Talk about getting off to a good start. Comedian Aries Spears, known for his hilarious sketches on MAD TV, got his foot in the door of the entertainment industry with a debut on HBO's Def Comedy Jam when he was only 16. It didn't take long for the telegenic Spears to start landing gigs on sitcoms and feature films, but comedy is clearly his forte -- just check out his brilliant impersonations of African-American icons such as James Brown and Eddie Murphy. Spears graces the stage at the Tempe Improv at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 8, through Sunday, May 11, with additional 10 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. To reserve tickets, $12 to $15, call 480-921-9877. The Improv is located at 930 East University in Tempe.
Friday, May 9
Talented young Valley dancers strut their stuff on Friday, May 9, and Saturday, May 10, at "dance scapes," the group effort of students in Phoenix College's spring dance classes, as well as members of the Latin Dance Club and Hip Hop Squad. Admission is only $5, $3 for students, and showtime is 7 p.m. at Phoenix College's John Paul Theatre, 1202 West Thomas. A matinee will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. For details call 602-285-7708.
Saturday, May 10
In the early 20th century, San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez and her husband Julian drew inspiration from a piece of black pottery found at an excavation site, spending years to duplicate its mysterious beauty. The final result of the couple's efforts was sleek, polished black pottery embellished with intricate designs in matte black -- an innovative aesthetic that radically influenced the direction of pottery-making techniques. The Heard Museum shares more than 60 pieces created by the Martinez family in its latest exhibition, "A Revolution in the Making: The Pottery of Maria and Julian Martinez," which opens Saturday, May 10. To celebrate the opening, author Richard L. Spivey will be on hand to sign copies of his book The Legacy of Maria Poveka Martinez from 1 to 4 p.m. Also, witness the thriving Martinez legacy at a pottery painting demonstration from Barbara Gonzales, their great-granddaughter, and Cavan Gonzales, their great-great-grandson, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The exhibition continues through September at the Heard Museum, 2301 North Central. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3 for kids ages 4 to 12, and free for those younger. To find out more, visit www.heard.org or call 602-252-8848.
Sunday, May 11
Somebody finally said the "S" word: summer. But in spite of the heat, there's actually something to look forward to starting Sunday, May 11, when McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park hosts Summer Concerts in the Park. Local band The Chadwicks kick off the series of free outdoor concerts, held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. every Sunday through July 13. Come early to have a picnic, and then bring your blankets and chairs over to sit and enjoy the music. Carousel and train rides -- a park specialty -- can be had for only a dollar a ride, and two playgrounds on the premises keep the kids entertained. Located at 7301 East Indian Bend in Scottsdale. For more information, visit www.therailroadpark.com or call 480-312-2312.
Monday, May 12
It has to be tough for hard-rockin' Seattle bands to avoid comparisons to their late, great grunge forefathers, but surely it's more of a sore subject for Verbena, which, despite its hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, has been held up to Nirvana more times than The Vines. Granted, the group's raspy, angst-ridden vocals and aggressive rhythms do conjure up that early-'90s Northwest sound, and its major-label debut, Into the Pink, was produced by Foo Fighter and grunge alumnus Dave Grohl. But the band hasn't been given enough credit for its genuine, bluesy Southern swagger (something the Stones have forever been trying to capture) nor for its obvious schooling in pure Detroit-style rock 'n' roll. Hopefully, Verbena's new release, La Musica Negra, will draw fresh attention -- the album exudes the kind of gritty city sleaze that can only be found in the band's new home, Los Angeles. Verbena performs with Greenhaven on Monday, May 12, at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt. Doors open at 8 p.m. and admission is $6. Call 602-462-5516.
Tuesday, May 13
Pop culture has a voracious appetite for everything newer and faster, but it also has a recurring hiccup with no sign of letting up: America's tireless fascination with the 1960s. That tumultuous decade saw revolution in every aspect of society -- race relations, gender roles, music, fashion, art and politics -- and the effects are still being discussed. But in the midst of the excitement of the times, what did it all feel like? On Tuesday, May 13, University of Arizona sociology professor Albert Bergesen uses examples of music, style and photography to talk about How We Saw Ourselves in the '60s, in conjunction with the current gallery exhibition "Linda McCartney's Sixties: Portrait of an Era." The free lecture runs from 7 to 8 p.m. in the first floor Pulliam Auditorium at Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 North Central. To find out more, visit www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org or call 602-262-4636.
Wednesday, May 14Award-winning playwright Alfred Uhry spins Eudora Welty's modern novella, based on a Grimm fairy tale, into Broadway gold with The Robber Bridegroom, Phoenix Theatre's season finale. Set in the Deep South, the clever musical follows the budding romance between a dashing bandit and a wealthy farmer's only daughter, and the mishaps that ensue when they mistake each other's identities. With joyful bluegrass tunes, composer Robert Waldman's score makes the show stand out from typical musicals. The Robber Bridegroom opens for previews at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, and Thursday, May 15; regular performances begin May 16 at Phoenix Theatre, 100 East McDowell. For tickets, $28 to $32, call 602-254-2151. Visit www.phxtheatre.org for details.