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Night Crawlers 

The fun starts when the sun sets.

The smiles of a summer night in Tucson are easy to understand: At sunset the blazing sun yields to velvety darkness, cool air, starry skies and lots to do outdoors. This summer count on plenty of alfresco concerts, a Shakespeare play and even movies. Herewith is a selective list of arty evening activities; check listings throughout the summer for late additions.

· Michael Givens, artistic director of Tucson Community Theatre, brings the town its 14th annual free Shakespeare in the Park. If it doesn't have the stars of its namesake in New York's Central Park, at least it's got the playwright. Following last year's radical rendering of the tragedy of Macbeth, this year Givens gives us a classic version of the comedy Much Ado About Nothing at the DeMeester Performance Center in Reid Park.

"I'm going back to the roots," Givens says. "So many directors these days are doing Shakespeare contemporary. I'll go back to the 1600s as it was written."

The play, dating from 1599, is a love story spliced onto a tale of political revenge. Set among the Sicilian nobility, Much Ado has a quartet of young lovers and a villain, Don John, who tries to thwart true love by maliciously spreading lies about a lady. Typically Shakespearean bits of mistaken identity, nighttime balcony scenes and ribald witticisms help overturn this most ungentlemanly action.

"I play it for laughs," the director says. Simple sets have allowed him to invest his budget in elaborate Elizabethan costumes for the 32 actors. Shakespeare called for 21 players; Givens is adding an extra dozen who double as stagehands. He also found a way to make a Shakespearean in-joke. In the Bard's time, young boys played the women's parts. Givens is turning that cross-dressing on its head, deploying women in the minor male roles.

"A lot of women auditioned for the show. I thought, 'I'll have to do a reversal.' The watchmen are women dressed as men."

Much Ado About Nothing runs for five nights, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 20 through Sunday, June 24. Enter Reid Park from Country Club Road and find a place to sit in the grass under the stars. And don't forget, Givens advises, to "bring a chair and dinner." For more information call 791-4663.

· Cinema La Placita is already underway. A benefit for the restoration of downtown's Fox Theatre, the movies are offered on Thursday evenings in La Placita Village at Broadway and Church. The films are projected onto a large outdoor screen, beginning at sundown, around 7:30. The Manchurian Candidate, starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh, will be screened Thursday, May 24; Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, featuring Leigh and the NRA's own Charlton Heston, follows on Thursday, May 31. The May moviegoers get to vote on the June selections.

Admission is free but a $3 donation to the Fox is encouraged. La Placita provides chairs, and its restaurants remain open. The gathering place is a remnant of the old Plaza de la Mesilla, a 19th-century square chopped up during urban renewal but still marked by the original gazebo. The movies, says La Placita's Jane McCollum, are "a great way to give the plaza back to the people." The film series continues every Thursday until the evenings grow cold, which is to say, for a good long while. For information call 622-0077.

· Tohono Chul Park, at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, one stoplight west of Oracle on Ina Road, kicks off its summer from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 24 with Park after Dark. Jennifer Utsch demonstrates the making of her tin-can luminarias at the outdoor festival; Steel Jam gives a concert; kinetic artist Mat Bevel performs; art cars are displayed; kids register for the Tucson Pima Libraries summer reading program. Inside the Exhibit Hall, opening parties celebrate Farzad Nakhai's watercolor landscapes and the exhibition Re-Visions II: Art from Recycled Materials. The Tea Room stays open until 7 p.m. For reservations call 797-1222. For festival info call 742-6455.

· Downtown, the Tucson Arts District Partnership sponsors the last Thursday Night Artwalk of the season, along Congress Street between Stone and Toole, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 24. Galleries open their doors, ceramic artist Martina Thies performs, and--hey, kids--the puppeteers at Tucson Puppet Works put on a show. The monthly Downtown Saturday Night blazes into the night from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 2 with galleries and cafés open late, and performers strutting their stuff in the bus-free Ronstadt Transit Center at Sixth Avenue and Congress. A block south, at 172 E. Broadway Blvd., the Art Square Art Market has its season finale from 6 to 10 p.m. the same night, June 2. Artists sell their fine art, while Homero Ceron and his group provide improvisational tunes. Painter Aryen Hart and photographer Bill Beaver are the featured visual artists. Two weeks later, from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 16, artisans display their craft art at the Ronstadt Transit Center. As with Downtown Saturday Night, galleries and cafés stay open late, and entertainers perform live. For more info call the Partnership during office hours at 624-9977.

· The Tucson Jazz Society has taken the commendable step of moving its Summerset Suite 2001 concert series downtown, its original home. Its music jazzes up June's every Saturday night, with local and regional jazz, blues and Latin strains livening up La Placita Village. Jazz Society members get discounts and the chance to buy series tickets; non-members take their chances at the gate. All concerts are at 8 p.m. For info phone 903-1265 or check the Web site at www.tucsonjazz.org.

Novo Mundo, first up on Saturday, June 2, blames it on the bossa nova. Its music, hailing from Brazil, Cuba and Mexico, swings from sambas to salsa. Lead guitarist and percussionist Kay Peper sings in Portuguese, English and Spanish; she gets a little help from her friends Beth Lederman on keyboards and vocals, Felix Sainz on bass and vocals, Todd Chuba on drums and Joe Garcia on percussion. Members' tickets cost $6; non-members, $11.

The second annual Tucson Jazz Guitar Festival follows up on Saturday, June 9; its luminaries include Howard Wooten, Marshall Jones, Ed Delucia, Matt Mitchell and Dickie Thompson. Ed Friedland accompanies on bass with Fred Hayes on drums. Members $6; non-members $11.

Saturday, June 16 is Vocal Diva Night, with pianist and vocalist Susan Artemis, the Mary Baker and Jim Dixon duo, and Martha Reed, accompanied by guitarist Wooten. Members $6; non-members $11. Son Mayor, a hot LA salsa band, delivers contemporary Cuban rhythms on Saturday, June 23. Tickets are $8 members, $15 non-members.

Bad News Blues, a Tucson blues band, finishes up the series on Saturday, June 30. Tickets are $7 for Jazz and Blues Society members, $14 for non-members.

· Not to be outdone by the jazzists, Plaza Palamino stages its fourth annual Courtyard Concert Series, this year snagging, among others, Barbarito Torres of the Cuban Buena Vista Social Club. The Tucson Weekly's own Best of Tucson has twice named the place, at Swan and Fort Lowell, "best outdoor performance venue." The series offers concerts mostly every other Saturday night clear through September. All shows are at 8 p.m.; ticket prices vary. To charge by phone call 297-9133; the Web site is www.dotucson.com.

Here's a rundown of concerts: June 2, Statesboro, a blues and R&B band featuring Leon Kittrell; $12 advance, $15 at door. June 16, Barbarito Torres plays his 12-string lute; $25 advance, $27 at door. June 23, Slaid Cleaves plays Texas roots country; $12 advance, $15 at door.

July 7, Mad Pudding, of Vancouver, plays traditional and contemporary Celtic; $12 advance, $15 at door. July 21, Cerro Negro does flamenco rhumba rhythms; $12 advance, $15 at door. August 4, C.J. Chenier, the "Crown Prince of Zydeco," sets off a Louisiana dance party; $15 advance, $18 at door. August 18, the Burns Sisters sing folk and gospel harmonies; $12 advance, $15 at door.

September 1, Frog Mountain does bluegrass with Peter McLaughlin and friends; $12 advance, $15 at door. September 15, the Waybacks, a San Francisco acoustic string band, debuts in Arizona with Tucson's own The Mollys; $12 advance, $15 at door.

· For those who like their summer music classical, the Arizona Symphonic Winds has already started up its Saturday-night concerts. Now in its 12th season, the free concert series led by László Veres continue at 7 p.m. each Saturday through June 9 at Udall Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. There's not much room for cars at Udall, so a free shuttle runs continuously from 6 p.m. on from the Tanque Verde Shopping Center, 7025 E. Tanque Verde, to the park. Bring chairs and a picnic. For information call 531-9836.

The Tucson Pops Orchestra is the winner in the summer longevity sweepstakes. This year marks its 46th summer of Music Under the Stars. Also conducted by Veres, the free concerts are at 7 p.m. every Sunday through June 17 in the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center at Reid Park. A shuttle delivers music lovers from the Randolph Park Golf Course parking lot on Alvernon just north of 22nd Street.

More by Margaret Regan

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