Tag Archives: Downtown

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:

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:   

 

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

Labor Day in Cleveland – 3 Days of Festivals, Food and Fun

With Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer. Even though the Fall Equinox is weeks away and there seems to be no end in sight to the stifling heat, Clevelanders who want to grasp that last bit of summer have a huge variety of festivals, parties, and other events to choose from this weekend.    

The Rock Hall celebrates its 15th Anniversary (from rockhall.com)

 

Kicking things off this weekend is the Rock Hall Ball. On Friday, Sept. 3, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a party from 8:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Live bands and DJs will perform, including soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam and DJ Tommie Sunshine.  Two levels of tickets allow flexibility in cost. Platinum tickets ($55 member/$65 non-member) include access at 8:30 p.m., hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine until 12:30 a.m. and entertainment until 2 a.m. Vinyl Tickets ($15) include access at 10 p.m., cash bar and entertainment.    

Labor Day will also feature weekend-long festivals such as:    

  • Labor Day Oktoberfest – At the Berea Fairgrounds will be the 6th Annual Labor Day Oktoberfest. From attending previous Oktoberfests, I recommend indulging in this weekend of oompah bands, brats and beer.  In addition to the food and the beer, years past have had merchants and other organizations promoting a variety of ethnic backgrounds. New this year – the Cleveland Pops Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s celebrated Fifth Symphony.  I’ll be dusting off my alpine hat and putting on my polka-dancing shoes for this.
  • Cleveland Air Show – As the photo in my last post showed, I love attending air shows, and Cleveland’s annual celebration of flying machines at Burke Lakefront Airport is listed as one of the 101 Best Aviation Attractions. Although it runs Sept. 4 -6,  if you’re downtown this week, you can see – and hear – the jets and planes practicing.  Nearby businesses and museums will also be hosting ‘Watch Parties’ including Reddstone’s When Pigs Fly Block Party on Sunday and the weekend-long William G. Mather Air Show Deck Party at nearby Great Lakes Science Center.
  • Taste of Cleveland – The other major downtown festival this weekend is the 15th annual Taste of Cleveland which will feature national entertainment acts and regional food traditional to Northeast Ohio. In addition to the 30+ restaurants that will be at the event, there will be the American Wine School Tasting Bar and cooking demonstrations such as the “Cooking with Kids” parents/children class, the Ohio Natural Gas Ultimate Backyard Kitchen and the 7th Annual Time Warner Cable Mayors’ Dessert Cup Challenge. One of the entertainment acts Scott and I are most looking forward to: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Friday night. What can I say? We’re UHF fans.

Der Glockenspiel - an actual working clock - is one of the attractions at Oktoberfest (from clevelandoktoberfest.com)

 

If festivals aren’t your thing or you’re looking for a one-off event this weekend, there are other options including:    

  • The Cleveland Orchestra and Joffrey Ballet – On Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m., the Joffrey Ballet returns to the Blossom Music Festival. The Ballet  joins Conductor Tito Muñoz and the Cleveland Orchestra in their presentation of Reflections (choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky), Tarantella (choreographed to Louis Gottschlak), and Pretty BALLET (choregraphed to Bohuslav Martinů). 
  • Cedar Point – Labor Day Weekend is the last weekend to visit the Soak City Waterpark in 2010. It’s also the end of Cedar Point’s regular season. Starting on Sept. 17, the park will open back up for Halloweekends.
  • Aut-O-Rama Drive-In – This weekend, audiences at the North Ridgeville drive-in movie theatre have their choice of a kid-friendly double feature with Toy Story 3 and Nanny McPhee Returns  or cult-classics-to-be Machete and Piranha.
  • The Happy Dog – DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour is back this Friday from 6-9 p.m. (if you can’t make it to this one, he’ll also be at the Happy Dog on the 17th). After DJ Kishka, Adam Tanner and Mark Jackson of North Carolina’s Twilite Broadcasters bring their two-part harmony vocals and acoustic accompaniment to the Happy Dog from 9 p.m. til midnight.
  • Cleveland Polka Association Picnic – The Cleveland Polka Association’s B.Y.O.E. (Bring Your Own Everything) Picnic takes place on Monday, Sept. 6 at  St. Sava’s Picnic Grove (2300 West Ridgewood Drive, Parma). Gate opens at 2 p.m., musical performances run from 3-7 p.m. including Canton, OH’s Polkatones. (More information or large table reservations: 216-661-5227)

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In presents Machete and Piranha (from autoramadrivein.com)

 

Fortunately, it’s a three-day weekend, which means plenty of opportunities to experience your share of these end-of-summer events.

PlayhouseSquare's 13th Annual Cinema at the Square

   

The historic Palace Theatre located at 1615 Euclid Avenue (photo from playhousesquare.org)

 

In my last post, I covered the Capitol Theatre and their ‘Classic Movie and Brunch’ series.  However, the Capitol is just one venue in Cleveland where you can see classic movies on the big screen.  Before the Capitol started their monthly series, there was PlayhouseSquare’s annual Cinema at the Square festival.  

Now in its 13th year, Cinema at the Square runs for a few weeks in August and gives audience members the opportunity to experience classic favorites at the beautiful Palace Theatre.  Visiting the Palace for the history alone is worth it – it opened in 1922 as the flagship of B.F. Keith’s vaudeville chain and once showcased the likes of Fanny Brice, Bing Crosby, Houdini, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and The Three Stooges.   

The series’ movies are shown on the theatre’s 20-foot-high by 47-foot-wide super Hurly-Glo projection screen – the largest non-Imax screen in Ohio.  This year’s Cinema at the Square started yesterday, August 5th, and will run until August 22nd.  It features 16 films with a range of options for moviegoers, such as a sing-along Wizard of Oz, James Bond double feature, and The Muppet Movie.  

Prior to the film, audience members are treated to pre-show organ recitals on a restored 1927 Kimball Organ that contains 16 sets of pipes, a xylophone, Glockenspiel, a complete set of drums and cymbals. The organ, which was donated to PlayhouseSquare in 1975, was restored by volunteers as a unique complement to the evening festivities.   

Tickets for Cinema at the Square are $5 each with the exception of yesterday’s screening of Fletch which was free.  If this wasn’t already a cheap datenight, PlayhouseSquare also offers their FlixTIX pass which saves 50% on tickets.  It’s $15 for 6 vouchers, which can be used in any combination and at any movie. Because Scott and I were interested in seeing more than one movie, it ended up being more cost-effective to get the FlixTIX – so now we’re seeing Wizard of Oz, Love in the Afternoon and Back to the Future.  

I’m definitely excited about heading over after work tonight for the sing-along version of Wizard of Oz.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it before, so it’ll be nice to experience the whole movie at the Palace.  But if Wizard of Oz isn’t for you or you can’t make it tonight, here’s a list of the rest of the movies:  

Cinema at the Square 411:
Ticket and Show Information
The Palace Theatre
@playhousesquare
PlayhouseSquare on Facebook

Downtown tomorrow? Get Dim and Den Sum.

The Dim and Den Sum lunch truck serves up gourmet food on the go. (photo from Dim and Den Sum facebook page)

 

If you’re hungry and downtown tomorrow, keep your eyes peeled for a truck with a crazy-looking octopus on the side. Dim and Den Sum will be stopping by WCPN 90.3 IdeaStream to serve up lunch.   

Dim and Den Sum is Cleveland’s first gourmet food truck and offers a delicious walk-up meal for under $10.  Chefs Jeremy Esterly and Chris Hodgson met when they were both working at Shaker Square’s Fire, and took their act on the road earlier this year. For their unique menu items like the Curried Beef Burrito and Junkyard Dawg with Duck Confit Slaw, they use  ingredients from local farms and businesses.     

Tomorrow, the lunch truck has a full day of travels downtown. From 10am-3pm, they’ll start out serving lunch outside of the IdeaStream Studios ( E 14th and Euclid area) for Around Noon.  If you have some extra time when you stop by at lunch, join the live studio audience for the broadcast. With tomorrow’s Around Noon Open Air edition, Dee Perry hosts Latin jazz musician Justo Saborit, award-winning poet Lou Suarez, and comedian Mike Armstrong who’s performing at Hilarities this week.   

Afterwards, Dim and Den Sum travels over to City Hall at 3:45pm for a photo shoot and to serve food.  And then they wrap up the day at 5pm, when they’ll be cooking dinner at Star Plaza during a free concert.      

If you can’t make it to any of their stops tomorrow, Dim and Den Sum’s facebook page and @DimAndDenSum can help track down future outings.  The good thing about the truck is that wherever you meet up with them, it’s a consistently tasty way to break up the workday.   

Dim and Den Sum 411:
Menu
Dim and Den Sum on Facebook
@DimandDenSum

Cleveland: Much More Than a Player

Fans lining up as LeBron meets with the Cavs. photo credit: Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer

 

 Lately when I look out of my office window, I can see the fans lined up on E 9th St. where LeBron James is inside being courted during free agency.  And when I’m walking downtown, I’m continually reminded of this spectacle by the various ‘Home’ and ‘More than a Player’ banners hanging from bridges, buildings, and road signs.      

Although I understand fan loyalty to a certain extent, it should really only go so far.  Basketball is a team sport.  At the end of the day, despite how talented someone is or how instrumental a player is to a team (and LeBron is both), he’s still playing within a team. I also understand that having been raised in Akron and spending his entire career here, you have the rare hometown hero who makes good on a national level.  By contributing to the Cavs’ presence in multiple playoffs, he has helped put the team and the city of Cleveland in the national spotlight – at least when it comes to basketball. And as other sports heroes before him who raised themselves up to a better lifestyle, LeBron often gives back to his local community.      

'More Than A Player' sign on I-77 begging LeBron to stay. photo credit: Paula Neal Mooney, Examiner.com

 

However, that doesn’t necessarily justify the lengths we’ve gone to to desperately hang on to him.  The signs and crowds downtown are just the latest in a series of attempts to get him to stay.  There have been LeBron flash mobs and videos; other local sports teams trying to get in on the action (such as the Lake Erie Crushers putting in a bid for LeBron to play for them); and Akron’s Fan Appreciation Day which LeBron fortunately showed up for at the last minute.       

While some say we owe all of this adoration to ‘King James,’ his decision to stay or go really comes down to him being a player – nothing less, nothing more.  Does LeBron think he can win a championship with the Cavs; will his career be noted as one of the greatest in NBA history if he stays in Cleveland?  Or does he need to go to another team to pursue that goal.  That’s really what his free agency is about and there’s an excellent article about it on ESPN.com that looks at the ‘should I stay or should I go now’ argument.        

All of the begging in the world isn’t going to make up LeBron’s mind.  Honestly, if it did, I wouldn’t have that much respect for him.

King James holding court at The Q. photo credit: Tracy Boulian, The Plain Dealer

 

Additionally, while LeBron has brought a lot of attention to the city over the last couple of years, it’s mostly attention for his talent and the Cavs.  To borrow the slogan that’s recently been used for LeBron, Cleveland is so much ‘more than a player.’  Admittedly, like any other urban center we have a lot to improve on.  There are issues with both our infrastructure and our attitudes that need work.  However, if LeBron were to leave, there are many other things that still make Cleveland great and worth checking out.       

There’s an excellent music scene – just read 52 Weeks of Cleveland for an ongoing and entertaining look at it. We offer a wide assortment of skilled chefs and restaurants – from Iron Chef Michael Symon’s (another hometown hero) Bar Symon, B Spot Burgers and Lola and Lolita restaurants, to all of the local restaurants in the Cleveland Food Rocks campaign.  Cleveland’s also home to museums and performing arts noted for important contributions in their fields — from the Natural History Museum whose physical anthropology department recently played a key part in a major discovery; to the Cleveland Museum of Art which just underwent a significant renovation and is the only major American museum that still offers free general admission to the public; to the Cleveland Orchestra which is praised and sought after around the world.  Finally, with institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve, we offer one of the most renowned medical communities in the country and a number of valued educational opportunities.        

Unfortunately, though, it seems very easy to focus on one thing and allow ourselves to be held back by this nearsightedness.  So while I know a lot of Cleveland fans will rest easier if LeBron does decide to stay, it’s not going to be the end of Cleveland if he doesn’t.       

 There is so much more that makes this city. There’s more than one player. We just need to rise up and look past it to see that.