Arizona State Fair: The annual corn-dog carnival opens Thursday and continues through November 5 at the fairgrounds, bounded by McDowell Road and Encanto Boulevard between 17th and 19th avenues. Along with the usual attractions--midway rides and games, livestock and agricultural exhibits, etc.--this year's fair features Thunder Lagoon, a manmade "rain forest in the desert"; the tenth annual All-Indian Rodeo, slated for Thursday through Saturday in Grandstand Arena (see Sports listing); Budweiser Party Gras, a New Orleans-style restaurant/bar located in the Mineral Museum building; and the Imperial Palace Antique and Classic Auto Collection, which includes Marilyn Monroe's 1955 coral-pink Lincoln Capri convertible and vehicles formerly owned by Elvis, Liberace, Howard Hughes and Sammy Davis Jr. The usual schizophrenic mix of cutting-edge acts, twangers, has-beens and comedians takes the stage at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, beginning with one of the former, Soul Asylum, at 7 p.m. Thursday. All of the above are free with regular admission: $6, $4 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 5 to 13, free for those younger. Midway Pay-One-Price days are Tuesday, October 31, November 2 and November 5; Kiddieland Pay-One-Price day is October 26. For a complete listing of musical performances and other fair info not covered here, see At the Fair listing in Thrills; also see "At the Fair" in Kid Pics. For general information, call 268-3247 or 252-6771.
Il Trovatore: Arizona Opera has opened its silver-anniversary season with Verdi's great tragedy about the price of vengeance. Final performances, in Italian with English surtitles, are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Eduardo Villa and Pamela Kucenic-Motisi sing the roles of Manrico and Leonora in Thursday's and Saturday's performances; Robin Reed and Maria Williams assume the parts on Friday and Sunday. Preshow lectures are planned an hour before each show. Tickets range from $14 to $56, available at symphony and Dillard's box offices. Call 262-7272 or 678-2222.
Valley Art Theatre: Spike & Mike's Original Festival of Animation 1995 (unrated), an all-ages collection of animated short films, includes the two most recent Academy Award winners (Alison Snowden and David Fine's Bob's Birthday and Nick Park's ab-fab The Wrong Trousers) and three Oscar nominees: Triangle, The Janitor and The Big Story. It continues with daily screenings, through October 26, at the theatre, 509 South Mill in Tempe. Also continuing: Kids (NC-17) and Jeffrey (R). Valley Art's Friday midnight-movie series continues this week with Hellbound: Hellraiser II (R). The Rocky Horror Picture Show (R) is screened at midnight every Saturday. Ticket prices vary; call 829-6668 for details.
As You Like It: Ethington Theatre at Grand Canyon University, 3300 West Camelback, presents the Bard's evergreen comedy about cross-dressing lovers romping about in a primeval forest. The play is the second installment in Ethington's seasonlong "Reconstructing Shakespeare" series. It's performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. October 27 and 28. Tickets are $8, $6.50 for seniors and kids. Call 589-2871.
Heather Nova: Born in Bermuda, raised on a sailboat, educated at the Rhode Island School of Design and now based in London, this dreamy minx falls somewhere between ethereal Enya and nails-down-the-back rocker Alanis Morissette. Ben Folds Five shares the all-ages bill; showtime is 9 p.m. Friday at Gibson's, 410 South Mill in Tempe. Tickets are $5, available at the door and Ticketmaster. Call 968-8664 or 784-4444.
Fall Plant Sales: Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum's annual sale and landscaping blowout starts Friday and continues daily, through October 29, during regular hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission, which includes access to the preserve's grounds, is $4, $2 for kids ages 5 to 12, free for those younger. The arboretum is located on U.S. Highway 60 near Superior; call 1-520-689-2811. Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park, hosts its annual arid-landscape plant sale, the largest in the state, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the sales area is free; there's a charge for garden admission. Call 941-1217.
Penn & Teller: The black-comedy illusionists, who prefer to be called "swindlers" and/or "shameless charlatans," return to Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street, for shows at 8 p.m. Friday and 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $22.50 and $25, available at the center and all Ticketmaster locations. Call 994-2787 or 784-4444.
And the Tide Shall Cover the Earth: Arizona State University's theatre department presents Norma Cole's coming-of-age tale, set in Kentucky's Cumberland River Gorge in the spring of 1948, about a young girl who's on the threshold of womanhood and her relationship with her family, whose ancestral home is in the path of rising waters caused by a government dam. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. October 26 through 28 at Paul V. Galvin Playhouse in ASU's Nelson Fine Arts Center, Tenth Street and Mill in Tempe. Tickets are $11, $6 for students, available at ASU Fine Arts and Dillard's box offices. For details call 965-6447 or 678-2222.
Empty Bowl Project: This fifth annual fund raiser is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday on the lawn at Mesa Arts Center, 155 North Center. Those who pay $9 for lunch, $7 with the donation of a canned good, keep the ceramic bowl it's served in and raise funds for various Mesa social-service agencies and nonprofit arts organizations. There will also be a silent auction of bowls designed or autographed by celebrities, including former Oakland Raiders quarterback Kenny Stabler;