DESERT STORIES. The prolific Gary Nabhan is at it again. Ethnobiologist and Tucsonan Nabhan, has long worked on conservation issues of indigenous cultures and plants. For his new book he's teamed up with photographer Mark Klett to produce the excellent Desert Legends: Re-storying the Sonoran Borderlands. Nabhan has written, "Our goal is to assure people that deserts aren't empty places or wastelands: they are home to rich, dynamic communities." To that end, the book explores the habitat of the area; night-blooming cereus plants, tiny mescal gardens planted for the Virgin Mary, the mud homes that grow in the desert. Klett captures the land under siege with images of pesticide spraying, overpopulation and waste dumping.
At 4 p.m. today at the mesmerizing Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Nabhan will read, and local musician John Thompson adds his wry desert songs to the occasion. The event is free with museum admission.
Entry fees are $8.95 for adults 13 and over, $1.75 for kids six to 12 and free for cactus nubs under 6. The museum is located at 2021 N. Kinney Road. Call 883-2702 for more information.
DANCING SQUARES. Get your left alamandes and star throughs in order because it's time to dance your squares and do-si-do with the best of them, starting at 7:30 tonight plum through 11 p.m. Saturday. And if you're more of a watcher than a whirler, you're invited to look all you want.
Mildred Rebels, who has been dancing for 10 years, says you'll see folks from all over the world at this event, which, by the way, is non-competitive. "It's just a get-together," she says.
So what the heck is a "star through" anyway? "The lady takes her left hand and the man has his right hand and turns a quarter to the right and she does a three-quarter turn to the right under his arm." Well, we're lost. But we remember the "swing your partner" part from grade school.
Best part of the event is that for $1 you can get in to all events for the whole weekend. If you want to dance, you can register at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave., where the dancing goes down. For more information call 791-4101.
QUILT CITY. "Quilters no longer cut fabric up with scissors," says Meg Zechiel of the Tucson Quilters Guild. "They use these fancy rulers and rotary cutters that look like pizza cutters. It has really revolutionized quilting." And you thought you weren't going to learn anything today.
Quilt rulers are just some of the tools available as the Tucson Quilters Guild holds its annual show from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday. There will be 150 quilts on display, including the fascinating "challenge quilts," where each quilter is given one-half yard of identical fabric and told to make a quilt that goes along with the show's theme, "Floral Fantasy." The queen-sized raffle quilt by Pat Brundage is not to be missed. If you win this, you've got an heirloom on your hands.
You can also bring those patchworks your grandmother gave you and, for a $25 fee, a professional quilt appraiser will give you an estimate of their value.
This show is quilter's heaven. Take it in downtown at the Tucson Convention Center's upstairs meeting rooms, 260 S. Church Ave. Admission is a $2 donation for the 16 and over crowd. For more information call 744-0930.
GREATER TUNA. The people of Tuna, Texas, are, shall we say, a small town bunch. "I don't want to say they have small minds, but they are definitely people with small-minded ideas," says Robin Aaberg, director of this enormously popular comedy, written by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard.
The play had such success for METAtheatre last summer that they decided to bring it back for a special Tucson tuna treat. Two actors, Neal Racioppo and Keith DeGreen, Jr., play all of the parts, necessitating an incredible 43 costume changes--some while they're still speaking. Aaberg says this nerve-wracking adventure is facilitated by "four outstanding dressers," who get the job done.
Get to know Tuna and all its inhabitants at 8 tonight through Sunday, with 2 p.m. matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday at the Temple of Music and Art's Cabaret Theatre, 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $10 with some discounts available. Call 882-8446 for reservations.
PUBLISH IT. Books are for reading, and if no one ever publishes your fine book, how can anyone read it for crying out loud? What you need to know about book publishing is all under one cover today at Cultivating Books in the Desert, an annual Tucson book publishing conference.
There will be sessions to turn to like "Books in Cyberspace," which promises to lead you into the realm of how books and electronic media influence each other. Then get into some craft with "Deskilling: The Disappearance of Classical Book Crafts." Other lively sessions look at feminist book publishing and the virtual office. The conference will give you a chance to mingle with bookies while debating, questioning and celebrating books. There are many excellent presenters, including Charles Tatum, editor of New Chicano/Chicana Writing and poet Ofelia Zepeda, who will be on the "Celebrating Ethnicity in Books" panel. Charles Bowden, author of Killing the Hidden Waters, and historian Bernard Fontana will clue you in on writing about this region. Award-winning author Gary Nabhan is the keynote speaker.
Register for the conference from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. today at the Hotel Park Tucson, 5151 E. Grant Road. Admission is $50 for Tucson Book Publishing Association members, $75 for non-members. For more information call 749-9119.
DOWNTOWN WINTER. If you want to go walking in a winter wonderland, go back to Minnesota, or wherever your colorful license plate says you're from. Here it's warm, and the Arizona Pathfinders' historic tours will show you the vital downtown neighborhoods by foot. For an inside look on where downtown was and where it might go, a walking tour is the way to go. Call 624-9977 for tour information. Or, for a different treat, do the Old Pueblo Trolley Tour from 10 a.m. to noon. For trolley jollies, meet at the Arizona Historical Society, 949 E. Second St. Call 622-0956 for reservations.
And as long as you're peering into the past, not to mention other people's homes, you can also find out what the world is made of. Hear The Story of the Atom With Madame Curie, on the hour from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Tucson Children's Museum, 200 S. Sixth Ave. Call 792-9985 for more information.
Tonight hear poet and musician Jamison Mahto read his poetry in the spirit of the Native American oral tradition. Mahto, a Lakota/Anishinabe/Flathead will read at 7:30 and 9:30 at Central Arts, 188 E. Broadway. As always, the alleys during Downtown Saturday Night will be warmed with music, and The Sweet Adelines harmonize the night away at the Ronstadt Transit Center.
LETTICE AND LOVAGE. "Lettice Douffet," says the Invisible Theatre's Susan Claassen, "is a unique and eccentric woman who is a tour guide in the dullest house in London." Uh oh, tourist hell, we're thinking, having been stuck on a few rather painful tours ourselves. But this tour guide is on a mission learned from her mother: "To enlarge, enliven and enlighten," says Claassen. "She embellishes what happened there because nothing ever happened there and the people love it."
But when word of "bizarre inaccuracies" get back to one Lotte Schoen, from the Preservation Trust, a confrontation takes place, followed by the formation of an unusual relationship. Claassen says the women, who have come out of equally unusual childhoods, are linked by their wonderful imaginations and the fact that they are "somewhat misplaced in the modern world."
Claassen stars as the language-loving Lettice. "It's a really different role for me in that it's an unanimated person," laughs the almost-always-animated Claassen. Glenda Young stars as Lotte.
Playwright Peter Shaffer, whose career has moved in great sweeps from farcical plays like Black Comedy, to the important Equus and Amadeus, has given to Lettice and Lovage his "wonderful sense of character, language and humanity," says Claassen.
Lettice and Lovage is on the IT stage, 1400 N. First Ave., through February 12. Today's 2 p.m. performance is a benefit for the True Sisters, an organization that funds educational projects and rehabilitation hospitals. Tickets are $12. $9 preview performances are Monday and Tuesday, January 23 and 24. The show opens Wednesday, January 25. Regular tickets are $12 and $14. For more information call 882-9721.
ARCHAEOLOGY TOUR. It's hard to stumble on petroglyphs or figure out where the remains of downtown's ancient village are unless somebody tells you. Better than that, the Center for Desert Archaeology will take you there on one of their many fine tours.
This non-profit organization offers half-day tours to places like King's Canyon and Picture Rocks, where you can see numerous pieces of rock art, some from ancient Hohokam artists. The downtown tour will help you understand this burg didn't pop up overnight; there are, according to the Center, 30 centuries of history down there.
Half-day and full-day tours are available. Call 881-2244 for price information, including group rates for three or more, and reservations.
ALL SOUPED UP. The Campbell Soup Company, having inspired Pop Art king Andy Warhol with its tomato soup can, gives even a bit more to art and object lovers, with its traveling exhibition, Kings and Queens and Soup Tureens, currently on display through March 12 at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.
The Campbell Museum of Camden, New Jersey, has an extensive collection of soup tureens, and the TMA will be showing 40 of them, including the unusual and decorative tureen that was part of a large dinner service made for the marriage of Prince Frederick of the Netherlands to Princess Louise of Prussia in 1825. This piece radiates scenes of Berlin on its ornate body. Many of the antique porcelain and precious-metal vessels on display once belonged to other royal family members, including Catherine the Great and Queen Charlotte.
TMA will be collecting cans of soup in the lobby for the Community Food Bank. There is no admission fee today. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 624-2333.
PATRICIA HAMPL. Launching the Spring Reading Series of the University of Arizona Poetry Center tonight is a woman who received a McArthur Fellowship in 1990, has edited an anthology due out this year of sacred poetry of the West (which includes Judaism, Christianity and Islam), and is headed to Prague as a Fulbright Fellow this spring. Did we mention the opera libretti she wrote? Or that her last three books were termed "notable" by The New York Times Book Review?
We don't know what Patricia Hampl does in her spare time, but we're glad she's stopping in our desert for a read. UA Poetry Center director Alison Deming says the busy Hampl is a poet who has been working in prose in her last three books. She says her most recent book of prose, Virgin Time, explores Hampl's Catholic childhood. "It's a very thoughtful and intelligent book about faith," says Deming. "She is trying to figure out how one can be a person of faith if one is also a sophisticated skeptic. The book is equally smart in talking about a trip to Italy and an inner journey to find what spirituality and religion mean in her life." Deming finds the book particularly interesting for the many people now trying to find a place for spirituality in their hectic lives.
Hampl's free reading will be at 8 tonight in the UA's Modern Languages Auditorium. For more information call 321-7760.
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