Not all actors are blessed with natural ability -- some talents need to be nurtured. With a little encouragement and instruction, your budding Keanu and Madonna could blossom into Bogey and Bacall. Enter Valley Youth Theatre's Fall Workshops, which offer a "comprehensive education in the performing arts" while building self-esteem and social skills. Participants ages 3 to 18 explore stage pursuits ranging from clowning and improvisation to musical theater and Shakespeare. First up: "Acting Magic." From Saturday, August 23, through September 6, thespians 5 to 7 turn their favorite stories into short scenes and develop characters through movement and voice. Ranging from two to six weeks, sessions continue through April at VYT's Education and Outreach Space, 1121 North First Street. Fees start at $75. Call 602-253-8188, extension 302, or see www.vyt.com for a workshop schedule. - Jill Koch
Heck of a Deal
Kids Fest 2003 in Camp Verde
This Saturday, August 16, kids'll be kings of the castle -- Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde, where the Dragonfly Lounge hosts Kids Fest 2003. Each of two sessions -- 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. -- features balloon twisting (know when to hold 'em), a tee shirt making contest (know when to fold 'em) and a Harry Potter-themed magic show (know when to walk away . . . just kiddin'). Admission is $1 and includes $5 in video game tokens and a free game of bowling. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. The casino is located at 555 Middle Verde Road, off I-17 exit 289; call 1-928-567-7999. -- Jill Koch
Local authors page young readers
Video games have sucked attention spans from children for 20-some years -- this weekend brings a revenge of the words. On Saturday, August 16, the Saturday Signings Series sets up four local writers, each with a book for young readers, at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. Between 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., kids can get signed copies of Scottsdale author Pamela Danner's dog biography Andre: Angel in a Poodle Suit (a portion of the book's sales benefit the Arizona Humane Society); teacher/trainer Susan Meek's A Chameleon's Tale, a colorful story of self-expression; singer-songwriter Hayley Rose's Fifo: When I Grow Up, the first in a series about a brown bear; and Howard Martin's Dr. Diablo, a sci-fi fantasy. Call 480-730-0205 for more information. - Jill Koch
Family Sunday gets wet
Need refreshment? Well, "water works" -- which is why Phoenix Art Museum calls this week's Family Sunday event just that. From 1 to 3 p.m. on August 17, kids 5 to 12, with their adult companions, can hear singer Jeffrey Sadow sing cool, watery songs and then make seascapes to hang in the family gallery. Why not come early and conduct a visual scavenger hunt? Make a list for each hunting party and set out to discover artworks depicting oceans, waterfalls, dewdrops -- heck, even condensation counts in August. Waterworks, like all Family Sunday activities, is free with museum admission: $7 for adults and $5 for seniors, students, and kids 6 and older. Kids younger than 6 get in free. The Phoenix Art Museum graces the northeast corner of Central and McDowell. For more information, call 602-257-1222. - Kim Toms
Ark de Triomphe
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Set sail with your mate
As far as phenomenal feats are concerned, Noah's are pretty impressive: corralling two of all the Earth's creatures and building a boat without power tools. But Cory George, director of East Valley Theater Company, has really accomplished something: She's single-handedly helmed the all-teen company's fourth summer production. The Ark, which sets sail Thursday, August 14, is not only acted by an all-teen cast, but everyone behind the scenes -- from the costumer and makeup artist to the set builders -- is a teenager as well.
"The teens really are the theater company," says George. "They do everything. . . . They're really talented."
Based on the Biblical story, the musical sees Noah and his family embark on the world's very first couples' cruise. Performances continue through August 23 at Trinity Baptist Church, 2130 East University in Mesa. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and tickets are $10. Call 480-228-6213 for reservations. - Jill Koch