For folks ruled by reason, magic can be more frustrating than fun. Clearing away the smoke and mirrors, magician Craig Davis sets suspicious minds at ease through his combination "matinee-workshops." A mix of education and entertainment, the hourlong sessions provide the curious and confused with a lucid hocus focus. Workshops are set for 1 p.m. each Tuesday through July 29 at Scottsdale's Entertainment Alley, 2200 North Scottsdale Road. Tickets, $10, include an actual bag of tricks. Prefer to preserve magic's mystery? Take in a Saturday Matinee Magic program. Known for his visually engaging and humorous routines, Davis performs an hour of magic and juggling at 2 p.m. Saturdays through July 26, also at Entertainment Alley. Tickets are $8.
Children attending either program must be accompanied by an adult; call 480-970-4282 for reservations.- Jill Koch
Shakespeare in Mesa
Paying lip service to Shakespeare, Act One Musical Theatre Productions presents Kiss Me Kate, a musical tribute to The Taming of the Shrew that finds former marrieds turning a theater production into a battleground. The show opens Thursday, July 10, at Theatre Outback, 1833 West Southern in Mesa. Call 480-461-7170 for tickets, $10. - Jill Koch
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Steal Magnolias hits the stage
Great theater stirs up thoughtful questions, and we're wondering: Do steel magnolias attract iron butterflies? Ponder it at Paradise Valley Community College, where Studio Theatre presents Steel Magnolias, Thursday, July 10, through Saturday, July 19. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the college, 18401 North 32nd Street. Call 602-787-7350 for tickets, $7. - Jill Koch
Contest crowns Valley's funniest
When 15 aspiring comics compete in the Funniest Person in the Valley Grand Finals on Friday, July 11, it won't be funny business as usual. Not only is a $1,000 cash prize at stake, but contest originator Jimmy Danelli will be using the competition "as a casting tool" for the standup reality show he's developing for network TV. A local comedy showcase is one thing, but are Phoenicians funny enough for prime time? Danelli has no doubt. "We have a tremendous amount of talent in this town," he asserts. And he should know: Since the comedy veteran originated the contest two years ago, he's seen more than 300 contestants take the mike.
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Showtime is 8 p.m. at The Sets, 93 East Southern in Tempe; admission is $15. The next round of competition kicks off July 18. Call 480-982-7257 for information on participating. - Jill Koch
Looking for that big break
Stage cinéma vérité Hidden in This Picture is a play about a movie -- starring actors as directors, directors as psychopaths, and a huge, very expensive sunset. In this lesser-known one-act by West Wing creator and writer Aaron Sorkin, a team of would-be filmmakers has one big chance to make its big break as big shots. But a busted budget and broken schedules leave the fledgling film hanging by a thread and the filmmakers hanging at the end of their rope. "It's funny and light, but it's still intellectually stimulating," says director Dee Rich. "It makes fun of how artists view themselves -- and that's a fun thing for actors to do." Hidden in This Picture, the first performance of the brand-new Untapped Theatre, runs Thursday, July 10, and July 15 through 17 during Lunchtime Theater at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Doors open at 11:40 a.m. for shows beginning at 12:10 p.m. Call 602-254-7843 to order a boxed lunch. Tickets, $5, are available at the door. For information, call 602-254-7399, extension 106. - Quetta Carpenter