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'A Christmas Carol' by Doris Baizley: A comedy for the ages

Opening Friday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m. (through Sunday, Dec. 10)
Once you reach a certain age, it goes without saying that if you get caught rolling your eyes at the suggestion that you must go see another retelling of the 1843 “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, then you are within your right to do so. 

I mean, the body can only take so much sugary holiday cheer before it rots the soul this time of the year. Need more proof? We have a “Bad Santa 2” now playing in the movie theaters. People need a pressure release that a cooked goose and foggy pudding just can’t deliver. 

Luckily, for those seeking a little creative levity this holiday season, our local theatrical company, The University Wits (TUW), will present at Dog Story Theater “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley.”

Unlike other stage and screen versions of Dickens’ tale that we’ve witnessed for nearly two centuries now, this new TUW production of “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley” has something sweet for lovers of the theatrical but also a gravitational pull of a treat aimed at those seeking something to tickle the funny bone.

This new adaptation still carries the thread of a story about  Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter curmudgeon who is taught a lesson in kindness and love by some unexpected and other-worldly guests.  But what sets Baizley’s version apart from all the others is that we are introduced to this popular story through a cast of traveling actors who are looking to stage Dickens’ story for the audience.

The production has one tiny problem when their lead actors are nowhere to be found, forcing the stage manager and the tiny prop boy to bring the play to life. 

And rather than blowing my perfect record this year by revealing plot points via a leaked spoiler (and thus end my chance at an Apple Watch 2 to be delivered under my tree this year), I am just going to say that “A Christmas Carol by Doris Baizley” is unlike any other holiday production around this year -- so do not miss it. 


Admission:  $12 - $16

'The Nutcracker': Artful ballet with a beautiful opening night party

Opening Friday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. (through Dec. 18)
In 2014 locals were delighted to witness the stage debut of a new re-imagined ballet production of “The Nutcracker.” 

For this new version of this popular Christmas production, Grand Rapids Ballet tapped the enormous talents of former Grand Rapidian and illustrator/author Chris Van Allsburg (“The Polar Express,” “Jumanji”), the Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee (“Wicked,” “Sweeney Todd”) and choreographer Val Caniparoli (San Francisco Ballet), who, through their combined inventiveness, would bring to birth locally a brand new holiday classic.

And while we are all familiar with the dance of the sugar plum fairies, mice that duel and battle with a precision only a dancer could deliver, and, of course, the storybook thrill of the heroic toy soldiers all combined make this enchanting fable one that should not be missed, regardless of where you fall on the kid scale these days.

The magic of the night’s success is brought to life through the dancers who keep the audience spellbound as they perform to music of our Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony. 

And, as an added bonus on the third year of this new production, the Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers and company invite guests to purchase tickets for the AfterGlow event immediately taking place following the opening night’s performance at the equally theatrically designed Pantlind Ballroom at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The cost to attend this special opening night party is $45 per person. Each AfterGlow purchased ticket includes delicious appetizers, desserts, two complimentary drinks, and a chance to dance in this elegant setting with a room filled with performers and fans of our local ballet.

If you wish to attend this special AfterGlow event, when purchasing tickets at ticketmaster.com for the Friday, Dec. 9 performance of “The Nutcracker” be sure to select the “add  AfterGlow tickets” to your order before checking out.


Admission: Ballet priced from $34 - $83, Friday night’s AfterGlow $45.

West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus Concert: The power of lifting one's voice in song to change the world

If you need a little levity to help get you through the holidays this year, then a stop at the annual West Michigan Gay Men’s Chorus (WMGMC) is the best ticket in my opinion to lift your spirits. I mean, gay is in the title.

Not only is the WMGMC a great place to experience live holiday music delivered via our community-based chorus, all the members of which volunteer to put on concerts and appearances throughout the city all year long, but this holiday show is a chance for the singers to reflect on the year we have experienced as society.

As with each concert, the guys invite special guest vocalists to share the stage. For their 2016 holiday show, "A Musical Potluck of Songs," they welcome the festive and feisty Sweet Adeline’s Percolate Quartet.  The chorus even joins Percolate Quartet on a special rendition of "Please Come Home for Christmas.”

Making a debut this year will be a new vocal arrangement of  “Winter Wonderland” by arranger Greg Jasperse.  

For the second act, the WMGMC will revisit Orlando’s Pulse tragedy, when 49 people were murdered and another 53 wounded on June 12, 2016 in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside the popular gay nightclub.  

Holding fast to the theme of peace on Earth that we all sing often during this time of the year, the WMGMC will sing “Child of Peace,” which asks those gathered to commit to the work of crafting peace in our world. 

What makes a WMGMC concerts such a thrill is how these vocalists are able to take us on a musical road trip where somber themes live next door to messages of hope, providing room for lighter, even humorous material to appear.   

Best of all, this year’s holiday concert is free. The WMGMC will be taking a collection, and a portion of the proceeds will be directed to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Our LGBT fund. 


Admission: Free

Water Protectors' Benefit: Join The Meanwhile & support the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock

This past Sunday, the United States Army Corps of Engineers denied the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) permit that would have sent a portion of the 1,172-mile pipeline under the nation’s largest fresh water river, the Missouri River. 

This act would have threatened numerous sacred sites, but also, most importantly, the fresh water of all those downriver, including the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation whose sovereign land is dependent on access to fresh, clean water. The DAPL pipeline was originally scheduled to run north of Bismarck, North Dakota, but the residents complained and it was re-routed to Native American land. 

The permit to cross the river was the last piece of the pipeline that the Native Americans going by the name of Water Protectors - as they call themselves - have been protesting since April of this year. 

And while the permit has been denied and the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II is urging the Water Protectors to leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp, before many can depart the land, which is currently home to 5,000 residents living with up to two feet of snow, it will take some time to disassemble the structures that make up the encampment. 

Rapid Growth is joining East Hills’ The Meanwhile to raise funds to assist with the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock, with 30 percent of the entire night's sales to be donated to our Water Protectors.

And while the event is all day, the special reception for this event will take place from 6-8 pm.

If you cannot make it and just want to donate directly to the to the Michigan Host Tent, please click here.

Want more background on the event? Read about Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen’s journey to Standing Rock in November and why this battle for fresh water will continue in our state -- you can visit our publisher’s in-depth story here.


Admission: Free

World AIDS Day: The living are beacons of hope

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Leadership. Commitment. Impact” — three words that, when enacted, honestly can truly change our world. 

And locally you can take those critically important steps by joining others who will be gathering at Fountain Street Church again to commemorate the lives we have lost, as well as provide support for our fellow citizens, friends, and family members living with HIV every day. 

This event is part of a long, local tradition of not letting the memory of those who cannot speak today be forgotten. We all bear witness in music and via the moving testimonies that will be shared on this day devoted to remembrance. 

Scheduled to perform again this year is Grand Rapids’ Vox Vidorra, whose soulful sounds are sure to once again move those in attendance to action.

And while HIV has become a manageable disease to many, it is worth reminding ourselves that pledging to work for a cure is still our goal. 

The worldwide HIV epidemic is not over. But because of the many advances in treatment, we have more people than ever living with HIV than anytime in our history.

Looking to know your HIV status? Please use this site, which uses Google maps to pinpoint exactly where you can receive testing.

If you would like to understand more about those members of our world who are living with HIV and leading through open dialogue, please visit Positive Spin’s site.

Admission:  Free

Holiday Artists Market: The best gifts are those created locally

The city is flush with artisan shopping options, from the house shows of folks like the annual Beerhorst Family Holiday Art Show to the eclectic Vinecroft Artist Market, where Fred Bivens gets to showcase his talents are more than just his work at the Festival for the Arts or ArtPrize.

But no other event can boast more than 72 solid artists who will be a part of Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts’ 28th Annual Holiday Artists Market (HAM), held again this year at the spacious Steelcase Town Hall on the city’s southeast side.

The sale offers so many choices, from the beautifully small gifts like handcrafted jewelry to home goods to the often large, impressive fine art.

This two-day festive HAM event will showcase regional musicians performing live, as well as a host of options for noshing provided by local food and beverage vendors. 

If you want to be hyperlocal this year, please consider adding HAM to your event plate. 

Schedule is as follows: 

Friday, December 2, 2016
UICA Member Preview: 5:00pm—6:00pm
Public Welcome: 6:00pm—9:00pm

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Public Welcome: 10:00am—5:00pm

For a complete list of all the artists showcased at HAM, please visit UICA’s website

Admission: Free

Repeal Day Party: Drink up, locals!

It is hard to imagine, but for the first time in America’s history we have finally rebuilt and exceeded the number of breweries in the United States since before Prohibition.

According to the Brewers Association, America had at the height of our pre-Prohibition years 4,131 breweries in 1873. After crumbling the industry via Prohibition, we had rebuilt it to 110 breweries in 1985 -- and since this date have climbed to a eye-popping 4,269 in 2015.

The reason why our numbers went from zero to where we are today is a direct result of the repealing of the 18th Amendment in 1933. 

Grand Rapidians are benefiting from the advancement of so many new breweries, meaderies, and distilleries because of the repeal of the 18th Amendment, so why not go out and celebrate this day on Monday, Dec. 5?

This Repeal Day party is being spearheaded by Long Road Distillers, The Grand Rapids Bartending Guild - USBG, The Peoples Cider Co., and the Creston Brewery, in partnership with Local First West Michigan and SideCar Studios!

In addition to great special cocktails, beers, and delicious hard ciders, you will have a chance to dine on the westside’s Two Scotts Barbecue, which will be serving from their food truck at this event.

And what would a celebration be without music? For your enjoyment Repeal Day welcomes to the stage Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish and The Bootstrap Boys to keep the spirit light and the pours strong. 

It is best to secure tickets in advance to ensure entry. And it should go without saying, but the Repeal Day Party is obviously a 21 or older event. 

Admission: $10 in advance - $12 at the door (if available) 

Cecile McLorin Salvant: A modern-day Ella Fitzgerald comes to Grand Rapids

With a strong foundation in classical music, Cécile McLorin Salvant will arrive in Grand Rapids as a part of the 2016/17 St. Cecilia Music Center’s Jazz Series.

Dubbed as the Ella Fitzgerald for our modern generation, McLorin Salvant is a stunning performer to see live, particularly in such an intimate setting that St. Cecilia Music Center’s (SCMC) Royce Auditorium provides musicians. (Here’s the thing, SCMC’s Royce Auditorium is why many musicians love Grand Rapids. You must see a show there to believe the acoustics!)

Having seen McLorin Salvant perform a few years ago at the Detroit Jazz Festival main stage in Hart Plaza, I can honestly confirm that her unique vocal interpretations of songs once forgotten or rarely performed is why so many are clamoring to work with this vocal chanteuse, including some musicians from Michigan. 

Because of her background, her approach to a jazz standard, whether sung in French, English or  her native language of Spanish, McLorin Salvant is a must-see concert for those seeking a thrilling musical experience that will last long after the house lights come up on the audience.

"I never wanted to sound clean and pretty," McLorin Salvant said on Fresh Air. "In jazz, I felt I could sing these deep, husky lows if I want, and then these really tiny, laser highs if I want, as well.”

Come hear for yourself why she has appeared on nearly every “best of” list, including her 2010 first place win at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition when she was just 21 years of age. 

Admission: From $38 and up.

Sex Trivia: Good drinks and good loving on tap

Sister: Gee, Babs, you look like something the cat just dragged in. 

Babs: I know. I feel crummy. But I just can't seem to put my finger on what's wrong. 

Sister: That's too bad, Babs. Has it ever dawned on you that it just may be your uvula? 

During Saturday Night Live’s inaugural first season they performed these lines from a groundbreaking sketch comedy that was so downright cutting edge that I am certain the censors were scrambling to determine Bab’s uvula’s true meaning. 

Lucky for us, sexual innuendo and the need to hide it is far behind us when it comes to access to information, and on Thursday night you are invited to join others who have made the monthly Sex Trivia event at Billy’s Lounge in Eastown one of the hottest improv game show events in the city since, well, ever.

“Sex and reproductive health can be a lot of fun and doesn't need all the stigma it receives,” says Annamarie Buller, who helped co-found this event with Planned Parenthood’s Janet Carbonneau.

The game is played in rounds with 10 trivia questions for each segment. The final round is when the laughter really starts to ramp up, as this is a visual trivia round with guests being asked questions like “Sneeze or O-Face?” These visuals are produced by local graphic designer Abby Peters. 

They have also featured a famous wardrobe malfunctions question or two, with many of the sillier questions taking a walk on the wild side of pop culture.  

The trivia host, Maria Filice, likes to walk that comic fine line between learning and making education fun.

“I think events like this help to demystify sex and make it more comfortable for people to talk about openly,” says Buller. This event benefits our local Planned Parenthood.

Happy hour runs until 9 p.m. at Billy’s on this evening. There are two rounds of trivia on this night with round one starting promptly at 7 p.m. and the second at 8 p.m.

Admission:  $10 suggested donation 

Art Van Santa Parade: Ho Ho Ho. Guess who is in Grand Rapids this weekend?

No matter how and what you celebrate during the holidays, the chance to see a parade in your city is always a delight for the eyes…especially children’s eyes.

On Saturday morning, the Art Van Santa Parade glides back into Grand Rapids with its famous reindeer, and I couldn’t be happier after a long and depressing 2016. 

Soon the streets will be filled with the sounds of soaring vocals, hot brass, and a steady drum beat as local marching bands, carolers, and performers take to Monroe Avenue to announce the arrival of a fat man in a red suit who somehow has avoided diabetes all these years after a diet of candy canes, cookies, and room temperature milk laid out at nearly every home he visits each Christmas. 

And just like other years, our parade will feature float entries created around the themes that emerge out of this holiday season.

We also have another reason to celebrate downtown this year, as the parade welcomes glass ceiling bursting Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss as the 2016 Grand Marshal. She will be joined with Guest of Honor singer/songwriter Jacob Davis.

This event always attracts thousands of parade-goers, so do not be late and miss this once-a-year event being stuck in traffic or trying to find a parking space. 

For those who cannot stand the cold, crowds, or are simply too busy to get out of bed this early on a Saturday to Monroe Avenue, then lucky you because the parade will be broadcast live on WOOD TV8 starting at 9 a.m.

Admission: Free

Tanglefoot Artists' Open Studio Event: 25 years of creating

Many may recall that before I was writing or working in media, I was first and foremost an artist of your community.

On Nov. 18 and 20 I invite you to join me in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the annual Tanglefoot Artists’ Open Studio Event on the westside of Grand Rapids. 

And while I am certainly one reason to consider attending if you have ever wondered what my artist studio space looks like, I am not the sole reason. 

In fact, I can offer you nine additional reasons as to why you should be there to celebrate this historic milestone. 

These nine diverse reasons are: Elaine Dalcher, Nikki Wall, Michael Pfleghaar, Jeff Condon, Alynn Guerra, Jason Villareal, Carlos Aceves, Cathy Marashi, and Gretchen Deems. 

Over the years the building’s event has swelled and contracted in size, with this year promising to be the biggest and most exciting as we have added three new studios within the building that you must experience firsthand. 

So if you are curious about the nature of artists spaces, why not consider visiting a space younger than Festival for the Arts but older than ArtPrize.

This is the year to visit Tanglefoot and meet the artists. (Sunday is a quieter day if the bustle of Friday night is too much for the kids.) 

Admission: Free

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Rest in power

In the days after the election of President-elect Trump, the rate of hate crimes in America rose to higher levels than we have not seen since after the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001.

While the targets of these attacks have ranged from crimes based on race, gender, and even perceived and actual country of origin, another group within the LGBTQ has faced some of the highest rates of violence than nearly all other groups - the transgender person in contemporary American society, and these individuals transcend so many other identities. 

So, as we have done each year, the Grand Rapids Pride Center and the newly formed Grand Rapids Trans Foundation invite the public to join them at the Trans Day of Remembrance service on Nov. 20.

Sunday is the day we honor those lost by celebrating their lives and contributions in our city, but also to ensure that those whose lives were lost via acts of anti-transgender violence will one day be seen as full citizens of these (somewhat) United States. 

Scheduled to speak on this day is Jeynce Poindexter, Victim Advocate for Equality Michigan and the Lead Organizer of Black Lives Matter Kalamazoo’s Max T Issac.

And while we as a society appear to have become comfortable with each year’s rising temperatures as related to climate change, it is worth saying that we as society should in no way ever become cold to the reality that 2016 has become the deadliest year for our trans and gender non-conforming community.

Admission: Free

Good Kids: A play with a purpose about teen sexual assault opens locally

One of the most powerful ways to address societal issues as a group has always been the theatre, and this Friday Grand Valley State University’s theatre department presents a timely production exploring the topic of teenage sexual assault and the consequences to the lives of its victims, survivors, perpetrators and bystanders.

The play, “Good Kids,” centers around a teen hosted party that goes horribly sideways and is told through  the multiple perspectives of the attendees who explore the aftermath of the sex crime and its cover-up. 

Topics covered in this provocative production include consent, intent, rumor, and gossip as this cast set in a small midwest town comes to terms with the consequences of their actions and inactions.

Performances of "Good Kids" will take place Nov. 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and November 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. All performances will take place in Louis Armstrong Theatre, located in the Performing Arts Center on the Allendale Campus.

“Good Kids” is directed by visiting professor of theater Dennis Henry, and at the end of each performance there will be a moderated talk session for attendees. 

"Education on this subject is vital," Henry says. "The cast is well educated in principles of consent and assault, but must explore the darker side of playing characters who don't know or don't care about what consent is."

Please note that “Good Kids” contains profanity and discusses sexuality, teen alcohol use, rape and sexual violence. It is not recommended for children.

Admission:  $12 for adults, $6 for students and $10 for alumni, faculty, staff and seniors.

PechaKucha Grand Rapids: Storytelling with 20/20 vision

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 6:30 p.m. (doors), 7:30 p.m. (show time)
Here is the heart of the PechaKucha challenge: You have just 20 images and 20 seconds per slide to share your passion on a topic. Do you think you can do it? 

On this night of the 15th edition of PechaKucha Grand Rapids, special guest presenters include Grand Raggidy Roller Derby’s Ann O'Steel Kuipers, Grand Rapids Art Museum’s Dana Friis-Hansen, Dodd’s Records and musician Rev. Charles Preston Smith, real life Mad Men and former Grand Rapidian Clayton Boothe, and many more will be welcomed by your host for the evening, emcee Ted Jauw.

This fast-paced story-telling format is great for folks like me, who often want to attend a lecture but hate the thought of being trapped in a long boring slowing moving event. It is always lively and full of good energy. Besides, it helps deepen your understanding on a topic that the presenters have made a part of their passion. 

Secure your tickets in advance by visiting the event’s site here


Admission: $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students. 

Coming Home: For us, from us...and only at UICA

Opening Reception, Friday, Nov. 11, 5:30 - 6:00 p.m. (members preview), 6:00 - 9:00 p.m (general public)
“Coming Home” offers West Michigan art lovers a chance to see the latest works from some of the area’s emerging and established artists with an exhibition devoted to showcasing fresh new works. 

This exhibition really cements UICA’s role as an arts center for local artists who have selected Michigan as their home ultimately revealing what is possible within this state.

With “Coming Home,” the state acts a platform through which an artist can find inspiration, limitless exploration, and along the way increase their creative artistic development.

Since this season is familiar territory for the act of coming home, this show seeks to tap into this annual journey with a nod to our arrivals and departures since many of these artists are currently based in Michigan, or have spent a considerable amount of time in our state during the course of their careers.

“Coming Home” features work by artists Kelly Allen, Mike Andrews, Nayda Collazo-Llorens, Geary Jones, Bob Marsh, Dylan Miner, Mario Moore, and Diane Zeeuw.

“Coming Home” will be on view Nov. 11, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017.

Admission: members are free, general public $5.
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