Tag Archives: Where the Wild Things Are

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)

What’s so funny?

With any luck at all, it’ll be my weekend.

Jeffrey Davey in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

Back to school week hasn’t exactly been a jolly good time around here, so I’m feeling the need to overcorrect a bit. I started by getting tickets to two comedic works opening this weekend — one a play and the other a musical.

But don’t take my word for the funny part. Just check out the photos peppered throughout this post. They’re all from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” being performed at Mesa Arts Center Aug 27 to Sept 12. (FYI: Mature content)

I’ll also be enjoying “Noises Off” at Phoenix Theatre, which also runs through Sept 12. It hardly seems fair to Sept. 13th.

So what else can you look forward to this weekend? Let’s start with today — Friday, Aug 27.

Chuck Caruso, Shandy Mortenson and Brett Aiken

Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa presents “Artful Tales” (free with paid museum admission), an interactive storytime with art activity, from 11am to noon (space is limited).

The Scottsdale Community College Art Department presents their “11th Annual Drawing Exhibit” starting Friday and running through Sept. 23. Today’s hours are 8am to 4pm (it’s free) — and exhibited works feature 17 “advanced artists of all ages” working primarily with charcoal.

Brittany Bradford in "Spelling Bee"

Spotlight Youth Theatre of Glendale presents “bROCKway!” — a “fusion of musical theatre and rock and roll” for one night only.

The Scottsdale Civic Center Library continues its “Where the Wild Things Are” exhibit (and activities) through Aug 31, so sail on over if Maurice Sendak is your vibe.

If social justice is your thing, head to Tempe for a free community movie night presented by Hoodlums Music and Movies and Changing Hands Bookstore. Tonight’s film is an Academy Award nominee for feature documentary called “Children Underground.”

Aya Nameth in "Spelling Bee"

In the free concert department, there’s an evening performance by guitarist and composer “Brad Richter” at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

Or you can hit the cool pines of Prescott for an Aug 27-29 “Prescott Jazz Summit” sponsored by Friends of Big Band Jazz. For weeks that even funny can’t fix, a trip to the forest is always in order.

But what of Saturday?

All the funny stuff is still there — but there’s more.

Chad Campbell in "Spelling Bee"

Head to the Phoenix Art Museum if you enjoy your films on the funny side. They’re presenting the silent film “Gold Rush” with Charlie Chaplin Aug 29 at 1pm.

It’s free and features an intro plus Q & A by Martha Strachan of Paradise Valley Community College, but space is limited.

Alexandra Ncube in "Spelling Bee"

For the kids, Phoenix Art Museum presents “PhxArtKids” Days from noon to 3pm for five to 12 year olds (with adult companions).

Kids can enjoy making prints, creating miniature paintings and listening to jazz music — and it’s all free with paid museum admission.

Music lovers can head to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix for the first installment of a MIM series honoring the bicentennial celebration of Mexican independence — which features “Son de Madera” performing the “rousing music” of Veracruz, Mexico.

Entire cast of "Spelling Bee"

Dance afficianados can waltz on over to Mesa Arts Center for “Debut” — a performance featuring three world premieres presented by Convergence Ballet Company.

Sunday’s offerings include a host of theater productions throughout the Valley — including “45 Minutes from Broadway” by Fountain Hills Community Theater, “Baby Bear Goes to School” by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, “Cinderella: A Ragtime Musical” by Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, “Grease” by Valley Youth Theatre, “Annie Get Your Gun” by Hale Centre Theatre  and “Into the Woods” by Theater Works (now scheduling “Tom Sawyer” auditions).

There’s always plenty to choose from in arts and entertainment — but this weekend my word is “funny.”

What’s yours?

— Lynn

Note: If your 12-18 year old might enjoy learning to knit (a form of fabric art), send him/her to the teen corner (with supplies, if you have them) at the Desert Broom Library in Phoenix. Their “Sit & Knit” event takes place Sat, Aug 28, from 1:30-3:30pm (registration not required).

Coming up: Lynn and Liz enjoy a sneak peek at the new film “Easy A” featuring Valley Youth Theatre alumna Emma Stone

The many adventures of “Curious George”

“Curious George” with his 2010 Daytime Emmy Award (Photo: PBS)

When publisher and editor Karen Barr learned that PBS KIDS was readying to open the fifth anniversary season of “Curious George,” the 2010 Daytime Emmy winner for outstanding children’s animated program, she asked whether it was something I might like to cover.

I was intrigued, remembering that I’d seen quite a few “Curious George” items last time I strolled through a museum gift shop in Washington, D.C.

Uncertain of where I’d seen them, I jumped online to do a bit of exploring.

Why, I wondered, would stories for children be the stuff of museums?

I discovered that a “Curious George” exhibit at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan recently closed–but still has info online. Turns out there’s a powerful back story to the tale of this adventuresome young monkey.

Lizabeth’s tattered but cherished “Curious George” book

Curious George” left Paris in 1940 as a mere manuscript in the hands of creators Margret and H.A. Rey, both German Jews seeking to avoid Nazi-occupation.

In 1941, the first “Curious George” book was published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin. Lizabeth pulled a later edition off one of her bookshelves when I mentioned I’d be writing about the monkey and his creators.

Knowing the real-life travels of “Curious George,” it’s no surprise that the upcoming season for the televison series will feature “exciting new adventures that encourage preschoolers to explore and engage with the world around them.”

Lizabeth’s prized “Curious George” monkey

“Curious George” will make new friends, including a character named “Marco” who introduces him to “unique elements of Hispanic culture like food, music and celebration.”

The series will “introduce viewers to different cultures and social activities” while continuing its “underlying misson to foster understanding of science, math and engineering.”

To learn more about the recent “Curious George” exhibit, visit The Jewish Museum online–where you’ll also find supporting materials from a 2005 exhibit titled “Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak.”

Another Trimble storytime favorite

The museum notes that Sendak was “born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants” and “grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, during which many members of his family were lost.”

The Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia features a Maurice Sendak Collection of more than 10,000 objects–which is well worth a visit in person or online.

“Curious George” poster encourages reading

As Americans continue to wrestle with issues of immigration and identity, perhaps these authors and illustrators can help us better understand our past–and forge promising paths to a future we’ll all share.


Note: Thanks to my daughter Jennifer for sharing an article on “Curious George” appearing in a public service announcement about literacy

Coming up: The peril and promise of blogging–as RAK’s “Stage Mom” celebrates 300 consecutive daily posts

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

Still using our words

I remember a time when my children—now teens and young adults—were in preschool. Among their many take-away lessons of time spent with skilled and caring early educators was a simple mantra: “Use your words.”

I was reminded of those days yesterday as our celebration of Jennifer’s 19th birthday drew to a close.

We began our all-girls birthday tour after Lizabeth (now 16) got out of school, stopping first at MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain in Phoenix for ice cream and a bit of window shopping through their vintage clothing, jewelry and such. It’s a family-owned business (see “quality control” photo at left) that does ice cream “old-school and very cool.” They even whip up Egg Creams™ and Phosphates™ in 34 flavors!

Though a movie seemed the obvious choice for an early evening outing, we opted instead for a book signing with Tom Leveen at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

Jennifer is keen on supporting “indie” businesses like Changing Hands—which describes itself as an “independent community bookstore.”

Lizabeth was eager to support Leveen since she’d recently performed in “Talk Radio” at Chyro Arts Venue in Scottsdale, where Leveen serves as artistic director.

Chyro Arts Venue will close next month after the last performance of its final production, “Orange Flower Water,” which runs April 29-May 15. It’s directed by Michael Peck, and contains mature themes not appropriate for those under 18.

Chyro is renowned for selecting edgier works and presenting them with gusto, and notes that patrons with a taste for alternative theater still have terrific options in the Valley—including Stray Cat Theatre and Nearly Naked Theatre.

I was saddened to learn of their decision to close, but delighted to discover that Leveen and his wife Joy (an Arcadia High School graduate, like Jennifer) are already steeped in other adventures.

They were beaming at last night’s book signing, so I suspect they are enjoying a time in life that Tom Leveen laughingly likens to riding a roller coaster.

I kicked around Hoodlums Music and Movies for a spell after dropping the girls off two doors down at Changing Hands.

Seems I missed my opportunity to get the exclusive release 10-inch vinyl of Springsteen performing at Giants Stadium because they sold out during Hoodlum’s “Record Day” event over the weekend.

But I did get to enjoy an exhibit of painted “album covers” along one wall–a work by Glenn Moust of Denmark and a work featuring small irridescent red glass tiles by Deborah Wahl of Tempe were my favorites.

Then I shot my wad on a button for Jennifer reading “I Still Read Books & I Vote!”–only to learn later as we sat cross-legged in a little corner of Changing Hands comparing book finds that Jennifer had gotten me a bumper sticker with the exact same slogan. 

I’m not sure what’s more intriguing–discovering the many ways our children are different than we are, or uncovering the startling number of ways we seem so very similar.

Once I headed over to Changing Hands, I saw what looked like at least 50 people—including Lizabeth—listening to Leveen talk about his recently published book titled “Party.” It’s a “teen lit” work of fiction that follows the lives of eleven different characters as they attend a single party in Santa Barbara, California.

Leveen talked about his inspirations for the book, his lovely experiences with rejection letters (there were dozens), his hopes for those who read his work and his plans for a second novel for young audiences. He also shared tips for fellow writers and reflected on how theater prepared him for the craft of writing.

In the meantime, Jennifer and I strolled through the store in search of books, gift items and more. We even checked out the children’s area, where I was thrilled to discover some toy makers I hadn’t known about when my kids were younger–including Rubbabu and Jellycat.

I fell in love with the “Goodnight Moon” gift sets—one with a softbound book and little bunny in blue and white striped pajamas, and another with a chunky book coupled with tiny bunny slippers. I managed to leave the “Where the Wild Things Are” characters on their shelves, but I’m beginning to regret that now.

We leave so many things behind as our children grow with such incredible glory. But according to Leveen, artist of both stage and page, one thing remains ever true–and serves as the take-away message from his book…

It’s the importance of using our words.


Note: Lizabeth bought a copy of Leveen’s “Party” so one or both of us will offer a more formal review once we’ve had a chance to read it. Despite the note Leveen wrote for Lizabeth when he signed her copy of his book—which reads “Have fun staying up all night!”—we made Lizabeth go to bed before she’d finished more than the first chapter.

Coming up: More of Leveen’s reflections on the stage and the page, “Hoodstock” event benefiting a local school, Childsplay unveils their 2010-2011 season

Today’s tidbits: Chandler-Gilbert Community College presents a free Community Band Concert tonight at 7pm at the CGCC Performing Arts Center (info: 480-732-7343). The Musical Instrument Museum presents “Nation Beat” (a fusion of music from the southern U.S. and northeast Brazil) tonight at 7:30pm at the MIM Music Theater (tickets $25-$30, info: 480-478-6001).