Appearances often are deceiving. You'd probably expect a public performance of Aesop's fables to be some infantile feel-good production aimed solely at children. Just like the sheep that mistook the wolf as one of their flock, you'd be dead wrong. Gerry Cullity and Adele Dodds, two members of the Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, 4720 North Scottsdale Road, have taken your favorite bedtime stories -- like The Tortoise and the Hare and The Fox and the Grapes -- and transformed them into The Fable Company, an improvisation-based interactive musical theater starting Monday, December 27.
Every hourlong performance of this experiment in "environmental theater" will be completely different, as audience members will spin a wheel to randomly select one of 60 of Aesop's fables that cast members have memorized, followed by choosing the method it's retold -- i.e., singing, dancing, puppetry, game-show format or a Whose Line Is It Anyway-style skit. Some of the action even takes place in the audience, and attendees might be involved.
"The crowd is integral to the performance, sort of like the Tinkerbell moment in Peter Pan or The Rocky Horror Picture Show," says Cullity, director of the show. "Our goal is to find out what people are looking for and to satisfy that."
Aesop rocks as The Fable Company previews every day at 2 p.m. through December 31. An open-ended run starts January 8, with performances at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only. The public is encouraged to come 15 minutes prior to showtime for wacky fun and games. Admission is $10 for a preview show, $12 to $18 thereafter. Call 480-483-1664 or see www.desertstages.com. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Salvation Army needs little helpers
Credit cards maxed out? Strung enough holiday lights to double your electricity bill? Wear a Santa cap every day, yet still feel a holiday void? Perhaps it's time to roll up your sleeves and help out with the Salvation Army's annual Christmas Dinner at the Phoenix Civic Plaza, 111 North Third Street. Volunteers are needed for three-hour shifts from Thursday, December 23, through Saturday, December 25. The many tasks include calling drivers on your cell phone with food delivery directions. If your constant cell phone usage results in annoying driving habits, this is a wonderful opportunity to make amends this holiday season while also helping the less fortunate. Call 602-267-4117 or see www.salvationarmycares.org. -- Douglas Towne
By Santa's nipples, has all that sound-alike holiday music in the malls got you twitchy and more than a little itchy? Yeah, us too. Well, don't go to the family feast all testy-like. Be thoughtful and relieve your aural tension at Paper Heart's "Nightmare Before Christmas" on Thursday, December 23, at 750 Grand Avenue. Hardcore punk by Severe Tire Damage and Stalins War should set you straight for the weekend festivities. Or not, as need be. Either way, you can't go wrong with a $5 cover, which is just about all that's left in our after-holiday shopping budget. The doors open at 8 p.m. Call 602-262-2020. -- Patricia Beck
The Trunk Space gets up under your tree
The advent of Christmas renders chain stores even bigger wastelands than usual, but last-minute shoppers find grace at the Trunk Space, the funky little art place at 1509 Grand Avenue, made famous by the First Friday Artwalk. For those who get inspired (or paid) late this year, hosts JRC and Stephanie pack the Trunk on Friday, December 24, with unique gifts under $100: handmade quilts, unique clothes and original paintings, for starters. There's room at this "in" spot, too, for weary travelers -- they'll find specialty hot drinks and desserts at the nosh pit. The Trunk Space stays open 'til 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Call 602-256-6066 or visit www.thetrunkspace.com. -- Kim Toms
Catch a special holiday session of Catechism II
So you pissed in grandpa's eggnog and now you need to be absolved of your holiday sin? Who better to whip you into shape than a Catholic nun on a soul-saving mission? Visit the Sister, better known as actress/comedienne Patti Hannon, at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street, at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 26, for a special holiday session of Late Nite Catechism II. Operating on the firm belief that "sometimes we feel guilty because we are guilty," the Sister cracks her holy whip on audience members, who become part of the comedy act. Additional holiday sessions of the ongoing improvisational show also run at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 29, and into January. Tickets are $34. For additional dates, or to purchase tickets, call 480-994-ARTS (2787). -- Ashlea Deahl
Santa's Fantasies invade Karamba
If you're the owners of Karamba Nightclub, 1724 East McDowell, you're thinking that maybe after a long night of circumnavigating the globe, Kriss Kringle probably wants to kick off 364 days of downtime by grinding and writhing against sweaty, half-naked man-flesh within the darkened confines of a trendy Valley nightspot. After all, why else would Karamba book Santa's Fantasies -- on Saturday, December 25, from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. -- unless it suspected that Jolly Old Saint Nick's lengthy facial hair wasn't his only beard? Karamba is billed as the spot "where the AZ Latin Boys are this X-Mas," and Father Christmas can come to the event for go-go boys aplenty dancing up a storm, or just to shake his jingle bells to salsa, merengue, and sweet cumbia spun by L.A.'s DJ Ernie Pearl, DJ Tranz, and DJ Melo. Doors open at 8 p.m., with 21-and-over admission until 2 a.m., and all-ages thereafter. Admission is free before 10 p.m. and $5 afterward. Call 602-254-0231 or see www.karambanightclub.com. -- Benjamin Leatherman