Tag Archives: VYT

Going rogue?

I've always got my eye out for art -- like this "Right Eye from an Arthropoid Coffin" (1539-30 B.C., Egypt) recently spotted at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

I feel a bit rogue sometimes — writing for an Arizona magazine, but finding such delight in covering NYC arts and culture. So I decided maybe it was time to share with readers in both states, plus others, my rationale for marrying the two. The initial lure, of course, was our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Like many born and raised in Arizona, she’s chosen to further her arts education in NYC — so I visit several times a year in “mom mode.”

But the bridge between Arizona and NYC (plus Chicago and other communities with a heavy arts footprint) is a two-way street. Many who teach and create art in Arizona communities hail from NYC or other parts of the country, and I enjoy giving voice to the places and spaces that’ve nurtured the gifts enjoyed by Arizona art lovers.

Art is all around and deep within us. Traveling without covering regional arts and culture would be like refusing to breath another city’s air. Suffocating. Rather than distracting Arizona readers from the beauty of our own arts bounty, I hope my writing “on the road” inspires a greater appreciation for the multitude of marvels here at home. Photos from a children’s museum in Manhattan or Las Vegas might inspire a family to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix or the Tucson Children’s Museum. So it’s all good.

Sometimes it feels like the art is keeping an eye on you -- like "Curious and Curiouser" by Mary Lucking and David Tinapple in the Arizona Science Center lobby

I’m fortunate to have lots of “Stage Mom” readers in NYC, and hope my blogging on both states’ offerings inspires them to consider the depth and breadth of Arizona arts and culture. We get plenty of bad press, and I’m privileged to cover what’s best about our state. Young poets, skilled playwrights, talented musicians, inspiring dancers, gifted actors. Also arts educators in our schools, museums and various community venues. Tourism takes place in both directions — and I’m an unapologetic missionary for the Arizona arts scene.

I suppose some of my kinship with NYC was born of years attending touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage. I take special delight on reporting from NYC about shows I’ve seen on Valley stages — plus shows that’ll likely head our way during future tours. Only seeing “War Horse” performed at Lincoln Center in NYC enabled me to appreciate how fortunate we are that it’ll gallop into ASU Gammage during their 2012-13 season.

Some people seem to spy art wherever they go -- like this "Untitled" (1961) by Lee Bontecou that's exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum

Some assume that Arizonans are settling for mediocre on-stage and museum fare, but trips to NYC have heightened my appreciation for local offerings. Sometimes I find things that Arizona could use a lot more of — like arts and culture originating in Africa. Other times, I find modest NYC exhibits of Native American or Latino artworks that make clear the excellence of Arizona collections.

Stumbling on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s “Pattern Wizardry” in NYC years after I’d taken my children to enjoy the traveling exhibit at Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth reminded me, like Dorothy in her ruby red slippers, that you needn’t head over the rainbow to find what’s good and right in the world.

Still, we know that plenty of Arizona families travel — making choices when they do about where to invest precious resources like time and money. In an amusement park world, I’m keen on reminding parents to consider arts and cultural destinations too. Youth theater in San Diego. Orchestral concerts in Los Angeles. Public art in Las Vegas. Dance performance in Orlando. It’s all part of upping their appreciation for aesthetics, and the arts and culture industry so critical to a healthy American economy.

Teach your kids to look for art wherever they go -- like this eye detail on the glass house by Therman Statom located just outside the SMoCA young@art gallery in Scottsdale

It’s easy to take Arizona arts and culture for granted, forgetting just how exceptional our own theater companies from Childsplay to Valley Youth Theatre can be. Seeing touring productions from other parts of the country often reminds me that some of the country’s best artists live right here among us. Wowed as I was by a touring Kennedy Center production of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” performed a while back at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, it confirmed my suspicion that Childsplay in Tempe routinely achieves the same high quality of theater performance for students and families.

Seeing works performed during the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City each summer always makes me more committed to attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions here at home. Admiring works of glass art at the Brooklyn Museum last week left me eager to explore more glass art here at home. Similarly, performances enjoyed here in the Valley up my appreciation for works by artists in other places. During my last trip to NYC, I spent an evening watching local arts programming from Thirteen WNET New York Public Media — eager to watch a show about young poets after covering state Poetry Out Loud finals here in the Valley.

Comparing and contrasting are essential to the craft of theater criticism and other elements of arts reporting, so I’d be foolish to check my memories of places like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the door when entering “Stage Mom” mode. The more I experience, the more I have to share with Arizona readers. “Going rogue” has a lovely ring to it, but there’s a circle to what I do — and Arizona will always be my center.

— Lynn

Coming up: Let’s talk “Bully”

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I ♥ freckles!

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It’s easy to love freckles — especially the ones that grace my hubby and three children, mostly Jennifer. So I was sad to miss Friday’s opening of “Freckleface Strawberry” at Valley Youth Theatre when it looked like another one of my kiddos might need a swift trip to the doctor. Turns out all could wait until the morning — but word came too late for me to join all the freckles and fun down at VYT in Phoenix, though I suspect it was happy news for the lucky person who snagged my seat.

Kimiko Glenn, who originated the role of “Emily” in the NYC production of “Freckleface Strawberry,” was in the house for Friday night’s opening (the show’s premiere outside NYC) — and will be on hand Saturday as well, doing a free post-show Q & A for those with tickets to the 3:30pm show. She’s one of many youth who trained and performed with VYT before making it on stage/or screen — but that’s a tale I’ll tell another day.

VYT’s production of “Freckleface Strawberry” features a fine mix of new and seasoned VYT actors, whose program bios make for a fascinating read. VYT first-timer include Jessica Arnold (Mother) of Ironwood High School, Lacey Bookspan (Freckleface) of Veritas Preparatory Academy and Carly Makani Copp (Jane) of Marshall Ranch Elementary School — all boasting plenty of Valley theater credits with shows from “Les Miserables School Edition” and “Seussical, Jr.” to “Cats” and “Hairspray.”

ASA students E.J. Dohring (Danny) and Bransen Gates (Jake) also have a long string of credits. Dohring’s done “Alice in Wonderland” and “13” with VYT, “Oliver” with Broadway Palm and “Les Miserables” with Phoenix Theatre. Also “The Producers” at the famed Stagedoor Manor performing arts summer camp. “Freckleface Strawberry” is Gates’ ninth show with VYT, but he’s also done “Godspell” at Spotlight Youth Theatre, “Spring Awakening” with ACAA and “The Wiz” at Greasepaint Youtheatre (that one earned him an AriZoni Award).

Ally Lansdowne (Ballet Girl) attends Orangewood Elementary, where she’s active in chorus, drama and the National Junior Honor Society. She’s performed roles with especially fun names — like Jennyanydots in “Cats,” Toffee in “Zombie Prom” and Bird in “Pinkalicious.” Megan Mahoney (Emily) attends and directs show choir for Chaparral High School — doing piano, music and voice lessons in her spare time. She’s performed with VYT, Desert Foothills and Musical Theatre of Anthem.

Rhetta Mykeal (Teacher) is a freshman at MCC who’s done several shows with VYT, enjoys playing the piano and plans a career in acting — while Devin Sanders (Harry), a Mountain Ridge High School student with several VYT credits, looks forward to a career in orthodontics. If you see a kid with singing braces someday, they might be a Sanders masterpiece.

Naturally I’d expect his braces to feature songs from the musical “Freckleface Strawberry.” Think “Freckle Mafia Song,” “Kid in the Mask,” “Creative Mind Rap” or “Be Yourself.” All were inspired by children’s books authored by actress Julianne Moore and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. The musical was conceived for the stage by Rose Caiola.

Gary Kupper and Caiola wrote the book (parts not sung) for the musical, while Kupper wrote both music and lyrics. The VYT production of “Freckleface Strawberry” is directed by Bobb Cooper, the company’s producing artistic director. Mark Fearey is musical director and Katie Casy is choreographer.

Other team freckle members include Karol Cooper (costume designer), Sarah Trieckel (scenic designer) and D.J. Selmeyer (lighting designer). Production stage manager is Kristian Rarig and sound design is by Clearwing Productions. VYT is presenting this baby by special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).

I’m disappointed about missing Friday’s show for all sorts of reasons, including the very real chance that I missed a playful producing artistic director sporting a face full of freckles. Red pigtails would have been a bit over the top. Though who could really blame him? Freckles just have that effect on people.

— Lynn

Note: Our own adorable freckleface, Jennifer, turns 21 this month and while I suspect she’s a tad too old now for a “Freckleface Strawberry” party — I’d run with the theme if she was a bit younger. So keep that in mind if your child is celebrating a birthday during the “Freckleface Strawberry” run (through April 22). Hitting a show with friends makes for fun, easy and affordable birthday fare.

Coming up: Tarzan of the desert?, Beware the barber

Update: The VYT production of “Freckleface Strawberry,” which got rave reviews while I was away in NYC, has extended its run through April 29 “due to popular demand.” Way to rock the freckles, VYT!

Resurrecting a rock opera

The current revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a sort of fourth coming for me. I’ve seen three previous productions of the classic rock opera featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice — starting as a tween who first fell in love with the concept album, then saw a touring production of the show many years later in California.

For a time, I lived and died by the record that felt like my generation’s version of Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Listening to the double album, with its mottled dirt-colored cover and gold logo depicting a pair of angels, felt like an act of supreme rebellion. I remember opening the folded album cover atop my bed, pouring over the matching booklet and kneeling nearly prayer-like on the floor while singing along to songs like “What’s the Buzz?” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”

My daughter Lizabeth, who performs this weekend in the Pace Performing Arts production of “Our Lady of 121st Street” at the Lion Theatre on NYC’s famed 42nd Street, has joined me for two national touring productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” performed at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

She admits to being too young to truly understand “Jesus Christ Superstar” the first time around, but I remember thinking at the time that I wanted her to experience the music that’d meant so much to me during a similar age and stage. Some things — like Springsteen concerts and favorite Broadway musicals — are important to share with our children along the journey.

During my last trip to NYC, we saw a preview of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” directed by Des McAnuff (think “Jersey Boys“) — which has since officially opened at the Neil Simon Theatre. Lizabeth shared after the show that it was the first time she really understood the full measure of the story, based loosely on the last seven days of Jesus’ life.

Though some see blasphemy in the musical’s broad strokes, it’s clearly educating a whole new generation about geopolitical and religious issues of Jesus’ day. For kids not raised with Bible in hand, it’s as close as they may ever come to considering Jesus’ life and times — to witnessing a work within the “passion play” tradition.

Those who’ve suggested the current revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a tad over the top may have preferred tamer takes featuring Ted Neely as Jesus — but we’re not among them. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival production –performed at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego before heading to Broadway — is bolder by far, and much better for it. I loved “The Book of Mormon,” but can’t say that I adore “Jesus Christ Superstar” any less. God has been good to Broadway of late.

I spent much of “Jesus Christ Superstar” fighting the urge to get up and dance. Nobody wants their mom to have the musical theater equivalent of a “come to Jesus” moment in public, so I settled for a swift bit of toe-tapping and a silent sing-along in my head. This resurrection of “Superstar” is fresh, fabulous and fun. No apologies needed.

The “Jesus Christ Superstar” cast includes Paul Nolan (Jesus), Josh Young (Judas), Chilina Kennedy (Mary Magdalene), Tom Hewitt (Pontius Pilate) and Bruce Dow (King Herod). Also Marcus Nance (Caiaphas) and Aaron Walpole (Annas). Nick Cartell (Jonah/Swing) grew up in Arizona, where he performed with Valley Youth Theatre, Phoenix Theatre and more. Liz tells me he’s already rocked the role of Judas in understudy mode.

The creative team includes Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer), Tim Rice (lyricist), Des McAnuff (director), Lisa Shriver (choreographer), Rick Fox (music director), Robert Brill (set design), Paul Tazewell (costume design) and Howell Binkley (lighting design). Also Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Sean Nieuwenhuis (video design), Daniel Levinson (fight director), Simon Fox (stunt coordinator) and John Miller (music coordinator).

It’s about time we had a “Superstar” laced with sensitivity and sass. Think sets featuring tall metal bleachers and a giant ticker counting down Jesus’ final days. Costumes in lush fabrics saturated with rich color or earthy materials muted with feminizing tones. Choreography with tent-revival fervor. And layers of glorious orchestration with a hint of folk fare. All bring modern scale to an ancient tale — making “Jesus Christ Superstar” a resurrection well worth the wait.

— Lynn

Coming up: “Rock of Ages” on Valley stages

Photos courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

From Phoenix to Broadway

Hometown boy Nick Cartell, a swing for the Broadway production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” opening this week at the Neil Simon Theatre in NYC, moved from Michigan to Phoenix at just six months old — where he lived until completing a BA in theatre performance at ASU in Tempe.

Cartell was a member of the Phoenix Boys Choir from third through fifth grade, and describes the experience as “the beginning of my training.” Back then, he was a boy soprano. Today he’s a high tenor, and one of several actors prepared to take over should a male cast member be unable to perform for some reason.

Nick Cartell performs in "The Sound of Music" during Valley Youth Theatre's 1998-99 season.

Between boys choir and Broadway, there were performances with several local theater companies. Cartell’s last show with Valley Youth Theatre (“West Side Story”) overlapped with his first show with Phoenix Theatre (“Man of La Mancha”), so the transition from youth to adult theater felt seamless. But it was three years performing with Disney in Tokyo that made the leap to Broadway feel natural. “If I can make it in Tokyo,” thought Cartell, “I can do a big city like New York.” Before landing the Broadway gig, he did several Off-Broadway productions.

We assume too often that someone who can sing, dance and act will nail every audition. Or think that being a great performer is enough. Not so, says Cartell. Auditioning is a skill, just like acting, that has to be honed. “I wish more schools would teach it,” reflects Cartell — who also shares that NYC is full of folks who can sing, act and dance. Making it requires something more — like hard work, preparation, ongoing training and a desire to improve at every juncture.

Teens interested in musical theater careers should get all the voice, dance and acting training they can, says Cartell, who notes that plenty of community-based options exist for those who can’t afford one-on-one vocal coaching and such. “Keep learning and working to get better,” urges Cartell. Sitting too pretty in pride over past accomplishments won’t set you apart in settings like Broadway that are filled with talented folk.

For some, it’s tough to balance training/performing demands with schoolwork and other responsibilities. But Cartell says he rarely struggled with such things. He knew what he wanted and he worked like the dickens to get it all done. Meeting and shaking hands with one of his musical theater idols, Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer for “Jesus Christ Superstar”), was one of many moments when it all paid off.

Cartell heard last October that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” would be heading to Broadway, and spotted the Actors Equity audition posting in late December. Auditions began one January day at 9:30am, and several hundred people showed up. Cartell arrived at 7am, and ended up being the first to audition that day — singing Journey’s “Open Arms” for musical director Rick Fox and the casting director.

A series of callbacks followed, each requiring that Cartell learn and perform more material. As I interviewed Cartell in a diner near the Neil Simon Theatre, he gleefully recounted each step in the process — recalling, along with wife Christie Bettes Cartell, the exact date and time of each. Dance callback — Jan. 30 at 3pm. Final callback — Jan. 31 at 1pm — before director Des McAnuff, choreographer Lisa Shriver and two others.

Cartell recalls choosing an order for the songs he’d been asked to prepare in case he was told to just run with it. Instead, they asked first for the most difficult piece — “Gethsemane.” Cartell felt afterwards that he’d given the best audition of his life. There was nothing more he could do. It was in the show’s hands. By 3pm the call came in. He was chosen for the role of swing. A formal offer followed on Feb. 1, and he began rehearsing Feb. 9 for his first preview on March 9.

Cartell admits that it all feels a bit “surreal” at this point, adding that he’s “so proud to be part of this show.” Cartell notes that the “Jesus Christ Superstar” story is appealing “regardless of what you believe” — suggesting that most are familiar with the story, and empathize with the challenges faced by Jesus the man.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” focuses on the last seven days of Jesus’ life, so key players include Judas, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, King Herod and others. But there’s something new in this production, according to Cartell, who says there’s a bit of a love triangle vibe between Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene. Seems there’s magnetism between both men and Mary, and perhaps both men as well.

When I asked Cartell to share audition tips with young actors back home, he first recounted a piece of advice received as an 18 year old fresh out of high school — Listen to soundtracks. “Sing along,” Cartell suggests, “but find your own voice with it.”  The advice, by the way, came from Matt Bogart — then performing the role of Chris in “Miss Saigon,” and now performing the role of Nick across the street from Cartell in “Jersey Boys” at the August Wilson Theatre.

Sometimes the gig goes not to the best performer in the room, but to the one with the most passion. “If you connect with what you are singing, even if you are not the best singer, they will go on that journey with you.” Auditions start before you ever begin to sing, says Cartell. It’s also about how you handle yourself in the room — and even the hallway where you’re waiting to be called. “You never know,” shares Christie, “who the monitor is.”

Have your music cut correctly, adds Cartell. You may only get 8 or 16 bars, so prepare your music accordingly. Nobody wants to fuss over your music at the piano. Stay in shape, recommends Cartell, because musical theater requires plenty of stamina. “Get into dance, acting classes — anything and everything.” Do voice lessons too if you can swing it financially. Time spent learning tap, jazz, ballet and theater makes you more marketable, says Cartell. At the end of the day, adds Cartell, it’s a business.

Previews for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which had a San Diego run before heading from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to Broadway, end March 21 — and the show officially opens March 22. If you’ve been toying with making the trip from Phoenix to Broadway, consider getting tickets to “Jesus Christ Superstar” so you can support our hometown talent. Who knows, it might be your own child making the journey from Phoenix to Broadway one day.

— Lynn

Note: Spring performing arts classes at VYT start Sat, March 24. Click here to explore both weekday and weekend options.

Coming up: More adventures with VYT alumni, A way with words, Quilting for a cause, Art contest for kids

The swing and I

Little did we know, when Lizabeth performed with Nick Cartell in "The King and I" more than a decade ago, that we'd one day witness his Broadway debut in "Jesus Christ Superstar," currently in previews at the Neil Simon Theatre

My daughter Lizabeth performed more than a decade ago in a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “The King and I.” So did Nick Cartell, now a swing with the Broadway revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” currently in previews at the Neil Simon Theatre. If an actor who performs the role of Jesus, Judas or Annas (or one of ten ensemble tracks) can’t go onstage for any reason, Cartell is among those ready to run with it.

Cartell graciously invited Lizabeth and I to join him for a bite to eat before Wednesday night’s show, and we were delighted that his wife Christie joined us as well. Seems they met several years ago while living in Japan. Cartell performed for Disney in Japan for three years, and Christie quips that she was “friends with lots of the princesses.” Each shines, but together they sparkle.

Cartell graciously answered all sorts of questions between bites of burger sans bun, raw veggies and cottage cheese. Best to be buff when working on Broadway, and this show in particular. Heaven forbid the call might come to don a loincloth when you’ve more flab than abs. Not something Cartell needs to fret, but his work ethic is admirable.

Stay in shape. Continue acting training. Seize opportunities to learn more. Honor fellow performers. Be grateful for the chance to do what you love. And remember those who helped along the way. For Cartell, it’s family, friends and a pair of Arizona directors — Bobb Cooper, producing artistic director for Valley Youth Theatre and Michael Barnard, artistic director for Phoenix Theatre.

We saw a preview performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” Wednesday night after Cartell made his way from burger to backstage, and he graciously treated us to a backstage tour after the show — where it became clear just how much gets accomplished in small pockets of space. Everyone we met who had anything at all to do with the show was incredibly generous in spirit.

We can’t share a formal review because “Jesus Christ Superstar” is still in previews, but I don’t see the harm in simply telling you that we both loved it big time. I’ve seen four different productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” since my teens, and this is my favorite by far for all sorts of reasons I’ll happily share after reviewers have a chance to see the show post-previews and give their opinions. Lizabeth is already talking about seeing the show again, but I suppose it’ll be James’ turn to tag along next time.

Cartell’s on-stage time is relatively brief, but it’s delightful all the same. His heart is clearly in it — really in it. And his smile lights up the theater as cast members take their bows. When the Arizona heat feels too much to bear, just head for the bright lights of Broadway. Cartell will surely be there.

— Lynn

Note: I’ll be sharing more of Cartell’s journey to Broadway in future posts, plus his insights for young actors on things like training and auditioning — and his thoughts about trends in Broadway theater.

Coming up: NYC museum adventures, Building a better portrait

If shows were freckles

Headshot for Bobb Cooper of VYT

If shows were freckles, Bobb Cooper would have 105 of them. That’s the number of shows he’s produced at the helm of Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. “Freckleface Strawberry: The Musical,” being performed by VYT April 6-22, will be #106. It’ll be the 67th show he’s directed for the company, where he serves as producing artistic director.

Seems there’s a bit of a statistician in the VYT fold, who recently shared with me that production #100 was last season’s “Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Nobody wants to have 1oo of those. If Cooper continues his average of directing four shows per season, he’ll reach the 100 milestone in VYT directing credits come 2020.

Bobb Cooper, 2008

I first met Cooper when my daughters auditioned for the 1998/99 VYT production of “The Sound of Music” back in their “Tower Plaza” days. I’ll have to ask my “math meets musical theater” friend which number to assign that baby. They weren’t cast but I took some still-treasured photos of the girls in braided pigtails that day, and we went on to enjoy plenty of VYT shows together.

They’ve been through more than a few hairstyles during the decade or so since, which left me wondering how Cooper’s coiffure might have morphed during the same span of time. Anyone who’s ever looked back at an old grade school photo knows how hairstyles change over time, so I felt compelled to ask VYT for pictures of both shows — and Cooper — through the years.

Cooper does The Wiz for a VYTal event

Those of you digging “The Wiz” vibe will be delighted to learn that VYT will close its 2011/12 season by performing “The Wiz” June 8-24 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Folks who missed VYT’s production of “Annie” at the Herberger Theater Center last season missed a rare opportunity to see Cooper rocking the bald vibe as Daddy Warbucks.

I’m eagerly awaiting news of VYT’s 2012/13 season for all sorts of reasons. I’m not ashamed to admit that another year of amazing hairdos, mostly the onstage variety, is one of them. Stay tuned at www.vyt.com.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for information on VYT spring break and summer camps, here to purchase “Freckleface Strawberry” tickets and here to buy tix for “The Wiz” (on sale next month) via the Herberger Theater Center box office. Looks like “The Sound of Music” was the 13th show directed and 20th show produced by Cooper for VYT.

Coming up: Art ala keychain?, Skateboard musings, More fun with freckles

Once upon a theater camp

Aaron Zweiback performs in Green Eggs & Ham with The Phoenix Symphony on St. Patrick's Day

I was reminded while reading Mala Blomquist’s post this morning that spring break camps will soon be upon us, and was busy trolling for camps with an arts and culture twist when interrupted by a call from 12-year-old actor and ASA student Aaron Zweiback, whose theater teachers include Xanthia Walker.

I first met Zweiback last summer when my daughter Lizabeth, who now studies acting in NYC, was a teacher assistant with Childsplay Academy in Tempe. She’d invited me to see the final performance of a summer workshop with a “Hairspray” theme. Zweiback was one of several campers performing snippets of the musical for family and friends — and his Edna a la bathrobe was a hoot. He’s also done theater camps with Phoenix Theatre.

I ran into Zweiback after a recent Valley Youth Theatre performance of “Charlotte’s Web” — during which he rocked the rat role — and put fist to ear with the typical “call me” sign after chatting with his dad. In a rather spooky coincidence, I’d been wondering earlier this morning whether he’d ever have time to actually pick up a phone.

Today was the day, and the call couldn’t have been better timed. Turns out Zweiback is performing in several shows I’ll be seeing in coming days and weeks. I learned yesterday that I’ll need a little snip to a torn part of my left knee, but decided to postpone all things arthroscopy for another two weeks in order to keep my review calendar mostly intact.

Aaron Zweiback recently performed in Charlotte's Web at Valley Youth Theatre

So life looks like this for me and my knee: See Zweiback and others perform in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre this weekend, limp my way through a trip to visit Lizabeth over spring break, then catch a returning flight in the wee hours that gets me home just in time to hit another Zweiback gig — The Phoenix Symphony performing “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then squeeze in the surgery thing (with a doc who took his kids to see a friend from the Valley perform in “Grease” on Broadway a few years ago). I’m told the wait won’t worsen what ails me.

Turns out “Green Eggs and Ham” includes all sorts of amazing folks from Valley stages. ASA teacher and renowned Valley actor Toby Yatso, with whom both Lizabeth and Zweiback have studied voice, is narrating the story. Zweiback does his “boy soprano” thing as “Sam I Am” and shared that the theatrical piece of the concert is being blocked, choreographed and directed by Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

There’s another Sam in Zweiback’s life as well — an actor named Sam Primack whose little mittens I once guarded with care as backstage mom for a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Oliver.” He and Zweiback were in “A Christmas Story” at Phoenix Theatre earlier this season, and both are cast in Childsplay’s world premiere production of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars.”

Sam Primack poses with a VYT fan after performing in Charlotte's Web

After Zweiback shared a bit about auditioning for all these shows, I invited him to write a guest blog with audition tips for young actors — and he graciously agreed. It takes a generous spirit to share one’s own “secrets to success” and Zweiback certainly has one. I fully expect to see him performing on Broadway stages one day, and hope he’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to audition for roles in works by William Shakespeare where his intellect and gift for comedy would shine.

If the ticket fairies are working in my favor, I’ll be able to enjoy the work of another Valley-trained actor while in NYC next week. Nick Cartell, who has performed with VYT, Phoenix Theatre and other Arizona companies makes his Broadway debut this month in a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Katie Czajkowksi and Aaron Zweiback after a Childsplay summer camp performance based on the musical Hairspray

I’m also looking forward to the Homestead Playhouse production of “Holes,” being performed at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale March 28-30, because another young performer I met after the Childsplay “Hairspray” camp performance landed the warden role. Katie’s mom, Deb Czajkowski, recently got in touch to share the happy news — and her thoughts on the many benefits of theater for youth.

I hope those of you still wondering what your children or teens might enjoy doing over spring break will do a little theater camp legwork. One day, perhaps, you’ll get to turn to your child and share the old theater adage for good luck — “Break a leg!” Just try to keep your own body parts intact in the meantime…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read Mala Blomquist’s post on spring break camps and here to learn about all sorts of summer camps. Find additional spring break camps at Voices Studio, Creative Stages Youth Theatre and Mesa Arts Center (if you’ve got one, send me the scoop at rakstagemom@gmail.com).

Coming up: Spring break NYC-style, Hometown boy makes Broadway debut