Although First Friday will be a big going-out night downtown, why not start the party a day earlier?

The Bakersfield Museum of Art is hosting its monthly Art After Dark Thursday. And even though it's still a week out from opening its fall exhibition, the museum is rolling up its sleeves for some hands-on art.

The spotlight will be on Javier Carrillo, whose "Nuestros Ojos" is one of three shows opening Sept. 7. At 7 p.m., the artist will discuss his work, of which guests can get a sneak peek. Afterward, he will lead a simplified version of the reductive linocut process, giving attendees a chance to experiment in the artistic style seen in Carrillo's prints.

For those who want to leave the art to the professionals, Nuestro Mexico will offer hand-crafted margaritas for purchase.

The event runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the museum, 1930 R St. Cost is $15, $10 for members and space is limited. Advance tickets are available at bmoa.org/artafterdark.

Speaking of the museum, if you were able to make it out last week to the performance of "Eleemosynary," consider yourself lucky. The Theater in the Gallery presentation, directed by Jennifer Sampson, sold out its three performances.

A tightly woven tale of three generations of the Westbrook family, the show starring Jan Hefner, Mariah Bathe and Sampson was a compelling theatrical experience. The strength of the trio's performances made the 80 minutes fly by.

This was the third collaboration Sampson had with the museum (last year's "Eurydice" and "The Very Ecstasy of Love" this spring) and she delivered another transporting theatrical experience. I am looking forward to see what she does when teaming with conductor Stilian Kirov of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra for “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” at Rabobank Theater on Sept. 29.

Ladies night

Speaking of a good night at the theater, Stars' production of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical" is a fun offering. Escape Bakersfield's desert heat for a tale set in the Outback as two drag queens and a transsexual sing and dance their way to a standing gig. 

All the performers deliver on enthusiasm but Zachary Gonzalez (as Adam/Felicia) is a standout. Kevin McDonald (Bernadette) and Brock Christian (Tick/Mitzi) deliver the heart of the show but it's hard to take your eyes off Gonzalez in the group performances. (That may be in part based on the mask he dons to replicate full drag eye makeup.)

If you're looking to save some bucks, the theater is offering a buy-one-get-one-free special on show tickets for Thursday. The offer is redeemable by phone (325-6100) or at the door.

'Butterflies are Free'

Speaking of the Stars family, "Butterflies are Free" opens Friday at Stars West Comedy Theatre.

The show marks the big directorial debut of 21-year-old Cherish Jessee, who has served as assistant director for a number of shows and lead children's shows for NOR.

She said she wanted to do this show because it speaks to so many people depending on where they are at in life.

"Someone told me that the best shows are a simple story told beautifully," she wrote in an email. "Well that's what this is!"

In the play, set in 1970s San Francisco, Don Baker (Kyle Gaines), who was born blind, has just moved into an apartment on his own after living most of his life with his mother (Julie Gaines).

New neighbor and free spirit Jill Tanner (Evelyn Torres) connects with the young man and their growing relationship worries Don's mother when she's finally allowed to visit. Perrin Swanson also stars as Ralph, a director interested in Jill.

Jessee said the show explores what it means to truly be free and not be controlled by fear. The play's final scene, a culmination of that theme, is her favorite.

"The actors capture me every night. I become so drawn into the show by the amazing emotion bared on stage every night. They really pour their all into it and it's beautiful!"

As added incentive to check out the show, Mark Price, who oversees the lineup at the northwest theater, promises: "I have the AC on and it's churning coolness!"

The show runs 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 16 at Stars West Comedy Theatre, 2756 Mosasco St. Tickets are $20, available at 325-6100 or bmtstars.com.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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