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Event picks for this wonderful week in Cleveland

Thursday | 15

Family Fun

A Kwanzaa Celebration at Severance Hall

The Cleveland Orchestra celebrates Kwanzaa this morning — and you can too with a 10 a.m. performance in the Reinberger Chamber Hall. The program features orchestra percussionists and a bass player, along with renowned storyteller Donna Willingham from the Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers. Expect Willingham, a librarian at the Cleveland Public Library who specializes in African and African-American folktales, to tell the story of Kwanzaa in an imaginative, entertaining, and educational fashion. Plus, it's your chance to see Orchestra musicians in a much more intimate setting than usual. The morning performance is part of the orchestra's Holiday Musical Rainbows series, and is geared toward children ages three and up; tickets are $7 by phone or online. — Scott Smith

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111,

Funny Stuff

He's Only in It for the Chicks

Ask funny man Jim Tews his favorite part about being a comic, and the former Clevelander doesn't miss a beat. "Probably all the money I make, and the adoration from female fans," he says. "Some people would get tired of it, but not me." Tews brings his adorable self to Cleveland Heights tonight to take part in the Big Chucklefck at the Grog Shop, where he'll headline a bill that includes Jesse Alison, Hot Carl Ferrara, and Phoenix Black; Chucklefck founder Ramon Rivas II and Cleveland comic Dave Flynt (aka Flynt Slab) will handle the emcee duties. Tews has been making waves in the comedy world since 2007, when he cracked up the judges at the Boston Comedy Festival. Since then, he's been a standout at stand-up fests in Montreal and New York, and was named one of the 2011 Cleveland Kings of Comedy by The Alan Cox Show. What will he be talking about at the Grog Shop? Timeless topics only. "The pop-culture stuff comes and goes. For instance, if I wrote about Kim Kardashian getting married, I'd only able to use those jokes for 72 days." Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 online or $10 at the door. Get them on the Grog Shop website, and learn more about Tews at — Logan Boggs

2785 Euclid Hts. Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588,

Friday | 16

Family Fun

Lantern Tours at Hale Farm & Village

Once upon a time, the holidays weren't all about showering kids with gifts. At least, that's the story from Angie Lowrie, marketing director for the Western Reserve Historical Society. "Children were not the center of the season," she tells us. "Gifts were likely to be fruit rather than toys, and not all families put up a Christmas tree." There are plenty more shocking historical factoids to be learned during the holiday lantern tours at Hale Farm & Village. Tonight's 90-minute walk through history takes you back to Christmas Eve 1861, where you'll sample the sights, sounds, and flavors of a pre-iPod Christmas. After tramping through the recreated village and talking with local "residents," you'll have a chance to join in a Victorian-era party in the Jonathan Hale House, complete with cookies, hot chocolate, carolers, and a crackling fire. Tonight's tours depart every 20 minutes from 6 to 8:20 p.m.; general admission is $18. Additional tours are set for December 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Reservations are required by phone at the number below. And be sure to check out the website, where you'll find plenty of additional information. — Boggs

2686 Oak Hill Rd., Bath,


Derek Hess, the 46-year-old Cleveland artist who became world renowned for his heavy-metal fearlessness and deft command of human anatomy, will be signing his long-overdue book of 275 black-and-white drawings tonight at Legation gallery in the West 78th Street Studios. Black Line White Lie collects 20 years' worth of Hess' drawings, from rough sketches to finished products. Many of the images document the artist's ongoing explorations of evil, animals, and angels. "I come back to angels as an expression of spirituality, not religion," says Hess. "And also just for fun. It doesn't always mean anything." But beyond its artistic merit, the book will undoubtedly serve as a reference for fans who clamor for Hess' tattoo art. He declines to design individual tats — "It's just such a personal thing," Hess says — but the drawings can be easily adapted by professional inkers. "It's not a tattoo book," he says emphatically, "but it will do a lot of work for tattoo people." Tonight's signing runs from 5 to 9 p.m. at Legation, in the 78th Street Studios, where an exhibition of the artist's drawings will be on view through January 1. — Joseph Clark

1300 D West 78th St., 216-650-4201,

Saturday | 17

Procrastination Pays Off

It's a Last-Minute Market in Lakewood

Think you're screwed if you're not done with your holiday shopping by now? Not if you stop by the Screw Factory, where the resident artists and Cleveland Handmade Markets present their fourth-annual Last Minute Market. It's the perfect opportunity for slackers to find the perfect handmade holiday gift. Among the featured local artists: Bob Peck, an up-and-coming painter of electric abstractions; silversmith Teresa Crompton; and Candice Squire, printer of snarky greeting cards designed to cut through the unbearable sweetness of the season like rum cuts through egg nog. Plus you'll find handmade toys and fresh-baked cupcakes for the kids, and locally roasted coffee for helping you deal with those kids. Pick up some letterpress stationery and write yourself a thank-you note for finding the awesomest gifts in town. It all happens today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Lake Erie Building at Templar Industrial Park. — Clark

13000 Athens Ave., Lakewood,

When Worlds Collide

A Solstice Celebration at the Planetarium

Art and science converge this week at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, as the Almeda Trio eclipses the Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium to celebrate the winter solstice. Settled beneath the planetarium's starry dome, the Cleveland-based classical ensemble will be laying down an eclectic concert that revolves around galactic themes: "Winter" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, "Quiet as the Moon" by Dave Brubeck, "Fiery Red and Pale Yellow" by Jennifer Higdon, "Overture 2112" by Rush, and the premiere of Pulsar by Berklee School of Music student composer Eden Rayz (whose name also supports the overall theme). Prior to the concert, you'll be treated to a brief talk by museum astronomer Jason Davis about the science of the solstice. Today's celebration is at 4 p.m. Additional performances are set for Sunday, December 18, and Wednesday, December 21. Seating is limited, tickets are $20, and reservations are required by phone or at the website below. — Cicora

1 Wade Oval Dr., University Circle, 216-231-1177,

Lakewood Public Library

A Wonderful Night in Split

Deceit, drugs, sex, and an appearance by gangsta rapper has-been Coolio: It's all just part of A Wonderful Night in Split, a dark, gritty, and flat-out peculiar indie film that follows the stories of three lost souls whose lives intersect on the shadowy medieval streets of Split, Croatia, during a rock concert on New Year's Eve. Besides Coolio, the flick stars the late Eastern Euro pop-music sensation Dino Dvornak, who died of an overdose in 2008. Despite being hailed by critics, the 2004 film, directed by Arsen Anton Ostojic, still is not part of Netflix's instant queue, meaning tonight's 6 p.m. screening at the Lakewood Public Library is by far your easiest opportunity to witness its surreal story, easily deserving of cult-film status. It's rated R, so leave the kids at home. Otherwise, the screening is free and open to the public. — Jackie Bon

15425 Detroit Ave., Lakewood,


Sunday | 18

Free Cheer

A Classical Advent Concert in Chagrin Falls

Not even Scrooge could feel grouchy in pretty Chagrin Falls, an historic Western Reserve village filled with tidy clapboard houses, locally owned shops, and miles and miles of tastefully draped Christmas greenery. So imagine how much you'll enjoy today's free Christmas concert in the town's St. Joan of Arc Church. Presented by the Chagrin Valley Choral Union under the direction of Dr. J.D. Goddard, the 4 p.m. offering focuses on classical Advent Christmas music by composers from the 16th century to the present. The featured work is the rarely performed Missa Pro Dominicis Adventus et Quadragesimae by W.I. Emmerig. (Heck, we can't even say it, let alone sing it.) Also on the bill: choral works from Jewish composers Salomone Rossi and Nurit Hirsch. Now in its 58th season, the 40-member CVCU is one of the oldest community choruses in Northeast Ohio and specializes in works from classical choral literature. They'll be joined at today's concert by special guests, Starkweather Brass. Find out more at the website below. — Cicora

498 East Washington St., Chagrin Falls,

Kid Stuff

The Polar Express Chugs Into the Omnimax Theater

The Polar Express stops at the Great Lakes Science Center only twice this year: today and December 24. But if you plan to catch this afternoon's arrival, you'll have to come in your jammies. That's because today is Pajama-Rama — that special time of year when you can don your finest Noel nightwear and pile into the Omnimax Theater to catch a screening of the holiday classic. If the midday movie isn't enough, the good-mood food surely will have you stoked for the season: Mundane popcorn and soda are swapped out for s'mores, pretzel bites, warm cider, and cocoa. Plus, every young passenger leaves with an early Christmas present: a shiny sleigh bell. "It's the Sunday before Christmas, and what better way to build up anticipation for the holidays?" says Science Center creative director Dante Centuori. Well, we can't think of one. The movie starts at 2:15 p.m. Your boarding ticket costs 15 bucks by phone. Check out the website for details. — Phil Barnes

601 Erieside Ave., 216-621-2400,

Monday| 19

Musical Theater Project

A Christmas Cabaret at Nighttown

You can almost feel the spirit of Irving Berlin hovering over the baby grand, as Bill Rudman's sixth-annual Christmas Cabaret returns to Nighttown. Think of it as the non-profit Musical Theater Project's holiday gift to the community. Or think of it as a chance to exercise your inner martini-tossing sophisticate against a soundtrack of 30 Christmas classics (like "Silver Bells" and "White Christmas") and curiosities (like Berlin's 1916 "Santa Claus," with its jolly musical equation between being good and putting out). Featured performers include Aaron Dunn, Nancy Maier, Sandra Simon, and Rudman, who founded the Musical Theater Project in 2001 with the goal of preserving and celebrating America's musical theater tradition. Tonight's show begins at 7 p.m. An additional performance is set for tomorrow, December 20. Admission is $20, and reservations can be made by phone or online. For more info, visit the website. — Cicora

12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-529-9411,

Tuesday| 20

Family Fun

Glad Tidings From the Church Ladies

It's the day of the Sunday School Christmas pageant, circa 1959, and deep in the basement, the four church ladies — Vivian, Karin, Beverly, and Mavis — are doing their part. As they fill treat bags, mend costumes, and put the final touches on the Nativity scene, their warm, witty conversation opens a window on the good old days. That's the quick synopsis of Away in the Basement, a musical comedy being performed tonight at the Akron Civic Theatre. "Love, laughter, music, good friends, family, and holiday spirit: It's all there," says Emily Walter, company manager and cast alum. "Regardless of what denomination you are, you know these women!" Produced by Minneapolis-based Troupe America, the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $35 and can be purchased by phone, online, or at the Civic Theatre box office. — Boggs

182 S. Main St., Akron,


Historic Holidays

How the Other Half Lived

If Hale Farm's pioneer Christmas ain't your cuppa cocoa (see Friday ... or don't), check out the hoity-toity holiday decor now on display at the Western Reserve Historical Society's History Center on University Circle. The top two draws: the turn-of-the-century mansions that make up a significant portion of the center's square footage, each now decorated to the max in Victorian splendor. You can take a leisurely self-guided stroll through the circa-1916 Bingham-Hanna House at your convenience, then grab a spot on one of the regularly scheduled guided tours of the 1911 Hay-McKinney mansion (no reservations are needed). While you're at the History Center, be sure to check out the Civil War exhibits, the collection of antique toys and dollhouses, and the Kidzbits Family Education Center — which is a fairly daunting name for a very cool play area filled with holiday activities for children and their keepers. Admission to all of the above is $8.50 for adults, and less for children, seniors, and members. Today's hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more at the website below. — Cicora

10825 East Blvd., University Circle, 216-721-5722,

Wednesday | 21

Natural Noel

Celebrate the Solstice in the Park

Need a way to unwind amid the heart of the holiday hubbub? Check out tonight's Solstice Celebration at Akron's Seiberling Nature Realm: a snuggly, old-fashioned evening of storytelling and stargazing. Summit Metro Parks naturalist Pat Rydquist will relate a series of Native American proverbs over a crackling fire. There's also hot chocolate to keep you warm while you scan the skies for Orion's belt and the Big Dipper. "People have a unique opportunity to connect with nature and gain insight into the true meaning of the holidays," says Rydquist. Rest assured, you won't find that anywhere in a shopping mall. Storytelling starts at 6:30 p.m. on the Seneca deck and — unlike your last-minute trips to Target — it's all free. — Barnes

1828 Smith Rd., Akron, 330-865-8065,

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