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Putting the Fun in Dysfunction
Read the glowing reviews and you have to ask: Is Kambri Crews' new memoir — about growing up poor in an abusive household — heartbreaking or funny? "I think it's both," says the New York writer, producer, publicist, speaker, and comedian. "I guess I had forgotten how awful some of it was, so it always surprises me when a reviewer calls it 'harrowing'; but I do think it's a little of both." The memoir in question is Burn Down the Ground, an unflinching tale of Crews' childhood living with deaf parents in a tin shed in rural Texas. While the newly published book resonates on many frequencies — domestic abuse, deafness, and the criminal justice system — Crews, now 40, also credits her childhood with shaping her sense of humor. "The deaf community is very much a storytelling community, and like everyone, they love to laugh. I think growing up in that community naturally led me to performing and to comedy. And of course humor is always a great way to deal with the pain." Crews, who lived in Akron for seven years during the 1990s, is bringing her humor and her pain to the Coventry Road branch of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library this evening for a free talk and book signing. (Fun fact: Crews' husband, comedian Christian Finnegan, is also in town this weekend, performing at the Improv.) "It won't be some deep, dark discussion," she promises. "I'll share some funny stories about being a hearing child growing up with deaf parents. I may read a little. Then I'll open it up to questions. I'm always eager to talk about domestic violence and prison, but I'll let the audience take the lead." The program begins at 7 p.m. An interpreter for the deaf and hearing impaired will be standing by. — Cicora
1925 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-3400, heightslibrary.org.
The Martial Art of Drumming at Playhouse Square
If you think a performance by Tao, the Japanese taiko drum troupe, is just a whole bunch of bare-chested dudes and colorfully draped babes banging the hell out of ginormous painted drums while swords flash, banners swirl, dancers soar, and lights flash ... yeah, that's about the size of it. The spectacle makes for great entertainment, falling somewhere between hand-to-hand conflict and Cirque du Soleil (which, as it happens, is also in town this week; keep reading for details). In any case, the gang is bringing the bang to Playhouse Square tonight for one 7:30 performance in the Palace Theatre. Tickets are $10, $29, and $39; snag yours by phone, online, or at the Playhouse Square box office. — Cicora
1615 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000, playhousesquare.org.
Annual Dance Concert in Kent
The 14 members of Kent State University's pre-professional dance company get their time in the spotlight this weekend as the School of Theatre and Dance presents Break Out, its annual main-stage concert. On the very full dance card: everything from Inner Drum, a trio choreographed by Jennifer Sandoval Eccher, founder of the Cleveland-based Marquez Dance Project, to Southern and Baseline, a concert jazz piece for eight women inspired by clarinetist Don Byron. Tonight's curtain is set for 8 p.m. Encore presentations happen at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 31, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 1, at the E. Turner Stump Theatre in the Music and Speech Building on KSU's main campus. Tickets are $16 for adults, and less for students and seniors. Reserve yours by phone or online. — Cicora
1325 Theatre Dr., 330-672-2497, dance.kent.edu.
Hell on Wheels!
The Burning River Roller Girls Are Back
After six years of hurtling around the flat track, Lindsay Parker (a.k.a. The Killustrator) has just one wish: that more folks recognized roller derby as a real sport. "It's definitely getting better," says Parker, who has skated with Cleveland's Burning River Roller Girls since 2008. "But a lot of people still recall the theatricality of the old-style leagues. Modern roller derby is legit: We retain the fun names, but it's a sport." The league launched its sixth season of fast-paced fun earlier this month at the Wolstein Center. Like all Saturday-night home games, tonight's is a double-header. The 6 p.m. bout features the Cleveland Steamers against the Rolling Pin-Ups; at 7:30, it's the Hard Knockers versus the Hellbombers. Even though the days of banked-track skating are pretty much over, Parker says the pace is just as fast as ever. "Plus fans find that there's a level of interaction with the players that you just don't get anywhere else." That includes a beginners' league for girls ages 7 to 17, and an autograph-signing session down on the floor after every game. "Where else can you get that close to you favorite athlete?" Doors open at 5 p.m. General admission is $12 in advance and $17 at the door; kids, students, and military pay less. Get tickets by phone, online, or at the Wolstein Center box office. — Cicora
2000 Prospect Ave., 877-468-4946, burningriverrollergirls.com.
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