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Issue Date: September 2006 Issue

Fall Arts Preview

He's seeking out our new art forms, new creations.  He's our alien art critic, flying from University Circle to Playhouse Square to Lakewood to Akron to discover this fall's best in arts and entertainment.  Follow that glowing saucer in the sky to the most fascinating art objects we could identify.

Barcelona's Modernist Masters

Clevelanders who’ve repressed pangs of longing while driving through University Circle can reunite with the Cleveland Museum of Art next month. The museum, amid its renovations, is staging an ambitious and historic exhibit, Barcelona & Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí.

Created in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, this exhibit, which runs from Oct. 15 through Jan. 7, is the first in North America to explore the 71-year period from 1868 to 1939, when Barcelona emerged as a pivotal center of modernist art.

The exhibit features more than 300 paintings, sculptures, posters, photographs, textiles, furniture, decorative objects, architectural designs and models from this intriguing period. Some of the works are borrowed from other museums. Others are popular pieces from the CMA’s permanent collection.

One CMA painting, Picasso’s hauntingly memorable “La Vie,” inspired the exhibit. Seeking to better understand the piece, William Robinson, CMA’s curator of modern European art, traveled to Barcelona and got to know its artistic heritage.

“The story of this city is extremely complex,” Robinson says. “We began by researching a single painting and ran into the complexity of Spain. We discovered there’s no way to separate Barcelona’s art from the history of modern Spain … a place of many cultures and languages.” The exhibit examines the connections between Barcelona’s art, architecture and culture and the relationships and influences among its prolific artists.

Barcelona and Modernity inspired the Contessa Gallery in Legacy Village to hold its own show, The Spanish Masters, Oct. 20 through Nov. 19. It includes works available for purchase by Picasso, Dalí, Miró and others. Steve Hartman, owner of Contessa, thinks the confluence of exhibits will give viewers an enhanced perspective on the period.

“With the gallery show, people can participate with the art,” Hartman says. “They can have the pride of ownership. People can pass on works as a legacy to future generations of their family, or even to the museum.”—Tori Woods

Zany Knights Besiege Playhouse Square

Playhouse Square patrons, take heed: A watery tart will be throwing swords; a moistened bink will be lobbing scimitars. And although it’s no basis for a system of government, it should make for an evening of theater that’s, well, completely different.

The 2005 Tony Award-winning musical “Spamalot” was lovingly ripped from the classic film “Monty Python and Holy Grail.” Original Python Eric Idle penned the story and co-authored the songs. “Spamalot” has tickled fans, newcomers and critics alike with its zany blend of British comedy and saucy show girls.

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table will dance (whene’er they’re able) into the State Theatre from Oct. 3 through 15. Their quest for the Grail takes them past a murderous bunny and knights who say, “Ni!” The play is not a strict adaptation of the film; plenty of puns from other Monty Python works, thinly veiled spoofs of musical theater and overall silliness abound.

If your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries, or you just love to chortle and chuckle, this Spam’s for you. Bringing your own coconuts and banging them together is strictly optional.—TW

An Austrian Gala

Prepare for an elegant evening filled with 18th- and 19th-century Austrian music as the Cleveland Orchestra celebrates 75 years in stately Severance Hall.

Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, who is Austrian, hand-picked the Severance Hall 75th Anniversary Gala’s all-Austrian program.

“It’s part of his heritage, it’s part of his blood,” says Frank Dans, the orchestra’s artistic administrator. “This is international music, very appropriate for the gala, and for Franz.”

Works include songs from Mahler’s song cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”), Johann Strauss’ “Emperor Waltzes,” Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453.

“This orchestra is very good with Mozart, which is very dear to [Welser-Möst’s] heart,” says Dans.

The Sept. 30 gala will kick off the orchestra’s 2006-’07 season. German bass baritone Thomas Quasthoff and Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes will perform. “Both are favorites with Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra,” says Dans. “Andsnes is one of the world’s greatest pianists, very young and always elegant. Quasthoff is one of the best known baritones in the world, and usually works with orchestras.”

Tickets start at $500 and include cocktails at 6 p.m., the 7 p.m. concert, dinner and dessert at 8:30 p.m.— Adria Barbour

Almodóvar’s Intensity

Pedro Almodóvar’s provocative films, favorites at American art-house theaters, are melodramatic and satiric at the same time, often centered on the blending of gender and sexuality, always intense and interesting. The Cleveland Cinematheque is showcasing the acclaimed Spanish director’s work in a film series from Sept. 22 through Oct. 1.

The series includes “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988), one of the most successful films in Spanish box-office history, a farcical tale of a woman whose lover has left her and the tangled relationships that ensue when she tries to find out why.

“All About My Mother” (1999), an Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, follows a woman’s search for her son’s father to tell him their son is dead, only to find out the father is a transvestite.

“Bad Education” (2004), about two boys struggling with their sexual identities at their Catholic school and the turns their lives take afterward, is based on events at his childhood boarding school. It took Almodóvar 10 years to write. “This is a disturbing film that challenges the viewer's comfort,” wrote Jeff Strickler of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. — AB

Hamlet’s Secret

When William Shakespeare’s plays were first produced, male actors dressed in women’s clothes to play the female characters. The Beck Center’s production of “Hamlet,” which runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 22, is turning that upside-down. Local actress and playwright Sarah Morton will play Hamlet.

Director David Hansen got the idea from a 1921 German film adaptation of “Hamlet” that stars Danish silent-film actress Asta Nielsen as a female Hamlet who’s lived her life disguised as a man. The Beck Center’s “Hamlet” follows Shakespeare’s original text, but hints at Hamlet’s secret female identity through a wordless shadow play.

Many moments in the story will resonate with added meaning, Morton says, such as other characters’ warnings to Hamlet that “his” grief is not manly. “So much of Hamlet is about theatricality, playing a role and taking action, [and] the split between public and private,” Morton says. “There are so many times when Hamlet turns around and he or she’s by herself. I’m trying to articulate what he or she is feeling at a particular time, and the isolation that comes from not being able to articulate it.”

We suspect it’ll be especially tough to break the news to Ophelia.— Erick Trickey

An Outdoor Museum Comes Alive

Resplendent angels in granite and bronze created as a memorial for a lost wife and a tribute for an honored statesman star in the Angels of Lake View and Other Sculptures Tour. On Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. and Sept. 24 at 1 p.m., Dale Hilton of the Cleveland Museum of Art will lead tour participants on a walk across Lake View Cemetery. The tour visits the Haserot Monument, the John Hay Memorial and other angels sculpted for dearly-departeds, and Hilton will explain the poignantly beautiful sculptures.

The cemetery — almost an outdoor museum, alive with Cleveland’s past — is a peaceful, final respite for a roster of notable Clevelanders. It is also home to dozens of architectural works meant to memorialize their larger-than-life namesakes. Historical architect Dale Serne’s Architectural Walking Tour, on Sept. 24 at 2 p.m., can help visitors appreciate the context and significance of the memorials, from the regal President Garfield Monument to the white obelisk marking John D. Rockefeller’s grave.

Reservations are limited, so sign up early. (216) 421-2665, ext. 0.— TW

Deca Dance

Sixteen dancers from Israel and nine performances will be forged into one show Oct. 12 at the Palace Theatre that promises to challenge and entertain.

Batsheva Dance Co. performs “Deca Dance,” a highlight show that reconstructs and showcases nine works that have long been part of the troupe’s repertoire. Each is choreographed by artistic director Ohad Naharin. Accomplished dancers perform in varying styles to a broad spectrum of music. A series of “striking moments” can be expected as the dancers interpret political and historical events such as violence in the Middle East and the Holocaust. “Naharin has a contagious affection for strange, extravagant choreography in motion and at rest,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The avant-garde dance moves and the range of emotions, from intimate to boisterous, should appeal to seasoned steppers and casual dance fans alike.—TW

Funny Man, Angry Elf

He talks pretty one day, very soon, in Cleveland. Writer and NPR radio personality David Sedaris brings his self-deprecating awareness, pointed social commentary and biting wit to the Palace Theatre on Oct. 6. The prolific humorist and satirist will read new, unpublished works and engage the audience in a question-and-answer period.

As unquestionably funny as he is on the page, seeing him read his work brings a new, delightful dimension to the Sedaris experience. His vocal inflections as he reads are priceless, and the off-the-cuff comments and anecdotes he sprinkles throughout his planned readings include frequent gems. Sedaris personably greets his crowd after performances and signs books while carrying on a seemingly tireless banter with his fans.

Starting Nov. 24, Cleveland Public Theatre carries on the joie de Sedaris with its performance of “Santaland Diaries.” Adapted from Sedaris’ original radio essay, the play tells of his exploits while working as an elf at Macy’s. Actor Andrew Tarr will reprise his role as the angry elf from the 2005 production. This shot of sardonic humor should neatly cut the oft-saccharine holiday spirit.—TW

Audio and Visual Experiments

What do you get when you combine electronica, neo-disco and breakbeats with video art? The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland’s Dec. 8 show, TEMPO.

The annual experimental audio and visual showcase highlights three local artists: DJ Jeremy Bible, rock group Infinite Number of Sounds and video artist Kasumi.

“I was looking for local talent that excelled in their field, that had a reputation outside of their city,” says Jude Goergen, former community relations manager of MOCA. “Each is well-respected within their own scene. They’ve each played nationally and internationally. I really wanted to focus on local artists that are branching out.”

TEMPO will combine electronic audio with visual projection to create a hyped-up contemporary musical show. DJ Jeremy Bible will spin his music, which ranges from dark electro, down-tempo styles to breakbeats and neo-disco, followed by a performance from the instrumental electro-rock group Infinite Number of Sounds. The evening will end with a video by Kasumi, a Cleveland Institute of Art professor, experimental filmmaker, video artist and musician whose sometimes-abstract images are often set to breakbeats and other electronic music.— Adria Barbour and Joanne Bello

Preserving New Orleans Jazz

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, playing the State Theatre Oct. 27, brings a sound rooted in more than a century of music and a mission that’s more relevant than ever. The best-known ambassadors of New Orleans music, the band tours the world, keeping alive the city’s early jazz styles from the 1920s and earlier.

Preservation Hall itself, a small, spare room in a 1750s French Quarter building with no seats, air conditioning or drinks, reflects the group’s purist attitude. The band’s popularity since its 1961 founding rests on its fidelity to tradition, not trend.

Still, it’s impossible to preserve music completely unchanged. The band’s thrilling solo trading owes more to Dixieland revivals than the tight ensemble playing of the ’20s, and a new generation of band members have dabbled in jazz arrangements of Cajun, gospel and rock tunes.

Even so, New Orleans standards still anchor the band’s set lists. And though five of the seven core members lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina, their concerts are still filled with joy — especially when they rouse their audiences with the classic “When the Saints Go Marching In.” — ET

Defying Gravity with Elegance

Adorned in traditional Chinese costumes, the Golden Dragon Acrobats combine ancient theatrical techniques and acrobatics to thrill audiences. Their brilliantly colored costumes blur as they perform their balancing, juggling, comedy, magic and dance.

The 20-plus-member company from Cangzhou, China, is world-famous for defying gravity with elegance. Training for this group often begins at age 4, and it shows. Members gracefully perform unthinkable tricks such as building a human pyramid atop a moving bicycle and balancing on a one-sided ladder propped atop the back of a chair.

The 17-segment show proves that they can do just about anything, from juggling soccer balls and umbrellas to balancing on the most slender of props. The two-hour show is set to a mixture of hip-hop music and tribal drums, while the costumes combine Chinese sashes with modern dance, linking the traditional and modern. The Golden Dragon Acrobats perform on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. at the EJ Thomas Hall in Akron.— JB

The STokes Brothers, From the Projects to History

They’re the first family of Cleveland politics, role models for two generations of local leaders. Now, the lives and times of Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major U.S. city, and his brother, Louis Stokes, Ohio’s first black congressman, are being commemorated in the Western Reserve Historical Society’s exhibit, Carl & Louis Stokes: From the Projects to Politics. It opens to the public Nov. 18 and will be on display through mid-2008.

The exhibit covers “over six decades of historical memory that will elicit all types of emotions and perspectives of what those times meant,” says Susan L. Hall, the historical society’s associate curator for African-American archives. Pictures from the Stokes brothers’ childhood illustrate their upbringing in the Outhwaite and Cedar-Central housing projects. A film of a protest by the Future Outlook League, an activist group whose founder mentored Carl, depicts the struggle against discrimination in Cleveland. Photos of Martin Luther King Jr. show him visiting Cleveland to help Carl’s mayoral campaign. Oral histories, replayed from tape, preserve the recollections of those who knew the Stokeses well — some of whom will no doubt attend the benefit gala celebrating the exhibit’s opening on Nov. 17. — ET

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