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Looking to give presence over presents for the holidays? Try these 4 Valley ideas

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Thursday, December 14, 2023 - 4:45am
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2023 - 8:04am

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Characters from "A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail"
Valley Youth Theatre
A scene from "A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail" at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix.

It’s the giving season, and some audiences will certainly remember Disney’s 1965 movie “The Sound of Music,” with Julie Andrews playing Maria von Trapp and re-capping holiday traditions that “are a few of her favorite things.” 

But, the giving season isn’t confined to “packages tied up with strings.” It’s also an opportunity for experiential “presence” versus presents.

'A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail' through Dec. 23

Violet Ritchie-Robinson
Violet Ritchie-Robinson plays "Roo" in Valley Youth Theatre's, "A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail" in Phoenix.

For young ones, and those young-at-heart, “A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail” might be a perfect gift. 

Valley Youth Theatre has produced the musical for nearly 30 years. It’s adapted from Pooh author A.A. Milne by James Rogers. In this case, “tail” in the title acts as a pun, given the plot.

“It starts off in the Hundred Acre Wood. Everybody’s gearing up for the holidays. It turns out, poor Eeyore has lost his tail. And so, all the good friends of Hundred Acre Wood, being the caring individuals they are, go on a search to find Eeyore’s tail in time for Christmas,” said Bobb Cooper, executive producer of the children’s musical.

One of the central characters, “Roo,” is played by the daughter of a KJZZ reporter.

Violet Ritchie-Robinson described why she likes being part of the show.

“Getting to perform in front of people and that I get to make new friends,” she said.  

In other words, something you can’t buy and put under a tree or on a gift table. 

In future years, the show will be held at a new venue, as Valley Youth Theatre was part of Phoenix’s voter-approved bond during the November 2023 election.   

"We were included for $14.1 million to build the Theatre for Children in Phoenix that I’ve been working on for 20-plus years,” said Cooper.

The show runs through Dec. 23. 

Holidays at the MIM

Of course, music comes in many forms, like traditional concert performances.     

“We have a wonderful show of locally based [musical] artists called, ‘Songwriters of the Southwest’ on the 23rd of December. That’s featuring a favorite of the Valley here, Brian Chartrand, along with a couple of siblings that are really blowing it up right now, also originally from Phoenix, called Dorsten,” said Andrew Walesch, artistic director for the Musical Instrument Museum Music Theater.

Other groups performing on the bill include the power harmony trio JTM3, as well as progressive folk-rock duo the Waters. 

Walesch also encourages families to visit the MIM’s “Acoustic America" special exhibition, which recently opened.

“It’s celebrating acoustic instruments of seminal American musicians, and so, lots of very important guitars, banjos [and] mandolins,” he said. 

Giving tree at Chandler Public Library

Chandler Public Library
The Chandler Public Library Giving Tree is located at the main branch. The last day to drop off donations is Dec. 20, 2023.

If you’re looking to pay it forward and help less fortunate people this season, the Chandler Public Library has erected a “Giving Tree” filled with ornaments, which patrons can pick.

But, there’s a catch.

“They can pick an ornament off the tree, which if they want to they can keep it, and it has an item listed that they can purchase for donation and bring it back into the library for us to wrap and give away,” said librarian Jennifer Vinikour. It’s the first time the library has put up a tree for this purpose during her tenure. 

“It helps community members who are experiencing homelessness kind of know that we’re thinking about them during the holiday season,” said Vinikour.  

All new, donated items must be brought in by Dec. 20 to the Downtown Branch so that items can be ready for the holidays.

For those who want to bring in donations without taking an ornament, the new, unwrapped items being collected are: 

  • Clean socks
  • Hand Warmers
  • Unscented Baby Wipes
  • Tampons/Pads
  • Underwear
  • Toilet Paper (small bundles)
  • Water Bottles (reusable)
  • First Aid Kits
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Blankets (weatherproof, if possible)
  • Hats/Gloves/Scarves/Earmuffs
  • Earbuds/headphones
  • Razors
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Small lotions
  • Chapstick
  • Crossword books

'Expanding Darshan: Manjari Sharma, To See and Be Seen' at Phoenix Art Museum

While the holidays represent many different things, often they are a time to tap into one’s sense of spirituality. A new exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum titled, “Expanding Darshan: Manjari Sharma, To See and Be Seen” may offer such.    

Rachel Zebro is a curator at the museum and said the installation features striking photographic works by Sharma that “investigate identity, multiculturalism and personal mythology, which explores the Hindu concept of Darshan, which is the profound encounter of seeing and being seen by the ‘Divine.’ An important aspect of Darshan is that it engages all of our senses and, more so, it’s a collaborative experience of seeing and being seen. It’s about a profound connectedness to ‘Truth,’ where the ‘Divine ones’ are really seeing the ‘True’ you.”    

Presents, or presence? The Valley arts and culture scene offers opportunities for both this giving season.    

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