Tag Archives: Tony Kushner

Musings on Maurice Sendak

If I need to find my youngest daughter Lizabeth in a crowd, I just look for the black hooded jacket she’s practically lived in for the past couple of years. It’s got a giant image from the book “Where the Wild Things Are” on the back, and she’s especially mindful of wearing it today knowing that 83-year-old Maurice Sendak, an author and illustrator who was born and raised in Brooklyn, has died.

I shared the news with a local librarian shortly after hearing it. She seemed both shocked and saddened. I’d gone to the Scottsdale Civic Center Library with my son Christopher to check out a copy of “Brundibar,” the work of both Sendak and Tony Kushner (known to theater folks for writing the play “Angels in America“). Reading Sendak’s work feels like a good way to honor him.

I brought the book along when we headed to our neighborhood yogurt shop — knowing Christopher likes to linger over his vanilla swirl with gummy worms. Some things boys just never seem to outgrow. Christopher saw “The Wild Things” movie with me several years ago, and felt a special kinship for the lead character Max, whose moods are often larger than life.

Christopher looked over my shoulder as I read through “Brundibar,” taking special note of the yellow star on a doctor’s jacket, challah bread in the town bakery and a sign reading “Arbeit Macht Frei.” Sendak once told a reporter for The New York Times that “The Holocaust has run like a river of blood through all my books.” His family’s experiences with depression have been reported as well.

Tonight, while driving to oldest daughter Jennifer’s favorite Mexican food joint, we listened to NPR’s re-broadcast of a Terry Gross interview with Sendak that covered all sorts of topics. The different ways he related to his brother and his sister. His decision to remain childless. The fact that his parents died never knowing he was gay.

Take time in coming days and weeks to revisit the work of artist Maurice Sendak, and to learn more about the man behind the stories — for he’s fascinating folk. Read his works alone and with your family. Consider gifts to causes he supported. Listen to the opera that inspired “Brunibar.” Explore the Rosenbach Museum and Library collection of Sendak manuscripts and illustrations. Wrestle with the “wild things.” And act on two words at the heart of his work: Never again.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read one of my favorite interviews with Sendak, conducted by Bill Moyers for “Now” on PBS. Click here to learn more about National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 9).

Coming up: One mother’s diary


Shakespeare a la symphony, opera & ballet

Once you come to appreciate the works of William Shakespeare, it’s hard to really get your fill. There’s so much material to choose from — interpreted and presented in a myriad of ways.

Here’s a sampling of Shakespeare-related offerings by Arizona arts organizations…

Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet” presented by the Phoenix Symphony. At Phoenix Symphony Hall on Oct 7-9 (times vary). Concert features both a romantic suite from Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet” as well as Hans Krasa’s “Brundibar,” a children’s opera composed in 1938 and frequently performed at a concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia.

Performers include Phoenix Symphony Chorus and Phoenix Boys Choir. “Brundibar” performance will also include images from a recently published book titled “Brundibar” by author Tony Kushner and famed children’s book illustrator Maurice Sendak (“Where the Wild Things Are”).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream” presented by Ballet Arizona. At Phoenix Symphony Hall on Nov 5-7 (times vary). Ballet choreographed by Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen features “lavish sets, amazing costumes, and fun loving characters.”

It’s “a comedic love story of quarreling fairies, human lovers, and mistaken identity” that’s suitable for the entire family — featuring music by Felix Mendelssohn

Romeo and Juliet” presented by The Acting Company and Guthrie Theater production (special engagement for 2010-2011 Arizona Theatre Company season). At Herberger Theater Center on Nov 4-7 (times vary). This performance by “two of America’s premier classical theatre companies” features Alejandro Rodriguez as Romeo and Kaliswa Brewster as Juliet.

“As You Like It” presented by the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television. At the U of A’s Tornabene Theatre on March 2-27.  It’s the tale of a young heroine, Rosalind, and her journey (disguised as a boy) from her uncle’s repressive court to a complicated relationship with her true love Orlando.

Otello” presented by Arizona Opera. At Tucson Music Hall on March 5 & 6 and Phoenix Symphony Hall on March 11-13. Verdi’s famous opera is “faithful to the text of Shakespeare’s play” about treachery fueled by jealousy and rumor.

Work will be sung in Italian with English subtitles, and feature the towering tenor Allan Glassman (“a gifted mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera”) as Otello.

Opera and Ballet Cinema Series” presented by Harkins Theatres and Emerging Pictures. Showing exclusively at Arrowhead 18, Chandler Fashion 20 and Scottsdale 101 14 (dates/times vary). Series features “the best in European opera and ballet” — including several live performances.

A ballet production of “Romeo and Juliet” will be shown at participating Harkins Theatres March 10, 2011 at 6:30pm. A live opera production of “Macbeth” will be shown June 13, 2011 (time TBA). Series tickets often sell out quickly — so consider yourself warned.

My youngest daughter Lizabeth, now a 17-year-old theater arts student, loved going to opera, ballet and symphony performances as a child — starting in elementary school. It didn’t hurt, I suppose, that she studied ballet and violin starting in kindergarten.

Today she’s a Shakespeare aficionado who has studied Shakespeare with Childsplay, Arizona School for the Arts , Scottsdale Community College and the Utah Shakespearean Festival — and enjoys attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions in Mesa.

To learn more about Southwest Shakespeare Company offerings — including their 2010/2011 season and education programs (including a touring production of “Romeo & Juliet” featuring 2010/2011 Company Interns), visit them online.

While you’re there, check out a cool photo contest of sorts that’ll be held in conjunction with the season’s red carpet opening of “Blood Royal” on Sept 10.

If your child is too young to enjoy these live performances, never fear. You can still enjoy the works of Shakespeare together thanks to the “Shakespeare Can Be Fun!” series, including various titles by Lois Burdett which feature charming drawings, anecdotes and more. 


Note: Featured children’s books are pubished by Firefly Books. I had a great time exploring their diverse offerings online at www.fireflybooks.com.

Coming up: Reviews of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” by Mesa Encore Theatre and “Noises Off” by Phoenix Theatre; Arts management musings from Michael Kaiser (President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)