THE BLOODY BARD: I may be wrong, but it feels like it’s been a long time since Birmingham has seen a Shakespearean production. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; some times going back to this familiar material makes it seem that a company is taking the easy way out. Not so with this week’s production of Titus Andronicus by Theatre Downtown. For one, the community theater is all about making their performances as creative and subversive as possible. In recent years they’ve taken on such diverse projects as Peter Shaffer’s Equus, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and Mary Chase’s Harvey. Even more recently, they’ve staged productions of Fahrenheit 451 and Night of the Living Dead, two sources of material that didn’t even originate in the theater. Secondly, Titus Andronicus is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s most violent and bloody tragedy, so much so that many critics have expressed doubt as to whether Shakespeare even wrote it. Of course, as you can see, Theatre Downtown is no stranger to controversial subject matter, and I have no doubt they’ll be able to make another classic their own. The play opens this Thursday and continues all the way up until March 12. All performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Opening night is what they like to call “Hobo Night,” where audiences pay what they can afford, with a $7 minimum. For more information, call (205) 306-1470 or visit www.theatredowntown.org.
TALENTED FINGERS: I’ve said just about all I can say about the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, so I’ll repeat myself. The company’s performances, especially those in its Region Masterworks series, are some of the only ways to hear adequate classical music in Birmingham. Also, they’re consistent as hell. Every week there’s something new to see, and this season may just be the best time to get in on it. They’ve purposely formed the season schedule around some of the worlds most renowned and beloved “concertos of the symphonic repertoire,” which makes them ideal for anyone looking to learn more about the genre. This week’s performance, “Ravishing Rachmaninoff,” will feature the talents of Alexander Meinikov on piano. He’ll be performing, in addition to Sergei Rachmaninoff ’s “Piano Concerto No.2,” Avner Dorman’s “Ellef Symphony” and Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 5.” The show will play on Friday and Saturday, with both performances at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19-$80, depending on the seats. For more information, call (205) 975-ARTS or visit www.alabamasymphony.org.
RIVERS ROLL AND ROCK: There are few charities working harder in this city than those fundraising for our rivers. And there have been few businesses better at offering support than beer distributors. I’m thinking specifically of Sweetwater Brewing Company’s recent collaboration with Black Warrior River. And now this week, Good People Brewing Company will help the Alabama Rivers Alliance organize “River Rock,” a benefit for “Alabama’s 77,000 miles of rivers and streams.” The event will feature live music from Menewa, The Hurlers, The Paybacks and 13ghosts. Tickets include complimentary beer, food and a one year membership to the Alabama Rivers Alliance. So if you can’t donate much now, maybe that membership will inspire you later on down the road. The benefit will go from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and admission is $25. For more information, visit www.alabamarivers.org.
STEVIE!!!! Back in December I ran a pick on the Neo Jazz Collective, a music organization that’s aims to “enact a positive change in the youth of our community through an education in music and the arts to educate, train and develop gifted students into professional career artists.” The performing ensemble is comprised of hyper-talented area students that shouldn’t be missed. This week, the group will be putting on “A Tribute to Stevie Wonder,” and there’s no shortage of reasons why. Considering the theme of this month, Wonder’s efforts in turning Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday into a holiday, not to mention being one of the winningest male recording artists of all time (oh yeah, and he’s been blind his entire life), make him an obvious choice for recognition. A few months ago I included the Collective’s instrument and toy drive because it helped to raise money for the organization’s primary causes. A portion of this event’s proceeds will also go to the Neo Jazz School of Music, and the development of other projects intent on restoring interest in music throughout all youth. The performance will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. For more information, call (205) 783-9880 or visit www.neojazz.net.
GOODBYE ART: Being the shortest month of the year, the end of February also marks the end of some of the year’s shortest art shows. Monty Stabler Galleries, Artists Incorporated, Five Points West Library and others will be taking down their current exhibitions and getting ready for whatever they’ve got planned in March. Daniel Day Gallery, a business on Sixth Avenue South that sometimes doubles as a music venue, will be concluding its showing of Donna Farmer’s work. Farmer is primarily a painter, but the show also feature some of her ceramics and reliquary boxes. So take some time to check it and other exhibitions out before it’s too late. For more information about times, call (205) 731-9420 or visit www. dreammeccastudio.com. February 28 is your last chance to see any of the aforementioned shows, so here are some hours for you—Monty Stabler Galleries: Tue-Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Artists Incorporated: Tues-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Five Points West Library: open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
VEGAS BABY, VEGAS: Never one to rely on a formula for their schedule, the Comedy Club Stardome in Hoover again brings us a completely different kind of performance from The Midnight Swinger. Theater and stand-up comedy have always been intertwined, but it’s never more apparent than in Las Vegas, the capital of epic, over-stylized productions. Even something as simple as a comedian standing behind a microphone telling jokes can become a spectacle. Especially if you add music, singing and dancing. Which is precisely what The Midnight Swinger, who makes a living emulating the showmanship of Las Vegas-type personalities, does, combining “the style and cool of a 60s performer with the flash and excitement of a 21st century Super Bowl halftime extravaganza.” That’s quite a reputation to live up to. See if he can this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. He’ll be in town for two nights through Wednesday. The second show is also at 7:30 p.m. All tickets are $9.75. For more information, call (205) 444-0008 or visit www.stardome.com.
YOU YELA, BOY? The world of white rappers is not a very expansive one. Up until Eminem’s extraordinary breakthrough in the late 90s, the entire concept had been reduced to a punchline— Vanilla Ice. Of course, in the music industry these days anyone and anything can attain popularity with a little luck and no help from a record label. Without much of a corporate presence, the talent pool is diversifying year after year, and that breeds tolerance. Specifically, tolerance for white dudes. (Yeah, I see the irony in that statement.) Consider YelaWolf ’s (a white rapper from Gadsden) career trajectory. He first made a name for himself appearing in a Missy Elliott-judged reality show. His first album dropped in 2005, but he wasn’t signed to Columbia Records before 2007. Later that same year, he was dropped from the label. And it’s been until now that he’s made noise about a new album—being released, appropriately, under Eminem’s own label, Shady Records. That’s not exactly the smoothest road to stardom, but he did most of it without an organization behind him. He’ll be performing this Wednesday at Bottletree with opener CyHi Da Prynce. I won’t profess to owning anything by either artist, but I’ve heard enough to give a fair recommendation. YelaWolf appeared on Big Boi’s (Outkast) fantastic 2010 album, and CyHi Da Prynce was featured in a single by A-Trak, “Ray Ban Vision,” that just may be one of the catchiest hip-hop songs I’ve ever heard. So, as long as you’re okay with white people, it should be a good time. Doors open at Bottletree at 8 p.m., and the show begins at 9 p.m. General admission is $14. Ages 18 and up. For more information, call (205) 533-6288 or visit www.thebottletree.com.
THEY DON’T BROADCAST LIKE THEY USED TO: I’ve spent a good deal of time railing against the state Birmingham radio in the picks. But in a lot of ways, it’s easy to see how it’s gotten to this point. People get their music and their news from seemingly everywhere these days, and it’s no secret radio’s been in steady decline since the rise of the mighty television. But it’s interesting to think about a time not so long ago, when radio meant more than appealing to the lowest common denominator. In the 1960s and 70s, television was certainly popular, but radio as a medium was far more eclectic. Vulcan Park & Museum, as part of their new series, “Birmingham Revealed,” have taken the time to explore this time with a lecture entitled “The Golden Age of Birmingham Broadcasting.” Specifically, the discussion is about children’s shows, which were much more popular at the time. Audiences will be treated to a panel, as well as some archival footage. A cash bar opens at 5:30 p.m., but the lecture doesn’t start until 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $10, but they’re $15 at the door. ($8 if you’re a Vulcan member.) For more information, call (205) 933-1409 or visit www.visitvulcan.com.