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Fall Arts Preview, the Redux 

Take your choice – indoors or out.

Take your choice this week – indoors or out. A fat schedule of seasonal celebrations and Halloween events offers plenty of opportunities to scare up some family fun amid the glorious colors of a northeastern Ohio fall.

If you prefer your entertainment in the comfort of a theater seat or well-appointed museum or gallery, there's plenty of that as well.

Herewith, the best of the coming months in arts, entertainment, pumpkins, parades, and hair-raising fright sites.

Theater

Of the hundreds of plays on Cleveland-area stages this season, perhaps the best title belongs to The Motherf**ker With the Hat, the Tony-nominated dark comedy by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which opened the 53rd season this month at Dobama, northeast Ohio's oldest alternative theater. The play is about a drug dealer who's trying to stay sober and in love with his coke-addicted girlfriend—until he spots another man's hat in their hotel room.

"It's been described as a really low-class, modern Honeymooners," says Nathan Motta, Dobama's associate artistic director. "It's really funny, and you fall in love with the characters." (The play, which runs through October 7, was reviewed in Scene last week.)

Motta is equally excited about A Bright New Boise (Oct. 26-Nov. 18), in which Will, a disgraced evangelical, works at an Idaho craft store and tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage son. "This playwright, Samuel D. Hunter, is only 30 and has already won the Obie Award," Motta marvels. "The play continually surprises you. At first it's quirky, but then it hits you with these sharp left and right turns. And the ending – which is epic, huge and theatrical – everyone will be talking about it."

Also on the Cleveland Heights theater's fall schedule: Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles (Dec. 7-Jan. 6), in which 21-year-old Leo moves in with his feisty 91-year-old grandmother, played by Cleveland treasure Dorothy Silver.

The very popular Playhouse Square Broadway Series is saving its best for 2013. The coming months feature two staples: The sweetly nostalgic, Tony Award-winning revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes (Oct. 2-14), a 1930s musical confection about love and deception aboard a London-bound luxury liner; and Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Nov. 6-18), based on the animated film, which should be a big draw for families.

The new year opens with another musical based on a movie, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Jan. 15-27). Inspired by a 1994 film about three Australian drag queens on a road trip through the outback, it's a gaudy, bawdy, extravaganza with a karaoke soundtrack and more than 500 outrageous, Tony-winning costumes. Next up is the exuberant Sister Act (March 5-17), a musical based on the Whoopi Goldberg movie.

One of the season's hottest tickets will be War Horse (April 9-21), which began life as a children's book, then metamorphosed into a play, then a Steven Spielberg movie. This production features life-sized horse puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. The action shifts to the Hanna Theatre for Guys and Dolls, (May 1-June 23), Frank Loesser's durable classic about small-time gamblers in New York, which is being produced by the local Great Lakes Theater company.

And whatever Mitt Romney's showing in the November election, the Mormons will have their day onstage at the Palace Theatre in The Book of Mormon (June 18-July 7), the musical comedy by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, in collaboration with Avenue Q composer Robert Lopez.

At the elegantly renovated Allen Theatre in Playhouse Square, the venerable Cleveland Play House has opened its 98th season with Lombardi (through Oct. 7, reviewed in this issue). Eric Simonson's biographical portrait of the storied football coach portrays his relationships with his loyal wife, players, and a reporter determined to uncover the man behind the legend.

Playwright Matthew Lopez has become a hot property with his debut, The Whipping Man (Nov. 2-25), a Civil War drama about a Jewish Confederate soldier and two former slaves raised as Jews, who celebrate Passover together and must decide what their future holds. The talents of two local scribes converge in A Carol for Cleveland (Nov. 30-Dec. 23), Cleveland-based playwright Eric Coble's adaptation of a novella by local mystery novelist Les Roberts. Set in the 1970s, the holiday play is about a desperate man who is welcomed into a family's home, where he finds love and forgiveness.

The new year will bring John Van Druten's Bell, Book and Candle (Jan. 11-Feb. 3), about a comely witch who sets her sights on a handsome neighbor; The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith (Feb. 15-March 10), with Miche Braden portraying the great blues singer; Good People (March 22-April 14), David Lindsay-Abaire's Tony-nominated comedy about a hard-luck Boston woman who looks up an old flame as a path out of poverty; and Rich Girl (April 19-May 12), Victoria Stewart's modern reimagining of The Heiress, in which the title character's financial-whiz mom tries to vet her daughter's beau, a starving artist.

Karamu House will open its season with Marsha Norman's musical adaptation of Alice Walker's The Color Purple (Oct. 5-28), the story of Celie, who triumphs over a lifetime of abuse. Langston Hughes' beloved gospel musical Black Nativity (Dec. 7-30) retells the birth of Christ based on the Gospel of St. Luke.

A young African American girl in 1960s rural Louisiana is torn between caring for her family and going to college in Judi Ann Mason's comedy-drama A Star Ain't Nothin' But a Hole in Heaven (Feb. 1-24); and John Guare's 6 Degrees of Separation (March 15-April 7) tells the story of a young con man who fools wealthy New Yorkers by claiming he's the son of Sidney Poitier. The Karamu season concludes with Regina Taylor's musical Crowns (May 24-June 16), a celebration of black history told through stories of women and their hats.

Great Lakes Theater started life in 1961 in a high school auditorium on a shoestring budget. It has grown into a $3.7-million-a-year operation producing first-rate classic plays, now permanently housed in Playhouse Square's refurbished Hanna Theatre. GLT launches its season with Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (Sept. 28-Nov. 4), one of the most popular plays in the Bard's canon.

GLT will update Moliére's The Imaginary Invalid (Oct. 5-Nov. 3), a comedy about a hypochondriac who tries to marry off his daughter to a doctor, to the 1960s, with music of that era. The holiday perennial A Christmas Carol (Nov. 30-Dec. 23) is followed by Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (Feb. 22-March 10), in which a novelist is haunted by the spirits of his two deceased wives. Then it's back to the Bard for a closer – Much Ado About Nothing (March 29-April 14), Shakespeare's tale of young romance.

Cleveland Public Theatre has been presenting adventurous, cutting-edge theater and educational programs since opening its doors 31 years ago on the second floor of a Detroit Ave. Irish dance hall. The company now resides in the James Levin Theatre, named for CPT's visionary founder, which is the centerpiece of the remarkably successful Gordon Square Arts District renaissance.

CPT's season kicks off with The Kardiak Kid (Oct. 4-20). Though the Browns are now owned by Jimmy Haslam, the team's storied history belongs to its long-suffering fans, who will recognize themselves in Clevelander Eric Schmiedl's play about a fan certain that the Dawgs' epic 1981 defeat was caused by his failure to adhere to his superstitious rituals on that fateful day.

Eight noted playwrights, including Neil LaBute and Paul Rudnick, contributed to Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays (Oct. 4-20), a collection of comedies promoting marriage equality directed by Craig George. CPT shows its social justice side with the annual Y-Haven Theatre Project (Nov. 8-11), which enables residents of Y-Haven transitional housing to create and perform plays about their experiences with addiction and homelessness.

Conni's Avant-Garde Restaurant is not so much a place as a concept, created by a New York theater troupe and named after an abandoned eatery. Conni's brings its immersive dance-hall experience – cabaret seating, supper and cash bar – to CPT with The Secret Social (Dec. 6-23).

The centerpiece of CPT's season is Big Box (January 17-March 9), a showcase of new work by local artists. "Elements Cycle," an ecology-themed collaboration with Oberlin College, includes Water Ways (Jan. 24-Feb. 4) and Earth Plays (Feb. 21-March 9). Nick & Jeremy (March 21-April 6) incorporates conspiracy theories, group hypnosis, propaganda and, naturally, puppets, to reveal secrets of the universe.

Tannis Kowalchuk's one-woman show struck (March 21-April 6) is about her experience after suffering a stroke; Philip Ridley's Tender Napalm (May 2-18) is described as a "high-impact, high-concept" play exploring passion and destruction.

The poetry of William Blake gets an airing in Mickle Maher's There Is a Happiness That Morning Is (May 9-25), and local playwright/director Raymond Bobgan's Rusted Heart Broadcast (May 23-June 8) imagines what happens after a pandemic destroys most of the world, leaving a group of Clevelanders to find a way to stay alive.

"Discover the Human Element" is Ensemble Theatre's invitation to its 33rd season of modern classics and contemporary plays, under the artistic direction of Celeste Cosentino. Now entering its second season at its new home in the former Coventry School in Cleveland Heights, the company presents plays exploring humanistic values.

Ensemble's season opens with Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart (Sept. 28-Oct. 21), a searing examination of the sexual politics of New York during the AIDS crisis. Sarah May directs.

November brings the world premiere of Jonathan Wilhelm's holiday comedy Miracle & Wonder (Nov. 15-Dec. 5). Ian Hinz directs the story of an obsessive-compulsive kindergarten teacher who receives jarring news just before Christmas, setting off a strange series of events.

Charles Smith's drama The Gospel According to James (Jan. 25-Feb. 27) is about survivors of a racial crime in Indiana who reflect on the incident that occurred when they were teenagers. Ensemble's annual Colombi New Plays Festival (March 7-24) unveils three premieres, after which the company tackles Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (April 19-May 12).

Under the guidance of artistic director Scott Spence, Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood has garnered critical praise for its unusually diverse, high-quality productions ranging from edgy dramas to family-friendly musicals.

Beck's season opened with Xanadu (through Oct. 14), a silly-fun 1980 musical known for its Olivia Newton-John hit songs, about a beautiful Greek muse who descends to Venice Beach, California to inspire a struggling artist to open a roller disco.

The Tony-nominated The Little Dog Laughed (Oct. 5-Nov. 12), by Douglas Carter Beane, is a brisk, adult-themed farce about a handsome movie star whose handlers try in vain to keep him in the closet. For the holidays, there's the perennial family favorite Annie (Dec. 7-Jan. 6).

In the new year: Tom Kitt's pop-rock musical Next to Normal (March 1-April 21), directed by Victoria Bussert, a Pulitzer-winning play about a suburban family coping with the effects of mental illness; John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves (March 22-April 21), about an aspiring songwriter who tries to escape his chaotic home life and make it big in L.A.; Lee Hall's The Pitman Painters (May 31-July 7), an inspirational new play by the Billy Elliot writer about a group of miners in 1934 England who take up painting; and the delightful Monty Python musical Spamalot (July 12-Aug. 18).

Among the many community theaters in Northeast Ohio, the Near West Theatre continues to distinguish itself with its commitment to community, diversity, and social justice. The talented casts of children, teens, and adults consistently present exquisitely polished musicals. (Last season's sold-out Hairspray was the equal of many professional productions.) This season, Near West presents the Stephen Schwartz musical based on the Book of Genesis, Children of Eden (Nov. 16-Dec. 2); Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (May 3-19), based on the music of the eponymous Belgian cabaret songwriter; and Side Show (July 19-Aug. 4), a musical about Siamese twins during the Depression.

Pamela Zoslov

Museums & Galleries

The final quarter of 2012 is the first season for a new Cleveland arts ecology. With the completion of The Museum of Contemporary Art's new University Circle facility – just blocks away from the Cleveland Museum of Art – University Circle's already formidable aesthetic district is stronger than ever. And beyond the East Side, local galleries will be offering a diverse and robust lineup of viewing opportunities.

With three separate display spaces, the new MOCA will not have to close two or three times a year to mount or remove installations, but will be able to host exhibitions continuously, hosting seven to nine shows annually. The museum is tripling its workload, but according to staffers, they relish the challenge.

"We're stepping it up a bit," says MOCA chief curator David Norr. "We have always done what we do very well. But we think this will be better, and we're thinking more expansively."

The new building, designed by Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi, is itself a work of art. Its black sheath starts as a six-cornered base, narrowing as it rises to a four-cornered roof. Appropriately, the opening exhibition, Inside Out and From the Ground Up, displays works by 16 global artists who question our relation to space, architecture, and geometry.

German artist Katharina Grosse's graffiti-colored sculptures sprawl throughout the building, spilling out from an elevator shaft onto the main stairway and lobby. Deeper inside the structure, Canadian artist David Altmejd's featured installation, specifically designed for the space, straddles abstraction and representation. It presents an intricate mass of glass, glitter, and authentic and faux organic materials that, when seen from various angles, can be viewed as pure form or as a mangled body.

The new building and inaugural exhibitions are premiering in a series of events. The opening night party is on Saturday, Oct. 6; there will be music and a cash bar, and tickets are required. MOCA members can tour the new building on Sunday, Oct. 7 from noon to 5 p.m.; online reservations for timed tickets are required. The general public can see the new facility on Monday, Oct. 8 from 1 to 5 p.m.; admission is free, but reservations are required, and can be made online.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has also undergone a transformation with the completion of its massive indoor atrium. Though the stadium-sized space holds no exhibitions yet, it is being touted as a bright and elegant public gathering place. The museum's main facilities, however, have a lively schedule lined up for the rest of the year. Opening September 23, Studio Glass in Focus honors Toledo artists, many still living, who pioneered decorative glassware. Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th-Century Paris, opening Oct. 13, contrasts the work of the relatively ignored woman painter with male contemporaries like Degas, Renoir, and Pissarro. Sure to draw national attention is Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, an immense and important collection of Incan art going on display Oct. 28. Starting Nov. 3, William Henry Johnson: An American Modern will showcase the expansive, constantly reinvented career of the 20th century's greatest African American modernist.

After a year of unfortunate delays, the Art Galleries at Cleveland State University has opened the doors of its new 3,800-square-foot Euclid Avenue facility. Located just down the street from Playhouse Square, the new space allows curators to take advantage of unique architecture in the former Cowell and Hubbard jewelry store, complete with marble floors and sweeping opera-house stairways. More importantly, the move takes the galleries to street level in a pedestrian-friendly entertainment hub. This makes the art more accessible than ever to the public.

The clearest expression of CSU Galleries' civic-mindedness manifests Nov. 9 with the opening of the 20th annual People's Art Show, a non-juried exhibition of work by any regional artist willing to step up. More than 300 student, professional, and amateur artists are expected to contribute 500 works in every medium to this unique showcase of Northeast Ohio's creative communities. But you don't have to wait until then to admire the new space; now through Oct. 20, CSU is displaying works by faculty members including painter Ken Nevadomi, photographer Mark Slankard, and sculptor Irina Koukhanova.

The big fall show at the Sculpture Center is The Tragedy of the Commons, a collaborative installation by Ali Momeni, Robin Meier, and 50,000 tiny helpers. The piece consists of a colony of leafcutter ants placed in an environment at once self-contained but open to up-close audience viewing. The terrarium is filled with piles of food, inedible filler and assorted irritants. The ants' struggle to coordinate and track down only the nutritious fare is meant to symbolize the perilous but irresistible dynamics of contemporary economic schemes. The Sculpture Center encountered some difficulty securing permits for the ants, but an opening is tentatively scheduled for Oct.12.

At the Bonfoey Gallery, a series of oil paintings on panel and paper by Stephen Pentak titled Persistent Image is opening Oct. 12. His mountainous vistas are grassy, lined by streams, and unpopulated except for a few trees. They are informed by traditionalism, but also visually playful. The trees are often doubled by their own reflections on still water.

Barry Underwood's Fables opens Nov. 9 at the 1point618 Gallery at Gordon Square. The chair of the Cleveland Institute of Art's photography department takes time-lapsed pictures of neon light installations in pristine natural settings. This exhaustive process creates narrative scenes meant to invoke the feeling of undefined magical promise of mythology.

You can escape election blitzing on Nov. 3 by spending a few sweet hours in Lakewood's Screw Factory, which holds its biannual, building-wide Open Studio Event from noon to 7 p.m. The former Templar Park auto factory rents showrooms and workspaces to 40 makers of fine arts, crafts, and objects at once so practical and aesthetic as to collapse the distinction. If you can't make it in November, you can come in December for some holiday shopping. The Last Minute Market offers work by Screw Factory's resident artisans, plus at least 50 other vendors.

And don't let the weather keep you away from the Cleveland art community's most reliable monthly events. The Tremont Art Walk is celebrating its 20th anniversary of combining creativity, cuisine, and cardio. It runs on the second Friday of every month. And every third Friday, the 78th Street Studios welcome visitors to an open house.

– Joseph Clark

Mainstream Movies

Now that Hollywood has gotten the summer sequels, superheroes, and 3D extravaganzas out of the way, it's time for something a little less brain-numbing to hit the multiplexes. The fall movie schedule is typically divided into two parts: the leftover summer crap that would have lost a gazillion dollars competing with Batman, and the three-hour prestige films hoping for Oscar gold. Thankfully, there's quite a bit of treasure spread out over the next three months, so you won't have to wait until the week of Christmas, when awards bait is usually cast out, to go to the theater again. Here are the movies on our must-see list this fall.

Ben Affleck directs and stars in Argo (opening Oct. 12). Set during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, the film recounts the CIA's efforts to free six Americans hiding in the Canadian Embassy. The risky plan involves shooting a fake sci-fi movie. John Goodman (who played a blustery movie exec in last year's The Artist) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad's soulless prof-turned-meth-cooker) costar, along with Affleck's awesome period facial hair.

The Matrix's Wachowski siblings teamed up with Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer for Cloud Atlas (opening Oct. 26), an ambitious and epic fantasy based on David Mitchell's award-hogging novel about a group of people whose stories crisscross over time and space. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry tie their fates to the past and future, as centuries unravel around them. Minds will undoubtedly be blown as audiences try to put it all together.

Fresh from kicking some undead ass this past summer in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the 16th president gets a proper late-career biopic in Lincoln (opening Nov. 9), courtesy of director Steven Spielberg and star Daniel Day-Lewis, who's made only one other movie since he won a well-deserved Oscar for 2007's There Will Be Blood. The guy's a slave to his craft, so we're expecting his Abe to be the most precise portrait ever put onscreen.

James Bond celebrates his 50th anniversary with Skyfall (opening Nov. 9), a new adventure starring Daniel Craig, returning to the role for the third time since 2006's Casino Royale. Javier Bardem, with another bad haircut, plays the bad guy this time, and Sam Mendes, who made American Beauty, directs. As always, the convoluted plot is merely a premise for all the gizmos, gadgets, girls, and explosions.

The maybe-crazy director David O. Russell adapted Silver Linings Playbook (opening Nov. 21) from a novel about a maybe-crazy teacher, fresh from a mental institution, who is living with his parents and trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. He hopes to get back together with his ex-wife (the one he almost killed) while forging a relationship with a woman who's hauling plenty of baggage herself. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star.

Life of Pi (opening Nov. 21) is directed by Ang Lee, whose career includes both notable highs (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain) and lows (Hulk). He should be in his element with this story about a zookeeper's son stranded at sea with some hungry animals, including a tiger that has a man's name. The film is based on a 2001 fantasy novel that goes deep into spiritual and metaphysical terrain, which the wide-thinking Lee never shies away from.

Director Peter Jackson recently expanded his two-movie adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings prequel to a trilogy, which – like his Oscar-winning Rings movies – will be released over a three-year period. The first part, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (opening Dec. 14), is the setup and backstory, so don't expect too much Return of the King-style grandeur. But there should be plenty of heart, as well as familiar faces, including Ian McKellen as Gandalf.

The big-screen version of the hit Broadway musical Les Misérables (opening Dec. 14) features lots of star power – Hugh Jackman as ex-con Jean Valjean trying to go straight, Russell Crowe as the cop who won't let him. And director Tom Hooper won an Academy Award his last time out with The King's Speech. Throw Anne Hathaway into the mix, and you have one of fall's most buzzed-about Oscar hopefuls.

Jamie Foxx plays a renegade slave out to rescue his wife and exact some well-merited revenge on plantation owner Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's latest, Django Unchained (opening Dec. 21). With a typically excellent cast (including Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz and weirdo old guy Bruce Dern), plus tons of references to Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti Westerns, it should be all kinds of bloody awesome. And just in time for the holidays.

– Michael Gallucci

Literary & Spoken Word

"The nonfiction writer's fundamental job is to make what is true believable," according to literary journalist Tracy Kidder, who first shot to fame with his 1981 The Soul of a New Machine, about the creation of a cutting-edge computer at Data General Corporation. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. On Oct. 9, Kidder will talk about his new book, Strength in What Remains, as part of Cleveland State University's William N. Skirball Writers Center Stage Series at the Ohio Theatre.

The book's inspiring narrative is about Deo, a promising African medical student who escapes the violence of civil wars in his home country and struggles to make it in New York City, sleeping in a Harlem tenement and delivering groceries for as little as $15 a day. Ron Suskind in the New York Times called it "one of the truly stunning books I've read this year."

The series continues on Nov. 13 with two exceptional, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers who happen to married to each other: Geraldine Brooks, an Australian-American journalist and author whose latest novel is Caleb's Crossing, based on the life of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard; and Tony Horwitz, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent and New Yorker writer whose most recent book is Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War.

Journalist-author Ann Patchett (March 19), winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for her novel Bel Canto, will discuss her well-reviewed sixth novel, State of Wonder, a suspenseful jungle adventure about a drug company employee who visits the Amazon rainforest in search of her missing mentor and discovers secret research on a miracle drug.

Akron-born poet Rita Dove (April 11) was the first African American poet laureate of the U.S. (1993-95). A Pulitzer Prize winner, Dove's poetry and short story collections embrace historical and political events; her poetry collection On the Bus With Rosa Parks was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

The series closes April 30 with journalist and author Erik Larson, whose novelistic The Devil in the White City, about a serial killer at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, stayed on best-seller lists for three years.

The Cleveland Public Library Writers & Readers Series has presented lectures by notable authors since 2000. They are all free and open to the public.

You can hear three best-selling mystery writers in Uncovering Mysteries (Oct. 6), a panel discussion being held in conjunction with Bouchercon 2012, the annual world mystery convention. Participating authors are crime novelist Linda Fairstein, whose 14th book in her Alexandra Cooper series was released this year; award-winning crime novelist Karin Slaughter; and UK crime novelist, comic and TV screenwriter Mark Billingham.

Actress Valerie Bertinelli (Oct. 18), of One Day at a Time and Hot in Cleveland fame, will share anecdotes relevant to her new cookbook, One Dish at a Time: Delicious Recipes and Stories From My Italian-American Childhood and Beyond. Rebecca Skloot, whose gripping nonfiction The Immortal Henrietta Lacks tells the story of a poor Virginia woman whose cancer cells lived on to become part of medical research in perpetuity, speaks on Oct. 20.

And the new year will bring two fascinating talks. Temple Grandin discusses her life as an autistic scientist dedicated to animal welfare on March 9. Her latest book, Different...Not Less profiles 14 autistic achievers. Musician, actor, poet, martial artist, novelist, screenwriter and philosopher RZA, founder of the Wu-Tang Clan, shares his knowledge of religion, hip-hop and chess on April 19.

Finally, a special event worth noting: Harvey Pekar, the curmudgeonly Clevelander and American Splendor writer who died in 2010, will be honored Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. with the dedication of a statue and Literary Landmark plaque at the Cleveland Heights library, which his widow, Joyce Brabner, says was his "first love and second home." The Pekar statue was created by local sculptor Justin Coulter with $38,000 raised through a Kickstarter Campaign. Artist JT Waldman, who worked with with the writer on his posthumously published graphic novel Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, will talk about his collaboration with Pekar.

– Pamela Zoslov

Festivals

From woollybears to pumpkins, beer to pioneers, the fall festival scene in northeast Ohio offers a full spectrum of reasons to get out and enjoy the autumn colors and crisp weather. Just because summer's over doesn't mean you need to spend September and October indoors.

The Woollybear Festival (Vermilion, Sept. 30), which turns 40 this year, has grown into Ohio's largest one-day festival. The idea grew out of weatherman Dick Goddard popularizing the folklore notion that the brightly colored caterpillar's fur can predict the severity of the coming winter. Now the town squeezes more and more events into the festival each year. Think Groundhog Day, only bigger.

The Vermilion YMCA will once again sponsor the World's Greatest Kids' Race, held at the high school stadium. Also sure to be entertaining is the Woollybear 500 Caterpillar Race Preliminaries with Big Chuck and Little John. Entertainment throughout the day includes the Swing City Band, Alumni Singing Angels, and Ace Molar Band. Not that you could miss it, but be sure to catch the Woollybear Parade, ranked as one of Ohio's largest. It includes more than 15 marching bands with nearly 2,000 musicians, kids and pets on hay wagons, vintage cars, floats, clowns, festival queens – and this year, organizers are promising a "national celebrity." End the day with the Woollybear 500 Caterpillar Race finals, and of course the official Woollybear Winter Weather Prediction, the reason for the season.

Now in its 43rd year, the Huntsburg Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 6 & 7) has become popular for its free family days. Both days start with a pancake breakfast in the town hall offering all-you-can-eat portions of pancakes, Belgian waffles, sausage, orange juice, maple syrup, and hot beverages. Live entertainment during the weekend includes the Cardinal School Cardinaires Show Choir and the Cardinal Marching Band, the Geauga Highlanders Bagpipes, Northern Comfort Country Band, Erie Heights Brass Ensemble, and Jungle Terry. The County Sheriff's Department will be doing K-9 demonstrations. And a four-mile pumpkin ride is on tap for Sunday.

If you were to stereotype fall, you would get the Corn and Pumpkin Harvest at Lake Metroparks Farmpark (Kirtland, Oct. 13 & 14). There will be opportunities to craft cornhusk dolls and harvest and decorate pumpkins. You can get lost in a three-acre corn maze, stroll through the kid-friendly hay maze, or wander around the pumpkin patch. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some corn treats, pumpkin sweet potato soup, apple-pressed cider, and fresh apple butter. And of course there are pony rides, because you're never too old for a pony.

Walking through the park is one thing, but a horse-drawn ride through the Cleveland Metroparks takes enjoying the autumn scenery up to a whole different level. Sip on hot cider or chocolate and enjoy some snacks on the wagon as it tours the Chalet Recreation Area in Mill Stream Run Reservation (Oct. 21). Bring the whole family, but be sure to reserve your half-hour rides in advance, as space is limited.

What started as a tractor show grew into Harvest Happenings Community Fall Festival, an annual two-day event held on the first weekend in October (Huron, Oct. 6 & 7). Along with the tractor show, there will be "Back to the Wild" live animal displays, face and pumpkin painting, hayrides, live entertainment from musicians and dancers, craft vendors, and a selection of favorite fall foods.

Stretched over two weekends (Oct. 13 &14, 20 & 21), the Harvest Festival at Hale Farm & Village has become a Cuyahoga Valley tradition. In the peak of the season, watch food be prepared for winter while utilizing the farm equipment to press apple cider, grind and shell corn, and make your own apple butter. Grab some old-fashioned popcorn and walk the barnyards full of chicken, oxen, hogs, and sheep. You can also join in the harvest activities of pumpkin painting and wagon rides, or jump in the haystacks.

Island Oktoberfest is just what the name suggests, Put-in-Bay's 19th annual fall beer fest (Oct. 13 &14). But it's not just for adults; it's a family weekend that islanders refer to as "homecoming." Local vendors will be serving up tasty samples from the Heineman Winery, established on the island in 1888. Restaurants will be ready with plenty of German specialties, including sauerbraten, spaetzle, brats, German potato salad, potato pancakes, apple dumplings, German chocolate cake, wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, and sausage. Both days feature live entertainment by the Maxx Band's "Fingers and Sticks German Band."

Go back in time to the pioneer era of the Western Reserve with the 18th Century Festival (Brecksville, Sept. 30). Filled with folk music, storytelling, candle dipping, butter churning, and wood block painting, the festival is perfect for a family outing. Take in the sounds of blacksmiths hammering away and gunfire flying in a re-creation of a 1777 battle between the Redcoats and the Brigade of the American Revolution. Mud in Yer Eye will be playing their danceable beat live. Other performances will demonstrate life of the era, including cooking and clothing, and there will be pony rides, food, and souvenirs.

In "Leaf Country, USA," otherwise known as Bainbridge, what kind of celebration would you expect other than the Fall Festival of Leaves? Held annually on the third weekend of October (19-21 this year), the weekend is packed with arts and crafts, entertainment, flea markets, midways, parades, tractor pulls, and more. The Queen of Paint Valley High will be crowned, a pet show will include both live and stuffed animals. On Sunday, there's a parade.

The most iconic fall food is the focus of Pumpkin Village at Mapleside Farms in Brunswick (weekends through Nov. 3). New this year is one of the entrance options, the Super Slide. The 250-foot slide takes you down the side of the hill and drops you in the middle of the village. There, you can take a tour on the Moo-Lar Express, a cow-themed tractor ride, or a traditional hayride. Kids can jump on a 70-foot pillow in Jump Park, scramble across rope in the Spider Web, climb the Rattlesnake Mountain wall, and crawl through the Snake Belly Tunnel into clubhouses. There's a seven-acre corn maze, which you can experience in the dark on Friday and Saturday nights – so bring a flashlight, or rent one there. And of course, there's the raison d'etre for the festival – a 25-acre pumpkin patch you can wander through to check out all 82 of the known varieties of pumpkin, and pick out some to carve and decorate.

– Nikki Hunt

Family-Friendly

With baby boomers deep into nostalgia, it's hard to say whether Halloween is for adults or children. Either way, it's become a great excuse for institutions of every stripe to throw costume parties and special events that are fun for the whole family.

The Great Lakes Science Center has a number of Halloween-themed events this year, combining science education with seasonal fun. On Oct. 12 there will be a Fright Night Sleepover, offering families a chance to tour a Halloween-decorated Science Center after dark, then curl up in their sleeping bags. Activities include a tour of the "haunted" steamship William G. Mather and an Omnimax screening of Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. A late-night snack, breakfast, and free admission to the Science Center the next day are included in the admission price. If staying overnight doesn't sound appealing, the Science Center will also be having Spooky Science Nights on Oct. 19, 20, 26 & 27. Along with the Mather tour and Omnimax screening, kids will get an opportunity to experiment with slime, create glow-in-the-dark concoctions, and watch the staff play with electricity.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo hosts one of the most popular events of the season: Boo at the Zoo. From 6 to 9 p.m. on eight nights in October (18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 & 28), the zoo is transformed into a Halloween haven, with decorations all over and costumed characters roaming about. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in their own costumes as well. Activities include a hay maze, Ghostly Golf, a Monster Mash dance party, and a nightly pumpkin feeding for the elephants. Boo at the Zoo usually sells out, so buy your tickets in advance.

And if you're looking to work up an appetite for dinner on Thanksgiving, the zoo is offering free admission for everyone that day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you haven't been to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium yet, the Halloween season offers a good reason to go. On the weekends of Oct. 20 & 21 and 27 & 28, the aquarium is having its first Hauntaquarium. From 6:30 to 9 p.m. on those days, there will be decorations throughout and activities for kids with a pirate theme, including flame-swallowers, sword fights, and pirates telling spooky stories. Children will also be given a map to participate in a treasure hunt. Kids two years old and younger get in free.

The Cleveland Orchestra will be presenting its Halloween Spooktacular program for the third year in a row on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. The program includes Night on Bald Mountain, Danse Macabre, the "Infernal Dance" from Stravinsky's The Firebird, and the tale of Baba Yaga. Free pre-concert activities, including a costume contest, start at 1 p.m.

The IX Center is creating Trick or Treat Street, a giant Halloween event for children 10 and younger, offering kids in costume a chance to trick-or-treat their way through 12 spooky candy stations. Other activities include amusement rides, a 3-D maze, mini-golf, and more. Trick or Treat Street will be open on Oct. 20 & 27 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Oct. 21 & 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Oct. 26 from 3 to 9 p.m.

Even the Cleveland Botanical Gardens are getting in the Halloween spirit, with a Boo-tanical Bash on Oct. 27 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Kids can go trick-or-treating down a spooky garden path, join in Halloween-themed crafts and games, and enjoy plenty of music and dancing.

– Sam Mendez

Haunted Houses

If you're serious about your Halloween thrills, you're in the right place. There may be more haunted houses in Ohio than anywhere else in the nation. Some have been around for only a few years, while others have been scaring people for decades. And a number of haunted houses in northeast Ohio have won awards and garnered national attention.

One of the most extraordinary haunted attractions in Ohio is the Ohio State Reformatory's Haunted Prison Experience, which takes place inside the 124-year old reformatory in Mansfield that was closed in 1990. This is the same prison that was used for location shots in The Shawshank Redemption, and it has developed a reputation as one of the scariest places in the world. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, the setting alone is enough to give you chills. Complete with actors, visual effects and props, the Haunted Prison Experience has won multiple awards for being genuinely frightening. You must be 13 or older to enter, and if there's any doubt, you will be asked to provide proof of a birth date. (100 Reformatory Rd., Mansfield; hauntedx.com)

Named one of the scariest haunted attractions in the country, 7 Floors of Hell in Cleveland is back for another horrifying year. Spread among seven different houses, it's never the same two years in a row. (19191 Bagley Rd., Middleburg Heights; 7floorsofhell.com).

Voted one of the best haunted attractions in Ohio last year, The Fear Experience is back with not only three haunted houses, but a coffin ride where you can experience how it would feel to be buried alive. In addition, The Fear Experience also offers highly entertaining Zombie Paintball – because who wants to wait for the actual zombie apocalypse to shoot some zombies? No need to bring your own equipment or guns, The Fear Experience has got you covered. This is also the only "full-contact" haunted house in northeast Ohio; whereas every other haunted house has monsters that will not touch you, the monsters at The Fear Experience don't play by those rules. If you don't like the idea of getting touched by strangers in scary costumes, maybe you'd feel better if you knew that Stitch and Waylon from Cleveland's own Mushroomhead will be acting at The Fear Experience, so this may be your opportunity for some hands-on contact with Cleveland icons. (10701 Brookpark Road, Parma; thefearexperience.com)

What makes the Factory of Terror in Canton so notable? Perhaps it's the fact that it's held the Guinness Book of World Records title for Longest Walk-Through Horror House for two years. Set in an actual abandoned factory, the Factory of Terror offers four different attractions, including a mirror maze and a 3D-experience. (4125 Mahoning Rd., NE Canton; fotohio.com)

The same folks who put together the Factory of Terror have a haunted house in Mentor – The Forsaken Haunted House. This 30,000-square foot attraction is based on a fictional tragedy of a pesticide turning an entire town into flesh-eating zombies. (8200 Tyler Blvd., Mentor; forsakenhaunt.com)

For 32 years, Bloodview has been a familiar name among haunted attractions in Northeast Ohio. Created by the Legion of Terror, the world's oldest improvisational horror production company, Bloodview offers three attractions for one price, including the Gorehouse, billed as Bloodview's goriest attraction ever. Bloodview's actors also stage spontaneous performances in the outdoor lot, with a new theme every weekend. (1010 Towpath Trail, Broadview Heights; bloodview.net)

Along with Ghostly Manor, an award-winning haunted house, the Lake Eerie Fear Fest is offering a number of attractions this year tied to legends of Lake Erie and other aquatic haunts. Eerie Chateau is a lakeside manor with a notorious history; Darkmare plumbs the depths of a sunken freighter; and Caged dredges up unspeakable organisms from the deadliest sea in the world. There's also 3-D blacklight mini-golf, and an XD 4-D motion theater showing four different films. (3319 US Rt. 250, Sandusky; lakeeeriefearfest.com)

Blossom Music Center, a sweet concert facility during the summer, has turned into a Carnival of Horrors for Halloween ever since 2003. This year's attractions include the Insane Asylum Cage Maze, The Fun House, The Freakshow in 3-D Terrorvision, and The Wicked Woods. (1145 West Steels Corners, Cuyahoga Falls; carnivalofhorrors.com)

The Spooky Ranch is back for its 22nd year with five different attractions, including the Extreme Nightmares Haunted House (which children under 11 are not allowed to enter), Crazy Clowns in 3-D, and the famous Haunted Hayride. (19066 Mallet Creek Bay Vil, Columbia Station; spookyranch.com)

If a haunted hayride doesn't give you the adrenaline rush you're looking for, Mapleside Farms will be having a hayride where you get to shoot paintballs at zombies. (294 Pearl Rd., Brunswick; lightupthelivingdead.com).

Cornstalkers offer a one-acre cornfield and five-acre forest where scary actors will be lurking around, waiting for a chance to frighten you when you least expect it. (423 Ridge Rd., Hinckley; cornstalkers.com)

The Haunted Forest of Carousel has been around for 31 years, offering a half-mile trail walk through a dark, creepy forest. (1451 Lake Breeze Rd., Sheffield; forestofterror.com)

Hauntville offers an interactive fright experience, with 3-D glasses and new technology to create eye-popping visual effects, and professional actors ready to lock you in prison or worse. (1579 West River Rd., Elyria; hauntville.net)

The Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory has been around for more than 30 years, perennially making "Top 10 Best Haunted Houses" lists. This year you can get your chills on seven floors of terror. (1300 Triplett Blvd., Akron; hshlab.com)

– Sam Mendez

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