Getting a bunch of actors to goof off was the easy part. But changing a car into a spaceship--that was rough, says Sonya Robbins, artistic director of the 21st annual Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival. Actually, Robbins hasn't quite solved the spaceship dilemma yet--check back on opening night. But there's plenty more high jinks/logistical nightmares at the festival: a kid who gets a bad case of writer's block crumples up his paper and the characters disappear, Santa goes on a kidnapping spree, and a talking cat named Jimmy insists his name is Bobby. Be they tragic or madcap, the plays in the festival, written by kids in Cleveland-area elementary and high schools, "remind us to be fully feeling," says Robbins. "The kids don't have limitations. If they're sloppy and sentimental, it's all the way." Go all the way tonight at 7:30 with a benefit performance; tickets are $21. Admission is free for shows on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 216-932-6838.
With a little ketchup and a keg of charcoal lighter, Dad sure can cook up a good steak. But perhaps it's time for a little culture with that gristle. Every Friday and Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m., the Cleveland Museum of Art hosts Summer Evenings, an exceedingly pleasant patio party in its outdoor sculpture courtyard. The beer brats and hot dogs go out the window, in favor of grilled portobello mushroom burgers. Tonight, chardonnay drunks can civilly sip to the jazz fusion sounds of Rare Blend from 6-9 p.m. (admission is free). At 7:30 p.m., the Museum screens Photographing Fairies, an ethereal film, set in post-World War I England, about a grieving photographer who thinks he's seen everything, until the magic dust falls and he's privy to the unseen. Admission to the film (rated R) is $6. At the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard; call 216-421-7340.
Why see the real Elton John at Blossom tonight (Steels Corners Road, Cuyahoga Falls, 7 p.m., tickets $29.50, 216-241-5555), when you can see forty gay and gay-friendly men pretending to be Elton John? "He'll be singing 'Circle of Life' the same time we'll be singing 'Circle of Life,'" sighs a member of the North Coast Men's Chorus, who wishes to remain anonymous because of his taste in music. At their summer concert, Diva, Diva, Diva, the choristers will lift their voices in songs by Mr. Outlandish, as well as corset-busters by Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. Bring your runny mascara and extra hankies to share to Waetjen Auditorium, Cleveland State University, 2001 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $15; call 216-473-8919.
Last year at Parade the Circle, students in an art-therapy program dressed up as lettuce, croutons, and a Roman emperor changing his clothes for their float, "Tossed Salad With Caesar Dressing." This year, they'll be more caloric, attired as trout and crabs for an elaborate underwater scene. Further below sea level, demon people from Hades frolic with kidnapped ancient-Greek teen Persephone in "Persephone's Dilemma," a float made by two artists from Puerto Rico and local schoolchil-dren. And on the seedier side, kids from Ridge Brook Elementary in Parma will be disguised as picnic ants trying to steal a fifteen-foot slice of watermelon. The free celebration, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., features live music all day (including a concert by bluesman Robert Lockwood Jr. at 4 p.m.), stilt-dancing, experimental dance performances by the Repertory Project and SAFMOD, and arts-and-crafts for kids. It all happens in University Circle and on the Wade Oval Green in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard; call 216-421-7340.
Don't blink or you'll miss it: WNBA Eastern Division champs the Cleveland Rockers start their two-and-a-half-month home season tonight, without star veteran Janice Braxton, who retired in May to help her husband run their jewelry store in Oakwood. New this year is former Indiana University standout Quancy Barnes, who had a fair season last year with the Utah Starzz. The ball drops at 7 p.m. at Gund Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza, when the Rockers play the Los Angeles Sparks; tickets are $7 to $18. Call 216-263-ROCK.
Freedom and family have extended meaning for Israeli dancer and choreographer Neta Pulvermacher, who grew up in a kibbutz in the 1960s. She lived in the Children's House, playing and working with other kids her age, and visited her parents for an hour or two each night. "The ones who suffered the most were the mothers," recalls Pulvermacher, who had to teach herself parenting from scratch when her own son was born. "I don't have the memory of my own mother putting me to sleep." Her bittersweet recollections of those days are chronicled in Five Beds/Children of the Dream, a multimedia dance performed here by the Repertory Project, with music by Yuval Gabay, the drummer for Soul Coughing. Today's performance is at 2 at the Halle Theatre in the Mayfield Jewish Community Center, 3505 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights. Tickets are $12/$8 students and seniors; call 216-382-4000.
Two young lovers make hay while the sun shines, for the greater good of the State, in Tractor Drivers, a 1950s Communist musical that gets dusted off for the six-week class Dictators and Dolls: Soviet History on Screen. Taught by Russian historian James Krukones, the course covers Soviet cinema from the silent era (mostly psychological dramas and literary adaptations) to the Glasnost period, when actors were finally allowed to get naked. According to Krukones, filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (The Battleship Potemkin) could aspire to greatness in the still-revolutionary 1920s--though he had to rely on historical themes to stay out of trouble--while later directors were stuck making clunkers for Stalin. The good, the bad, and the Bolshevik hit the screen starting tonight from 6:30-9:15. The class runs through July 16; cost is $100. At John Carroll University, 20700 North Park Boulevard, University Heights. For more information, call the Continuing Education Department at 216-397-3008.
A whirlpool made of mirrors and a forgotten game starring a creature that's half man, half monkey are among the conceptual contraptions of New York artist Alice Aycock included in the Sculpture Center's Ninth Anniversary Exhibition. For earlier annuals, the center hosted a juried show of works by local sculptors, but this year, they're ditching decorum by showing the judges from past shows--including Aycock, sculptor and Cleveland Institute of Art President David Deming, metal architect Bill Barrett, and fiberglass fashioner Isaac Witkin. The free exhibit runs through July 23 at the Sculpture Center, 12206 Euclid Avenue. For more information, call 216-229-6527.
Places not to wear white angora sweaters: a freshly tarred roof, and the strawberry shortcake-eating contest at the Kirtland Kiwanis's annual Strawberry Festival. The festival has all the usual carnal carnival activities--elephant ears, a flea market, and a Tilt-a-Whirl that will pulverize your dentures--plus strawberries poured, drizzled, and chocolate-covered. If the weather holds, the berries will be plucked from the nearby nuclear-power-plant city of Perry. Admission is free; the festival runs today from 6 to 11 p.m., and June 17 through 19. At Kirtland High School, 9150 Chillicothe Road (State Route 306), 440-256-1181.