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Beauty, Beast and Puppets!

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I was thrilled in my college and early professional years when, along with children’s theater, puppetry became part of mainstream entertainment. Remember small and brilliant films like Being John Malkovich directed by Spike Jonze, and Heavenly Creatures by Peter Jackson? Around the same time another amazing director Julie Taymor came out of the woodwork. She made indie films like Shakespeare’s Titus, and one of my favorite films of all time Frida. On Broadway she directed The Green Bird, and her biggest credit, something we can all identify with, The Lion King. Don’t let me lead you astray most of these aren’t for children. The reason I do mention all of this, is because the potential of puppetry as a serious art form, and its connections to dance and movement, became clear to me back then.

I am one of those kooky artists who believe one can find beautiful movement in the most mundane of places. Objects and props can dance, like leaves falling from a tree and a ball rolling down a hallway. Someone walking down the street is dance. I’ve made work where the choreography was generated from driving a stick shift and brushing your teeth. I love the idea of a puppeteer silently dancing in the dark to make magic happen on stage. So when I was presented with a show at the Center for Puppetry Arts, I put both children in my pockets and I went.

I’ve been to the center once before to see Cinderella Della Circus, and fell in love with the place. The show was great and will be back by popular demand this season. The galleries were filled with Jim Henson, international puppets, crafts and a nice gift shop. It’s a very nice way for the whole family to spend an afternoon.

On this trip we saw a bilingual version of Beauty and the Beast adapted and directed by Jon Ludwig, script by Luis R. Hernandez. At first I was a bit worried, not being a Spanish speaker, that the story might be hard to navigate through. I was wrong. It was clear as a bell to the point that I forgot that two languages were being spoken.

When we entered the theater we saw that the stage is split. Stage left was set up like a junk yard and stage right was set up like a forest with a giant tree and the infamous rose garden. At the beginning of the show, a real man appeared and found a book of fairy tales, which he tossed away again among the trash. The book was rediscovered by our narrators, an alley cat and a couple of mice. As they commenced to read the story, some laundry on a line came to life. Belle was built from the trash pile. Her torso was a blouse, her face and neck were made from a mop and she had an umbrella skirt. We later learned that the characters in this story were portrayed by found-object puppets. The play was chock-full of them. The antagonist was made from a stiff broom and a couple of fancy purses. Her son was constructed from a potato sack, big gloves and an earflap hat. The Beast was also built from a giant mop, a large men’s tunic and some deer antlers. This is not to mention the animation of all the furniture, instruments and flowers. Even the tree and a flamenco flamingo came to life.

The story moved fluidly from one scene to another, complete with creative references to Lady and the Tramp and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. In one notable transition there was a great slow motion chase scene after Mama picked the rose for the first time.

As a dancer there was one particular scene that captured my heart. As Beauty got comfortable in the Beast’s castle, she started to explore by gracefully dancing through three empty painting frames. Not only was this great usage of a prop, but they used it to the fullest. The scene couldn’t have lasted more than 45 seconds, but its image stayed with me throughout my dreams.

As if you couldn’t guess, we had a wonderful time. After the show we went to the third floor and created Alley Cat puppets of our very own. I think my girls loved this as much as the performance. So if you want a fun afternoon out with the children that is also a feast for adult senses as well, check this show out. It runs through May 29, 2011. You can find the Center for Puppetry Arts online at www.puppet.org or by phone at 404.873.3391. While you are there make your plans for the rest of the season.

Jack and the Beanstalk – May 31 — June 12, 2011

Cinderella Della Circus – June 14 – July 17 2011

Martha Speaks – July 19 – 31, 2011

Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Family Fun

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Legends!

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Behold the living legends! Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brings the unbelievable to Children Of All Ages in an all-new show – – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS. Experience unimaginable family fun as amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats of daring, spectacles of strength and thrills of wonder to summon the mythical and the mysterious visions that have only existed in your imagination and now materialize before your eyes: the Unicorn, Pegasus and a Woolly the Mammoth! Join us for an unforgettable family night of legendary proportions at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS!

Free to all ticketholders, the All Access Pre-show allows circus fans to learn juggling and balancing skills, meet the performers of The Greatest Show On Earth, get autographs, take photos and enter to win a one-of-a-kind Pachyderm Painting.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDS SM, playing Amway Center January 14-18, 2016. Save $4 off tickets using promo code 4MOM. Live tweet to us while you are there! @RinglingBros #BestGiftEver  @BackstageBeat

 

 

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NEW Children’s Museum of Atlanta Re-opens December 12!

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Families will soon experience more STEAM-style activities and exhibits when visiting the newly renovated Children’s Museum of Atlanta, which re-opens to the public on Saturday, December 12. This iconic downtown attraction, which has been busy renovating since August of this year, now features targeted science, technology, engineering, arts and math education programming woven through almost every aspect of the enhanced space. Whether children build and shoot their own rocket launcher in the new “Gateway to the World” exhibit or design their dream home in the enhanced “Tools for Solutions” exhibit, the increased focus on STEAM learning enables the Museum to further prepare young children to be problem solvers and lifelong learners.

We got a sneak preview this week and I can honestly say it was the most fun my kids have had in a long time! They amount of things there are to do is mind boggling!

One of our favorite areas was Tools for Solutions – This enhanced, multi-layered zone reaches all ages and explores the science of building through four learning environments: the giant ball machine, Built-It Lab, Construction House and City Blocks. Using six simple machines, visitors can move balls through the Museum’s beloved giant ball machine. Children can also learn how to use real tools and materials in the new Build-It Lab, which will feature building workshops and more. This lab will also house a “Maker Space” to empower young children to harness their own ideas to build inventions and artistic creations. The Construction House, designed to showcase what is “behind the walls,” features a solar panel and incorporates activities on how to attach make-believe wires, connect pipes and insulate walls. City Blocks enables children to create skyscrapers and design the city of the future. Through this revitalized exhibit space, children can hone early and more complex math skills, as they learn the importance of processes and sequencing. They also utilize creativity, social emotional and gross and fine motor skills, while discovering that even the most intricate problems can be solved step-by-step with a solid strategy and through the use of tools.

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