Tag Archives: The Miracle Worker

The circle of theater

Kylie Cochrane (Laura), Rebecca Steiner (Beatrice) and Scotlyn Mascarelli (Sara) backstage after Saturday's matinee performance of William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker" at Scottsdale Community College

Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation.” Elton John’s “The Circle of Life.” Even Shakespeare-in-the-round and the Roundabout Theatre Company. Theater is full of circles — some dizzying, some delightful. But I had another sort of circle in mind when heading out for a performance of William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker.”

The circle from child to adult, from teacher to mentor, from one mother to another. When high school felt torturous, theater was our daughter Lizabeth’s salvation. And Valley actress Maren Maclean, then teaching at Arizona School for the Arts, was there for her. To teach, to coach, to listen, to uplift and to embrace. I’ll never forget it.

Today I headed up to Scottsdale Community College for the matinee performance of “The Miracle Worker” so I could see Maclean’s daughter Scotlyn perform, knowing Liz would be right there with me if she could beam herself back from college acting studies in NYC. Our girls first met many years ago, and my how they’ve grown since.

Victoria Grace (L, Helen Keller) poses after the show with Sierra -- who brought lovely flowers to congratulate Grace on her performance

SCC  is another one of our circles. Our son Christopher earned his degree there and continues to take classes in career-related offerings, also working and volunteering with the school’s Center for Native and Urban Wildlife. It was actually Christopher who reminded me to hit “The Miracle Worker” — I kept feeling like late March was worlds away. The world spins quickly when we’re not watching.

Lizabeth also trained for two summers with Maclean — plus SCC theatre arts chair Randy Messersmith and other theater professionals — in the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, which celebrates its 25th season this summer. Auditions for the five-week program are open to folks ages 16 + and this year’s auditions take place Sat, April 21.

SCT “provides students with an opportunity to earn up to 10 semester hours of college credit while studying with professional actors who are currently working in their field.” This year’s program runs from May 29-July 3. The twenty students selected to participate will enjoy classes in stage movement, mask, voice and diction, and text analysis.

Carrie Rockwell (L, Aunt Ev) and John Viliott (Captain Keller) pose after Saturday's matinee of SCC's "The Miracle Worker"

The program’s founder and former director, Pamela Fields, will be teaching a master class in Anton Chekhov acting technique, and the college will be producing “The Good Doctor” by Neil Simon. I first met Fields while we were fellow ASU Gammage Goers, and recall being wowed by her theater expertise, insightful sense of humor and warm spirit. (I wasn’t yet in RAK “Stage Mom” mode.)

I suppose the circle is growing into something of a line at this point. Actually several of them. I’ll be following one to Mesa Arts Center for the April 19-May 5 run of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which features Jesse James Kamps and Maren Maclean as Benedick & Beatrice. I last encountered these characters during a Childsplay summer camp performance, which made me adore “Ado” even more.

The circle started long ago at Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley, where Lizabeth and fellow students enjoyed rich experiences in arts and academics. Lizabeth first took to the stage in Greasepaint Youththeatre productions of “Tom Sawyer” and “The King and I” (turns out a fellow actor from the latter is now a swing in “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway).

I remember her absolute delight — and that of her sister Jennifer (who performed with great aplomb in “Pinocchio” and “Hansel and Gretel” at Greasepaint) — when teachers came to see her perform, and made time after to chat about the experience and ask for autographs. Today it was my turn to make a little girl’s day, though Scotlyn hardly needed the encouragement. No time for autographs when you’ve got another show to prepare for. Your last chance to see SCC’s production of “The Miracle Worker” is tonight at 7:3opm.

Grace (L) posing with Bonanni after Saturday's matinee

It’s a lovely, charming piece directed with finesse by Ron Bonanni. The script is absolutely beautiful — and a real delight for those of us whose passion for words mirrors that of teacher Annie Sullivan. You’ll know both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan better for seeing it, and you’ll be impressed with the professionalism of this production — which features scenic design by Alex Keen and costume design by Elizabeth Peterson. It’s produced by Randy Messersmith.

Kirsten Zollars (Anne Sullivan), Victoria Grace (Helen Keller) and Christopher Masucci (James Keller) gave especially strong performances — and each excels at showing their character’s smart and saucy side. I especially enjoyed songs and spirituals sung throughout the play, and the playwright’s subtle digs at the politics and gender stereotypes of the time. That’s a whole other circle that just keeps turning.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for details about the application/audition process for this year’s Summer Conservatory Theatre at SCC. You can buy tickets for tonight’s performance of “The Miracle Worker” at the SCC Performing Arts Center at the door (SCC is located at 9000 E. Chaparral Rd.).

Coming up: A city inside a museum


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

The Miracle Worker

I once went a little overboard in the helping with a school project department. Jennifer got an assignment during elementary school that had something to do with creating a work of art about a famous person. The person was Helen Keller, and the project became a giant quilt of sorts with squares depicting various experiences in Keller’s life.

We’ve still got the nine-panel piece, framed in a beautiful mahogany-colored shadow box I’m afraid to hang because the darn thing is so heavy. I’ll have to give it another look, now that news of a local production of “The Miracle Worker” has crossed my path.

Turns out Scottsdale Community College is presenting the William Gibson work this semester, and holding auditions for select cast members early this week. Randy Messersmith, head of the SCC theatre arts department, is working to cast five girls ages five to 15 to portray five blind children in the play.

Playwright William Gibson based the 1957 play on Keller’s autobiography, titled “The Story of My Life” back in the good old days before every woman whose name starts with a K felt her life story needed 24/7 coverage.

“The Miracle Worker”opened on Broadway at the Playhouse Theatre in October of 1959 and earned the 1960 Tony Award for best play. It starred Patty Duke, who recently directed a production of “The Miracle Worker” for Interplayers Professional Theatre in Spokane, as Helen Keller. Plenty of productions, and a 1962 film, were done in between.

Most of us worry we’d never survive a day without luxuries like cars, televisions, computers and cell phones. It might be good for all of us to revisit the story of Helen Keller, who did just fine without the sight or hearing lost due to illness when she was just a toddler.

If you’re the parent of a young girl or teen who’d enjoy being part of SCC’s production of “The Miracle Worker,” take note of auditions scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday. They’re being held Jan. 30 from 6-9pm and Jan. 31 from 3:3o-7:30pm. Messersmith tells me auditioners can just show up — no appointment is needed.

No need for a monologue, adds Messersmith. Auditions consist of cold readings from the script. Auditions are being held at the SCC Performing Arts Center Mainstage, located at 9000 E. Chaparral Rd. in Scottsdale. Auditioners are asked to enter through the main lobby.

I hope the aspiring actors who take part will leave auditions feeling inspired to learn more about the life and times of Helen Keller. No quilting required.

— Lynn

Note: For comprehensive information about Valley auditions for youth and adults, visit Durant Communications at www.durantcom.com.

Coming up: The fine art of Valentine’s Day, Cell phones in the afterlife?, A trio of “39 Steps”

Artwork by Jenn Trimble (Photos by Lynn Trimble)

Ode to the Arizoni Awards

The Homestead Playhouse gang gathers after the 2011 Arizoni Awards youth ceremony (Photo by David Martinez)

While others sat glued to “Dancing with the Stars,” I enjoyed a festive evening with Arizona “theater folk” — attending Monday night’s Arizoni Awards at Tempe Center for the Arts. It’s actually two ceremonies, one for youth and another for adults.

This allows younger actors to finish homework and make their bedtimes. It also lets the hosts turn loose a little bit with off-color humor and language during the second half of the evening.

The 21st annual Arizoni Awards — formally known at the Arizoni Theatre Awards of Excellence — featured “dream hosts” Yolanda London, Robert Kolby Harper and Kurtis Overby. All looked fetching in their white sequin gowns and mostly-blue evening attire (Overby, sporting a red tie, didn’t get that memo.)

A few fashion trends of note: purple shirts for the gentlemen and long blue gowns for the ladies. My “best dressed” picks include Eric Chapman, president of the executive board for the Arizoni Awards, who rocked a black and white jacket with a jumbo check pattern and red lining.

Also Rebecca Hammer, one of four presenter assistants for the youth ceremony, who wasn’t afraid to share with me in the lobby that her royal blue gown with tasteful silver trim at the waist was a “My Michelle” from JC Penney.

Two shoe trends of note — flip flips and gladiator sandles. I’m not sure which is worse. Footwear that looks like a glittering granola bar or shoes that appear they could easily double as a weapon. (This from a woman who thinks black Fossil flats qualify as evening wear.)

The youth ceremony included performances by Greasepaint Youtheatre (“Bare Necessities” from “Disney’s The Jungle Book”), DFT Gecko Teatro (“Biggest Blame Fool” from “Seussical, Jr.”) and Actor’s Youth Theatre (“One Day More” from “Les Miserables School Edition”). Think lots of animal print and red, white and blue.

A gathering of Actor's Youth Theatre after the Arizoni Awards youth ceremony

It’s impossible, it seems, to curb excessive displays of enthusiasm during such ceremonies — but many of the grown-ups I chatted with were genuinely concerned it might takes days to regain full use of their throbbing eardrums. Maybe we should all try a little harder to emulate the calm of the Tony Awards we all hope to see our children participate in one day.

Director Chanel Branham (in blue) with Arizoni Award nominees Cambrian James (L), Andrea Martinez and David Vigari (R) (Photo by David Martinez)

Director Chanel Branham (in blue) with Arizoni Award nominees Cambrian James (L), Andrea Martinez and David Vigari (R) (Photo by David Martinez)

Results of the 2011 Arizoni Awards should be posted online once folks recover from the after-party, which landed a corporate sponsor for the first time this year. Thanks to the Arizona Ford Dealers Association — and a wag of the finger to those of you still driving Chevys to auditions and rehearsals.

If you followed the Arizoni Awards on Twitter last night, you’ve already got the scoop on big winners — which included Childsplay’s “The Borrowers.” Audience members seemed especially delighted when young actress Sara Matin was honored for her portrayal of Helen Keller in Desert Stages Theatre’s production of “The Miracle Worker.”

Alaina Beauloye, Jimmy Shoffman and the cast of Desert Stages’ “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” performed “Love is My Legs” during the adult ceremony. And Fountain Hills Community Theater performed “Along Came Bialy” from “The Producers” — complete with well-endowed grannies rocking tap-dancing walkers.

But the most applause went to Dion Johnson and D. Scott Withers, who performed “Timeless to Me” from the Phoenix Theatre production of “Hairspray” that resulted in awards for both Withers and Phoenix Theatre. Withers, who somehow made time to serve as director for this year’s Arizoni Awards, was teary- eyed as he accepted the award. Waterproof mascara is such a blessing.

Alex Slocum, Camille Gibbons, Jason Washburn, Brenda Goodenberger, Jennell Angel, Sydnie Greger and Victoria Fricker at the Arizoni Awards

Folks who offered thank yous chose the usual suspects — parents, children, fellow theater folk and volunteers. One thanked the ‘moms and dads set construction union,’ another the siblings ‘who never get jealous,’ and another the make-up artist who bestowed a full head of hair. Two thanked God for their ‘amazing talent.’ (God knows it’s there, no need to share.)

Four students received Arizoni Award scholarships during the youth ceremony — all ASU students, one in a doctoral program. The Virginia G. Piper Trust was honored during the adult cermony for its ongoing and outstanding support of Arizona arts and culture.

Chuck Disney, Linda Ferington, Patrick Moyse, Alexander Blilie and Ross Collins of Fountain Hills Community Theater (Photo by Patty Torrilhon)

Before leaving for the evening, I handed my business card to several folks gathered for impromptu picture-taking. I’ll update this post as their handiwork rolls in (and more gems from the ceremonies come to mind).

Congratulations to every Arizoni Award nominee and winner. You make it fun to sit atop the fifth wall.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the Arizoni Awards online at www.arizoniawards.com. If you have photos of last night’s ceremony to share, feel free to send them my way at rakstagemom@gmail.com. A selection will be featured in an updated version of this post.

Coming up: Conversations with Arizoni Award winners, Shopping takes center stage, Musical instrument photo opp, For the love of Lilly!

Home sweet theater

After learning of a recent “community day” at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale, I decided to head over and check it out myself.

I found dozens of volunteers sorting props on the back lot, building sets for upcoming productions and painting all sorts of candy images on black walls inside Cullity Hall, where Desert Stages opens their production of “Willy Wonka, Jr.” on Fri, May 20.

They even let me sit in as energetic children and teens peforming in “Willy Wonka, Jr.” packed into another performance space to practice various songs from the show.

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In keeping with the “Willy Wonka, Jr.” theme, Desert Stages Theatre presents their “Golden Ticket Gala” May 14 at the Scottsdale Hilton Resort. They’re also plenty busy with another show, “The Miracle Worker,” which runs through May 29.

As kids and grown-ups participating in last Saturday’s rehearsals and work day gathered around mid-day to share pizza and perky conversation, it was clear that these families truly relish their time together.

— Lynn

Note: Desert Stages Theatre has just announced that tickets for the “Golden Ticket Gala” can still be purchased through today, so act quickly if you want to be part of this evening featuring dinner, dancing, a silent auction and more. Tickets for adults or children are $60 each. Click here for details.

Coming up: Art by children at St. Joseph’s Hospital

Baker’s dozen for 16th season

Talk about multitasking

Desert Stages' 2007-2008 "Beauty and the Beast"

Desert Stages Theatre describes itself as “the busiest playhouse in town”–presenting more than 400 stage performances each year.

Their 2010-2011 season is expected to include a lucky 13 shows, assuming that rights pending on two of their prospects come through.

I suspect they’re keeping just about everything crossed over there while awaiting word.

Desert Stages' 2009-2010 "The Ugly Duckling"

Desert Stages Theatre performs on several stages within a single playhouse, and features three series of shows: The adult mainstage series, the children’s theatre series and actor’s cafe productions.

It’s conveniently located in Scottsdale close to Scottsdale Fashion Square so folks who live outside the area can easily make a day of it between the mall and other area attractions such as galleries and gift shops in Old Town Scottsdale, the Scottsdale Public Library, Harkins Theatre Camelview 5 (our favorite for foreign and independent films), The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sugar Bowl old-fashioned ice cream parlor and more.

It’s even close to Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) so you can enjoy a matinee with one youth theater company during the day, then take in an evening performance with the other. And don’t even get me started on all the frozen yoghurt and coffee joints. Come to think of it, coupling youth theater and other attractions with a weekend stay at a nearby hotel or resort would make for a fun “staycation” right here in the Valley of the Sun.

Desert Stages' 2007-2008 "Cinderella, a Ragtime Musical"

Here’s the rundown on Desert Stages Theatre’s 2010-2011 season, with shows listed in chronological order. Check their website to learn more about particular shows, including information on auditions, group ticket sales and such.

It’s quite the eclectic menu this time around…

“The Dinner Party” (Actor’s Cafe) runs Aug 13-Oct 3.

“Gerry Cullity’s Cinderella, a Ragtime Musical” (Children’s Theatre) runs Aug 20-Sept 19.

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (Adult Mainstage) runs Oct 8-31.

“On Golden Pond” (Actor’s Cafe) runs Oct 22-Dec 19.

“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” (Children’s Theatre) runs Nov 19-Dec 19.

Desert Stages' 2007-2008 "Beauty and the Beast"

“Bye Bye Birdie” (Adult Mainstage) runs Jan 7-30.

“A Raisin in the Sun” (Actor’s Cafe) runs Jan 14-March 6.

“Gerry Cullity’s Charlotte’s Web” (Children’s Theatre) runs Feb 18-March 20.

“The Miracle Worker” (Actor’s Cafe) runs March 25-May 15.

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Adult Mainstage) runs April 8-May 1.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Children’s Theatre) runs May 20-June 19.

Desert Stages' 2007-2008 "Cinderella, a Ragtime Musical"

The final two are scheduled as follows with “rights pending” (a topic I’ll explore more in a future post)…

“And Then There Were None” (Actor’s Cafe) is scheduled for June 3-24.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” (Adult Mainstage) is scheduled for July 8-31.

For information on family-friendly resorts in Scottsdale, as well as other parts of the Valley and state, check the Raising Arizona Kids magazine listing online.

If your child is eager to enjoy a youth theater experience before 2010-2011 seasons begin, consider one of the theater camps noted in our “Summer Solutions” guide.

Desert Stages' 2008-2009 "Seussical Jr."

Although summer classes at Desert Stages Academy are full, there are oodles of other options–and there’s still plenty of time to enjoy current season shows at Desert Stages, including “ART” (through July 25, alternating weekends) and “The Wedding Singer” (opens July 9).


Note: You can reach the Desert Stages Theatre box office at 480-483-1664, ext. 1

Coming up: More new season announcements, Theater on a bus?, Upcoming fundraisers for arts organizations. “The Twilight Saga” actor offers audition advice

Theater camp alert! Theatre Artists Studio’s “Summer Theater Camp” runs July 6-16 for ages 7 to 13 in Scottsdale. Campers will work on a musical production of “The Little Mermaid.” Info at: http://www.thestudiophx.org/OPPORTUNITIES/2010SummerCamp.html