TURKEY TRAINING: As I said last week, most of you won’t be spending your time outside the house on Thursday. And there aren’t many places you could go even if you wanted. Thanksgiving falls much closer to Christmas than Halloween in the holiday spectrum. Not many people are holding events to celebrate the occasion because Thanksgiving comes down to individual family traditions and experiences, probably more so than any other holiday, including Christmas. But if by chance or twist of fate your Thursday morning is free, and you’re not spending it making your final preparations, head out to the Levite Jewish Community Center and check out (or participate in) the Sam Lapidus Montclair Run. The LJCC has been holding the run for 34 years, though this will be only be the second year it has been named after Lapidus, who is a lifelong member of the organization. The event has been set up to benefit the Childhood Cancer Research Fund at Children’s Hospital and the LJCC Fitness Program. The runs start at 8:30 a.m. with a 10K run. Then at 9:45 a.m. there will be a one-mile Fun Run. Register in advance. Early registration (before Nov. 19) will be $30, and regular registration will be $36. For more information, call (205) 879-0411 or visit www.bhamjcc.org.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMIN: For the next few weeks, you’re invited to browse through and take home some genuine Birmingham artifacts. The historic Benjamin family has recently reached the end of their lineage with the death of H. Benjamin Benjamin. With no remaining heir in place, the family estate has reverted into the hands of the state. To raise the funds necessary for removing the property, state officials have decided to open the house for a grand estate sale. They’re titling it “Everything Must Go!” and it will be going down at Lite Box Gallery (who’s quietly producing some of the best exhibitions in the city). So while not an art exhibit, per se, it does give you the chance to leaf through Benjamin’s possessions. If art is what you’re seeking, you’ll hardly be disappointed. There will be books, personal effects, bowls and bottles, birds, dolls, a botanical collection, dining ware, collectibles, sundry laundry accessories and other odds and ends. Everything you buy, you can leave with immediately. Sale is first-come, first-served, with a strict cash-and-carry policy. Anything left on the site by January 1, 2011, will be burned with the rest of the estate. The sale lasts from November 26 at 6 p.m. to December 18. Lite Box Gallery’s hours are Noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call (205) 716-1665 or visit www.liteboxgallery.wordpress.com.
ALIAS FUNNY STUFF: Anyone who’s a big comedy fan will know how interesting improv comedy can be. Much of what we see and hear in humorous films and television shows is heavily and rigorously scripted, tweaked within an inch of itself to keep audiences compelled and laughing. Jokes are moved around, punch-lines are made more pronounced and each is measured in terms of how the silliness or satire will affect the product as a whole. With improv comedy, all of that goes out the window, and you’re left with quite the opposite. Improv takes the joke to its base form—a fleeting thought in a comedian’s head. I’m not alone when I say that those jokes, more often than not, get a much bigger laugh out of me than a scripted one. I have nothing but respect for those who can finely craft a joke over a period of time, but when it comes down to it, no one’s going to remember how long it took, or how much thought was put into the joke before they heard it. They’re going to remember how hard they laughed. With that in mind, I recommend to you “Project Codename: Vulcan’s Underpants,” a show performed by improvisors in the Extemporaneous Theatre Company. It is comprised of many little sketches, reminiscent of the game-show Whose Line Is It Anyway, and features plenty of audience participation. Saturday will be the second of two shows beginning on November 26. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Students and groups of 10 or more can get in for $9. For more information, call (205) 687- 5233 or visit www.extemporaneoustheatre.com.
STUDY YOUR STIMULANTS: Anyone who’s a coffee fan (and I know there’s no shortage of you out there) would do well to seek out “Coffee Tastings @ the Plaza” at the Hoover Public Library. The events have been running for months and months now, always on Sundays. They are organized by the independently owned and operated Coffee-ol-ogy Coffee Café, who has locations in both Hoover and Florence. Staff members are on hand to discuss the many flourishes and techniques that go into making that perfectly blended brew. You’ll not soon forget these informative discussions on the art of making French-press coffee. Events start at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free. For more information, call (205) 444-7821 or visit www.hooverlibrary.org.
SEE MORE HOFFMAN: I’m a big fan of character actors. They always show more range than their leading counterparts, and because their parts are often tourde-forces in acting they tend to avoid the typical screenwriting trappings. Character actors are frequently paired up with great directors who know how to use them better than the so-called “movie stars” in stock. Joel and Ethan Coen are one of the best examples of this kind of filmmaker. They’ve made fantastic use of such people as Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s five or so minutes in The Big Lebowski is legendary. It’s surprising, now that I think about it, that the Coens haven’t used Hoffman since. Back in ’98 when Lebowski was released, Hoffman was far from a household name. That changed with the release of Capote in 2006, which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. It would make sense for the Coens to put him in a starring showcase. Right now, though, he’s taken on the reins himself with his directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating, an adaptation of a stage production that Hoffman starred in. The film, a somewhat warped romantic comedy, follows two working-class couples who live in New York City. The film opened as part of the 26th Annual Sundance Film Festival and was released on September 17. This week, the Capri Theatre in Montgomery will be holding screenings. Make the drive, if you’re up for it, but do it before December 2. Showtimes are 7 and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday. For more information, call (205) 262-4858 or visit www.capritheatre.org.
MEET MAESTRO MARTIN: If you pay attention to the weekly events at Alabama Booksmith, then you know there aren’t many subjects they shy away from. Now, when I say that, I don’t mean they embrace controversial material. I mean that they don’t let themselves fall into a groove, in terms of who reads what. The collection of authors lining the wall in the back of the book store is about as mixed a bag as you can have. But to this date, I haven’t seen a representative from the theatre world join the ranks of guest authors. I mention this because Hugh Martin will be at Alabama Booksmith this week to sign copies of recent work, The Boy Next Door. Martin, primarily a composer for musical theatre and film, also worked as an arranger, vocal coach and playwright. Some of his best known musicals are Best Foot Forward; Meet Me in St. Louis and Make a Wish. His book is a nonfiction account of the Broadway world he live his life in. The signing starts at 4 p.m. For more information, call(205) 870-4242 or visit www.alabamabooksmith.com.
HA-HA HAPPENING: Celebrate the coming of December and all things wintery and joyous and whatnot with John Morgan, at the Comedy Club Stardome in Hoover this Wednesday. Morgan is a New Orleans native, and stories from the region comprise the bulk of his act, so much that he is dubbed the “Rajun Cajun” in some circles. He’s known for playing it fast and loose, in shows that are extremely popular and always sold out in New Orleans. So if you’ve got any ties to the bayou, you’ll almost certainly get something out of it. He will be performing all the way up until December 12, if that tells you anything (almost no-one runs for more than a few days at Stardome). See him at 7:30 p.m. between Tuesday and Sunday. Tickets are $12 on Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, but $18 on Friday and Saturday. For more information, call (205) 444-0008 or visit www.stardome.com.
TERRIFICALLY DARK: Terrific New Theatre’s production opening this week has of the strangest synopses for a theatre performance I think I’ve ever seen in this city. It’s called The Lying Kind, and it’s a story that follows two police officers on Christmas Eve as they attempt to visit an elderly couple and tell them that their daughter has died. Unforeseen circumstances prevent them from relaying the information. Sound heavy? It’s not. The play is a dark comedy that devolves into a series of grand misunderstandings and proceedings gone “hilariously awry.” Terrific New Theatre warns that it is not for the squeamish. The show will run through December 19, with performances from Thursday to Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, except for Thursdays, when you can pay what you can afford (excluding opening night). For more information or to make reservations, call (205) 328-0868 or visit www.terrificnewtheatre.com.