Nearly four centuries after William Shakespeare put quill to scroll and penned some of the most famous plays on Earth, people still debate his byline. Many theorists propose that perhaps ghostwriters, maybe Willie's lesser-known contemporaries like Christopher Marlowe or Ben Jonson, added some limbs to the Bard's body of work. On Friday, August 19, Actors' Renaissance Theatre presents more conjecture, albeit tongue-in-cheek, with the opening of The Beard of Avon at Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 East Sixth Street. Written by Amy Freed, the farce explores the idea that Shakespeare was a front man for Sir Francis Bacon, the Earl of Oxford, and even Queen Elizabeth, who were too proud to put their names on a playbill. The Beard of Avon offers a "gleeful wink at intervening centuries" and "a merry look at the mortality of artists and the immortality of their legacy" at 8 p.m. The show continues through September 4. Tickets cost $12 to $15. Call 480-632-0409 or visit www.actorsrenaissance.org.
The Keith Johnson/Dancers' performance of Running/Still/Life on Saturday, August 20, is all about contemporary dance movements that reinterpret the human experience. The two-part dance presentation consists of "Where the Wild Violets Grow," a piece based on the idea that beauty blooms in spite of obstacles, and "Running/Still/Life," a 45-minute work that uses running as a metaphor for living. Tempe native Johnson, now a professor of dance at California State University, Long Beach, leads a stable of seven dancers for the production, and two members of his outfit -- Brad Garner and Carley Conder -- are from Arizona. The latter praises the "complex physicality" and "luscious movement quality" of Johnson's choreography. Step to the Scottsdale Community College Performing Arts Center, 9000 East Chaparral Road, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. Call 480-423-6600 or visit www.sc.maricopa.edu/dance.
Do not try to eat the paintings after participating in the Family Sundays: Ice Cream Extravaganza at the Phoenix Art Museum, no matter how yummy they look. On Sunday, August 21, the museum, 1625 North Central Avenue, invites you to meditate upon Wayne Thiebaud's 1964 painting Four Ice Cream Cones and explore the artistic rendering of colors and textures, an experience that wouldn't necessarily rouse the taste buds to temptation if Thiebaud weren't the artist. Although classified as a New Realist, Thiebaud used everyday subjects (like food) so much that many consider him more of a Pop artist. Either way, Thiebaud caught the munchies muse in the early '60s and also created works called Bakery Counter, Pie Counter, and Around the Cake, painting the latter on a canvas built up with paste to look and feel like frosting. Mmm. Get a glimpse of Four Ice Cream Cones at 1 p.m. The event is included with museum admission, which costs $3 to $9. Call 602-257-1880 or visit www.phxart.org.
If you like sitting in the dark, with only the light from black candles illuminating the spider webs around you, while bands like This Mortal Coil wail "I want to die!" in the background, then you must check out Xiu Xiu, an incredibly sad-sounding Seattle outfit that mopes down to Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt Street, on Monday, August 22. The band's fourth album, La Fort, oozes from the speakers like a manic-depressive dirge, with singer Jamie Stewart's mortified monotone vocals periodically drowning under sudden waves of electronic clanging. Stewart's deep, breathless vocals sound at odds with such cacophonous outbursts, but hey -- this guy sounds like he's really in pain; why not drown it with explosions of vibraphones, tubas, harmoniums, drum machines and Autoharps? Hear the schism at 8 p.m. Yellow Swans, and Nedelle open the show. Admission costs $8. Call 602-462-5516 or visit www.modified.org.
Even decadence gets old after a while. Those who believe their bodies are more like amusement parks than temples have found there are a limited number of rides, so they have to keep inventing new sideshows. Welcome to "Reborn," an audio/alcohol feast for hedonists taking place Tuesday, August 23, at M3 Bar & Lounge, 2623 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Red-hot local DJ Sonique des Fleurs will provide "100% Natural Grooves," along with vinyl spinners Miss Jag from Overload Cru, and Cyntheria, who'll incorporate all sorts of musical styles, from house and breaks to drum 'n' bass and downtempo. But where is the bargain booze? How about $3 wells, calls, and domestics; $4 premiums, wines, and imports; $5 top shelf; and $6 "x-treme top shelf"? See what's so "x-treme" at 9:30 p.m. There's no cover. Call 480-423-7087 or visit www.reborn-m3.com.