No matter how solemnly intoned, that story about walking to school ten miles backwards in a blizzard is getting a little slushy. But starting tonight, kids can hear a fresh batch of "back in the day" stories from old, crotchety people (and some young, non-crotchety people) at Hale Farm and Village's Holiday Lantern Tours. The self-guided living history tour through Hale's reproduction of an 1848 township includes visits to the homes of a Baptist minister whose neighbors celebrate New Year's rather than Christmas and a dairy farmer who talks about the gifts he's giving his children this year--no, not Furbies, but a little wooden chair and a woolen muffler. Admission to the nightly tours--which take place today through Sunday, Dec. 13 (and again December 17-20)--is $12. Lanterns are provided. At 2686 Oak Hill Road, Bath, 800-589-9703; call to register.
The audacious fruits and pebble-skinned vegetables overflowing from stands at the West Side Market have planted seeds of inspiration in sculptor Jee Sun Pak, whose solo show, Green House, is part of this month's Tremont Art Walk. To fashion a bas-relief with bumpy ebullience, Pak made 288 casts of gourds in a reddish-pink paraffin, then resoldered the pieces into an organic landscape. Peppers, balloons, and one of her favorite materials, pantyhose, were also cast in quantity for the show. Pak often places small items inside pantyhose, then casts them: "Pantyhose are very flexible, yet you have some control of the shape," she explains. "Yet they can only stretch so far, so it becomes half of me and half of pantyhose." The free art walk is from 6 to 10 p.m. at the galleries in the Tremont neighborhood (off West 14th Street in Cleveland). Pak's show is at the Southside Gallery, 1028 Kenilworth Ave., 216-621-1610.
In the Jeopardy! category "Unsettling Blues Divas," Koko Taylor commands a $1,000 space. Taylor, who recently won her fourteenth W.C. Handy Award (more than any other female blues artist), has a new CD out, Force of Nature, which is filled with her trademark tattered strains. She haunts Wilbert's, 1360 W. 9th St., tonight at 10. Tickets are $18, available at 216-241-5555.
The Music Man's 76 trombones wouldn't put a dent in the brass masses composing the annual TubaChristmas in Akron. More than 500 players--some who've made the tuba their life's work, a few who just nabbed a battered euphonium at a fire sale last week--are expected to turn out for the free performance of traditional Christmas music, modeled after a similar concert at New York's Rockefeller Center and held annually since 1980. Led by a Santa-suit-wearing tubist from Atwater, some players deck their horns with boughs of holly and even risk electrocution for the show's special lights-out number. "The sound's actually quite lovely," says organizer Tucker Jolly, an associate professor of tuba at the University of Akron. At noon and 2:30 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main Street, 330-535-3178.
And you thought you were old: David "Bubba" Brooks, 77, is the junior member of the Harlem Legends of Jazz swing band. Brooks has played with Ray Jackson's Organ Group, Jimmy McCracklin's Blues Band, and more recently, with Ruth Brown at President Clinton's inauguration. His six elders include guitarist Al Casey--who performed alongside Billie Holiday, Louie Armstrong, and Fats Waller way back when--and Johnny Blowers, the longtime drummer for Frank Sinatra. The concert of swing standards begins at 8 p.m. in the Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium, 11150 East Blvd. Tickets are $19 and $27, available at 800-686-1141.
Though they dress in burlap and eat gruel, Hansel and Gretel have distinguished credentials--at least for the Cleveland Opera Circle production of the 1893 children's opera. Written by Engelbert Humperdinck (the classical composer, not the skintight-pants-wearing warbler), the opera will be directed by Jacek Sobieski, who was the music director of the National Theatre of Poland in Warsaw for 19 years. Sobieski and his wife, Dorota, emigrated to Cleveland in the late 1980s, after martial law was imposed in Poland. This production, an English translation from German, sticks to the original score, while favoring the fairy-tale over the grim: The traditional evil stepmother is now a benevolent mother who scolds her children for breaking a milk jug, then sends them outside to pick berries. The opera will be performed today at 3 p.m. at the Alliance of Poles Auditorium, 6966 Broadway Ave. Tickets are $10 adults, $8 seniors and students, and $6 children 12 and under; call 216-441-2822 for reservations and more information.
A winter garden with glass berries and icicles, a Candyland with illuminated gingerbread houses, and a wall of lights surrounded by metallic Christmas trees are all part of this year's free, walk-through holiday lighting esplanade at Nela Park. The "electric greeting card" includes about 500,000 lights. ("I haven't had a chance to count them all," says lighting designer Kathy Presciano, who started planning the event in early summer and coordinated the crews of carpenters, electricians, and fabricators.) The annual display, at 1975 Noble Road (the world headquarters of General Electric), can be viewed from dusk till dawn through January 1.
Live! Nude! Nutcracker! Nope, sorry, it's still the same fully clothed, bugle-beaded Nutcracker--the one that's been danced by the Cleveland Ballet every Christmas season for the past nineteen years. You know the routine: a thirty-foot-high Christmas tree, live accompaniment by the Ohio Chamber Orchestra, and an exquisitely appointed sugar-plum fairy--a role that may be danced by any given ballerina on any given night, since this production has nine different casts for 27 performances that take place through January 3. Tonight's curtain rises at 7 at the State Theatre in Playhouse Square Center. Tickets range from $15 to $55; call 216-241-6000.
Though ubiquitous, sleaze isn't exactly mainstream, and neither is Playboy cartoonist and filmmaker Bill Plympton. I Married a Strange Person, Plympton's latest film, concerns a pair of newlyweds coming to grips with hubby's psychic powers. Tractor-pull fans will find much to cheer for in this comedy of sex, guns, and bad TV: a collision between a satellite dish and fornicating ducks; unmowed lawns; and bugs crawling from all the very, very wrong places. The film ends a weeklong run today at the Cedar Lee Theatre, 2163 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, 440-717-4696. Admission is $6.75.
In a similar but much louder vein, T&A goes post-punk tonight with the Prissteens, an all-female-except-for-the-drummer band from New York City that's been compared to Joan Jett's early outfit, the Runaways. In the wake of their debut CD, Scandal, Controversy & Romance, reviews have focused more on the women's preenings and snarlings (and the fact that the lead singer recruited the guitarist by yelling across a bar). But production by Blondie and Richard Hell producer Richard Gottehrer and Lou Reed producer Jeffrey Lesse lends them some cred. They play at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Road, 216-321-5588. Tickets are $5.