Saartjie Baartman, the real-life 19th-century protagonist of Pulitzer winner Suzan-Lori Parks' Venus, was taken from her South African home, shipped to London, renamed Venus Hottentot, and turned into a sideshow freak primarily known for her superhuge ass. "This play is a fictionalized telling," clarifies Jyana S. Gordon, who directs the Cleveland Public Theatre production opening on Saturday. "But it feels really immediate. It's contemporary. It's not a story about history or something that happened long ago and far away."
But Venus is about more than Baartman, who fought in court for her right to exhibit herself. Parks' lyrical, provocative work is also about the struggle for self-respect in a society that was hardly dishing it out. "It's an incredibly epic play," says Gordon. "It's a challenge [to stage], but it's also a joy."
Ultimately, Baartman is a sympathetic character, big butt and all, says Gordon. "She's very human. She doesn't like being exploited, but she wants to make money. And she wants to be loved and connect with other human beings." Venus is at CPT's Gordon Square Theatre (6415 Detroit Avenue) Saturday through February 26. Show times are 7 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $10 to $24; call 216-631-2727. -- Michael Gallucci
Got Your Number
It's 35 years of 15 60 75.
15 60 75 (the Numbers Band) is celebrating its 35th anniversary with The Art of 15 60 75, an exhibit at Akron's Northside. In addition to original work by the band's founding trio, the show features photos from various friends and fans, chronicling the group's metamorphosis from art-rockers to a jazz-influenced combo. Among the pieces are chalks by percussionist Jack Kidney, digitally manipulated images by saxophonist Terry Hynde, and oil paintings by guitarist Robert Kidney. "You can do things with oils that you can't do with acrylics," he says. "I find the colors to be more varied. You can get superior glazing, for example." Kidney's superior glazing is on display at the Northside (111 North Main Street in Akron) through April 16. It's open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Admission is free ($5 on Friday and Saturday nights); call 330-608-7159. -- D.X. Ferris
Rockumentary spotlights blues brothers.
It's fitting that Martin Scorsese -- who helmed The Last Waltz, one of the best concert films ever made -- introduces the 2003 gig that's documented in Lightning in a Bottle. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua pays tribute to both the blues and Scorsese's 1977 movie by keeping his cameras focused on the three dozen or so musicians -- like genuine bluesman B.B. King and pretenders Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith -- who played Radio City Music Hall. See it at the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 9:45 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8; call 216-421-7450. See Film for review. -- Michael Gallucci
Think He Knows "The Chanukah Song"?
Stephen Lynch tends to slip Adam Sandlerisms into his joke-filled songs, shouting choruses, playing to frat boys, and leaving subtlety at the door. Still, his latest DVD, Live at the El Rey, does generate some laughs. Lynch and fellow comic Mitch Hedberg are at Lakewood Civic Auditorium (14100 Franklin Boulevard in Lakewood) at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $30; call 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci