New Times picks the best things to do in metro Phoenix from Monday, April 11, through Thursday, April 14.
Once Upon a Mattress
If you’re famous, your big break came along somewhere back there, and however hard you worked and prepared, chances are it was serendipitous and unexpected. For Carol Burnett, the lightning struck with 1959’s Once Upon a Mattress (which is a charming Tony-nominated musical, not a fairytale porno). When Burnett left the Broadway company, the succession of actresses who took on the role of assertive yet goofy Princess Winnifred was a who’s who of beloved character actors — including Ann B. Davis, who played Alice on The Brady Bunch.
Don Bluth Front Row Theatre presents the family-friendly play through Saturday, April 30, at 8670 East Shea Boulevard #103 in Scottsdale. Showtime is 7 p.m. on Monday, April 11, and tickets are $23 at 480-314-0841 or www.donbluthfrontrowtheatre.com. Julie Peterson
In 1997, writer Zadie Smith inked a pretty lucrative deal for her debut novel, White Teeth. It was published in 2000, and to say that it was well received is an understatement.
The book explores multicultural, contemporary London through three ethnically diverse families and garnered a lengthy list of awards and favorable reviews. It was even adapted for a television broadcast. No one-hit wonder, Smith followed it up with several more books, in addition to working as a tenured professor of creative writing at New York University. Spend an evening with the author and get the scoop on her soon-to-be-released essay collection, Feel Free, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, at Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 West Rio Salado Parkway. Admission is free. Call 480-350-2822 or visit www.tempe.gov. Amy Young
For its 50th birthday, the Arizona Costume Institute is taking some time to reflect and, let’s be real, brag just a little bit. Founded as an organization to support fashion programming at Phoenix Art Museum, ACI has acquired countless garments from throughout history. With the newly opened exhibition “Defining Moments,” visitors can take a look at some of the most stunning pieces fresh from of the vault, including a dress from Alexander McQueen’s final collection, a pair of flapper-era Chanels, and a European court gown from the mid-1700s. Talk about variety. Take a walk through some of history’s best looks (presented with gorgeous wall illustrations by Ruben Toledo) in the Ellman and Lewis Orme galleries at 1625 North Central Avenue through Sunday, August 7. Hours on Wednesday, April 13, are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults before 3 p.m. that day, after which anyone can get in free. See www.phxart.org for details. Becky Bartkowski
Phoenix Improv Festival
We’ve all seen Paul Giamatti’s CenturyLink commercial by now — the first rule of improvisational comedy is to say, “Yes, and?” For improv to work, everyone involved has to accept the reality created by their comedy partners and build off that idea. Here’s an example: Yes, you should go to the Phoenix Improv Festival Arizona Showcase, which kicks off the three-day celebration of unscripted theater with a marathon-style show featuring 10 improv troupes, all of which are from Phoenix, performing every 20 minutes. And you should come back the next two days for even more demonstrations, plus seminars that can make you as great an improv-er as Giamatti himself.
Say “Yes, and?” to the Phoenix Improv Festival’s Arizona Showcase, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe Street. Tickets are $20. Call 602-252-8497 or visit phoeniximprovfestival.com for more. Zach Fowle
Black Pearl Sings
Without a Great Depression, home-grown American art wouldn’t be what it is. Back then, to help keep people from starving, the government supported a variety of projects that produced public art, architecture, creative writing, and, in the case of the Archive of American Folk Song, music from the oral tradition, still disappearing as quickly as a rain forest. Although many Americans (including Zora Neale Hurston) collected recordings, folklorist John Lomax is probably the best known, along with his subject Huddie Ledbetter, whom Lomax found in prison.
Playwright Frank Higgins was inspired to tell a story similar to Lomax and Leadbelly’s, but with female characters, in Black Pearl Sings, continuing through Sunday, April 24, at Black Theatre Troupe, 1333 East Washington Street. (Higgins is also the author of BTT’s The Taste Test from earlier this season.) For tickets, $32, visit www.blacktheatretroupe.org or call 602-258-8129. Showtime on Thursday, April 14, is 2 p.m. Julie Peterson
If Wanda Sykes thinks you’re funny, chances are you’re probably good for a laugh or two.
The acclaimed stand-up comic and Emmy-award winning comedy writer found Last Comic Standing contestant Mike Gaffney hilarious enough to use a clip of him performing to further promote the NBC comedy competition program. The Jersey-born comedian spent a large part of his 20s battling addiction, and in the early 2000s he took to the mic, serving up the recovery-oriented comedy that’s helped gain him an expanding following. Parenting is another topic he frequently explores. Laugh at Gaffney’s life experiences at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, at Stand Up Scottsdale Comedy Club, 5101 North Scottsdale Road. Tickets are $10 to $15. Call 480-882-0730 or visit www.standupscottsdale.com. Amy Young
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Play It Again, Sam
As long ago as 1980’s Stardust Memories, Woody Allen was aware that some fans preferred his “early, funny” films. Knowing what we know now, we probably wouldn’t have even mentioned it. One of those early, funny ones started out as a play (Allen’s written a handful of those) called Play It Again, Sam, about a shy, awkward writer who fantasizes romantic advice from Humphrey Bogart. Which is fine if the woman of your dreams smolders like Bacall, but if she’s kind of clumsy and neurotic, too, maybe it’s better to be yourself.
Fountain Hills Theater’s production continues through Sunday, April 17, at 11445 North Saguaro Boulevard. Showtime on Thursday, April 14, is 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $28 at 480-837-9661, extension 3, or www.fhtaz.org. Julie Peterson