Tag Archives: Spring

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to the Spring Fabulous Food Show

When Scott and I bought our house a few years ago, our first investment for the outside was a nice patio set.

We knew that if we wanted something to last awhile, we’d have to splurge a bit. And after looking back on summer nights spent grilling and enjoying our backyard, the set we got was definitely worth its pricetag.

Although we haven’t been able to dust off the patio furniture and grill yet, we’ve been counting the weeks til it’ll be time to dine outside.  And with the Spring Fabulous Food Show coming up next weekend, we shouldn’t find ourselves short on inspiration this season.

After the success of the Fall Fabulous Food Show, the I-X Center has now added a Springtime counterpart to celebrate all of the great outdoor grilling that comes with the return of warm weather.

Taking place April 28 and 29, the first annual Spring Fabulous Food Show will feature expert chef presentations, ideas for patios and other outdoor living spaces, and a showroom full of exhibitors.

Headlining the event is the grill master himself – Bobby Flay, who will be joined in the Backyard Patio Theatre with fellow celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, author of the Barbeque Bible Steven Raichlen, and Weber Grills’ cookbook author Jamie Purviance.

If you miss them on the mainstage, Raichlen and Purviance will be demonstrating grilling techniques in the Weber Grilling Pavilion, where you can also catch one of my favorite local chefs – Greenhouse Tavern’s Jonathon Sawyer – team up with Jason Roberts for a demonstration during Saturday’s show.

At the Outdoor Living Stage landscaping experts will be showcasing deck and patio design ideas, while at the Farmers Market Stage you can learn gardening, wellness and sustainability tips from local and regional chefs, horticulturists and other culinary experts.

Wine and beer lovers who attended the Fall Fabulous Food Show may be happy to see the Tasting Gardens are back. For $10, guests get six tasting tickets and a Schott Zwiesel crystal glass to peruse a selection of wine, beer and spirits.

More up my alley is the Ice Cream Shoppe – new to the Spring Fabulous Food Show – where you can sample ice cream from Graeter’s, Menchie’s, Pierre’s and many others. Tasting tickets are just $1 per sample.

And this year’s Market Place offers a healthy mix of home and garden exhibitors and culinary treats, along with a few stands for the family member that possibly loves the outdoors more than us — our dogs.

General Admission to the Spring Fabulous Food Show costs $25 in advance ($30 at the door) and, unlike the Fall Show, this includes a reserved seating ticket to one celebrity chef presentation of your choice. You can order your tickets online here and save a few dollars by using one of these discount codes.

But wait, there’s more – I’m also giving away a pair of Spring Fabulous Food Show tickets to one lucky winner!

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway

**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment with the name of your favorite dish to grill or cook up in the summer. You’ll earn one entry for doing this.

2) Like “Fabulous Food Show” and “Clue Into Cleveland” on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

3) Follow @FabFoodShow and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave me a comment letting me know you did both.

4) Twitter users can get an extra entry each day for tweeting: “It’s grilling time! Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for a chance to attend the Spring @FabFoodShow: http://wp.me/pPIgG-1bR”  (Each day you do this, you must leave a new comment.)

5) Subscribe to receive Clue Into Cleveland blog posts in your inbox or Google/blog reader and leave a comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “You’ve Got Mail” section of this page.

You have until Tuesday, April 24 at 11:59PM to enter. On Wednesday, April 25, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

***Disclosure: I was provided 2 tickets to give away to a reader. As always, my thoughts and the choice of events I share are 100% my own. Images courtesy of the Fabulous Food Show.***

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   

With So Much To Do in The Cleve This Weekend, Thank God for DVR

 

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend (6/11 – 6/13), Cleveland’s definitely not lacking in options. Myself, I’ll be running around tomorrow and Sunday – hitting up Parade the Circle, the Burning River Roller Girls’ Semi-Finals, and Chef Jam.

However, there are a variety of other things going on, including a number of community festivals, arts and shopping markets, and even a comic book convention. If you’re a True Blood fan with DVR, be happy you can record the season premiere since there are so many reasons to be out and about this weekend.

Sporting Events

 

Community Festivals

  • Made in the 216: A celebration of artists and culinary masters who have chosen to stay and build their businesses in Cleveland; Fri. – Sat.; Detroit Ave and W65th St.
  • Italian American Summer Festival: Celebrating its 10th year of Italian food, culture and entertainment; Fri. – Sun.; Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea 
  • The Riverfront Irish Festival: The 2nd largest Irish heritage event of the year – topped only by the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade; Fri. – Sun.; Falls River Square in Cuyahoga Falls

 

Arts and Entertainment Festivals:

  • 21st Parade the Circle: Cleveland’s signature summer event and parade; Sat. only; Wade Oval, University Circle
  • Discover Gordon Square Arts District Day: Live Performances, Restaurant Specials, Shopping, and Tours – PLUS, shuttles to and from Parade the Circle; Sat. only; Detroit Ave. between W. 54th and W. 78th Sts.
  • Chef Jam: 24 of the City’s Best Chefs Cook Up Dishes Themed Around Their Favorite Bands, plus Live Music and Rock Hall Tours; Sun. only; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • 2nd Annual Screaming Tiki Con: Comics, Toys, and Pop Culture Convention; Fri. – Sun.; Eastwood Expo Center
  • 5th Annual Crocker Park Fine Art Fair: The Guild of Artists & Artisans transforms Crocker Park into an outdoor art gallery with 130 individual booths; Sat. – Sun.; Crocker Park

Rare Birds, Polka Happy Hour and Hot Dogs This Friday

Located at 5801 Detroit Ave., Happy Dog has mastered the art of the hot dog.

 

Although I’m looking forward to going on vacation, I’m disappointed that I’ll not only miss Saturday’s Sketch Crawl, but also the DJ Kishka Polka Happy Hour AND Rare Birds shows this Friday at The Happy Dog.  

Scott eating a Hot Dog with Potato Chips, Bacon and an Egg

 

The Happy Dog is worth a future blog post all its own for its sheer awesomeness.  Located at 5801 Detroit Ave. in the Gordon Square District, it has truly mastered the art of the hot dog.  Options range from tasty quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs to homemade falafel and Field Roast vegan sausage (for those who would rather go meatless). And although I’m a carnivore at heart, I can attest from personal experience that the falafel is ridiculously good.  However, the choices don’t stop there — as there are over 50 options for toppings.  

With all of the choices, you can mix and match to your indecisive heart’s content.  For the traditionalist, the black truffle honey mustard, sliced gouda cheese and chorizo chili is a great spin on the classic chili dog.  Or you could give yourself a heart attack with Scott’s favorite: potato chips, egg, and bacon.  And of course, for the truly adventurous, there’s always fruit loops, peanut butter and marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce.  But that’s the best thing about create-your-own hot dogs — it’s completely up to you. Add on any of the 75+ beers they serve, as well as a side of fries or tater tots with their own substantial choice of toppings, and you have the makings for one of the more unique dining experiences in Cleveland.  

In addition to the food, this Friday at Happy Dog is shaping up to be an awesome night of entertainment.  First, from 6-9pm, there’s DJ Kishka‘s Polka Happy Hour. With three hours of polka music, DJ Kishka’s Happy Hour is something I’ve been trying to get to for months without any luck – since the last few times he’s been scheduled to perform, I’ve been unable to go. Nonetheless, everything I’ve heard about him is fantastic. A post on 52 Weeks of Cleveland talks about both DJ Kishka’s show and Clinton J. Holley’s Ohio City Opry (another regular at Happy Dog whose classic country music I have been able to enjoy).  

The Rare Birds - Rusty Boyer, David Leland Horton and Neal Campbell.

 

After polka, Good Touch Bad Touch and The Rare Birds perform from 9 til midnight. The Rare Birds are a local band featuring a friend of mine, Rusty Boyer, on guitar, as well as David Leland Horton on drums and Neal Campbell on guitar. Fans of the group Doctor Teeeth will recognize Rusty and Dave who also perform in that band. With a heavy soul and garage-based sound that’s coupled with layers of harmonized vocals from all three musicians, The Rare Birds are definitely worth checking out on Friday as they perform a couple of Hank Williams and Neil Young covers in addition to their own songs.  

However, for all you Rare Birds fans who are like me and can’t make it to the show on Friday, there’s no cause for alarm since they are also going to be performing on June 13th in the Rock Hall’s Chef Jam. Chef Jam looks to be yet another powerhouse combination of great food and Cleveland music, and I can’t wait until I get back home for it.  

   

The Happy Dog 411:  

The Food
Menu
Drinks
Facebook
@HappyDogCLE  

The Music
DJ Kishka Polka Happy Hour
The Rare Birds  

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

Local Composers Connect with the Greater Cleveland Flute Society

More information about the GCFS can be found at www.gcfs.org

 

As mentioned in my last post about the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, one of the things I love about Cleveland is the quality of the performing arts that can be found here.   

However, the city also demonstrates excellence in other areas besides theatre.  It not only hosts the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra, but is also home to a number of smaller music societies that provide the community with the opportunity to participate in and experience exquisite performances.  

One of these organizations is the Greater Cleveland Flute Society. Established in 1997, the GCFS works toward furthering an interest in flute music within the local community.   

They achieve this by hosting both performance and educational opportunities including masterclasses and flute chamber ensemble concerts. In addition to local activities, they’ve performed at the Northeast Ohio Flute Association Festival last fall as well as the Chicago Flute Festival.   

One of the Greater Cleveland Flute Society’s most popular local events is the Cleveland Composers Connection Concert, which took place this year on April 25. This particular concert focuses on composers who are local to the Cleveland area.  Starting in the Fall, composers can submit flute compositions to be performed at a concert the following Spring.  This gives both the composers and the GCFS the opportunity to showcase selected compositions to an audience of flutists and flute enthusiasts.  

This year’s event took place at Judson Manor on E 107th St around University Circle.  It featured two programs that showcased works by 8 composers of varying styles and backgrounds. Since the composers were local to Cleveland, they were able to attend the concert, discuss their compositions, and in the case of one composer perform part of it as well.  While I personally don’t have a strong background in flute music, I studied piano for a number of years and really enjoy discovering new music and composers. Subsequently, this was a very exciting opportunity to listen to the composers explain the thought-process behind their pieces.  

Spanish Nights performers with Composer Victoria Belfiglio (from www.gcfs.org)

 

The concert opened and closed with two pieces by Victoria Belfiglio: Processional for Flutes and Spanish Nights. A resident of Shaker Heights, Belfiglio was previously featured in the 2006 Cleveland Composers Connection.  Her Processional was a pleasing piece for a small ceremony such as a wedding or graduation and was written for a flute choir of 2 standard flutes, an alto and a bass flute. It was the first time I had ever listened to a bass flute, so that was a new experience in and of itself.  Her Spanish Nights composition, on the other hand, was written to convey the energy of a hot Spanish night and featured a multitude of other instruments in addition to the flute – including guitars, castanets, tambourine and maracas.  

Loris Chobanian performed Chobanian's Vivo with Bryan Kennard (who later presented his compositions Two Fugues). (from www.gcfs.org)

 

Spanish Nights wasn’t the only piece to incorporate instruments besides the flute. A few of the other pieces I found particularly enjoyable also used guitar and piano as a complement. Among these were pieces by Loris Chobanian and Stephen Griebling.  

A professor of composition and guitar and a composer-in-resident at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory, Loris Chobanian performed the guitar portions of his two compositions Nocturne and Vivo.  Originally, the accompanying flute arrangements were written for the cello. One thing that Chobanian noted about converting the cello portions to flute was accounting for the flutist’s necessity to breathe.  After a few attempts at working it into the composition, he recounted how he decided to just let the individual flutist determine that for themselves.  

Bonnie Svetlik and Madeline Levitz performed Stephen Griebling's Episode on Lake Erie (from www.gcfs.org)

 

Stephen Griebling‘s composition, on the other hand, featured the piano in addition to the flute.  Griebling’s composition was titled Episode on Lake Erie.  A fan of cross-disciplinary art, I found the story behind his piece the most interesting.  The composition was based off a painting that conveyed a ship being tossed around during a tumultuous storm.  With this in mind, listening to how the piano and flute worked together to convey the waves’ movements was one of the concert’s highlights.  Griebling’s background was also interesting. Coming from a family of composers who were named Ohio Musical Family of the Year in 1974, he has a long history of writing music starting at age 17.  However, he has also demonstrated creativity in other fields, holding four patents and recently retiring from the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company where he worked as a tire development engineer.

Cathy Spicer, Lisa Heinrich, and Kimberly Speiran performed William Rayer's Dance Suite (from www.gcfs.org)

 

The Cleveland Composers Connection also featured the world premiere of Dance Suite – a piece by William Rayer.   Rayer, who is a retired music teacher and performs regularly with the Lorain Community Orchestra, first wrote the suite as a study of technique.  However, in working on the movements, they developed into a beautiful piece for a flute trio. The three movements – Dance Mystique, Pavanne and Dance Macabre – were each written to bring a different sound to the suite.   The first movement balanced being both reflective and energetic.  The second movement featured the first flute in a cadenza-like movement, with the second and third flutes supporting with a quiet and plaintive sound.  Finally, Rayer equated the third movement to a chase. Written in a fugal style, it starts out as the most energetic, but at the very end becomes somber and reflective hinting at earlier movements before the chase restarts. My favorite part about the premiere of Dance Suite was that you could see how the performers worked hard and collaborated with the composer to successfully ensure the first impression the piece made conveyed Rayer’s intention.  

Other compositions that were featured included Christopher Lee’s beautifully lilting Skywriting, David Kulma’s contrasting Waxing Rhapsodic and Waxing Fantastic, Bryan Kennard’s aptly titled Two Fugues: DeaFuga and Fyoog, and a moving remembrance of Amy Barlowe’s father in Hebraique Elegie.  

Currently, the Greater Cleveland Flute Society is in the planning stages for next year’s programs.  In September, they’ll host their kickoff meeting and picnic for the new season. Other official events that will follow are the ‘Just Us’ Concert – which is open to the public and features members of the GCFS performing – as well as the call for submissions for next year’s Composers Connection Concert. Outside of these events, members will frequently perform throughout the area playing at local churches such as Lakewood Congregational Church and Shaker Heights’ First Unitarian. More information about upcoming and past events, including photos, can be found on the Greater Cleveland Flute Society’s Facebook page.  

The GCFS is an excellent example of local talent looking to enrich the community through its educational and performance efforts.  And by featuring compositions by Cleveland composers, the Greater Cleveland Flute Society has definitely achieved its mission.  

Greater Cleveland Flute Society 411:
Cleveland Composers Connection Concert
GCFS Facebook Page
How to Join
Photo Gallery of Previous Events

Comics in CLE: Drawing Them Together

A store locator for Free Comic Book Day can be found at www.freecomicbookday.com.

The first Saturday of May is a national holiday for comic fans.  Free Comic Book Day is the one day during the year when participating comic book shops the world over give away free comic books to anyone who visits their stores.

It’s a day to celebrate the independent comic shops in your area and the communities of comic book fans they unite.  From mainstream publishers to independent comics, a large variety of comic books are offered. When Free Comic Book Day rolls around, I’ll be at ASTOUND! Comics’ event at the Westlake Porter Public Library [updated with details for 2011 Free Comic Book Day event].  The knowledge of the guys at ASTOUND!, as well as their selection of individual issues, graphic novels and trade paperbacks has never disappointed Scott and me since we started shopping there a couple of years ago.

In honor of Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day, I figured I’d take a look at a few ways the world of comics meets the City of Cleveland. From characters found in mainstream books by Marvel and DC, to the Sunday strips and underground comics, there are many ways that Cleveland connects with comic fans.

True Believers can get their fictional Cleveland fix by reading Marvel’s Howard the Duck. Originally hailing from Duckworld – a planet in an alternate dimension that strongly resembles Earth, Howard lands in Cleveland after battling a demon focused on collapsing all of the universes into one.  Although Howard may not be too thrilled about it, he has since made his home here. And although the portrayal of Cleveland in the Marvel comic book is highly fictionalized, mentions of familiar sites – such as Case Western, Hopkins International Airport, the Cuyahoga River and the downtown Justice Center – make the occasional appearance.

Siegel's house at 10622 Kimberley Ave.

On the other hand, Cleveland finds a very real place in the DC Nation.  Superman, the Man of Steel himself, was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1932 when they were both living in Cleveland.  Although the ownership of Superman has led to numerous disputes between DC Comics and the Siegel and Shuster families, there is no denying the character had its birth in Siegel’s Cleveland home near the intersection of East 105th Street and St. Clair Avenue. The nonprofit Siegel and Shuster Society raised funds to fix the roof and make other repairs to the home.  And last year during the Screaming Tiki Con, a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the restoration.  As a private residence, it’s not a museum to visit; however, visitors can stop by the house and see the newly installed fence with a Superman logo and plaque to commemorate the comic book history that happened there.

The Sunday comics find their home in the Cleve through cartoonist Bill Watterson — Clevelander and creator of the influential Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.  For the uninitiated, Calvin and Hobbes is set in an unnamed Midwestern suburb and follows the imaginative adventures of a boy named Calvin and his trusty tiger Hobbes. In addition to smart and engaging storytelling, Watterson told these tales in a redesigned Sunday format that permitted more panel flexibility. After a 10-year run, Watterson ended the strip in 1995 saying he did what he could “within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels.”  Watterson continues to live in the Cleveland area, having originally moved to Chagrin Falls when he was six years old (the same age as Calvin). Although he usually keeps out of the public eye,  Watterson recently granted a very rare interview (believed to be the first since 1989) to the Cleveland Plain Dealer marking the 15th anniversary of the end of Calvin and Hobbes.

The graphic novel Harvey Pekar's CLEVELAND will be out next summer.

Another more visible comic legend also made his home in Cleveland.   Underground comic hero Harvey Pekar lived on the Eastside in Cleveland Heights. His autobiographical American Splendor series (made into the movie of the same name) traces Pekar’s everyday life in Cleveland.  And it was his philosophy ‘comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures’ that makes his stories about the mundane a fresh alternative to typical mainstream fantasy and genre books.  Taking the Cleveland connection even further, it was recently announced that Harvey Pekar’s CLEVELAND will be available in Summer of 2011.  This 120+ page graphic novel written by Pekar will incorporate moments from Cleveland history like the Indians’ 1948 World Series win and the burning river into his usual autobiographical fare.

Whether it’s mainstream comics, independent storytelling or the Sunday funny pages, there’s a bit of Cleveland to be found in it all.   And with Free Comic Book Day, local comic book stores are giving the opportunity to explore more of it.

 

Comics 411:

Free Comic Book Day
Comic Book Store Locator
Free Comic Books Available on FCBD

ASTOUND! Comics
Location and Hours

Siegel and Shuster Society
SupermanLand
Siegel and Shuster on Facebook

Harvey Pekar
Who is Harvey Pekar? – WKSU 89.7
Harvey Pekar’s CLEVELAND

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