Who's going to take home the coveted improv prize?
Who's going to take home the coveted improv prize? Jose Gonzalez
No plans? No problem. This week comes with a packed calendar, with the Phoenix Improv Festival and ZapCon. For more things to do, visit Phoenix New Times' calendar.

Phoenix Improv Festival
Many talented improvisers from around the United States are flocking to the Valley to join local acts for the Phoenix Improv Festival. From Thursday, April 19 to Saturday, April 21, the event features several showcases of diverse improvisation talent, with such local groups as ImprovMANIA, The Displacers, and Skewed News Hour. Festival favorites include Chicago’s Danny & Arnold, Honey from New York City, and San Diego-based Lipshtick.

For those interested in beginning or developing their own improv talent, workshops will take place throughout the festival. Prices range from free to $50. For more information, locations, and to register, visit phoeniximprovfestival.com. Home base for the event is Herberger Theater, 222 East Monroe Street, where tickets ($14 to $24) are available at the box office and several performances are scheduled to take place. See the Herberger Theater website. Tanner Stechnij

Open Studio and Free Flag-Making Workshop
Flags are a familiar sight for artist Erika Lynne Hanson, an assistant professor of fibers and socially engaged practice at Arizona State University. “I use flags as markers for points of dialogue and discussion,” Hanson says. For an artist residency with Scottsdale Public Art, she will hold an open studio and free flag-making workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, at Noriega Stable Livery, 3804 North Brown Street.


It starts with a walk, followed by a talk about what caught participants’ attention, and then attendees can make flags inspired by the urban landscape. Hanson will have fabric, paint, scissors, and other supplies on hand. “My goal is to get people attuned to the landscape rather than just moving through it,” she says. Visit the Scottsdale Public Art website. Lynn Trimble

Nirvana Food and Wine’s Second Annual Festival
Nirvana Food and Wine’s Second Annual Festival brings a blowout slate of events to Sanctuary on Camelback, 5700 East McDonald Drive in Paradise Valley.

Big-name chefs from Arizona and large cold cities will be “headlining.” The lineup of expensive events begins on Thursday, April 19, with a New Orleans-style masquerade featuring food, jazz, and cocktails as the centerpiece. A hurricane of high-end dinners, golf soirees, and champagne-and-fried-chicken events follows, culminating in a brunch that promises “tequila, tequila, and more tequila.” Locally renowned chefs like Matt Taylor, Doug Robson, and Christopher Gross will cook at events throughout, and the festival will wrap up on Sunday, April 22.

See nirvanafoodandwine.com for the lineup of events. You can get a pass to it all for $444, which is more than half the GDP per capita of Burundi. Chris Malloy

Valentina Catina
Famed Phoenix queen Valentina Knowles hosts The Rock’s twice monthly Thursday night drag revue at 4129 North Seventh Avenue. Every first and third Thursday, Ms. Knowles hosts the Valentina Catina. Which means her cast of talented local queens will help start your weekend early on Thursday, April 19. A $5 cover comes with a drink token that’s redeemable for a domestic beer or a well cocktail.

Doors open at 9 p.m. and the drag show featuring a rotating list of guest starts at 10 p.m. For more information visit the Rock website. Tanner Stechnij

Xtra Ticket
One of the explanations behind the popularity of 4/20 starts at a Grateful Dead concert. A flyer that was passed out at one of the band’s shows invited attendees to “meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing.” Thus a smokin’ holiday was born — or at least further popularized.

The best way to celebrate this special day? Hang at Last Exit Live to see one of the region’s best Grateful Dead tribute bands, Xtra Ticket, perform at a 420 Party. Joining the band on guitar will be Dave Hebert of the Jerry Garcia Band. The night lights up at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 20, at 717 South Central Avenue. Tickets are $12 to $15. For more information, visit the Last Exit Live website. Jason Keil

Sprout Film Festival
Since its founding in 2003, the Sprout Film Festival has inspired and informed its audience about the diversity of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This year is no different.

The touring event will make its way back to Tempe once again and will feature 46 short films focused on people with I/DD. By breaking down stereotypes through empowering and carefully created films, the festival will feature the work of filmmakers from around the world highlighting inclusivity of all audiences.

Sprout kicks off on Friday April 20, at Pollack Tempe Cinemas, 1825 East Elliot Road. The first screening will be at 9:30 a.m., with two more screenings throughout the day. General admission is $5. For more info and showtimes, visit the Arc of Arizona website. Melina Zuñiga

Arizona Record Label Fest
The countdown to Record Store Day is on. Annually, that’s the day to score specially offered music releases and merchandise at participating record stores. To fuel the energy for the shopping extravaganza, a group of Valley-based record labels have teamed up to throw a pre-party.

The Arizona Record Label Fest includes five bands and one DJ representing labels President Gator, Slope, Dirty Water, No Affiliation, 80/20, and Cactus Man, who will take the stage to rep their labels and show their skills. Styles will range from local masters of video-game music, Minibosses, to Moonlight Magic, who keep things mellow with their swanky lounge tunes. Mean Motor Scooter, First or Last, Bear Ghost, and DJ Gila Man complete the lineup.

See what some local labels have to offer at 7 p.m. on April 20 at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Tickets are $5 to $7. Visit the Crescent Ballroom website. Amy Young

Ada Palmer
Ada Palmer is a true polymath. In addition to her day job as a history professor, the Harvard-educated Palmer performs with the filk group Sassafrass at cons and Ren fairs across the country. She’s also an award-winning science-fiction novelist.

That’s the hat Palmer will be wearing when she visits the Poisoned Pen on Friday, April 20. Palmer will discuss her “Terra Ignota” series, set in a 25th-Century Earth ruled according to Enlightenment philosophy. Alas, all is not for the best in that best of all possible worlds, as a criminal and a spiritualist attempt to hide the existence of God in a society where religion is outlawed.

Palmer’s signing starts at 7 p.m. at 4014 North Goldwater Boulevard in Scottsdale. Visit the Poisoned Pen website for more information. Michael Senft


FYI: Trivia Night with Anwar Newton
You might have heard of Anwar Newton, the stand-up fave who hosts recurring shows This Week Sucks, Tonight! or Literally The Worst Show Ever. There’s no denying that the Phoenix-based comedian is good at what he does — and then some. Doubling as a pop-culture wiz, Newton will host a night full of film, TV, and music references, putting your pop-culture IQ to the test with a chance to win prizes and claim yourself a master. Maybe.

Join the fun and challenge Newton during FYI: Trivia Night with Anwar Newton on Friday April 20, at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 East Second Street. The event starts at 7 p.m. Individual tickets are $15, and $20 for a pair. Each ticket comes with one complimentary drink. Visit the SMoCA website for more info. Melina Zuñiga

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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil
Rob is a Phoenix native, husband, dad, and an active member in the local music scene. He's written original songs for feature films.
Contact: Rob Kroehler
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy
Dillon Rosenblatt was the social media editor at Phoenix New Times from 2016 to 2018. Originally from New Jersey, he is a graduate of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Michael runs the Sci-Fridays Book Club at the Poisoned Pen, and volunteers at local pop-culture conventions. He can be found at the occasional prog-rock concert.
Contact: Michael Senft
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble
Stuart Warner is editor of New Times. He has been a journalist since the stoned ages of 1969, playing a major role on teams that won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is also the author of the biography JOCK: A Coach's Story.
Contact: Stuart Warner
Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young