In one play, a gay man is found tied to a fencepost after 18 blows from the butt of a handgun killed him. In the other, a young woman's uncle teaches her to drive, and then sexually abuses her. Both plays -- The Laramie Project and How I Learned to Drive -- open the season at ASU's Herberger Mainstage Theater on Friday, September 19, and Saturday, September 20. "The first pair of plays challenge conventional beliefs about controversial subjects," says artistic director Marshall W. Mason. "They offer fresh evidence of the vital relevance of theater to our times."
The Laramie Project is a docudrama, the true story of Matthew Shepherd, a 21-year-old student living -- and dying -- in Laramie, Wyoming. The New York-based Tectonic Theater Company developed the play after interviewing more than 200 people in and around Laramie.
How I Leaned to Drive is Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of her relationship with her uncle. "The play examines the issue of sexual abuse with intelligence and surprising humor," says director Victoria Holloway.
The productions continue in repertory through October 5 at the Lyceum Theatre, 901 South Forest on the ASU campus in Tempe. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $5 for students. Call 480-965-6447 or see http://theatre.asu.edu for reservations. - Paul Kix
Ballroom With a View
Competition brings out the best
They trip the light fantastically. On Saturday, September 20, Tatiana Logisheva and Darius Penkauskas, International Latin Dancesport Champions, spin into the Pointe South Mountain Resort, 7777 South Pointe Parkway, for the Arizona Challenge 2003 Show. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for open dancing, followed by professional divisions and the main showdance showcase. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 at the door; call 602-220-0500 or see www.fredastairearizona.com. b>- Jill Koch
Siberian troupe steps to Russian rhythms
Since Communism crumbled in 1991 and the USSR reemerged as the Commonwealth of Independent States, the region has been rocked by transformation and instability. In the last decade, Russia has struggled with economic crises, a new constitution and presidential elections. (That, ABC, is an "extreme makeover.") Yet for the Krasnoyarsk Siberian Dance Company, the show always went on. This weekend, the show goes on at downtown's Dodge Theatre, when the 80-member company puts its heritage into motion. Formed in 1960 by legendary choreographer Mikhail Godenko, the troupe melds modern dance movements with traditional steps and choreography based on Siberian folklore; performers sink from graceful glides into low, rapid kicks, then launch no-handed cartwheels.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Sunday, September 21. Tickets, $28 to $53, are available through the theater box office, 400 West Washington, online at www.ticketmaster.com, and by calling 480-784-4444. See www.sibdance.scn.ru/video.htm for a video preview.- JIll Koch
Polish production takes a candid look at conflict
Compelling art isn't always pretty. Delving into one of the darkest facets of the human experience, Polish theater troupe Teatr Biuro Podrozy ("Travel Agency Theater") shaped a war-themed performance piece from testimonies of victims of the Bosnian conflict. Exploring how people are separated and scarred by violence and hatred, Carmen Funebre ("Funeral Song") interprets warfare and its accompanying tragedies -- rape, torture, humiliation -- through pyrotechnics and sinister masked figures on stilts. The troupe brings its acclaimed outdoor production to Tempe this weekend as part of ASU's American Express "Beyond Broadway" series. The free 50-minute performances start at 8 p.m. Friday, September 19, and Saturday, September 20, in the parking lot of ASU's Tempe Center, 10th Street and Mill. No tickets are necessary. See www.asugammage.com/gammage/carmen.html for details. -Jill Koch
Meeting of the Minds
Picasso and Einstein think up the joint
Two wild and crazy -- and infinitely influential -- guys hit the town in Steve Martin's comedic Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Theater Works opens its 2003-'04 season with the play, which sets Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in a Paris bistro, where they debate issues of painting, probability and the future. The cranial action takes place in 1904, shortly before the scientist revolutionizes physics with his theory of relativity and the painter reframes the art world with Cubism. Audience members are treated to complimentary wine and cheese on opening night, Friday, September 19; the production runs through October 12 at the Lakes Club, 10484 West Thunderbird in Sun City. Call 623-815-7930 for tickets, $21 for adults, $19 for seniors and military personnel, and $15 for students. - Jill Koch
Belly up to the Bard
Call it "Shakespeare moderne." Created by today's most famous playwrights, Love's Fire is a collection of 10-minute plays inspired by the Bard's love sonnets. In the next installment of Lunch Time Theater, Black Ball Ensemble presents three of the original seven plays: John Guare's play, based on sonnets 153-154, as well as those by Tony Kushner (#75) and Eric Bogosian (#118). Christian Miller and co-director April Smith created Black Ball Ensemble to provide an outlet for more avant-garde theater; this is the company's third production for Lunch Time Theater. "We picked Love's Fire because we like a challenge," says Miller. "To do something original is not easy -- I can only imagine what a difficult assignment it was to write."
Love's Fire runs Tuesday, September 23, through October 2 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Showtime is 12:10 p.m. Tickets are $5, with boxed lunches available for an additional $5. For more information, visit www.herbergertheater.org. - Quetta Carpenter
Gone With the Wand
Magic happens in Scottsdale
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They're magically ambitious: The state's top tricksters battle for the "Magician of the Year" title at the ninth annual All-Arizona Close-up Magic Competition, this Saturday, September 20, at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library Auditorium. The Phoenix chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians sponsors the event, in which eight contestants have eight minutes each to deceive and dazzle the judges.
"This is the only competition where deception is encouraged," says Kirby Romine, organization president. "In fact, the more deceitful, the better."
Showtime is 2 p.m. at the library, 3839 North Drinkwater in downtown Scottsdale. Tickets, $10, are available at the door and online at www.ring55.org. Call 480-545-0025 for more information. - Jill Koch