offered us play passes for the following season. 

Life had settled a bit by then, and the light of theater chased many shadows from our midst. 

Childsplay extends learning beyond the classroom

I’ll always be grateful to Childsplay for that simple act of kindness. 

I remember it well each time they announce another season full of whimsy and wonder. 

I recently learned that Childsplay passes for the 2010-2011 season are an especially good value when purchased before June 30. 

When you purchase play passes, they’re deposited directly into an account created for you at the Tempe Center for the Arts box office, and you can exchange the passes for show tickets either in person, by phone or online. 

Friendship is a common theme for Childsplay

The play pass program gives you a chance to enjoy lower ticket prices, waived processing fees and the ability to obtain show tickets a week before they go on sale to the general public.

Tickets can be mailed to you, printed at home or held for you at the box office. 

This is especially lovely for those of us who find that dealing with tangibles like tickets and money is way beyond bothersome. 

Although passes will be available for purchase through September, you’ll enjoy the best discounts if you order before June 30. You can click here for all the juicy details. 

Childsplay offerings for the 2010-2011 season are:

“A Year With Frog and Toad.” Follows the adventure of two great friends—a cheerful frog and a grouchy toad. Sept 18-Oct 16. Ages 4+. 

Childsplay makes learning fun

“Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” Recreates the world of intrigue that is “Room One” in a trio of Barbara Parker’s best-selling books. Jan 29-March 6. Ages 5+. 

“Go, Dog. Go!” Brings the adventures of P.D. Eastman’s book to life in a frolicking musical dog party. Jan 29-March 6. Ages 3+. 

“The Imaginators.” Explores the power of make believe as three friends discover friendship, courage and cooperation. April 9-17 (two weekends only). Ages 5+. 

“The Borrowers.” Follows a family who live under the floorboards as their curious daughter begins to explore the world of the ‘human beans’ who live upstairs. April 30-May 22. Ages 7+. 

Each show has it’s own charm, and back-story. To learn more about individual shows, their creators and their characters, visit Childsplay online at www.childsplayaz.org

I lost my heart to Childsplay after that first act of kindness. But more than a decade later, I still feel a genuine heart-tug each time I see them perform. 

Childsplay is truly the gift that keeps on giving. 



Childsplay shows make great play dates

Photos from previous Childsplay productions of “A Year With Frog and Toad,” “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” and “Go Dog. Go!” courtesy of Childsplay

Note: Childsplay will also perform “New Kid” (tour only) and “Ferdinand the Bull” (national tour only) this season. They offer classes year-round and are now booking school performances for the coming school year. Consider getting extra passes so you can take friends along and have some on hand for last-minute birthday gifts.  

Coming up: An intriguing season from Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Preview of weekend arts events (including the “I Matter” performance this Friday night by youth in the Free Arts theater camp program), Valley theaters present new works


Human beans and hungry giants

You discover, once you’re a parent, that some things—from sibling rivalry to homework battles—are nearly unavoidable. So it is with certain children’s authors, such as Seuss, Silverstein and Dahl.

My kids read plenty of Roald Dahl books during elementary school, mostly at the behest of teachers who seemed to be charmed themselves by titles like Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Dahl’s interest in writing children’s books was fueled by his delight in crafting stories for two young daughters—Tessa and Olivia. Often he writes with the perspective of a child caught in a world of extremely silly or insensitive grown-ups.

Truthfully, the world of Roald Dahl has never really spoken to me—until now. It was seeing Childsplay perform “The Big Friendly Giant” recently at Tempe Center for the Arts that opened my eyes to the wonders of Roald Dahl, even to the wonders of the world in general.

“The BFG” opens with a little girl, Sophie, tucked away in her room—but still able to hear the shrill calls of demanding adults. Come bedtime, Sophie spies a giant creature outside her window.

Soon Sophie (played by Debra K. Stevens) is snatched up and taken back to the BFG’s humble home, where the BFG (played by Dwayne Hartford) explains that he means her no harm. It’s simply what a giant must do once a human learns of its existence.

Still, he’s no ordinary giant. He’s actually rather small by giant standards, and not at all fierce like giants with names like Gizzardgulper, Bonecruncher and Childchewer.

His fellow giants find humans quite tasty, but the BFG has a different palate and a distinctive pastime. He catches dreams—then distributes them to their rightful owners.

Meanwhile, terror is afoot in Europe—where there’s talk of giants feasting on children snatched in growing numbers. Sophie and the BFG come to the rescue, proving that folks who are quite different can unite in pursuit of a good and common goal.

Along the way, we meet several giants rocking an almost “Where the Wild Things Are” vibe—as well as a couple of queens with accents that leave the audience howling.

The Queen of England is played by Katie McFadzen and the Queen of Scotland by Laura Berger (in Berger’s case, picture Betty White—on steroids).

Sidekicks Jon Gentry (Head of the Army) and D. Scott Withers (Head of the Air Force) up the funny factor in their bumbling, albeit dedicated, service to England’s Queen.

In the end, of course, that pesky human-eating habit is resolved through teamwork and trust.

Along the way, we’re charmed by unique giant customs like “whizzpopping”—the delightful consequence of drinking carbonated beverages in which the bubbles travel down rather than up.

It certainly made an impression on the three 4th and 5th grade boys seated in front of me, who turned to me during intermission to note that the subject matter might not be appropriate for “little kids.”

Childsplay recommends “The BFG” for ages six and up—and when they say “and up” they mean it. Grown-ups attending “The Big Friendly Giant” laughed every bit as often and outrageously as the younger set.

As always, Childsplay does a masterful job of expanding learning opportunities beyond the curtain call. A “talk back” with cast members after the show covered everything from examples of bravery exhibited by various characters to how certain props and lights are operated during the show.

Guests leaving the theater after the show receive a “For the ride home…” handout thanks to Childsplay’s “360º Theatre” sponsor—Banner Health Cardon Children’s Medical Center.

It’s full of ideas for BFG-related activities, like creating a menu (without humans) a giant might like, starting your own dream diary or considering ways best friends are sometimes similar yet different.

Guests can purchase Roald Dahl books to enjoy at home, learn about the dialect reflected in the BFG’s “punnery” and word play, and explore the world of dreams (including dreams in various cultures, dreams throughout history and the role of dreams in creativity).

I learned from one display that the tune for the Beatles’ hit “Yesterday” came to Paul McCartney in a dream. I had some fun spinning various combinations of nonsense words using side-by-side Rolodex gizmos. I even checked out the artwork of guests who invented new words and drew pictures to illustrate them.

The real master of new things is David Saar, Childsplay’s founder and artistic director. Saar directs this production, which is profoundly imbued with his own dreams and daring. It’s another not-to-be-missed adventure in the fine art of storytelling.


Note: The cast of “The Big Friendly Giant” also includes Andres Alcala, who shared the following when asked about his favorite giant or monster: “Andre the Giant is my favorite because he is so gentle.” Read your program closely when you see the show to learn which cast members favor the Jolly Green Giant, the Wild Things and other monsters that might be less familiar.

Coming up: A sneak peek at Childsplay’s 2010-2011 season, including an original Childsplay production called “The Imaginators” by playwright Dwayne Hartford—who shares that a particular character in the play was inspired by his own favorite monster ala Edward Gorey.