Category Archives: Arts and Entertainment

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to Cleveland’s Tri-C JazzFest

TRI-C JAZZFEST

In its heyday, PlayhouseSquare played host to crooners, jazz and big bands musicians like Bing Crosby and ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Now, as PlayhouseSquare’s revitalization hits a dazzling high, Cleveland’s own jazz festival, the Tri-C JazzFest has unveiled a new format celebrating the district.

It’s the 35th anniversary of the Tri-C JazzFest and they’re making a big move – closing down Euclid Ave. between 13th and 14th St with three days of concerts.

From June 26-28, music lovers can take in twelve ticketed shows throughout PlayhouseSquare’s theatres, plus a host of free outdoor music, food trucks and Great Lakes brews on Star Plaza.

Concerts include trumpeter Sean Jones and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra opening the festival on June 26; Eddie Palmieri, whose career as bandleader spans 50 years, with a night of salsa and Latin jazz on June 27; and pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias performing her tribute to Chet Baker at the Hanna on June 28. Check out the full schedule below:

JazzFest lineup

The free Star Plaza concerts, which are the latest centennial gifts from the Cleveland Foundation, will take place outside on Friday, June 27 and Saturday, June 28 starting at 3pm.

You can learn more about the musicians and purchase tickets on the JazzFest website.

You can also win two tickets right here to the Raul Midón concert on June 28!

Blind since infancy, Midón grew up listening to his father’s collection of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis records, as well as the pop music of the time: Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon.

He writes on the JazzFest’s website: “The way I play today is an amalgam of those styles, mixed with my fascination with the great rock and blues guitarists like Eric Clapton and B.B. King. I’m constantly trying to integrate everything I know musically into the guitar.”

The New York Times describes Midón as “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus.” And now you can enjoy his concert at the Hanna Theatre by entering my giveaway.

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 who your favorite jazz, blues or swing musician is.

2) If you’re a fan of Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland 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 @TriCJazzFest 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 see @RaulMidon at @PlayhouseSquare on 6/28. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for #TriCJazzFest tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2w3

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 Tuesday, June 17 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Wednesday, June 18, 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 the Tri-C JazzFest with a guest in exchange for previewing the event. My choice to blog about the festival is based on how much Scott and I have enjoyed these concerts in years past. Opinions are my own.

I’m Sticking with Duck Tape: Avon’s Duck Tape Festival

My allergies hit me hard this past weekend and while I tried to rest up on Sunday morning, I turned to the soothing voice of Charles Osgood to take my mind off it.

It’s always a treat if I’m able to catch CBS Sunday Morning and I’m glad I tuned into the latest episode which featured something from my own backyard: the Duck Tape plant in Avon, Ohio.

In my college theatre tech days, there were few things I loved more than duct tape, hot glue guns, and a Leatherman. So after Scott and I moved to Avon Lake, I was excited to discover we lived only five minutes from ShurTech’s headquarters, home to the Duck Tape brand of duct tape.

While Duck Tape offers all the traditional types of duct tape and adhesives (I’m partial to ShurTech’s FrogTape for our painting projects), I have spent hours on their site looking at crafting and fabric tapes and colors and prints. They even have an Avengers Duck Tape, you guys!

If you’re on the hunt for a weekend craft activity, look no further than the Ducktivities page for decorative boxes, a Chevron clutch and even a travel game kit. Want to repurpose an old picture frame into a decorative chalkboard? Easy with their Chalkboard Deco Adhesive Laminate.

All things Duck Tape will be celebrated June 13-15 at this year’s Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival.

Duck Tape Festival

It’s the 11th year of the event which takes place at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Avon and features concerts, a Duct Tape Parade, crafting areas and various other duct tape-related activities.

Last year’s winning float was a life-size version of the Back to the Future DeLorean so I can’t wait to see what this year’s parade participants have planned.

The festival is also attempting to break the Guinness World Record of most people modeling in a duct tape fashion show, and you can help!

If you’d like to participate in the fashion show, register here.

Participants are required to wear a minimum of two garments made entirely of duct tape (examples include: shirt/vest/jacket/skirt/pants/shorts) OR one garment made entirely of duct tape and one accessory item made entirely of duct tape (examples include: shoes/hat/scarf/hair bow/headband/purse).

You can read my recap of the 2011 festival and learn more about this year’s Duck Tape Festival at ducktapefestival.com.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a tour of the ShurTech headquarters, but was unable to attend. I also received a box of Duck Tape crafting supplies. My opinions and the choice to blog about the Duck Tape Festival are 100% my own.

This Saturday: Free Comic Book Day in Cleveland

fcbd

Whether you’re an avid comic book reader, a fan of superhero movies and television, or just curious about what the fuss over comics and graphic novels are, this Saturday is a day for you.

Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May, is one of my favorite days of the year. Sadly, I can’t attend any of this year’s festivities because we’re hosting family from out-of-town. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

What is Free Comic Book Day, you ask?

The first FCBD was held in 2002. And in the last 12 years, it’s grown and sparked a nationwide movement around comics and literacy. This year, Diamond Comics Distributors estimates 2,000+ shops will be giving away more than 4.6 million free comics in one day.

Archie, Hello Kitty, GI Joe, Batman, Rocket Raccoon and The Guardians of the Galaxy will all be in attendance — as well as a bunch of comics you may not know about, but should be reading. Over 60 titles are represented in this year’s haul.

USA Today has an awesome primer on which Free Comic Book Day books to read, based on your non-comic tastes.

However, Free Comic Book Day is about more than reading comics. It also spotlights your local comic book shops and the incredible community these brick-and-mortar small businesses build.

Sure, you can just find your local shop using the FCBD store locator, pick up your free books on Saturday, and leave.

But that misses the point of FCBD, in my opinion.

Instead, stick around for a few minutes or a few hours. Talk to the other comic book fans and the shop’s staff if they’re available. Take part in any of the day’s activities that the store has planned – many of them do. You’ll learn a lot and meet the nicest, coolest people.

My local shop, Comics Are Go in Elyria, will have Cleveland artist John G signing copies of “The Lake Erie Monster.” It’s a fantastic comic (read my review here).  Even if you aren’t into comics, you’re likely familiar with John and his work, as the artist of Melt’s monthly special posters.

Lake-Erie-Monster-Movie-Poster

Carol and John’s will be hosting not one, but two parties for Free Comic Book Day. Their annual Midnight Early Release party starts at 10 pm on Friday and goes til 2 am on Saturday. They’ll have free comic books (10 per person), free graphic novels, photo ops (including this TARDIS!), rewards for costumes, free sketches, food and drink including a special FCBD micro brew from Cleveland Action Brewery.

The day event goes from 10am til 7pm. Mark Sumerak will be autographing 200 free copies of his book Franklin Richards Son of a Genius. There will also be free sketches for kids and the live creation of a mural by the Rust Belt Monster Collective.

FCBDPostCardBack

You can read all about Carol and John’s event here.  They’ve also distributed comics to every single branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library for Saturday.

For other shops and FCBD events closer to where you live, check out Michael Sangiacomo’s column on Cleveland.com.

#DazzleCLE: PlayhouseSquare to Shine Even Brighter

Over the last year, changes have been coming to the outside of PlayhouseSquare. But a few more are yet to come...

Over the last year, changes have been coming to the outside of PlayhouseSquare. But a few are yet to come…

Anyone who has visited one of PlayhouseSquare’s theatres recalls the first time they took in its restored beauty. The old-school glamour of its lobbies and theatres. The State Theatre murals. The Hanna’s ornate ceiling decked in mythological creatures. Those chandeliers.

It’s all the more stunning knowing that at one time these theatres fell into such disrepair that they were going to be torn down.

But because of Ray Shepardson – without whom, we would have had parking lots on Euclid Avenue – they were saved and a neighborhood in downtown Cleveland restored. In fact, PlayhouseSquare announced last month that they now have more season ticket holders than any city in America.

If you haven’t seen it or are unfamiliar with PlayhouseSquare’s comeback story, check out the Staging Success documentary:

To match the dazzle inside of its theatres, PlayhouseSquare is about to complete a dramatic transformation outside.

Over the last year, we’ve seen the plaza in the PlayhouseSquare district updated with an outdoor music stage, firepit, and dining area. Beautiful archways (my favorite of the exterior additions) now mark the boundaries of the neighborhood. Digital signs provide information and interaction opportunities for visitors. And a retro sign above the buildings at E. 13th St. and Euclid Avenue pays homage to PlayhouseSquare’s 1920s-era beginnings.

PlayhouseSquare 1

New signage can be found everywhere you look around and above you

All of these changes have led to the unveiling of the neighborhood’s centerpiece: The GE Chandelier.

20-feet tall and adorned with 4,200 crystals, it was inspired by the stunning chandeliers inside of the theatre. It will be a permanent fixture, connecting the points of the Euclid Ave. and E 14th Street intersection and serving as a can’t-miss welcome for PlayhouseSquare guests.

The massive chandelier was constructed by Montreal-based company Lumid. In addition to looking good, it’s been designed and tested to withstand the harshest conditions (take that, Cleveland winters!). 

The frame is currently up at PlayhouseSquare; however, you can be the first to see it lit up in all its glittering splendor this coming Friday:

Dazzle-countdown-events-images-general1

On May 2, the lights will be turned on at Dazzle the District. This free community celebration starts at 5pm with Taste of PlayhouseSquare, happy hours and live music on the U.S. Bank Plaza (previously Star Plaza).

At 8:30 pm, Nashville’s Hot Chelle Rae takes The University Hospitals Main Stage for a concert.

It all culminates with the GE Chandelier Lighting Ceremony at 9:30 p.m.

I hope you’ll join me this Friday! Admission to the event and concert is completely free. And stop by the blog after Dazzle the District for photos and a giveaway of PlayhouseSquare Dazzle swag.

The chandelier, even without its lights, is beautiful

Soon, this sight will be even more spectacular

Get all the Dazzle the District details at dazzle.playhousesquare.org and watch these videos to learn more about the GE Chandelier:

Disclosure: I was invited to blog about the event, though I was already planning on it because I love PlayhouseSquare and can’t wait to see the chandelier’s unveiling. Opinions here are 100% my own.

A Blast for Yuri: Great Lakes Science Center’s Yuri’s Night

Yuri's Night Cleveland 2014 at Great Lakes Science Center

Yuri’s Night Cleveland 2014 at Great Lakes Science Center

“Only in Cleveland,” Scott turned and said to me at this year’s Yuri’s Night Cleveland, “can I enjoy a drink at a science center to celebrate a Russian cosmonaut, while a band dressed in Star Trek uniforms named after a Mel Brooks pun plays Boogie Man.”

On April 12, space geeks came together with fans of science fiction, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and the Jetsons at the Great Lakes Science Center for Yuri’s Night. The party is Cleveland’s contribution to the worldwide celebration of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

Only at comic book conventions have I seen a celebration of so many layers of nerdom under one roof.  It’s why I love this event and look forward to it every year.

A photo with the guest of honor

A photo with Yuri

Our first stop at Yuri’s Night Cleveland was for a bit of rocket fuel.

Upstairs in the VIP lounge, we sampled a shot of chilled pea soup from AMP150 and grilled asparagus salad with parmesan biscuit from Crop. Downstairs, they had some of my favorite comfort foods including empanadas and fried ravioli.

And then of course there was dessert. While there were many sweets to choose from, I opted for A Cupcake a Day‘s blackberry sage cupcake, Peace Love and Little Donuts‘ raspberry lemonade donut, and astronaut chocolates from Sweet Designs.

Cupcakes

While we ate, Scott and I enjoyed a lot of rock and a little ska from Abby Normal. They embraced the spirit of the evening and captivated the crowd – dressing as a Star Trek crew and making great use of the Science Center’s escalators:

Abby Normal at Yuri's Night Cleveland

Abby Normal at Yuri’s Night Cleveland

After enjoying their performance, I tracked down the special guest I most-wanted to see.  No, not Astronaut Greg Johnson … R2D2!

Scott holds R2D2's gin and tonic while they get a picture together

Scott holds R2D2’s gin and tonic while they get a picture together

Ok, @Astro_Box was the Yuri’s Night guest I was second-most excited for, and we managed to have our photo taken with him at the end of the night.

Astronaut Greg Johnson

Astronaut Greg Johnson

I also had the pleasure of meeting the Doctor Who Society of Cleveland who brought their TARDIS. The craftsmanship was incredible. 

If you missed the TARDIS at Yuri’s Night, it’ll be at the premiere of episode 1 of T.R.A.C.E,  a Doctor Who Fan Film, on May 7.

Night made:

It IS bigger on the inside!

It IS bigger on the inside!

Some of the fashions at Yuri’s Night could have rivaled costumes at a convention. The costume contest winner honored the man we were celebrating, Yuri himself. However, this one was my favorite:

Vader

All this sightseeing and people watching tuckered me out. Fortunately, we were able to rest our feet in the Black Light Lounge.  New to this year’s Yuri’s Night party, the lounge featured an art wall for everyone to draw and write on and a CIA fashion show of wearable tech.

Of course, Yuri’s Night wasn’t all fun and games. In addition to checking out the Science Center’s exhibits, Scott and I made sure we took in a few lectures.

These weren’t your run-of-the-mill physics lessons. We first caught part of a talk on the similarities between real-life space science and its pop culture counterparts, and then we witnessed the Big Science Show’s rocket launch while learning about propulsion. 

Blast off!

Blast off!

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and even the best of times must come to an end. So after GLSC’s epic midnight balloon drop, Scott and I called it a night and headed home.

However, we only have to wait til the Earth goes around the sun one more time before our next Yuri’s Night. I hope we’ll see you there!

Yuri's Night Balloon Drop

Yuri’s Night Balloon Drop

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Yuri’s Night with a guest in exchange for blogging about it ahead of the event. Opinions expressed here are 100% 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.

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.

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.