Koko Puffs

It's not easy being a queen; just ask Doug Loynd. "There's pain involved in being in drag," says the 41-year-old actor. "Makeup takes two hours, breasts are heavy, earrings pinch, and heels hurt." The transvestite toil is worth it, however, as Loynd has a shot at fame as one of three actors who'll perform as the pansy protagonist of the one-man comedy Koko! The Island Adventures of Miss Koko Neufchatel, starting on Friday, April 8, at the Alwun House, 1204 East Roosevelt. Loynd rotates the role of a "female impersonator stranded on a deserted island" with local gender-benders Damon Dering and Matt Harris. For $30, audience members can attend all three versions of the show -- with performances starting at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays -- through April 29, where they'll cast their vote for their favorite at a luau. Tickets to individual performances are $15. Call 602-614-4154 or see www.artiststheatreproject.org for the schedule. -- Benjamin Leatherman

Sensory Overload
Dance performance jams SCA

FRI 4/8
Clap those jazz hands for Sensory Memory, steppin' to the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street, on Friday, April 8. The 8 p.m. show combines Desert Dance Theatre's new moves with live jazz, performed by Chieli Minucci & Special EFX. Tickets cost $36. Call 480-994-2787. -- Niki D'Andrea

Shrink Wrapped
New play explores bad boy

A teenage criminal named John Tolliver recounts his past for a retiring psychologist in Tom Leveen's original drama 102, opening Friday, April 8, at Studio One Performing Arts Center, 4520 East Thomas. The shrink, Dr. Taylor, is on his last day of work, but as he observes Tolliver's life in a series of flashbacks, he becomes an interactive part of the dual-layered story. The vignettes hit at 8 p.m. and continue through April 23. Tickets cost $12 to $15. Call 480-994-9495. -- Niki D'Andrea

Great Wall of Sound
Extreme East Coast

THU 4/7
To say that you were the first band in your country to sport Mohawks -- in the late '90s -- might not sound like bragging fodder, but when there are more than 1.3 billion people in your country and you're geographically opposite the Western world, then itÕs really something. Meet Brain Failure, Beijing's bad boys of punk (and self-professed power-chord addicts). The high-energy quartet sings songs in both English and Mandarin. After shaking off any culture shock on a tour with The Unseen, Brain Failure makes a Valley stop at Mardi Gras, 8040 East McDowell in Scottsdale, on Thursday, April 7. The show starts at 8 p.m. Call 480-970-5707 for ticket prices. -- Niki D'Andrea

Taiko Set
The beat goes on at MCC

THU 4/7
Japanese heritage is more than ninja nunchakus and samurai swords. Behind this spiritual culture pulsates a steady drumbeat that's been keeping time for the Japanese for more than a millennium. On Thursday, April 7, the Phoenix Kyo Rei Taiko Kai group will perform a traditional Japanese taiko drum circle at the Graduation Lawn on the Mesa Community College campus, 1833 West Southern Avenue. The ritual will feature eight to 10 people with drums of varying sizes, attempting to create a thunderous and universal tone. The ultimate goal is to ward off evil spirits with the heart-thumping reverberations, thus allowing one to live a more empowered life. Trainer and performer Carolyn Nakamura says that taiko drumming is a true celebration of her Japanese culture. "Following the end of World War II, many of our traditions really started to fade away," she says. "As performers, taiko drumming allows us to perpetuate our historic culture by passing it down from one generation to the next." The performance is the first in a series of events commemorating Asian Cultural Awareness Month at MCC. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. Call 480-461-7201. -- Steve Jansen