Sure, the Bard charmed our pants off (along with fair Gwyneth's) when he was Shakespeare in Love, but -- let's face it -- most of the time, he was Shakespeare in a Homicidal Mindset. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern -- just two of the casualties in the blood bath that is Hamlet -- may be goners in Old Will's tale, but the pair are given new life in a play by Tom Stoppard (who's best known, incidentally, for scoring a screenwriting Oscar for Shakespeare in Love). Theatrescape remounts Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead -- a "comic and thought-provoking farce" -- Thursday, September 9, through Sunday, September 12, at Second Stage West at ASU West, 4701 West Thunderbird. Some 400 years after Shakespeare axed the poor boys, Stoppard lets Hamlet's doomed college buddies -- and two of the original play's least significant characters -- present their side of the story. In the Bard's version, R & G are "little more than plot devices" ordered to escort Hamlet to England for his intended execution. But Hamlet, the crafty fellow, instead orchestrates his boys' murders. (Sheesh. With friends like that . . . ) Call 602-543-ARTS or see www.theatrescape.com for showtimes and tickets, $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for students.
He's a standup who can't stand still. Franklyn Ajaye -- a.k.a. "The Jazz Comedian" -- performs his one-man show, teaches television writing, works in the audio book industry, and acts in a children's adventure TV series, Pirate Islands. The former law student is also an Emmy-nominated TV writer (In Living Color, Politically Incorrect, NYPD Blue), film actor (Car Wash, Stir Crazy, The Jazz Singer), author (Comic Insights: The Art of Stand Up Comedy) and musician. Ajaye's manic multitasking brings him from his home in Melbourne, Australia, to Scottsdale this weekend for a two-night stand at the Comedy Spot, 7117 East Third Avenue. Showtimes are 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, September 10, and Saturday, September 11. Call 480-945-4422 or see www.thecomedyspot.net for tickets, $15. Ladies enjoy Friday's late show for half price; college students with ID get the same deal at Saturday's 10 p.m. show.
We all could use some optimism on 9/11, so (paper cuts be damned!) we're off to Changing Hands Bookstore, where -- thanks to brainy boys and cheap used books -- every day is a good day. It's particularly true this Saturday, September 11, when Wilma Mankiller reads from and signs her book Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women. A noteworthy Native American activist, Mankiller has seen some very good days, indeed: The first woman elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation -- and the first woman to hold such an office in any tribe -- she was named American Indian Woman of the Year in 1986 and Ms. Magazine's Woman of the Year in 1987. She lends opening thoughts and stories to Every Day Is a Good Day, a book offering "insights and life lessons on how to achieve peace of mind from artists, lawyers, ranchers, doctors and educators," as well as "provocative discussions of indigenous cultural differences." The signing is set for 7 p.m. at the store, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. See www.changinghands.com.
There exists a group of people who, of their own free will, rise before the sun -- every Saturday and Sunday all year long -- to pedal between 40 and 100 miles? The Bull Shifters Bicycling Club has chosen an appropriate name, for we scarcely can believe they're serious. "A recreational club that rides a little faster and a little farther than the typical non-racing club," the BSers embark from I-17 and Thunderbird, about 30 minutes after sunrise, on rides that explore various parts of the Valley. On tap this Sunday, September 12: the 65-mile "Screamin' Pima Loop," which winds up through Cave Creek and Carefree (we're toast) and winds down at 5 & Diner (we're having toast!). Call 602-862-6262 or see www.bullshifters.org for all the horrific details.
Amsterdam mixes a martini for every disposition: sweet (pineapple upside-down cake martini), feisty (jalape--o martini), nuts (peanut butter cuptini). . . . And on Mondays, we can afford to indulge all of our mood swings -- and get prettied up while we're at it. From 7 p.m. 'til close, Martinis and Manicures are a measly 5 bones each, pedicures are $10, and Aveda scalp massages and henna tattoos are "available occasionally." Kinda like us. Except replace "occasionally" with "always." Get our digits -- and get yours groomed -- at 718 North Central. See www.amsterdambar.com.
Beauty is in the eye of the ticket holder. Nevertheless, we're promised that "life is beautiful, the girls are beautiful, even the orchestra is beautiful" inside Berlin's Kit Kat Club, the seedy setting for Cabaret, which resumes its run at Phoenix Theatre this Tuesday, September 14. The nightclub serves as a "metaphor for the decadent world in pre-Hitler Germany" (duh) in Kander and Ebb's musical, which contrasts the complicated attraction binding writer Clifford and nightclub vixen Sally with the sweet affection between a sensible landlady and her Jewish suitor. Curtain time is 8 p.m. at PT, 100 East McDowell, where Cabaret continues through October 3. Call 602-254-2151 or see www.phxtheatre.org for tickets, $28 to $32.
His was a brush with greatness. The life of 19th-century Korean painter Jang Seung-up -- who embraced art, alcohol and women with equal passion -- takes full color in Chihwaseon ("Painted Fire"), the next offering in ASU's Center for Asian Studies' Fall Film Series. Nayoung Aimee Kwon of ASU's Department of Languages and Literatures introduces the 2002 Cannes award winner at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 15, in ASU's Nursing Building, Room 101. Admission is free, as is parking -- after 7 p.m. -- in parking structure #3, 10th Street and Myrtle in Tempe. See www.asu.edu/clas/asian/events.html.