Ditch your donkey-show and dollar-a-day hooker dreams. Tijuana is a real town with more to love than its proximity. So says Culture Clash, a national Chicano-Latino performance troupe. Clash is breaking down cultural barriers and busting gringo balls with its original play Bordertown, the opening of the Actors Theatre's 20th anniversary season at the Herberger, Stage West, 222 East Monroe. The fictional tale of border tensions -- both serious and sarcastic -- takes place along the division between Tijuana and San Diego, promising to poke fun at both sides of the perimeter. The original Clashers won't be on hand for the Phoenix production, so local mainstays like Richard Trujillo, longtime Actors Theatre performer, drama director and fine arts chair at Herrera School for the Fine Arts, will take the stage. Bordertown runs Friday, October 22, through Sunday, November 7. Tickets are $22.50 to $42; discounts available. Call 602-253-6701 or see www.actorstheatrephx.org. -- Ashlea Deahl
Cool your jets at The Paper Heart
We know how it is. Life's been knocking you around and work's a drag. You better find some way to let it all out, ace, before you blow your stack. So if you gotta scream, rant, or just spit out some free-verse, the place to do it is at The Paper Heart, 750 Grand Avenue, for "Cool Combustion" on Friday, October 22, hosted by Paul Dlouhy. It's a night of poetry and open-mic madness by local spoken word artists, or anyone who needs to let loose, backed up by the sounds of Sonorous, OFF/AXIS, and the Subterranean Jazz Trio. Admission is $5. Call 602-262-2020. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Bellydance Superstars shimmy into the Valley
Rachel and Jillina are professional, petite exotic dancers, but not the kind you'd find grinding a pole at Christie's Cabaret. They are the women of the Bellydance Superstars and Desert Roses dance troupe and they're bringing their act to the Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue in Tempe, on Wednesday, October 27, at 8 p.m., where they won't get naked, but your socks might get knocked off. The troupe, just off a tour in London, will make its way across North America for the third time, showcasing tribal, Egyptian and cabaret-style dance, complemented by intricately designed costumes, upscale lighting, customized projections and music. But you'd better see them while you can. In November, the Bellydance Superstars and Desert Roses will head to Dubai, becoming the first American belly dance troupe to perform in the Arab world, and who knows if they'll want to come back. Tickets are $25. Call 1-888-487-4347. -- Erika Wurst
Tucson band is All Over the Map
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Howe Gelb is an odd guy, almost a recluse living in Tucson and making music as the frontman of Giant Sand. The sound on the band's latest album, fittingly titled It's All Over the Map, is manic -- both high and low, sometimes at the same time -- with an array of recognizable influences. But it's nothing if not interesting. Gelb and Giant Sand, after earning enough of a following with their 24-or-so albums over nearly two decades to warrant multiple tours both abroad and in the U.S., play a live show with the Handsome Family at The Old Brickhouse, 1 East Jackson Street, on Wednesday, October 27, to promote It's All Over. Handsome Family opens at 8:30 p.m. and Giant Sand makes a stand at 9:30. Tickets are $15 at the door. For more information, visit www.giantsand.com. -- C. Murphy Hebert
Tower of Power
Flip for Chinese acrobats
The Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats might put those Cirque du Soleil clowns to shame. Their award-winning performances include multiple Chinese yo-yo play, spinning plates, foot juggling, flying tridents, contortion balancing, bicycle antics . . .and amazing feats of balance, like (cue the foreboding, organ-pipe music) "The Tower of Chairs." The trick entails stacking a bevy of chairs up to the rafters while they balance precariously on nothing more than four glass bottles. Then, one of the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats shimmies to the top of the tower and inverts himself into a handstand. "I think he's only fallen once," says Southwest Arts and Entertainment spokesman Charles Fischl. Apparently the damage wasn't permanent. The acrobats will be performing at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams Street, on Sunday, October 24, at 2 p.m. Tickets, $24 to $28, are available at the Orpheum Theatre box office by calling 602-262-7272 or online at www.tickets.com. There are discounts for children, students and seniors. -- C. Murphy Hebert