Fall Arts Preview, the Redux 

Take your choice – indoors or out.

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"Discover the Human Element" is Ensemble Theatre's invitation to its 33rd season of modern classics and contemporary plays, under the artistic direction of Celeste Cosentino. Now entering its second season at its new home in the former Coventry School in Cleveland Heights, the company presents plays exploring humanistic values.

Ensemble's season opens with Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart (Sept. 28-Oct. 21), a searing examination of the sexual politics of New York during the AIDS crisis. Sarah May directs.

November brings the world premiere of Jonathan Wilhelm's holiday comedy Miracle & Wonder (Nov. 15-Dec. 5). Ian Hinz directs the story of an obsessive-compulsive kindergarten teacher who receives jarring news just before Christmas, setting off a strange series of events.

Charles Smith's drama The Gospel According to James (Jan. 25-Feb. 27) is about survivors of a racial crime in Indiana who reflect on the incident that occurred when they were teenagers. Ensemble's annual Colombi New Plays Festival (March 7-24) unveils three premieres, after which the company tackles Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (April 19-May 12).

Under the guidance of artistic director Scott Spence, Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood has garnered critical praise for its unusually diverse, high-quality productions ranging from edgy dramas to family-friendly musicals.

Beck's season opened with Xanadu (through Oct. 14), a silly-fun 1980 musical known for its Olivia Newton-John hit songs, about a beautiful Greek muse who descends to Venice Beach, California to inspire a struggling artist to open a roller disco.

The Tony-nominated The Little Dog Laughed (Oct. 5-Nov. 12), by Douglas Carter Beane, is a brisk, adult-themed farce about a handsome movie star whose handlers try in vain to keep him in the closet. For the holidays, there's the perennial family favorite Annie (Dec. 7-Jan. 6).

In the new year: Tom Kitt's pop-rock musical Next to Normal (March 1-April 21), directed by Victoria Bussert, a Pulitzer-winning play about a suburban family coping with the effects of mental illness; John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves (March 22-April 21), about an aspiring songwriter who tries to escape his chaotic home life and make it big in L.A.; Lee Hall's The Pitman Painters (May 31-July 7), an inspirational new play by the Billy Elliot writer about a group of miners in 1934 England who take up painting; and the delightful Monty Python musical Spamalot (July 12-Aug. 18).

Among the many community theaters in Northeast Ohio, the Near West Theatre continues to distinguish itself with its commitment to community, diversity, and social justice. The talented casts of children, teens, and adults consistently present exquisitely polished musicals. (Last season's sold-out Hairspray was the equal of many professional productions.) This season, Near West presents the Stephen Schwartz musical based on the Book of Genesis, Children of Eden (Nov. 16-Dec. 2); Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (May 3-19), based on the music of the eponymous Belgian cabaret songwriter; and Side Show (July 19-Aug. 4), a musical about Siamese twins during the Depression.

Pamela Zoslov

Museums & Galleries

The final quarter of 2012 is the first season for a new Cleveland arts ecology. With the completion of The Museum of Contemporary Art's new University Circle facility – just blocks away from the Cleveland Museum of Art – University Circle's already formidable aesthetic district is stronger than ever. And beyond the East Side, local galleries will be offering a diverse and robust lineup of viewing opportunities.

With three separate display spaces, the new MOCA will not have to close two or three times a year to mount or remove installations, but will be able to host exhibitions continuously, hosting seven to nine shows annually. The museum is tripling its workload, but according to staffers, they relish the challenge.

"We're stepping it up a bit," says MOCA chief curator David Norr. "We have always done what we do very well. But we think this will be better, and we're thinking more expansively."

The new building, designed by Iranian-born architect Farshid Moussavi, is itself a work of art. Its black sheath starts as a six-cornered base, narrowing as it rises to a four-cornered roof. Appropriately, the opening exhibition, Inside Out and From the Ground Up, displays works by 16 global artists who question our relation to space, architecture, and geometry.

German artist Katharina Grosse's graffiti-colored sculptures sprawl throughout the building, spilling out from an elevator shaft onto the main stairway and lobby. Deeper inside the structure, Canadian artist David Altmejd's featured installation, specifically designed for the space, straddles abstraction and representation. It presents an intricate mass of glass, glitter, and authentic and faux organic materials that, when seen from various angles, can be viewed as pure form or as a mangled body.

The new building and inaugural exhibitions are premiering in a series of events. The opening night party is on Saturday, Oct. 6; there will be music and a cash bar, and tickets are required. MOCA members can tour the new building on Sunday, Oct. 7 from noon to 5 p.m.; online reservations for timed tickets are required. The general public can see the new facility on Monday, Oct. 8 from 1 to 5 p.m.; admission is free, but reservations are required, and can be made online.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has also undergone a transformation with the completion of its massive indoor atrium. Though the stadium-sized space holds no exhibitions yet, it is being touted as a bright and elegant public gathering place. The museum's main facilities, however, have a lively schedule lined up for the rest of the year. Opening September 23, Studio Glass in Focus honors Toledo artists, many still living, who pioneered decorative glassware. Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th-Century Paris, opening Oct. 13, contrasts the work of the relatively ignored woman painter with male contemporaries like Degas, Renoir, and Pissarro. Sure to draw national attention is Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, an immense and important collection of Incan art going on display Oct. 28. Starting Nov. 3, William Henry Johnson: An American Modern will showcase the expansive, constantly reinvented career of the 20th century's greatest African American modernist.

After a year of unfortunate delays, the Art Galleries at Cleveland State University has opened the doors of its new 3,800-square-foot Euclid Avenue facility. Located just down the street from Playhouse Square, the new space allows curators to take advantage of unique architecture in the former Cowell and Hubbard jewelry store, complete with marble floors and sweeping opera-house stairways. More importantly, the move takes the galleries to street level in a pedestrian-friendly entertainment hub. This makes the art more accessible than ever to the public.

The clearest expression of CSU Galleries' civic-mindedness manifests Nov. 9 with the opening of the 20th annual People's Art Show, a non-juried exhibition of work by any regional artist willing to step up. More than 300 student, professional, and amateur artists are expected to contribute 500 works in every medium to this unique showcase of Northeast Ohio's creative communities. But you don't have to wait until then to admire the new space; now through Oct. 20, CSU is displaying works by faculty members including painter Ken Nevadomi, photographer Mark Slankard, and sculptor Irina Koukhanova.


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Staff Pick Events

  • Cavaliers versus Charlotte Hornets @ Quicken Loans Arena

    • Fri., Nov. 24
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    • Fri., Nov. 24
  • Cavaliers versus Miami Heat @ Quicken Loans Arena

    • Tue., Nov. 28

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