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Sandwich and a Soprano

Previews of The Elixir of Love
Noon, Friday, Jan. 9
Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church
2331 E. Adams St.
10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 12
Oro Valley Public Library
1305 W. Naranja Drive
742-4935
azogsa.org

If your 2008 resolution to lose weight didn't pan out, then perhaps 2009 is your year to look slimmer.

With the help of the Opera Guild of Southern Arizona, you'll slough off that additional holiday weight in no time. Their suggestion: Skip the burgers and fries, and brown-bag your lunch while taking in some culture. You and your lunch bag are invited to the "Brown Bag Opera" narrated preview of Gaetano Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, at Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

"Brown-bag opera began in San Francisco, where young artists would sing noontime concerts at various work places," said Vivian Weede, narrator for the preview. "People would bring their lunch and enjoy an opera preview."

With the help of renowned opera singers Christi Amonson, John Fulton and Eun Pa Lee, Weede will translate Italian to English for the preview.

"Of course, when you go to see the production, there it is, it's in another language," said Weede. "My function is to help the people understand the plotline and hear some music from it, so that when they go downtown (to the Tucson Music Hall) to see a performance, they are more familiar with the melodies and the story."

The preview comes in a timely manner, just a week before the Arizona Opera Company performs The Elixir of Love, the story of a young man's attempts to woo a woman after drinking a fraudulent love potion.

Early birds: If you'd prefer to experience opera without a sandwich in hand, attend "Say Hello to Opera," a 10 a.m. preview of The Elixir of Love at the Oro Valley Public Library. Both previews are free and open to the public. --M.N.


The Legacy of Fine Dining

The Dining Room
Preview: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 8
Regular shows: 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9, 10, 16 and 17; 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11 and 18
Studio Connections
9071 E. Old Spanish Trail
731-1559
studioconnections.net

Aside from holidays and special occasions, most families' dining rooms remain vacant, a reminder of an era when life was slower and less distracting.

When playwright A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room was first produced in 1981, the popularity of the family-dining experience had already dwindled. According to Gurney's drama, the upper middle class remained keen on continuing their evening ritual.

"He (Gurney) really gives the audience a snapshot from various WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) families," said Robert Encila, head of Studio Connections, where he works with a cast of young adults. "It shows the dynamics and the relationships of the upper-middle class from the Depression era through the '80s."

With about 50 roles in The Dining Room, Encila's cast of six actors and actresses play dozens of characters. According to Encila, the interactions among characters range from emotional to comical.

"There are some funny scenes, downright hilarious moments, but a lot of the scenes are sensitive and touching," Encila said.

Gurney's play tackles issues ranging from buying a house to bequeathing a dying grandfather's assets. Within the play's 18 scenes, an aging mother's fading memory is Encila's favorite.

"These brothers are trying to get their mother, who has Alzheimer's, to remember different moments in their lives," said Encila. "There, in the dining room, they are trying to reach her, and she's not there."

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $7 for children 12 and younger. Tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com, or by phone at 731-1559. --M.N.


Man's Other Best Friend

Classic Car Show
10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10
Little Anthony's Diner
7010 E. Broadway Blvd.
886-9428

Hybrid drivers, minivan mothers and classic car owners, unite! Once again, it's time for Little Anthony's nondiscriminatory car show.

"Anyone can enter their car," said Becky Gilmour, director of public relations for the Gaslight Theatre and Little Anthony's. "If you drive a minivan, have shag carpeting and want to show it off, that's fine by me."

With a plethora of categories, both specific (like the classic pre-1950s category) and interpretive (like the special-entry category), you're sure to find a place in this car show.

If your vehicular self-esteem is sorely lacking, skip out on the competition, but join in the festivities. With free kids' activities--including a jumping castle and a hula-hoop contest--and free music emceed by DJ John, this event is great for families.

"I think what draws people to this event is not only the fun '50s atmosphere, but the music and the community feeling," said Gilmour. "Also ... families can come, and they don't have to spend any money. That's so important in a time like this."

In fact, even registering your car to compete in the show is free. With Little Anthony's Diner nearby, all you'll need to pay for is lunch, if you so choose.

"The event really has a Happy Days feel," said Gilmour. "If you've ever seen the beginning of Happy Days, you'll see these classic cars driving up to this diner, and the '50s music is playing while people are getting their shakes. That's exactly what we have here--everything down to the black-and-white checkered tile."

To register your car for the Classic Car Show, arrive early--registration begins at 9 a.m. --M.N.


Christmas Eve With Kung Pao Chicken

18th Annual Tucson Jewish Film Festival
Opening night: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10
Praying With Lior: 2 and 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11
Tucson Jewish Community Center
3800 E. River Road
299-3000
tucsonjewishfilmfestival.org

With a smile across his face, Bob Polinsky, co-chairman of the Jewish Film Festival, asks where Jews dine on Christmas Eve.

"Well," he said, leaning forward. "One of the only restaurants open on Christmas Eve is the Chinese restaurant."

Hence the name of the Jewish Film Festival's opening-night celebration, Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, a live performance by comedian Lisa Geduldig. After Geduldig's routine, Polinsky and fellow co-chairman Bob Nichol will show the film Noodle, a comedy about a Chinese boy who is left at a flight attendant's house in Israel.

"It's really a light, touching comedy," said Polinsky of the film.

As in years past, the film festival--which runs through Jan. 22, with events also occurring on Feb. 15 and 22, and March 1--offers a diverse lineup of films, not just comedies.

On Sunday, Jan. 11, the festival will feature Praying With Lior, a documentary about a Jewish child with Down syndrome. The child's mother passes away from cancer, but not before she promises to hold a bar mitzvah for her son.

"We are really focusing that day (of the festival) on special needs across the community, whether you're Jewish or not," said Nichol. "In fact, one thing people ask me is, 'To go to the festival, do you have to be Jewish?' The answer is absolutely not."

Tickets for the opening-night event are $18 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and Jewish Community Center members. Tickets for Sunday, Jan. 11, are $9 for adults and $7 for students, seniors and JCC members. For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit the Web site; discounted tickets are available only at the JCC. --M.N.

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