Same Old Story
Any story that's lasted for nearly five millennia must have something to say. That's the premise guiding and inspiring Performance Gallery, one of our city's more innovative theater companies, for its production, opening Thursday, GILGAMESH IN URUK: G.I. IN IRAQ. The tale of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Babylonia, inspired by a man who actually ruled the land around 2700 BCE. His kingdom, Sumeria, occupied the land we today call Iraq. Surviving from that ancient time are 12 clay tablets written in cuneiform script about the adventures and tragedies of the King of Uruk.
Writer Blake Bowden has long been fascinated by mythic materials. He's best known for his stage adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy -- Ovation Theatre Company staged The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 and The Two Towers in 2002; Clear Stage Cincinnati completed the cycle with The Return of the King in 2003. Now Bowden has turned his attention to what is perhaps the world's oldest story, bringing it to life and highlighting fascinating parallels to contemporary life.
Spanning ancient Sumeria and modern-day Iraq, Bowden's highly theatrical adaptation employs multimedia, movement, original music (by Grammy winner Steve Goers) and elements of mask and puppetry to tell the story of a tyrant king seeking his legacy. Parallels to the contemporary Iraq War, overtly indicated by the work's title, are fully intended. Bowden says his script ranges from tragic to funny and serves as a reminder that all legacies come with a price. The play, he adds, asks us to question our motives and admit our mistakes.
Bowden, by the way, isn't the only one struck by the contemporary relevance of the story. An entry on Wikipedia lists nearly a dozen adaptations of the tale of Gilgamesh in 2007 alone. Perhaps there's a message for us in that relevance. The piece (recommended for audiences age 15 and older) is performed in the Aronoff Center's Fifth Third Bank Theater through Oct. 7.
If you'd like to delve more deeply into this play and consider how the themes of Gilgamesh relate to our modern world, there will be an audience discussion forum on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. (The discussion is free, but reservations are required.) 513-621-2787. (See Onstage.) -- RICK PENDER
Curator Mark Harris invited almost 20 area artists, collectors and gallerists to make or loan work for the new exhibition Once Upon a Time in the Midwest. The show opens Thursday in the DOROTHY W. AND C. LAWSON REED JR. GALLERY at the University of Cincinnati. Harris does a great thing for the Midwestern ego in this exhibition, proving once and for all that interesting things did -- and still do -- happen here. Local art celebrities -- from curator Maiza Hixon to collector Andy Stillpass to artist Mark Patsfall -- share their art as well as their experiences in this new exhibition. What has happened in the Cincinnati arts has worked its way around the globe. And I'm not just referring to censorship scandals: International art stars have lived and made work here; artists were raised here as much as anywhere; and plenty still live here. Once Upon a Time in the Midwest allows us to see our region as culturally important. Finally. Exhibition opening 5-7 p.m. Thursday and continues through Oct. 19. 513-556-2963. (See Art.) -- LAURA JAMES
FRIDAY 28 -- TUESDAY 02
Has your life been lacking in culture? Have you been experiencing the world in black and white? Then I highly recommend getting off the couch and attending one of the 85 events at the 2007 20 DAYS AND 20 NIGHTS FESTIVAL OF ARTS AND CULTURE, hosted by Enjoy the Arts/START. You might want to see StreetScapes: A Street Painting Festival in Clifton this weekend -- or looking forward to October, check out the upcoming Re-Click: A Green Photography Exhibit at Kennedy Heights Arts Center.
The University of Cincinnati English Department continues its celebration of contemporary literature with yet another visit from an accomplished author: STEVE ALMOND drops his wicked humor 4 p.m. Friday at the Elliston Poetry Room in UC's Langsam Library. Not familiar? Almond has published a pair of funny, oddly touching short story collections (My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow) that teem with deft observations about how men and women interact today. He mined his own life for Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, which, as its title would suggest, is a sugar-infested odyssey that investigates our obsession with candy. His collaboration with Julianna Baggot, Which Brings Me to You, an epistolary novel made up of letters exchanged by a pair of would-be lovers, surfaced last year. And his latest, (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits and Obsessions, published just this month, is a collection of autobiographical pieces that delve into everything from his crush on Kurt Vonnegut to his take on the immense literary power of Oprah. Be prepared to laugh -- and often. 513-556-0924. (See Literary.) -- JASON GARGANO
The ART ACADEMY OF CINCINNATI is throwing a reception for its current faculty exhibition on Friday, pitching it as the kickoff for the 20 Days and 20 Nights festival. Expect to see a spectrum of painters, including a trio of lush interpretations of the fates by Kim Krause, two itchy and compelling pieces by Paige Williams and a docile panoramic landscape by Constance McClure. Other highlights include the dream-like photography of Lisa Britton, a video by Matt Dayler and an investigation into cultural symbols by Emily Hanako Momohara. A collaboration between Claire Darley and Rebecca Seeman exposes the dynamic between two different artists converging their experiences and aesthetics into a single project. At 8 p.m. artists Jimmy Baker and Nathan Tersteeg join forces as the performance group "Dungeon Thud" in the Art Academy's basement. The duo's performance will be "an ambitious installation that combines sound, video and performance staged on an abstracted Harrier Jet complete with spewing artificial hair. This collaborative installation seeks to synthesize the relationship of Psychedelic Rock to its symbiotic association with war and aggression." Opening reception: 5-9 p.m. 513-562-8777. -- MATT MORRIS
"A police officer tried to pull me over for not having a rearview mirror," GEECHY GUY (pictured) tells an audience. "But I didn't see him. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to have a three-way, and she said, 'Maybe. Who are the other two people?' " Such is a sampling of the type of comedy the bespectacled comic delivers. His rapid-fire one-liners have earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. He captured that honor after he told 676 jokes in one hour. He might not have a million of them, as they used to say, but he's darn close. "I have jokes that I can go to," he says. "I might have twice what I need to do on stage, so I'll go in and let the audience dictate which way I go." Guy performs 8 p.m. Friday at the Madison Theatre in Covington as part of The Bob & Tom Show's Every Station in the Nation Tour. $20. 859-491-2444. (See Onstage.) -- P.F. WILSON
FRIDAY 28 SATURDAY 29
Ssshhh, don't tell Sheriff Simon Leis about this one or he might faint. Cincinnatians will have the rare opportunity to see a bona fide burlesque show in their hometown, complete with an alternative edge added for good measure, when the Cloven Hoof Theatre presents SIDESHOW BENNIE and the PANTY RAID DAMES for two nights only. Based in Nashville, the voluptuous Panty Raid troupe shakes and shimmies in a risqué vaudeville-style dance revue that includes sensual belly dancing and high-energy cancans while dressed in skimpy, exotic costumes. Perhaps not as arousing but no less entertaining, SideShow Bennie performs a variety of freak show-type activities that include fire eating, walking on broken glass, pounding nails and screwdrivers into his nose and lifting heavy weights with pierced body parts. Also featured will be Cincinnati's own Barnyard Burlesque and their musical companions, the Goombas. The theatre is located at the Mockbee Building (2260 Central Pkwy., Brighton). Doors open each night at 9 p.m., and the show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 the day of the show, and are available at Shake It Records in Northside or at www.clovenhooftheatre.com. A cash bar will be available to help calm your nerves. (See Onstage.) -- KEVIN OSBORNE
Cincinnatians love fighting. Our fair city has produced heavyweight champion boxers, Olympic-caliber wrestlers and many a late-night barroom brawler (see Colerain Township locals). The MMA BIG SHOW, a local fight promotion company, will host the first fight of its "Punishment" series Saturday. Ten to 12 fights are scheduled, ranging from Big Show championship bouts to amateur fights. MMA Big Show 170-pound champion Keith Smetana will defend his title against Roger Bowling, who won his last match when the referee decided he had struck Chris Runge enough times to warrant a TKO. Smetana finished his last fight off with an arm bar. At least drunk dudes in Colerain don't know arm bars. $25 presale; $30 day of event; $50 V.I.P. www.mmabigshow.com. (See Sports.) -- DANNY CROSS
SATURDAY 29 SUNDAY 30
Move over horses, and take your feed bags with you. A veritable sea of wagging tails will fill River Downs Race Track in Anderson Township this weekend when more than 1,500 canines and their human caregivers are expected to participate in the third annual DOG JOG/BARKTOBERFEST. Saturday's activities include the Dog Jog, which involves a two-mile combination run/walk/jog or a one-mile walk for dogs and any human companions that want to accompany them. Dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds are welcome. Other activities include a Halloween costume contest for dogs, a police canine demonstration, pet psychics and a Frisbee competition called the Southern Ohio Flying K9 Championship. Activities will be held from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, and from 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Also, microchipping service for dogs will be available for $25, and heartworm testing for $15. Cost to participate in the Dog Jog is $25 per dog in advance or $30 on race day. Registration includes a T-shirt, race number, bandana, dog treats, scooper bag and free entrance to all other games and contests, and awards and prizes will be given. The cost is $5 per person for anyone who wants to watch the race, see the exhibits and participate in the games. Children ages 10 and under get free admission. All proceeds benefit Noah Dog and Cat Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter in Amelia. To register for the race, call 513-652-6225 or go to www.RunningTime.net. For general information, call 513-553-0333 or go to www.dogjogbarktoberfest.com. (See Events.) -- KEVIN OSBORNE
SATURDAY 28 - SUNDAY 29
Turn off the TV and wander Cincinnati parks! With more than 100 nature programs at over 50 parks there's something for everyone. The fourth annual GREAT OUTDOOR WEEKEND has a simple goal, "To encourage respect of natural places through public education." Learn the fundamentals of fly-fishing, how to canoe and to understand your "ecological footprint" through sustainable living. Find out what alpacas eat, what goes into honey harvesting or how to make paper. Early risers can enjoy a sunrise hike and night owls can visit creatures of the dark on an evening hike. All events are free of charge and family-friendly with many for children, such as the Preschool Sampler and Family Fun at Hummel Heritage Farm. For information about the events hosted at parks in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, call 513-965-4898 or visit www.cincygreatoutdoorweekend.org (See Events.) -- MARGO PIERCE