Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

Desert Companion

Sixteen weeks until September

dc-0515-culture-taiko.jpg

Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko
Courtesy of Las Vegas Clark County Library District

Las Vegas Kaminari Taiko

Nevada’s annual brain-melt is about to set in. You could (1) spend four months sitting by a fan, or (2) embrace the joys of summer culture with this handy guide

May 10

Mighty winds

Free-association time! Ready? Classical music. You immediately thought of violins, didn’t you? Well, the Uncharted Winds concert should cure you of that habit. They’ll perform several beautiful classical works rendered in winds, including Bohuslav Martinu’s Sonata Madrigal for flute, violin, and piano and Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C, transcribed by A. Viazovtsev for piano, flute, and horn. 2p, $10-$12, Winchester Cultural Center

 

May 14

A Princely evening

His name is Hal Prince, but he’s the king of Broadway, and he has the hardware (21 Tony awards) and resumé — from West Side Story to Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret to Phantom of the Opera — to prove it. This evening celebrates the director-producer’s achievements with an onstage interview punctuated by live performances of his work. 7:30p, $24-$79, Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, thesmithcenter.com

 

May 15

Uncomfortable laughter

Sure, we know it’s easy to enough to get your fill of insults and outrage with a scroll through the comments section on the Review-Journal website (ba-dum-bum!), but sometimes you need a pro. Enter insult comic Jeff Ross. He’s practically licensed, being the burner-in-chief who heads up those celebrity roasts that take annoying pop monkey brat children like Justin Bieber down a notch or seven. Comic Dave Attell’s bleak, neurotic observational humor will make for a nice chaser. 7p, $35-$49, May 15, House of Blues

Support comes from

aerosmith-credit_ross-halfin.jpg

Aerosmith
Ross Halfin

Aerosmith

dc-0515-culture-allred.jpg

Really Bad Rice, by Greg Allred
Courtesy of Greg Allred

Really Bad Rice, by Greg Allred

dc-0515-culture-giselle.jpg

Giselle
Courtesy of Nevada Ballet Theatre

Nevada Ballet Theatre's Giselle.

dc-0515-culture-guide-matlaf.jpg

Collages and assemblages from the hand of artist, architect and homebuilder Bruce Matlaf.
Courtesy of Las Vegas Clark County Library District

Collages and assemblages from the hand of artist, architect and homebuilder Bruce Matlaf.

dc-0515-culture-hoffa.jpg

The Mob Museum gathers writers Dan Moldea and Scott M. Burnstein, and lawyer Stanley Hunterton to sort out what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.
Courtesy of Mob Museum

The Mob Museum gathers writers Dan Moldea and Scott M. Burnstein, and lawyer Stanley Hunterton to sort out what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

dc-0515-culture-winds.jpg

The Uncharted Winds concert
Glamour Shots

The Uncharted Winds concert

george-clinton.jpg

George Clinton  & Parliament  Funkadelic
Courtesy of Brooklyn Bowl

George Clinton  & Parliament  Funkadelic

izzard.jpg

Eddie Izzard
Courtesy of the Palms

Eddie Izzard

 

May 15-24

 

Atypical Hansel

Engelbert Humperdinck — the late German composer, not the still (we’re pretty sure) living English crooner — might not recognize Sin City Opera’s production of his classic Hansel & Gretel. Says here SCO’s production will be “deconstructed” and “homeless,” with “deeper characterizations than in the original setting.” Sounds brainy! But approachable, too, since it’ll be sung in English — ideal for opera newcomers. 7p May 15-16, May 22-24; 2p May 24, $10-$15, Winchester Cultural Center, 702-455-7340

 

May 18

In between

If you’ve seen the rotunda exhibit space in the Clark County Government Center, you know it’s a large, echoing place. The task artist Abraham Abebe has set for himself is to occupy that vastness with works that merge paintings and sculptures into three-dimensional objects that explore such themes as chance, identity and the cultural in-betweenness he experiences now as an Ethiopian in America. Through July 10, Clark County Government Center, clarkcountynv.gov

 

May 22-25

Gutter punks

Punk’s not dead. Bowling’s not dead. That can only mean (doing mental arithmetic) Punk Rock Bowling is extra alive! Indeed, the annual festival of music and alley mayhem has become a veritable institution since it launched in 1999. And now, spot the made-up punk band names in the following sentence: This year’s lineup features acts such as Rancid, Deathrattle, Killary Klinton, the Murder City Devils, AWOLnutz, and Turbonegro. May 22-25, $5-$120, various venues

 

May 26

Wonder bred

Wunder Kammer, the title of Kim Johnson’s exhibit, refers to the centuries-old tradition of the “cabinet of wonders” — a collection of “items of natural, scientific, philosophic and alternative or fabricated artistic curiosities,” as Johnson puts it. Her work updates that idea by merging organic and found materials, as well as painted and sculptural elements, into pieces that probe “the intersection between environment and our physical and emotional reaction to it.” Through July 17, free, Winchester Gallery, 702-455-7340

 

June 5

Stringing us along

These aren’t your grandma’s doilies — Lynne Adamson Adrian “warps the idea of a female domestic sphere” by infusing such stereotypically female forms, such as crochet, with artistic intent. If any show can make crochet sculpture cool, it’s this one. Opening reception June 5. Through June 30, free, Blackbird Studios, blackbirdstudioslv.com

 

June 4-20

Cloak and swagger

In the 2014 play Veils, two strong young women, one Muslim African-American and the other Egyptian, discover what’s deeper than burkas — and skin — when they become college roommates in pre-revolution Cairo. Sarah O’Connell directs the regional debut of Tom Coash’s award-winner. 2p and 7p, $25 general admission, Onyx Theater, asylumtheatre.org

 

June 6

Art for humanity!

Steve Wynn’s Picasso-ward flying elbow attack aside, art generally isn’t known for inspiring acts of violence. In fact, maybe art can play a role in staying the hostile hand, and maybe the empathic powers of artists in portraying their subjects can rub off on viewers. Those are the ideas that the Art 21 series segment “Compassion” probes as it explores the work of artists such as William Kentridge, Doris Salcedo, Carrie Mae Weems and more. Finally, a feelgood film not based on a Nicholas Sparks book. 2p, free, Barrick Museum, unlv.edu

 

June 9

Sit locally, be entertained globally

You get a bit of everything in this Intercultural Exchange Show: Japanese music and dance, mariachi, Chinese dance, belly dancing courtesy of the Centennial Hills Active Adults Center. You’ll feel national borders dissolve with every number. 6p, $8 advance, $10 door, Winchester Cultural Center, 702-455-7340

 

June 12

Don’t do it, Cio-Cio San!

Few things say “diverting summer entertainment” like a tragic opera indicting American imperial arrogance and culminating in heartbroken suicide. But there’s a reason Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is, according to one accounting, the world’s seventh-most-produced opera: The story of Pinkerton, Cio-Cio San, Suzuki and the rest is bundled up in classic operatic music. 7:30p, $55-$95, UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre, operalasvegas.com

 

June 12-28

The words’ fallout

Written 35 years ago by Eric Overmyer, dystopian play Native Speech resonates more than ever today. It follows the meltdown of underground DJ Hungry Mother as he broadcasts vitriolic sermons and infotainment that take on a surprising twist. Levi Fackrell directs the closer for Cockroach Theatre’s 2014-15 ensemble season.

2p and 8p, $16-20, Art Square Theatre, cockroachtheatre.com

 

June 18

Putting it all together

Collages and assemblages from the hand of artist, architect and homebuilder Bruce Matlaf. Reception 5p. Through September 20, free, Centennial Hills Library, lvccld.org

 

June 19

Collection inspection

The acquisition of art, the building of a collection — it’s a pillar of real museum activity, and UNLV’s Barrick Museum is going about it in a big way, as two concurrent exhibits, Recent Acquisitions and The Dorothy and Herb Vogel Collection, amply demonstrate. Both arise from a partnership with the Las Vegas Art Museum. The first showcases newly acquired works, many with local ties (Brian Porray, Angela Kallus, Robert Beckmann). The second comprises works donated by New York collectors the Vogels. Look for such notables as Lynda Benglis, Neil Jenney, Richard Tuttle and more. Opening reception 6p. Through September 19, free, Barrick Museum, unlv.edu/barrickmuseum

 

June 20

Poetry in emotion

When it comes to his art, pianist and poet Carlos Mongrut has got the whole peanut butter-and-chocolate thing going on: His poetry is musical and his music is poetic. In his show Extraordinary Tomorrow, he’ll perform some of his favorite songs and read some of his poems. A little blues- and soul-tinged music, a little heartfelt spoken word — one great afternoon. 2p, free, Sahara West Library, lvccld.org

 
June 20

Frankin’ time

It’s been a hundred years since Frank Sinatra was born — the kind of milestone that doesn’t go unmarked here in Rat Pack City. His son, Frank Jr., presents Sinatra Sings Sinatra, an evening of reminiscences, photos, film clips and, of course, songs, performed by the son fronting an orchestra manned by many colleagues of the father. 7:30p, $25-$115, Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, thesmithcenter.com

 

June 24

What Happened to Jimmy Hoffa?

Good question! Theories abound. (No surprise; it is, after all, one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century.) To help sort them out, the Mob Museum gathers writers Dan Moldea and Scott M. Burnstein, and lawyer Stanley Hunterton. 7p, $25, the Mob Museum, themobmuseum.org

 

June 27

Systems analysis

You needn’t be a character in a Pynchon novel — though being named Pig Bodine would be kinda cool — to wonder about the impact of information and technological systems on our lives  and our culture. This episode of the PBS series Art 21 explores that idea through the work of artists John Baldessari, Kimsooja and others. 2p, free, Barrick Museum Auditorium, unlv.edu/barrickmuseum

 

July 2

When Vegas was the bomb

July marks 70 years since Trinity, the first-ever atom-bomb test, ushered the world into the nuclear era. Bad news for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but better news for Sin City: “The best thing to happen to Vegas was the atomic bomb,” Benny Binion once said. The Nevada Test site infused jobs and money into the economy, and tourists flocked for the space-age novelty of seeing distant mushroom clouds during above-ground tests. Docents of the National Atomic Testing Museum discuss. 7p, free, Clark County Library, lvccld.org

 

July 3

Straight outta Gallup

Enchanted White Girl is Lisa Dittrich’s suite of paintings and pen-and-ink drawings depicting her adolescence as a young girl in Gallup, New Mexico. For some extra visual pop, she’s recreated Route 66 signs from that area. Opening reception July 3. Through July 31, free, Blackbird Studios, blackbirdstudioslv.com

 

July 12

What’s up, doc?

Do you run? Does it hurt? Well, sit still a minute for this presentation by Dr. Donald Ozello, author of Running: Maximize Performance and Minimize Injuries. His thing is to help runners prevent and handle “painful and performance-limiting conditions.” You can ask him about your shin splints at the meet-and-greet afterward. 2:30p, free, Sahara West Library, lvccld.org

 

July 14-19

The time of your life

Guys, you know your baby’s gonna back you into a corner on this, so just surrender to the grabby story and familiar tunes of Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story Onstage. It’s like the movie, only more live, less Swayze-ish. 7:30p, $29-$139, Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, thesmithcenter.org

 

July 20

Sense of a place

There’s a spot five miles south of town —
thus this exhibit’s title, South of Town — that’s fascinated artist Sean Russell. People go there to shoot guns, ride dirt bikes, scavenge for junk and just horse around, overwriting the desert with a scrim of perfectly American culture. With a brace of abstract ceramic forms and large-scale landscape photos, Russell will explore the meanings of this unique piece of ground. Opening reception July 24. Through September 11, free, Clark County Government Center rotunda, clarkcountynv.gov

 

July 23

City life

With their clipped collage elements, exaggerated-perspective cityscapes and gritty color schemes, the pieces in Alexander P. Huerta’s Vintage Urban Collection have an appealingly loose, freestyle energy. Individually, each is an eyeful; together in a gallery they ought to kick it in a raucous big-city block party. Opening reception 5p. Through October 4, free, Sahara West Library, lvccld.org

 

July 24

Fragile beauty

Do these names — Tiffany, Quezal, Steuben, Loetz, and Daum Nancy — mean anything to you? If so, you’ll want to hurry to this exhibit of selections from the Barrick Museum’s Art Glass Collection. If those names don’t mean anything to you, you’ll want to hurry to this exhibit to see why they should, and to learn more about this often underappreciated artistic medium. Through January 23, free, Barrick Museum, unlv.edu

 

July 24-25

Festival of tights

For 15 years, the Las Vegas Dance in the Desert Festival has assembled choreographers and companies from around the valley once a year to show off their mad moves in this two-day dance bonanza. A dozen companies are participating this year, and master classes will be offered for performers and attendees. 2p and 7p, free, Summerlin Library, newdancefoundation.org

 

July 31-August 9

Gentrifarcification

Okay, we made up that word above, but only because S.J. Hodges’ new play, The Bourgie Willie B., required it: It’s a farce about gentrification, starring a Manhattan stockbroker, his wife, daughter and maid, and a hip-hop starlet. Time TBA, $25, Art Square Theatre, asylumtheatre.org.

 

August 1

See ’em while you can!

Aerosmith. Like we gotta tell you anything about these guys. 6:30p, $49.50-$149.50, MGM Grand Garden Arena, mgmgrand.com

 

August 6

Locutions about locations

Journalist F. Andrew Taylor takes listeners on a pop-culture tour of the city — the places and faces of Las Vegas as seen in Diamonds Are Forever, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and more. It’s the fictional Vegas vs the real Vegas — if those are, in fact, different things. 7p, free, Clark County Library, lvccld.org

 

August 12-29

Vine swingers

You’d have to be raised by hyenas to let something as trivial as a complete lack of social skills come between you and your beloved. Lucky for Tarzan, he was raised by apes, so when British naturalist Jane shows up in the jungle, it all works out. Phil Collins wrote the music and lyrics for the Tarzan stage musical that’s based on the Disney film, part of Super Summer Theatre’s 2015 season. 8:05p, $12-$20, Spring Mountain Ranch, supersummertheatre.org 

 

 

I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS!

 

Giselle

May 9-10

Vengeful forest nymphs called Wilis lure two-timing louses into a dance of death. Oh, yeah. That’s why I’m psyched for the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s presentation of Giselle. Sure, it’s one of the world’s oldest continuously performed ballets, first staged in 1841 Paris. And, yeah, it’s the “Hamlet of ballets,” according to dance writer Cyril Beaumont, because it requires the ballerina to be both actress and dancer. And it introduced pointe techniques that are still used today. That’s all legit. But what I’m clearing my calendar for is the story, Theophile Gautier’s adaptation of Henrich Heine’s creepy Romantic tale: Peasant girl Giselle dies of a broken heart when she finds out her beloved, Albrecht, is actually a nobleman in disguise who’s been engaged to another woman the whole time he’s been — ahem — dancing with her. The whole deceit-and-death thing seals Giselle’s fate to join the Wilis, and the addition of Albrecht to their hit list. Will Giselle get revenge for every jilted lover ever? Will she protect her beloved from beyond the grave? I don’t know. No, really. There are different versions with different endings. Oh, May 9. Why can’t you be today? Heidi Kyser

7:30p and 2p, $29-129, The Smith Center, 361 Symphony Park Ave.,
nevadaballet.com

 

 

Paleontologist Jack Horner

May 16

The man’s trying to make a dinosaur with a chicken leg. That right there is enough to lure me to see to Dr. Jack Horner at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. But it gets better — renowned paleontologist Horner has long occupied a weird and wonderful place in both pop culture and paleontology. He’s the guy who discovered dinosaur eggs in the 1970s, inspired the Dr. Alan Grant character in the Jurassic Park movies (for which he was also a technical consultant) and found evidence of a 13-ton T-Rex he named ... Sue.

And Horner arrives in Las Vegas at the perfect time: We’re cleaning up the newly established Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument — a future dinosaur park? — in our own backyard, and — because why not? — the new film Jurassic World is set for release in June.

Horner, who never finished his bachelor’s degree but earned a MacArthur Fellowship in 1986 and the world’s top paleontology prize in 2013 (the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s Romer-Simpson prize), wrote a 2009 book called How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn’t Have to Be Forever, about his plan to take a gene from one organism and mix it with the genome of another, add a few spices and voila! — serve up the chickenosaurus.
He wasn’t kidding. Since then, he’s been toiling away on the veloci-chick. In November, Horner told the Washington Post that he expects to succeed in making the small, winged, feathered, tailed, toothed dinosaur within the next 10 years — using a big chunk of funding from old movie pal George Lucas.

“I think we could achieve a suite of changes in one embryo so that the resulting animal could hatch and live out a normal life span, eating, moving and functioning without difficulty,” Horner told the Post. And why not? What could possibly go wrong? Sounds like a solid question for Horner. Stacy J. Willis

2p, free with paid admission ($10 adults, $8 students and seniors, $3 children), Las Vegas Natural History Museum, lvnhm.org

 

Eddie Izzard

June 12, 13

Maybe you had to be there. Eddie Izzard, in lipstick, eyeliner, Geisha shirt, skin-tight leather pants and gray platform heels, was doing a joke comparing the origins of the Anglican Church (“Henry VIII just raped, pillaged and stole a lot of money off the monasteries”) with the advent of Protestantism (“That was Martin Luther posting a note on a church door that said, “Hang on a minute.”) … and it killed.

To say Izzard is a force of nature (his current tour is called Force Majeure) is to assume either can keep up. A cross-dressing comedian, fluent in German and French, who successfully exposes the warts of the Anglican and Protestant churches is a good night of entertainment, even before the impersonations of Sean Connery as Henry, James Mason as God and half-crazed German guy as Martin Luther. He’s also right: Blacks in church always seem happier than whites are. He says he’s a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, which seems to me to be a mathematical nightmare. Izzard, who doesn’t perform in drag as much these days, is part History Channel, part Monty Python, part Christopher Hitchens.

He does five minutes on dressage. Let me repeat … dressage. For a comedian to pull this off, he or she must first introduce the concept (think dancing horses) to everyone not named Ann Romney and Rafalca; then mimic the relationship between animal and rider; and conclude, in pitch-perfect cadence, by embodying an overheated dressage announcer doing the play-by-play. That Izzard does all that and, for good measure, ends the joke by giving the rider — and by extension, his execution of the joke — four points (considered Insufficient in the sport), while ending with a Narnia reference is ... well, only some kind of force could do that. Barry Friedman

8p, $63-$83, Pearl theater at the Palms, palms.com

 

Really Bad Rice, by Greg Allred 

July 16

I’m always drawn to the subtle eddies of back-and-forth complexity in Greg Allred’s metal sculptures. Made — laboriously — of a hard, unforgiving material, they achieve a feeling of nimbleness, of lightness. Partaking of a pop conviviality — so bright and approachable! — they double back on you at second glance. Hey, that’s a gun, or, Hey, that’s a knife, or, Hey, that’s a mousetrap. Intimations of danger, then, posed next to familiar shapes, a house, maybe, or a coffee cup or a feather, which suggest the opposite. And yet: What’s the difference between a knife and a feather made of metal? And so you think, Hmm, there are some interesting ideas at —

“Art isn’t about ideas,” Allred says. An artist can waste time waiting for a good idea. “It’s about doing the work.” It’s about the long labor of cutting and grinding the metal, losing yourself in the muscle-and-brain rhythms of the task — analogous, perhaps, to an athlete being “in the zone” — and letting the shapes and their relationships come to you intuitively.

“I like art that hits you in the guts,” he says. But he’s not above ticking the eyes, either. Swivel your orbs to the right and see for yourself. Then check the dozen or so new works he’ll show in his new exhibit, intriguingly titled Really Bad Rice. Opening reception 5p, July 16. Scott Dickensheets

Through October 8, free, City Hall Grand Gallery, artslasvegas.org

 

Hot Havana Nights

August 6

Before the Rat Pack ushered in an era of swank in Sin City, Havana was where it was at. With its beach resorts, anything-goes atmosphere and mob-backed casino action, the sun-soaked city was the top gambling destination for high-rollers and middle-class vacationers alike. But Havana wasn’t just a preview slide of what Vegas could and would become. The gaming, drinking and carousing that characterized Havana in the first half of the 20th century were infused with distinctly Cuban culture: tropical cocktails, cigars and, of course, plenty of dancing and music. The Mob Museum celebrates that period with “Hot Havana Nights.” Think of it as the Mob Museum going to a costume party dressed as a midcentury Havana resort, perspiring strong rum, cigar smoke and irresistible conga beats that cause booty rhythm infections. And what would a Cuban-themed party be without plenty of blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps? Si, si! The party even has some actual museum stuff: real resort kitsch, hotel artifacts and historic articles about Cuba. Andrew Kiraly

 6p, $36-$40, Mob Museum, themobmuseum.org

 

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic 

August 20

It’s always a good sign when I’m at a live music show and find myself asking, “What planet is this concert being held on?” The last time I saw George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, in between enjoying stage theatrics that were part-Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, part-adult diaper fetish fashion show, and part-Cannibus Cup award ceremony, I thought to go use the restroom at one point but decided not to for two reasons: First, I didn’t want to miss any of the music or the action; second, I felt like if I pushed open the “exit” door, I’d be immediately sucked out into deep space because the building was most definitely in orbit. If you’ve never been pleasantly unsettled by an odd feeling that the musical venue you’re inside of left Earth a few hours ago, believe me when I say it feels fun. There’s nothing like brilliant funk music to bring you out of the very worst bad-funk workweek doldrums, and the distinctive flavor of Clinton’s sound always promises to bring variety in spades. These don’t-miss concerts are truly a place where anything can happen — Clinton’s wild memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? (Atria Books, 2014), includes reminiscence of the time a fan jumped onstage, dropped her pants, toked a joint with her butt and then proceeded to blow smoke rings. So, on Thursday, August 20, can we top that, Vegas? At the very least, can we try? Alissa Nutting

8p, $27.50-$33, Brooklyn Bowl, vegas.brooklynbowl.com

 

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!