Giveaway: Harvest for Hunger’s Market at the Food Bank

This year's Market at the Food Bank takes place May 4 to benefit Harvest for Hunger

This year’s Market at the Food Bank takes place May 4 to benefit Harvest for Hunger

Checkout for Hunger, Brown Bag Day, food drives at WKYC, Indians games and area businesses — all around the region, people have been coming together for Harvest for Hunger.

Harvest for Hunger is one of the largest annual, community-wide food and funds drives in the nation, serving food pantries, hot meal programs, and shelters across 21 of Northeast and North Central Ohio’s counties.

During last year’s Harvest for Hunger, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and other local hunger relief organizations provided 16.5 million nutritious meals to the community. The plan this year is to top 17 million meals.

Ambitious? Yes, but hunger continues to be a growing problem in Northeast Ohio.

One way the Greater Cleveland Food Bank will reach this goal is Market at the Food Bank, Harvest for Hunger’s annual food tasting fundraiser.

On May 4, L’Albatros, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, Greenhouse Tavern, Vintage Wine and 50 of Cleveland’s restaurants and beverage purveyors will spend the evening serving up delectable dishes and fine wines throughout the Food Bank’s distribution center.

The goal: to raise 1 million meals in just one night. 

Photos from last year's Market at the Food Bank (photo on left courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank)

Photos from last year’s Market at the Food Bank (photo on left courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank)

The meals provided through Harvest for Hunger will help seniors like Phyllis, families like Katie and Luke, children like Francisco. Our friends and neighbors.

Market at the Food Bank starts at 5pm on May 4. Early bird general admission is $85, though the price goes up on April 18. You can buy tickets online or enter this week’s giveaway for a pair of tickets.

How to enter: Do 1, some, or all 5 of the entries. Separate comment needed for each.

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment telling me how you support Harvest for Hunger. (Need ideas? Check out the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s site.)

2) If you’re a fan of Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Clue Into Cleveland on Facebook, leave a comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

3) Follow @ADHicken and @CleveFoodbank on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to win tickets to @CleveFoodbank’s Market at the Food Bank! Enter @ADHicken’s #MarketatFB giveaway: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2tG

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Monday, April 21 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Tuesday, April 22, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Market at the Food Bank and give away 2 tickets on my blog. My opinions and the choice to post about this event are my own.

Cleveland Anew: Big Spring at Cleveland Botanical Garden

Scott and his grandmother tour the Cleveland Botanical Garden

Scott and his grandmother @ CLE Botanical Garden

In the hustle of the last few months, I forgot that March marked 7 years since Scott and I moved to Cleveland. I think back to that first year, how much fun we had seeing the city the first time and how new every experience was.

With Scott’s parents and grandmother’s recent move to Cleveland, we’re experiencing that feeling all over again. Now that their house is unpacked and they’ll have their first house guests in a few weeks, it’s time to explore!

For their first post-move outing, Scott and I decided to take them to the Cleveland Botanical Garden for Big Spring

Going on now through April 27, the Big Spring Show has transformed the Cleveland Botanical Garden into a larger-than-life paradise. Beautiful displays and family activities such as dressing up like insects and racing mealworms make it a whimsical experience for young and old.

Cleveland Botanical Garden Big Spring

Cleveland Botanical Garden Big Spring

The Hicken house in New Jersey had a stunning garden, so I thought that Big Spring would be a great way to put the long, rough winter behind us and get everyone excited for transforming their new landscape.  

As we entered the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s front lobby, it brought me a lot of joy to see Scott’s mom and grandmother marvel at the oversized flowers, gardening tools, and flower pots:

3 - The Hickens

After soaking in the scents and the light, we headed to the Botanical Garden’s Glasshouse.  First we traveled to the deserts of Madagascar, then the rain forest of Costa Rica. I’m always struck by the beauty of the plants and the butterflies inside CBG, and I was happy to see I wasn’t the only one:

Scott's dad and mom checking out the Glasshouse's butterflies

Scott’s dad and mom checking out the Glasshouse’s butterflies

Scott’s grandmother commented that it was incredible to see butterflies up close that she had only seen in books.

5 - Butterflies

This trip was also my first exposure to the garden’s tropical bird collection. I’d been so preoccupied on previous visits by the glasshouse’s butterflies that I somehow missed their other winged inhabitants.

Not this time!

6 - Garden Birds

Another thing Scott and I missed on previous trips was the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s library. Scott and his mom got lost in their Book Sale while Scott’s dad, grandmother and I enjoyed coffee at the Garden’s cafe.

We ended our trip with a quick romp through the ladybug maze.

7 - Scott and his mom

We’re all looking forward to returning when the weather is just slightly warmer. Scott’s mom remarked how the benches throughout the garden will be perfect for walking his grandmother around. And Scott and I can’t wait for the Garden’s Summer show: Nature Connects: A LEGO® Brick Experience!

Until then, you can catch Big Spring through April 27. Learn more and buy tickets here.

Scott and I look forward to showing off our other favorite Cleveland haunts, though the Garden will be hard to beat.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Big Spring with my family in exchange for blogging about it. My opinions of the event are 100% my own.

A New (York) State Of Mind: Billy Joel in Concert

Blogkeeping: Congrats to entry 8, Kim for winning the Uncorked giveaway. Please reply by the end of today to confirm you can attend.
Scott and me seeing Billy Joel for the first time at the Q in Cleveland

Our first Billy Joel concert at the Q in Cleveland

Last week, I fulfilled 10-year-old Amanda’s dream of seeing Billy Joel in concert. Although I initially had to drag Scott with me, Billy Joel had a new lifelong fan by the end of the concert.

I had never been to a Billy Joel concert before last Tuesday night. In fact, before then, any significant exposure to Billy Joel I’d had was what played on the radio in my formative years, when my only indicator of “what successful music sounds like” was nothing more than “it played on the radio.”

All the more I knew of Billy Joel was that “Weird Al” Yankovic did the It’s Still Billy Joel To Me spoof (and if “Weird Al” spoofed you it meant you were pretty damn important) and that, during my time in chorus, we had a lot of very hoity-toity vocal adaptations of Billy Joel songs which had some very deep – or at least intricate – lyrics. So I never formed my own opinion of Billy Joel, instead carrying on a concept that was formed over decades from other people’s reverence.

It was this conception of a lauded and serious artist that I took into the concert. As Billy Joel entered the Q’s performance stage and sat down at the piano under a single blue spotlight, I was 100% prepared for the show to be little more than Billy Joel dutifully playing each of his hits, with nay but a pause between for a sip of water. I’ve seen the same from lesser-known songsters.

Let me be perfectly blunt upfront – Billy Joel in concert was amazing. Basked in a soft glowing light while seated at his piano, the man pointed out at the people surrounding him in the fully packed Q and observed that while he hadn’t released a pop album in two decades he was still touring to massively sold-out crowds.

This wasn’t ego talking. He’d brought it up so that he could proudly announce his own career was proof that he was “full of crap and lies.”

This was in reference to lyrics he had written for his song The Entertainer, “I won’t be here in another year; If I don’t stay on the charts.”

This statement made it clear from the start that Billy Joel had an acute self-awareness of himself that allowed a very a unique attitude to show through during the concert.

I have no idea if Tuesday night’s performance is reflective of the concert experience across his entire career, but I know that it certainly shattered my expectations of him.

Subtle aspects of this unexpected mindset popped up throughout the night.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

There were the intermittent segments Amanda and I began to call “Story Time With Uncle Billy” where the audience was regaled with tales of being stranded and cursed at on Ohio freeways, and his claims that Ted Nugent needed to aim his throat spray “up his ass.

There was the lengthy explanation of every factual inaccuracy and “complete bullshit” to be found within The Ballad of Billy the Kid. Or the alternate lyrics for She’s Always a Woman: ”She’ll ruin your face with her powerful thighs.” And yes, I heard that right.

But the pièce de résistance was yet to come. As the show’s three-quarter mark ticked over, Billy Joel stood up and was handed a bright red electric guitar.

I didn’t know that he was introducing the defining moment of my existence on this planet, when I would realize I had now lived a Complete Life.

Billy Joel told the audience that he hoped the next song would be a religious experience, and that he would be welcoming to the stage a roadie that had been with his crew for many years.

At this point, imagine if you will, a middle-aged Al Lewis stomping out onto the hardwood. His many arm tattoos were visible thanks to the black Guy Harvey t-shirt that had the sleeves cut off with a deep V of fabric that ran down his ribs. He had in his hand, pressed firmly to his mouth, a microphone.

Billy Joel introduced him to us with his given Christian name of “Chainsaw.”

Chainsaw then broke into Highway to Hell, with Billy Joel rocking out on the guitar. And I do mean the full, 3-minute and 29-second song. Chainsaw stomped around the stage shouting at camera men, instrumentalists, and front row audience members. Billy Joel dug deep into that guitar. Red lights and spectacle flashed around them. It was a fantastic rendition.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

When the song was over the soft lighting once again came up. Chainsaw retired to the back, and Billy Joel handed over his guitar while retaking his seat at the rotating piano.

The expected lyrical repertoire earnestly resumed with the same energetic humor displayed earlier in the night, punctuated now and then by the odd rendition of Uptown Girl.

But nothing quite matched the “What the Hell did I just see?” moment that had arisen when Billy Joel shared the stage, and an AC/DC cover, with Chainsaw.

So, my friends, that is what I wished to share of our experience. After the other night, any of my thoughts of a “stuffy songwriter nearing the end of his career taking for granted the endurance of his work” were blanched out.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not to recommend that you go see Billy Joel in Concert, should he tour near you:

On one hand it’s an amazing experience orchestrated with great love by a talented man who clearly wants you to have as much fun in the audience as he’s having on stage.

On the other hand, as you leave the concert, your mind may be completely blown by the realization that Life will be all downhill from there forward.

Largely thanks to a man called Chainsaw.

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to Nature’s Bin Cornucopia Uncorked Wine Tasting

Update: After removing one duplicate entry:

Uncorked winner

Congratulations, entry #8 – Kim, for winning this giveaway.

Wine Lovers: I have an event and giveaway specifically for you today

cornucopia uncorked

Are you the person everyone turns to to select a bottle of wine? If you think you know how to pick a good red or just love Cabernet, join Nature’s Bin at the 78th Street Studios’ smARTSpace for Cornucopia Uncorked.

A fundraiser for Nature’s Bin’s Cornucopia program, Uncorked takes place next Thursday, April 10 from 6:30-9:30pm.

Enjoy an evening of food from Nature’s Bin (including something for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans), live music from Men with Short Beards, and a competitive wine tasting.

Tickets cost $50 ($30 of each is tax-deductible). I’m also giving away two tickets below.

But first … What is a competitive wine tasting?

  • Uncorked guests bring 2 bottles of Cabernet, the evening’s theme wine (preferably priced between $12 and $24, or as close as possible). 
  • At check in, one bottle is bagged and numbered.  The other bottle is then set aside. 
  • The bagged bottles are put out for tasting (you can’t see through the bags so no one knows what they are tasting).
  • Everyone then votes for their favorite blind-tasted wine.
  • The guests who bring the top five voted bottles are awarded prizes.
  • The person who brings the number one wine will receive the majority of other bottles that have been set aside.

Uncorked is not just a great way to put your wine tastes to the test, but the event will also raise money for Cornucopia.

Since 1975, Nature Bin’s Cornucopia program has helped people with disabilities develop their skills, confidence, and workplace potential by providing work adjustment training and job coaching and placement services.  Today, they serve people with a wide range of severe disabilities including developmental disabilities, mental illness, autism, visual and hearing impairment, and injuries resulting from accident or illness.

Fundraisers like Uncorked help Nature’s Bin fund their non-profit program so that they can continue to help unlock individuals’ potential and become fully functioning members of their communities.

Cornucopia

While I’d love to attend Uncorked, I’m unfortunately allergic to red wine. (I know, with a maiden name like DiGiandomenico, it’s a funny allergy to have.)

The upside of this is that one lucky person and their friend get to benefit from my allergy by going in my place. All you have to do is enter my giveaway.

How to enter: Do 1, some, or all 5 of the entries. Separate comment needed for each.

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) What’s your favorite type of Cabernet? Leave a comment on this post letting me know.

2) Follow @Naturesbin and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and Nature’s Bin on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to win tickets to #CLE’s Cornucopia Uncorked wine tasting. Enter @ADHicken and @Naturesbin’s giveaway: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2sQ

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until April 7 at 11:59 pm to enter. Random.org will select the winner, which I will announce on April 8. Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Uncorked with a guest in exchange for blogging about it. I can’t attend so am giving away my two tickets. My choice to post about this and any opinions are 100% my own.

Scott’s Take: Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo, Sometimes Smaller is Better

Scott’s stepping in for me today with his review of the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo. Considering he does most of the home improvement projects in our house, I figured he might be better suited for this one. Plus, it gives me an excuse to share this photo from the show:

Scott and Dinosaur

I’ve been very eager to get into the Cleveland Convention Center (CCC) ever since construction completed. I’d read varying reports of how others experienced and explored the subterranean show space, and I wanted to see it for myself.

I love conventions and have been to my fair share of convention spaces. The Cleveland Convention Center’s unique construction intrigued me. So when we had the opportunity to attend The Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo (H+R Expo), which was hosted within Cleveland’s new expo center, I was quite excited.

Home Show Floor

The overhanging question, of course, is how both the H+R Expo and the CCC compare to their big brothers, The Great Big Home & Garden Show and the I-X Center respectively. I can summarize the comparison for both with one statement: sometimes smaller is more satisfying.

Regarding the show space itself, the most noticeable thing stepping into the CCC is that it is shockingly, pleasantly quiet. As Amanda and I walked around we encountered large groups, especially in the back where a presentation was going on, but never did I hear the dull background “roar” of noise I’ve come to expect from similarly larger convention halls. It generally felt that if I could see it, I could hear it, but not much buzz beyond that was getting to me.

Being underground, the CCC has none of the high windows that can be seen at the I-X Center. But their absence did not bother me or give me a sense of being contained beneath the street level. Both the I-X and CCC rely on artificial light regardless of the presence of windows, and the lack of them meant there was nothing to remind me of the “outside world” and my relativity to it. Once I was in the CCC and walking around, I didn’t think twice about my sea level altitude. It was nice.

The CCC’s more compact square footage also meant that food, drink, and restrooms never felt like a hike. We didn’t partake of any of the food, but the available options appeared clean, bright, and had reasonable lines. A leisurely pace from one end of the show space to the other would only take a few minutes, so if you’ve traveled into the middle of the expo, almost everything is fairly close to you in every direction.  The convention center’s location in downtown Cleveland also means if you want to venture outside for a restaurant, you have plenty of options.

Looking at the H+R Expo itself, the smaller number of sellers was actually really nice. Although there were some stands I remembered seeing at The Great Big Home & Garden Show, this wasn’t a bad thing because they were stands I was happy to see again.  And each booth seemed truly relevant to the “Home and Remodeling” theme. If you’ve ever walked around a large convention’s floor, you sometimes run into vendors who are only tangentially (or not at all) related to the show’s niche. The reduced availability of spaces actually created more relevant variety.

Pod Home

Of course, the smaller space means less grandeur. There were some awesome things to see – such as the inflated pod house pictured above and some pieces we recognized from a beer garden that had displayed at the Great Big Show. But we didn’t find any massive gardens or landscapes constructed in the CCC.

The upside of this is that I wasn’t completely beat after our first walkthrough of the aisles and displays. Amanda and I actually shopped at the H+R Expo.  For the first time in a long time when we said “We’ll come back and get this after we’ve looked around,” we really did go back and do it. We bought a hanging planter, wine mixers, and bar ware.

While I’ve found The Great Big Show is great for generating ideas and checking out things we may buy in the future, the H+R Expo was small and focused in such a way that I actually had the energy to spend some money then and there.

Cleveland Blastmaster

So to wrap things up, at the end of the day the CCC’s smaller size and the H+R Expo’s more focused theme meant that it didn’t feel like the end of the day when Amanda and I left.

I can confidently say that the Cleveland region is quite big enough for two convention centers and two home shows, where one is more about grandeur and concept and the other more about personal experience. Because a funny thought struck me as we were coming out of the Cleveland Convention Center’s Home and Remodeling Expo: this was the first time I’d been to a convention where I actually had the time – and energy – to stop and smell the roses.

Well, flowers anyway. It was a nice change of pace.

Flowers

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the show with a guest, in exchange for hosting a giveaway.

Help Build Trentina’s Community Chandelier at MOCA Cleveland

By now you’ve probably heard about Jonathon and Amelia Sawyer’s newest restaurant project Trentina.

Team Sawyer is turning to the eastside and taking over the space that used to house Sergio’s in University Circle. Inspired by dishes from northern Italy’s Trentino region, the plan is to open by May of this year.

What sets Trentina apart from the team’s other restaurants is that this is the first one they are opening on their own. As they wrote on their Kickstarter project: No outside influences, just us.

Unsurprisingly, Trentina’s Kickstarter  funded at nearly double their original goal, netting $39,583 from 206 backers.

Disclosure: I contributed to the Kickstarter because I think it’s a great idea for a restaurant and, as someone in the process of launching a comics label with my husband, appreciate the desire to have something that’s yours.

In addition to helping raise funds for Trentina, the Kickstarter was an excellent way to include the community in the restaurant’s creation.

Although the Kickstarter may be over, you have another way to contribute to Trentina thanks to their partnership with MOCA Cleveland.

A visit to one of MOCA’s Family Nights sparked an idea for the design of Trentina. As Amelia writes on Chef’s Widow, “What if our community built an art installation that could be viewed year round at the restaurant?”

Scott at MOCA

Through April 12, visit Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art for INTERMISSION: Community Chandelier Project where you can help build the chandelier that will hang in Trentina.

Scott and I recently dropped by MOCA’s free first floor to add beads to the wire strings that will construct the chandelier.

When the chandelier is complete, color beads will represent the entire community who came out to show their support. A plaque will hang in the restaurant detailing the community’s effort and the history behind the project.

The Trentina chandelier project will continue through April 12 during the museum’s hours:Tuesday-Sunday, 11–5 pm; open until 9 pm Thursdays; and closed Mondays. MOCA staff confirmed late last week that the only date the project won’t be available is March 28.

Trentina beads

While you’re at MOCA, take some time to also explore the museum’s current exhibits and upcoming events.

The 2 exhibits at MOCA through June 8 are DIRGE: Reflections on [Life and] Death and Sara VanDerBeek’s solo show looking at Cleveland’s landscape and the changes it’s undergoing. A list of the museum’s other programming, including lectures, performances, and hands-on activities, can be found here.

Admission to the museum is free for MOCA Cleveland members and children 5 and under. General Admission is $8 ($6 Ages 65+, $5  Students with valid ID).

The first Saturday of the month is free for everyone and features special programming. The next one on April 5 includes a 15 minute Target Talk, led by museum staff who share their personal reflections on the exhibits, ArtSquad activities for families with kids 10 and under, and a free bookbinding workshop offered by the Cleveland Institute of Art. And, of course, Trentina’s community chandelier and other projects on the first floor are always free.

Yuri’s Night Space Party at Great Lakes Science Center: Cleveland’s Part in Worldwide Spaceflight Celebration

Cleveland's Yuri's Night Space Party at the Great Lakes Science Center takes place April 12, 2014

Cleveland’s Yuri’s Night Space Party at the Great Lakes Science Center takes place April 12, 2014

On Sunday, Scott and I excitedly curled up on the couch for the premiere of Cosmos. Scott, a fan of the original with Carl Sagan; I, a fan of host Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio.

A fantastic storyteller who’s able to make science more accessible and entertaining, Tyson brought us back in time and far into the universe in only the first episode.

Shows like Cosmos and StarTalk may be the closest I get to outer space. However, on April 12, I’ll be joining the world in celebrating the anniversary of the first human to get closer.

The Great Lakes Science Center, home of the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, is the perfect spot for Yuri's Night

The Great Lakes Science Center, home of the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, is the perfect spot for Yuri’s Night

In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into outer space for a 108-minute flight orbiting the Earth. For over a decade, cities around the world honor the first human spaceflight, as well as the inaugural launch of NASA’s Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981, with Yuri’s Night.

Since 2001, these Yuri’s Night events combine space-themed partying with education and outreach in honor of humanity’s past, present, and future in space.

So far this year, there are 54 parties in 13 counties, including Cleveland’s Yuri’s Night Space Party at the Great Lakes Science Center on Saturday, April 12.

I attended my first Yuri’s Night party last year, and I can tell you: the Great Lakes Science Center REALLY knows how to party. Anywhere I can do the robot to the Tetris theme song and party with Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek look-alikes is my kind of event!

Some of my favorite costumes and science experiments from last year's Yuri's Night Space Party

Some of my favorite costumes and science experiments from last year’s Yuri’s Night Space Party

This year’s Cleveland Yuri’s Night will feature:

  • Live music by Abby Normal, Vibe & Direct, DJ 41SE7EN and OZMTZ and dancing all night long
  • Beer and wine - Sam Adams beer, Angry Orchard cider, Barefoot wines and light hors d’oeuvres included in ticket price while supplies last; cash bar for cocktails and special treats
  • Costume contest – wear your best space-themed attire
  • GLSC’s Big Science Show, cool science demos and their signature midnight balloon drop
  • Special appearances by astronaut Greg Johnson, Cleveland Institute of Art, the Great Lakes Base of the Rebel Legion, Ohio Garrison / 501st Legion and the Mandalorian Mercs
  • New this year: A Black Light Lounge and outdoor deck party experience (weather permitting)

Tickets also include admission to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, GLSC’s special exhibition Wildlife Rescue, and free parking in their attached garage.

Don’t wait to get your tickets: Early bird pricing of $40 is still available, but only until March 17. Ticket prices will go up to $55 per ticket on March 18. Purchase online or call 216-621-2400.

UPDATE (3/24): Enter to win 2 tickets to Yuri’s Night at Poise in Parma.

Hope to see you partying on the dance floor at this year's Yuri's Night

Hope to see you partying on the dance floor at this year’s Yuri’s Night

Want to learn more about Yuri’s Night?  Check out the Great Lakes Science Center’s Facebook event site here and follow @YurisNight to keep up-to-date on all of the global celebrations.

Disclosure: I will be attending with a guest as media but was going to write about the event regardless. My opinions are 100% my own.

Free Concert: CityMusic Cleveland’s World Premiere Inspired by Cleveland Refugee Community

Blogkeeping: Congrats Jenny S for winning the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo giveaway. Please reply to my email by end of today to confirm you can still attend.
CityMusic Cleveland will perform the world premiere of Dan Visconti's Roots to Branches, along with Ung's Khse Buon for cello solo and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" on March 12-16

CityMusic Cleveland will perform the world premiere of Dan Visconti’s Roots to Branches, along with Ung’s Khse Buon for cello solo and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” on March 12-16

Cleveland has a rich ethnic heritage, dating back far into the city’s history and spanning many cultures. The Cleveland Memory Project, for instance, hosts some fascinating information from The Greater Cleveland Ethnographic Museum’s Immigrant Experience Project, which recorded the stories of approximately ninety immigrants from over thirty cultural backgrounds.

Today, many refugee populations continue to forge a new home in the Cleveland region.

A new musical piece commissioned by CityMusic Cleveland weaves together the stories of these communities, the hardship and oppression they’ve fled, and their long journey to settle in Cleveland.

Dan Visconti’s Roots to Branches will make its world premiere this week during CityMusic’s March concert series.

As with all of their concert series, CityMusic will tour the performance at different locations around Cleveland. And in keeping with CityMusic’s mission to make chamber music more accessible, every concert is free though donations are welcomed.

The concert premieres tomorrow, March 12 at 7:30pm at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. Other performances include:

Visconti worked with CityMusic and Grammy-winning percussionist Shane Shanahan to produce this new work, a concerto for hand percussion with orchestra and narrator. In an email to CityMusic supporters, he shared what inspired the composition:

“The title of the concerto comes from this quote, from an interview with a local Bhutanese refugee:

‘I have lost my roots but gained many branches; my family tree flowers once again with the promise of opportunity, and in my turn my greatest hope is to give back to this great country that has given my family a new chance to blossom.’

In turns hair-raising, offbeat, and joyous, the concerto Roots to Branches features percussion instruments from around the globe, gives expressive voice to these refugees’ experiences, and paints a portrait of a population that is already giving back to the community that offered them the chance of a better life.”

In addition to Roots to Branches, this week’s concert series will include Khse Buon for cello solo by Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”. An IndieGoGo project is also underway to record Roots to Branches so that the stories of our community’s refugees can be told to others.

Roots to Branches' composer Dan Visconti

Composer Dan Visconti

This will be only my second CityMusic Cleveland concert. When I attended their Viennese Waltz Kings concert in December, I fell in love with CityMusic’s mission of calling attention to social concerns while making chamber music more accessible to the Cleveland community. It also helped that the performance was incredible and the group’s welcoming spirit was so contagious.

It’s no surprise that as they celebrate their 10th anniversary, CityMusic Cleveland is reaching nearly 20,000 people per season.

In conjunction with the concerto’s world premiere, CityMusic will be at the Children’s Museum of Cleveland on Sunday, March 16. Join them and special guests from Cleveland’s refugee community to learn kids’ songs from all over the globe. The interactive presentation will take place at 10:30am, 11:30am, and 12:30pm.

They’ll also be presenting a program with Global Cleveland at the City Club of Cleveland on March 21. At noon, global human rights activist Kerry Kennedy will speak about the plight of modern-day refugees, highlighting the stories of hidden communities of refugees settling in the US, including those from Bhutan/Nepal, Myanmar, Iraq, and Somalia. Call 216-621-0082 to make reservations.

Disclosure: I was asked to share this event on my blog; however, I would have anyway because I support CityMusic’s mission and was already planning on attending one of the free concerts. Opinions here are 100% my own.

Theater Ninjas’ [sic]: Minding Our Mistakes

Theater Ninjas' production of [sic] is at the 78th Street Studios through March 15

Theater Ninjas’ production of [sic] is at the 78th Street Studios through March 15

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take in two very different, but good shows. We first saw The Great Lakes’ Deathtrap on Saturday, a polished, entertaining comic thriller (you can read my recap here). Then on Monday, Scott and I saw Theater Ninjas’ [sic].

Melissa James Gibson’s verbose, frenetic [sic] focuses on three neighbors, their mistakes, and their friendship of convenience.

Babette is trying – unsuccessfully - to pitch a book about history-changing temper tantrums. Theo is struggling to compose a theme song for the Thrill-o-Rama rollercoaster. And Frank is stumbling over his words as he dreams of becoming a professional auctioneer.

While they’re each counting pennies and hitting the wall with their creative pursuits, they’re making mistakes in their personal lives. Drunken hookups, vanished wives, jealousies over an ex-boyfriend who’s moved on.

[sic] shows the three repeatedly spilling out of their apartments and into the hallway with their ups, downs, arguments, and flirtations, before slamming a door and retreating into their personal prisons.

It was exhilarating and a little emotionally exhausting.

Left to right:  Actors Ryan Lucas, Rachel Lee Kolis and Gabriel Riazi, as Theo, Babette and Frank in [sic]

Left to right: Actors Ryan Lucas, Rachel Lee Kolis and Gabriel Riazi, as Theo, Babette and Frank in [sic]

Watching [sic] brought back vivid memories of my early twenties in Philly. Working in the marketing and sales department of a theatre during the day, then backstage on a show at night to help pay my bills, and volunteering for a startup theatre company whenever I could squeeze in a few moments.

There was little sleep, but who needed it when you were fueled by putting order to the chaos and a couple of martinis.

Although I may not have been a full-blown trainwreck at the time, I would have qualified at least as a fender bender trying to figure out what I wanted and making many mistakes.

Looking back, was it exhausting? Yes. But was it also an incredibly fun and invaluable experience? Definitely. And many good stories resulted from that time.

Which is why I loved [sic]. It made me recall working back-to-back shows on Sundays, punctuated by a riotous weekly dinner with the rest of the crew and cast. Or having a cigarette with my roommate on our apartment building’s front stoop, hoping we’d run into our neighbor Akbar, a local artist and chef who always had something interesting to say.

Director Pandora Robertson pondered in [sic]‘s playbill “Why do we end up with the friends that we have? Why do some friendships last and others fade instantly? Do we really choose our friends?”

We don’t really have that much control as the characters in [sic] demonstrate. They’re brought together because they all knew the same mutual “friend,” someone we don’t meet, but hear a lot about from Babette, Theo, and Frank.

Much of [sic] rotates around the characters' mistakes and their habit of pointing out the others' in defense of their own

Much of [sic] rotates around the characters’ mistakes and their habit of pointing out the others’ in defense of their own

At multiple points during the show, each character uses scathing words to hurt the others. Regardless, though, they’re there together at the end to console, tease, and probably hurt again. It’s raw, poetic, and, even at it’s most ridiculous, realistic.  

[sic]‘s script runs at a manic pace, focused on the cacophony of the city and the at-times overly clever language of its inhabitants. I found myself having problems keeping up on occasion and missing a line here or there. However, the actors playing Babette (Rachel Lee Kolis), Theo (Ryan Lucas), and Frank (Gabriel Riazi) never waned in energy and thrust our focus from each tumultuous moment to the next.

Kolis, in particular, captured my attention and never let go. Her expressions and body language were always in sync with Babette’s shifting moods and whirlwind outbursts. Whether she was seeking a few pennies or support for her book (neither of which she got from anyone but Theo), her desperation shot straight to my heart.

Theo tortures himself in his cramped apartment while Babette and Frank listen

Theo bangs out a not-very-thrilling Thrill-o-Rama composition while Babette and Frank listen outside his cramped apartment

The highlight of every Theater Ninja show is seeing how they use a performance space, whether it’s the atrium at the Cleveland Museum of Art or a common area between a few galleries in the 78th Street Studios.

In the same space where Theater Ninjas’ first run of Excavation had audience members wandering between multiple vignettes, set designer Val Kozlenko has built out [sic]‘s intimate, messy apartments.

Even though each apartment is the size of a broom closet, it fully realizes the inhabitant’s personality and problems. I loved how each space was built at a slant, melding into the 78th Street Studios’ walls and support columns, creating a refuge where the characters could continue to torture themselves in private. 

[sic] will be at the 78th Street Studios through March 15 with shows on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday at 8pm. Tickets range between $15 and $20. Purchase them at https://squareup.com/market/theater-ninjas

Disclosure: I was invited to attend [sic] with a guest in exchange for sharing my opinions of the production. The opinions here are 100% my own.