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If Only They Served Sake

Japanese New Year Festival
1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2
Tucson Children's Museum
200 S. Sixth Ave.
792-9985

TCM's 2004 Festival of Light Series has been packed with so many cool events that Weekly editor Jimmy Boegle and I recently confessed to each other a growing inclination to forgo more grown-up entertainment in favor of hanging out with kids and making ornaments out of cracked marbles. (Well, the cracked marbles thing was mostly me.) The museum has outdone itself, however, with this week's Japanese New Year celebration, presented in partnership with the Japan-America Society of Tucson.

Mark Gettings and the other members of Yamakawa will demonstrate Shin Shin Seki Guchi Ryu in a Japanese sword-cutting demonstration that involves slicing through rolled-up straw mats. Taiko drumming--which has had various functions during different phases of Japanese history, but has now spread throughout the world as an art form--will be demonstrated by Odaiko Sonora, a Tucson taiko group. Sonoran Aikikai will provide an Aikido martial arts exhibition, allowing visitors to learn more about the uniquely Japanese martial art that works by using an opponent's energy against him. Suzuyuki-Kai--established in 1984 by troupe director Mari Kaneta with the goal of pursuing and preserving Japanese culture, particularly dancing, in Arizona--will stage a classical Japanese dance performance.

As if that's not enough, the Tucson Origami Club will lead a workshop in the art of paper folding, and other make-and-take activities include fish printmaking and fan decorating. Anyone have a well-behaved kid I can borrow on Sunday?

Admission to the museum is $3.50 for children, $4.50 for seniors and $5.50 for adults; all activities are included in the price of admission.


Hold on to Your Head

Discussion of The Questions of King Milinda
Various times Jan. 4 through 6
St. Philip's Episcopal Church
4440 N. Campbell Ave.
792-6585

The Questions of King Milinda is a 2,000-year-old text that chronicles the debate between the Greek King Milinda and an Indian Buddhist monk named Nagasena--though names, as Nagasena pointed out, are purely conceptual terms, since "no real person can here be apprehended."

The text has always been of particular interest to Western readers, since the king, being a Greek thinker, asked the monk the same questions we ourselves might. The exchange of questions and answers--which took place in a courteous, respectful manner high up in the mountains at the Sankheyya hermitage--touch on many of the thorniest issues found in any religion, and allows scholars to trace the ways in which Christianity and Buddhism influenced each other.

These thorny questions--"What is the root ... of past time, and what of present, and what of future time?"; "When you say that the ultimate point is not apparent, what do you mean by 'ultimate point'?"; "Is there ... such a thing as the soul?"; and "Does though-perception arise wherever sigh arises?" just to name a few--are followed by equally complicated answers, and even if you have the tenacity of Milinda, who was constantly asking for just one more "illustration," it helps to have a guide.

In the three discussion sessions scheduled at St. Philip's--5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4; 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5; and 2 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6--participants will have two: Christie McNally, and Tibetan Buddhist monk and scholar Geshe Michael Roach.

There is no charge to attend the event, though donations are accepted. Call for additional information.


Now Hear This

UApresents "Big River"
Various times, Jan. 5 through 9
Centennial Hall
1020 E. University Blvd.
621-3341

According to Deaf West Theatre, Inc.'s mission statement, the company was founded 13 years ago "to directly improve and enrich the cultural lives of the 1.2 million deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who live in the Los Angeles area." But DWT wasn't content just to offer an important experience to that segment of audience members and artists; instead, they dedicated themselves to presenting adaptations of classics, contemporary and original works with a level of artistic integrity not mitigated or compromised by a sense that they were anything less than a full-blown, everyone-should-see-us type of company.

DWT productions--based in the North Hollywood Theatre Arts District--have garnered more than 60 entertainment industry awards for artistic and technical merit; their current musical, BIG RIVER, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, began its run on Broadway, then kicked off a national tour in June 2004.

So how does it work? Productions are presented in American Sign Language, with simultaneous translation in English. BIG RIVER stars Tyrone Giordano as Huck Finn and Tony-nominated Michael McElroy (a Carnegie Mellon alum who has appeared in the New York Shakespeare Festival, High Rollers' Social and Pleasure Club and The Who's Tommy) as Jim.

Tickets to the production that Time magazine labeled "a rare show that can truly be called groundbreaking" are $18-$60, depending on date and seat location. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5; 2 and 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6; 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8; and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9. Call for tickets and additional information.


Year-End Rebalancing

New Year's Competition Powwow
Dec. 31 through Jan. 2
Rillito Raceway Park
River Road and First Avenue
622-4900

For the 14th year in a row, a New Year's competition powwow--complete with an Indian craft market and "International Day"--will take place at Rillito Park.

"To Indian people," says Fred Synder, volunteer coordinator at the Indian Information and Trade Center, "a powwow is a prayer made visible." And, he adds, you never know who, exactly, is going to show up at a powwow until they get there, though members of approximately 50 different tribes are expected.

The event--non-alcoholic and family-oriented--begins at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31. Artisans from many different tribes will be selling their work on the grounds, and "the crafts sold are produced only by artists who do their own work," says Synder, "or their family's work, or their community's work. It's a unique opportunity to learn about Native American culture from a Native American's point of view. You can ask the questions you want to: Who made an object? How long did it take? Is it a traditional pattern or design?"

A midnight Friendship dance will run from 11:45 p.m. to 12:05 a.m. to bring in the New Year, "rebalancing the energy in Mother Earth and within humans," as Synder says.

Saturday hours are noon to 10 p.m., and featuring the start of the competition powwow; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday marks the powwow finals as well as International Day, which will feature Aztec, Inca, Mayan, Hopi and Zuni people, because "not everybody powwows," Synder points out.

Admission is $7 per person (free for children 8 and younger); traditional Indian food from the Navajo, Tohono O'odham and other tribes will abound, so arrive hungry.

Call for more information.

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