City Week

Acoustic Fireworks

Guitarist Michael Gulezian opens for Acoustic Alchemy
8 p.m., Friday, June 22
Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

Every year, finger-style guitarist Michael Gulezian tries to spend as much time touring west of the Mississippi as possible.

"There are mountains, rivers, sunsets, places to see the stars at night," Gulezian said. "If that sounds like Tucson, then there's probably a good reason for that."

Gulezian grew up in Tucson and graduated from the UA. He says he doesn't much like Nashville, Tenn., where he now lives because of his career. Thus, he's thrilled to be coming back to Tucson to play a set at the Rialto, where he's opening for Acoustic Alchemy, a United Kingdom-based smooth-jazz band that's been around since the early 1980s.

A quick listen reveals that Gulezian can do beautiful things to old folksy songs; he rendered "Oh, Susannah" almost unrecognizable in a softer, sweeter version.

"I hope I don't send them (the audience) running from their chairs," Gulezian said. "If they sit there for however many minutes I play, then the people who like my music will love Acoustic Alchemy."

Gulezian said his music is heavily influenced by his Armenian background; his dad is a master of the oud, a Middle Eastern instrument. Gulezian's dad never taught him to play the oud, which is similar to the lute; he focused strictly on acoustic guitar.

He says his family's culture has helped make his music less like a McDonald's Happy Meal and a lot more like his grandmother's cooking.

"There's rock music, songs about getting laid, stoned, wasted or whatever," Gulezian said. "That music has its place, but ethnic music has a lot more emotion, more depth. It's less obvious, but something you can still understand."

Tickets to the show are $28. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show time is at 8 p.m. --T.M.

Swingin' Shakespeare

Shakespeare Under the Stars: Much Ado About Nothing
8 p.m., Friday-Sunday, June 22-24, and June 29-July 1
Demeester Outdoor Performance Center, Reid Park
791-4873, Ext. 125

The organizers of Shakespeare Under the Stars in Reid Park wanted to do something a little different for this year's production of Much Ado About Nothing, so they decided to give the audience a vacation--not to Sicily, but to the fictional Southern California beach town of Messina in the early 1960s.

"We decided to make it more of a beach-blanket affair this year," said Jim Velde, supervisor of special events for Tucson Parks and Recreation.

Even though the setting is a total transformation, the basic theme--love can make you stupid--rings true, said Mary Glenn, who is spearheading this year's production.

Glenn said the early '60s are a perfect parallel to Shakespeare's time.

"Everyone was still trying to be good, stand-up teenagers," Glenn said. "Nobody was embracing sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll quite yet."

Glenn searched for songs to make up the cool surfing soundtrack for the show, with lots of obscure '60s music; "Surfin' USA" is the only Beach Boys song.

"I didn't realize surfer music could be so good," Glenn said.

But the play, despite the change in scenery, retains Shakespeare's message. The story about two sets of lovers--one young, foolish and romantic, the other a little older and more cautious--stays the same, as do all their lines. The play was shortened just a bit to make it more palatable to the audience, Glenn said.

And it has bikinis, beach balls and surfboards!

The play is free, and seating is on the grass in the park, so bring a blanket--a beach blanket, perhaps? --T.M.

Connect with the Southwest

Celebrating What Wildness Is This: Women Write About the Southwest
7 p.m.; Friday, June 22
Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave.

A Tucsonan with a busy schedule has little time to stop and take in the surroundings of our Southwestern environment. If you fit this description, perhaps you should consider adding What Wildness Is This: Women Write About the Southwest to your reading list.

Established writers like Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams and Paula Gunn Allen joined emerging writers for the compilation. The book focuses on personal experiences, from urban life to nature in cities.

These writers have little in common other than that they are all women who have experienced the Southwest at some point in their lives; many call the Southwest home.

Antigone Books presents a reading and signing of the anthology with local writers Nancy Linnon, Nancy Mairs, Susan Cummins Miller, Liza Porter and Connie Spittler. Their work reflects the intricacies of the Southwest and features memoirs, poems, essays and creative nonfiction stories--all focusing on the female perspective on landscapes of the American Southwest.

Writing about the Southwest is inspired by a kinship to the land, said Spittler, who looks forward to the reading.

"It's wonderful to share my feelings about living in the desert with people who live here, too," Spittler said.

Spittler contributed "One Scarlet Penstemon" to the book, encapsulating her experience planting a penstemon for hummingbirds--an experience she valued.

The book has stories that show a connection or interaction with the land, Spittler said.

"The book is an interesting juxtaposition of essay, story and poem as it relates to the mountains, lakes, desert or dirt," Spittler said. "Writing about the Southwest is special to all of us, because we live in it." --L.H.

Celebrating Summer

"Marking the Soltice: a Multicultural Celebration!"
4:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 23
Arizona State Museum, University Boulevard and Park Avenue

Rather than spending the longest day of the year at home watching TV, get out of the house and learn something new at Arizona State Museum's multicultural "Marking the Solstice" celebration.

A variety of activities and performances should engage both children and adults, said Lisa Falk, the museum's director of education.

"It is a fabulous, family-oriented, fun, multicultural celebration," Falk said.

There will be solar energy presentations by the Solar Store, water-conservation methods presented by Tucson Water, and chances to view the stars with professional telescopes provided by the Flandrau Science Center and Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Also provided will be hands-on activities. Create a clay seed pot with artist Sam Casados or make a Mexican paper flower with Josefina Lizarraga. The Yellowbird Indian Dancers will bring traditional Apache dance and champion hoop dance.

"I've wanted to bring Yellowbird down here for years," Falk said. "They were named Culture Keepers of Arizona by Gov. Janet Napolitano and were chosen to perform for first lady Laura Bush."

Joining Yellowbird are Cuban Connection, Ballet Folklorico Tapatio with Mariachi Tapatio, Round the House and Tucson Taiko Kyokai.

The evening's finale will be a performance by Flam Chen Pyrotechnic Company and the Dambe Project. Flam Chen is a theatrical experience complete with pyrotechnics, martial artistry, stilt-walking and acrobatics.

"It will be an incredible way to end the longest day of the year," Falk said.

"Marking the Solstice: A Multicultural Celebration!" will be held on the front lawn of the Arizona State Museum. The event and parking are free. For more information, call 621-6302 or visit --L.H.

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