Category Archives: Theatres

The 39th Cleveland International Film Festival: My Kind of March Madness

CIFF Image

For sports fans, March Madness means another thrilling college hoops tournament. But for fans of Cleveland and film, March brings its own brand of excitement: the annual arrival of the Cleveland International Film Festival.

As much as I love Saint Patrick’s Day, CIFF is tops on my March must-do list.

The festival opens tonight with an Opening Gala that includes a screening of I’ll See You In My Dreams featuring Blythe Danner, Sam Elliott, Rhea Perlman and many other amazing actors. It’s a star-filled way to celebrate the festival and cinema.

Over the course of the 39th festival, which runs through March 29, 190+ feature films and 220+ short films from 60 countries will be screened.

Although the festival’s main hub is at Tower City, films will be screened all over the area. A few of the 11 neighborhood screening locations include Chagrin Cinemas in Chagrin Falls, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium, and The Nightlight in Akron.

There are films for every interest. In addition to their main program, this year’s festival continues to present a selection of “sidebars” or themed film groupings focused around Pan-Asian Films, Focus on Disabilities, Family Films,  African Diaspora, Cinema en Espanol and many other topics.

One of the films in the Women of the World sidebar and two of the festival’s competitions is Semicolon; The Adventures of Ostomy Girl.

It features Dana, a 25-year-old woman who was diagnosed at age four with Crohn’s disease. It follows her and her mother as they travel between their home in Las Vegas and the Cleveland Clinic. Instead of viewing all of the surgeries, medications and close encounters with death as a tragedy, Dana tells her story with a grin and a sharp sense of humor.

To quote the film description: “SEMICOLON; THE ADVENTURES OF OSTOMY GIRL is not a story of disease and decay. This is a story of defiance and determination. Prepare to lose your heart as well as your inhibitions about not laughing at ‘certain things.’ Dana will teach you the meaning of courage, along with the value of a really good poop joke!”

With so many films to choose from, deciding what to do during CIFF can be overwhelming. Especially if it’s your first year. However, CIFF’s Film Guide, their website (www.clevelandfilm.org) and social media (@CIFF and Cleveland International Film Festival on Facebook are just two) are excellent places to start. 

Fresh Water Cleveland also asked veteran festival goers like Eat Drink Cleveland what advice they’d give attendees. It’s a must-read.

Once you have an idea about which films you want to see, you can buy tickets online. Tickets are available for purchase online until 11 PM on the day before a screening. You may also purchase tickets by phone (877.304.3456) or in person at the Film Festival Box Office in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas.

Day-of tickets are only available for purchase in person at the Film Festival Box Office.

While you’re at it, head over to USA TODAY to vote for the Cleveland International Film Festival as the best film festival in the U.S.

The contest is part of USA TODAY’s 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards and CIFF needs your help. Vote for them today and every day (one vote per person per day) through Monday, April 13th to show your support. It only takes two clicks: 10best.com/awards/travel/best-film-festival.

See you at the movies!

A Must-See in CLE: The Magic of PIPPIN at PlayhouseSquare

The Cast of the National Touring Production of PIPPIN, at PlayhouseSquare through Feb. 15. Credit Terry Shapiro

The Cast of the National Touring Production of PIPPIN, at PlayhouseSquare through Feb. 15. Credit Terry Shapiro

How many times have you watched a play, attended a concert or seen a painting and left inspired to take on greatness?

Art is magical in the way it fills us with the desire to pursue glory, revolt against whatever’s holding us back, and love with every inch of our body.

PIPPIN now playing at PlayhouseSquare until February 15, brings that magic to the stage in one of the most thrilling productions I’ve ever experienced.

As the curtain rises (well, in the case of this show, drops with a grand flourish), the Leading Player entices the audience to hear the tale of Charlemagne’s son Pippin.

Fresh out of university, Pippin doesn’t want to lead the sedentary life of a scholar. I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free. Got to find my corner of the sky,” he sings.

Lured from home by the Leading Player, Pippin tries his hand at battle, revolution, politics, and a lot of loving. But with each, he remains unsatisified. 

When he stumbles into ordinary life, he’s torn between his desire to pursue his daydreams and the comforts of a quiet family. It’s a struggle that resonates with all of us, and I wish I could go back in time to tell 20-year-old Amanda to see it.

Sam Lips as Pippin. Photo Credit Martha Rial

Sam Lips as Pippin. Photo Credit Martha Rial

The Leading Player and Pippin are brought to life in this production by Sasha Allen and Sam Lips, respectively.

Fans of The Voice and Camp will recognize Allen’s dynamic voice and magnetic stage presence. She’s perfect as the production’s ringleader. Lips, who understudied the role in the Broadway company, does a very convincing job of transforming Pippin from spastic, unsure teenager to a more settled (but at times, still conflicted) adult.  

However, as incredibly entertaining as Allen and Lips are – especially when on stage together, the performance that will stick with you long after the curtain is drawn is the Leading Player’s circus troupe.

From stunning acrobatics to showstopping musical numbers like No Time at All (beautifully sung — upside down on a trapeze! — by Priscilla Lopez) , the performances left my jaw on the floor. The trapeze work, stunts, and illusions the cast creates are worth the ticket price alone. In fact, describing them would ruin that magic.

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of the National Tour of PIPPIN. Credit Terry Shapiro

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of the National Tour of PIPPIN. Credit Terry Shapiro

After a fiery grand finale that left me breathless and a bit choked up, there’s no surprise that PIPPIN won Best Musical Revival at the Tonys and in my heart.

Run to PlayhouseSquare and see PIPPIN before it swings out of Cleveland. Tickets are going very fast and only a few performances remain. You really don’t want to miss it.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the opening night of PIPPIN with a guest in exchange for sharing my experience. All opinions are 100% my own.

Jump Back to the Future: PlayhouseSquare Partners’ #JBB24 Ticket Kickoff Party

PlayhouseSquare Partners' Jump Back Ball 24: Jump Back to the Future

The Back to the Future trilogy has a very soft spot in my heart.

Like most kids from the 80s, I watched the first Back to the Future a zillion times growing up. I don’t know whether it was my penchant for only listening to oldies music, but the Earth Angel scene was the one that stuck with me the most. The film also instilled in me a life-long obsession with Christopher Lloyd.

For some reason, though, I never saw the second installment and only a few scenes from the third on tv. So, when Scott and I started dating, he decided to remedy this.

For our first of many road-trips together, Scott bought a portable dvd player (this was before we could stream or rent movies on our tablet) and loaded it with the full trilogy. As we drove through the night, Scott and I watched the three films, back to back to back.

Back to the Future is also the reason I ended up joining PlayhouseSquare Partners when PlayhouseSquare showed it during their Cinema at the Square Young Professionals Night. I met Dawn and Robert, that year’s Membership Chairs, at the happy hour beforehand and that was it. I was hooked.

Five years later, I’m co-chairing the Partners board. So it’s sort of fitting that this year PlayhouseSquare Partners is jumping back to the future.

Of course that’s not the reason Jump Back to the Future is the 24th annual Jump Back Ball’s theme. In all honesty, I found out the theme the same time as everyone else. This is one reason why, though:

Screenshot from Back to the Future 2

Screenshot from Back to the Future 2

Yep, the future that Marty and Doc jump to in Back to the Future 2 is 2015.

For one night, you can pretend that time-traveling DeLoreans and hoverboards do exist. (Actually, a hoverboard of sorts is currently being Kickstarted.)

This year’s Jump Back Ball is taking place February 28, 2015 at PlayhouseSquare. While it’s still a few months away, you’ll want to get your tickets at the Ticket Kickoff Party on November 10.

Last year’s Jump Back Ball sold out in only 10 days – breaking another record for ticket sales for this event. So if you don’t want to miss this year’s Jump Back Ball, you need to get your tickets right away. Here’s the scoop on how.

Jump Back to the Future Ticket Kickoff

When? Monday, November 10 from 5:30-7:30pm

Where? Hofbräuhaus Cleveland (1550 Chester Ave.)

How much? $130 for Partners* and $165 for Non-Partners, a portion of which is tax deductible. Ticket prices increase by $15 plus handling fees the next day, so save the most at the Kickoff Party.

How many? Ticket limits will apply at the event. Non-Partners can purchase two tickets per person. Partners* can purchase two tickets at the Partners price and two at the Non-Partners price per membership.

Learn more about the Kickoff Party: facebook.com/events/1462714320674361

What’s all the fuss about? Read my recap of last year’s Jump Back Ball to find out.

*If your current membership expires before Jump Back Ball, renew on or before November 10 to be eligible for discounted tickets.

PlayhouseSquare Partners is also partnering with the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland at this year’s Kickoff Party.

Bring a new, unused personal care item to do be donated to Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland and be entered into a raffle to win an overnight stay at the Wyndham the night of Jump Back Ball, a VIP upgrade for yourself and a guest, and loge tickets to upcoming performances at PlayhouseSquare.

Here’s a suggested list of items to donate:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Lotion

So, join me at the Hofbräuhaus on November 10 because once Jump Back Ball sells out, there’s no time machine to take you back.

Disclosure: I am a co-chair of this year’s PlayhouseSquare Partners board. I’m also a blogger for the event, offered one complimentary ticket in exchange for blogging about and purchasing a ticket to Jump Back Ball.

#PartnersCLE Free Tailgate Party at PlayhouseSquare

Blogkeeping: Without further ado, we have a Taste of the Browns giveaway winner!

TOB Winner

After checking all of the entries and removing two pingbacks plus several duplicate entries, the winner as selected by Random.org is Cheryl Scheckel. Congratulations! 

If you didn’t win, I have another way you can celebrate the return of football to Cleveland … and this party is free for everyone!

PlayhouseSquare Partners' Season KickOff Party: Enjoy a tailgate followed by outdoor showing of Draft Day

PlayhouseSquare Partners’ Season KickOff Party: Enjoy a tailgate followed by outdoor showing of Draft Day

Join PlayhouseSquare Partners, the theatre district’s young professionals organization, for a Season KickOff Party and Movie this Friday night.

At dusk on September 12, PlayhouseSquare will be showing Draft Day out on the U.S. Bank Plaza. The movie’s free and part of PlayhouseSquare’s Summer Movie Series presented by Elk & Elk.

Our pre-movie kickoff will take place 5:30-8:30pm in the Idea Center’s Gund studio space on Euclid Ave. The tailgate-themed party includes:

  • A Chipotle Buffet
  • Cash Bar (First drink on us!)
  • Ice Cream Bars
  • DJ Playing Music
  • and Cornhole and Other Tailgate Games

PlayhouseSquare Partners will also be there with tables and information for each of our committees and upcoming activities.

Best of all, everyone who attends the party will be the first to find out what this year’s Jump Back Ball theme is. (I’m on the board and I won’t even find out til then!)

It’s free to attend the Partners KickOff Party, and if you decide to join Partners at this event, you’ll also receive 20% off a new Partners membership (excluding Balcony’s Best $50 membership).

Just RSVP for the party by emailing sarah@playhousesquare.org. See you Friday!

Disclaimer: I’m a co-chair of PlayhouseSquare Partners’ board and involved in the hosting of the movie’s Tailgate Party.

#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.

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.

Great Lakes Theater Sets a (Death)trap for Entertainment

Enter to win 2 tickets to Cleveland’s all-new Home and Remodeling Expo at the Cleveland Convention Center. You can tweet once a day for extra entries!

There are some weeks that make me want to crawl into bed and never come out, and I feel like the last few weeks have been that way. It got to a point by the end of last Thursday where I just couldn’t function. Stringing together a sentence that made sense was nearly impossible.

However, I finally had a chance this weekend to recharge. There are two things that help me find my way back to normal. One — relaxing in bed and reading comic books until 10:30 on a Saturday morning. And two — going to see a show.

Theatre, regardless of whether it’s a comedy, drama, musical or play, does something to lift my brain out of a funk. I think it has to do with the fact that the action is unfolding live, in the same room as me. Unlike a two dimensional movie, all of my senses are engaged at a play. The exercise of such incredible focus allows my brain to clear.

Fortunately, over the weekend, I had the opportunity to take in two great shows which I’ll discuss in two posts this week. Although very different, they each provided me with what I needed.

First up was Social Media Night at Great Lakes Theatre. It’s a fantastic program that GLT’s Audience Engagement Manager Chris Fornadel has created, inviting bloggers and active CLE tweeters to learn more about their shows.

Actors Tom Ford (left, as scheming playwright Sidney Ruhl) and Nick Steen (right, as Clifford Anderson) in Deathtrap (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Actors Tom Ford (left, as scheming playwright Sidney Ruhl) and Nick Steen (right, as Clifford Anderson) in Deathtrap (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The latest meetup was for Deathtrap, Great Lakes Theater’s current production onstage at the Hanna through March 16.

I’ve written time and again of my love for murder mysteries, and Deathtrap is one of the genre’s masterpieces. It’s not just the longest-running comic thriller on Broadway, but was also made into the 1982 film featuring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. However, in my 31 years, I still had never seen it.

I count myself lucky that Great Lakes’ production was my first time. Trying to figure out the twists and turns is my favorite part of a mystery, and it’s difficult to recapture that feeling on the second or third viewing/read.

And, boy, does Great Lakes’ Deathtrap have a lot of twists. In fact, with so many shockers, it’s the perfect homage to the classic whodunit.

Ford explains his scheme to actor Tracee Patterson, who plays his wife Myra Bruhl

Ford explains his scheme to actor Tracee Patterson, who plays his wife Myra Bruhl (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

On the surface, the premise is simple: Sidney Bruhl used to be a successful Broadway playwright. However, he can’t come up with his next big hit. In fact, he’s had so many flops, the money is running out.

It’s just his luck that a former student has written a thrilling script with the potential to make lots of money. He has sent it to Sidney, looking for writing advice. Instead, Sidney hatches a plan (which may or may not include murder) to steal the script.  

Before the show, Cleveland mystery writer Les Roberts spoke about Deathtrap, murder mysteries, and his time in Cleveland. It is always a treat to hear Roberts speak and you can read a bit about his journey to Cleveland in my review of his novel Whiskey Island.

His talk was an excellent way to prepare for the show, and his comment of life imitating art (playwright Ira Levin had a series of unsuccessful plays and movies after Deathtrap) was especially interesting. 

Les Roberts talking at Great Lakes Theater's Deathtrap pre-show

Les Roberts talking at Great Lakes Theater’s Deathtrap pre-show

We got to try something new with this production’s Social Media Night: tweeting during the show. By placing us in the Hanna Theatre’s boxes, we could tweet without disrupting other audience members’ experience.

Although it was interesting to livetweet the performance, I will admit to being so engrossed in the show’s details that I didn’t tweet too often.

However, these three tweets captured my thoughts on some of the highlights:

I couldn’t find a fault with the performance. The cast and crew made excellent use of an intriguing script. And while Tom Ford as Sidney Ruhl was a treat, Tracee Patterson (Sidney’s wife), Nick Steen (Clifford), Lynn Allison (the psychic Helga Ten Dorp), and Aled Davies (Sidney’s lawyer) made up an airtight ensemble around him. It also balances the murderous mayhem with biting oneliners.

I recommend this production for anyone looking for a good laugh, a little murder, and a lot of surprise. Deathtrap runs until March 16. Purchase tickets here and use promo code GLT to receive a discount.

The season concludes with As You Like It (April 9-24) and the HANNApalooza fundraiser (June 14).  Great Lakes Theater returns in the fall with their 2014-2015 season: Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Tempest, as well as Dial “M” for Murder and Les Miserables.

I’ll be back later this week with my thoughts on Theater Ninjas’ [sic].

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Deathtrap Social Media Night in exchange for tweeting or blogging about it. My opinions are 100% my own.

No Need to Be Crafty Like Q to Volunteer at Jump Back Ball Shop Nights

Got our tickets in the mail last week. Jump Back Ball is almost here!

Got our tickets in the mail last week. Jump Back Ball is almost here!

12 days and counting until the curtains go up on another Jump Back Ball.

Between now and February 22, when Scott and I aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day, our fifth wedding anniversary, and going to work, you’ll likely find us on the fourth floor of the Idea Center at PlayhouseSquare — painting, cutting, pasting, and perhaps (but hopefully, not) glittering.

It’s Jump Back Ball Shop Night season. And, as always, anyone is free to stop by, help out, and get a sneak peek at this year’s James Bond-themed decor.

At last night’s Shop Night, Scott and I had a chance to paint a few of the cloth banners celebrating the different Bond films.  Kimberly and I painted “happy trees” on a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. And I even got to use a nail gun for the first time. Once I overcame my fear of accidentally hurting someone with it, it was easy and fun.

 

As Scott wrote in last year’s Shop Night guest post, you don’t need to be crafty like Q to help out. The only requirement: have fun!

We’ll provide you with a light dinner. And in case you need another reason to attend, every Shop Night you go to will get you a raffle entry for an overnight stay at the Wyndham Hotel the night of Jump Back Ball.

You still have 3 chances to attend a Shop Night and be entered into the Wyndham Hotel raffle. Join us between 5:30pm and 8:30pm at the Idea Center on:

  • Wednesday, February 12
  • Monday, February 17
  • Thursday, February 20

You can also join us on Friday, February 21 for Set Up Day. If you’d like to help assemble the event’s decor throughout the State Theatre, begin arriving at the State Lobby after 9:30 a.m. If you can only stop by during your lunch hour, we’ll be there all day.

Still need Jump Back Ball tickets? Although general admission tickets are sold out, a few Sponsor level tickets remain. Sponsorships start at $1,500 which gets you 4 VIP tickets to Jump Back Ball. That breaks down to $375 per ticket, plus $1,220 of the sponsorship is tax-deductible. Head over to playhousesquare.org/JumpBackBall/sponsor.html for more information.

Already have your Jump Back Ball tickets? Check out my post on James Bond costume ideas.

Disclosure: I’m on the board of PlayhouseSquare Partners, the organization that hosts Jump Back Ball. I also blogged about the event’s kickoff party as a Jump Back Ball blogger.

NOVA at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box ’14

Cleveland Public Theatre's Big Box '14, February 6 - March 22

Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box ’14, cptonline.org

Cleveland Public Theatre is known for its year-round dedication to pushing boundaries and taking risks with their production choices (you can read about some of those performances here and here). However, when it’s time for their annual Big Box series, they push it one step further.

Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box celebrates audacious, local artists by providing a space and support staff for new workshop performances.

For the writers, directors and actors selected to take part in Big Box, it means they have an opportunity to focus solely on experimenting with different disciplines and new stories. For audiences, it means the chance to experience ten world-premieres in only seven weeks. 

First up is NOVA, a one-act opera that satirizes contemporary marketing techniques and how our society often treats people – especially women – as commodities.

Presented by Real Time Opera, producers of Harvey Pekar’s Leave Me Alone!, NOVA is running in the James Levin Theatre February 6, 7 and 8 (all performances start at 7 p.m.).

Presented by Real Time Opera, NOVA will be onstage at the James Levin Theatre 2/6-8 (Credit: Don Harvey)

NOVA, onstage at the James Levin Theatre 2/6-8 (Credit: Don Harvey)

If the Stepford Men’s Association had gone to robotics school, NOVA would have been their thesis project. In short, she’s a sexbot.

(Needless to say, this production is for adults only — leave children at home because it contains nudity and sexual language of a graphic nature.)

This show intrigues me because I’m two issues into Alex & Ada, a new comic about an emotionally detached guy who receives a sexbot from his grandmother for his birthday.

However, in contrast to Alex & Ada’s use of the android trope for a love story, NOVA is taking a much more scathing and reflective approach.

Paul Schick, who wrote the libretto, said he intends NOVA to deliver an indictment of “the superficiality of commercialized sexuality — essentially white, video-obsessed and gamingobsessed — in which our culture is immersed.”

I’m similarly interested in how NOVA twists the traditional opera format. While the production will include a chorus, they’re evangelists backing up the sexbot salesman’s unending pitch. The jingles they use quote pre-existing material and advertising campaigns. The show will also feature canned sitcom laughter from a “studio audience.”

It’s an interesting concept and I love that CPT’s Big Box provides an environment where local artists can take this sort of risk and get feedback from an audience. 

After NOVA, Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big Box series continues through March 22 with one to two shows per week. Tickets cost $12 on Thursdays and $18 on Fridays and Saturdays. You can read more about each week’s schedule at the links below: 

Q&A: The Intergalactic Nemesis’ Jason Neulander

Update: Congrats, entry 9 – Michelle @tinktastic for winning The Intergalactic Nemesis giveaway.

When it comes to the loves of my life, it goes

  1. Scott
  2. family and close friends
  3. Cleveland
  4. comic books 
Scott and me celebrating his birthday at a beer and comic books event

Scott and me celebrating his birthday at a beer and comic books event

While that may be a slight exaggeration, my love for comic books and graphic novels goes beyond the act of enjoying the latest issue of Fables. I think about how I used to draw comics as a kid and jump at the chance to visit the local baseball card store to read up on the X-Men.

I think about how Scott re-introduced me to comics when we started dating. It’s the first activity we shared as a couple, and every time I can help Scott with his own webcomic writing, it brings us even closer in our marriage.

I also think about all of the people I’ve met who share this love – both in the Cleveland community and at conventions from Minnesota to Maryland.

All of this is why I was thrilled to learn The Intergalactic Nemesis Live-Action Graphic Novel is coming to PlayhouseSquare. I saw another live-action graphic novel last year – Kill Shakespeare at C2E2 in Chicago.  It’s an incredibly immersive and entertaining experience.

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