Thursday 19

BATTLING A BROAD. Gaslight Theatre is back in rollicking form with Zeena! Warrior Princess, or The Battle for the Blue Crystal.

Doomsday is at hand, as the forces of good and evil clash over the mysterious, all powerful Blue Crystal. Is it a Class Nine narcotic, or just an opiate for the high and mighty? Time will tell. Either way, if it falls into the hands of the Evil Sorceress, this crystal could signal the world's finale. Mankind's only hope, of course, is Zeena, Warrior Princess, as she battles insurmountable odds to capture the treasure for her own chest, so to speak.

Penned by Peter Van Slyke, with music by Lisa Otey, the monumental melodrama stars Gaslight regulars Joe Cooper, John Brownlee, Brooke Davis, Dan Gunther, Tim Gilbert, Betsy Kruse, Nancy LaViola, Robert Shaw and Van Slyke himself.

Tonight's preview is at 8 p.m. The production opens at 8 p.m. Friday, August 20, and continues through October 30 in the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway. Show time is 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13.95, $11.95 for students, seniors and military, and $6 for children ages 12 and under. For reservations, call 886-9428.

Friday 20

EXOTIC INTERLUDE. Grupo Ban Rra Rra brings the exotic to our humble shores with Afro-Cubismo!, a three-day series of hip-shaking workshops, topped by a riveting live performance.

Rra Rra's energetic dancers and drummers hail from Guantanamo, Cuba, where they all graduated from the National School of Arts. Their work comes directly from the artistic folkways of eastern Cuba, and is considered the finest of the Cuban-Haitian style. The San Francisco Bay Guardian calls their hypnotic, fast-paced choreography "a fascinating dance experience."

Today's workshop, and those continuing through the weekend, meet from 4 to 9 p.m. in the UA Ina Gittings Building, on the UA mall between Campbell and Cherry avenues. Cost is $15 per class, with discounts for multiple classes. For schedules and other information, call 327-3663.

Grupo Ban Rra Rra performs at 9 p.m. Saturday, August 21, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are $10, available at Hear's Music, Guitars Etc., Instrumental Music Center, Zip's University, The Congress Street Store, and at the workshops. Tickets will be $12 at the door. For details, call 740-0126.

PERSONAL POETICS. Jack Evans is past-president of the Arizona State Poetry Society, current director of the MARS Artspace in downtown Phoenix (a regular host of poetry readings), and a wordsmith in the jazz-riff tradition.

Here's a taste: "No Billy Graham/to talk us through/our national nervous breakdowns. No bread. No wine. No transfiguration. No plastic crèches and/silicon saints. Just Jesus smiling/that world weary smile/and trying to catch a bus to Tucson" (from The Gospel According to St. Stephen).

Evans catches his own bus to Tucson as the featured guest of the Make a Date with a Poet series, starting at 6 p.m. in the New Life Café, 4841 E. Speedway. An open reading follows. For information, call 881-5180.

Saturday 21

CRITTER WITH A CLUE. Who's black and tan, stands five inches high, and is celebrating her fourth birthday? None other than Emily, house pig (of the guinea variety) at Clues Unlimited bookstore in the Broadway Village Center.

Besides being a gumshoe mascot, Emily is also a prime fund-raiser for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. It's no coincidence that this birthday party coincides with Homeless Animal Day, a national event recognizing the plight of the millions of domesticated animals who die homeless each year.

Emily and her caretakers and guests celebrate the society's efforts to alleviate such suffering with on-site adoptions of small critters, and a raffle of great stuff from Pantania's Jewelry Store, The Cottage Bakery, The Aroma Tree, Clues Unlimited and the Humane Society.

The action runs from noon to 5 p.m. at Clues Unlimited, 16 Broadway Village, at Broadway and Country Club Road. Call 326-8533 for details.

SUMMER STROLL. Explore the summertime desert the only way it should be -- early in the morning -- when the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum hosts a refreshing hike through nearby canyonlands.

Along the way, docents will help search for tracks and other signs of wildlife, examine rocks containing fragments from the prehistoric past, identify native plants and wildflowers, and otherwise enjoy a bit of fresh air.

"These are really neat hikes," says museum spokeswoman Barbara Yates. "There will also be sites set up along the way to explain what people are seeing."

The hike runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Participants will meet at the ASDM, 2021 N. Kinney Road. Cost is $15, or $13.50 for museum members. Call 883-3025 for details.

Sunday 22

DRIVING VISION. Get outta town and soak up a little culture with a visit to the Jade Horse Gallery, nestled in the great hill country near Sonoita.

This cool rural outpost features changing exhibits of life-like sculptures carved in wood or cast in bronze. A rotation of work by local artists is always on display, including dinosaurs by Charles McGrady and sculptures by Julian Morillo. And then there's the namesake: an amazing 175-pound jade horse.

To reach the Jade Horse Gallery, 473 Elgin Road, take I-10 east to the Sonoita exit, turning south on Highway 83. Drive east from Sonoita on Highway 82, to the Elgin turn-off. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For information, call (520) 455-9395.

HOLE LOTTA FUN. Ever ponder those mysterious little holes dotting the desert floor? Are they made by wild-eyed aliens, timid miners, or a million clandestine pogo sticks?

Wonder no more. Today local author Pinau Merlin uncovers the real critters and creatures behind a variety of subterranean shenanigans with a discussion of her new book, A Field Guide to Desert Holes.

Merlin's talk and booksigning run from 2 to 4 p.m. at Barnes and Noble Bookstore, 5130 E. Broadway. Call 512-1166 for details.

Monday 23

FAR-FLUNG VISIONS. If you think fine art is only generated in the bosom of urbanity, think again. Big visions from the far-flung provinces make their way into downtown Tucson at the annual T/PAC-hosted Artists of Rural Pima County exhibit.

This eclectic show highlights budding masters from as close as Green Valley, and as distant as the burgs of Ajo and Arivaca. "It's an opportunity for artists to exhibit work which otherwise might not be noted," says Maryjane Dorofachuk, the show's coordinator. "Many are emerging talents, and the type of work really varies."

Artists of Rural Pima County runs through September 17, with an opening reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 26, in the T/PAC Community Gallery, 240 N. Stone Ave. Regular gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For details, call 624-0595.

Tuesday 24

DANCE ACROSS THE PUEBLO. Barbea Williams is a one-woman dance institution, and the busy local has just returned fully charged from the second annual International Reunion of the African Family in Venezuela.

The pilgrimage has reportedly left Williams even more energized to spread the gospel of movement to the hometown masses, and she's tackling the task with a vibrant roster of dance classes.

Once such cultural excursion is "Returning to Bronzeville" (the southside Chicago community that ranked among America's most affluent African-American outposts during its heyday). This commemorative class is part of a series of classes focusing on African-American jazz dances, including the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, and other styles from the '20s, '30s and '40s. They're open for teens and adults, and meet from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Children ages 6 to 11 are invited to learn African American Jazz Tap (Dunham Technique) from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, and 10 to 11 a.m. Saturdays. For tikes ages 3 to 5, Williams also leads pre-African, pre-ballet, and creative dance lessons from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Saturdays, and West African and Brazilian dance classes for beginners of all ages from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

Afro-Cuban Drum Technique is offered from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Saturdays; and West African, Brazilian and Cuban dance classes meet from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

All classes meet in the Sixth Street Art Studios, 44 W. Sixth St. For costs, registration and other information, call 628-7785.

Wednesday 25

BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS. They call themselves Testament, and they're a group that "rocks like mutherf**kers and isn't afraid to show their sensitive side."

Tender or terrorizing, they're pounding a thunderous path to Zia's Speedway store for an in-store session prior to tonight's show at the Rialto Theater. May God smite you if you miss this chance to meet the band and grab an autograph or two.

Witness Testament for free at 4 p.m. at Zia Record Exchange, 3370 E. Speedway. Call 327-3440 for details.

The big show tonight starts at 7 p.m. in the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Tickets are $17, available at the Rialto Theatre, Zia's on Oracle, Zip's University, Strictly CDs, Sticks 'N' Strings, and by calling 740-0126. They'll cost a few more bucks at the door.

WORLD'S AWAY. Now a decade since its creation, perceptions of Biosphere 2 have shifted away from being a mysterious bastion of esoteric wackos, and more toward that of a respected research outpost for Columbia University.

Today, 32 hands-on demonstrations reveal crucial facts about the sealed ecosystem. Nestled among three rolling acres on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the facility is home to a million-gallon ocean containing replicated corral reefs. There's also a savannah, a marsh, a farm and a desert representative of our own. All of these environments are intertwined, just like in the big world outside. Net result: today, there's plenty to learn beyond the internecine squabbles of an otherworldly little cult.

Tours run daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Biosphere 2 is located on Highway 77, milepost 96.5, west of the town of Oracle. Admission is $12.95, $8.95 for teens ages 13 to 17, $6 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children ages 5 and under. For details, call (520) 896-6200.

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