Get Out!

Event picks for this zesty week in Cleveland

Thursday | 9

Texas Chainsaw Musicalat Blank Canvas Theatre

Bloody Good Fun

Local actor and sketch comedian Patrick Ciamacco had long yearned for a theater company to call his own: one where the process would be collaborative ("like painters sharing a blank canvas") and productions would be accessible ("none of that avant-garde stuff"). His wishes came true last month, when Ciamacco launched Blank Canvas Theatre: Cleveland's newest theater company, nestled into space inside the 78th Street Studios near Gordon Square. First on his list of accessible productions? The Texas Chainsaw Musical: an original, warped, and highly hilarious play by Brooklynite Christopher T. Minori and his California musician pal Cory Bytof. Based on the real-life rampage of serial cannibal Ed Gein, the musical made its Ohio premiere on January 20; and despite — or maybe because of — the blood, gore, and extensive "splatter zone," it has gone on to become quite the sensation. "It's been very well received," says the modest Ciamacco. "Tickets are selling like bloody hotcakes!" Still, it's not too late to catch a show; final performances happen today through Sunday. General admission is $15 via the website; tonight's curtain is at 8 p.m. But if you want a seat in the splatter zone — and who doesn't? — better get there early. — Elaine T. Cicora

1305 West 78th St., Suite 211,

1511 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

Bach for More

Apollo's Fire Gets Personal

Deep in their hearts, most classical music fans entertain fantasies of attending intimate recitals by master musicians given in private Paris salons. Cleveland is no Paris, thank heavens, and our churches are not salons. But the master musicians are standing by with this weekend's performances of The Intimate Bach. Presented by key members of Cleveland's acclaimed baroque orchestra Apollo's Fire, the concert serves up some of J.S. Bach's rarer works for solo instruments. Besides the virtuoso works, the concert includes several select chamber pieces, including the glorious triosonata finale, Musical Offering, composed on a theme given to Bach by Berlin's King Frederick the Great. Tonight's concert is at 7:30 p.m. at the Fairlawn Lutheran Church; additional weekend performances are set for Cleveland Heights and Rocky River. Tickets start at $20; snag yours by phone or online, where you'll find a complete performance schedule. — Cicora

3415 West Market St., Fairlawn, 216-320-0012,

Friday | 10

Arty Party

Time Again for the Tremont Art Walk

It's been 19 years — almost to the day — since Sandy Rutkowski and Jean Brandt founded the Tremont Art Walk. Ever since, the monthly stroll through the near-west 'hood has been rewarding urban adventurers with new exhibits at first-rate galleries, along with an ever-growing lineup of eating and drinking destinations. Tonight's Art Walk will be no exception: Among the attractions, you can catch a performance by Cleveland noise band Iron Oxide at Brandt Gallery, a 6 p.m. art critique by the Ohio Art League at Loop, and the group exhibit Sex as a Drug at Doubting Thomas Gallery. Between art stops, drop in at watering holes like Edison's Pub or the Flying Monkey, eateries like Prosperity Social Club or the Southside, and boutiques like Banyan Tree or Evie Lou, where you'll find even more artwork on display. Tonight's adventures run from 6 to 10 p.m. Find details, maps, and directions on the website. — Cicora

Conversation Creation

Pecha Kucha Night at

House of Blues

When he first brought pecha kucha to Cleveland in 2008, local architect Mike Christoff wasn't sure what to expect. "I knew we had a lot of creative people in this city," he says. "I just didn't realize how many there really were!" Tonight, he and local co-founder Raseem Parker will host Cleveland's 14th Pecha Kucha Night, complete with a dozen or so local creatives explaining their ideas, art, and obsessions by way of 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each. A rapid-fire roundup of creativity, pecha kucha began in Tokyo in 2003 and has spread to more than 400 cities worldwide. Only one pecha kucha sponsor is authorized in each city; in Cleveland, Christoff and Parker hold the franchise. Among the international rules: Participation must be free of charge, and programs must be offered at least four times per year. Tonight's presenters are a varied bunch, including Emerging Chefs co-founder Rick Turner and Jeff Finley, founder of the annual Weapons of Mass Creation arts fest. "We like to have as many different disciplines and types of people present as possible," says Christoff. "We try to curate, so we don't have, say, 14 architects in one night; but beyond that, we generally don't put any limits on the evening." Tonight's event begins at 8:20 at House of Blues downtown. Doors open at 7 p.m., with a cash bar and music. Full details are on the website. — Cicora

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

Fresh Air

Owls, Fairies, and a Fire at Shaker Lakes

Gather up the clan and head to Shaker Lakes tonight for a family-friendly alternative to TV and pizza. The wholesome activities step off with a night hike led by Nature Center staffers; don't be surprised if you turn up owls, rabbits, or raccoons along the trail in this urban oasis. Back inside, hunker down in front of the fire and listen to woodland fairy Alison Garrigan (better known in some circles as an actor, designer, and artistic director for the new Talespinner Children's Theatre), as she gives a spritely reading of the children's classic Owl Moon. As with all fine pastimes, refreshments will be served; and if the weather turns nasty, an indoor craft will replace the hike. It all happens from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Cost is $5 per person or $25 per family of up to six. Register by phone or at the website, where you'll find additional program information. — Cicora

2600 South Park Blvd., 216-321-5935 ext. 235,

Saturday | 11

Move Those Hips!

East Side Salsa Social

Junior-high dances were seething cesspools of awkward shuffles, humiliating moves, and embarrassing nicknames. What the East Side Salsa Social brings you is the exact opposite: a friendly environment that gets you moving right away and introduces you to numerous partners — so little Timmy won't be left sitting alone in the corner again. Featuring salsa, bachata, cha-cha, and merengue spun by DJ Jimmy C (host of a Latin music radio show at John Carroll University), the evening is more about making social connections than showing off complicated dance moves. In fact, instructors call the event one of Cleveland's best-kept secrets, with "a great group of people who make it a comfortable place." The fun kicks off at 7 p.m., with lessons for beginners and intermediate dancers. That's followed by a dance party from 8 to 10 p.m. Salsa socialites can take part in the lessons and the dance party for $10; for those who want to party only, the price is $8. Feel free to bring your own refreshments. It all happens tonight — and every second Saturday of the month — at the American Dance Exchange Studio in Highland Heights. — James Lewis

767 Alpha Dr., Highland Heights, 440-227-2781,

Let the Good Times Roll

A Warm-Up for Mardi Gras

It's still more than a week till Fat Tuesday, but the North Coast Men's Chorus — Northeast Ohio's largest and most entertaining gay men's chorus, don't you know — celebrates the sinful holiday in style tonight at Windows on the River in the Powerhouse. The third-annual celebration includes the normal coin and bead tosses, but adds a higher note of sophistication with a cabaret show (featuring members and friends of the chorus), a costume contest, the crowning of a king and queen, live and silent auctions, and a chorus performance. Singer Jeffrey Lang describes the night as "a mix-and-mingle kind of evening" that offers something for everyone. As a bonus, the proceeds go to support two organizations in addition to the chorus: the Cleveland AIDS Taskforce and PFLAG Cleveland. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person and include an authentic Mardi Gras-style dinner. Find out more at the website below. — Lewis

2000 Sycamore St., 440-799-4270,

Art From the Heart

Let's Talk About Love

Between the gushing ads and the singletons complaining about the commercialization of emotion, V-Day is unavoidable. So why not admit it and have some fun? Local fashionistas from the Silent Rebellion clothing line and marketing group host Let's Talk About Love, a festival of art and music designed to spark conversation about what the holiday is (allegedly) all about. Some 20 local artists, from well-established pros like the protean postmodernist Dana Depew to high-school up-and-comers, will display pieces that meditate on love in all its varied guises. DJ Reez will provide a lively sonic backdrop. Romantic — or, under other lights, simply tasty — refreshments like wine and chocolate pretzels will be on hand, plus heartier fare from a surprise caterer. It's all free and happening at Kollective Gallery in Cleveland Heights tonight from 6 to 10 p.m. For more info, call the gallery or visit the website.

Joseph Clark

1908 South Taylor Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-862-0799,

Fresh Fish:

Get Tanked at the Aquarium

There's something to be said for being first in line when a hot new attraction like the Greater Cleveland Aquarium throws open its doors. But there's also something to say for letting those initial hordes thin out just a little and maybe diminishing your odds of getting trampled by fish freaks. Today's about the right time to make your own fashionably late trek down to the west bank of the Flats, where guests have been wading through the new aquarium in the Powerhouse since opening day three weeks ago. With four zones, ranging from Ohio's ecosystems to Amazon species to ocean-dwelling sharks and octopuseses, the aquarium is delighting audiences right out of the gate. The biggest raves so far go to the touch tank — where you can pet a cuddly stingray and other creatures — and the 150-foot SeaTube, an underwater stroll amid sunken ships and sharks. Adult tickets cost $21.95, children 2 through 12 are $15.95, and annual passes are available. The aquarium is open every day from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. — just don't be that guy who shows up at 5:45. — Erich Burnett

2000 Sycamore St., 216-862-8803,

Sunday| 12

Tangos and More!

A Musical Brunch With the Almeda Trio

Musician Robert Cassidy describes today's 1:15 p.m. concert by the Almeda Trio as "a nice light program for a Sunday afternoon" that "really speaks to everyone, even if you don't know much about chamber or classical music." If that's you, take heart: As the trio-in-residence at University Circle's Music Settlement, the versatile threesome — Cara Tweed on violin, Ida Mercer on cello, and Cassidy on piano — is well known for mixing up its classical repertoire with contemporary, jazz, and folk stylings. For today's shindig at the Fairmount Presbyterian Church, the musicians are taking an Argentinian turn, tucking into Astor Piazzolla's Cuatro Estaciones Portenas, a tango modeled after Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Also on the program: Mozart's Trio in C Major and the three-movement Solstice Suite by local jazz composer Paul Ferguson. The concert is free and open to the public, although free-will offerings will be accepted. Preceding the performance, music lovers are invited to a $5 brunch. The noshing begins at 12:15 p.m.; advance reservations for this portion of the proceeds are required at the number below. — Lewis

2757 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-5800,

Ultimate Blues

African Strings Sing at Nighttown

The first time jazz guitarist Leni Stern picked up a ngoni, she knew she was on to something special. "I kept feeling like I had the ultimate blues instrument in my hands," she says of the African folk instrument — a precursor to the banjo — that she encountered in a hotel room in Mali. Seven years later, the result is Sabani, Stern's soon-to-be-released album that captures the sound of every string, the pulse of every calabash, and the bounce of every drumbeat that lies at the heart of Malian music. Together with a trio of African percussion masters, the German-born, Berklee-trained, multi-award-winning guitarist makes her debut at Nighttown this evening in support of the recording. Expect to hear thoughtful songs, dynamic instrumentation, and catchy dialogue between traditions as Stern and her cohorts perform a genre-bending collection of bluesy, folksy, African-inspired music. "After all my time in Africa, all the musicians I've gotten to work with, I feel like a different person," Stern says. "I don't think anyone can go and live there without changing profoundly. And we have a lot to learn from Africa." The lesson continues tonight at 7 p.m. Reserve your spot at the number below. — Cicora

12387 Cedar Rd., 216-795-0550,

Monday | 13

Couples Massage

Get Rubbed the Right Way

When it comes to getting up close and personal with your sweetie, DIY is generally the preferred approach. Still, sometimes it's fun to let the pros lend a hand, like with a couples' massage at Sacred Hour Massage and Boutique Spa in Rocky River. For Valentine's Day, you can choose from among six different packages starting at $150 per couple — and all of them include a complimentary glass of bubbly and a foot scrub. Side-by-side options include smooth massage, hot stone massage, and even Thai massage — a clothed modality that owner Tabitha Baker says includes passive stretching and gentle pressure. It all takes place in the spa's private couples' suite, complete with heated treatment tables, dim lighting, and gentle background music. "It's a little time and space to treat yourself," says Baker. "It's a great in-town get-away." The special V-Day packages are only available through February 14, although couples massages can always be had. Make reservations at the number below. — Cicora

19109 Old Detroit Rd., Rocky River, 216-228-9750,

Tuesday | 14

Orchid Mania

Love in Bloom at the Botanical Garden

Any doofus can grab some grocery-store carnations and call it a Valentine's Day gift. It takes a smooth operator to dazzle his beloved with an entire garden's worth of orchids. Today, you can be that guy at Orchid Mania, the Cleveland Botanical Garden's annual showcase of nature's most sensual flower. According to legend, F. Scott Fitzgerald won Zelda's hand with a corsage of Cattleya orchids. Imagine how much better you can score with an entire exhibit filled with artfully displayed Cattleyas! "We recognize the orchid as a living work of decorative art and stage dramatic ways for visitors to encounter them," says exhibit designer Tres Fromme. "They are undoubtedly one of the most stylish and decorative of all flowers." Besides the staged flora, you'll find naturalistic exhibits in the glasshouse and orchids to buy inside the Garden Store. Orchid Mania continues through March 25; today's hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $9.50 at the box office. Check out the website for associated special events and activities. — Cicora

11030 East Blvd., 216-721-1600,

Wednesday| 15

We Heart Chocolate

Sweet Inspirations at Bistro 185

As proof that any time is the right time for chocolate, Ruth Levine — the culinary force behind Bistro 185 — has chosen the day after V-Day for her annual Valentine's Chocolate Dinner. Featuring five chocolate-piqued courses, tonight's feast is Levine's way of showcasing the ingredient's endless versatility and opening up diners' palates to unusual tastes. "There's more to chocolate than mole sauce!" she promises. Among her proofs: Belgian white chocolate paired with saffron, lobster, and papparadelle; a chocolate-merlot demiglace atop succulent beef tenderloin; and a combo of cinnamon, cream, and Mexican hot chocolate drizzled o'er panko-crusted lamb. To drink, Levine has culled a lineup of complementary wines, many with names — Serenade, Swingsville, Saxy — that reinforce chocolate's sensual reputation. Check out the full menu on the bistro's website. The dinner bell chimes at 6:30 p.m. sharp. Cost is $75 plus tax and tip; make your prepaid reservations at the number below. — Cicora

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