The 2018 convention season kicks off with Taiyou Con. A celebration of anime, manga, and cosplay for Valley otaku, the convention runs from noon on Friday, January 5, through 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, at the Mesa Convention Center, 263 North Center Street.
Now in its eighth year, the convention will feature more than 400 hours of round-the clock programming, including panels on costuming and makeup, learning Japanese, and even hentai for the over-18 crowd. Fans can watch their favorite anime or discover a new series (subbed, of course!). There will also be several guests, including voice actors from Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z.
Memberships are $45 at the door for the weekend, with discounted daily passes. Visit the Taiyou Con website for more information. And cosplayers should check out the convention’s weapon and prop policies on line in advance. Michael Senft
Phoenix artist Laura Plecas pays homage to her family’s immigrant roots in a new exhibition called “Lineage,” which opens on Friday, January 5, at Chartreuse gallery, 1301 Grand Avenue. Visit the gallery between 6 and 10 p.m. that night to explore her encaustic collage works inspired by Op art, folk art, and quilting.
“I seek to peel back layers to reveal the past and to explore the strength and struggles that my family endured,” Plecas says in exhibition materials. Often, her work includes repeated shapes and patterns, created with materials such as old papers and book pages.
“Lineage” continues through January. Visit the Chartreuse gallery website. Lynn Trimble
The Whole Story Part V brings a new set of tales to Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central Avenue, on First Friday, January 5. The storytelling series, which launched in January 2016, aims to “bring greater depth and breadth to our understanding of the human experience from the Black perspective,” according to museum materials.
Part V storytellers will include host Rachel Eseoghene Egboro, who will share a story about a time her heart almost gave out. The lineup also will feature Jessica Flagg Lamartiniere, Evan Roberts, Elaissia Sears, and Sule Wilson. Their stories address a wide range of experiences, from time spent online with a person assuming a false identity to being in a compromising situation while studying abroad.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. event are $10 (or $5 for museum members), and the doors to Whiteman Hall open at 7 p.m. Museum admission is free from 6 to 10 p.m. Visit the Phoenix Art Museum website. Lynn Trimble
Flagg Gem and Mineral Show
Rock collecting isn’t just for kids. At the Flagg Gem and Mineral Show from Friday to Sunday, January 5 to 7, you can look for specimens from more than 130 dealers and field collectors displaying fossils, gemstones, jewelry, and lapidary equipment.
The show will also have a food truck area, interactive activities, and opportunities to meet with local gold prospecting, lapidary, and mineral clubs. This year’s show takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the West Parking Lot of Mesa Community College, 1833 West Southern Avenue. Admission and parking is free. For more information, visit the Flagg Gem and Mineral website. Laura Latzko
Lluvia Flamenca showcase
In flamenco, a style of dance originating in Spain, dancers move to guitar music as they create sound using handheld castanets. The returning Lluvia Flamenca showcase at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue, will celebrate the art of flamenco with performances from 15 national and local flamenco artists, all with individual styles.
Among the artists will be dancer Angelina Ramirez and singer Olivia Rojas of Phoenix-based Flamenco Por La Vida. Ramierz will perform a special piece called /ser/. A pre-show will spotlight youth flamenco dancers from Arizona and New Mexico.
During the event, the artists will explore topics such the complexities of being Latinx and queer flamenco artists. The preshow begins in the lounge at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8:30 on Saturday, January 6. Tickets are $19.50 for general admission and $29.50 for reserved seating. For more information, go to the Crescent Ballroom website. Laura Latzko
Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones admitted on her Instagram feed that she almost threw up on a recent episode of the show when host James Franco expectorated an inordinate amount of fake blood into the comedian’s mouth. So gross. But she held tough and kept it together.
Small wonder, her grace under pressure has been honed over decades of performing stand-up comedy. Mentored by Dave Chappelle, Jones came into her own, eventually scoring a breakthrough role in Chris Rock’s Top Five and a writing gig on NBC’s iconic weekend sketch show.
Talking Stick Resort website. Jason Keil
Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End
Humorist Erma Bombeck, who lived in Paradise Valley for her last couple of decades, was embraced by millions and millions of readers through her syndicated newspaper column, pre-web. Inspired by life as a housewife and mom, Bombeck didn’t just make us laugh — she gave women dignity and a voice for more than 30 years. Crumbling yellow clippings continue to adorn American fridges.
Sisters (and newspaper people) Allison and Margaret Engel crafted Bombeck’s writings into a one-woman show, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End, running through Sunday, January 21, at Fountain Hills Theater. Valley powerhouse Cathy Dresbach portrays Erma.
Brace yourself for ugly laughing at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, at 11445 North Saguaro Boulevard. Tickets are $18 to $25 at 480-837-9661, extension 3, or the Fountain Hills Theater website. Julie Peterson
Potterheads have likely exhausted any sense of discovery and wonderment watching the films based on J.K. Rowling’s series of books about the young wizard Harry Potter. One of them always seems to be playing on television at any given moment. But the Phoenix Symphony might have just the thing to help you relive what it felt like to watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the first time. As the movie plays on a giant screen, the orchestra will perform composer John Williams’ score live onstage.
Recapture the magic at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, at Symphony Hall, 75 North Second Street. Tickets are $40 to $99. For more information, visit the Phoenix Symphony website. Jason Keil
Night of the Three Kings
Many don’t add the Baby Jesus figure to their Nativity scene until Christmas. Strict adherence to that concept would suggest the Three Wise Men arrive 13 days later. (Or two years later, depending how you roll.)
Wherever hermeneutics leads you, it should include Night of the Three Kings at the Phoenix Zoo. This rendition of a traditional Mexican mini-festival features richly costumed dudes riding in on camels for a meet-and-greet. Games and other kid-friendly activities, mariachis, and Mexican food rock the party.
The event runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, at 455 North Galvin Parkway, and is included in ZooLights admission ($12.95 to $23.95, depending whether you purchase online and whether you want dinosaurs with your Magi). Call 602-273-1341 or visit the Phoenix Zoo website. Julie Peterson
Fast fact: You can legally go pantsless in public. True story. Under Arizona law, you’re permitted to stroll around without slacks, shorts, or a skirt, provided you’re wearing underwear. Not that we’d recommend ditching your bottoms, unless you’re participating in the No Pants Light Rail Ride.
The annual urban prank involves hordes of folks dropping trou, hopping on public rail transportation in cities worldwide, and earning shocked or amused reactions from onlookers in the process. Here in metro Phoenix, pantsless participants will board light rail trains at four different locations across the Valley starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, before traveling to downtown Phoenix.
A post-ride party will follow at DeSoto Central Market, 915 North Central Avenue. Colorful outfits and underwear are encouraged, but leave your pants at home. Visit the Improv AZ website for complete details. Benjamin Leatherman
It’s 2018, and those who resolved to see more drag performances are in luck.
Lady Christian will launch the weekly Stacy’s Follies, a show filled with fab Arizona queens like Espressa Grande and Kim Etiquette. The first sashaying show starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, at Stacy’s on Melrose, 4343 North Seventh Avenue.
Best part? There’s no cover. For more information, visit the Facebook event page. Lindsay Roberts
Phoenix Suns v. Oklahoma City Thunder
Lebron James is the best basketball player on earth, but the distinction of being “most fun to watch” belongs to Russell Westbrook.
Hoops junkies living in Oklahoma City have had the luxury of watching the explosive guard whenever they please for the last decade. And the rest of us have scoured the web for the latest addition to Westbrook’s already scorching highlight reel while waiting for the Thunder to roll through town.
As if Westbrook needed the extra muscle, all-stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony donned Thunder jerseys this season in an effort to lighten the superstar’s staggering workload. All this spells trouble for the Phoenix Suns, who will host the Thunder starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 7, at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 East Jefferson Street. Tickets are $19 and up. Visit the Suns website or call 602-379-2000 for details. Rob Kroehler