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Life Beyond the Third Rock

Astronomer Nick Woolf
7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 22
Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N. Olive Road
621-2752

Astronomer and UA professor Nick Woolf isn't afraid of answering big, messy questions. He's in good company when one remembers other thinkers who, as Kant advised, dared to know.

As the second lecturer of the Spring 2006 Templeton Lecture Series and director of one of the 16 nationwide NASA Astrobiology Institute teams, Woolf will discuss identifying distant planetary cousins on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m.

"Our Templeton lecturers have been sitting on this ground for two years," Woolf says of the series, which is dedicated to exploration of astrobiology and the sacred. "And so far, the speakers have all been too smart to get into these topics where the answers are bound to offend some people, possibly even most people. But I'm not bothered by that. I want to at least attempt to address the questions where we dared the Templeton Foundation to let us discuss them in public, and they took up our dare."

Woolf's "dare" focuses on "the basic methods that could be used to discover distant earths, spectral signatures of life and the spiritual issues that surround the understanding of life." That's no small order in a 60-minute lecture. But the attempt is a timely one, especially in light of NASA budget cuts revealed earlier this month. All missions for studying terrestrial planets around other stars were put off to the indefinite future, Woolf says. Regardless, "the task of exploring what life is, the question of whether we could always detect it or even recognize it, remains," Woolf says.

The series continues until May 10 with cross-disciplinary lectures by writer Oliver Morton; oceanographer John Baross; paleobiologist and current Templeton research fellow Simon Conway Morris; poet Pattiann Rogers; and others. For more information, visit www.scienceandreligion.arizona.edu. --M.H.


Hello, Bolly!

UApresents presents Bombay Dreams
8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18; 1 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19
UA Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.
621-3341; www.uapresents.org

In terms of Goldilocks and the three bears, Tucson's size and location (smaller than Phoenix, less-hip and more isolated than Orange County), coupled with Centennial Hall's technical and creative production staff, makes it "just right" as a test market to try new productions such as the musical Bombay Dreams, says Mario Di Vetta, marketing and public-relations associate for UApresents.

The thrice Tony-nominated musical comes to Tucson on Feb. 18 and 19 as an updated version for American audiences after a two-year run in London. Essentially, those updates, Di Vetta says, included making cultural references in sets and songs clearer to American patrons. But the central storyline, Di Vetta says, remains.

The musical's plot rests on Akaash, a young slum dweller who dreams, as so many Andrew Lloyd Webber-inspired heroes do, of attaining fame and romance. Akaash aspires to be an actor in Bollywood, India's busier, more-productive equivalent to America's Hollywood--but he falls in love with a famous director's daughter. The resulting romantic drama ensues in the glittery, sari-flowing fashion indicative of Bollywood.

As audience members watch to see if Akaash gets the girl and his dream gig, dancers perform the famed water-fountain dance to A.R. Rahman-composed songs that mix Hindi and Urdu to celebrate romantic, epic themes.

The performers in this preview are an Equity cast, Di Vetta says of the actors who have done some on- and off-Broadway shows and began rehearsal a few weeks ago. Di Vetta says that he can't wait to see the Tuesday night production before the cast heads over to Orange County to bigger--but not better--audiences. --M.H.


Fashionistas for a Cause

Möda/Provocateur Fashion Benefit for SAAF
5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19
Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
628-7223; www.saafmoda.org

Despite the umlaut and accents over the event's name, Möda/Provocateur has a cause that's anything but pretentious. The "evening of style and entertainment" is one of four annual fundraising events organized by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) to help raise funds for its programs and services. It's also the smallest in terms of the amount of money it raises, says Mae Krueger, SAAF events coordinator--though by no means the dowdiest.

"It's a glitzy evening," Krueger says of the reception and fashion show held at the Fox Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 19. "There are wonderful raffle prizes and three different spa dates."

Krueger says the event is the brainchild of Kevin Casey, the owner of Avalon Hair, Skin and Nails, who, four years ago, saw a group from Albuquerque do a similar event and wondered why Tucson couldn't do something, with the profits going directly to SAAF. Casey's wondering has since morphed into the event's third year and the participation of four salons, 11 local boutiques and performances by the Tucson Dance Company and the "pyrotechnic theater troupe" Flam Chen.

"I think in the past years, they've raised $14,000 or better," Krueger says of Möda/Provocateur, which until this year, was independently run, with all the proceeds going to SAAF. This is the first year that SAAF has gotten directly involved with publicity and organization.

Now, Krueger says, the partnership between the two organizations and the event's move from the Leo Rich Theatre to the bigger Fox Theatre might make it more competitive in terms of raising money with, say, the annual Jello-wrestling event in the spring, which has previously brought in double that of runway models and funky-fresh hairstyles. --M.H.


Big-Belt-Buckle Wearers' Week

The 81st Annual La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros
Tucson Pro-Rodeo Bullriding and Party
2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, opening day of the Tucson Rodeo; 1 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 19
Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. Sixth Ave.
741-2233; (800) 964-5662

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the rodeo that dates back to 1925 and now draws more than 55,000 people in nine days, has me posing several questions to Joan Liess, media relations coordinator of the rodeo--questions that locals could answer easily.

Why do public schools shut down for two days? Who thinks the phrases "cowboy up" and "yeehaw" should be repeated ad nauseam? And which city hosts the longest non-motorized parade in the world?

Liess answers all of my questions and then explains the rodeo's cultural significance: "I think the rodeo commemorates Tucson's Western heritage. The title itself is 'celebration of cowboys.' Our roots come from ranchers and cowboys."

And while traditional events such as the non-motorized cavalcade and the days upon days of mutton busting are big draws, the city's oldest continuous event will also host a PRCA-sanctioned bull riding competition and party featuring country artist Little Big Town on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m., in an effort to draw a younger audience, and a "Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day" to draw, well, a pinker crowd on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m., when $1 of every paid admission will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

"This event kicked off at the National Final Rodeo in Las Vegas," Liess says of the wear-pink campaign. "It was a huge success and raised $27,000. ... The audience wore pink, too. We're hoping to replicate that here in Tucson."

Of course, not all rodeo activities fit into this skinny, little column, so to find out more, visit the rodeo Web site. --M.H.

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