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Fall Arts Preview, the Redux

Take your choice – indoors or out.

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The big-screen version of the hit Broadway musical Les Misérables (opening Dec. 14) features lots of star power – Hugh Jackman as ex-con Jean Valjean trying to go straight, Russell Crowe as the cop who won't let him. And director Tom Hooper won an Academy Award his last time out with The King's Speech. Throw Anne Hathaway into the mix, and you have one of fall's most buzzed-about Oscar hopefuls.

Jamie Foxx plays a renegade slave out to rescue his wife and exact some well-merited revenge on plantation owner Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's latest, Django Unchained (opening Dec. 21). With a typically excellent cast (including Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz and weirdo old guy Bruce Dern), plus tons of references to Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti Westerns, it should be all kinds of bloody awesome. And just in time for the holidays.

– Michael Gallucci

Literary & Spoken Word

"The nonfiction writer's fundamental job is to make what is true believable," according to literary journalist Tracy Kidder, who first shot to fame with his 1981 The Soul of a New Machine, about the creation of a cutting-edge computer at Data General Corporation. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. On Oct. 9, Kidder will talk about his new book, Strength in What Remains, as part of Cleveland State University's William N. Skirball Writers Center Stage Series at the Ohio Theatre.

The book's inspiring narrative is about Deo, a promising African medical student who escapes the violence of civil wars in his home country and struggles to make it in New York City, sleeping in a Harlem tenement and delivering groceries for as little as $15 a day. Ron Suskind in the New York Times called it "one of the truly stunning books I've read this year."

The series continues on Nov. 13 with two exceptional, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers who happen to married to each other: Geraldine Brooks, an Australian-American journalist and author whose latest novel is Caleb's Crossing, based on the life of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard; and Tony Horwitz, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent and New Yorker writer whose most recent book is Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War.

Journalist-author Ann Patchett (March 19), winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for her novel Bel Canto, will discuss her well-reviewed sixth novel, State of Wonder, a suspenseful jungle adventure about a drug company employee who visits the Amazon rainforest in search of her missing mentor and discovers secret research on a miracle drug.

Akron-born poet Rita Dove (April 11) was the first African American poet laureate of the U.S. (1993-95). A Pulitzer Prize winner, Dove's poetry and short story collections embrace historical and political events; her poetry collection On the Bus With Rosa Parks was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

The series closes April 30 with journalist and author Erik Larson, whose novelistic The Devil in the White City, about a serial killer at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, stayed on best-seller lists for three years.

The Cleveland Public Library Writers & Readers Series has presented lectures by notable authors since 2000. They are all free and open to the public.

You can hear three best-selling mystery writers in Uncovering Mysteries (Oct. 6), a panel discussion being held in conjunction with Bouchercon 2012, the annual world mystery convention. Participating authors are crime novelist Linda Fairstein, whose 14th book in her Alexandra Cooper series was released this year; award-winning crime novelist Karin Slaughter; and UK crime novelist, comic and TV screenwriter Mark Billingham.

Actress Valerie Bertinelli (Oct. 18), of One Day at a Time and Hot in Cleveland fame, will share anecdotes relevant to her new cookbook, One Dish at a Time: Delicious Recipes and Stories From My Italian-American Childhood and Beyond. Rebecca Skloot, whose gripping nonfiction The Immortal Henrietta Lacks tells the story of a poor Virginia woman whose cancer cells lived on to become part of medical research in perpetuity, speaks on Oct. 20.

And the new year will bring two fascinating talks. Temple Grandin discusses her life as an autistic scientist dedicated to animal welfare on March 9. Her latest book, Different...Not Less profiles 14 autistic achievers. Musician, actor, poet, martial artist, novelist, screenwriter and philosopher RZA, founder of the Wu-Tang Clan, shares his knowledge of religion, hip-hop and chess on April 19.

Finally, a special event worth noting: Harvey Pekar, the curmudgeonly Clevelander and American Splendor writer who died in 2010, will be honored Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. with the dedication of a statue and Literary Landmark plaque at the Cleveland Heights library, which his widow, Joyce Brabner, says was his "first love and second home." The Pekar statue was created by local sculptor Justin Coulter with $38,000 raised through a Kickstarter Campaign. Artist JT Waldman, who worked with with the writer on his posthumously published graphic novel Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, will talk about his collaboration with Pekar.

– Pamela Zoslov


From woollybears to pumpkins, beer to pioneers, the fall festival scene in northeast Ohio offers a full spectrum of reasons to get out and enjoy the autumn colors and crisp weather. Just because summer's over doesn't mean you need to spend September and October indoors.

The Woollybear Festival (Vermilion, Sept. 30), which turns 40 this year, has grown into Ohio's largest one-day festival. The idea grew out of weatherman Dick Goddard popularizing the folklore notion that the brightly colored caterpillar's fur can predict the severity of the coming winter. Now the town squeezes more and more events into the festival each year. Think Groundhog Day, only bigger.

The Vermilion YMCA will once again sponsor the World's Greatest Kids' Race, held at the high school stadium. Also sure to be entertaining is the Woollybear 500 Caterpillar Race Preliminaries with Big Chuck and Little John. Entertainment throughout the day includes the Swing City Band, Alumni Singing Angels, and Ace Molar Band. Not that you could miss it, but be sure to catch the Woollybear Parade, ranked as one of Ohio's largest. It includes more than 15 marching bands with nearly 2,000 musicians, kids and pets on hay wagons, vintage cars, floats, clowns, festival queens – and this year, organizers are promising a "national celebrity." End the day with the Woollybear 500 Caterpillar Race finals, and of course the official Woollybear Winter Weather Prediction, the reason for the season.

Now in its 43rd year, the Huntsburg Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 6 & 7) has become popular for its free family days. Both days start with a pancake breakfast in the town hall offering all-you-can-eat portions of pancakes, Belgian waffles, sausage, orange juice, maple syrup, and hot beverages. Live entertainment during the weekend includes the Cardinal School Cardinaires Show Choir and the Cardinal Marching Band, the Geauga Highlanders Bagpipes, Northern Comfort Country Band, Erie Heights Brass Ensemble, and Jungle Terry. The County Sheriff's Department will be doing K-9 demonstrations. And a four-mile pumpkin ride is on tap for Sunday.

If you were to stereotype fall, you would get the Corn and Pumpkin Harvest at Lake Metroparks Farmpark (Kirtland, Oct. 13 & 14). There will be opportunities to craft cornhusk dolls and harvest and decorate pumpkins. You can get lost in a three-acre corn maze, stroll through the kid-friendly hay maze, or wander around the pumpkin patch. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some corn treats, pumpkin sweet potato soup, apple-pressed cider, and fresh apple butter. And of course there are pony rides, because you're never too old for a pony.

Walking through the park is one thing, but a horse-drawn ride through the Cleveland Metroparks takes enjoying the autumn scenery up to a whole different level. Sip on hot cider or chocolate and enjoy some snacks on the wagon as it tours the Chalet Recreation Area in Mill Stream Run Reservation (Oct. 21). Bring the whole family, but be sure to reserve your half-hour rides in advance, as space is limited.

What started as a tractor show grew into Harvest Happenings Community Fall Festival, an annual two-day event held on the first weekend in October (Huron, Oct. 6 & 7). Along with the tractor show, there will be "Back to the Wild" live animal displays, face and pumpkin painting, hayrides, live entertainment from musicians and dancers, craft vendors, and a selection of favorite fall foods.

Stretched over two weekends (Oct. 13 &14, 20 & 21), the Harvest Festival at Hale Farm & Village has become a Cuyahoga Valley tradition. In the peak of the season, watch food be prepared for winter while utilizing the farm equipment to press apple cider, grind and shell corn, and make your own apple butter. Grab some old-fashioned popcorn and walk the barnyards full of chicken, oxen, hogs, and sheep. You can also join in the harvest activities of pumpkin painting and wagon rides, or jump in the haystacks.


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