LOOKING FOR LOOT? The Birmingham Festival Theatre, now in its 39th year, is still one of the best places in the city to go for intelligent and provocative theater productions. This week, they’re adapting English playwright Joe Orton’s Loot, a play that, while not entirely obscure, is still something you’re not likely to see anywhere else in Birmingham. The original production premiered in 1965, and is primarily categorized as a farce, but what’s most intriguing to me about the play are its tinges of dark comedy, a genre that always plays well with me. The story revolves around two thieves, one of whom works in a funeral parlor. After they decide to rob the bank next door, they must elude a detective while keeping the money stashed away in one of their recently-deceased mother’s coffin. (And according to Wikipedia’s synopsis, the mother’s body “keeps on appearing around the house.” So, take what you will from that.) The performances start this Thursday, and will continue all the way up to January 29. Thursday through Saturday, all performances will start at 8 p.m. On Sunday, January 23, there will be a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for adults are $20, but students can get in for $15. On January 20, tickets are “paywhat-you-can-afford” with a $7 minimum. For more information, call (205) 933-2383 or visit www.bftonline.org.
MAKE A GOOD ONE: All too often I can find myself let down by art exhibits. Much of the time, it’s because there’s just not enough. Unless I’m positively blown away by the work, is it worth my time to go out, see 12 pieces of art, go “oh, that’s neat” and go home? And all too often, there isn’t enough variety. A few pieces by one artist only really give me one outlook, maybe two if I’m lucky. The exhibition opening at Lite Box Gallery this week is more my style. It’s in the ArtFolk space at the Young & Vann Building downtown, and they’re going to need a lot of space for the 30-or-more artists that will be featured in “First Impressions: An Introduction to Alabama Printmaking.” The show is designed to explore the many different variations one can take when printmaking. The opening reception is this Friday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., but the next few weeks will include printmaking classes and workshops, demonstrations, and other events. The exhibition will run through February 26. For more information, call (205) 716- 1665 or visit www.liteboxgallery.wordpress.com.
SHORT & SWEET: There’s not much rhyme or rea-son to how I pick these things. I pretty much take what I find the best from each day, regardless of what kind of events they are. So upon writing this now, I sense this is a good week for theater in Birmingham, because I’ve chosen two this week without meaning to. The second event I’m referring to is South City Theatre’s “Short Play Festival IV.” The performances actually start on January 14, and extend into Saturday, with two for each day. Each play was produced from original scripts, and everyone from the directors, writers, crews and cast—are all local volunteer artists, and the money raised from the performances will go straight back to South City Theatre. The thing is worth attending just for the sake of giving something to people working just for the sake of putting art out there. The four plays are: Coffee Girl Confession, about a couple examining their relationship; A Comedy of Eros, only synopsized as “online dating at its best...or worst?”; Vapor Trails, about old childhood friends who think back on a mystery form the past; and Zap Pronto, described as a “sci-fi/pop culture based comedy”. Both sets of performances start at 8 p.m., on Friday and Saturday. All ticket prices are $7, and no reservations will be accepted. (So I’d get there somewhat early.) For more information, call 205) 621-2128 or visit www.southcitytheatre.com
GOT MLK? Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is this Saturday. To commemorate the occasion, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra will be putting on “Reflect and Rejoice: A Community Tribute to MLK” the next day. The annual event will feature the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s “Dream, Child. Hope,” a piece inspired by poetry written by schoolchildren from Birmingham. The performance will be conducted by Michael Morgan and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain on violin. Also participating will be three student choirs from local high schools George Washington Carver High, Huffman High, and the Alabama School of Fine Arts. The show starts at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $20. For more information, call (205) 975-ARTS or visit www.alabamsymphony.org.
MIC FIGHT: Moonlight on the Mountain has one of the coolest ways of operating their open mics that I’ve seen—tournament style. Starting last June, they started picking winners biweekly from their nightly shows. Now, they’re bringing them all together to compete in one last open mic. They’re calling it the “Open Mic 2010 Playoff.” Each performer will play two songs, and at the end of it all, a winner will be decided. They’ll receive a $500 recording package to Higher Ground Studios. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are just $5. For more information, visit www.moonlightonthemtn.com.
DRINK LIKE A FISH: Black Warrior Riverkeeper, one of the more active and persistent non-profits in Birmingham, has been covered a few times in this space. The last few mentions were for their Save the Black Warrior campaign, when they organized fundraisers in local bars to raise money for the Black Warrior River. The events, co-hosted by Sweetwater Brewing Company, were a good way to bring attention to the non-profit’s goals. But their event this week, “Sippin’ With the Fishes,” might have an even better venue, McWane Science Center, to drive their point home. In addition to just hearing about what the organization wants to achieve, at McWane you can really look in the aquariums and watch some of the species that they want to save. The activities of the evening include that after-dark aquarium viewing, but also a screening in the IMAX dome theater of Wild Ocean. The event will go from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Ages 21 and up. Admission for the night is $20, but if you don’t come away from this one wanting to donate more, then this probably isn’t the cause for you. For more information, call (205) 714-8414 or visit www.mcwane.org.
ART CLASS FOR MASTERS: It’s a fairly easy thing to find art classes in Birmingham. If you flip over to the Visual Arts portion of our calendars, you can see for yourself. But there’s not a whole lot of options for someone who’s already mastered their craft, at least to the point where classes are no longer necessary. There’s a lot of talented artists out there who have no idea how to market themselves, or their product. So it’s refreshing to see the seminar “Making Money with Your Artwork” at Outtakes Restaurant in Homewood this Wednesday. The event will be a four-hour intensive lecture, designed to “address all aspects of producing, marketing and selling your artwork through a number of different distribution channels, including shows and festivals, galleries, stores, home shows, licensing opportunities, websites and social media.” The class is ideal, in my eyes, for anyone out there struggling with getting their name out. If nothing else, you’ll at least meet a bunch of other people in the same position as you. The class will go from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the cost of admission is $95, which will include a booklet with the details from the seminar. For more information, call (205) 427-5299 or visit www.thomasandrewart.com.
BASTARD POP: My personal music recommendation this week is something a lot of people probably wouldn’t even consider music. I’m talking about Girl Talk, one Gregg Gillis, who is referred to as a “mash-up artist.” That term is actually getting pretty loose these days, as more and more musicians, with their sampling, remixing, and other production shenanigans, are making it impossible to determine what’s legitimate and what isn’t. I would guess that Gillis thinks all of it is. While you could argue there were many “mash-up” artists that came before him, a lot of them were simply cutting two songs together to make them sound cohesive. Girl Talk was the first to just throw everything at the wall, cramming in as many popular songs as he could possibly fit into one track. On his third album, Night Ripper, he came into his own, with samples hardly lasting longer than twenty seconds, bouncing from track to track seamlessly (well, sometimes seamlessly). I think the argument against Gillis comes from the fact that nothing in his music is original. But that’s alright with me, because much of the time there are fewer things more fun to listen to. Is it because we’re in the A.D.D. generation, and I can’t focus on anything for more than a minute? No. I just think it’s funny (and catchy as hell) when you sync up Lil’ Jon and Simon & Garfunkel. The show will be in the Workplay Theatre, and it starts at 9 p.m. For more information, call (205) 879-4773 or visit www.workplay.com.