Arts District

Thursday, July 18, 2019

In Advance of Next Week's Performance at the BorderLight Festival, Kerisse Hutchinson Talks About Her Tribute to Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 11:59 AM

When one of Kerisse Hutchinson’s acting teachers told her she should create a show about the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, singer with the R&B/hip-hop group TLC, Hutchinson wasn’t convinced that she should exploit her physical resemblance to Lopes in that manner.

But when Hutchinson saw a documentary film about Lopes at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2007, she realized she should start doing some research for a one-woman show.

“I did two years of research,” she says via phone from her Atlanta home. Hutchinson brings her one-woman show, 2 the Left: A Tribute to the Life of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, to Cibreo Privato next week for performances that take place at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 26, and at noon and 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. It’s one of many shows that’s part of next week's BorderLight Festival. Tickets to the festival are currently on sale now, and Scene readers get $2 off each ticket with the promo code SCENE. “I knew about her music, but I didn’t know about her other than she burned down a house. I learned she has so many layers. I started writing it and then reached out to her family in 2013 to let them know that I was doing something about their family member. Since then, they’ve been fully on board.”

After the BorderLight Festival shows, Hutchinson will hold down a ten-day residency at the Synchronicity Theatre in Midtown Atlanta.

The talented Lopes began playing music at an early age, and her remarkable talent isn’t lost on Hutchinson.

“She played piano without ever being taught,” she says of Lopes. “Her whole family is very artistic. Her dad played a bunch of instruments and her mother made things out of wood. When she was young, she was very creative. She just kept expanding her artistry.”

TLC’s first album was a hit right out of the gates, and the follow-up album, CrazySexyCool, connected strongly with fans and established that the group wasn’t just another R&B/hip-hop act.

“They didn’t do things by the book,” says Hutchinson. “I feel like they all could have had solo projects. Hip-hop and pop fusion I think started with them. They were very real. They weren’t glammed up, but they were all beautiful in three different ways. Women connected to them because they wanted to be like them and because they didn’t have to show off their boobs. Men connected to them. They were before their time. Lisa wrote eight songs on that first album and helped develop their image.”

Hutchinson doesn’t refrain from depicting Lopes’ volatile relationship with Atlanta Falcon Andre Rison.

“I go all in,” she says. “I think they loved hard and fought hard. There was nothing but drama and love. Were they good for each other? No. But they had a lot of things in common. She had a good relationship with Tupac, which I touch on, who was her spiritual partner.”

Lopes’ tragic death in a car crash in Honduras forms what Hutchinson says is the show’s “main crux.”

“She just turned 30 and had these premonitions,” she says. “She knows that something is going to happen, and she’s trying to figure out what her legacy will be. That’s where her spiritual journey begins. She’s trying to figure out why she’s here. She knew she was going to die, whatever people think of that. She was surrounded by death a lot. I take the audience through that.”

Since it’s a one-woman show, Hutchinson handles all the dancing and singing and acting, something that she says has taken hours upon hours of rehearsal to perfect.

“It’s been challenging for me to step into her shoes for an hour-and-a-half,” she says. “My director likes to say, ‘Well, you wrote it.’ It’s exhausting, but I can’t hold back when I do it. For a one-person show, that’s the one thing everyone says. You have to make sure you’re fit. And that’s for shows that don’t even involve singing and dancing. But it’s been such a fulfilling journey. I can now call her family friends, and they invite me to the birthday parties. It’s been such a rewarding experience. I never knew it would take me on this journey when I started writing the show all those years ago.”

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Makers and Performers to Create Unique Hybrid Art at Next Month's Bricolage Event

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 4:02 PM

Janine Jones and Mary-Elizabeth Fenn performing at a previous Bricolage show. - KAITLIN K. WALSH
  • Kaitlin K. Walsh
  • Janine Jones and Mary-Elizabeth Fenn performing at a previous Bricolage show.
Next month, Maelstrom Collaborative Arts
 will present another installment of Bricolage, an event that features musicians, dancers, visual artists and theater makers. The event pairs teams of creators together and requires them to make new, totally original live art.

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A Young Finnish Phenom Leads the Orchestra at Blossom and the Rest of the Classical Music to Catch This Week in Cleveland

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 9:43 AM

  • Courtesy Cleveland Orchestra

Young Finnish phenom Klaus Mäkelä makes his conducting debut with The Cleveland Orchestra this Saturday, July 20 at 8 pm at Blossom Music Center. If one prodigy weren’t enough, the 23-year-old conductor joins 18-year-old Swedish violinist Daniel Lozakovich for Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Mäkelä will also conduct Kodály’s enigmatic Dances of Galánta and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5.

The Orchestra returns to Blossom on Sunday, July 21 at 7:00 pm under the baton of Thierry Fischer. Bizet’s Suite from Carmen launches the evening before guitarist Pepe Romero tackles Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The Orchestra will also play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol and will end with Debussy’s La mer. They’ll perform the same program in town, minus the Rimsky-Korsakov, on Friday, July 19 at 7:00 pm for the Summers@Severance series.

Tickets for these concerts, and multi-concert packages, are available here.

In the mid-century mood? The Kent/Blossom Music Festival’s Faculty Concert Series continues this week with a variety of mostly woodwind music on Wednesday, July 17 at 7:30 pm. Members of The Cleveland Orchestra will play Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, Honegger’s Rapsodie, Nicolas Roussakis’ Six Short Pieces, Martinů’s “Scherzo” from the Sextet for Piano and Winds, Henri King’s Two Little Bullfinches, and pieces by Piazzolla for cello and piano. The concert occurs in Kent State University’s Ludwig Recital Hall. Tickets available here.

The Cooper International Violin Competition heats up with its semifinal rounds this weekend. Young virtuosos from around the world will make their cases for advancing in the Competition with 35-minute programs of music. The semifinals span three days of concerts from Saturday, July 20 to Monday, July 22, with two sessions each day at 1:30 pm and 7 pm. Click here for the list of contestants and their repertoire. Rounds continue next week. All performances take place in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall, and are free and open to the public. Click here for a live stream.

M.U.S.i.C invites you to their Summer Cabaret Concerts on Thursday, July 18 and Saturday, July 20, both at 7:30 pm at Orange Village Hall. Thursday’s program is called “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” sure to be an enchanting evening with selections from Chopin, including a Nocturne and the “Allegro moderato” from his Cello Sonata performed by Cleveland Orchestra cellist Brian Thornton, Liszt’s Feux follets, Rachmaninoff’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s “Scherzo” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mozart’s Oboe Quartet, “Quando m’en vo” from Puccini’s La bohème, and others.

Saturday’s concert, titled “Un soir d’Été — A French Musicale,” features music by Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Delibes, Bolcom, Piazzolla, and “a few surprises.”
Both Cabarets feature a talented mix of emerging and established musicians.

Tickets are available here.

For more concert events and details, visit our Concert Listings page at

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Inaugural Shop and Rock Handmade Fest to Take Place at Crocker Park on August 3

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 9:39 AM

  • Courtesy of Becki Silverstein
The inaugural Shop and Rock Handmade Fest will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, at Market Square in Crocker Park.

Nearly 100 handmade local artisans and crafters will be on hand for the event, and there will be a beer garden featuring local brews and spirits from Sibling Revelry Brewery, Western Reserve Distillers. Food trucks from Slyman’s Tavern, Get Stuffed, the Cedar Grill, Touch Supper Club and the Little Penguin will be on hand as well. Proceeds from the drink sales will benefit the Karen Foundation for MS.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Fantastical 'Matilda' at the Beck Center

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 9:59 AM

  • Photo by Andy Dudik

Surrounded by chalkboards decorated with colorful letters and numbers, Matilda is opened by costumed children exaggeratedly singing about their magnificence, all backed by an orchestral cacophony.

And that’s only the first song in a show that renounces the mundane and celebrates the fantastical.

The cast and creatives at the Beck Center for the Arts have successfully embraced the whimsy, exaggerated character traits and, of course, the humor that characterizes the beloved story of Matilda.

This seven-time Oliver Award-winning, five-time Tony Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated show has been wowing audiences since its first performance in 2010. Based on Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, Matilda follows a 5-year-old girl who is unloved by her self-absorbed, cruel parents. When Matilda begins school, her love of literature and remarkable intelligence is embraced by her teacher, Miss Honey, but is despised by the horrid headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. As she suffers under the hands of authority, Matilda begins to find the courage to stand up for herself and others.

Scott Spence took a quite traditional approach in his direction of Matilda, the show that marks his 100th time directing a show at the Beck Center. Beck’s show is a classic production of the original work adapted by Dennis Kelly, with Tim Minchin’s music being nailed by musical director Larry Goodpaster’s eight-piece orchestra.

While the set of Matilda has in the past been decorated with books or children’s wooden block letters, designer Trad Burns has opted to use chalkboards of various sizes and shapes as the setting for the show. Beautiful projections co-designed by Burns and Jason Taylor adorn the chalkboards, rendering them as school lockers, flowers, a funky wallpaper and more. Lighting by Ben Gantose is used to isolate characters when need be, but it is for the most part a colorful execution that imbues the show with a sense of whimsy and fun.

It’s easy to fall in love with the titular character, especially when she is played by the super-sweet voiced, relatively tiny Sophia Tsenekos. Sharing the character with Ella Stec, Tsenekos on opening night displayed just the right amount of attitude, precociousness and lovability as Matilda.

Her young voice shows through strongest during the number “Quiet,” which just so happens to be the song where Matilda shuts out the world and finds a strength within herself.

The same lovability is projected from Samantha Lucas in her role as Miss Honey. Miss Honey often struggles with her self-confidence, which is a result of an upbringing closely resembling that of Matilda’s. Lucas has an incredible voice that shines in her songs “Pathetic” and “This Little Girl.”

She is surrounded by talented, young, school uniform-clad students, played by Owen Hill, Colin Willett, Nolan Tiech, Grace Mackin, Clara Endleman, Marissa Dingess and Ellie Ritterbusch. Leading the class is the entertaining Finn O’Hara as the belching, troublesome Bruce. Thankfully, the belches, along with other supplementary noises, are provided by sound designer Angie Hayes rather than O’Hara himself.

All of the actors on stage use a British accent for the night, and—based on grumblings of both young and old audience members during intermission—it was sometimes difficult to discern what the younger actors were saying.

However, there was rightfully no quibbling about the choreography by Martín Céspedes, whose movements were of a proper complexity for the differing ages and capabilities on stage. While 9-year-old Tsenekos’ choreography was justifiably more simple, older members of the ensemble, as well as dance teacher Rudolpho and Matilda’s ball room dancing mother, Mrs. Wormwood, had more complicated moves.

Along with fine dancing, Olivia Billings brings a great voice to her character of Mrs. Wormwood. In this role, Billings is shrill, slightly dim-witted and annoying—which is a proper portrayal for this mother we should all hate.
Opposite of Billings is Timothy Allen as the tyrannical Mr. Wormwood. Allen is exquisitely animated in his movements, and, thanks to his green striped suit designed by Inda Blatch-Geib, he resembles a springy cartoon character.
Alongside his dense son Michael, played by Lee Price, Allen’s song “Telly,” in which Mr. Wormwood renounces books and praises the television, is a real crowd-pleaser.

Also a crowd-pleaser, and practically a show-stealer, is the fantastic Trey Gilpin as Miss Trunchbull. Gilpin’s song “The Smell of Rebellion,” wherein Trunchbull subjects children to a grueling physical-ed class, complete with a mini trampoline and matted pommel horse, is a hilarious look into Trunchbull’s belief that “children are maggots.” The character is cold-blooded and callous, however, Gilpin’s casting as the discordant, strict, Olympian woman added an immense amount of humor to the stage and story.

The Beck Center for the Arts’ Matilda is a loud, outlandish and wild production with sensational characters and a far-fetched story—and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Through Aug. 11 at the Beck Center for the Arts’ Mackey Theater, 17801 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, Tickets $10-33, or call 216-521-2540.

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Blank Canvas Re-imagines B-Movie Nostalgia with 'Toxic Avenger'

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 9:17 AM

  • Photo by Andy Dudik

In perhaps Blank Canvas’ best production so far in its current season, the wildly funny and wholeheartedly campy Toxic Avenger has crawled out of the contaminated contents of B-movie bliss and onto Cleveland’s theatre scene.
Based on the Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz-helmed flick that rode the line between superhero parody and shoddy exploitation, this relatively new musical adaptation written by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro has already received some acclaim for following the tone of the film while dialing every aspect of it to eleven.

The play takes some creative liberties from its source material as Melvin Furd the Third (Pat Miller), a scrawny foolhardy nerd, faces an uphill battle confronting the overwhelming pollution in his quiet New Jersey town against corrupt Mayor Babs Belgoody (Leslie Andrews). In an attempt to impress his crush Sarah (Madeline Krucek), a ditzy blind librarian, he gets ahold of the city records and threatens to expose the mayor. Dumped into toxic waste accidentally as a response for his brashness, he arises from the waste a new man. Or in this case, mutant, as the Toxic Avenger (Patrick Ciamacco), affectionately nicknamed ‘Toxie’ by Sarah and the town. The fight for a cleaner town then becomes a battle of wits, torn appendages, broken promises and deception.

The crew at Blank Canvas is aware of the zaniness of the script and follows it with vigor and an infectious energy. With its previous productions including adaptations of Debbie Does Dallas and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre musical, the theatre staff thrives when dealing with and bringing life to schlocky yet charming concepts, and Toxic Avenger is no exception. Director Molly Claassen has embraced the cheese of the source material and gives its audience something that manages to balance being cartoony, gory, hilarious and racy without being overtly offensive— save for those hailing from New Jersey. Apologies in advance.

Ciamacco portrays the titular Toxie as morally and physically conflicted, cocky and posturing as his alter ego while still meek when channeling Melvin, and that conflict translates very well. The prosthetics and makeup, while not on the level of the film or other stage adaptations, doesn’t hinder his performance or singing. Costume designer Jenniver Sparano has crafted a haunting yet functional outfit for our gruesome protagonist, and Ciamacco’s menacing bellows are complemented by some impressive voice alteration by sound designer Richard B. Ingraham.

Krucek possesses an incredible sense of comedic timing in her bumbling blind antics, as well as a wonderful singing voice in numbers like “My Big French Boyfriend,” and paired with Ciamacco in “Hot Toxic Love.”

A frequent Black Canvas player, Andrews plays Melvin’s mother as well as the aforementioned Mayor, and— without spoiling one of the high points of the show— let’s just say Andrews does an amazing job balancing these characters. She projects her voice in numbers like “Evil Is Hot” and “Jersey Girl” with an unabashed roar.

Miller works well as the precocious yet cartoonish dweeb in the same vein as a character like SpongeBob SquarePants, and is on stage long enough to not have his childish antics be outwardly abrasive.

The bit players of the production, plainly credited as ‘White Dude’ and ‘Black Dudette’ (Noah Hrbek and Sydney Smith, respectively), wear many hats as Sarah’s valley girl-esque friends, the town bullies, prostitutes, a folk singer and a redneck hunter pair, just to name a few. Both of them impress with their ability to quickly dive into each role with professional grace and lightning fast costume changes, and both provide some great backup vocals to the songs. They also supply many laughs with their exaggerated mannerisms.

The set— also designed by Ciamacco— makes the most of the venue, bridging steps amongst heaps of trash and recyclables along a junkyard backdrop overlooking a luminous Jersey skyline. The space utilizes the central drum of toxic waste as an additional stage entrance rather than a simple hole in the floor, which makes for some very cinematic moments, especially in Toxic Avenger’s reveal.

Speaking of, for those wearing dressy clothes to the show, be cautioned of the ‘splatter zone,’ which is in range of the various liquids spurting out of various props.

The liquids aren’t the only interactive part, as the show becomes quite collaborative with its audience, breaking the ever-elusive fourth wall for comedic effect at almost every turn. Save for jokes at the expense of Sarah’s blindness, the most memorable instances come from this self-awareness.

As far as structure is concerned, there are a lot of plates spinning in this script. Between Toxie’s misadventures, his mother’s apparent rivalry with the mayor, and Sarah’s lust for fame and fortune with her memoir, there are a lot of transitions that the crew at Blank Canvas try to make as seamlessly as possible, but there are some unavoidable and jarring tonal shifts throughout. Some are even addressed as jokes in the production.

Those looking for some left-of-the-dial laughs will find that missing out on this sidesplitting romp would be hazardous to their health. Almost as hazardous as polluting in front of ol’ Toxie if you prefer your arm to remain in your socket.

Through July 27 at the Blank Canvas Theatre (1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland), 440-941-0458,

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

New Picasso Exhibit Coming to Cleveland Museum of Art in 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2019 at 2:06 PM

  • © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Adrien Didierjean. © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Earlier today, the Cleveland Museum of Art announced that its next major exhibit will feature the work of Pablo Picasso. The artist’s “prolonged engagement with paper” is the subject of the forthcoming exhibition Picasso and Paper, organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in collaboration with the Musée national Picasso, Paris.

It’ll be on view from May 24 to August 23, 2020, in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall and Gallery.

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