Tag Archives: War Horse

From bullying to British theatre

When our youngest daughter Lizabeth attended Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, she participated each year in something called “Day of Silence” — described by organizer GLSEN as “a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.”

This year’s “Day of Silence” was held on April 20, but folks who missed it can support the cause in other ways — including attending a screening of the new film “Bullied to Silence” taking place May 12 at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Bullied to Silence” is an 84-minute documentary that “gives a voice to bullied youth from all walks of life.” It was written and directed by local filmmakers and features several Arizona participants. I’m told it “tells the stories of children and teens whose ethnicities, physical challenges, and sexual orientations set them apart, and how they’ve coped with bullying by peers and adults alike.”

Susan Broude, the film’s writer/producer, describes bullying as “an epidemic in America” and hopes the film will help put an end to the verbal abuse at the heart of so much bullying today. GLSEN Phoenix co-founder Madelaine Adelman says the film complements their “mission to create safe, respectful and healthy K-12 schools for all.”

This 2012 feature documentay premieres May 1 in Sedona, then heads to the Phoenix Art Museum

“Bullied by Silence” will be screened at both 11am and 2pm on May 12. Nicole Stanton, wife of Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton, will introduce the first screening, and both screenings will be followed by a Q & A presentation featuring filmmakers Tami Pivnick and Susan Broude, plus several cast members.

The screenings are sponsored by GLSEN Phoenix in cooperation with the Scottsdale International Film Festival. Representatives of GLSEN Phoenix will attend the screening to provide “resource information to support safe schools for all students.” Earlier screenings in Sedona take place May 1-4, thanks to a partnership with the Sedona International Film Festival, and also include special guest speakers.

While you’re at the Phoenix Art Museum, grab a schedule of the museum’s film offerings. The museum often presents films it’s hard to find in other venues — such as “Anchors Away” (a ’40s musical starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson), “Gidget” (a ’50s teen flick starring the Sandra Dee most kids know only from “Grease” lyrics) and “Rothko’s Room” (part of their “Ab/Ex Film Series”).

The Phoenix Art Museum hosts a “Local Film Community Panel” May 30, and presents “This American Life” with host Ira Glass June 1 and 3. The latter will be captured live on May 10 and broadcast from the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, where Lizabeth enjoyed a performance of “110 Stories” last September.

The museum also broadcasts National Theatre Live productions. Upcoming encore presentations include “One Man, Two Guvners” (June 10) and “Frankenstein” (June 13 & 14). The cast of “Frankenstein” includes Benedict Cumberbatch, who appeared in the movie “War Horse” and stars in “Sherlock” on PBS’s “Masterpiece” (season 2 begins May 6).

— Lynn

Note: In addition to regular posts, I’ll be sharing posts on art and mental illness during May, which is Mental Health Month. If you offer art programs (dance, music, theater, visual art, writing) serving Arizona youth or adults living with mental illness, I’d love to hear from you at rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Coming up: I never met a box I didn’t like

Update: Ira Glass comes to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Jan. 19, 2013 as part of the 2012-13 season. Watch their website for details. And click here to see just-announced 2012 Tony Award nominees (which Lizabeth shared with me via text message at 5:47am this morning–clever girl). 5/1/12


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”

Bring on the Broadway!

"Anything Goes" comes to ASU Gammage Nov 13-18, 2012

ASU Gammage nearly packed the house for Monday night’s big reveal of their 2012/13 “Broadway Across America” season, which featured film footage of selected shows, live performances by cast members from a couple of the shows and behind-the-scene details from Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and Arizona’s sole Tony Awards voter.

"The Addams Family" comes to ASU Gammage Dec 11-16, 2012

The poor dear has to schlep every year to 60 + Broadway shows, in addition to working the Broadway magic right here in her own backyard — and she’s got stories to tell about each and every experience. Folks who decided to forego this year’s in-person reveal in lieu of merely mousing their way to the details missed some gems. Take note for next time around.

"Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan" comes to ASU Gammage Jan 8-13, 2013

Before Monday night’s event, much of the chatter around town seemed to center on “The Book of Mormon” — which won the 2011 Tony Award for best musical. I’ve seen it, and I loved it. But it’s not coming. Turns out we’re getting something even better — the 2011 Tony Award winner for best play. It’s “War Horse” — which is completely captivating. Even soul-stirring.

"War Horse" comes to ASU Gammage Feb 5-10, 2013

Consider yourself warned, because “War Horse” is the kind of show that transforms single ticket buyers into season subscribers — which means that folks who wait risk not having a shot at it. In theater world current season ticket holders typically get a chance to renew or updrade their seats before others can jump in. New subscribers come next, followed by folks in search of tickets to just a few shows here and there. But no one can predict what might remain after subscriptions are sold, because every house has only a certain number of seats.

"Flashdance" comes to ASU Gammage April 30-May 5, 2013

The fine print for such things is available on the ASU Gammage website, as are dates and details about other shows headed our way — including “Anything Goes,” “The Addams Family,” “Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan,” “Memphis,” “Flashdance” and “Sister Act.” Praise the lord and pass the leg warmers!

"Sister Act" comes to ASU Gammage June 25-30, 2013

Turns out ASU Gammage is also bringing back the Cameron Mackintosh production of “Les Miserables” that sold out during its last ASU Gammage run, as well as “Beauty and the Beast.” Both are special engagements, which means they’re not part of season ticket subscriptions. Another show is headed our way as well. Think Arizona Christmas meets Donny and Marie Osmond.

Posters for two special engagements graced the ASU Gammage lobby Monday night

While patrons enjoyed Monday night’s event, ASU Gammage staffers were busy mounting posters for the newly-announced shows along a wall folks pass as they walk from box office to their seats. Yes, Lizabeth, I did have someone snap my photo with “Donny” — but only because I saw someone else do it first. Kissing it seemed inappropriate somehow with “Sister Act” so closeby.

ASU Gammage presents "Donny & Marie Christmas in Arizona" Nov 27-Dec 2, 2012

Before the evening drew to a close, Jennings-Roggensack shared that ASU Gammage is already gearing up for its 50th anniversary, planning to raise funds that’ll help meet patron requests for things like sound improvements and additional women’s restrooms — plus further the venue’s diverse youth education and “community connection” programs.

Visit http://www.asugammage.com for 2012/13 Broadway season details

I hit the ASU Gammage lobby as the formal program was drawing to a close, watching the monitor that showed a pair of passionate, powerful “Memphis” vocalists singing “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll” onstage as a young mother and her toddler son danced along to the beat nearby.

Remember too that registration for "Camp Broadway" 2012 is now open

Soon people poured out of the theater to enjoy cupcakes compliments of Butter & Me Bakeshop, which has a new storefront in Old Town Scottsdale, plus a bag of ASU Gammage goodies that included the very first edition of the new “gammbill” (their very own take on a “Playbill” program), which features local content and reflects a new partnership with ON Media Publications.

Something a woman said to her friend as they walked to the parking lot signaled the success of the evening, and excitement over the season. “This,” she exclaimed,” was so worth it!”

— Lynn

Note: Click here for ASU Gammage 2012/13 Broadway season details

Coming up: More community connections, Spring dance recitals

A city inside a museum

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I first fell in love with children’s museums when my young daughters, like hundreds of fellow citizens, got involved in developing the Children’s Museum of Phoenix (then dubbed the Phoenix Family Museum) at the grassroots level. Today it’s recognized by Parents magazine as one of the country’s top ten children’s museums.

Both daughters, and our son, are now grown and attending college — one of them in New York City. Each time I visit her, I make a point of exploring another bit of NYC’s vast expanse of arts and culture. I reported on the art of Occupy Wall Street early in the movement’s history, saw “War Horse” and “The Book of Mormon” before they earned Tony Awards for best play and best musical and explored places like the Poets House in Battery Park.

Lately I have the museums of NYC on my radar, wishing I’d discovered them several decades earlier somehow. Many years ago I visited MoMA and the Met, but lately I’ve been focusing on smaller fare like the Morgan Library & Museum in midtown Manhattan (a favorite for one of my friends at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts), which is currently exhibiting drawings by Rembrandt and a look at animals throughout art, literature and music.

Top of my list for next time is the Brooklyn Museum. I missed the opening of their Keith Haring exhibit by just two days last time around and am still experiencing the museum-goers version of mourning. I didn’t really favor Haring’s work at the height of his heyday, but nowadays I’m simply mesmerized. I’m also hoping to enjoy the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

I hit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum during my last trip to visit daughter Lizabeth at Pace University. She’s been busy with rehearsals for an upcoming production of “Our Lady of 121st Street,” so I’ve had more time to kick around NYC on my own. Typically adults aren’t allowed to visit the museum without children, but they graciously let me do my press thing with camera in tow so I could share reflections and images with Arizona readers.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was “the first museum created expressly for children when it was founded in 1899” — 15 years before Arizona achieved statehood. Still, I first encountered one of its offerings — a traveling exhibit called “Pattern Wizardry” — during the fall of 2009 at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa (proving that you should never overlook the treasures in your own back yard).

I found two remarkable things at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. First, a city within a museum. And second, the world. My favorite exhibits featured rooms devoted to various cultures found in the diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and an expansive upstairs gallery highlighting objects and people from around the globe. I’ve come to love the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the same reason I love New York City — diversity.

I get the feeling, when I’m there, that differences are to be embraced rather than feared. That living amidst diverse cultures helps us to appreciate both our own heritage and the heritage of others. That human beings from all walks of life can love, respect and empathize with one another. That mere tolerance falls short when what we need is true celebration.

— Lynn

Coming up: Prison meets performance art

“War Horse” on screen and stage

"War Horse" was a novel before it was a play

The “War Horse” story was first told in 1981 by novelist Michael Morpurgo, whose tale was adapted for the stage by Nick Safford in association with Handspring Puppet Company, which earned a special Tony Award for its “War Horse” creations.

The National Theatre of Great Britian production premiered in London in 1997 and officially opened in the U.S. last April at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in NYC’s Lincoln Center Theater — and went on to win five 2011 Tony Awards, including one for best play.

The “War Horse” movie directed by Steven Spielberg is based on a Lee Hall and Richard Curtis screenplay inspired by both book and play, was released in the U.S. just days ago, and is already being hailed as a 2011 Oscar contender.

I’ve seen both works with my college-age daughter, who shared my apprehension when learning that the story we so loved on stage was being adapted for big screen. The only saving grace for us at that point was knowing the story had made its way into the heart, and hands, of filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Though we both enjoyed the movie, we were fonder by far of the play for several reasons. First, because the actors who performed in the live theater production did such an exceptional job of conveying each character’s depth. The play makes abundantly clear the full measure of dysfunction in Albert’s family, something that makes his loss and reunification with the “War Horse” Joey feel more precious and profound.

The scenic, lighting and sound design for “War Horse” on stage at Lincoln Theater Center was exquisite. All three designers, as well as the play’s two directors, earned Tony Awards. Despite the visual feast of “War Horse” the movie, we still favor the symbolism these designs conveyed over the literal depiction of war featured in the film.

"War Horse" was a play before it was a movie

We appreciated the fact that several elements of the play, like the bothersome duck who quacks up a storm while nipping at people’s heels, were included in the movie. The duck was funny on stage and screen, but it’s hardly fair to ask an on-screen duck to compare with a whimsical puppet creation operated by a puppeteer sporting a Scottish tam o’shanter cap.

Still, I found more humor in the screen version of “War Horse” — in which knitting needles and metal cutters get used in unexpected ways. The machismo of men is fraught with more comedy than angst in the movie, and plenty of light moments help to break up a story full of labors and loss.

Perhaps the greatest difference is found in the music. John Williams’ score for “War Horse” is no less magestic than those he’s composed for other works, but I found the simple violin and haunting vocals of “War Horse” on stage more moving — despite the fact that songmaker John Tams worked on both stage and screen versions of “War Horse.”

I remember “War Horse” on stage as a single strand of magnificent storytelling, with just a specific scene or two standing out from the rest — the glorious opening and the terrifying tank scene — so the play felt more consistent across scenes. But I’ll remember the movie for specific moments — some touching, others terrifying. The transition between farm fields and battle fields seemed more abrupt on screen, making me feel at times like I was watching two separate films.

In the end, I suppose, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Whether you tend to fancy stage or screen, the story at the heart of “War Horse” is gripping and gratifying. Get to London or NYC for the stage version if you can. It’s truly captivating, and something you’ll never forget. But see the movie, and read the book too. With each “War Horse” encounter, you’ll find something remarkable and new.

— Lynn

Note: Nominations for the 84th Annual Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 24, 2012. I’ll be rooting for both “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin.” Updated 12/28/11.

Coming up: Valley theaters bring classic literature to life

Update: The touring production of “War Horse” comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Feb. 5-10, 2013 as part of the 2012/13 “Broadway Across America” season — click here for details. 4/15/12

Spielberg’s “War Horse”

Director Steven Spielberg clearly understands the horrors of war. The USC Shoah Foundation Institute he founded records the testimony of Holocaust survivors. His long list of credits include “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

Spielberg demonstrates these horrors again in the film version of “War Horse,” a movie based on both the children’s book by beloved British author Michael Morpurgo and the Tony-Award winning play his book inspired. The screenplay was written by Lee Hall (screenwriter for the 2000 film “Billy Elliot”) and Richard Curtis.

Spielberg describes “War Horse” as a story of the powerful bond between a boy and his horse. His family owns several horses, and he’s seen the love between child and horse firsthand. One of the film’s most endearing threads is all the people, of different nationalities, who face peril for protecting horses caught up in the war.

But “War Horse” feels first and foremost like a war movie, something parents need to know before deciding to take young children to see it. It’s rated PG-13 for a reason. People and horses suffer terrible fates. Think machine guns and massive tanks. Firing squads and grenades. Barbed wire and brutality.

War reveals our common humanity, something that’s beautifully conveyed in this film. When “War Horse” Joey is trapped, two soldiers from opposing sides work together to free him. When a girl questions her grandfather’s courage, he explains that there are many ways to be brave.

But the story doesn’t begin with war. Instead, it all starts with relationships. We see a teenage boy named Albert at home on his family’s humble farm, where his longsuffering mother endures uncertainty and ridicule wrought by his father’s drinking and lousy judgement. Their relationship generates one of the movie’s best lines — something akin to “I might hate you more, but I’ll never love you less.”

Albert’s mother is one of two parents in the film who share an important family belonging that proves pivotal in unexpected ways. Both items serve as powerful reminders that our histories, both individual and collective, never leave us. Deny them or embrace them — but you can never destroy them.

“War Horse” reminds us that history is made up of moments, of the decisions we make alone and together, of the choices that sometimes have unintended consequences. It demonstrates our drive to protect what we love in a world where love sometimes means letting go.

Parents will find several scenes especially profound — a big brother’s attempt to help his younger brother escape the front lines, a grandfather’s fireside reflections on the importance of home, a young girl’s innocent ride up and over a mountain.

Take it all in, then take it home with a renewed appreciation for the joys and responsibilities of the everyday.

— Lynn

Coming up: Comparing “War Horse” on stage and screen

My own little movie list

Lizabeth called the other night as she was preparing to fly home from college for the holidays, sharing that she had just one final decision to make before getting on the plane — which movies to purchase for the five-hour flight.

Turns out she chose three of them, including one on my short list of “must see” movies for families who like to do films with friends and family members visiting during the holidays. It’s “Dolphin Tale,” a 2011 film still playing at just a few Valley theaters.

“Dolphin Tale” is based on a true story. It recounts the adventures of a wounded dolphin named Winter and a wounded veteran, follows the developing friendship of two tweens and offers a touching glimpse into the heart of a mother learning to let go as her son pursues his rather unconventional dreams.

I have my own little list of movies to watch during the holidays, including one my grown son loved enough to see twice when it was in theaters. It’s “Up!,” a 2009 computer-animated film featuring Ed Asner voicing a grumpy old widower whose house floats away as a young boy he’s just met stands helpless on the front porch.

When I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll revisit the 2011 “Winnie the Pooh” film. It’s a lovely homage to literature, and reminds me of all the Pooh paraphernalia that filled Christopher’s room when he was young. Also “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” a 1982 film I first saw with my mom without knowing I’d lose to cancer the following decade.

Lizabeth is already planning to watch the final “Harry Potter” movie with me while she’s home. I somehow managed to miss the movie theater run, so it’ll be my first experience with 2011 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” We’ve been watching these movies together since she was ten years old.

I’m also determined to finally see “The Help,” a 2011 film that’s still showing in a small number of Valley theaters. It stars one of my favorite actresses, Viola Davis — and actress Emma Stone, who once performed at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix.

I’ve got a whole other list for new movies. It’s topped by two Spielberg titles — “The Advenures of Tin Tin” (opening today, Dec. 21) and “War Horse” (opening Sun, Dec. 25) — but also includes “Carnage” and “The Artist” (both films open Fri, Dec. 23). Two of the four are based on Broadway plays, which doubles the fun factor.

If you’ve got a new or classic movie to recommend for families who like to share films this time of year, please comment below to let our readers know.

— Lynn

Note: If you share my fondness for Winnie the Pooh, you’ll be happy to know that Valley Youth Theatre is performing “A Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail” at VYT in Phoenix through Fri, Dec. 23. Click here for details.

Coming up: Musings on 2012 movie fare