Through Spike's Lens
An Evening With Spike Lee
7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31
UA Centennial Hall
1020 E. University Blvd.
For more than 20 years, filmmaker Spike Lee has redefined how African Americans are depicted in cinema.
The UA student body selected Lee to speak at Centennial Hall as part of the University Activity Board's new lecture series.
"We provided a list of three speakers, and students would rank who they wanted to see," said Chris Hargraves, senior coordinator for the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership at the UA. "Spike Lee scored really high."
He said one of the reasons the university is able to bring in speakers like Lee is a new contract with Coca-Cola; the company gives the university money to bring in high-profile speakers at an affordable cost.
Beginning with his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It, in 1986, Lee has made a career out of addressing contemporary social, racial and political issues.
Lee's 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. His 1992 film adaptation of Alex Haley's biography of Malcolm X earned star Denzel Washington an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. 4 Little Girls, a 1997 piece about the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.
Hargraves said Lee generally speaks on a variety of topics, ranging from themes drawn from his films to how he perceives contemporary America on a personal level.
"One of his favorite topics is America through his lens," he said. "We think he can engage students in contemporary issues beyond the lecture itself."
Tickets are $10 to $30 for general admission, and $5 to $15 for students and UA faculty/staff. —W.F.
Pawn in a Fantasy World
Book-signing by B.J. Kurtz
1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 27
6208 E. Speedway Blvd.
Madison, the lead character in the novel The Lord of Nightmares, never questioned her life until a friend committed suicide. She then met a strange, supernatural man—the Lord of Nightmares—who could manipulate reality, and conducted an ultimate game of wit with human pawns. To save her soul, Madison had to play the game herself—and win or die.
Believe it or not, this plot was first written by a sixth-grader—local writer B.J. Kurtz—when she was in a middle school writers' workshop. Her ideas would later be revised and expanded when she was in college to form the basis of her latest book.
"I've always been a creative spirit," she declared.
Now 25, Kurtz has two novels out and hopes to publish her third soon. A Southern Arizona native, she went to the UA and now teaches high school in her hometown of Sierra Vista. (Full disclosure: She's also the sister of the Tucson Weekly's art director.) This weekend, she'll be in Tucson to sign The Lord of Nightmares.
In case you couldn't tell from the Lord of Nightmares synopsis, Kurtz's specialty is fantasy and suspense, with some horror thrown in. But her books depart from the basic good-versus-evil scheme, and go deeper than many fantasy novels.
"(The Lord of Nightmares) deals with not only real events that might be seen as common occurrences," she says, "but also with the 'game world' that the otherworldy creatures have developed. So it's kind of a look at how strong the human race is when placed under these extraordinary circumstances. The book examines human flaws, and also how we can overcome those flaws in order to succeed in the face of a tremendous obstacle."
The book-signing is free. —A.M.
Sparring, Body Paint and Pop Art
"Art Fights" Art Show and MMA Demo
7 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, March 27
Sixth Street Gym
221 E. Sixth St.
Most people would say that the only things visual art and mixed martial arts have in common are the letters "a-r-t." After all, painting and sculpture are lofty and cerebral, while MMA fighting is ... well ... a couple of guys messing each other up. Right?
Josh Flood, a local mixed martial artist and painter, said he strongly disagrees.
"MMA fighting is actually a good metaphor for art," he said." "Constantly, different styles are mixing. That's how art evolves."
Flood said a lot of people like both fighting and art—so he decided to put an event together combining visual art and MMA, with live music thrown into the mix. The Sixth Street Gym will be transformed into a big art installation featuring murals, sculptures and painting by 15 local artists (including Flood).
The first part of the event will focus on art. Later, MMA fighters will take to the ring to give live sparring demonstrations—and will then be transformed into art themselves, as the show's featured artists completely cover them in body paint. Finally, the ring will become a stage for live music by electro act El Hanko Dinero, funk group Zackey Force Funk and others. Throughout the night, attendees can watch and engage in live collaborative painting on a communal art board.
"There's gonna be a lot of cutting-edge avant-garde artists, a lot of underground pop-art-inspired artists," said Flood. "They don't usually show their work, so there's going to be a lot of really cool stuff no one's ever seen."
The $5 admission fee will get you a free T-shirt (will supplies last) plus food; the proceeds will cover expenses and assist the Sixth Street Gym in helping youth. —A.M.
R. Carlos Nakai headlines benefit for KARE Family Center
6 p.m., Saturday, March 27
Desert Diamond Hotel Casino
7350 S. Nogales Highway
622-7611, ext. 1311
A two-time Grammy-nominated musician, R. Carlos Nakai is primarily known for bringing the music of the Native American flute to mainstream listeners.
Nakai, a Tucson native, is headlining a benefit gala for the KARE Family Center, an organization that serves grandparents and other relatives who are raising children.
Nakai said he enjoys playing benefit concerts for local charities and organizations, because without them, he would never have been able to attract attention.
"Many of my early performances as a soloist were spent going to performances like this and asking if they had openings," he said.
Nakai recalled one such performance: "I remember being banned from the Glendale Public Library, because too many people showed up to listen to the music," he said. "The venue was really small, and people were fighting outside to get in."
Nakai began his musical career on the trumpet. However, after a car accident injured the muscles around his mouth, he thought his musical career was finished.
"Then I found an instrument that no one was playing back in the 1970s, and I took it up as part of the Native American cultural movement," he said. "I was determined to resurge and do something."
What Nakai ended up doing was fusing traditional Native American flute music with jazz and classical traditions.
"The problem with American Indian music is that no one really bothered to try to understand it," said Nakai. "I kind of brought it out of that dead zone and into the modern world."
The gala includes dinner, dancing and entertainment by other performers.Tickets are $75. —W.F.