Take a walk on the webbed side with the annual salamander migration, a nocturnal affair in which thousands of the foot-long critters slither along the quarter-mile route from their burrows to vernal ponds, where they flirt by rubbing their chins against each other. "It's not quite a parade," says National Park Ranger Paul Motts of the mating ritual, which usually happens for a few hours in early March, during warm rains. (Dates are determined by Ma Nature; get the skinny by calling the Metroparks Brecksville Reservation at 440-526-1012, or the Happy Days Visitor Center, 216-524-1497.) Holden Arboretum, 9500 Sperry Road in Kirtland, hosts a naturalist-led Salamander Migration Preview from 7-9:30 tonight. Particpants are placed on the "salamander hotline" and called on the evening of peak activity. Cost is $15; to register, call 440-946-4400. On Saturday, March 6, Motts will give a talk on amphibian amore, during a concert by Salamander Crossing, a bluegrass band that blends contemporary folk with Appalachian rhythms. That's at 8 p.m. at Happy Days Visitor Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (State Route 303, a half-mile west of State Route 8 in Boston Heights). Admission is $10 adults, $5 children, at the door.
Sign language was an underground language in the 1930s, banned from schools for the deaf around the country and stigmatized in larger society. The Taste of Sunrise, a play by Suzan Zeder that's been performed in Seattle and at the Sundance Institute in Utah, takes a look back at that time through the character of Tuc, a deaf boy who secretly learns sign language from a classmate at school. The show, staged for both deaf and hearing audiences by Cleveland's Signstage Theatre, runs Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. At the Factory Theatre, Cleveland State University, 1833 East 24th Street, 216-795-7000. Tickets are $16, $10 students and seniors.
If Japanese animation usually bores you blind, you might be pleasantly surprised by the diverse series Anime: 75 Years of Japanese Animation at the Cleveland Cinematheque. One of the highlights is Kiki's Delivery Service by Hayao Miyazaki, a kid-oriented film about a girl who must go through a good-witch apprenticeship (she carries cakes for a baker on her broom) before she can become a card-carrying good witch. Miyazaki's known for his zany flying scenes--Red Pig, a film about a barnstorming swine that he made as an in-flight feature for Japan Airlines, was released in theaters and became one of Japan's top-grossing films. Kiki's Delivery Service shows at 7:30 p.m., followed at 9:30 p.m. by comic book artist Osamu Tezuka's Disney-esque Pictures at an Exhibition, choreographed to the classical composition of the same name. At the Cleveland Cinematheque, 11141 Euclid Avenue, 216-421-7450.
The marshlands of Athens, Georgia, weren't exactly fertile ground for the Woggles, a rockabilly/surf/garage band that coagulated there in the late '80s, when R.E.M. and the B-52's called it home. They found more luck overseas, playing to packed crowds in Japan, where fans showed their appreciation by taking off their shoes for band members to sign, says singer Manfred Jones. Their latest release, Wailing With the Woggles, includes the sole-baring "Ramadan Romance"--a song about a girl, a man's needs, and the Muslim holiday of fasting--and "Sweet Tea," a tribute to the southern beverage that, when properly prepared, can "take the enamel right off your teeth." See what these guys can do with three chords tonight at 10 p.m. at Pat's in the Flats, West Third Street and Literary Road. Tickets are $6; call 216-621-8044.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ray Charles has quite a backup band tonight. He'll be accompanied by the Akron Symphony in a greatest-hits concert. In recent years, the soulful singer (who's also done country, gospel, swing, and Diet Pepsi commercials) has been traveling the orchestra circuit. He hasn't raised hell--though he was the voice of Raisin Ray in the California Raisin commercials--in about thirty years, but hey, at least he's smooth. Tickets range from thirty to forty smackers; call 330-253-2488. Showtime is 8 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Hill Street.
Blues artist Robert Lee "Smokey" Wilson has a voice that sounds like an old scratchy record, even on CD. His influences are many--from the growl of Howling Wolf to the electric reverberations of B.B. King. But Wilson distills these borrowed styles into a roots sound distinguished by purity rather than fragmentation. Though he did his time as a musician in the Mississippi Delta, Wilson's best known in blues circles as a club owner, not a performer. He ran the Pioneer Club in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, a business that thrived in the aftermath of the riots there (Big Joe Turner, Albert Collins, and Canned Heat were among its regulars). He'll bring his four-piece band to the Savannah, 30676 Detroit Road in Westlake, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7. For more information, call 440-892-2266.
The servant girl in The Emperor's Nightingale, a stage adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, gets a promotion--from shrimp peeler to lackey in charge of watching his majesty eat. Despite her lowly status, however, she teaches the big guy a thing or two about forgiveness and hope, with the help of her pet nightingale, the only creature in the palace that won't perform on command. And in the end . . . well, she's still wearing rags, but she does live happily ever after. The Children's Play House stages The Emperor's Nightingale at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 28. Performances are in the Studio One Theatre of the Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $11; call 216-795-7000.
Fly fishing is a visually alluring pursuit for Connecticut artist S.A. Neff Jr. Over the years, he's collected about 2,000 volumes on the sport, dating back as far as 1600. He learned to repair the tattered tomes himself, then started making his own books and companion "treasure boxes" from goatskin leather, antique reels and lures, and precious papers. A set called a "Treasury of Reels," which took two years to complete, includes a small chest decorated with a bas-relief of brook trout and hundreds of leather onlays. Seventy of his books and boxes are on exhibit in The Piscatorial Bindings of S.A. Neff Jr. at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. Admission is $6.50; for more information, call 216-231-4600.
Journalist Bob Berkowitz made the logical progression from White House cor-respondent to relationship guru in the 1980s, when he went from covering the Three Mile Island crisis to investigating balding men's comb-overs on the Today show's "Men's Talk" segments. His latest gig: resident sexpert on The View, the otherwise all-female "It Takes a Village to Host a Talk Show" talk show. He'll give a lecture on sex and advertising in P.C. America at 7 p.m. at Tangier Cabaret, 532 W. Market Street, Akron. The event is a public benefit for the Advertising Federation for Greater Akron. Tickets are $18, which includes dinner; call 330-688-5912.
A performance by the heavily embroidered Csardas Da Hungarian Dance Ensemble typically includes thirteen costume changes. That's one for every folk number in its repertoire, from the ambidextrous "stick dance"--traditionally a contest of manhood for shepherds--to the bottle dance, in which women balance vessels on their heads and twirl around. Now that's multitasking. The Cleveland group's founder, Richard Graber--a professional modern dancer of Hungarian descent--and choreographer Christopher L. Smith toured Hungary and Romania several times, learning traditional village pub dances from the locals. Csardas Da gives a free performance at noon at Trinity Cathedral, 2021 E. 22nd Street. For more information, call 216-579-9745.