His Royal Beardness, Santa, throws the switch on the Country Lights festivities tonight at Lake Farmpark, the former country estate of the Halle department store family. Each year, the park, part of the Lake Metro-parks, hosts a voluminous outdoor lighting display, with a mile of twinkling installations based on nursery rhymes and Christmas songs. Horse-drawn wagons take visitors through the exhibits, while indoors, kids can make a wooden toy in Santa's indoor workshop and crawl through an ice cave. Area choirs perform every night from 6:30-7:15 p.m.; the festivities, which start at 5 p.m. today, continue every Thursday through Sunday through December 27, except Christmas Day. Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 ages 2-11. Lake Farmpark is at 8800 Chardon Rd. (Rt. 6) in Kirtland, about a mile from Rt. 306 (800-227-7275).
Safe sex goes uptown with the release of Sway, a new visual arts and literary 'zine out to focus attention on AIDS and AIDS prevention. The inaugural issue, loosely arranged around the theme of "Bodily Fluids," is unveiled tonight at a party at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art in honor of World AIDS Day. Editor John Chaich, who coordinates outreach to gay and bisexual men at the AIDS Task Force, hopes to deliver the safe-sex message to people who "received that talk in 10th grade health class" and haven't been heard from since. Performers tonight include a rapper/spoken-word poet named Torman Jahee and poet Heather Steenrod, who calls herself "a clunky-shoe wearin', loud-mouthed, font-junkie feminist." The event--which includes a listening party for the Red Hot and Rhapsody CD from Lifebeat: the Music Industry Fights AIDS--is from 7-9 p.m. with an after-party at the Brillo Pad at 6420 Detroit Ave. The Center for Contemporary Art is at 8501 Euclid Ave., 216-421-8671. Admission is $5.
B-movie host The Ghoul began his career as a kid running around in a gorilla suit and progressed to pouring soda pop all over himself and blowing up dead turkeys. When he got his own show in 1971, the ideas behind many of his skits--a soap opera making fun of Parma, his affinity for "boom booms" such as firecrackers--were lifted from his mentor, 1960s Cleveland late-night legend Ghoulardi, but the toilet humor was all his own. Lately he's been seeing the inside of the mall as much as the TV studio at Channel 55, as he's been making appearances in support of his extended riff on the show, The Ghoul Scrapbook. He'll be signing his book today from 1-2 p.m. at the Waldenbooks in SouthPark Center in Strongsville and Sunday, Dec. 6 from 1-2 p.m. at Waldenbooks in Westgate Mall.
Nasty falls and karate chops will be on the menu at A Little Bit of Hollywood, an action film seminar organized by local martial arts instructor and itinerant stuntman Richard Fike. He'll be joined by Simon Rhee, a martial arts expert who fought with Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon IV, and David Greathouse, a special effects artist who cast forty posable corpses for the flu sequences of the TV version of Stephen King's The Stand. Greathouse plans to transform a 24-year-old woman into a 92-year-old woman at the seminar and chainsaw a woman's arm off. He'll also be "putting gashes and wounds on select people ... but if people want to try it themselves, that's cool." The $55 seminar is in the Performing Arts Auditorium and Physical Education buildings at Tri-C Metro Campus, 2900 Community College Ave.; 440-428-7008.
Everybody's dancing--unless, of course, they're singing--at the Kuumba Arts Festival, the annual pre-Kwanzaa festival named after the Swahili word for creativity and presented by Cleveland State University's Black Studies Department. The performances in CSU's Main Classroom Auditorium (1899 E. 22nd St.) will include break dancing by Akron's Ill Style Rockers and gospel songs from Cleveland's prolific Prayer Warriors. A tap-dancing tribute to Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk and rap by the Venom Lords are also part of the action. Performances take place tonight at 8 and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and $10, available at 216-241-5555.
Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Tequila ... it's tough to keep 'em straight sometimes. Especially for actress Erin Beth LaFountain, who had to learn all three bunny roles for Signstage Theatre's production of Peter Rabbit. LaFountain plays Cottontail, and she also does the voices for the deaf actors cast as Peter's other two siblings. As in other Signstage productions, the script, adapted by co-director Eric Schmiedl from the Beatrix Potter story, is simultaneously spoken and signed. The show runs through December 20, with matinees today at 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $8, available at 216-795-7000. In the Brooks Theatre of the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave.
In the midst of a hectic touring and recording schedule, Florida death-metal band Deicide has still found time to declare an unholy war on God. They'll perform tonight at 8 at Peabody's Down-Under, 1059 Old River Road in the Flats, 216-241-0792. Local bands Odious Sanction and Bolder Brain (more of the same) open. Tickets are $13.
Though vocalist Miles Zuniga sings suspiciously like Elvis Costello, Fastball still has one of the freshest sounds heard on the dried-up old prune known as commercial radio. Maybe because Elvis is a lot more interesting than anything new on commercial radio, and a well-crafted tune in a tried-and-true style is better than extended droning by Eddie Vedder knockoffs. If you didn't get a chance to hear Fastball on one of its two local appearances this earlier year, tonight's your chance. They'll be at the Odeon (1295 Old River Rd., 216-241-5555) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $11.
By day, they're buff, hard-working young men toiling at the rock quarry (in theory, anyway). By night, they shake the gravel out of their shoes with a little heel-toe-heel-toe-shuffle. They're Tap Dogs, a troupe of dancers from Australia who ostensibly learned their art on street corners in the working-class town of Newcastle, near Sydney. Their dancing emphasizes the physicality of tap, rather than tuxedoed formality--and they take their shirts off for some numbers. Tap Dogs perform tonight at 8 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron; 216-241-5555. Tickets are $35 and $32.
The Hawaiian lap guitar is more commonly known as the steel guitar, but Earl Catron's gospel rendering of it is anything but common. An obscure name in his own town, he nonetheless has a national following, and a handful of area fans, including Robert Santelli, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's director of education. Catron performs today at noon at Trinity Cathedral, 2021 E. 22nd St., 216-579-9745; the free concert is part of the Rock Hall's Climbing Jacob's Ladder gospel series.
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