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Event picks for this lovely week in Cleveland

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Thursday | 16

Kid Stuff

Candy Land Comes to Life

The staff at the Heights Libraries has pulled out all the stops for tonight's special kids' program: A live-action version of Candy Land, complete with candy canes, a gingerbread house, and a colorful path winding across a life-sized game board. Brave gingerbread girls and boys will get the chance to follow game-character guides through the Peppermint Forest on their quest for Kandy Castle. When they arrive at the gates, they'll be rewarded with light refreshments and a photo op with King Kandy. "It's going to make for a truly fun, magical evening for the kids," promises youth services librarian Susan Black. It's all happening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lee Road branch. It's free, but parents must accompany their children. Find out more by phone or at the website below. — Cicora

2345 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights,

216-932-3600, heightslibrary.org.

Friday | 17

At the Akron Art Museum ...

A Gypsy Fiddler Lights the FUZE

When avant-garde artists Iva Bittova and the Calder Quartet performed last year at the Cleveland Museum of Art, audiences and critics tossed around terms like "outstanding," "stunning," and "tour de force." The praise was well deserved. Building on a base of Eastern European folksongs, fiddler and vocalist Bittova borrows from classical and jazz traditions to create a unique and often breathtaking style of improvisation. She meets her match in the L.A.-based Calder Quartet, whose members have zoomed right past Mozart and Ravel to collaborations with Vampire Weekend. If you missed last year's performance, tonight you're in luck. The Akron Art Museum welcomes Bittova and the Calders in concert, where they'll perform works by Béla Bartók and Leoš Janácek inspired by Moravian poetry, as well as an improv-friendly piece by Fred Firth that the composer dedicated to Bittova and named after her hometown of Lelekovice. Through it all, expect Bittova to dominate with her raw talent and quirky charisma. Doors open at 6, and the concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Afterward, stick around for a cash-bar reception in the museum lobby. Tonight's concert is part of the Akron Art Museum's annual FUZE series that highlights cutting-edge performances by world-class musicians. General admission is $30 by phone or online. — Cicora

1 South High St., Akron, 330-761-3460, akronartmuseum.org.

Funny Stuff

A Lean, Clean Comic Machine

When comedian Jim Breuer says his show has something for everyone, he's not kidding. Then again, he is — since Something for Everyone is the working title of his upcoming comedy special. It's also the theme for his weekend performances at Hilarities — what he calls a clean, no-cussing, family-friendly routine fit for multiple generations. "Just consider me a modern-day Cosby in a Metallica T-shirt," says Breuer, a devoted family guy — and heavy metal fan — who first got his groove on during a four-year run on Saturday Night Live. (You may remember him as the 1990s' Goat Boy.) Since then, Breuer has distinguished himself by mining his relationship with his elderly, dementia-stricken father and three young daughters for laughs. "Part of it is painful," he admits. "But I have to find the humor in it. And that's the reason I started moving my show into a family direction. I looked at Cosby, Seinfeld, and Brian Regan — they are all so funny! — and realized there was just no reason to curse." All of which, he hastens to add, doesn't mean his routines don't kill: "I'm in crushing mode right now," he promises. "I'm ready to kick some butt!" Breuer performs four shows tonight and tomorrow at Hilarities. Tonight's curtains are at 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $28 by phone, online, or at the box office. Check out the website for details. — Elaine T. Cicora

2035 East Fourth St., 216-736-4242, pickwickandfrolic.com.

Verb Ballets

Alternative Moves at the Breen Center

Every picture tells a story — and so, too, does every work in tonight's performance by Verb Ballets. Each of the evening's three pieces illuminates a tale from another culture. That includes The Lily, a world premiere by Taiwanese choreographer Chung-Fu Chang; The Shakers by American modern-dance pioneer Doris Humphrey; and Otra Luna, choreographer Troy McCarty's take on the tango, set in post-WWII Argentina. McCarty, an international ballet master based in Cleveland, says tango holds a special place in his heart. "I love the sound, the syncopation, and I find it wonderful to choreograph to. And in this piece, it makes a perfect metaphor for passion." Tonight's curtain is at 8 p.m. at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts in Ohio City. Advanced preferred seating is $28, general admission is $20, and students get in for $10. If your appetite extends beyond dance, consider dining before the show at nearby Flying Fig, where $78 snags you a dinner-and-show package, with all proceeds benefiting the dance company. — Cicora

2008 West 30th St., 216-397-3757, verbballets.org.

Saturday| 18

A Festival of Nations

African Soul in Akron

When members of African Soul International take the stage tonight at the Akron Civic's Festival of Nations, they'll be just one ingredient in a cultural banquet that includes German, Latin, Chinese, Russian, and Celtic dance troupes. But don't be surprised if the zesty, Cleveland-based company proves to be the standout flavor. Founded in 1998 by educator, artist, and choreographer Sista Jewel Jackson, the multi-ethnic, multi-generational company performs its repertoire of authentic West African dances in schools, colleges, and cultural institutions around the region — usually to uproarious response. "There's just something about the drums and the energy of the dance that really gets to everyone," says troupe member Victoria Putnam. "It's incredibly technical, incredibly beautiful, and the response is usually amazing!" Besides the international dance performances, tonight's cultural exchange includes a sampling of foods from around the globe and a variety of hands-on activities. Come at 6 p.m. for the food and fun; the show begins at 6:50 p.m. Adult admission is $8 in advance and $10 at the door; kids between 3 and 12 are $5, and those 2 and younger are free. Learn more at the website. — Cicora

182 South Main St., Akron, 330-253-2488, akroncivic.com.

Fascinations Most Foul

An Author Gets Scary

Clevelander Charles Cassady Jr. is a versatile guy: book reviewer, movie critic, illustrator, video maker, and — oh yeah — a self-described disciple of the Dark Forces who once admitted to dwelling in shadow realms "as a foul, malformed, and tortured wretch ... In other words, a fairly typical unemployed journalism graduate." Still, he has managed to turn his fascination with all things foul into a cottage industry, authoring a series of bizarre, non-fiction reference books on the occult and paranormal. His newest, Paranormal Mississippi, contains much that might be of interest to fans of the Crescent City, particularly in these days leading up to Mardi Gras. Among the stories, legends, and folktales that Cassady has compiled, you'll find ghosts, vampires, voodoo, hoodoo, human vivisection, and the Devil Baby of Bourbon Street — just to name a few. Yet oddly, Cassady denies ever having had any personal paranormal experiences. "None. Apparently even the spirits find me boring." On the other hand, he hopes that readers find him fascinating — particularly this evening when he manifests in person at Visible Voice Books for a free talk and signing. "I don't know what I will be doing there, really. This is the first time I ever worked my way into an actual bookstore, so who knows what will happen." At the very least, though, he hopes you'll come away understanding that we are all helpless pawns in a hostile universe, in thrall to forces beyond our control. His point? "There is no free will: You are doomed to buy my book." Tempt fate tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. — Cicora

1023 Kenilworth Ave., 216-961-0084, visiblevoicebooks.com.

Party With the Big Dog

A Funny Thing Happened in Cleveland Heights

It was one year ago almost to the day that actor, comedian, and impresario Don Mitri opened Big Dog Theater inside Coventry's historic Centrum Theater. Tonight, he's celebrating. "It's been a huge learning process for me," says Mitri, who has brought in plenty of out-of-town talent over the past year, all the while training and developing a new generation of local improv students. "But I can honestly say I am loving every minute of it!" Mitri will start spreading that love at 7 p.m., with a pre-show reception in the theater lobby complete with light apps and a cash bar. At 9, he'll be hosting a comedy revue — a sort of Best of 2011 that features stand-up comics Marc Jaffe and Steve Guy, singer Valerie Victoria, videos from Last Call Cleveland, and performances by improv house teams Thunderlips and the Submissives and Good Dinner Party. Afterward, stick around for a post-show get-together at City & East Hookah Bar. "Nothing stops around here, even when I call it a night," muses Mitri. "I can't wait to finally get some sleep after the anniversary party — or at least a good nap!" Tix are $10 by phone or online, or $12 (cash only) at the door. Find out more on the website. — Cicora

2781 Euclid Heights Blvd.,

Cleveland Heights, 216-472-3636, bigdogtheater.com.

Sunday | 19

Flippin' Awesome

The Peking Acrobats Swing by Playhouse Square

For anyone who struggles with the competing demands of chewing gum and walking, watching the Peking Acrobats perform is like stumbling into another universe. "How can they do that?" you'll be asking as you watch the troupe of Chinese gymnasts, jugglers, contortionists, and tumblers push the envelope of corporeal possibility. Turns out, their circus-style bravado and Olympic-worthy precision are all part of an ancient Chinese tradition that honors acrobats as artists, and endows their training and development with glamour worthy of a rock star. You can catch them (not literally, thank goodness) at the Palace Theatre today. Accompanied by live musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments, they'll be leaping, sailing, and walking on wires beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $35 by phone, online, or at the box office. — Cicora

1615 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000, playhousesquare.org.

Monday| 20

At Case Western Reserve ...

Free Flick & Fashion Talk

You can get your fashion fix tonight at Case Western Reserve's Baker-Nord Center, with a 6 p.m. screening of Bill Cunningham New York, followed by a discussion with two fashion historians. The film focuses on Cunningham, a New York Times photog who has been documenting street fashions since the late 1970s. As our reviewer said this spring, the eccentric Cunningham "appears to spend every waking moment in the streets, in the Times offices obsessively organizing his page, and running around to events at night. [Yet] in scene after scene, he looks like he's still having more fun than anybody else in the room." Afterward, stick around for stylish conversation with Jean Druesedow, director of the Kent State University Museum, and William Perrine of KSU's Fashion School. It's free and open to the public, although registration is suggested via the website. — Cicora 2103 Cornell Rd., 216-368-2242, case.edu/humanities.

Kid Stuff

Fairytales & Frogs at the RainForest

What better way to mark Presidents Day than by dressing up like royalty and heading to the RainForest? Today's family-friendly shindig is a celebration of all things amphibian — including the role played by enchanted frogs in fairytales. That explains the suggestion to come dressed as your favorite princess or prince. It also accounts for the real live make-believe frog mascots and princesses that will be roaming the RainForest, where more than a dozen frog species — many of them endangered — reside. Guests can get up close and personal with at least a few of them, in between stops for stories, crafts, music, dancing, and prizes from the Radio Disney crew. It's all happening from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside the RainForest, where it is always a balmy 80 degrees. Kids ages 11 and younger are free with an adult admission, which today is $5 for Cuyahoga County residents and $8 for out-of-towners. And as always, parking is free. Find more information about the Zoo, the Rainforest, and today's special events at the website. — Cicora

3900 Wildlife Way, 216-661-6500, clemetzoo.com.

,b>Tuesday | 21

Fat Tuesday at Zocalo

Thanks for the Memories

If the notion of Mardi Gras without the former Fat Fish Blue has you down, get over it: The bon temps roll today at Zocalo on downtown's East Fourth Street. For years, Fat Fish Blue was Party Central for the Fat Tuesday crowd; all that ended late last year, when the Cajun-themed restaurant closed its doors. "A lot of our employees came to us from Fat Fish," says Zocalo ops manager Sean Zawadzki. "So we thought we should do something to keep the tradition alive." That something includes re-creating some beloved dishes from the former Fat Fish menu, including the popular cornbread and Swamp Bake appetizers. "We also have the same blues band — Blue Lunch — that played at Fat Fish in the final few years." Then there's the crawfish boil, the gumbo, the bead throwing, and the Hurricanes to help keep the memories alive — along with happy-hour pricing on beer and margaritas. However, Zawadzki says to expect one important break with tradition: "We won't be charging any cover." The party goes all day, the band begins at 6, and you can learn more at the website below. — Cicora 2071 East Fourth St., 216-781-0420, zocalocleveland.com.

Carnaval Celebration

A Party at Paladar

Whether you call it Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Carnaval, it all boils down to the same thing: Eating, drinking, and partying on the last day before Lent. "That's why it's our favorite time of year," says Paladar marketing director Scott Himmel. This year, the restaurant's Carnaval theme is discovery — as in discovering new flavors and dishes. To that end, you'll find six small plates typical of South American street food. Among them: chorizo-stuffed corn fritters, jibarito short-rib sliders, a trio of Brazilian-style grilled meats, and chile-spiked chocolate fudge served over fresh berry coulis. To go with, enjoy beads, a live band, and half-priced mojitos. The fun begins at 11 a.m., the band (Saborit Latin Soul) begins playing at 8, and you can make your reservations at the number below. — Cicora

28601 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere, 216-896-9020, paladarlatinkitchen.com.

Wednesday | 22

Rock and Roll Night School

A Look at the Ladies of Hip-Hop

Like the sign on an eight-year-old's tree house, the message on hip-hop's doormat is "Girls Keep Out." From casual sexism to outright misogyny, the genre has historically marginalized women in general and black women in particular. Yet in the face of all that, the ladies — from pioneers like Sha Rock to game changers like Salt-N-Pepa to current innovators like Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott — have persevered, making a mark on the music while promoting a black-feminist consciousness. That struggle has become the topic of scholarly papers, college courses, and even a feature in Ms. Magazine. Now the Rock Hall is tackling the topic in tonight's installation of Rock and Roll Night School — Women Who Rock. As part of the Rock Hall's annual Black History Month celebration, education staffers Stephanie Heriger and John Goerhke will lead you through the complicated roles of women in hip-hop — complete with music, video clips, and a group discussion. Class is in session from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Foster Theater, where seats are on a first-come, first-serve basis. It's free. Check out the website for details. — Cicora

1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.,

216-781-7625, rockhall.com.

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