The Black Poetic Society's founders - Douglas "Sage" Hoston, Q-Nice, Daniel Gray-Kontar, Ebani Edwards and Kwanza Brewer - formed the group when they were students at Cleveland State University because where they didn't have a place they felt comfortable reading. Poetry readings were flourishing at the time, but mostly at coffee shops and bookstores dominated by white hipsters. Those readings typically attracted a few dozen people. But once Black Poetic Society got their events in gear at the CSU Kiva, they drew crowds of 300. The momentum was lost when, as Sage says, "people graduated and lives moved on." But they were still individually writing and performing, so when Cavana Faithwalker of the Cleveland Museum of Art asked Sage if BPS would reunite, he started making calls. The result is a series of quarterly readings at CMA. This week, they'll perform a show at the East Cleveland Public Library called Black Poetic at the Library: Celebrating Blackness in a Climate of Change. In addition to Sage, performers of the reconvened, rechristened Black Poetic include Dr. Mary Weems (whom Sage says has been a BPS mentor), Rafeeq A. Washington, Edwards and multimedia artist Donald Black. Q-Nice will host, and Kisha Foster will also perform. Music is by singer Dr. E. and funk/jazz band Fleshcoat. The free performance is at 7 p.m. Friday at the Greg L. Reese Performing Arts Center at the East Cleveland Public Library (14101 Euclid). Call 216.541.4128 or go to ecpl.lib.oh.us.
Playwright Sean Christopher Lewis' Militant Language has been performed in no less than five venues in recent months, which would seem to indicate pent-up demand for plays about Iraq that don't have to do with soldiers coming home in body bags or struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Lewis' play begins when two American solders come back from a surveillance excursion in the desert covered in blood. Meanwhile, a little Iraqi boy has gone missing from a nearby town. Throw in a secret homosexual affair, the sexual abuse of a female soldier and a baby found in the desert, and you've got a brutal look at violence begetting violence, lies begetting lies and truth evolving from trust. It opens at the Bang and the Clatter's Sometimes in the Silence Theater (224 Euclid Ave.) at 8 p.m. and runs through March 21. Tickets: $15. Call 330.606.5317.
LAKELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL
Grammy-nominated guitarist Pat Martino headlines the Lakeland Community College Jazz Festival at 8 p.m. Saturday, while British songstress Helen Welch, who now lives in Cleveland, performs at 8 p.m. Friday. But the soul of the event is the kids: The College Invitational Concert at 1:30 p.m. Saturday hosts four of the hottest college jazz bands in the region - the Oberlin Sextet, University of Akron Afro-Cuban Ensemble, Cleveland State University Trio and the Cuyahoga Community College Performance Combo. Best of all, it's free. The festival kicks off today at 7 p.m. with "Tomorrow's Stars," a program of middle- and high-school ensembles. It's at the Lakeland Community College Performing Arts Center (7700 Clocktower Dr., Kirtland). Call 440.525.7526 or visit lakelandcc.edu/jazzfestival.
We've seen our share of plays about Cleveland in recent years, with several productions touching on the evolution of our neighborhoods. Usually they are written by local playwrights immersed in the culture, economy and mood of this odd place. The Mandel Jewish Community Center commissioned Keith Reddin, a playwright from New York, to write a story called Cleveland Heights and, if the description rings true, it will resonate well here: The play, "a universal story of how families can be affected by the stresses of financial pressures," deals with a Jewish family that flees Europe and comes to Cleveland to build a business. It's about the strength of communities and families, and their will to endure. The world premiere production opens at 7:30 tonight and continues through March 15 at Tri-C East Performing Arts Center (4250 Richmond Rd., Highland Hills). It's directed by Brian Zoldessy. Tickets: $12-$24. Call 866.546.1358. Or go to clevejcc.org.
It's the kind of story that becomes a cable TV news sensation: Crazy, impoverished lady is found living in squalor among some impressive number of pets. But as Little Edie, an ex-debutante once known as "Body Beautiful," relates of her life with her mom, who happens to be Jackie Kennedy's aunt, in a song from the 2006 musical Grey Gardens, the two "are living on Long Island in a garbage-ridden, filthy, 28-room house with 52 cats, fleas, cobwebs and virtually no plumbing. After vociferous complaints from neighbors, the Board of Health took legal action against the reclusive pair." Combined with a delightful score by Cleveland native Scott Frankel, it's a bittersweet story about two indomitable and notorious recluses. The production at Beck Center's Studio Theater (17801 Detroit Ave.) is directed by Victoria Bussert. It opens at 8 p.m. with performances through March 29. Tickets: $28. Call 216.521.2540 or go to beckcenter.org.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Is it OK to kill someone if doing so would serve a higher purpose? If, for example, an impoverished person needed to feed his family and set his sights on an unscrupulous and usurious pawnbroker? That's the question explored in gripping detail in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. In their stage adaptation, Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus have distilled the novel to 90 minutes. The Cleveland Play House (8500 Euclid Ave.) opens a production directed by Anders Cato and starring Paul Anthony Stewart as Raskolnikov at 8 p.m. in the Drury Theater, with performances through March 22. Tickets: $42-$51. Call 216.795.7000 ext. 4 or go to clevelandplayhouse.com.
Digital photographer Sheila Markowitz calls her montages "Imagiscapes." They're digitally combined images of scanned paintings, prints and three-dimensional objects. She compares the process of putting together her new show Transformations - at the Fairmount Center for the Arts (8400 Fairmount Rd., Novelty) - to having a baby. The months of labor culminate with an opening and meet-the-artist reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The exhibit continues through April 18. Free. Call 440.338.3171 or go to fairmountcenter.org.
CJO PLAYS DUKE PEARSON
Columbus Calvin Pearson Jr. got the nickname "Duke" (after Duke Ellington) when an uncle recognized his musical talent. He started out as a trumpet player but switched to piano while he was still young and became a driving force in Blue Note Records' exploration of the style known as hard bop. Cleveland Jazz Orchestra director Jack Schantz calls Pearson an underappreciated master, and in his final season at the helm of the CJO before he retires, he's put together a program of Pearson's music. They guarantee a big fat sound, with four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones and a rhythm section belting out the strongly blues-influenced compositions. Their performance is at 8 p.m. at Fairmount Temple Auditorium (23737 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood). Tickets: $25 advance, $30 at the door. Call 216.521.2540 or go to clevelandjazz.org.
From its foundation as a young people's orchestra, and continuing with its annual Frieda Schumacher concerto competition for student musicians, the Cleveland Philharmonic has a long history of engaging young musicians in orchestral performance. This week, the Cleveland Philharmonic continues its tradition with a performance at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium (14100 Franklin Blvd., Lakewood) featuring the Lakewood High School Chamber Orchestra in Tchaikovsky's Elegy for Strings. Also on the program are Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony No. 6 and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, featuring cellist Ovidiu Marinescu. Marinescu has performed at Carnegie Hall for Romanian President Constantinescu, as well as at major festivals at Luzerne, Bayreuth and elsewhere. He currently teaches at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. The performance is at 3 p.m. Tickets: $5-$10. Call 216.556.1800 or go to clevephil.org.
YOUNG LITERARY ICONS
Colson Whitehead, Myla Goldberg and Jonathan Lethem are all young, successful novelists. National Public Radio commentator and book reviewer Nancy Pearl will engage them in conversation and find out what else they have in common as the Cuyahoga County Public Library Foundation presents Young Literary Icons at 7:30 p.m. at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $30. Call 216.241.6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.
There are certain expectations - built upon precedents like The Rite of Spring - of a musical titled Spring Awakening. Based on a once-banned, late 19th-century German play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, the Broadway touring show coming through PlayhouseSquare doesn't disappoint. The Tony-winning 2006 musical, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, employs a folk-rock score to tell the tale - set in late 19th-century Germany - of teenagers who are discovering each other, masturbation and where babies come from. It opens at 7:30 tonight and runs through March 15 at PlayhouseSquare's Palace Theatre (1615 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $10-$65. Call 216.241.6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.