New Times picks the best arts and culture events in metro Phoenix from December 14 to 20.
"Dinosaurs in Motion"
Remember when people believed that lizard people ran the country? They're still around, but there are enough cretins and creeps running for president that the conspiracy-minded are pretty busy. If we have to hang with the cold-blooded type, we'll roll with “Dinosaurs in Motion,” where the sculptures of late master metalsmith and sculptor John Payne are brought to life with modern-day technology. This special exhibit is at the Arizona Science Center, 600 East Washington Street, through January 2016. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, December 14. Admission is $9 for adults and $8 for kids aged 3 to 17. That’s in addition to the general admission charge of $18 for adults and $13 for children. Visit www.azscience.org for more info. Jose Gonzalez
Un3ek Sy5tems Art, Fashion, and Music Event
If you’re one of those antsy types that can’t sit still and focus on just one thing all night, there’s a multifaceted event that just might entertain your jittery self.
The UN3EK SY5STEMS Art, Fashion, & Live Music Event is a celebration of work by artist Tyson Frank Powless, whose creative moniker is Un3ek Sy5tems (pronounced unique systems). The event is a showcase of what he has been working on this past year, which is a mix of his do-it-yourself Native American fashion items, screen prints, and acrylic pieces, and original music in the glitch metal style, which fuses electronic music and metal. The artsy showcase gets going at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, December 15, at ThirdSpace, 1028 Grand Avenue. Admission is free. Visit www.thirdspacephx.com or call 602-258-1536. Amy Young
"Bringing Street Art Home for the Holidays"
For the month of December, Phoenix street artist Jesse Perry takes typically-outside his work indoors. Inspired by his travels through the city’s alleys and streets, as well as trips abroad, Perry presents a body of work at Practical Art that pulls from both pop culture and real-life experience. Titled “Bringing Street Art Home for the Holidays,” it gives art fans a chance to do just that: Purchase a piece that might’ve just as easily been painted on a building.
The exhibition is on view at 5070 North Central Avenue through Thursday, December 31. Hours on Tuesday, December 15, are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. See www.practical-art.org or call 602-264-1414 for details. Becky Bartkowski
Miss Kobalt 2016
The Garden Variety Revue at Kobalt Bar gets a little less routine and a little more catwalk when it doubles as the Miss Kobalt 2016 competition on Wednesday.
The contest is still quite a drag — drag queen, that is — as contenders strut their stuff with the hopes of winning the Kobalt crown, advancing to the next round of Miss Gay Pride Phoenix 2016 pageant. It’s the first of a few preliminary battles with the winner being decreed early next year. Expect to see her and her court in and around Phoenix Pride come early April.
Hosted by Olivia Gardens (named Best Drag Queen by New Times and former royalty herself), this winter showcase is a don’t-miss for fans of song, sass, and a perfectly contoured face.
The free-to-attend competition is fierce and begins at 9 p.m. on December 16, at Kobalt Bar, 3110 North Central Avenue. Attendees must be 21 or older. Visit www.kobaltbarphoenix.com or call 602-264-5307. Janessa Hilliard
First Draft Book Club
One great thing about First Draft Book Club, in the pub at Changing Hands Bookstore’s Phoenix location, is that club “members” don’t choose the books — Barbara VanDenburgh, an Arizona Republic reporter, does. (The second great thing is that there aren’t “members.” The third and fourth great things are the beer and wine at happy hour prices.) December’s book is Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen, which The New York Times called “seductive.” When applied to a book, that means it grabs you by the eyeballs and doesn’t let go until you collapse in an exhausted heap. Right?
Join your fellow bookies at 300 West Camelback Road at 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 16. Admission is free. Copies of Eileen are available at the store or www.changinghands.com. Call 602-274-0067. Julie Peterson
Arcadia Publishing Book-Signing
Arizona’s history is so quintessentially Southwestern, it sometimes sounds cliche. Case in point: This week you can hear three Arizona historians discuss outlaws, rockabilly, and whiskey at Changing Hands Phoenix, 300 West Camelback Road. These three authors will each talk about their newest books: Marshall Trimble’s Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen, Jim West’s The Phoenix Sound, and Bradley G. Courtney’s Arizona’s Original Whiskey Row. From mining towns to recording studios and Doc Holiday to Stevie Nicks, Arizona history runs the gamut – come learn a small piece.
Arcadia Publishing presents Trimble, West, and Courtney at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 17, at Changing Hands Phoenix. The event is free with books available for purchase. For more information, call 602-276-0067 or visit www.changinghands.com. Katrina Montgomery
Christmas Eve without cookies is like Santa arriving beardless — or not watching the entirety of TBS’ 7,000-hour A Christmas Story marathon. Or grandma legit getting run over by a reindeer. It’s just plain wrong, and where did you even get that reindeer anyway?
Traditions are what make Christmas, well, Christmas, and without the pickle ornament or the dinner ham, what in the hell is even worth celebrating? For December 17’s edition of Bar Flies at Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue, readers will tell true stories revolving around the theme Eating Christmas. Expect to laugh, cry, and really, really want a cookie when the reading, featuring Tricia Parker, Amy Young, Joy Young, and New Times’ Robrt Pela and Amy Silverman, begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Kevin Vaughn-Brubaker will select the music. Tickets are $5 through www.ticketfly.com. Becky Bartkowski
When you’re shitty at something, you work much harder than someone with talent. That’s evident in the storyline of Entertainment, a film starring Gregg Turkington as a struggling comedian very like Neil Hamburger, Turkington’s anti-comedian creation. If you’re into that, the movie’s lovable. If not, heed IMDb user dingle96: “I have been attending the Sundance Film Festival for 18 years and this easily goes down as the worst and most miserable film I have ever seen at the festival.” And then go anyway, because that stick up your ass isn’t going away by itself. Entertainment shows at FilmBar, 815 North Second Street, at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, December 17. Tickets are $9 at www.thefilmbarphx.com. Minors under 21 will be admitted with a parent or legal guardian. Julie Peterson
A Very Competitive Christmas
Why are the holidays so unnecessarily stressful? It’s time to start taking cues from Frosty the Snowman and chill out, and a comedy show is a good place to start. Lighten up for the holidays at A Very Competitive Comedy Christmas at National Comedy Theatre Phoenix, 1111 South Longmore in Mesa. The show will feature Christmas-themed improv games along with special Christmas gifts and prizes.
Catch one of four performances on Friday and Saturday, December 18 and 19, at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. at National Comedy Theatre Phoenix. The show is appropriate for all ages, and tickets are $12 to $14. For more information, call 602-374-5638 or visit nctphoenix.com. Katrina Montgomery
“What we do to the mountain, we do to ourselves.”
Scrawled graffiti-style on a black-and-white photograph of an embrace, the piece is arguably the best representation of “5 Earths,” a show that subtly addresses the realities of climate change alongside those of the world’s oft-overlooked populations, from the Navajo nation to Cuba to Africa.
Chip Thomas, a.k.a. Jetsonorama, has created a striking series that, at 8-foot by 8-foot installments, tower over you — long after leaving the gallery.
Thomas, who was in Paris for the World Climate Summit, will be at the free Third Friday showing for a conversation from 6 to 10 p.m. on December 18 at Chartreuse Gallery, 1301 Grand Avenue. The exhibition remains on view through Monday, December 28. For details and additional hours, visit www.chartreuseart.com or call 480-544-2162. Janessa Hilliard
Star Wars Art Party
Fans of a certain space-based film set to premiere Friday, December 18, are aware that the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1. The possibility of finding some rad artwork at CASA Lounge’s Star Wars Art Party, however? Much, much higher. On opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, CASA’s art party will feature live music, live painting, a movie-themed costume contest and more than 20 artists displaying their work inspired by the greatest sci-fi nonology of all time. Stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf-herders are welcome.
The Star Wars Art Party starts 7 p.m. Friday, December 18 at CASA Lounge, 15 East Sixth Street in downtown Tempe. Entry is free. Call 480-557-8226 for more. It’s not a trap! Zach Fowle
The Midnight Society
Hey, remember that X-Files episode where Mulder and Scully stakeout a haunted house? The one with Lily Tomlin and an edge-of-your-seat shootout? Though it sounds like a Halloween show, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” was, well, a Christmas episode of the popular cult series — and you may have a chance to see it again, especially if you missed its original airing back in 1998.
The Midnight Society, an occasional throwback screening of all things ‘90s by film collective Theater13, is showing select, to-be-revealed holiday installments of Tales From The Crypt, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and The X-Files. Director Chris Heck will also host trivia and giveaways for show-goers.
Doors open at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18, at Film Bar, 815 North Second Street. Tickets run $10, available in advance at www.thefilmbarphx.com. Janessa Hilliard
“Portmanteau,” the latest happening from Artel, is a group show that brings together the thematic explorations of the idea of combining disparate elements from a wide swath of 21 artists including Valyntina Grenier, Loud Luggage, Daniel Shepherd, Marilyn Szabo, and Monica Villareal. One of the more natural fits for “Portmanteau” is colororgy, whose mix of pop art, surrealism, and humor skewers contemporary society with brightly distinct and occasionally disturbing images forged from provocative juxtapositions.
Artel presents “Portmanteau: A Group Show” on Friday, December 18, at Public Image, 333 East Roosevelt Street in Phoenix, from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is free. For the full list of participating artists and more information, visit www.artelshow.com. Jose Gonzalez
Give a kid today a gift of a nutcracker, and you might find it thrown at your face immediately. For some reason, though, the story of a kid receiving a nutcracker: super compelling. We credit the stunningly graceful performers of Ballet Arizona bringing the 19th century tale of dolls come to life under the thumb of the Mouse King. Plus, the Phoenix Symphony's impeccable take on Tchaikovsky's score will be in the head of even the most ungrateful scamps long after they leave the show.
Ballet Arizona and the Phoenix Symphony present The Nutcracker at Symphony Hall, 75 North Second Street, on Saturday, December 19, at 7:30 p.m. Admission ranges from $15 to $169. To purchase tickets or for more info, visit www.balletaz.org. Jose Gonzalez
The Family Show
Improvisation does not scream “appropriate for the entire family.” You’d think the swear jar would positively overflow. But improv practitioners keep the audience in mind (and not just for how blue to work). That’s why such performances as The Torch Theatre’s The Family Show are able to exist. Wide-eyed moppets will enjoy an hour of entertainment that’s right up their alley and also fun for parents (like The Bullwinkle Show, but not The Bullwinkle Show). Did you know that Torch has a whole slate of educational programming for kids and teens? Well, it has. Serious as a heart attack.
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The show begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, December 19, at 4721 North Central Avenue. Admission is by donation. Visit www.thetorchtheatre.com or call 602-456-2876 for more info. Julie Peterson
The Wizard of Oz
Sure, there’s no place like home, but you have to get out of the house every once in a while, so gather your munchkins for a trip over the rainbow and to the Phoenix Theatre. On Saturday, December 19, the playhouse will present the L. Frank Baum classic and transform into Oz — a land where monkeys fly, witches melt, scarecrows wish for brains, lions are afraid of their roars, and the stories and songs are timeless.
Click your heels together three times and travel to Wizard of Oz at 100 East McDowell Road at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 19. Tickets start at $35. Call 602-254-2151 or visit phoenixtheatre.com for more. Zach Fowle
"Cameos: Sculpture in Miniature"
From tiny houses to pygmy goats, we are a nation obsessed with little things. If you’re fond of that which is diminutive, Cameos: Sculpture in Miniature is an exhibition you won’t want to miss. It features more than 170 cameo carvings from the 18th and 19th centuries, intricately crafted from materials like gemstone, shell, coral, and crystal. These petite portraits are viewable from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 20, at Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central Avenue. Admission ranges from $6 to $15. The exhibition runs through April 17, 2016. Call 602-257-1880 or visit www.phxart.org. Amy Young