That makes summer nighttime fun time in the Old Pueblo. Indoors arts events slow down, but outside is hopping, with everything from monsoon-viewing at the Desert Museum to jazz in plazas to Shakespeare in the Park drawing cabin-bound Tucsonans out of their AC and away from their swamp coolers. What follows is a selective, and by no means exhaustive, sampling of sizzlin' summer events; keep abreast by consulting newspaper listings for new events that spring up each year like toads after the summer monsoon rains.
Cinema La Placita starts a summertime of free reeling of classic movies this evening, May 18, at La Placita, the florescent-colored complex at Broadway and Church Avenue downtown. Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant are the star-crossed trio in The Philadelphia Story, in which assorted nighttime romps derail a society wedding. The flick begins at 7:30 p.m., outdoors in the gazebo plaza off Broadway, the one part of the complex that still has a few historic buildings from Tucson's earliest days. (Check out the old stables just south of the gazebo plaza.) Screen, chairs and projector all will be set up. The free movies continue Thursday evenings throughout the summer and on into the fall, "weather permitting," says Erica O'Dowd, La Placita marketing director. Through June, O'Dowd has selected movies on the theme of "cute couple." Funded by a city downtown project grant, the series offers Charade, May 15; His Girl Friday, June 1; It Happened One Night, June 8; Breakfast at Tiffany's, June 15; Annie Hall, June 22; and Harold and Maude, June 29. The complex's restaurants will remain open for dinner each Thursday. Donations are welcome for downtown arts projects, including restoration of the Historic Fox Tucson Theater. For information, call 623-2748.
This Saturday is the third Saturday of the month, which for 10 years in Tucson has meant Downtown Saturday Night. Now it's metamorphosed into Third Saturday Craft Market, to be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Ronstadt Transit Center, Sixth Avenue and Congress Street. The Steel Jam reggae band will preside over vendors offering strictly handmade craft items, as well as the usual food booths. Run by the Tucson Arts District Partnership, Third Saturday is meant to be a smaller and cheaper version of the familiar Downtown Saturday Night.
DSN, explains Mary Glenn of the Partnership, had become a "resource drainer," limiting the non-profit's ability to put its money into such projects as artists' studios and gallery stabilization. "But people love this event," and when the Partnership moved to curtail it, a public outcry and harrumphs from City Council forced a creative compromise. The full-scale Downtown Saturday Night, complete with open galleries, blocks and blocks of free street theatre, music and dance, and meandering crowds, will continue as is on the first Saturday of each month from 7 to 10 p.m. June 3 will feature live readings of radio plays by local playwright Rich Amada, with actors stationed in storefront windows, their voices piped out to the crowds outside. Barbea Williams Performing Company, The Tragidiots, and The Street Minstrels will offer drumming, dance, theatre and music, while Native American storytellers weave tales. The Art Square Fine Art Market, in its season finale, provides artists selling their wares at the outdoor market at 172 E. Broadway Blvd., between Fifth and Sixth avenues, operating from 5 to 10 p.m. on June 3. The Third Saturday Craft Market returns on Saturday, June 17.
The Partnership's Thursday ArtWalk ends for the season on Thursday, May 18. Participants meet at the Partnership office at 5:30 p.m. and meander through galleries in the Arts District, with Annie Bunker of Orts Theatre of Dance offering a performance at Dinnerware Gallery. Later in the summer, look for a participatory Independence Day parade to wend its way into Downtown Saturday Night on July 1. For more information, call 624-9977.
Arizona Symphonic Winds offers its 11th season of free music under the stars at Udall Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. Under the direction of László Veres, the orchestra pairs with assorted soloists at each of the four Saturday evening concerts. At the opening concert this Saturday, May 20, some gifted teens play: violinist Nora Evans-Reitz and trumpeter Justin Jewitt. On May 27, trombonist Steve Gamble solos; on June 3, it's vocalist Betty Craig; and at the finale on June 20, Elana Weber solos on clarinet. The free concerts are at 7 p.m. A free shuttle runs continuously to the park from the Mac Frugal's store in the Tanque Verde Shopping Center, 7025 E. Tanque Verde Road. Shuttles start at 6 p.m. For more information, call 531-9836.
The Tucson Botanical Gardens is always a green oasis in hot midtown, but the lyrical language of two poets make it even more refreshing this Sunday evening. Poetry in the Gardens, nicknamed The PIG Readings, begins at 6 p.m. in the Gardens at 2150 N. Alvernon Way. Co-sponsored by the UA Extended University Writing Works Center, the last reading in the series offers Simon Ortiz and David Ray. Ortiz, poet, storyteller, essayist and editor, is a Tucsonan who grew up in Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. His latest books, both published by the University of Arizona Press, are Speaking for the Generations: Native Writers on Writing and After and Before the Lightning. Ray, the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, most recently published Demons in the Diner with Ashland Poetry Press. The founding editor of New Letter magazine and its radio counterpart, New Letters on the Air, Ray has won a string of prizes, including the William Carlos Williams Award and the Maurice English Poetry Award, and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize.
The $5 admission to the poetry reading also gets you into the garden; poetry lovers can arrive as early as 4:30 p.m. to wander among the cool green paths. Food and beverages are provided. Tickets are available at the gardens gift shop, Bentley's, Antigone Books and the Book Stop. For more information, call 626-2235.
The Plaza Palomino Courtyard Concert Series careens into its third season with a Folk Blues Summit in two acts on Saturday, May 27. Geoff Muldaur, a folk blues legend from the early days of the Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s, explores the roots of American music from blues to folk, gospel, jazz and rock. A collaborator of Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Garcia, Paul Butterfield and others, he's a musicologist as well as a singer and arranger. Muldaur is followed by Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, an acclaimed acoustic blues duo who play slide guitar, harmonica and mandolin. The concert, the first of a summer's worth of Saturday night offerings in the courtyard, begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, at Plaza Palomino, at Fort Lowell and Swan roads. Tickets are $16 at the door, and $14 in advance at Hear's Music, Antigone Books, Orange Grove Brew and Vine, and Enchanted Earthworks. Charge by phone at 297-9133.
Scheduled for the rest of the summer: Nuevo Wavo Dance Party with Joe "King" Carrasco, June 3; tribute to Janis Joplin with Vicki Tama, June 17; Sonny Rhodes, King of Lap Steel Guitar, July 1; bluegrass by Frog Mountain Trio with Titan Valley Warheads, July 15; flamenco rumba rhythms by Cerro Negro, July 29; songwriter showcase with Lucy Kaplansky and Ana Egge; roots rock with Sister Morales, August 26; contemporary New Orleans jazz by Astral Project, September 2; and New Orleans blues by Mem Shannon, September 16.
If you're stuck in town for the summer, Island Hoppin' at the TMA will let you pretend you're cruising the Caribbean. Wear your tropical clothes and dance the salsa, merengue and rumba in the outdoor courtyards of the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave., from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 3. Alan Michaels of 92.9 COOL-FM is emcee for an evening of music by the University of Arizona Steel Drum Band and the Descarga Latin Dance Band. Island-themed finger foods and two drinks are covered by the $30 admission ticket ($25 for TMA members). Proceeds go to the museum's children's programming. For more information, call the museum at 624-2333.
If you want to celebrate the desert instead of the South Seas, head out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road. Saturday, June 3, is the first of the museum's desert Summer Saturday Nights, magical events that open up the desert's nighttime wonders. The museum stays open until 10 p.m. every Saturday from June 3 through the end of September. "It's a way to discover the desert softly and gently," says Rich Dulaney of the museum's education department. Visitors are guided along the museum's dark paths by tiny lights, and docents wander around with flashlights pointing out the night hawks flying overhead or even rattlers rustling among the cacti. Assorted temporary stations are set up for nighttime teaching. Bat detectors "pick up the sounds of bats via ultrasonic sound," Dulaney says. "As a bat flies over you can hear a clicking sound." The Black Light Station attracts all manner of glittery desert bugs to a sheet hung up on a clothesline. The Moth Garden offers good evening views of the hawk moth, almost as big as a hummingbird. Like many nocturnal desert creatures, the coati "are more active at night." Ensconced in their new riparian habitat, the critters will reliably entertain visitors by splashing in their pool and climbing trees. And if the monsoons sweep in, visitors can take advantage of the museum's many shelters to watch the sky show. "The visibility is about 100 miles across the desert," Dulaney says. "It's a terrific spot to watch the monsoons. They generally start off in the distance. Some nights we'll have the telescopes out."
The museum's regular summer hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours until 10 p.m. Saturdays beginning June 3. Admission is $8.95 for ages 13 and up, $1.75 for ages 6 to 12. The restaurant and snack bars stay open late on Saturdays. For more information, call 883-1280.
Tohono Chul Park, a northwest-side desert park, opens its doors late just a few nights each summer. Bloom Night celebrates the once-a-year-flowering of the night-blooming cereus. "It's a big, white flower, about 4 to 5 inches across," says spokeswoman April Bourie. "It blooms only in the evening; by morning it's pretty much spent. The sphinx moth pollinates it, and it smells wonderful." On designated Bloom Nights (the park actually had three last summer, as the flowers don't all bloom at once), Tohono Chul stays open until midnight. The paths are lighted by luminarias, and docents guide visitors around. Cereus lovers are advised to stay alert to newspaper and TV announcements of the impending blossoming, which can take place anywhere from late May to early August. Starting May 20, the park will activate a Bloom Night hotline at 575-8468. Or you can call Bourie and ask to be put on her e-mail list for late-breaking cereus news. The park is at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, one stoplight west of Ina and Oracle roads.
Bats and lizards and snakes will be celebrated across town in Reid Park during Summer Shakespeare in the Park, June 21-25, though the rest of the fauna to be lionized will be Scottish rather than Sonoran. The Second Witch in The Tragedy of Macbeth will intone: "Fillet of a fenny snake, / In the cauldron boil and bake; / Eye of newt and toe of frog, / Wool of bat and tongue of dog, / Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, / Lizard's leg and howlet's wing, / For a charm of powerful trouble, / Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Shakespeare's Scottish play will be undertaken by Tucson Community Theatre of the Tucson Parks and Recreation at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, June 21 through 25, at the DeMeester Performance Center in the park; the entrance is on Country Club Road just north of 22nd Street. Directed by David Felix, the play stars an array of local thespians. Theatergoers are advised to bring low chairs or blankets to spread on the center's grassy knoll; some concessions will offer refreshments but old hands bring their own picnic in a cooler. Then they can stretch out and ponder the beauteous summer stars, which offer a wondrous counterpoint to Macbeth's lament on life's futility: "Out, out brief candle! / Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage / and then is heard no more."
Festivity-loving Tucsonans can cheer up after the tragedy at still another outdoor party, Tucson in Space, complete with free hot dogs and beer, at Obsidian Gallery, in St. Philip's Plaza, suite 90, 4340 N. Campbell Ave. Scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 1, Tucson in Space is the kick-off event for an invitational art show. Thirty artists, including such locals as Charlotte Bender, Aurore Chabot, Simon Donovan and Karl Vidstrand, are providing paintings, sculptures, mixed media, ceramics and jewelry, all on the immortal theme of "Tucson's summer skies--lights flashing, stars sparkling." The show continues through Saturday, September 9. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; call 577-3598 for information.