FLIGHTS OF FANCY: Our fascination with U.S. war history has always intrigued me. Sure, historically our country has put a lot of stock into combat, and there’s much to remember and celebrate about many of the experiences. In fact, it seems it’s all we can do not to remember the wars we’ve fought—if there’s not some Hollywood production in theaters at the moment, there’s endless television programs, theatrical adaptations and other exhibitions, like the Southern Museum of Flight’s “Vietnam War Helicopters Exhibit & Diorama,” opening this week, to explore that part of our history. You can’t really blame people, though—war has and probably always will be a source for debate, but also one for nostalgia and one that caters to other interests, like aviation. The Southern Museum of Flight is a great place to visit if you find yourself interested in the subject matter but aren’t really looking for the visceral experience of a film or miniseries. Indeed, you’ll learn a lot more from looking at these life-sized dioramas than you would watching some dramatized story with explosions. The grand opening for the exhibit is at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (205) 833-8226 or visit www.southernmuseumofflight.org.
ROLLING A CLASSIC: It’s not too often a period piece can really send you back to a particular moment in time, without losing some of the intended scope. Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna in the Tropics does this better than most because it doesn’t try to do too much. The play, which is opening at Birmingham Festival Theatre, takes place in the early 20th century, after Cuban immigrants brought much of the cigar-making industry to Florida. In the cigar factories, there were employees called “lecters,” well-dressed and well-spoken men that read to the workers every day. As immigrants made their way through the monotonous task day in and day out, they still had the lecter there to give them some form of entertainment, which sounds better than a lot of working conditions in other countries today. Anna in the Tropics centers around the relationship between one of these cigar-rollers and a lecter who reads him classic novels. The play highlights the last few years before the cigar-rollers were replaced with machines in the 1930s. The production runs through May 7. General admission for adults is $20. Tickets for students and groups of 10 or more are $15, and every second Thursday is pay-what-you-can-afford, with a $7 minimum. For more information about times or prices, call (205) 687-5233 or visit www.bftonline.org.
IT’S EARTH DAY, RUN!! Most of Ruffner Mountain’s events I’ve discussed in the past have been classes or hikes. This week, in honor of Earth Day, the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center will be holding what they’re calling the “Earth Day Celebration and Trail Running Festival.” Participants will start at the Nature Center and decide which distance they want to run. The five options are 3.7 miles, 7.5 miles, 14.9 miles, 26.1 miles or a hardcore 8-hour run. While the runners are at work, other attendees can get involved with such activities as crafts and games. Runners must register in advance. The day starts at 8 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m. For more information, call (205) 833-8264 or visit www.ruffnermountain.org.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE: This week marks your last chance to see Sloss Furnace’s recent exhibition, “Dreams Come True: Industrial Education for Black Youth in Alabama, 1881-1939.” Though Black History Month is long over, this photographic collection has remained on display through this month—not surprising given that the exhibition highlights the post-Civil War efforts of Booker T. Washington and Arthur Harold Parker. More than just advocates for civil rights, these two men encompassed everything that Sloss Furnaces stands for when it comes to education. To say that the exhibition was put up solely for Black History Month would do a disservice to Sloss, who no doubt saw many similarities between these two mens’ intentions in the 19th century and their own in the 21st. Without the accomplishments of people like Washington and Parker, educational programs like Sloss’s metal arts classes might not exist. In the early 20th century, while Washington was working with powerful and influential white leaders on a national level, Parker was in Birmingham helping to found the Industrial High School, an institution for black students that weren’t being given a chance in others. The exhibition details these times all the way up through 1939, the year of Parker’s death. Sloss Furnaces is closed on Mondays, so this Sunday is the last available day. The display runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (205) 324-1911 or visit www.slossfurnaces.com.
LAUGH YOUR GUTS OUT: Barking Kudu, in addition to their weekly trivia event, puts on a comedy show every Monday called “Comic-Kaze.” In addition to having the best possible “comic” pun title, the show is a must for any real comedy fan in Birmingham. And I say this because it’s just about the only weekly comedy show you’re gonna find. Barking Kudu has hosted these shows for a while now, and it’s free. What are you going to find that’s better to do on a Monday than hang out in a cool bar, have a few drinks and laugh at some jokes arranged for your benefit? On comedian Patton Oswalt’s album, Feelin’ Kinda Patton, he talks about how he misses stand-up open mics from the 1980s for one sole reason-the lunatics that would walk in from the street and use the microphone to spout off whatever crazy shit was in their head. I can’t say Barking Kudu will allow homeless people on stage—but it’s that unpredictability you get from open mics that makes them so enjoyable. The show features host Mike McCall, and frequent contributors Joe Raines and Cameron Gillete. It all starts at 9 p.m. For more information, call (205) 328-1748 or visit www.barkingkudu.com.
HELP GARDENS=FREE BURGER: Just in time for Tuesday, the Junior Board of Birmingham Botanical Gardens is hosting a new event to kick off “patio season” at Otey’s Tavern. Representatives of the organization are on the lookout for some new members, so if you’ve ever felt a nagging interest in the Gardens, now would be your chance to speak up. The event is free, but donations are highly suggested, obviously. Every $10 you donate to the Gardens will get you a burger. Attendees will also be given the opportunity to win door prizes throughout the night. So whether you want to help BBG, or just want to mingle, or just like hamburgers, there’s a reason to come out. The night will go from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, call (205) 871-8435 or visit www.bbgardens.org.
HERE, BIRDY BIRDY: And speaking of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, they’ll be wrapping up their ongoing series, “Alabama Birds,” this week. Wednesday is your last chance to explore the Garden’s more populated bird areas with a certified guide. The classes aren’t quite your typical bird-watching affairs, but rather a more overall look at everything the Gardens have to offer in the way of the avian world. The classes go from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information about times or prices, call (205) 414-3958 or visit www.bbgardens.org.
MOVEMENT MASTERS: This week also marks the end of Alabama Ballet’s performance season. They’ll be bringing their final show to the Alys Stephens Center with a series of four pieces. In an effort to “add accessible works to the repertory that will provide new challenges for the dancers,” Alabama Ballet will be taking on two pieces by Agnes De Mille—”The Other” and “Three Virgins and a Devil” and one from Anthony Tudor—”Lilac Garden.” Also included is a piece by the company’s own Roger Van Fleteren called “Be Major.” The show is aptly titled “American Masterpieces.” It will start on Thursday and continue through May 1. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. General admission for adults is between $30 and $55. Students get in for $20. For more information, call (205) 975-2787 or visit www.alysstephens.uab.edu.