It's been a year since you were laughing your ass off at the quick-witted humor being bandied about at the last Phoenix Improv Fest. And here it is, time for what co-organizer Jose Gonzales calls "the biggest one ever." And that, comedy hounds, is no jive. The 2005 Fest, Thursday, April 14, through Sunday, April 17, at the Playhouse on the Park Theater, 1850 North Central, unleashes the improvisational and diverse brilliance of some of the best local and national troupes out there. Famed act Baby Wants Candy is the resident company of the ImprovOlympic Theater in Chicago, whose signature act is a fully improvisational musical. Seattle's Election Show is a completely improvised election, in which your vote decides the winner. Other performers include the duo Bare, Men in Shirts, Cog, Galapagos, Apollo 12, New Kevin, and the Neutrino Project. All-day passes for Friday and Saturday are $25. Sunday offers a 6 and 8 p.m. show, each $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Call 602-275-2721 or see www.phoeniximprov.com. -- Amy Young
Guffaw in the Family
Diary of the mad Browns
With a tag line like, "If you thought Madea's family was crazy, wait 'til you meet the Browns," we should expect extreme dysfunction from Meet the Browns, a play written by Tyler Perry, showing at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at Dodge Theatre, 400 West Washington. Tickets cost $29.50. Call 480-784-4444. -- Niki D'Andrea
Four days in Florence
Hey, slicker, real salsa ain't made in New York City, and shit-kickin' country music festivals ain't, either. But there's one helluva hoedown to be had in Florence, where the Country Thunder Music Festival hunkers down at Canyon Moon Ranch, 20585 East Price Road, for four days, starting Thursday, April 14. Darryl Worley, Brooks & Dunn, Rascal Flatts, and LeAnn Rimes headline. Single-day tickets cost $39 to $59, but four-day tickets and VIP packages are also available. Call 480-966-9920 or see www.countrythunder.com. -- Niki D'Andrea
Go east, young fan
No more excuses. You're heading out to the boonies to see those awesome desert wildflowers. So carry lots of water, check your belts and hoses, and on the way back, check out some mellow, jazz-inflected folk-pop on Sunday, April 17, at 3 p.m., when singer-songwriter Jennifer Spector performs at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, 514 South Mountain Road in Mesa (near Broadway and Signal Butte roads). A finalist at festivals from Tucson to Telluride, Spector's wrapping up her second album, booking her 2006 schedule, and "helping my husband promote his site, bathtubmusic.com," an independent CD store. Admission to the concert is $7. See www.jenniferspector.com or call 480-986-1145. -- Julie Peterson
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Jazz co-op makes its debut
Marvin Scott, co-founder of the Phoenix Creative Music Movement, thinks "jazz and new music are heavy in this town." And that's a good thing. Influenced by Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and New York's Jazz Composers Collective, Scott formed the PCMM music collective, along with Jennifer Rogers, "to provide a synergistic place for creative musicians to meet and perform," Rogers says. Avant-garde aficionados can hear the PCMM in its debut performance on Thursday, April 14, at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt. The event features three performances, including Jeff Smith's White Noise Ensemble, which opens up with a "blind piece" (performed entirely behind a white sheet). Drummer Corey Fogel will close out the set with extreme re-creations of artificial sounds, à la Aphex Twin. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5. See www.phoenixcreativemusic.org. -- Steve Jansen
Three Times a Lady
Dance salutes strong women
Choreographer Ann Ludwig's latest dance theater piece, A Woman I Know, has a trio of inspirations: her daughter, her mother, and a close friend, all of whom recently passed away. "Losing people close to you, especially when it's untimely, has its effect," says Ludwig. "And as a choreographer who's touched on women over the years as a societal issue, I felt I had to talk about this as well. The whole piece is looking at the strength of these three women." The story is told in three segments, starting with a "family segment," then another that takes a look at the lives of each woman, and finally, a "memory segment." The music includes everything from classical to jazz, and the set incorporates four life-size sculptures by John Henry Waddell, as well as video visuals. A Woman I Know opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at the Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 East Sixth Street, and continues through Sunday, April 17. Tickets cost $10 to $15. Call 480-966-3391. -- Niki D'Andrea