The Glass Menagerie opens at the Cleveland Play House September 12 Tennessee Williams' long history of productions at the Cleveland Play House began 65 years ago; an exchange of letters between Williams and then-Play House Artistic Director Frederic McConnell led to the premiere production of Williams' little-performed play, You Touched Me! In the letters, which the Play House has in its archives, the director and the playwright discuss editing the script, with Williams in one case observing, "The bird of ill-omen was flapping his wings between the lines of your letter!" and in another, "Of course I was a little dismayed by the extent of this cutting."
It all ends happily though, with McConnell encouraging Williams not to hesitate to send his next play and Williams replying that he's glad the company is still interested in his work; he was then finishing "a quiet little picture of middle-class family life called The Gentleman Caller," a play later titled The Glass Menagerie. The Cleveland Play House opens its 2008-09 season in the Drury Theatre with Artistic Director Michael Bloom's new production of The Glass Menagerie, which premiered not in Cleveland, but in Chicago in 1944, the year after Cleveland's production of You Touched Me! The now famous story of a young man's obligation to family and his desire to lead his own life would win the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and herald Williams' arrival to the top tier of American playwrights. The Play House production stars Linda Purl as mother Amanda, Daniel Damon Joyce as her son Tom, Alison Lani as daughter/sister Laura and Sorin Brouwers as the Gentleman Caller. Preview performances begin Friday. The Cleveland Play House is at 8500 Euclid Ave. Tickets: $42-64. Call 216.795.5000 or visit clevelandplayhouse.com.
KELLY HARRIS/NATURE WRITERS
Poet Kelly Harris reads from her work at 7 p.m. tonight at Mac's Backs (1820 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Hts., macsbacks.com). Harris is one of the region's most accomplished poets, having worked at the Cleveland Museum of Art's Poet in Residence program and read at a slew of local venues, and has two chapbooks to her credit. So listen up. Also, the Nature Writers workshop that met for years in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has moved to Mac's Backs and meets at 7:30 p.m. Friday. If your writing is more pastoral than political, this is a good place to go for feedback and kindred spirits. Bring a dozen or so copies of your poem to hand out. For information, call 216.321.2665.
LYING IN STATE
It's not a bad idea to spoof politics these days. The second and final play by Columbus native David C. Hyer, Lying in State is part campaign season, part Six Feet Under. It's the story of a campaign manager trying to decide whether it's a good idea to run a dead senator as his party's nominee, while a grieving fiancée seems to consider making a run at the Senate seat herself. It all takes place in a funeral parlor. Workshop Players in Amherst are the folks who thought to bring this to the stage. Performances through September 28. Tickets: $12. Workshop Players Theatre-in-the-Round is at 44820 Middle Ridge Road, Amherst. Call 440.988.5613.
PlayhouseSquare's education department presents a sampler of local dance companies and styles all in one night with its annual Dance Showcase. This year's program includes performances by African Soul International, Dance/Theater Collective, Double-Edge Dance, Inlet Dance Theatre, Lisa K. Lock and Verb Ballets. It's free, and tickets are not required. Call 216.348.7909 or visit playhousesquare.com.
SID RHEUBAN: RECENT WORKS
Sid Rheuban's paintings pulse with energy. His human figures rendered in oil on Plexiglas or canvas are a kind of expressionist portraiture, with startling colors and a primitive quality about their lines. He was exposed to and soaked up opportunities to look at art throughout his childhood in Cleveland and while in college in Washington, D.C., at the National Portrait Gallery. But he says he didn't know he was an artist until his late 60s, when he retired and started taking classes at Tri-C. He's now in his mid 80s, and his work has appeared in dozens of shows, including ones at the Butler Institute of American Art. This week, 1point618 Gallery opens a solo exhibition, Sid Rheuban: Recent Works, with a free reception starting at 7 p.m. The show hangs through November 16, viewings by appointment only. 1point618 Gallery is at 6421 Detroit Ave. Call 216.281.1618 or visit 1point618gallery.com.
ADRIAN NICOLE LeBLANC
The skill of observing human behavior and character is a gift a writer can take into just about any situation and come out with a gripping tale. Author and journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc applied hers to writing about poor people on the margins of society for her book Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, which was named one of the 10 best books of 2003 by The New York Times Book Review and won the 2004 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Her research consisted of spending 10 years getting to know the two young Latina women whose lives are traced in its pages. LeBlanc talks about her writing at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave.) when she gives the fourth Anisfield-Wolf lecture at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. It's free, but registration is recommended. Call 216.368.8961.
For anyone who's taken a backpack to Europe and found the occasional pay toilet, "pay to pee" jokes are hard to resist. In Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis' musical Urinetown: The Musical, ecological disaster has led to the outright prohibition of private privies and the consolidation of all sanitary control under one corporation, Urine Good Company. Beck Center for the Arts mounted Urinetown for the first time three years ago (coincidentally, just as ecological disaster was wrecking New Orleans) and had a major hit, both critically and with audiences. Artistic Director Scott Spence says the satirical story parodies a potful of Broadway shows, giving savvy members of the audience an extra chuckle. But even without the in-jokes, the music and message can't miss. Spence called the original ensemble cast "magical," and he's got 15 out of 16 of them back for this season-opening go-round - including performers who came back from New York and Philadelphia to reprise their roles. Performances are September 12-October 12. Tickets: $17-$28. Call 216.521.2540 or visit beckcenter.org.
There's a certain inevitability to the theme of MOCA Cleveland's opening festivities for fall exhibitions that include Jorge Pardo: House and Sheila Pree Bright: Suburbia. After a 6 p.m. talk by Pardo and curator Bonnie Clearwater, the House Party starts at 7 p.m. DJ Neil Chastain will play dance music accented by his own work on the congas. The work of Cuban-born sculptor Pardo has elements of design and architecture and even parody that searches for meaning in the accoutrements of lifestyle. Bright takes a look at a rarely seen, little-understood segment of the population, upper-middle-class African Americans, in her collection of mid- and large-scale photos shot in affluent African American suburbs of Atlanta. Works by five young African American artists build on Suburbia in a third exhibition, Facing Race. All three shows are open through December 28. Free. MOCA is at 8501 Carnegie Ave. For information, call 216.421.8671 or visit mocacleveland.org.
Both George Kocar and John Carlson paint and draw the human figure, but in wildly different ways. Kocar's work has a level of distortion and exaggeration and a color palette appropriate for cartoons, while Carlson's muted tones, realistic perspectives and proportions give his work a more serious look. They're exhibiting together in a show opening Saturday at The Art Gallery, 4099 Erie St. in Willoughby. An opening reception runs from 6 to 9 p.m. The show hangs through October 11. Free. For information, call 440.946.8001 or visit artgallerywilloughby.com.
Pandemonium ensues annually at Cleveland Public Theatre's annual benefit, a fund-raising extravaganza that rallies dozens of theater, dance, visual and performance artists who have ties to the cutting-edge theater that anchors Detroit Shoreway's Gordon Square Arts District. The CPT campus will be filled with people and performance for this aptly named party. There's plenty of food and drink, and this year CPT will honor Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and his wife Laurie Rokakis (who works for Congressman Dennis Kucinich) with the coveted Pan Award. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets: $125. CPT (cptonline.org) is at 6415 Detroit Ave. Call 216.631.2727.
CAROLINE OR CHANGE
Before they worked together on a new translation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, Tony Kushner teamed with composer Jeanine Tesori to write Caroline or Change, a musical that begins in the final months of 1963, just after JFK was shot. It's the story of Caroline Thibodeaux, a 39-year-old African American divorcée with four children who is working for meager wages as a housekeeper. It's an optimistic story in which, despite a domestic tragedy, change is possible. Karamu and Dobama Theatre team up for the Ohio premiere of the musical, which melds classical, R&B, Motown, Klezmer and gospel. It's directed by Sarah May, with musical director Ed Ridley. Performances run through October 12 at Karamu's Jelliffe Theatre, 2355 East 89th St. Tickets: $10-$22. Call 216.932.3396 or 216.795.7077 or visit karamu.com.