Tag Archives: Downtown

A Weekend Trifecta of CLE Arts, Eats and Roller Derby

 
… A look back at last weekend’s Parade the Circle, BRRG and Chef Jam 2010 …
 

The Sold-Out Chef Jam 2010 on Sunday night demonstrated the thriving partnership between Cleveland's restaurant and music communities.

 

One of my goals when I started this blog was to highlight a variety of the places and events that can be found in Cleveland.  And I hope that I’ve made some progress in doing so.  I truly believe that whatever your interests, Cleveland offers a number of great opportunities to meet those needs throughout the year.   
 
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to demonstrate this notion of a versatile Cleveland by seeing if I could fill one weekend with activities that would appeal to different tastes.  Last weekend I was able to find and attend 3 Cleveland events that would interest fans of arts & culture, sports, local food and music: University Circle’s Parade the Circle, the Burning River Roller Girls’ semifinals, and Chef Jam 2010. 

    

PARADE THE CIRCLE   

Colorful balloon arches introduced each section of Parade the Circle.

 

The floats and costumes found throughout the Parade were full of intricate and creative designs.

 

My weekend started early Saturday morning when I sleepily dragged myself out of bed to head over to Cleveland’s Eastside for Parade the Circle.   

In addition to floats, costumed stilt-walkers and musicians made their way down East Boulevard.

 

I knew that I’d need to gather my strength for a long day, so I first stopped by The Inn on Coventry for breakfast.  The Inn on Coventry, which will celebrate its 29th anniversary this July, is a mom-and-mom community restaurant with three generations of home-style cooks.  It’s been named one of the best breakfasts in Cleveland, and my first time there did not disappoint as they balanced a creative and delicious breakfast menu with the laidback atmosphere and value you’d find at a family-run restaurant.  I ordered a short-stack of their Crunchberry Pancakes and was very pleased with the result — two huge pancakes with granola and blueberry mixed in. Other pancakes on the menu include lemon ricotta, pumpkin and reese’s pancakes.  Not a fan of pancakes?  Their selection of egg specialities had me looking forward to my next visit so that I can try out their Swedish Eggs.   

Hawken School Community's Op and Pop and Things that Go Round! float.

 

I walked off  my hearty breakfast on my way down to Wade Oval for Parade the Circle.  Parade the Circle – often heralded as Cleveland’s signature summer event – is held yearly in University Circle’s Wade Oval by the Cleveland Museum of Art and University Circle, Inc.  At noon, a parade of floats, puppets, stilt-walkers, dancers, and musicians weaved its way down East Boulevard and Wade Oval Drive.  The creativity and intricacy found in the floats and costumes aptly demonstrated the dedication and talent of our local arts groups, community organizations and schools. Another highlight of the parade was how a number of the displays were themed around the environment — incorporating the idea of conservation not just in what the floats presented but also how they were constructed.  For instance, Sawson Alhaddad and Friends’ Phoenix-themed float was a giant phoenix bird constructed entirely of discarded medical supplies.    

After the parade, Circle Village was open in Wade Oval until 4pm for an afternoon of interactive displays, live music, and local food.   

Circle Village featured activities sponsored by local organizations.

 

Among other things, the 32+ activities promoted:    

  • the arts – the Famicos Foundation invited children to paint one of three canvas murals with an image from their neighborhood;
  • science – the Cleveland Museum of Natural History celebrated their 90th anniversary with hands-on science crafts;
  • healthier lifestyles – the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Center had families create a Dream Catcher and provided educational information and a nursing staff to answer questions about sleep habits

Parade the Circle has always proven to be a unique event that does an excellent job in promoting community involvement and an awareness of the arts in Cleveland – and this year was no different.     

    

BURNING RIVER ROLLER GIRLS’ SEMIFINALS   

The jammer for the Hellbombers (left) speeds towards the pack as the Hard Knockers look on from the bench.

 

After spending the day out in the heat, it was nice to head over to the airconditioned Wolstein Center for the Burning River Roller Girls‘ semifinals bout.  The BRRG are Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league.  Saturday night’s two matches pitted the Cleveland Steamers against the Rolling Pin-Ups and the Hellbombers against the Hard Knockers to determine who would be heading to the fourth season finals in July.   

The Cleveland Steamers and Rolling Pin-Ups line up as a jam is about to start.

 

First up were the Cleveland Steamers and the Rolling Pin-Ups.  Going into the match, the Cleveland Steamers were 2-1 for the season – their only defeat at the hands of the Hellbombers in Bout 1. And with the very first jam of Saturday’s match, they seemed to be on the road to another victory.  During the first jam, the Steamers immediately scored 10 points after the Rolling Pin-Ups’ jammer got penalized and was out of the jam.  However, the Pin-Ups – who were 1-2 for the season – staged an early comeback when they racked up 13 points in two jams, bringing the score to 18-15.  By the end of the first half, the score was 28-19 with the Rolling Pin-Ups in the lead.  During the second half, the Rolling Pin-Ups sealed their victory as the unstoppable Punk’d Pixie scored another 9 points on the half’s 1st jam and brought the score to 37-19.  With each jam, the Steamers continued to fall further behind.  Although they worked very hard and ended up with 35 points by the end of the match, the Steamers were no match for the Pin-Ups on Saturday as the score ended 57-35 with the Pin-Ups headed for the Hazard Cup in July.   

Aaron Bonk of HeyBonk.com thrilled the crowd between the 2 BRRG matches.

 

The second match pitted the undefeated Hellbombers against the Hard Knockers who were 0-3 for the season.  Although the Hard Knockers were the first to score – earning 4 points in the first jam, the Hellbombers’ brutal and nimble offense helped them take a decisive lead in the second jam.  Captain Erin Gargiulo from the Hellbombers scored an incredible 14 points in one jam.  The Hellbombers demonstrated that they were dedicated to victory as their jammers swiftly pushed through the pack jam after jam bringing the score to 17-59 by halftime in favor of the Hellbombers.  In the second half, the Hard Knockers tried to rally together in hopes of a victory.  And when the Hard Knockers earned lead jammer three jams in a row, it seemed as if they were making good progress. However, by the end of the match, the Hellbombers defeated the Hard Knockers 117 to 43.  Although it will be the undefeated Hellbombers in next month’s finals, the Hard Knockers deserve praise for their fortitude on Saturday night as they continued to battle hard despite the Hellbombers’ insurmountable lead.   

With these two exciting matches, as well as the thrilling juggling antics of Aaron Bonk of Hey Bonk! fame, the Burning River Roller Girls’ semifinals were an incredible way to end my Saturday.  And considering how close the Rolling Pin-Ups and Hellbombers’ last match was in May, both teams will have their work cut out for them as they prepare for the finals on July 10th.   

    

CHEF JAM 2010   

In addition to 26 local chefs, Chef Jam featured performances by The Rare Birds (pictured), Melange, Evil Eye, Cream of the Crop and guest Todd Rundgren.

 

The staff from Melange serving their George Thoroughgood-inspired ribs, wings and dill pickle popcorn.

 

After Saturday’s marathon of activities, I took it easy on Sunday until that evening’s sold-out Chef Jam.   Chef Jam 2010 was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to benefit Cleveland Food Rocks and the Rock Hall‘s education programs and promote the city’s talented restaurant industry.      

Featuring 26 of the best chefs in the city, a selection of local bands, and a performance by Todd Rundgren, Chef Jam 2010 satisfied the epicurean in all who attended.   

Scott tries Melange's incredibly tender Watermelon 'Bad to the Bone' Ribs.

 

The Rock Hall buzzed with the sounds of the 1000 attendees who flocked from table to table sampling dishes themed around a different musician. Understanding how theatricality often goes hand-in-hand with great rock-and-roll, a number of the chefs and restaurants’ staffs also dressed the part for their particular theme.  In addition to the Happy Dog – who put together another hot dog masterpiece with their ‘Aint’ Nothing but a Hound’ dogs, my other favorites included Melange’s selection inspired by George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers and Bistro on Lincoln Park’s Allman Brothers dessert. Melange cooked up a tender Watermelon ‘Bad to the Bone’ Ribs, Effervescent Chicken Wings, and an incredible Dill Pickle Popcorn. And Bistro on Lincoln Park featured a grilled ‘Eat a Peach’ peaches with cracked black pepper ice cream.    

The crowd packed the lobby of the Rock Hall to see Cream of the Crop and Todd Lundgren play.

 

As with any good recipe, you need more than just one ingredient to make it a success.  And the live performances coupled with the setting of the Rock Hall were the perfect complement to the featured chefs.  In addition to complimentary tours of the Rock Hall and its exhibits, guests were treated to performances by local bands and the legendary Todd Rundgren.   Melange’s Melange and Happy Dog’s Evil Eye opened up the show.  After that, The Rare Birds performed for the Greenhouse Tavern closing their set out with one of my favorites, She’s Smokin Hot.  Cream of the Crop closed the night with a guest performance by Todd Rundgren. When Steve Schimoler – owner/chef of Crop and founder of Cleveland Food Rocks – was interviewed by The Plain Dealer, he noted how Rundgren performed for free in support of the Rock Hall and Cleveland’s food scene – both of which he’s a fan.  And with the quality of the dishes and performances featured at Chef Jam, it’s no wonder.   

    

*****   

Although it ended up being a couple of whirlwind days, Parade the Circle, the BRRG and Chef Jam were the perfect examples of not just the variety but also the quality of events that can be found in Cleveland any weekend.   

    

Parade the Circle 411:
Event page
Hosted by:
University Circle, Inc. and
Cleveland Museum of Art    

    

Burning River Roller Girls 411:  
Upcoming Bouts
BRRG Teams
‘What is Roller Derby?’ Video
@BurningRiver   

    

Chef Jam 2010 411:
Event Page
Hosted by:
Cleveland Food Rocks and
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame   

Cleveland Sketch Crawl 'Takes a Hike' This Saturday

    

Information about the Cleveland Sketch Crawl can be found at http://clevelandsketchcrawl.blogspot.com

 

Each month, the Cleveland Sketch Crawl provides artists, photographers, and sketching enthusiasts of all skill levels with the opportunity to get out in the city, learn about Cleveland and draw some really amazing stuff.  The first Sketch Crawl I attended was in April at the Carnegie West Library.  Unfortunately, due to Free Comic Book Day falling on the first Saturday of May and being out-of-town next week, I wasn’t able to go to the last one and won’t be able to go this month either.   

However, for anyone who will be in town this coming Saturday, June 5th, check out June’s Sketch Crawl.  It looks like it’s going to be a very unique sketching experience as the group participates in the “Take A Hike” Saturday walking tour.  A program of the Historic Gateway Neighborhood, “Take a Hike” features 4 different, free tours each week during the summer.  The Saturday tour is of the Historic Warehouse District and meets at 10 am at Constantino’s Market.   

The Sketch Crawl will be walking along with the rest of the tour group, so it’ll be an interesting exercise in speed sketching and quickly capturing the impressions of various locations. There are some amazing artists in the group, so I’m sure what they draw, paint or photograph is going to be fantastic.   

Detailed information about this month’s Sketch Crawl — as well as a look at the events for the next few months — can be found on the Cleveland Sketch Crawl’s blog.    

I had a blast in April and definitely can’t wait for July.  Three words: Tall Ships Festival.   

    

Cleveland Sketch Crawl / Take a Hike Program 411:

Cleveland Sketch Crawl
First Saturday of every month at varying locations
Sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
@DowntownCLE    

Take a Hike Program
Event Information
Sponsored by Historic Gateway Neighborhood

John Lithgow: Teller of Tales at the Hanna Theatre

 

Photo Credit: Nigel Parry

 

Why do we love to be told stories?         

This past Sunday, actor John Lithgow returned to the Great Lakes Theater Festival for a performance of “Stories by Heart” which examines why people are entranced by listening to — and in some cases, telling — stories.   Both a former member of GLTF and the son of its founder Arthur Lithgow, the younger Lithgow gave two performances of his show — a donor event on Saturday night and a public performance on Sunday afternoon.       

Stories by Heart” was born from Lithgow’s visits to his father when the older Lithgow was seriously ill and recovering from a very difficult surgery.  John Lithgow, who joked he was the only sibling out of work at the time, went and stayed with his father and mother to help them while Arthur recovered.  As can often happen when recovering from an illness, his once jovial father was reduced to a quiet shell of his former self.        

When nothing seemed to be bringing his father out of this despondency, John happened upon the idea of reading stories to his parents each night at bedtime.  With Tellers of Tales in hand – a collection of short stories compiled by W. Somerset Maugham that his father used to read – John would re-tell these stories to his father and mother, and amazingly his father was able to find his humor and strength again.       

From this experience, Lithgow created two theatre pieces – performances of the short stories “Haircut” by Ring Lardner and “Uncle Fred Flits By” by P.G. Wodehouse.  Lithgow initially performed them separately in 2008 and 2009.  Now, he’s combined them into “Stories by Heart” which he’ll start touring nationwide this fall. Prior to the tour, he very fittingly returned to the Great Lakes Theater Festival to run the full show in front of an audience.         

In “Uncle Fred Flits By,” Lithgow portrays nine characters in a story about Wodehouse’s lively Lord Ickenham and the misadventures he carries on with his sheepish nephew ‘Pongo.’ Pongo, who is always reluctant to have his Uncle visit, is pulled into a hilarious scheme of impersonations and on-the-spot plottings that the mischievous Uncle Fred puts into play. In reenacting the story, Lithgow plays all the characters with gusto — from Pongo and Uncle Fred, to a young ‘Pink Chap’ and his fawning love interest, to the disapproving mother of said love interest and even a parrot.  Uncle Fred’s madcap machinations to bring ‘sweetness and light’ were the first thing after Arthur Lithgow’s surgery that made him laugh. And with John Lithgow’s dynamic retelling of Wodehouse’s tale, it’s no wonder.       

In the second act, Lithgow performs “Haircut” by Ring Lardner. Lardner was an American sports columnist and short story writer, as well as the father of Ring Lardner, Jr. – one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten and screenwriter of M*A*S*H*.  Originally from the Midwest himself, Lardner Sr.’s “Haircut” is a wry look at what goes on in a small Michigan town through the eyes of the town’s barber.  Over the course of a haircut that the barber gives to a nameless customer, he weaves a tale of love triangles, revenge, seemingly inconsequential gossip, and the kindness and wickedness that often go hand-in-hand in a small town.        

John Lithgow as The Trinity Killer in Showtime's Dexter - a striking difference from his performance in 'Stories by Heart.' Photo from Showtime's Dexter.

 

Prior to the retelling of “Haircut,” Lithgow shares stories of his childhood growing up in the Midwest.  Specifically, he recounts how his family moved a lot due to his father’s theatre and teaching engagements. When he was an adolescent, they moved to a small town in Ohio close to the Michigan border. Early on that year, he read “Haircut” for the first time in a textbook and the peculiar combination of decency and maliciousness resonated with him.  He recalls a fellow classmate who showed kindness to him as the new kid in school, then shortly after bullied him with a horrible game of ‘Squirrel.’ Or the teacher whose excessive use of corporal punishment was later celebrated by his classmates when they graduated.  Given Lithgow’s recent portrayal on Dexter of a barbaric serial-killing family man who exhibits this same disparity,  I definitely geeked out when he reflected on these ideas.       

Telling both of these short stories in the same show was an excellent choice for Lithgow as they were definite contrasts to one another. Although humorous at times, “Haircut” was much more darkly tinged than “Uncle Fred.”  And with “Uncle Fred” written by a notably British author and “Haircut” by an American short story master, the styles and sensibilities of both were also quite different.  By playing their differences against one another, Lithgow aptly demonstrated how storytelling can have very different purposes for the storyteller and contrasting effects on the audience.      

The Hanna Theatre - home to GLTF

 

The afternoon with John Lithgow at the Hanna Theatre was a very intimate and entertaining experience.  We not only got to sit in our favorite seats – the banquettes, support one of our favorite Cleveland theatres, and enjoy delicious pumpkin ice cream during Ice Cream Social Sunday, but we also had the rare opportunity to listen to a gifted storyteller of Lithgow’s caliber weave a variety of imaginative, touching and humorous scenes for us.       

By rereading “Uncle Fred Flits By” and “Haircut” to his father when he was ill, Lithgow realized how storytelling was a powerful healing force and raised his father’s spirits. And in sharing “Stories by Heart” with audiences, he continues to spread a ‘sweetness and light’ akin to the inimitable Uncle Fred.      

Great Lakes Theater Festival 411:        

John Lithgow’s Stories by Heart  
The Hanna Experience and Seating Options
Parking and Directions
Tickets and Subscriptions

Roller Derby Provides Bruisingly Good Time

Hellbombers vs. Hard Knockers match on April 3, 2010 - Jammers Eduskater and Check Republic face off. (all photos from facebook.com/BurningRiverRollerGirls)

 

I know that my last couple of posts have been focused on some of the theatre and music that can be experienced in Cleveland. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for the arts, and am finishing up my next post which takes a look at John Lithgow’s performance of ‘Stories by Heart’ for the Great Lakes Theater Festival.   

However, in addition to the arts, Cleveland also has ample opportunities for sports fans. Some may say Cleveland fans have it rough since our pro teams haven’t won a national championship in quite a while. I feel, though, that that’s an eternal battle a lot of sports fans go through (growing up an Eagles fan, it’s something I had to come to terms with a long time ago).  If you’re looking for an exciting alternative to pro sports in Cleveland, the Burning River Roller Girls offer up a bruisingly good time in the Spring and Summer.    

During the Steamers vs. Pin-Ups match, the Steamers' jammer gets taken down.

 

The BRRG is Cleveland’s first all-female, skater-owned, flat-track derby league. For those unfamiliar with the sport of roller derby, the Gem City Rollergirls created a 5-minute video that explains how the game is played.    

Cleveland’s league started in 2006 when 40 women met to start a derby group. In November of that year they had their first public appearance – Black and Blue Friday, which has become their annual charity event. Season 1 started in April of 2007 and by the end of the year, the Burning River Roller Girls were accepted as the 50th member league of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.   

Now in its fourth season, the BRRG has four home teams – The Cleveland Steamers, Hard Knockers, Hellbombers and The Rolling Pin-Ups – who compete with one another in five bouts from March to July. Additionally, the BRRG has two travel teams.  The first is the Burning River All-Stars – a WFTDA sanctioned, regionally ranked travel team for whom the best skaters from the BRRG league are selected quarterly. The other travel team – the Burning River Hazmat Team – is the league’s “B” travel team which was formed last season. In addition to the players, the league is rounded out by a support staff of referees, officials, two bout announcers, merch teams and other volunteers.   

The Hard Knockers lining up at the beginning of a jam - Mommy's Little Monster and Skank Williams Sr. up front.

 

The first match Scott and I attended was Bout 3 of the current season which was held on Saturday, May 8 at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center.  It was also their Law & Order Night with discounted tickets for police and military.   

The first game of the bout was between the Hellbombers and Rolling Pin-Ups. Leading up to this match, the Hellbombers had been undefeated, and the fight put up by the Rolling Pin-Ups very nearly ended this run.  With a score of 50-47, the Hellbombers barely pulled out a win.  Punk’d Pixie scored the first 25 points for the Pin-Ups in brutal jams time and time again. And when the Hellbombers’ Stroker Ace mistakenly put her jammer cap on inside out breaking a roller derby rule, she kept them from scoring 10 points. Nonetheless, the Hellbombers pulled out a win and preserved their undefeated record.     

Game 2 was between the Hard Knockers and Cleveland Steamers. In contrast to Game 1 which was a very close call, the second game demonstrated a clear winner very early on with the Steamers racking up 63 points versus the Hard Knockers’ 40.  The Steamers started off with a slight lead however the lead quickly blossomed to the point that the Hard Knockers were unable to stage a comeback.  When the Hard Knockers’ lead jammers kept committing penalties and being placed in the penalty box, the Steamers had multiple opportunities to rack up major points on individual jams and score a devastating win.     

The jammer from the Steamers trying to breakthrough a pack of Pin-Ups players.

 

After watching the teams dominate on the track, the fans could meet the players on the Wolstein’s concourse. For me, one of the best parts of the bout was meeting the teams and seeing that these are ‘regular,’ unassuming women who are confidant and determined to pursue their passion.  It was definitely an encouraging experience.    

On June 12, the BRRG plays its next bout – the season’s semifinals. And on July 10, they play the finals — both bouts at the Wolstein Center.  The next match for the Burning River All-Stars traveling team will be in nearby Pittsburgh to battle the Steel City Derby Demons. The local league’s semifinals and finals will be double-headers, with doors opening at 5pm and bouts starting at 6pm – plenty of time to grab a beer or some cotton candy beforehand.  And for those interested in actually getting on the track, there are plenty of opportunities for both women and men.   

Whether you’re interested in participating or watching, the Burning River Roller Girls are doing an excellent job of demonstrating why roller derby is the fastest growing women’s sport in America and definitely worth checking out.   

    

Burning River Roller Girls 411:   

Upcoming Bouts
BRRG Teams
‘What is Roller Derby?’ Video
@BurningRiver

No 'offending shadows' at the Great Lakes Theater Festival

The Hanna Theatre at PlayhouseSquare, home of the Great Lakes Theater Festival

 

Before I moved to Cleveland, I worked for a couple of theatres in Philly.  I enjoyed it a lot — working in subscriptions and marketing departments and working backstage on a show for a year.  Even when I stopped being involved, I still loved experiencing Philly’s vibrant theatre community and the shows it produced. Because of this, I get very excited by seeing well-executed theatre.     

When I first got to Cleveland, I saw a number of touring productions at PlayhouseSquare, and while they were all consistently entertaining, I missed seeing a show that was produced in house. To me, there’s something extraordinary when you have a theatre company with a group of actors, technicians and administrative professionals working together under an established mission.  Oftentimes these teams have worked together on previous productions and have an established sense of community that shines through in a show.  Subsequently, when I found out about the Great Lakes Theater Festival, which stages productions at PlayhouseSquare’s Hanna and Ohio Theatres, I couldn’t wait to see a performance.    

The Festival features a resident artistic company committed to producing Shakespeare and other classic theatre in a rotating repertory throughout the year. It was initially founded in 1962 when members of the Lakewood Board of Education wanted to fill the Lakewood Civic Auditorium with cultural events during the summer.  They reached out to a Shakespeare troupe founded by Arthur Lithgow who made the Auditorium their home.  Over the years, they moved into PlayhouseSquare and expanded their scope to include non-Shakespearean classics and musicals; however, each season still sees a few productions by the Bard.    

The 2009-2010 season included The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Twelfth Night, A Christmas Carol, Bat Boy: The Musical and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Although I missed out on the Fall Repertory, I was determined to see their Spring Repertory of Bat Boy and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Since they’re produced in a rotating repertory, on days when there is a matinee and an evening show, the crew has to quickly strike the set of the first and load in the second in between.  Additionally, the majority of the actors pull double-duty — featuring as characters in both Bat Boy and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.    

From greatlakestheater.org: "Don’t deny your beast inside!" exclaim the residents of Bat Boy’s hometown in "Bat Boy: The Musical." (Photography by Roger Mastroianni)

 

I saw Bat Boy on its opening night on April 10. Now, Bat Boy may seem like an unusual choice for a theatre company focused on classic works, as Director Victoria Bussert mentioned in her Director’s Notes.  However, as she explained, the plot of the musical – inspired by a tabloid story about a half-boy/half-bat found in West Virginia – has a level of tragedy and an underlying story about prejudice and acceptance that are the backbone of a lot of classic fare.  And even though GLTF is more accustomed to traditional theatre, they still produced an amazing version of Bat Boy that was both campy and beautiful, entertaining and relevant.  The actors and musicians did a wonderful job with an unusual set of characters and loud gospel-rock score. Particularly, I thought that Lynn Robert Berg who played Dr. Parker was outstanding. I found myself in one second despising how villainous he was, and then feeling sad for his pathetic state of affairs.  I was equally impressed by the set – loving how they worked the cows (which served as a sort of MacGuffin to the story) at odd angles into the set pieces.  Between the set, the music and the storyline, Bat Boy definitely proved to be a surreal experience.    

If Bat Boy – as a non-classical show – was an unusual choice for GLTF, the uniqueness of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was in its execution. Directed by Charles Fee – who is also the GLTF’s Producing Artistic Director, this production was set in 1960s London. Taking the spirit of The Beatles’ songs and both directly and indirectly working them into the play placed a different spin on the story and demonstrated its timelessness.  Although purists may shy away from contemporary productions of Shakespeare, there was something amusing about the lover Lysander dressed in a young-Lennon-esque ensemble and his paramour Hermia dressed like a love-struck fanatical groupie.  On the other hand, Puck (played by Eduardo Placer) was a classic ‘flower-child’ whose master, the fairyking Oberon, was inspired by the later-Beatles’ Indian influences.  In what has become one of my favorite entrances of a character, Placer’s playful Puck literally swung onto the stage from a beautiful harvest moon. Not to be outdone, though, the Mechanicals – dressed as Srgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — stole the show at the end with their play within a play.    

From greatlakestheater.org: the stylish fairy Puck (actor, Eduardo Placer) makes a grand entrance atop a 1960s Volkswagon Beetle in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." (Photography by Roger Mastroianni)

 

In addition to exhilarating productions, the GLTF provides a unique theatre-going experience in how they approach the audience.  The non-traditional seating options – in addition to conventional fixed seats – allow for a more social environment.  While the balcony box provided a private setting for entertaining a group of people at Midsummer’s, the banquette – a  wraparound couch that we sat in for Bat Boy – was the most comfortable  experience I’ve had while seeing a show.    

A view from the Hanna Theatre's bar seating shows the GLTF crew switching out the sets for Bat Boy: The Musical and A Midsummer Night's Dream

 

 To make the most of the theatre experience, the Hanna is also opened 90 minutes before and after the show. So I can arrive early, grab a drink and watch the artistic company prep for the performance. And if I’m not ready to head home after the curtain, the bar at the back of the Hanna stays open where I can hang out with my friends and the artistic company on Night Cap Saturdays.    

The GLTF’s Spring Rep runs through next weekend closing on May 16. After the spring shows, the festival’s fundraiser has John Lithgow – former GLTF member and Arthur’s son – returning for 2 performances of ‘Stories by Heart’ on May 22nd and 23rd. The show has Lithgow invoking three generations of family history while looking at his own life as an actor and storyteller.  I’ll be there for the matinee enjoying the banquette seating again.     

After the Lithgow performance, the 2010-2011 Season starts back up in September with Othello and An Ideal Husband in the Fall, followed by A Christmas Carol, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Now that I’ve finally found the Great Lakes Theater Festival, I’ll definitely be back for more.    

     

Great Lakes Theater Festival / Hanna Theatre 411:  

The Shows
Bat Boy: The Musical
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
John Lithgow’s Stories by Heart    

The Theatre
The Hanna Experience and Seating Options
Parking and Directions
Tickets and Subscriptions

Exploring Hidden Cleveland

Lolly The Trolley got us where we needed to go on the Hidden CLE Tour

UPDATE: This post is from the 2010 Hidden Cleveland Tours.  For more information about the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s current series, check their site out here.

Although living in Cleveland the last couple of years has helped me get a decent grasp on what the city has to offer, my awareness of just how much can be found here has increased significantly in the short time since starting this blog. From organizations such as Positively Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance to blogs like 52 Weeks of Cleveland, I’ve been clueing into the city in ways I hadn’t thought of before.    

In particular this month, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance is making it easier to explore some places in my backyard that I would have typically been unaware of.  With the Hidden Cleveland Tours last Sunday and this Sunday, they’re highlighting a selection of buildings around downtown Cleveland that feature interesting architecture, city history and local culture.   

The Special Collections' Chess Library features a variety of unique chess sets

Lolly The Trolley took us to our first stop – the Main Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. We were met at the steps of the library by ‘Mayor Tom Johnson‘ – the Progressive mayor of Cleveland elected in the early 1900s who supported the Group Plan and creation of the Mall which the library borders.  After a brief history lesson, we entered the library for the main purpose of the stop – the Special Collections department.  Open to the public, the department houses a myriad of antique books and donated treasures for perusing. Among many other things featured in the department are a Sheet Music File, Miniature Books Collection and Tobacco Collection.  However, the highlight of the visit for me was The John G. White Collection of Chess, Checkers, Folklore and Orientalia.  The largest chess library in the world, its pieces document the history, development and technical aspects of chess, and feature many exquisite chess sets as well as a number of books related to the game (including a Birthday Book from the woman that Alice in Wonderland is named after). Located on the 3rd Floor, it’s definitely worth a return visit to explore everything that’s located there.    

A view from the Hanna Theatre's bar seating shows the load-in for the set of A Midsummer Night's Dream

From the library, the trolley took us to nearby Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square – home of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival.  The night before the tour, Scott and I had been at the Hanna to see GLTF’s production of Bat Boy. To go on a tour of the theatre the next day was a real pleasure. Originally built in the 1920s, the venue was reopened in 2008 after a major renovation transformed the space into a 550-seat thrust stage theatre. Although we had seen the theatre’s innovative setup in action the night before, we had a chance to really explore it on the tour. The theatre is set up to ensure that no audience member is further than 12 rows from the stage.  And non-traditional seating options – in addition to conventional fixed seats – allow for a more social theatre-going experience. There are lounges and boxes with movable seats, banquettes, and a bar area where you can grab a barstool and bottle of wine and enjoy the show.  When we attended Opening Night of Bat Boy on Saturday, we sat in one of the center banquettes.  A wraparound couch that fits four, it was the most comfortable and one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had while seeing a show. After seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the other half of the GLTF’s Spring  Repertory), I’ll be posting a more comprehensive entry on the theatre and both productions.     

Mural from the Slovenian National Home's stage

I’d have to admit, as a theatre geek at heart, I was sad to leave the Hanna.  However, the next stop – the Slovenian National Home  – was definitely a hidden gem that the tour uncovered for me. The Home was built in 1924 by people of Slovenian descent for meetings and celebrations — including community opera productions on the beautiful stage in the main Hall.  Although originally built in the 20s, the Home is still used today and in pristine condition. Located next door is the Slovenian Museum and Archives, dedicated to preserving Slovenian artistic and ethnic works, as well as the history of Slovenian families who migrated to Cleveland — the largest Slovenian community outside of Slovenia.  Currently featured at the museum is an exhibit by Slovenian-American artist Gary Bukovnik titled ‘The Rebirth of Flora,’ as well as the Slovenian Genealogy Society Research Library’s Oral History Preservation Project. With everything it features, the Slovenian National Home and Museum & Archives are fantastic examples of well-maintained cultural history.     

The Ukrainian Labor Temple - now home to CR Studio, Inc.

We completed the tour at the Ukrainian Labor Temple. This stop did an excellent job in demonstrating how some older buildings in Cleveland have been repurposed.   The Ukrainian Labor Temple originially served as both a cultural center similiar to the Slovenian National Home, as well as the focal point for radical labor movements in the city.  However, after it fell out of use, the building was purchased in 1989 and then converted into a photography studio and living space for CR Studio, Inc. During the tour, we explored the studio which was housed in the main auditorium of the temple, as well as a showroom for Ideal Surface which produces concrete designs for commercial and residential projects. The most interesting point of this stop was the opportunity to see an individual’s current story overlay the original building’s function.    

Prosperity Social Club - a laidback, retro drinking establishment

Last Sunday’s Hidden Cleveland Tour was well-worth the $25 ticket price. In addition to the tour, the ticket included appetizers and drink specials at Prosperity Social Club down the street from the Ukrainian Labor Temple. Scott and I had been there before and our visit on Sunday did not fail to please. The bar resides in the building’s original 1938 barroom, and its art deco influence with wormy chestnut walls provides a nostalgic atmosphere that’s unpretentious and truly Cleveland. 
Although there is another tour this Sunday visiting four different Downtown spots, it’s already sold out.  This is the second year the annual tour has been held, so hopefully due to its popularity more opportunities will be offered to experience those parts of the city it may be easy to miss out on.    

       

Hidden Cleveland 411:

Hidden Cleveland Tour
Tour Details
Sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
@DowntownCLE         


Stop 1: Cleveland Public Library – Special Collections Department
Department Location and Contact Information     


Stop 2: Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square
Great Lakes Theatre Festival     


Stop 3: Slovenian National Home
National Home Location
Museum and Archives     

 
Stop 4: Ukrainian Labor Temple
Labor Temple History
Prosperity Social Club
Location and Hours

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Bagpipes and drums!

 

It was beautiful, sunny and warmish outside today so I walked down to Superior Ave. on my lunchbreak to check out Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  It started at 1pm and went to 4pm, so I only got to catch a few glimpses of it. But for the short time I was down there, it was a fun time.  Here are a couple of pictures I took with my phone.  

Vintage Cleveland Police Car parked in a No-Parking Spot

 

For anyone unfamiliar with Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it started back in 1867, and this year marked the city’s 143rd parade and the biggest one yet.  It’s the largest parade in Ohio and one of the larger ones in the country. The route runs down Superior Ave. from E. 18th to Public Square, so if you’re downtown for work or to have some fun on St. Patrick’s Day, definitely stop by.  

Of course, if you were working today and didn’t have a chance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the parade, there’s a whole day – and night – of festivities.  From downtown to the east- and west-sides, activities abound and a guide can be found at www.cleveland.com/st-patricks-day  

Erin Go Bragh!  

Firefighters/American Legion

Cleveland Rocks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Cleveland Rocks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (photo by STH)

 

Since this is a blog about where to go when visiting Cleveland, I’m going to start with one of the first places that comes to mind when someone mentions Cleveland:  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   

The first time I visited the Rock Hall was for a holiday party at work. Having recently moved here at the time, dining and perusing the exhibits afterhours was a pretty enjoyable way to spend an evening. Since then, I’ve been back a handful of times when friends have come to town wanting to check out a Cleveland icon.   

Birthplace of Rock 'N' Roll (photo by STH)

 

The Rock Hall is hard to miss.  A glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei, it’s one of the most eye-catching buildings downtown lining the Lake Erie coast.  In 1995, it opened its doors to the public. With seven floors of exhibition space, it’s easy to get lost in there for hours.  Considering the role Cleveland played in the history of rock and roll (it’s where the term was first coined and popularized by Alan Freed), it’s no wonder that the Rock Hall makes its home here.   

At the core of the museum are 18 permanent exhibits that each give a unique perspective on the history of rock and roll. Some of the exhibits highlight the careers of past and current legends including Michael Jackson, Les Paul, U2, and Jimi Hendrix. Another exhibit traces the development of pivotal music scenes through the decades — from Memphis and Detroit to Liverpool, San Francisco, LA, New York, London and Seattle. And for those interested in local music, the Hang on Sloopy exhibit examines the music of Ohio.     

In addition to the permanent installations, the Rock Hall is constantly developing temporary exhibits to spotlight various artists and themes. If you’re a Bruce fan, the 5th and 6th floors of the museum are currently dedicated to From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen until the end of 2010.    And after the phenomenal photography exhibit Live from Madison Square Garden: From the Lens of George Kalinsky closes on March 14, an exhibit celebrating 35 years of Austin City Limits will open from March 20 to September 6.    

Of course, no visit to the museum would be complete without stopping by the actual Hall of Inductees. A theatre in the Hall houses a multimedia production about the inductees, and a walkway travels along a series of glass panels etched with their signatures leading you to artifacts from the current class. A game Scott and I enjoy playing when we’re in the Hall of Inductees is picking out which panel we’d take home with us based on the signatures etched on each one (if I could, I’d claim the panel featuring Roy Orbison).  When the Class of 2010 is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, the Rock Hall will host an Induction Ceremony Watch Party with tickets on sale for $5.   

My personal favorite part of the museum, however, is the Alan Freed Radio Station housed on premises.  Not only can you listen in on a live broadcast while hanging out in the museum’s courtyard, but you can also visit the studio on the upper floors and watch the show unfold right in front of you. It’s this behind-the-scenes look that makes the Radio Station one of my favorite features of the museum.   

With all of these things to see at the Rock Hall, it’s no wonder it’s such an iconic part of the city.   

    

Rock Hall 411:   

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(East Ninth Street at Lake Erie)   

Hours, Admission and Directions   

Twitter: @Rock_Hall