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Mesquite, Munchies and Music

Desert Harvesters' 10th Annual Mesquite Milling and Bake Sale Fiesta

9 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 18; Milling starts at 8 a.m.

Dunbar/Spring Community Garden, University Boulevard and 11th Avenue

Desertharvesters.org

Tucson may be in a desert, but when it comes to living off the land, there's more abundance here than most people think, said Desert Harvester Kimi Eisele. In fact, those crinkly pods that drop from mesquite trees found throughout the city can be ground into a nutritious, sweet and gluten-free flour, with the right equipment.

Desert Harvesters is a nonprofit that has provided information about growing and harvesting native plants, like those mesquite pods, since 1995. The fiesta is in its 10th year of celebrating all there is to love about desert eats.

Both seasoned harvesters and native-food novices will be on hand to mill mesquite pods, listen to music and enter raffles. There also will be short lectures that explain how to harvest the pods.

"We're hoping that will also inspire people to keep harvesting or start harvesting," Eisele said.

Hundreds of people have attended the event in past years. This year, three hammer mills will be in use to help reduce the wait. The pancake breakfast featured in earlier years has been replaced by a cash-only bake sale that showcases a variety of mesquite-based and other local foods. "It was more of a way of celebrating the diversity of foods and involving more community members," Eisele said.

Mesquite flour can be substituted in almost anything that is made with regular flour, such as Eisele's favorite, lemon-ginger cupcakes.

The Brambleberries, a bluegrass-influenced band, will provide musical entertainment for the millers.

"It'll be kind of like this down-home, Tucson-favorite celebration," Eisele said.

Attendance is free. Milling costs $2 per gallon of pods, with a $5 minimum. —M.D.


Masked in Silence

Mummenschanz

8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17

UA Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.

621-3341; uapresents.org

Mummenschanz turns 40 this year, but the eccentric theatrical show is far from being over the hill.

The name combines the German word for mimicking or disguising, and the French word for chance, said founding member Floriana Frassetto.

"It's fantastic how we made it with such a horrible title, because it almost sounds like a medicine," Frassetto said.

Frassetto was a classically trained actress who had practiced dance and mime while at school. She collaborated with two Swiss clowns to launch Mummenschanz in 1972.

The nonverbal show features performers in masks and unconventional costumes, some made of everyday objects like toilet paper and tubing. The Tucson show will feature 30 sketches that highlight three distinctive styles from the group's four decades.

In the 1970s, the group started out with masks and smaller costumes. A popular favorite were clay masks that the performers manipulate onstage to comedic affect.

"We wanted to bring a message—a creative and evocative and stimulating message—to our audience," Frassetto said.

During the '80s, hair got bigger, and so did the group's costumes, as they incorporated inflatable elements. Then, in the 2000s, the group started using handheld props. Throughout, Mummenschanz sought to provide a show that was unique and playful.

The show has traveled around the world, and members have appeared on The Muppet Show.

"We never imagined or pretended that it would last so long or that we would be accepted and loved all over the world, but that has occurred," Frassetto said. "Every day, it's very emotional and very touching for us."

Tickets range from $25 to $50, withdiscounts available. —M.D.


Spontaneous Movement

Seasonal Treasures

7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 2; no shows Thanksgiving week

Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, 1713 E. University Blvd.

621-1162; tickets.arizona.edu

"I don't want to wake up and know exactly what's going to happen," said choreographer and UA dance professor Douglas Nielsen. "I look for the surprise."

With that premise, it's easier to understand his newest work, "Quadance," one segment of the Seasonal Treasures show. The piece is a collaboration with the UA School of Music and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Cage with a performance of four Cage compositions.

Because Cage was fascinated by the element of chance, an audience member will determine the sequence of the music and the choreography each night before the dance is performed. The dance consists of 25 individual sections.

The piece incorporates a touch of theater: At one point, two male dancers shout at each other onstage. Other dancers whisk large wooden boards on and off the stage. At times, it's chaotic.

"I wanted a little danger," Nielsen said. "It created this wonderful spatial awareness and also a danger, a risk. Sometimes, dances are all so choreographed, it looks like there is no possibility for an accident."

Nielsen lives by the rule that an interruption is only part of the process. "As soon as you put people together, we're working together," Nielsen said.

Other pieces in the show include "A Soldier's Tale," which will return to the stage after debuting at the local Stravinsky festival. Students will also show off their own choreography in a faculty-curated segment of the show.

"The student work in itself is marvelous," Nielsen said. "The students here are so imaginative and creative in their concepts."

Tickets are $25 for adults; $23 for seniors, military and UA employees; and $12 for students. —M.D.


Desserts for a Cause

Sweet Charity

6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16

Plaza Colonial Shopping Center, 2870 E. Skyline Drive

797-3959; www.saaca.org

Reality TV is flooded with cooking-competition shows. Now, the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance is hosting its own cook-off—and it's perfect for people with a sweet tooth.

Sweet Charity is a dessert competition benefiting local charities with ties to the arts.

"We wanted Tucson to experience the local culinary arts through dessert," said Chelsey Killebrew, communications specialist at SAACA. "At the same time, they'll be supporting arts-education programs and therapeutic arts programs."

SAACA is a nonprofit whose goal is to engage people in arts and culture. Members believe arts education is important to creating a well-rounded community, and they focus on making sure that art classes both in and outside of schools stay alive.

"When children have art in their lives from an early age, they usually do better in all other subjects," Killebrew said. "Then, as adults, their minds open up in all sorts of different ways because of that first exposure to artistic freedom."

The dessert competition has drawn some of Tucsonans' favorite restaurants and bakeries, as well as students from the Art Institute of Tucson's culinary-arts program. Among those participating are Trucking Good Cupcakes, Mimi's Café, Old Pueblo Grill and Campus Candy.

Attendees will be able to sample desserts ranging from cookies to cupcakes to cakes and mousses, along with sweet cocktails and wines, and then vote for their favorite desserts. Categories include Best Presentation, Most Creative and Sweetest of the Sweet.

"We hope everyone who comes leaves knowing that it is important to support the arts, whether it's fashion or culinary," Killebrew said. "Art is a constant component in our lives, and we wanted to showcase that at this event."

Admission is $55. —I.T.

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