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See & Do 

May 18 - Wednesday
It's hard to imagine the Children's Theatre Ensemble Company performing anywhere else but in the bowels of the Black Box at the Morehead Street fantasy palace. But this week's presentation of Kafka's The Trial marks the Ensemble's farewell to the venerable venue as the company prepares to inhabit Imaginon in the Center City. Ensemble shows are geared to adults rather than the usual family fare on the main stage. The surreal tribulations of Joseph K, arrested for an undisclosed crime, typify the challenging material that the precocious high school actors explore. Mark Sutton, who also directed CT's farewell to Spirit Square, makes his Ensemble debut in a production that plays through Sunday. Nightly performances begin at 7:30pm — except for Friday, when starting time is pushed back to 9pm — with a Saturday matinee added at 4pm. Seating is limited and priced at $9. Call 704-333-8983. (Tannenbaum)

The Hacienda Brothers, Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzales, weave a love of the American Southwest into their songs. Whether it's a slow-burning blues tune or a lonesome country-rock number, they invoke the mood of listening to an AM radio station while cruising the Sonoran landscape in a convertible — a 60s American model, of course. Gaffney also tours as one of the Guilty Men with Dave Alvin, and Gonzales is the primary singer and songwriter of the Paladins. They perform at the Double Door Inn at 9pm. For details call 704-376-1446. (Shukla)

May 19 - Thursday
Mozart's most fanciful concoction, The Magic Flute, returns to Belk Theatre in an Opera Carolina production that's eager to please. Lifting the veil from some of the mystery, this Flute is performed entirely in English — with supertitles to further assist us in penetrating the residual gauze of soprano articulation and/or continental accents. Chad Calvert brings his macabre sensibility to the fantastical script, stage directing for the first time at Opera Carolina, and Margaret Lloyd — last seen as Lightfoot in Cold Sassy Tree two seasons ago — returns as Pamina. Jan Grissom as the Queen of Night, Don Frazure as Tamino, and Frank Hernandez as the inimitable Papageno will all be making their Charlotte debuts as Opera Carolina artistic director James Meena presides in the orchestra pit. Curtain rises at 7:30 Thursday, 8pm Saturday, and 2pm on Sunday, with ticket prices ranging from $15-$91. Call 704-372-1000. (Tannenbaum)

May 20 - Friday
Starting today, the Light Factory is hosting Family Matters, an exhibit by NYU professor Deborah Willis and son Hank Willis Thomas. Willis is known as a historian of the black female body in art and photography, and for her own photographic work focusing on issues of the African American family. Her images — and those of her son, also an accomplished photographer — explore the Family as a unit for togetherness and strength. The exhibit is on display at the Knight Gallery at Spirit Square through June 30. For more information, contact The Light Factory at 704-333-9755 or visit www.lightfactory.org. (Vespa)

May 21 - Saturday
It used to be called The Winston but now it's the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. Think of it as the stock car version of an all-star game, or a Masters tournament. This is the race local honchos are praying NASCAR doesn't move to another location. It's also the race that even non-NASCAR fans can love, as it's not an entire afternoon in the hot sun watching cars go round and round for hours. It's at night, starting at 9pm. At only 90 laps (135 miles), it's a relatively short race. (Most are 300-plus laps.) And it features a by-invitation-only group of the finest drivers vying for $1 million, so the racing is pretty fierce. This year, The Black Crowes will perform before the race, beginning at 3pm. Gates open at 2pm. Tickets start at $33. For tickets call 1-800-455-FANS or go online at lowesmotorspeedway.com. (Grooms)

Book lover alert! If you're one of the city's true bookhounds, you can head over to the GreenMarket behind Reid's downtown for the inaugural Novello Festival Press Book Bash and Bluegrass, from 9am till 1pm. NFP, America's only book publisher affiliated with a public library system, has printed some fine works including Portisville by Steve Cushman, One Foot In Eden by Ron Rash, Hungry for Home by Amy Rogers, Leaving Maggie Hope by Tony Abbott and lots more. All NFP books will be on sale for half-price or less, there'll be a selection of $1-3 bargain books, bluegrass musicians will play, and authors will be on hand to autograph books. There's no admission fee. For more info call 704-432-0153 or visit www.novellopress.org. (Grooms)

May 22 - Sunday
Let's cut to the cheese. The return engagement of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, opening on Friday, was sold out a month ago. So Children's Theatre of Charlotte has added two additional performances on Sunday at 2pm and 4pm. When you see Nikki Adkins in the title role, you'll understand why. This Tarradiddle Player is a mousey triumph as the lovably pesky critter, Steven Ivey is her perfect patsy, and it all looks as funny as it plays. Call 704-333-8983. (Tannenbaum)

May 24 - Tuesday
Sadly, the Jazzy Ladies are no more — at least not in name. Presented by the Young Affiliates of the Mint Museum, this long-running film series used to showcase a summer's worth of classic titles all pertaining to a specific theme, with each screening accompanied by a performance from a local jazz favorite. The series still exists, but that great title has been changed to Music & Movies at the Mint, and the featured films no longer appear to have any common theme. The 2005 edition kicks off tonight on the Mint Museum lawn with the band Audioform and a showing of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Upcoming shows are Kristin Clark Trio and Chocolat (May 31), Evans & Coppola and Vertigo (June 7), and Laura Ridgeway & Friends and Best In Show (June 14). The weekly gathering begins at 6pm with the musical guests, followed by the movie at 9pm. Admission is $2 for members and $5 for nonmembers. Call 704-337-2093 for more info. (Brunson)

May 25 - Wednesday
So you thought menopause was merely "the change" that afflicts women in midlife? No way. Menopause the Musical is a phenomenon, a comical medley of medicinal song parody that ministers to sufferers of sleeplessness, hot flashes, and bulging thighs. The instantly recognizable ailments and parodies have been translated into Hebrew and German for export overseas. And after an irritable three weeks in previews at Capri Theatre — totally befitting an enterprise boasting international tentacles and its own website — the moanfest of baby boomer melodies is ready to be mauled by critics and adored by the masses. The open ended run officially premieres next Wednesday with tickets testily priced at $39.50. Showtimes are 7:30 Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and weekend matinees 4pm Saturday and 2pm Sunday. Call 704-563-3332. Do it now, dammit! (Tannenbaum)

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