Who is that masked man? Say that line in this area, and there's a good chance that you're asking about Zarco Guerrero, local mask-maker and performance artist. Guerrero takes the plum role of the Devil in La Pastorela, a "teatro"-style Christmas pageant presented by El Teatro de la Esperanza ("the Theater of Hope"), in association with Arizona State University's "Untold Stories Festival," on Thursday, December 17; and Friday, December 18, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 5445 Calle San Angelo in Guadalupe. After a preshow of music and dance performances at 6:45 p.m., the show begins at 8 with a semicomic reenactment of the shepherd's pilgrimage to the Nativity, and continues outside the church with a traditional "posada"--a reenactment of Joseph and Mary's search for an inn. The whole thing is followed by goodies and a chance to whack a pinata. Tickets, available at the Gammage box office and Dillard's, are $25; proceeds benefit the Centro de Amistad, a Guadalupe-based mental-health agency. 965-3434 (Gammage), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
A duo of truly great actors--Julie Harris and Charles Durning--takes on D.L. Coburn's two-hander The Gin Game, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. The run wraps up with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, December 17; 8 p.m. Friday, December 18; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 19; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 20, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams. Tickets are $32.50 to $50. 262-7272 (Phoenix Civic Plaza), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
Hilarious, influential comedians Joan Rivers and Don Rickles perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 17, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets are $33, $40 and $45. 267-1600 (Celeb), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
The ongoing Friday night "Free Love" club night at the Higher Ground Cafe, 1032 South Terrace in Tempe, takes a seasonal turn with The Holiday Gathering, from 9 p.m. Friday, December 18, to 1 a.m. The all-ages happening features acid funk by Joe Mama as its live act, plus such DJs as Pari&Essential, Snail, Atom and Onan. Admission is $4; for more information, call 401-LOVE (5683) or 829-8687.
The inventor of the art form now commonly known as the "mobile"--as well as its less-well-known cousin the "stabile"--American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) had a special fondness for the circus. "Alexander Calder: Le Grand Cirque," a show organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, features many of Calder's works on this subject, along with tapestries, works on paper and mobiles and stabiles on other subjects. It opens Friday, December 18, in the Mezzanine Gallery of the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street, and continues through Sunday, March 21. Viewing hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 8 p.m. Thursdays), noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. 994-2787.
Along with the specialty shops, the nature trail, the mine tours, gold panning, staged gunfight shows, the phony Miner's Last Diggin's Cemetery and the "Southwest Live Rattlesnake Exhibit" and displays of antique mining equipment, Goldfield Ghost Town hosts its first "OldFashioned Christmas" event from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, December 18; and the same hours Saturday, December 19. This 1890s-era mining settlement will have its halls thoroughly decked with whatever passes for holly in Arizona, as well as with thousands of lights, and will feature carriage and train rides, a campfire and other goodies. Santa has somehow found time to stop by, too. Admission is free to the "town"; the donation of a canned good for Apache Junction's Reach Out Food Bank gets you 10 percent off all attractions, shopping, food and drink. Regular hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 4650 North Mammoth Mine Road, three miles north of Apache Junction via the Apache Trail (a.k.a. state Highway 88). 983-0333.
Raw-voiced blues prodigy Jonny Lang, who recently had the privilege of performing with Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett in Blues Brothers 2000, takes the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, December 19, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets, if any remain, are $26.75. 267-1600 (Celeb), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
Joined by some "surprise special guests," the Grand Canyon Men's Chorale performs a program titled "A Winter Solstice" at 8 p.m. Saturday, December 19; and 3 p.m. Sunday, December 20, at First United Methodist Church, 5510 North Central. Tickets are $10 and $15, available at Unique on Central and Obelisk Bookstore. 340-7640.
And speaking of the annual point at which the sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn at noon, The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix presents its version of the holiday spirit, a Winter Solstice Party, along with the election of the society's 1999 officers, at 9 a.m. Sunday, December 20, at Marie Callender's Restaurant, 865 South Dobson in Mesa. $6 includes a continental breakfast, $9 gets you a full brunch. 802-4977.
Children's Asthmatic Research Institute and Hospital, the Phoenix chapter of the National Asthma Center, holds its annual Hanukkah Celebration at 1 p.m. Sunday, December 20, in the Shepherd of the Valley Church, 15th Avenue and Maryland. Traditional foods such as ladkes (potato pancakes) are to be served up, along with entertainment. Admission is free, but the dues for those who join CARIH's fund-raising team at the event will be waived. 439-8891.
Although he supposedly wrote it to stave off creditors--Dickens is said to have written A Christmas Carol for the same reason; Christmas stuff is apparently always good for a fast buck--George Frederick Handel's oratorio Messiah, first performed in Dublin in 1742, is by far his most enduring work. Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra and Chorale host the 22nd annual "Messiah" Sing-Along, a join-in performance of Handel's work, open to everyone. Showtime is 3 p.m. Sunday, December 20, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Admission is free. 945-8071.