This Week's Day-By-Day Picks

Black Nativity Karamu Performing Arts' Jelliffe Theater, 2355 East 89th Street 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through December 28. $20 to $25; call 216-795-7070
The Pennsylvania Ballet dances up a storm in The - Nutcracker (Saturday).
The Pennsylvania Ballet dances up a storm in The Nutcracker (Saturday).
Thursday, December 4

Tilda Swinton has four different roles, ranging from computer-generated sex predator to mousy research scientist, in Teknolust. Jeremy Davies, Spanking the Monkey's incestuous protagonist, plays a very incompetent copy-shop employee. They hook up in this 21st-century take on the Frankenstein mythos, in which a biogeneticist creates a trio of "self-replicating automatons" from her DNA. Director Lynn Hershman Leeson, a Cleveland Institute of Art graduate, takes on the toughest of genres -- the sci-fi comedy -- and, at the very least, succeeds in generating a very colorful film. Teknolust is at the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) at 9:15 tonight and 9:35 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $8; call 216-421-7450.

Friday, December 5

Rave On: The Life and Music of Buddy Holly, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's eighth annual American Music Masters Series, kicks off tonight with a 9 p.m. performance at the Rock Hall by the supercool Raveonettes. A conference runs all day tomorrow at Case Western Reserve University, where writer Greil Marcus, singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, and Holly's widow will tell you why the late Texas rocker was so special. "Buddy Holly created a body of work that is still reverberating through the rock world today," offers Rock Hall president and CEO Terry Stewart. The highlight, however, is Saturday night's concert at the Cleveland Play House. Crenshaw, John Mellencamp, Joe Ely, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore take on "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," and other Holly-penned classics. An exhibit featuring Holly artifacts -- such as business contracts, guitars, and, most disturbingly, eyeglasses that were recovered from the site of the plane wreck that claimed his life -- also opens today. Prices vary for events. Call 216-241-5555 for tickets.

Let the race begin. Over the next few weeks, a flurry of Oscar hopefuls is hitting a multiplex near you. The Last Samurai, opening today, is among them. Its pedigree is good -- Glory director Edward Zwick (once again mining the Civil War era), Tom Cruise, epic storytelling -- as is the story of a wayward war vet recruited by Japan's emperor to train his country's inadequate army. Eventually, Cruise's cynical captain falls in with renegade samurai and finds meaning in the art of war. Curiously, anti-West sentiment rings throughout (which may or may not be the filmmakers' intent). Still, its theme of honor and scenes of battlefield bloodshed are the stuff of Oscar gold. See Film for review.

Saturday, December 6

The Pennsylvania Ballet is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season, and it's bringing one of its finest productions, holiday perennial The Nutcracker, to town for a series of shows. Based on George Balanchine's famed choreography and Tchaikovsky's timeless score, the Pennyslvania Ballet's rendering is about as traditional as things get (there's even a 30-foot Christmas tree and a 19th-century-style holiday celebration onstage). Cleveland's Singing Angels supply support, as do about 75 local ballet students. The Nutcracker is at the Allen Theatre (1615 Euclid Avenue) at 1 and 7 p.m. today and tomorrow. Tickets range from $24 to $56. They are available by calling 216-241-6000.

Sunday, December 7

Apparently, the zoo's winter-loving animals really dig ZooLights. Reindeer, wolves, bears, and camels (!) are all out and about for the annual display of trees, lights, and other seasonal exhibits. There are also free rides on the Sleighbell Express (the ZooTram, renamed for the holidays), singers singing around Wolf Lodge's fireplace, bell ringers and brass quintets, ice sculptors, and model trains. All this -- and visits from Santa! ZooLights is at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (3900 Wildlife Way) from 5:30 to 9 p.m. through December 30. Admission is $5. Call 216-661-6500 for more information.

Monday, December 8

Believe it or not, there was a movement in 1960s Czechoslovakia that was tagged "Socialism With a Happy Face." It basically was a drive to reform the Communist party, but things were quashed by the Soviet military, which invaded the country and put an end to such idealistic thoughts. Ladislav Bielik was a young photographer who captured the crucial events on film. His photos have been gathered in August '68 in Slovakia, a historic and enlightening document of a political uprising in its final moments. It's strong, personal stuff. August '68 in Slovakia is at the Western Reserve Historical Society (10825 East Boulevard) through January 25. It's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 to $7.50. Call 216-721-5722 for more information.

Tuesday, December 9

The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra is a group of 115 young musicians whose skill on such instruments as the cello and violin puts to shame most of their guitar-playing, garage-band peers. These are kids, some of whom haven't reached puberty yet, who can perform a Bach concerto with relative ease. You can start to feel inferior right . . . about . . . now. The music plays from noon to 1 p.m. at the Allen Theater (1615 Euclid Avenue). Admission is free. Call 216-987-2543 for more information.

Wednesday, December 10

Mary Owen Rosenthal's woodcuts are heavy. Literally and figuratively. Checking in at four-and-a-half feet high, the 20 pieces on display at Dead Horse are a hefty lot. Subjects range from fate and war to death and consequence; not exactly cat-up-in-a-tree stuff. "This is a part of our lives," she says. "But I do funny stuff, too." The exhibit is at Dead Horse Gallery (14900 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood). It's open noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free; call 216-228-7214.

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