- Waitin' for the spin cycle: The Flatlanders come clean at the Beachland (Sunday).
John O'Neal approaches American folklore as an art form worthy of preservation. For 25 years, he's taken the character of Junebug Jabbo Jones -- a "pesky loudmouth," he says -- and recounted stories and anecdotes from America's past as seen through the eyes of the fabled folk hero. "He's a celebration of the wisdom of common people," says O'Neal, who brings Don't Start Me to Talking or I'll Tell You Everything I Know: Sayings From the Life and Writings of Junebug Jabbo Jones to town tonight. "It's not the great leaders that made definitive contributions to the public. They were just the instruments of grassroots people like [Junebug]. There are Junebugs all over the place." The spare set complements the frank, often political insight espoused onstage. "It's about the things that are wonderful in our culture," he says. "But it also warns about things that are threatening to us. I think of it as radio for the stage. I'm just the vehicle for [the audience's] imagination." Performances are at 8 tonight through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue. Tickets are $15 and $18, available by calling 216-631-2727.
Friday, April 2
Staying overnight at a museum is cool. You get to roam the halls after hours, listen to stories, eat a snack, and sleep dormitory-style on the floor. Tonight's Museum Camp-In at the natural history museum focuses on "A Night Along the Niger," in conjunction with the museum's new Senenkunya exhibit on various African cultures. So expect plenty of crafts and hands-on activities that have to do with the sub-Saharan part of the continent. It all starts at 7 p.m. (you'll be kicked out promptly at 8 tomorrow morning) at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive. Admission is $33; call 216-231-4600.
Artistic director Peter Hackett sure has picked a perplexing production for his final gig at the Cleveland Play House. Far Away, opening tonight, is British playwright Carly Churchill's tale of a young girl who wakes from a scary dream and is comforted by her aunt. Turns out, though, that she wasn't dreaming at all. Say what? "It's not quite as enigmatic as it [seems]," says Hackett, who's leaving town to become a Dartmouth College theater professor. "It's a very contemporary nightmare of our world." Of course, all this leads to plenty of Big Questions about life and how to live it. "It's a snapshot of the world today," Hackett says. "It's a morality tale and a warning. There's always the potential for something dangerous. It's about what the world is like and what the world will be like. It's the most exciting new play I've read in a long, long time." Far Away is at the Cleveland Play House's Baxter Stage (8500 Euclid Avenue) through April 25. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $12 (for students) to $47.50; call 216-795-7000.
Saturday, April 3
There are many things you can do with a book. You can prop up a table leg with it. You can throw it at someone, in hopes of inflicting minor but pointed damage. You can even read it. Eating a book, however, never crossed our minds. Today's Edible Books Contest is all about eating your words. Folks are encouraged to make their creations at home, then bring them in for competition. "You can make pages out of, say, spring peas, and then bind them with licorice," owner Harriett Logan helpfully offers. Books will be awarded for Most Creative, Most Bookish, and Most Delicious. Then they'll be consumed. "Some will be more tasty than others," says Logan, who's concocting a fried-tofu tome of her own. Get ready for some mighty fine eatin' from 1 to 4 p.m. at Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard in Shaker Heights. Admission is $2. Call 216-795-9800 for more info.
Sunday, April 4
It took the Flatlanders 30 years to make their second album. Their third, Wheels of Fortune, took less than two. The accidental supergroup (Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock became roots-music icons after their 1972 debut together) makes the most natural-sounding alt-country you'll ever hear. There's no nostalgic winks, condescending twang, or down-home faux-philosophies here. These guys live and breathe every note that comes out of their ragged, well-worn bodies. The Flatlanders are at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Road) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $24 and $26; call 216-383-1124.
Monday, April 5
Naomi Watts, Kylie Minogue, Finding Nemo -- We can't get enough of Australia. Good thing the zoo's Australian Adventure just reopened. Kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and sheep can be seen wandering around locales like Gum Leaf Hideout and Kookaburra Station. The Boomerang Express gets you from here to there, and the 55-foot Yagga Tree includes exhibits, educational info, and a giant slide. Ace, mate! The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (3900 Wildlife Way) is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Cuyahoga County residents get in free on Mondays; for everyone else, admission is $9 ($4 for kids under 12). Call 216-661-6500 to learn more.
Tuesday, April 6
Diana Bjel's gargoyles are downright creepy. The menacing pointy-eared sculptures in the artist's Gargoyles and Spirit Temples exhibit are designed for gardens and other serene surroundings. But birds, squirrels, and other critters are hereby warned to stay far away from the ghastly beasts. They'll steal your souls! Gargoyles and Spirit Temples is at a Show of Hands (at Westfield Shoppingtown, 636 Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted) through April 30. It's open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free; call 440-777-2140.
Wednesday, April 7
The '80s weren't all bad. Sure, Kajagoogoo, Haysi Fantayzee, and other funny-named bands slapped a big ugly spot on the decade. But R.E.M., Prince, and Michael Jackson all made their greatest work during the era. The Phantasy's '80s Night mixes things up, spinning a little new wave, a little old-school rap, and synth-pop. And it's free. It happens every Wednesday at the Phantasy, 11802 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood; call 216-228-6300.