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Wall Through the Wild

"Impacts of U.S. Border Policy on Arizona Wildlife and Wildlands"
2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20
Quaker Meeting House, 931 N. Fifth Ave.
791-9535

Plenty of people are concerned about the lives of migrants crossing through our borderlands. But what about the animals and plants living down there? They're in danger, too. In fact, some of the most pristine and "protected" wildlife habitats in the nation--many of which lie within national wildlife refuges, monuments and conservation areas--exist on or near the U.S.-Mexico border. And for the last 10 years, these areas have been in an immigration battleground.

Currently, our border policy centers on pushing migrants into remote desert areas, where they impact the land by cutting trails and leaving trash. Then, the U.S. Border Patrol makes it much worse by building roads and fences (not to mention leaving trash of their own). Just in our state, it's estimated that the habitats of 39 species currently or soon to be protected by the Endangered Species Act are disturbed by this activity.

Worse, thanks to the just-passed Secure Fence Act, double-layered walls could soon be constructed along hundreds of miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, splitting apart huge portions of the Sonoran Desert and Sky Island ecosystems. Species like the Sonoran pronghorn, the pygmy owl, the Mexican vine snake and the beloved jaguar will be seriously threatened.

"The area (along our border) is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife," says Jenny Neeley, the Southwest representative of a national, nonprofit group called the Defenders of Wildlife. "Together, these ecosystems host more bird, mammal, reptile, bee and ant species than anywhere else in the United States. A wall ... would eventually mean a dramatic loss of biological diversity in Arizona."

Neeley will go into depth about border policy and all its effects on nature at a lecture this Saturday. There are things we can do to help, she says--like writing our elected officials--but first, we have to get educated. The lecture is free. --A.M.


Pious Pop

Altar Boyz
Tuesday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 28
Tucson Convention Center Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.
321-1000

Have you heard about that new band, the Altar Boyz? They're coming to Tucson! And they're bringing God with them!

OK, so the Altar Boyz aren't a real band. But they are coming to town, via a new, popular off-Broadway show of the same name. It's a musical comedy that tracks the career of a struggling Christian boy band on their way to New York, where they hope to make it big and save a lot of souls in the process. And they're all so cool.

First, there's the lead singer, Matthew (the cutest). Next up is Mark, who's totally sensitive and just loves Cher. (No, of course he's not gay!) Then there's the bad boy, Luke, who's really got a thing for communion wine, and Juan, the Latin hottie with the Ricky Martin dance moves. Finally, don't forget about the last member--Abraham. He's Jewish. Nobody's really sure what he's doing in the band at all.

"Everyone plays a distinct character, and they're all superbly cast," says Marc Viscardi, the marketing manager of Broadway in Tucson. "It's one of the hottest off-Broadway shows ever--it's sweet, hilarious, lighthearted and youthful, poking fun at religion and itself at the same time."

With song titles like "Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone" and "Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait," you can't get much funnier. But, Vascardi assures me, it won't offend you, no matter what religion you are. Tickets are $20 to $49, and you can see a full production schedule by visiting broadwayintucson.com. All ages are welcome. --A.M.


Poet Queen

"Marguerite De Navarre: The Right To Write"
3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20
Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. First Ave.
327-7235

Marguerite de Navarre might be considered the first feminist poet. Born in 1492 to two intelligent members of the French nobility, she was the wife of Henry II of Navarre, the sister of King Francis I and the grandmother of Henry IV. She was considered "the Mother of the French Renaissance" and was a decided humanist, patron to reformers and intellectual, writing many stories, poems and plays throughout her life.

Her most controversial piece, a religious reform poem called Le Miroir de l'âme pécheresse, was condemned as heresy by theologians, and one monk declared she should be sewn in a sack and dropped into the Seine for writing it. Thanks to her brother, the condemnation was revoked, and she even got an apology.

At the time of her death in 1549, Marguerite wasn't quite done with her greatest work, the Heptameron, a collection of 73 novellas modeled after Bocaccio's Decameron that explores the complexity of human nature and subjects like love, infidelity, corruption, seduction, rape and redemption. Perhaps most importantly, the work attempts to face the abyss Marguerite found between the spiritual and the material.

All this information just skims the surface of Marguerite de Navarre's life, legacy and work. But an opportunity to learn more is coming up this weekend, when Kathleen Bradley of the UA French and Italian Department will give a lecture about this queen of Navarre, focusing on her last work and her criticism of the Catholic Church.

"A woman of nobility who would openly criticize the representatives of the Church was extremely rare and virtually unheard of at the time," says Bradley. "Therefore, not only is she considered the mother of the Renaissance, but also a feminist--way before the term was ever even coined!"

The lecture is free and open to the public. --A.M.


Acting Yiddish

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 24
Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road
299-3000, Ext. 106; tucsonjewishfilmfestival.org

"Theater is the richest place what you can express yourself," said Zypora Spaisman in a 1996 radio documentary. "We never was sick; we never had understudies. I had 103 temperature--I came to play."

Such enthusiasm and dedication were typical of Spaisman, a Holocaust survivor from Poland and certainly the most famous female associated with Yiddish theater in America. A tenacious, energetic and--of course--dramatic woman, she filled the role of artistic director and lead actress for the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre in New York, the longest-running company of its kind, for 42 years. And it wasn't easy. Back in the winter of 2000, despite glowing reviews, the theater was losing audience members fast and was in danger of shutting down for good. Like the language of Yiddish itself, Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre was dying.

Dan Katzir's acclaimed docudrama Yiddish Theater: A Love Story, to be screened this Wednesday as part of the Tucson Jewish Film Festival, is an uplifting portrait of this Yiddish diva. For eight days and eight nights--ironically, during Hanukkah--the movie follows Spaisman and her theater entourage throughout their last-minute attempt to save the Folksbiene and move it from the Lower East Side to Broadway. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I will say it's very uplifting. And informative, too.

"(The movie) really gives an interesting retrospective on Yiddish theater, culture and language," says film festival publicity coordinator Marc Paley, "as well as where it's all at today. For someone who has an interest in language, it's fascinating, and it's a great opportunity to broaden cultural horizons."

Plus, there will be free popcorn. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. The director himself, who's coming to town especially for this event, will give a talk after the screening. --A.M.

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