DICKENS HAD A HAND IN THIS ONE. Well, his story, Pickwick Papers, is the real inspiration for Live Theater Workshop's A Pickwick Christmas in Dingley Dell opening tonight and continuing through Sunday.
Take a delightful romp through the English countryside and meet all the colorful Dickens' characters including Old Mr. Wardle, Arabella Allen, Sam Weller, Tracy Tupman and, of course, the corpulent Mr. Pickwick.
Accompanying LTW's artistic director James Mitchell Gooden on the piano is Dr. Steve Keyl. Hear some songs, watch some dance and participate in the whole production--yes, you will join in. Show times are 7 p.m. tonight, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday with an additional 3 p.m. matinee on the last day of the run. The theater is located at 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets cost $12 to $14. Call 327-4242 for reservations or information.
ARBOREAL DELIGHTS AT NIGHT. Spend winter solstice and the full moon in a magical stroll amidst desert trees. Saguaro National Park East volunteers offer a 90-minute tour beginning at 6, 7 or 8 p.m. tonight.
The focus of the tour is the natural history and human lore of four symbolic trees. The paloverde and saguaro, both unique to the Sonoran Desert, serve as symbols--the state tree and state flower respectively. The mesquite and the tamarisk, often thought of as lowly weeds, have their own stories to tell about the lives of desert animals and human settlers. You'll get introduced to these trees at intervals along the one-mile night walk.
Come with your own water and flashlights (and adequate night vision, of course). Bring the kids (but you must hike with them). The tour is sponsored by both districts of Saguaro National Park.
It's free, but you need to make reservations by calling the visitor center at 733-5153.
POST-MENOPAUSAL AND CONFIDENT AS HELL. The Raging Grannies sing songs with an attitude. (And you'd expect anything else?)
The group sings along with Tucson's Troubadour, Ted Warmbrand, and audience members. It's sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Bring a dish to share plus an unwrapped gift for the daycare center at Borderlink's Casa Misericordia for infants of maquiladoras in Nogales, Mexico.
The free concert begins at noon and takes place at the Quaker Meeting House located at 931 N. Fifth Ave. Call with questions at 622-5743.
PAMELA'S BACK. Joy Harjo has described this poet's work "a sensual garden."
Pamela Uschuk sneaks back to her former hometown this week to read from her newest book of poetry, One-Legged Dancer, just published on Wings Press. The cover photograph explains the title.
Uschuk was a recipient of the Tucson/Pima Arts Council Literary Award when she lived here and the 2001 International Poetry Prize. Her first book of poetry, Finding Peaches in the Desert, drew critical raves. Hence Harjo's description of Uschuk's poems as gifts of the earth: " ... from peaches to lizards to rich earth that soaks up the spilled blood of history."
Fans can look forward to hearing more gems as they spill from the poet's lips herself at 2 p.m. at Reader's Oasis, 3400 E. Speedway Blvd. Catch her now before she goes back East. For details, call 319-7887.
NIGHTY NIGHT. Winter Dreams is the newest release on Canyon Records featuring a trio of musicians: multiple Grammy nominees R. Carlos Nakai, William Eaton and Will Clipman.
Winter Dreams Solstice Concert is an intimate evening of traditional holiday music arranged for Native American flute, lyraharp guitar and pan-global percussion. The concert starts at 7 p.m. and is held at St. Philip's in the Hills Church in the Bloom Music Center, located at the northeast corner of Campbell Avenue and River Road. Tickets cost $15 at the door. Questions? Call 743-1347.
IT'S THE JOURNEY THAT COUNTS. Painter Michael Chittock says of his work, "The journey is always interesting and lifelike, always a surprise."
Starting with a personal event, either past or present, Chittock's figurative paintings evolve almost on their own. Come see for yourself at a reception for the artist tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hotel Congress Lobby, 311 E. Congress St. Sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art, the show continues through February 4. Peek at the paintings any time you like--the lobby's always open. Call MOCA at 624-5019 for details.
IT'S IN THE AIR. Arizona celebrates its own version of Christmas with Christmas in the Air featuring our official State Balladeer.
Dolan Ellis was an original member of the New Christy Minstrels. As Balladeer, since 1966, Dolan has written more than 300 songs about Arizona and its people. Cowboy Vision croons about a very special Christmas Eve for a lone cowboy keeping watch on his cattle in a land similar in many ways to Bethlehem. Arizona Christmas describes the unique ways Arizonans celebrate the holiday. And The Christmas Trail is based on a poem by Charles Badger Clark, written almost 100 years ago, about coming home to one's family after a year of living out on the range.
Ellis sings these and other Arizona-themed songs in a concert on Saturday and today at 2 p.m. at the Arizona Folklore Preserve, located at 44 Ramsey Canyon Road in Hereford. Go six miles south of Sierra Vista on Highway 92 to Ramsey Canyon Road and the AFP sign. Turn right on Ramsey Canyon Road and drive 3.5 miles into the canyon. Cross the creek and park behind the buildings. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 12. Call with questions at 378-6165.
POP GOES THE SYMPHONY. More holiday music. Can you stand it?
Robert Bernhardt is the Guest Conductor of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra featuring Soprano Nancy Davis Booth, the Arts Express Chorale, the St. Philip's Ringers and the Tucson Regional Ballet in Holiday Pops, a concert beginning at 2 p.m. today. Additional shows start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Music Hall of the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.
Traditional tunes and carols highlight the performances of song and dance. Revel in a holiday sing-along and laugh at comic holiday gems. Tickets cost between $21 and $49. Call for reservations at 882-8585.
A WEAVING OF IMAGES. Actor and community activist Edward James Olmos says of the newest exhibition at the Center for Creative Photography, "Much like a quilt intricately sewn with many beautiful fibers, Latinos are a proud and diverse people woven from indigenous folks of Spanish European, African and Asian roots."
Olmos is the project's co-creator that features 120 photographs by 30 of the nation's top photojournalists. Alexis Rodriguez Duarte, Rita Rivera and Tucson's José Galvez are but a few in this group of prize-winning photographers. They capture people bound together by language and tradition, yet they're as varied as America itself.
The exhibit is divided into six sections--work, family, spiritual life, community, sports and culture and the arts. Each section is introduced by personal statements written by prominent Latinos such as Carlos Fuentes, Julia Alvarez and Celia Cruz.
Americanos: Latino Life in the United States is traveling around the country from its home base, the Smithsonian, and has landed in Tucson. CCP's Curator of Education, Cass Fey, adds, "Americanos presents a celebration of diversity. From laborer to clergyman, athlete to artist, the images reveal a great scope of experience and synergy of the Latino community."
Take in the exhibit this holiday season--it's a great way to share Tucson with out-of-towners. The Center is located in the arts courtyard east of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue. The show stays up through March 2. Viewing hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on the weekends. Sorry, it's closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Day. But there're all those other days in between. Admission is free. Call for details at 621-7968.
A WINDOW INTO ART. Ever wander past a shop or office building window and think, "Boy, that would be a great screen of sorts to view a painting or photo or sculpture, even."
The folks at the Tucson Arts District Partnership read your mind. They've come up with a new program, Artist of the Month, that hosts a different local artist, in, yes, their office window at 4 E. Congress St. in the Bank One building at the corner of Stone Avenue.
This month, Kathryn Wilde's photography is "framed" by the window. It's a pink crush of color called Flamingo Preener. Just inside the door, displayed on the wall, is another Wilde photograph, titled Monastery Bay.
Wilde came to photography by way of a desire to capture the immense and intricate, often organic, images of landscapes she studied during field research projects. After nearly 30 years of picture-taking, her work has exploded in scope and depth. It's still her preference to capture images in natural lighting, often in radically changing conditions, without manipulation. No easy feat. It means she waits around for long spans until the light is just right. Her work offers insight into the process of patience. Meander by, view the images of the familiar and outrageous--patiently.
Take a Christmas Eve stroll and have a look. Call 624-9977 for more information.
A JEWISH TRADITION. When I was growing up in Philly, I thought every Jewish family went to Chinatown for Christmas dinner. I was sure it was written somewhere in the Talmud and ordained as such, "Thou shalt confer upon the makers of Wanton Soup and Mu Shu Pork the excesses of this year's pocket jingle." Clearly I was raised in the secular tradition (hence the ability to consume Mu Shu Pork). But every year, my family and, it seemed, every other Jewish family in town, was eating 5 o'clock dinner at South China Restaurant in Philly's grungy Chinatown.
With everything else closed except movie theaters (and now video stores) and the esteemed Chinese restaurant, I continued my family's Christmas "tradition" when I moved to the Bay Area, where Chinatown was always bustling, both in San Francisco and Oakland. It was like any ordinary day--Chinese people and Jews bumped along crowded streets smelling just another day of the week. I later added the movie screening--best if it's a matinee, a stupid, mainstream flick--to churn the stomach and get it ready for some soup or other delicacy. (The Mu Shu Pork is long a distant memory since I've become a vegetarian).
So, on this Christmas day in Tucson, find a theater that's open and a suitable Chinese restaurant to follow with your gurgling stomach ready for a delectable dinner, Jewish-style. Tell them I sent you.