Connecting the Community
Sonora Review Community Reading Series
9 p.m., Wednesday, July 13
Plush, 340 E. Sixth St
Sonora Review, the University of Arizona's graduate-student-run literary journal, has been around for more than 30 years. And through those three decades, the journal has kept up with the times: Not only does it have a print component, but it also touts a stellar blog, a website and, now, a community-reading series.
"We wanted to get Sonora more active in Tucson; it's a way for the university to connect with the community," said Nancy Powaga, co-editor-in-chief.
The kickoff of the Community Reading Series will spotlight three unique voices: Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Daisy Pitkin and Jamison Crabtree.
Wilkinson is a renowned poet and an incoming professor at the UA's creative-writing program. Powaga said the reading is both a "welcome for Josh and a welcome for Sonora. It's sort of a big welcome party for everyone."
Pitkin, a nonfiction MFA candidate, will wow with her lyrical and experimental prose, which delves into topics like her experience as a union organizer for industrial laundry facilities: "Every time we rest our elbows on a cloth table covering ... we come indirectly into contact with a group of workers somewhere nearby," she writes.
Crabtree, an MFA alum and the poetry editor for Tucson's Spork Press, will read from his poems, including "Lament for Freddy Krueger." In this poem, he writes, "You, who replaced his fingers / with razors, will injure / whatever you try to protect / unless you are very, very careful."
After the readings, two great local bands, Brass Tax and Havarti Orchestra, will perform.
Sonora plans three more events this year, including a Day of the Dead reading.
"There are a lot of talented writers in Tucson, and more keep coming in," said Crabtree.
Admission is free. —A.L.
Learning From a Master
West African Dance Party
8 to 11 p.m., Saturday, July 9
The Movement Shala, 435 E. Ninth St.
If you've ever wanted to learn West African dance, now's your chance to groove with the best.
Abdoulaye Camara, an internationally known dancer and drummer from Guinea, will lead a West African Dance Party at the Movement Shala this weekend.
Camara has taught and performed in Africa, Europe, Australia, Canada and the U.S. Donations will help fund his travels, said Jade Beall, the Movement Shala's co-founder.
"He travels the world teaching, and he always needs financial support," she said.
Camara will drum and sing with Planet Djembe, a local West African drum ensemble. Some of the event will be performance-only, but for the most part, the audience will be encouraged to get up and dance.
"He's very accessible to get your groove on," said Beall, who teaches West African dance and has worked with Camara in the past. "He just wants everyone to dance hard."
The event is a rare opportunity to learn the history of West African music and dance from someone who knows it well, Beall said. Camara will teach the traditional purpose of each beat as it is used in Guinea; for example, a rhythm might signify the celebration of a marriage or a birth.
Newcomers are encouraged to participate.
"Everyone's welcome," Beall said. "There's no way you can help but move."
Camara's classes tend to make people feel uninhibited, she said, adding that the music lends itself to a "euphoric sense of community" parallel to the one created by musical gatherings in West Africa.
On top of the cultural knowledge and communal pleasure the dance party will bring, Beall said it will be a great workout.
The suggested donation is $5 to $15. —C.A.
Love and Marriage
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, July 31
Red Barn Theater, 948 N. Main Ave.
This month, Red Barn Theater is presenting I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, a musical revue whose tagline is "everything you've ever thought about relationships, but were afraid to admit."
The musical is composed of a series of songs and vignettes that cover various phases of a relationship. The first act starts with "Cantata for a First Date" and ends with musical numbers about getting old, like "Funerals Are for Dating."
"The subject matter is universal, and it spans the ages," said the play's director, Dea Young-Smith. "It's absolutely hilarious, and the songs are catchy."
The play is originally written for four actors, but this version has an ensemble cast of 10, who rotate in and out of the various scenes and musical numbers.
Another aspect of this production is unique: The pianist and musical director, Lindsey McHugh, is blind. McHugh taught herself piano when she was just 4 years old. "I did it by ear," she said.
This is McHugh's first time directing music for a play. She admitted that it's been challenging, but said she manages to find creative ways to overcome difficulties. "Since I can't see, I have to listen for cues," she said, explaining that sometimes these cues are through dialogue, while other times, an actor simply takes a breath to cue in the music."
While Young-Smith and McHugh are directing various aspects of play, it's the actors who really put on the show. "They're the ones making it happen, bringing their own interpretation to the stage," added McHugh.
Tickets are $15 for adults, and $12 for students and seniors. On Fridays, all tickets are $10. Reservations are encouraged. —A.L.
Tucson's Top Talent
7 p.m., Wednesday, through Aug. 10
La Fuente Restaurant, 1749 N. Oracle Road
Many a mariachi star has been made in La Fuente Restaurant—and during the next five weeks, at the third annual Mariachi Idol competition, another will rise to the top.
"La Fuente has been known as the house of mariachi for 50 years," said Carlos Portillo, the restaurant's owner. He started Mariachi Idol to highlight local singers beyond the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.
"Why don't we give the opportunity to show their talent?" he said. "We felt there was a need in Tucson."
Judges will score contestants based on four categories: appearance, intonation, pronunciation and performance style—and Portillo said success in each category is essential.
"Last year, we had a guy who sang beautifully," he said. "But he was dressed in Levi's."
The winners of each of the weekly contests will compete in the grand finale on Aug. 10. A maximum of six contestants can vie for the title each week. Entries are accepted on a rolling basis—even from singers who have competed and lost in previous weeks.
"If they don't win that week, they can always try again," Portillo said.
Leticia Ortiz, of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will emcee. The three judges are Jose Chavez and Patricio Bracamonte, both longtime mariachi performers, and Anna Alonso, a La Fuente customer who loves Mariachi Idol.
The performer who earns the title wins $400, a $50 gift certificate to La Fuente and the Mariachi Idol 2011 trophy. But Portillo said the prize is more than just money and gifts.
"It brings a lot of respect and exposure to them," he said.
Admission is $10 and includes an alcoholic beverage for those 21 and older, or $15 with access to an all-you-can-eat buffet and a soft drink. —C.A.