Tag Archives: Cleveland

Clue Into Cleveland Welcomes Guest Bloggers Elizabeth Grepp and Kate Galo

With the holidays in full swing, I’m taking a vacation from blogging for two weeks so that I can unwind, catch up on things and do a little roadtripping.  While I’m gone, two friends of Clue Into Cleveland will be guest blogging.

Elizabeth Grepp returns to Clue Into Cleveland after sharing her insight on Coventry people-watching back in August. A resident of Cleveland Heights for nearly 4 years, Elizabeth’s obsession with the area is driven by the good food, music and fascinating characters who visit or live here. You can follow her on twitter as @egrepp and @cleyogi where she shares her journey becoming certified to teach yoga.

Kate Galo will be making her Clue Into Cleveland blogging debut – though she’s been a reader from the very beginning often commenting on posts.  Long long ago, Kate Galo was a professional blogger at the now-defunct BloggingOhio.com.  Her writing style has vastly improved over the years, and she says she’s looking forward to sharing her thoughts with the loyal readers of Clue Into Cleveland.

Both native Clevelanders, Elizabeth and Kate bring a different perspective to the blog than this Ohio transplant.

If you also would like an opportunity to share how you’ve clued into Cleveland, shoot me an email at clueintocleveland@gmail.com.

See you in two weeks!

Reddstone Cleveland – Another Highlight of the Detroit Shoreway

Reddstone - another highlight of the Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood at 1261 W. 76 St.

Whenever I walk into Reddstone, I always feel like I’m stopping by a party at a neighbor’s house.  Of course, that neighbor lives 30 minutes from my house and Reddstone is actually a snazzy restaurant-bar located in the Gordon Square Arts District.  But, it’s that feeling of being able to comfortably hang out with a group of friends while grabbing a drink or a bite to eat, enjoy the weather on the patio, or watch a game in a lowkey setting that makes Reddstone another highlight of the Detroit Shoreway/Battery Park neighborhood.

Reddstone always seems to have a reason to celebrate which is fine by me – from Sunday pig roasts during the Browns game (with nickel beers to celebrate a victory/cheer you up after a loss), to their ‘Haunted Bar’ Halloween party or 10 cent taco nights. Plus, their patio – known to play host to a party or two – fully deserves its recent Scene Magazine win for best patio dining in the city. Fenced off with tables and stone seating, it features a second bar along the back side of the building. By not removing the trees from the patio area, they’ve established a very intimate and comfortable setting as if you’re hanging out in your own backyard. Even with the chill in the air, it’s still pleasant to spend time outdoors at Reddstone with their fire pit and heaters.   

Scott and I most recently stopped by Reddstone during this year’s Cleveland Beer Week which falls around Scott’s birthday. Given his love of beer (and how much he has put up with shenanigans like this blog), I had been on a search to find a Beer Week event that would be a nice treat.  As soon as I had seen the Reddstone Beer Week event, I knew I had found the perfect match: Bacon and Beer.

Reddstone partnered with the Smuttynose Brewing Co. to select 6 beers they could pair with a 5 course bacon-centric meal.  Founded in 1994 by the same people who started the Northampton and Portsmouth Breweries, Smuttynose Brewing is New Hampshire’s leading craft brewery.  They offer five full-time beers (Shoals Pale Ale, Old Brown Dog, Star Island Single, IPA, Robust Porter), as well as seasonal specialties (Hanami, Summer Weizen, Pumpkin Ale & Winter Ale) and a ‘Big Beer Series‘.

Scott celebrating his birthday with a Bacon Corn Dog at Reddstone's Bacon and Beer event.

Before our first course was served, the evening started with a  pint of the Smuttynose Star Island. Their pale golden ale was a great way to begin the evening and ended up being one of our favorite selections. Although it’s a lighter colored beer – one you could enjoy casually, there was still a dynamic flavor to it, featuring a slight residual sweetness from Honey Malt and hints of citrus from the Belgian yeast it is fermented with. 

After we had time to settle in, the staff brought out the first course which demonstrated the asian influence found in some of Reddstone’s regular menu items: spicy bacon and kim chee pot stickers with an ‘Asian Porky’ dipping sauce.  The highlight of this course was the kim chee which had a nice kick to it that mixed well with the slightly crispy pot stickers.  Although the spice was a little too much for Scott (he has a low tolerance), my favorite dish of the evening was a toss up between this course and the third course.

Paired with the pot stickers was Smuttynose’s Farmhouse Ale. Part of their ‘Big Beer Series,’ it’s brewed in the ‘country ale’ style and slightly darker than Star Island – golden to light amber in color with a medium body. 

Keeping with an appetizer motif, the second course was Scott’s favorite (and one he now wants to try cooking at home): Bacon Corn Dogs.  Breaded like traditional corn dogs, the inside was filled with savory bacon. Coupled with a dijon dipping sauce, the bacon corn dogs were so delicious we didn’t care if they may have been mini-heart attacks on a toothpick.

I found that the bacon corn dogs was the dish most complementary to its paired beer – the S’Muttonator Doppelbock. A rich malty German-inspired beer, it’s a good one for sipping so you can enjoy both its sweet and bitter tastes.  It’s a smooth beer with a nip of an alcohol bite at the end which will immediately warm up your face. The 2010 brew’s ABV rated a 9.5% on their website so it’s not for the weak of heart.

Reddstone's spicy bacon and kim chee pot stickers with Smuttynose beer

Midway through the night, it was time for an entree — a smoked pork belly and sausage slider with bacon and cabbage slaw/mayo. As I mentioned earlier, it was a hard choice between the first course and third course for which one was my favorite.  Between all of the meats in the dish, this one was the most complex when it came to flavors.  Every bite held something different and for any other carnivores out there it was a rich, tasty combination. I may have come for the bacon, but the sausage was a really nice addition. Because of this, if I were pressed to make a decision on my favorite dish, the sliders would have won out.  

The sliders were paired with the Smuttynose IPA. I tend to shy away from especially hoppy beers so I’d have to admit the IPA wasn’t my favorite beer out of their entire selection.  Notwithstanding my personal preferences, though, it was still a very good beer and if you love hops, I’d definitely recommend it.  They also bottle it unfiltered, which is a brewing process that always interests me.

The fourth and fifth courses appealed to the sweet tooth: Bacon and Waffles and Bacon Cookies.  The Bacon and Waffles featured a mini Belgian waffle topped with chunks of bacon and Woodford bourbon syrup.  Considering how I typically will eat bacon marinated in syrup, this was an automatic win for me.  This was paired with the Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale,  a full-bodied American brown ale.  The Bacon Cookies were a surprising end —  I really enjoyed that the bacon was baked into the cookie. Similar to the waffles, it gave a nicely matched sweet and salty taste.  Pairing it with the Robust Porter – a full, dark chocolate brown beer – was a wise choice as its coffee undertones complemented the cookie.

Bacon and Beer was hosted upstairs in the Reddstone’s party room, which is open for rentals with its own bar, tv/entertainment setup.  This was nice because it was tucked away from the bustle of downstairs.  And while the tables weren’t on top of each other offering a bit of privacy, we found as the evening went on the setup was intimate enough to socialize with other fans of bacon and beer. Besides the food, the highlight of the evening was meeting another couple at dinner who had a similar love of all things Cleveland. It was really nice to share stories with them over a couple beers. 

Beer and Bacon was held in the Reddstone's upstairs party room

With good food, good beer and enjoyable company, the evening was a success and an excellent birthday dinner for Scott.  I would say the only problem (if you could call it that) was that I had a bit of difficulty getting through 6 whole pints of beer, some of which were on the stronger side.  This, of course, has more to do with my significantly reduced tolerance compared to my younger days.  I just know that I wasn’t feeling as festive the next day.

In addition to their Sunday Tailgating parties and their ongoing wings and taco nights, Reddstone is also participating in Cleveland Independents’ Restaurant Week until Nov. 14th by offering 1 Starter, 1 Entree, and 1 Dessert for $30.

Even if you’re not visiting Reddstone for a special event, Chef/Owner Josh Kabat has managed to create a place that combines neighborhood hangout (with reasonably priced beers and exceptional bar food) and swanky nightspot (with menu items such as Braised 5-spice short ribs with kimchee potato latke, plum sauce, and crispy leeks and a Tubes and Tentacles appetizer with squid, peppers, carrots, scallion and sweet sambal sauce). There’s also a brunch served on Sundays.

Along with producing good food, Kabat employs a friendly staff – from the waitstaff who were helpful and efficient at the Beer Week event, to the kitchen staff including Don Myers and Josh James who were among those that helped put together the mindblowing bacon-centric meal.  While there have been occasions where Reddstone was particularly crowded and it took awhile to place an order or get a bill, those times seemed to have been because they were shorter staffed than usual or balancing a particularly large party with other guests.  Personally, it’s not something that bothers me a lot and the food and atmosphere I think fair outweigh any delays I’ve encountered.  Plus anyone that doesn’t mind chatting with me after 6 beers deserves some sort of award.

Reddstone Bacon and Beer 411:

Great Lakes Theater Festival's An Ideal Husband: An Ideal Complement to Othello

Sir Robert Chiltern (actor, Richard Klautsch, right) seeks advice from Lord Goring (actor, David Anthony Smith, left) in the Great Lakes Theater Festival production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

My first inclination when Great Lakes Theater Festival announced their Fall Repertory of Othello and An Ideal Husband was to focus on the differences between the two plays. The first is a tragic, psychological, Shakespearean thriller.  The second, a witty “social comedy” by Oscar Wilde.  However, after seeing the second half of the Fall Rep when Scott’s parents recently visited, I realized they were surprisingly very complementary.

At the heart of both plays are the ideas of trust and truth, how they can be manipulated, and how others react to that manipulation. In Othello, there’s Iago’s manipulations of Othello, which corrupts the title character’s trust in his wife Desdemona with disastrous consequences.  In An Ideal Husband, Sir Robert, a prestigious member of the House of Commons, is trusted by his supporters and his wife, the proper Lady Chiltern, to be the exception to the rule — an upstanding politician without  fault. However, a mistake Sir Robert made as a young politician threatens his success and marriage when the scheming Mrs. Cheveley uses his past to blackmail him into supporting a fraudulent scheme he was planning on denouncing. 

Although there is political intrigue in An Ideal Husband and Othello (much of which can be tied into the current election season), Sir Robert is fortunate to have much better counsel than Othello did in Iago.  And in a nice twist of casting, GLTF company member David Alan Smith portrays both main characters’ confidantes. As Iago, Smith’s standout performance drove the action in Othello with his manipulations and lies. In An Ideal Husband,  Smith humorously plays the charming bachelor Lord Goring who may seem like he only wants to socialize all night (according to his father) and talk about nothing (according to himself), but instead is the voice of brutal honesty and subtle reason that reunites Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern and saves his friend’s career.  Casting the same actor in these two roles was a clever way to connect the overlapping themes in both productions.

Even without Othello to complement it, the Great Lakes Theater Festival’s production of An Ideal Husband would stand on its own beautifully (and if I had to choose, I actually preferred it). When I walked into the Hanna, I was first struck by the sparseness of the scene. I had partially expected an ornate set inspired by Wilde’s time; rather, four simple columns, a series of steps, a handful of chairs, and a white curtain dressed the stage.  

A simple yet elegant set provided the perfect canvas for GLTF actors Richard Klautsch (as Sir Robert) and Jodi Dominick (as Lady Chiltern) in An Ideal Husband. Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

However, by the end of the first few scenes, I’d argue that Nayna Ramey’s design was more effectively used to tell the story than a period set would have been. The formal, classic simplicity reflected the societal demands for propriety, while the open starkness echoed the unveiling of secrets. To fill the canvas of the set were Jason Lee Resler’s costumes. Each character or couple had its own color note that carried throughout the show — the bright blues and turquoises of Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern, the oranges of Viscount Goring and Mabel Chiltern, the ostentatious fuchsia of Mrs. Cheveley.  

These technical aspects were an excellent foil to the cast’s performances. Sara M. Bruner, who had played the faithful Desdemona in Othello, was cast as Mabel Chiltern, the dizzying and fickle younger sister of Sir Robert who has a particularly shining moment in the last scene when she sums up Wilde’s theme of reality vs impossible idealism.  Richard Klautsch and Jodi Dominick both did excellent jobs capturing the moral dilemmas their characters (Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern, respectively) struggled with.  And Laura Perrotta, a twelve-season veteran of GLTF, portrayed a devious Mrs. Cheveley whose persuasiveness and Machiavellian cunning rivaled Iago’s. In the background, a tableau of footmen set each scene and provided their own ongoing, comedic backstory – a nice touch to the main action.

If you haven’t seen either production yet, Othello runs until this Sunday (10/31) and An Ideal Husband until Saturday (10/30). I’d recommend seeing both for a clever and unexpectedly complementary experience.   Great Lakes Theater Festival will then return in December for A Christmas Carol, and in March and April with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Two Gentlemen of Verona.


As a side note (which I’ve apparently become fond of making): After Saturday night’s production, Scott, his parents and I stuck around for that night’s installment in GLTF’s Nightcap Saturday series. I’ve been to other Audience Enhancement events at the Hanna, but this was my first time at Nightcap Saturday. I may have been distracted when we walked into the theater or just unobservant, but I have to credit the GLTF staff because I didn’t notice that they had a full band set up in the back corner of the theatre. As the applause from the final bow faded and the house lights came up, the Helen Welch Quartet struck up their jazz and blues covers in the lounge bar. Having the opportunity to relax in our banquette seats right in front of the bar, talk about the show, and enjoy a drink or two was a delightful way to end another night at the Hanna.


Great Lakes Theatre Festival 411:    

The Fall Repertory    

The Hanna Theatre    

PlayhouseSquare Partners / Dine Around at Crop Bistro

With PlayhouseSquare's Partners program, members can decide how they want to be involved by joining one of five committees or simply enjoying the Partners events and pre-sale ticketing benefits. (logo from playhousesquare.org)

I’m often looking for ways to get involved in an event beyond the basic experience. For me,  I find that doing instead of attending has always led to a more enriching and enjoyable experience. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Cleveland Sketch Crawl. It allows me to get out there and see different angles of the city through drawing. When I found out about the PlayhouseSquare’s Partners program, I knew this would be another unique opportunity to actively support an aspect of Cleveland I love — the city’s theater scene. 

Partners is the young professionals group at PlayhouseSquare.  Although it’s a donors program, it’s about more than just making a tax-deductible donation to the theater. It allows members to also support the country’s largest performance arts center outside New York City by volunteering their time and abilities.  Unlike other donor programs where you have to ‘buy in’ at a level way beyond the average income to get involved, even the lowest donor amount for Partners ($50 per individual/$75 for a couple) allows you to volunteer on one of the committees.  

The Jump Back Ball committee, for instance, is responsible for planning and organizing the group’s largest fundraising event – an annual black tie/costume ball located inside of PlayhouseSquare. Education committee members help raise money and awareness for the Bus Subsidy Fund, which brings children to the PlayhouseSquare theaters for educational performances. One of the Education committee’s programs is the Tinsel Town Party, an annual holiday-themed party for children and their families. The other committees include Membership, Social, and Fundraising. 

Next Monday, Partners will host a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare open to current members and anyone interested in joining the Partners program. The event will be followed by a complimentary happy hour at Bricco. (image from playhousesquare.org)

Of course, signing up for a Committee is optional. Those who don’t want to get involved in a Committee can still benefit from Partners with invitations to seasonal parties, pre-show receptions, master classes, pre-sale ticketing and other events.  One of these events is the Partners Dine Around program. Dine Around is a networking event (in the social – not business – sense of the word) that allows members to enjoy a Cleveland restaurant while meeting different members of Partners. 

From a list of four options, participants rank their favorite restaurants and then are assigned to one based upon availability. Each restaurant who participates sets everything up on separate checks so you don’t have to deal with splitting a check between a large group.  And because the 4 restaurants are all located in the same neighborhood, participants meet up afterwards at a bar to mingle some more. 

This month’s Dine Around was held downtown with the options of Crop, Metro, Blue Pointe and Sushi Rock (the post-dinner locale was D’Vine Wine Bar).  Scott and I happily ended up with our first choice – Crop Bistro. I’ve enjoyed their lunch before, but wanted to try them out for dinner before they moved from their W. 6th location to W. 25th Street.  Although I usually reserve Crop for a nice meal out, I really enjoy the reputation for creativity, sustainability and local food patronage they’ve built over the last couple of years. 

The interior of Crop Bistro's current location on W.6th (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

Scott and I started off with the Lobster Latte and  Chile Deviled Eggs with Prosciutto.  I’m going to borrow the description shared by another Crop fan when they recommended the Lobster Latte — it was sheer buttery goodness. A latte-style cup was filled with large chunks of lobster in a rich buttery broth topped with a mouth-watering buttery foam. Sure, it’s probably not the best for your health, but definitely good for the tastebuds.  The deviled eggs were also very delicious.  The mix for the egg yolk tasted and looked like it had a browner mustard than I’m accustomed to eating with deviled eggs and the crispy prosciutto that accented each piece was a nice complement in taste and texture to the rest of the egg.  

For our main dishes, I had the Thai D Bowl; Scott had the Pot Roast Short Ribs.  The Thai D Bowl consisted of cinnamon pappardelle, shiitakes, carrots, bell peppers, leeks and coconut curry.  I was very happy that the cinnamon in the pappardelle didn’t overpower the rest of the dish, which is what I had been a little apprehensive about when I ordered it.  I’ll admit – I didn’t have room for it all so I had to take some home for lunch the next day.  I didn’t reheat it and it was an entirely different (and delicious) experience having it as a cold noodles plate.  Scott’s Pot Roast Short Ribs came with braised root vegetables, pearl onions, and herb jus. Scott loves meat — I’d say he’d be happy eating some sort of beef product every day of his life if he could.  So for him to say it was the most tender, fall-off-the-bone dinner he’s ever had is a large compliment.  As much as I loved the Thai D Bowl, when I tasted some of the Short Ribs, the carnivore in me was kind of sad I hadn’t ordered that as well. 

Crop’s deviled eggs – just one of the delicious items Scott and I tasted during the Partners Dine Around. (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

I figured if I was going to go all out at dinner, I might as well experiment with one of their drinks.  I ordered the AT&B which was a crisp mix of Apple Vodka and Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.  It was accented with a slice of spiced apple, which complemented the taste with an amazing aroma.  Another drink definitely worth trying was the Applewood Punch which a couple of the other guests in our party ordered, It consisted of Goslings Rum, Domaine de Canton, Apple Cider and Cinnamon Apple on the Rocks.  The evening was punctuated with excellent service from our waiter Nathan.  It can sometimes be hard to get attentive service in a large group, but Nathan and the rest of the Crop staff definitely delivered. 

The next Dine Around is in January, and I’ve heard rumors that we may be heading to Rocky River for that one.  Other events before then include the Partners 20th Anniversary Celebration Event (a pre-show party and tickets to the delightful Dixie’s Tupperware Party)  and a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare featuring Joe Garry, host of Broadway Buzz, PlayhouseSquare historian and director of Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Although the 20th Anniversary Event is open only to current and past Partners, the Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare is open to anyone interested in learning more about Partners.

This year is the Partners’ 20th anniversary and since it’s founding in 1991, the group has raised more than $2.5 million to support the not-for-profit mission of PlayhouseSquare. I’ve only been a member since August, but I’m definitely excited to have discovered the program and hope to see it continue growing through its next milestone anniversary.


PlayhouseSquare Partners / Crop Dine Around 411:

About PlayhouseSquare Partners:

About Crop Bistro:

Fridays@7 Kick the Weekend Off Right with the Cleveland Orchestra

Severance Hall transforms for the Fridays@7 series - the perfect way to unwind at the end of the work week

When I was in college and prone to going out to all hours of the night, I’d look forward to Friday like many students because it meant the weekend (and its subsequent parties) had arrived. Of course, how I kicked off the weekend back then was a lot different than how I like to start it now.  From Polka Happy Hour to a movie at The Capitol, there are plenty of better ways to jumpstart the weekend besides my former gallivanting. And now there’s a new addition to my slate of options: the Fridays@7 series at the Cleveland Orchestra

With an early start time, the Fridays@7 series provides a full evening of music and pre- and post-concert celebrations. The doors to Severance Hall open up at 5pm for a pre-party of drinks, food and entertainment.  Then at 7, the Orchestra presents a concert without intermission, and an afterparty of artists selected by percussionist Jamey Haddad rounds out the unique evening. In addition to being an entertaining way to escape the stresses of the work week, the Fridays@7 series provides much more than an evening’s worth of geographically and stylistically diverse music.

Cleveland's Passport Project performs during the Fridays@7 pre-concert party

This past Friday was the opening concert in the 2010-2011 Fridays@7 series. Scott and I headed over to Severance Hall after a long week of work, happy to get our weekend started a little early. As we walked into Severance’s lobby, we were welcomed by the drum beats of Cleveland’s own Passport Project who kicked off the evening with the pre-party. Passport Project is a local world music and dance ensemble  who strives to build community and encourage diversity by designing lectures, interactive performances and concerts.  Besides the beats they provided, an aspect of their concert I enjoyed was encouraging guests to introduce themselves to at least 2 people they didn’t know.  While I sometimes shy away from networking exercises, it was a relaxed enough environment where this flowed very comfortably. It also helped that the bar was open, where guests could purchase libations and light food before the main event.

As 7 o’clock arrived, the crowd moved into the main hall of Severance.  As Conductor Franz Welser-Most took the stage, you could already tell this would be different than some of the other concerts I had been to.  Instead of the traditional suit and tails, Welser-Most and each musician were dressed in semi-formal black. The concert itself featured a dual performance –  Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu’s Dream/Window and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (often referred to as Eroica/The Heroic). 

Even the Cleveland Orchestra loosens their ties for the Fridays@7 series - not donning the traditional suit and tails.

The two pieces the Orchestra performed definitely had their share of differences in style. Takemitsu’s Dream/Window was a modern interpretation of the Japanese Buddhist garden Saiho-ji as if being viewed in a dream and through a window. The overlapping harmonies and sometimes twisting, incoherent manner of the music had a unique and haunting effect as the piece mirrored the different perspectives of the garden.  Beethoven’s Eroica – composed in the early 1800s – took some of its inspiration from Beethoven’s admiration of Napoleon as a heroic leader.

However, although Eroica is more traditional than the modern 1985 Dream/Window, it wasn’t originally as well-received as it is today.  In addition to the original inspiration of Napoleon, there was also a deeply personal exploration in the basis of the piece as it was written around the time Beethoven publicly acknowledged his deafness. Instead of allowing the knowledge of his deafness to debilitate him, it is said his work on Eroica could have saved his life. The end result was 4 movements of dynamic, tumultuous and sometimes irreverent sound that shed new significance with each listen. Subsequently, the decision to perform Dream/Window and Eroica with their different styles, but similar impact, was a very deft one on the part of the Orchestra.

After the Orchestra, Nation Beat performed to a packed house in Severance Hall's Grand Foyer

In addition to a night of challenging music, the concert was yet another opportunity to observe how the Orchestra’s performances are a level of art completely separate from the pieces themselves. This was the first time I haven’t sat in the lower level of Severance.  While I enjoy being close because it establishes an almost personal connection with the musicians, sitting in the upstairs Dress Circle allowed us to see how the entire ‘machine’ flows together.  As Welser-Most led the musicians, you could see the instant reverberations of his movements spread from the strings back to the timpani and percussion sections. From the great restraint he exhibited in tiny flicks of his hands, to dramatic gestures or gentle, sweeping motions, the musicians played as if they were a perfect extension of Welser-Most. It reminded me of why I could see the Cleveland Orchestra perform almost anything and still be amazed simply by the beauty of them playing.

The evening was perfectly bookended by Nation Beat, a fusion group of Brazilian and southern U.S. styles.  As we made our way from our seats to the Grand Foyer, you could hear the afterparty had already begun.  Although Nation Beat heralds from New York, their music is a mix of Brazilian maracatu drumming, New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues. They provided an energizing performance where all of these styles flowed together seamlessly and guests had a chance to get up and dance.  Connecting the performance back to Cleveland, Nation Beat brought up musicians and singers from the Cleveland Institute of Music to join in on a piece they had practiced earlier that day when Nation Beat visited CIM.

Nation Beat invited students from the Cleveland Institute of Music to perform with them

The Fridays@7 series continues throughout the year with The Heroic Mahler on Dec. 3, A Hero’s Life on Jan. 14, Romantic Rachmaninoff on April 1, and Eighth Blackbird on May 27. This season not only features invigorating performances of musically diverse pieces, but also includes a Cleveland premiere and a conductor’s Cleveland Orchestra debut.

The entire Fridays@7 series is included as a subscription, or you can purchase individual tickets if there are a couple concerts in particular you’re interested in.  Personally, I’m very excited for the May 27 performance, which will feature Welser-Most as conductor and Joshua Smith on flute in Pulitzer Prize-winning Jennifer Higdon’s concerto.  It’s a much more enjoyable way to unwind than my revelries in years past.


Fridays@7 411:

Great Lakes Theater Festival Returns with a Vengeance


In the Great Lakes Theater Festival's production of Othello, a deadly plan is hatched between the gullible Roderigo (actor, Eduardo Placer, left) and the manipulative Iago (actor, David Anthony Smith, right). Photo by Roger Mastroianni.


This past Saturday, Great Lakes Theater Festival opened its 49th season with Shakespeare’s psychological thriller Othello.  Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to the return of GLTF since the Spring Rep’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Bat Boy; my first Shakespearean tragedy at GLTF did not disappoint.     

This intense tale of jealousy and revenge is considered one of the greatest dramas of all time. Although I’ve read the play before, this was the first time I had seen a production of it. Director Risa Brainin did an excellent job as she strived to unravel the reasons behind the villainous Iago’s duplicity and Othello’s inexplicable belief in his lies.    

Although the E 14th Streetscape construction is underway around the Hanna Theatre, there are no changes to how you enter the theaters or where you may park.


Although Othello may be the title character, I found that it was Iago who drove the GLTF production. Actor David Anthony Smith returned to the Hanna stage after last year’s comedic turn as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And while the villain of Othello was a stark contrast to the bumbling Mechanical, Smith’s standout performance was compelling in its treachery. Iago’s actions may have been deplorable, but Smith’s characterization showed a glimmer of relatable humanity. Behind the jealousy, he exhibited the pride and paranoia that everyone has fallen prey to at some time.  Smith even elicited a few laughs from the audience, especially as he played off of Eduardo Pacer’s Roderigo who was both privy to Iago’s manipulations but also a victim of them.    

Another performance that stood out to me was Aled Davies’ portrayal of Desdemona’s father, Brabantino. Although he was only featured in a few of the early scenes, the anger, sadness, and betrayal Davies beautifully portrayed after Desdemona’s elopement plants the earliest seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind, which Iago later exploits.    

From the technical side of the production, I enjoyed the minimalistic and utilitarian nature of Russel Metheny’s set. The bi-level frame that the majority of the play’s action takes place in had a fittingly militaristic touch and effectively reflected the cage that Iago and Othello’s jealousies entrap them in. Composer Michael Keck’s dynamic soundtrack also did a stunning job of echoing the powerful emotions behind Iago’s deception and intrigue.    

A view of the Othello set from our seats in the banquette section. If you arrive early to Othello, you can watch the crew set the stage and the actors' fight call.


With the success of the individual players, applause needs to also be given to Producing Artistic Director Charles Fee. It’s under his guidance that productions such as Othello thrive and the GLTF theatre company continues to grow.  Unlike one-off touring productions, you have the opportunity with a well-established theatre company to see the actors’ and production staff’s progression from season to season.    

Last season was when I was first introduced to GLTF so I was thrilled to come back and see how actors from last year returned to undertake drastically different roles. By successfully balancing the experience of veteran GLTF members (such as Smith who’s now in his 8th season) with the fresh insights of new additions (such as David Alan Anderson who made his GLTF debut as Othello and Pacer who’s only in his second season), the Great Lakes Theatre Festival will continue to provide exciting theatrical experiences for the city of Cleveland.     

Grab a drink from the Hanna Theatre bar or a snack from their concession stand. The cupcakes are delicious and the cheese and crackers box a great value.


Othello runs until October 31st along with the second half of GLTF’s Fall Rep — Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Although the main event of each evening is the onstage performance, the GLTF has again expanded its popular Experience Enhancement Series with a full offering of pre and post show activities.    

As in previous seasons, the Hanna opens 90 minutes before curtain so that audience members can watch the crew set the stage and the actors’ combat calls. Post-show activities for the 2010-2011 season include Salon Thursdays, Happy Hour Fridays, Ice Cream Social Sundays, and their new ‘Nightcap Night’ music series on non-opening-night Saturdays.     

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing An Ideal Husband towards the end of October. Scott’s parents, who are fans of Wilde, will be visiting Cleveland so it’ll be a great opportunity to introduce them to the Great Lakes Theater Festival as well.     


Great Lakes Theatre Festival 411:    

The Fall Repertory    

The Hanna Theatre    


IngenuityFest 2010 Bridging Art, Technology and Cleveland

In addition to the art and tech exhibits, IngenuityFest 2010 also gave access to the tunnels and pipeworks under the Detroit Superior Bridge.

With the opening night of Othello and the Botanical Garden’s RIPE Festival, there’s a lot to write about this weekend. Regardless, though, I wanted to quickly post about my visit to IngenuityFest on Saturday afternoon. 

This weekend, IngenuityFest returned for its yearly celebration of art and technology in Cleveland. The last time I attended was two years ago down on Euclid Ave. during the first annual TikiCon.  This year, the Festival’s venue was the subway level of the Detroit Superior Bridge.  Connecting both the east and west sides of the city, Ingenuity’s exhibits and performances were held all along the bridge, the old subway tunnels and in the pipeworks. The mission of IngenuityFest is to expose audiences to educational, immersive, and sometimes challenging works of art and tech from Northeast Ohio performers and artists, high tech and engineering firms, and local schools including Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Institute of Art and CSU. As in years past, it provided a unique experience that engaged attendees as both spectators and participants. 

With a 22-page guide to the artists and exhibits, there is definitely a lot to check out at the Festival. However, I’ll have to settle with listing my top 3 things from IngenuityFest 2010. These were not just my favorites, but also encompassed the Festival’s cross-section of performance, visual arts, technology and interactive offerings.

"Bridging" by Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels and Inlet Dance Theatre

 “Bridging” by Dancing Wheels and Inlet Dance Theatre:  Scott and I started our day by attending the premiere of “Bridging,” a beautiful performance by Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels (the first physically integrated dance company in the country) and Inlet Dance Theatre (internationally recognized for its modern dance performances). With an electronic score by local composer Jeremy Allen and innovative choreography that employed wheelchairs and segways, “Bridging” focused on the benefits of exchanging different points of view in a community. The choice of the Detroit Superior Bridge as the venue also served as a powerful metaphor for the collaboration between East and West sides and all members of the community that is needed if the city is to grow.     

Mural of the Cleveland skyline as part of the Cleveland West Art League's Line of Sight project

Line of Sight – The Bridge Span Mural Project: When it came to visual artwork, my favorite examples came from the murals that lined the span of the Detroit Superior bridge. Along the bridge span, members from the Cleveland West Art League have been painting murals on the plywood planks. Some murals were stylized renderings of the Cleveland skyline or commentary on social, economic and ecological problems in the city; other murals were non-Cleveland-related graphic designs and paintings. Either way, the murals are a unique way to beautify the walkway. When you walk along the bridge span, you’ll also have the opportunity to get up close to IngenuityFest’s signature installation: the man-made, sixty-foot-long Lifeline Waterfall. 

Dr. Sketch's Doodle Bar allowed guests to draw and write on any surface of the room

Dr. Sketchy’s Doodle Bar: One of the unique ways IngenuityFest promoted audience interaction was through Dr. Sketchy’s Doodle Bar. With white walls, white couches, white tables and pedestals, the Cleveland chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School provided a clean space and markers for attendees to sketch, write or doodle whatever they wanted. With nearby bars and djs, it was also a place where people could go to just hang out. The best part is that you didn’t have to be an artist to participate. Even Clue Into Cleveland left its mark along with a quick sketch of the bridge’s arches.   

Clue Into Cleveland left its mark on one of the benches at Dr. Sketchy's

 Some exhibits such as the Mural Project and Sketch Bar are ongoing installations throughout the weekend, other events are scheduled plays, concerts and operas. IngenuityFest continues today from 12-5pm. The schedule for Sunday’s events can be downloaded off of the website along with a map of the Festival. Also, admission is free, so it’s an inexpensive and easy way to experience the innovation going on in Cleveland. 

IngenuityFest 411:   


Halloweekends at Cedar Point – Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

Snoopy at Cedar Point's Halloweekends (photo from halloweekends.com)


September through December is hands down my favorite time of year in Cleveland.  The air is brisk, crisp, and still bearable; there’s usually not too much snow; and the changing of the leaves reflected off the always-beautiful lake is an amazing site. If that weren’t enough, it’s also when my trifecta of favorite holidays occurs: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  These three holidays have it all, and Halloween is a great way to kick it off.  

If you want to get in the Halloween mood a little early, Cedar Point’s Halloweekends starts tonight. It runs every Friday-Sunday until October 31st, but I usually like visiting early on because it’s less crowded than it is at the height of Halloween madness. 

During Halloweekends, Cedar Point is transformed into an over-the-top version of that neighbor’s house who really likes spending money on decorations. Because we have season passes, Scott and I like going just to see how they decorated the park.  However, if you’re looking for something besides decorations, Halloweekends also hosts 4 haunted houses, 5 walk-through scare zones, and a lot of family-friendly entertainment. 

Scott's mom poses with the headless horseman outside the Cedar Point arcade.


Haunted Houses: Returning to Cedar Point this season are the Club Blood, Happy Jack’s Toy Factory and G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate haunted houses; new this year is Dr. D. Mented’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Everyone’s haunted house preferences are different – I personally enjoy experiences that are more about getting startled and laughing at my reaction than I do getting legitimately frightened. Last year’s walk through the Toy Factory lived up to those expectations – it definitely played into my fairly laughable fear of clowns. And seeing how they designed the inside of the Eerie Estate Haunted House to look like an old haunted mansion has also impressed me in years past. However, word of warning about the haunted houses is that they’re only open in the evenings and the crowds line up fast.  If you’re not a huge fan of waiting (i.e. me), I recommend limiting yourself to one haunted house, getting in line a little before they open and then enjoying the rest of the park. 

Grandmom and Ghouls outside the Eerie Estate Haunted House


Scare Zones: As an alternative to the haunted houses, Cedar Point also has 5 scare zones scattered throughout the park — Fright Zone, Cornstalkers, Fear Faire, Carnevil and Terror Island. These are outside areas where some of the park’s pathways have been transformed into walk-through frightfests. From previous experience, I find the quality of the scare zone depends on who is working at that time. There have been instances where I’ve walked through Carnevil – a circus themed scare zone – and it’s been really good.  The people dressed up as clowns and ringmasters were really in character.  However, there have been other times where you can tell some of the more annoying park patrons have gotten on their nerves throughout the evening and they’re not as into it.  My personal favorite scare zone is Terror Island. It’s located on a part of the park not normally accessible during the regular season. Cedar Point sets up a floating gangway over the river the ferryboat sails to the island next to Millennium Force. There, pirates lurk in the shadows and loud cannon explosions come out of nowhere to scare you. 

A monster in the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade (photo from halloweekends.com)


Family-Friendly: Since Cedar Point is an amusement park at heart, they also provide a number of activities appropriate for children.  Family-friendly fare includes the Magic House on Boo Hill funhouse; the kid-sized Hay Bale Maze; and the Peanuts Halloween Show and Kids Costume Contest. There’s also the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade that takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm. Halloween-themed floats, performers and not-so-scary surprises make their way through the Main Midway, Top Thrill Dragster Midway and Gemini Midway so it’s easy to grab a spot to watch and enjoy.  Learn a lesson from me, though: last year, Scott and I got caught walking from Gemini to Raptor when the parade was going on so we unintentionally ended up following the parade through the entire park.  Unless you want the addictingly catchy theme song stuck in your head for hours, don’t do this. 

Although the haunted houses, scare zones and shows are reason enough for me to return each year, I’m most excited that my favorite event from last year’s Halloweekends is back: Boeckling’s Banquet. With Boeckling’s Banquet, Cedar Point caters a fine dining experience in a unique environment — the hallowed halls of G.A. Boeckling’s Eerie Estate haunted house. Last year, Scott and I got lobster tail and filet mignon and we were fairly impressed. It honestly surprised me because I hadn’t expected to enjoy something besides typical amusement park food at any park. This year’s menu includes a choice of crab legs; lobster tail and petite filet; or shrimp, scallop & lobster Alfredo, plus traditional sides like salad, twice-baked potato, asparagus spears, rolls, glass of wine or beer, Pepsi beverages and a special dessert. Last year’s skull-themed dessert was incredible and even if they serve the same thing again I’ll enjoy it.  

Throughout the meal, guests are served by Cedar Point staff dressed as haunted caretakers, maids, and butlers. It’s tongue in cheek, but still a lot of fun. In addition to providing excellent entertainment, they also provided very gracious service.   The Banquet takes place every Friday at 5:30 pm. and Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. (before the Haunted House opens).  For more information or to make reservations, call 419.627.2242. 

Scott and I at last year's Boeckling Banquet


On top of all of the Halloween festivities, the majority of Cedar Point’s rides are still open. If you’re a fan of Millennium Force, nothing quite compares to tearing down the first hill at night during Halloweekends. The lights, fog and sounds from Terror Island envelope you as you hit the bottom of the drop – it’s thrilling! 

During Halloweekends, you may have to contend with a few overly excitable (read: loud and pushy) guests.  However, it’s no more than you’d have to bear with at other haunted houses. Try to overlook it (which I’ll admit is sometimes hard for me), because Halloweekends is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. 

Halloweekends 411: 

Halloweekends Tickets, Hours and Attractions
Cedar Point – Roller Coaster Capital of the World
Cedar Point on Facebook

Making Connections in Cleveland – A Look at Sparx City Hop

Tower City - the centerpiece of the Cleveland skyline

 UPDATE: The 2011 Sparx City Hop takes place on Sept. 10, 2011. More info about the 2011 neighborhood hop can be found on Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s website. Read on for a review of last year’s Sparx City Hop.

Saturday was the Sparx City Hop. As I mentioned last week, I headed down there for September’s Sketch Crawl but ended up staying the whole day. Now, despite the fact that I like exploring the city,  I’m really not a huge fan of crowds. While I figured the 25,000+ expected attendees would be somewhat spread out throughout the two trolley routes and 10 neighborhoods, I was surprised at the fact that I didn’t have to fight through a horde.  There was only one time when I felt frustrated by a crushingly packed trolley.             

It wasn’t just the high level of efficiency from the Downtown Cleveland Alliance that surprised me, it was also discovering some of the out-of-the-way places the trolley stopped at.  While there were places on the ‘Hop’ that were familiar sites (Tower City, Westside Market, Playhouse Square), there were other sites that I wasn’t aware of:             

Old Bank Vault door in Downtown Cleveland building

City Arcades: During the Sketch Crawl, we made a short stop near Tower City in an old bank arcade that was closed for the day. Because it was empty, it gave us the opportunity to really examine the building’s beautiful interior. The reliefs on the ceiling, the old bank vault door – another amazing example of the hidden architecture found throughout Downtown’s buildings.            

Tremont History Project: The west-bound trolley stopped in Lincoln Park where the Tremont History Project staged a living Civil War reenactment. It was a two-day event that commemorated the encampment and U.S. General Hospital located in Tremont during the Civil War. The 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Hale Farm re-enactors and the 5th Michigan Regiment Band performed drills, period music and firing demonstrations.            

Art installation in Asian Town Center

Asian Town Center: While the west-bound route stopped at West Side Market, the east-bound route stopped at the Asian Town Center. The Center opened in April at the corner of Superior Avenue and East 38th street. It’s another example of repurposing an older building which was used originally for manufacturing as a mixed-use retail center. The Asia Food Company – the largest Asian supermarket in the area – makes up the majority of the center. It carries a full line of Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Laos, Korean, Japanese, and Indonesian groceries. Although we just left with some snacks and aloe juice, Scott and I are heading back the next time we want peking duck. In addition to the market, there were other stores and art galleries. If you want to check it out, this Saturday is the 2010 Mooncake Festival – a free event with cultural performances and food.            

Josaphat Arts Hall: I’d say the place that surprised me the most was the Josaphat Arts Hall. One of the things I love about Cleveland are the number of art galleries. The space for this gallery, though, is unique. Located in in the old St. Josaphat Roman Catholic Church, which closed in 1998, Josaphat Arts Hall houses the Convivium33 Gallery, several art business studios, and a main event hall. Private classes, workshops and lectures are offered including stained glass, painting, web design, and glass fusion.            

It was definitely a day well spent where I got to clue into other parts of the city I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. The fact that it was free didn’t hurt at all.             


Free Lolly the Trolley service helped connect 10 of the Downtown neighborhoods

 Sparx City Hop also helped me better understand some of the problems with the city.  Riding from stop to stop, I got to see these pockets of activity across all of the neighborhoods.  However, oftentimes there was a lack of commotion in between. Even walking a couple of blocks from E4th (the main hub for the day’s trolley rides) to our car at E9th, there was a quick dropoff in foot traffic.  Without as much to connect the sections, it’s easy to become confined in a comfort zone. I recognize it in myself constantly.  Although I’ve gotten better at exploring outside of my comfort zone since starting this blog, attending the Sparx City Hop demonstrated that there’s still a lot I haven’t seen yet.            

There’s a lot of work the city can do to fill the gaps between the pockets of activity. In the long-term, we need to provide support and development in the areas of inactivity so that we can create a bridge between those areas that have more bustle. With Cleveland State University’s Urban Affairs program – one of the top 10 in the country – we’re producing people each year who can help those already working on it.  Downtown Cleveland Alliance is also working on Storefront Renovation and Business Assistance programs.            

An artist at Sparx City Hop promotiong this upcoming weekend's Art Museum Chalk Festival

In the short-term, we have to support programs like the Sparx City Hop and Take a Hike. By providing free or low-cost transportation throughout the city and initiatives that encourage the community to get out and experience those neighborhoods less traveled, more people will hopefully be as pleasantly surprised as I was by some of the hidden treasures in Downtown.

Sparx City Hop Promoting Awareness of Arts in Downtown Cleveland

The Downtown Cleveland Alliance's Sparx City Hop is a free event that will connect attendees to Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. (images from downtowncleveland.org)


Earlier today, I wrote about this Friday’s Shore Cultural Collective Concert in downtown Euclid.  Tonight, I wanted to focus on another arts-related event this weekend – the 2010 Sparx City Hop

On Saturday from 11am – 11pm, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance will host the Sparx City Hop festival throughout downtown Cleveland and its surrounding neighborhoods. It’s free (which is always a winning quality for me) with the goal of raising awareness of the visual, culinary and performing arts in Cleveland’s most central neighborhoods. 

The Sparx City Hop started 8 years ago and attendance at previous Hops has ranged from 25,000 – 30,000 people so be prepared for a crowd. Fortunately, it will be spread out across two trolley routes that will connect over 70 galleries & artist studios, 100+ restaurants, several markets and dozens of specialty retail shops. 

Lolly the Trolley puts the ‘Hop’ in the event’s name by providing free trolley service through the neighborhoods of Downtown  plus the districts that connect directly to Downtown (Tremont, Ohio City, MidTown, AsiaTown and St. Clair Superior). 

In addition to visiting galleries and studios, mini-art festivals will include:  

  • City Artists at Work Open Studios (11am – 7pm) — a variety of hands-on arts demonstrations throughout the District.
  • The Tower City Art Fair (11am – 7pm) and Cleveland Museum of Art Chalk Artists (2pm – 4pm) — Prospect Ave between W.2nd and w.3rd (behind Tower City) will be shut down for the Tower City Street Fair which will feature these two events.
  • Downtown Photo Challenge Show at Old Stone Church (11am – 7pm) — the top 20 entries to this year’s Downtown Photo Challenge will be shown inside the historic Old Stone Church’s permanent gallery space.
  • Asian Town Center Art Fest (11am – 7pm) — local artists’ work will be on display, as well as performances by stiltwalkers, six local bands and the grand opening of Asian Town Center’s new indoor sculpture garden. From 7:00pm – 11:00 pm, the Asian Town Center will also host an Urban Art Show.

Other activities during Sparx City Hop will link participants to sidewalk concerts, tours of the Terminal Tower observation deck, the Sparx Classic Car Show, Susan G. Komen Northeast Ohio Race for the Cure, a Civil War Living History Encampment in Lincoln Park, and a variety of merchant and restaurant specials. (A full list of the 2010 Participants is available for download.) 

The East (Blue) and West (Red) trolley routes for Sparx City Hop. The hub for both trolley routes is E.4th Street and Prospect.


New to this year’s festival is the Sparx City Hop Passport. Although Saturday’s event is only one day, the goal of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Passport program is to continue cultivating an increased interest in Downtown and its neighborhoods throughout the rest of the year.  The Passport – which is free and can be picked up at any of the trolley stops on Saturday – includes special offers to local restaurants and shops in Midtown, Campus District, Ohio City, Tremont, PlayhouseSquare and the Historic Gateway and Historic Warehouse Districts. The specials will start on Saturday and continue until August 31st, 2011. 

This is my first year attending Sparx City Hop. Thanks again to the DCA’s Sketch Crawl, I’m learning about another opportunity in the city I wasn’t aware of before. For those wanting to produce their own art during Sparx City, the Crawl will meet on Saturday at 11am at the event’s main hub on E4th and Prospect. Unlike the last couple of months, this Sketch Crawl will have the group taking quick impressions of the city as we jump through the districts on the trolley.  Although the Crawl will last until 1pm, I know I plan on sticking around the rest of the day. Hope to see some of you down there. 

Sparx City Hop 411: 

Hosted by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
Twitter: @DowntownCLE, #SparxCityHop
On Facebook: Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Sparx City Hop Event 

2010 Sparx City Hop Participants List
Lolley the Trolley Sparx Routes
Schedule of Sparx Events
Sparx City Hop Passport Program