Our top picks of what to do and where to do it for the week.

City Week 

Helping Solve the Puzzle

Piece the Puzzle Autism Walk/Run and Resource Fair
7:30 a.m. to Noon, Saturday, April 5
UA Mall at University Boulevard
577-7647; tucsonautism.org

Gale Prol began helping autistic children back in Maryland. She was a home tutor who worked with "at-risk" kids for a local school district.

"I learned a lot on the fly by the seat of my pants," Prol says.

When Prol moved to Tucson, she decided not to let her newfound experience go to waste, and she got in touch with the Autism Society of America's Pima County Chapter.

"It was more of a grassroots organization when I got involved, but it has really grown in the last couple of years," Prol says.

And for the last two years, the ASA-PCC has sponsored this walk/run event and resource fair to raise awareness for autism: Some 40 organizations related to autism will provide event-goers with information on products, summer programs and general information.

Also present will be the Puzzle Project Display. People will have the opportunity create a puzzle piece and attach any personal memento they wish. According to a news release, "The puzzle piece has been adopted nationally as a symbol of autism as a pervasive and puzzling disability." Today, an astonishing one in 150 children is diagnosed with autism.

As for the walk/run portion of the day, the cost is $17 if you sign up online, or $20 the day of the event; registration for kids 12 and younger is $5. The price includes a shirt and chance to trek the 5k course. There is a 2k route available for kids and families. Proceeds from the event will go into local programs that provide families with assistance to help alleviate the costs that can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, Prol says. --M.K.


From the Break Room to the Big Screen

The Found Footage Festival
8 p.m., Thursday, April 3
The Loft Cinema
3233 E. Speedway Blvd.
795-0844; loftcinema.com

In high school, Nick Prueher was working at a McDonald's in Wisconsin when he came across a poorly produced training video for McDonald's custodians.

"It was so bad, I had to steal it," Prueher says. He and longtime friend Joe Pickett would pop the video in the VCR for Friday-night laughs.

Prueher says they thought: "If there are videos this dumb right under our noses, what else is out there?"

Thus, the Found Footage Festival was born. Nick and Joe now travel the country screening the best of the worst film clips they've come across. "The show comes complete with our smartass remarks," Prueher says. "It's an extension of our love for comedy."

Pickett and Prueher owe the formation of their comic sensibility to, of all things, Small Wonder--the '80s sitcom featuring a robot girl living with a human family. "It was the first thing I enjoyed ironically," says Prueher. "We both had a taste for things that were just awful. It's kind of the same deal now: Instead of making fun of Small Wonder, we make fun of videos we find at thrift stores and in break rooms."

They've come a long way from privately ripping Small Wonder. They've written for David Letterman and that most venerable newspaper The Onion. Dirty Country, the documentary they co-directed, just won the audience award at the SXSW Film Festival.

Not to mention, the Found Footage Festival has been a hit with live audiences. Where else can you see clips like How to Seduce Women Through Hypnosis? "It's an actual video teaching you how to do just that ... and it actually manages to be creepier than the name suggests," Prueher says.

Admission is $8.50; student and military members get in for $6, seniors for $5.25, and Loft members for $4.75. --A.M.


Crazy Train

UA School of Music Opera Theater presents "Postcard from Morocco"
7:30 p.m., Friday, April 4; 3 p.m., Sunday, April 6
UA Stevie Eller Dance Theatre
1713 E. University Blvd.
621-2998 or 621-1162 (box office)

Seven strangers wait for a train, each with a piece of luggage in hand.

From there, things go crazy.

Postcard From Morocco is Dominic Argento's surrealistic opera that tells the story of these seven strangers through ragtime, cakewalks, waltzes and Wagner. The range of styles isn't the only surreal element, however: At one point in the opera, two mimes enter the stage to act as the puppets of one of the strangers.

"It's a show that is being done across the nation," says Charles Roe, director of the opera theater at the UA. "This is just our interpretation that we're producing in our own way."

The live mimes, instead of having actual puppets, are one example. Joining them on stage is the Arizona Symphony Orchestra, whose members will be wearing festive hats to coincide with the Moroccan theme.

Thomas Cockrell will also be on stage directing the orchestra, but Cockrell's influence on the production goes beyond that.

"He came back from a summer festival in Arkansas and thought it'd be a good idea to do (the show)," Roe says. "My first impression wasn't as positive as it is now."

What has Roe excited is the challenge the music presents for the performers and the storyline that he describes as "completely off the wall."

One vignette after another is presented to the audience, each one revealing more about the characters. But there is never a full revelation: In this one, the conclusion is left out.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students. --M.K.


Texas Country in Tucson

Slaid Cleaves in Concert
7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 3
Old Town Artisans
201 N. Court Ave.
(800) 594-8499; rhythmandroots.org

Though I lived in Texas for 25 years, I somehow let Austin songwriter Slaid Cleaves fly under my radar. This is surprising, as he's been playing the Texas singer-songwriter circuit since the early '90s and, as far back as 1992, won the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival's New Folk competition, an honor shared with fellow Texans Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle.

I've always thought of Texas country as situated in the divide between alt-country and pop country. Syrupy Nashville acts can be throwaway, but bands like Cross Canadian Ragweed, though sometimes annoyingly slick, can get a little gritty and raw. To my ear, Cleaves falls in this camp: poppy Texas country that's not quite pop-country.

I honestly don't know why country-music fans love to categorize and subcategorize music so much, but we do. Americana, alt-country, pop country, folk, folk-rock, nü-folk, honky-tonk, roots rock, rockabilly, psychobilly, cow-punk, twangcore (no, I'm not making these up)--the list drags on. This mess, plus a fear of being pigeonholed, is why so many Americana musicians resist such labels.

Cleaves, who describes his music as twangy country and Dust Bowl folk, has grown comfortable with, and maybe a little ambivalent to, the various labels. "I'm all about trying to write good songs, and I've been lucky to find an audience for them," he says. "There are a lot of different segments of music lovers in Texas. ... I think of my audience as people seeking out a certain quality of songwriter."

Cleaves is keeping his current tour simple: It's just him and lead guitarist Michael O'Connor, both on acoustics, a formula that should let their natural sound bleed through--whatever you want to call it. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. --A.M.

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