Octavia Spencer, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2011 for The Help, recently went on record saying that there are still too few good film roles for black women. It's not that big a leap from 1930s Hollywood, the setting for By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, whose Arizona première is on Friday, August 22.
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The 2011 comedic work is the first offering from playwright Lynn Nottage since winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2009 for Ruined. In it, we follow the life of Vera Stark, an ambitious black actress making the most of bit film roles in the 1930s while working as a maid for a Hollywood starlet. Her success eventually causes trouble in more ways than one.
Cracking jokes is hard enough. But serving up stand-up on the fly? That skill is reserved for a special tier of comics, including up-and-coming funny man Tom Cotter. The 2012 runner-up of America's Got Talent (he lost to a troupe of dancing dogs in suits -- really) has proven that at the drop of a hat he can tackle a wide range of topics from the pierced kidiots of college to politically incorrect terms for the homeless.
Cotter has made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Central Presents, The Howard Stern Show, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and for one weekend only he'll be performing at Stand Up Live, 50 West Jefferson Street. Showtimes are 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, August 22; 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, August 23; and 7 p.m. Sunday, August 24. General admission for this 21-and-over show is $22 with a two-drink minimum. For details and to purchase tickets, visit www.standuplive.com or call the box office at 480-719-6100. -- Katie Johnson
If the Internet makes you feel like you're drowning in information, Daniel J. Levitin's new book might be able to teach you how to swim. Levitin, a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience who currently teaches at McGill University, made a name for himself in 2007 with his bestselling book This Is Your Brain on Music.
In Levitin's latest, The Organized Mind, he turns his attention away from primordial cognitive affinities to music and toward a distinctly modern experience of the human brain: data overload in the information age.
Daniel J. Levitin will be reading and signing The Organized Mind beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 23, at Changing Hands Phoenix, 300 West Camelback Road. Tickets are free when you purchase the book from Changing Hands. The event is accompanied by a special wine talk and tasting; ticket-holders will receive free wine samples and $1 off any full glass of wine. Those without tickets may get their books signed after ticket-holders if time permits. For more information, visit www.changinghands.com or call 602-274-0067. -- Katrina Montgomery
Perhaps the coffee is particularly potent, or maybe it's all those late night Moons Over My Hammys, but when a group of science fiction junkies start holding monthly meetings at Denny's some amazing things can happen. Which might not be all that surprising considering the circumstances. The Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society launched CopperCon, also known as FANtasm, more than 30 years ago and it has transmogrified (bonus for using a spooky sci-fi sounding word) into one of the largest sci-fi conventions in the Southwest. Hosting numerous authors, musical guests, scientists and -- no joke -- a zombie expert, CopperCon achieves at not only promoting an often scorned literary genre, it educates while it entertains.
The weekend convention boasts a charity auction, a film festival, an art exhibit, and did we mention zombies? Check out the 'con at Avondale's Hilton Garden Inn, 11460 West Hilton Way, on Saturday, August 23. Admission to the all-day event is $25. Visit www.casfs.org for details. -- Rob Kroehler
This summer Scottsdale of Museum of Contemporary Art has presented a collection of works that inspire viewers to consider an oft-overlooked artistic building block. The line is a versatile yet inescapable element that, frankly, doesn't get its due. Until recently, that is.
With pieces from SMoCA's permanent collection, "Linear Thinking" explores how artists, including photographer Mark Klett and painter Deb Sokolow, have employed lines to create vastly different works.
Line up to see the show before it closes at 7374 East Second Street on Sunday, August 24. Hours that day are noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students. Visit www.smoca.org or call 480-874-4666. -- Becky Bartkowski