This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, December 11
Every year as Christmas approaches, the story of the birth of Jesus is shared in countless ways. But rarely is it presented as vividly as in "Walk Through Bethlehem,"where more than 350 members of the CrossRoads Nazarene Church show, rather than tell, the biblical tale. Created to be as realistic as possible, the interactive event takes visitors back in time to join shepherds in the fields for an angelic announcement. From there, they proceed to Bethlehem, where census takers greet them at the city gates. Inside the city, there's a synagogue as well as a lively marketplace populated by artisans, farmers, fishermen and bakers. Visitors follow the shepherds to an inn with no vacancies, and on to the final stop of the journey, a dark, humble stable where a baby was just born. The tour lasts about an hour, and is free of charge. Tours begin every 15 minutes between 6 and 9 p.m. nightly, through Monday, December 15. The event also features live music and a petting zoo. Reserved tour times are available but not required; call 480-722-0700 to find out more. CrossRoads is located at the northeast corner of Highway 101 and Ray Road in Chandler.

It's not always easy to get in the Christmas spirit when you live in the desert. After all, temperatures were still in the triple digits two months ago. But one thing that really works to put us in a merry Christmas mood is music. Can you think of any other holiday that's so strongly associated with song? From classic carols to brand-new tunes, music's the soul of the season. Christmas Mem'ries: A Holiday Cabaret, the iTheatre Collaborative's latest production, is a lively revue performed in an intimate setting where the audience can relax with drinks and desserts. Show time is 9:30 p.m. Thursday, December 11, through Saturday, December 13, and December 18 to 20, at the Herberger Theater Center's Performance Outreach Theater, 222 East Monroe. Tickets are $12; call 602-347-1071, extension 1, for reservations.

Friday, December 12
The history of Sixth Street Studios, one of downtown's newest art spaces, has the appeal of all good makeover stories. Built in 1918, the structure used to be a family residence. The old woman who last occupied it eventually moved to a retirement home, and the building sat vacant for five years. By the time artists Cindy Dach and Greg Esser purchased the property, it was a garbage-filled wreck. One of the buildings behind the house, now a studio, was a "crack shack" inhabited by squatters, says Dach. Transforming the decrepit, boarded-up house into a cozy gallery was a intense labor of love that began June 1. Not surprisingly, hard work inspired art, resulting in the gallery's latest exhibition, "50 Hour Days."The show includes photography from several artists who documented the renovation, mixed media pieces related to it, and even a display of objects found at the space, including a working Atari Super Pong. Two major contributors to the project have solo shows in separate rooms; Jeremy Bridell displays wood constructions, and Cheryle Marine presents paintings and sculptures. So that finishing touches can be added to the space, the exhibition has a short run. Stop by 918 North Sixth Street between 5 and 9 p.m. Friday, December 12, or between 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday, December 13, for your last chance to see the show. For details call 602-614-8727.

Saturday, December 13
With live music nearly every night of the week, cheap admission prices and all-ages access, Modified Arts does much to advance the experimental, hard-core, punk, emo, and all-around alternative scenes downtown. But now the indie rockers have decided to give a little back. At the Modified Arts Benefit Festival on Saturday, December 13, five bucks gets you an action-packed lineup of local acts, including The Minibosses, The Necronauts, Nada de Nada, Vin-Fiz, Peachcake, Osama Bin Sars, and Totally Radd. Doors open at 7 p.m. at 407 East Roosevelt. Call 602-462-5516 or visit www.modified.org for more information.

Sunday, December 14
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most renowned poets of the 19th century, gets a loving 21st-century tribute with the new book and CD Longfellow Reads Longfellow: Dreams That Cannot Die. A descendent of Henry's cousin Michael, Dr. Layne Longfellow created the disc for a new generation of poetry lovers, combining spoken word adaptations of the original poems with a musical soundtrack by award-winning composer Michael Hoppé. Dr. Longfellow reads from his book starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 14, at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. Call 480-730-0205 for more information.

Monday, December 15
Cut off that mullet and leave the Eighties behind -- "video" doesn't just refer to MTV anymore. These days, it's a medium for cutting edge art that you're more likely to find in galleries than in your living room. See the latest experimental work from undergrads and graduate students at Herberger College Video Nite 2003, Monday, December 15. Admission is free, and screenings start at 7 p.m. in Neeb Hall, located on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. To find out more, visit herbergercollege.asu.edu.

Tuesday, December 16
If you're starting to see too much red and green lately, head to Cervini Haas Gallery, where Susan Schwalb, Jaq Chartier and Joanne Mattera offer up serene canvases in every hue. The exhibition continues through January 31 at 4200 North Marshall Way, #6, in Scottsdale. For details, call 480-429-6116.

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