Fall Arts Guide: 15 Can't-Miss Events This Season

Kristen Schmidt

Justin Townes Earle

Sept. 7, The Bluestone

Though he bears the name of his famous father, alt-country star Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle doesn't stand in his shadow. His voice is smooth, strong and straightforward, and his songs weave tales from a life that seems longer and more complicated than 32 years should allow. Lately he's been singing different tunes-he's newly married and sober. His new album, Single Mothers, takes an unvarnished look at his childhood and at Steve Earle, who left Justin's mother when Justin was a toddler. Justin Townes Earle's songs can be slow and sleepy, and they can be toe-tapping ("Harlem River Blues" is a standout track from a past album). They all compel you to listen to the stories they paint.

"Exposed," introduced by Beth B

Sept. 12, Wexner Center for the Arts

Dita Von Teese and the Pussycat Dolls brought burlesque to pop culture. But for her documentary on veteran burlesque performers, filmmaker and artist Beth B delves into more intellectual aspects of the art of burlesque. In candid interviews in clubs, backstage rooms and rehearsal spaces, burlesque performers reveal their art as so much more than the act of a pretty face performing a striptease. "Exposed" presents them as artists turning gender politics inside out and employing sex and satire to make political and social statements from the stage.

25 on High: A Photographic Journey

Sept. 20–Nov. 8, OSU Urban Arts Space

Led by Ohio State University professor emeritus Clay Lowe, a champion of street photography who shot from the hip along High Street 40 years ago, 25 local photographers have been deployed again along Columbus' main drag. From south to north, these photographers have captured life along High Street today-and it's radically different from the scene captured by Lowe decades ago. More than 100 of their images will be on exhibit at OSU Urban Arts Space this fall, creating a sweeping portrait of the city's most easily identified street. Meet the artists at the Sept. 25 reception.

"Twisted: A Trio of Excellence"

Sept. 25–28, Ohio Theatre

What will happen when the creative minds at BalletMet, Opera Columbus and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra collide? Dozens of artists will appear (at various points in the evening) on the Ohio Theatre stage to sing, dance and play their way through selections from "La Boheme," "The Magic Flute," "Don Giovanni," "Carmen" and more. The premiere dances are choreographed by Val Caniparoli (San Francisco Ballet), Ma Cong (Tulsa Ballet) and BalletMet dancer Jimmy Orrante and artistic director Edwaard Liang. Together (and with the help of a narrator) the works will weave a story about the "twisted" life story of a man.

"The Norwegians"

Oct. 1–5, Mount Hall Studio Theatre, Ohio State University

"Thelma and Louise" meets "Fargo" in this dark comedy that pokes more fun at Upper Midwestern stereotypes than an episode of "Prairie Home Companion." Betty and Olive meet in a bar, get to talking about their lousy ex-boyfriends and wind up hiring two Norwegian hit men to kill the slugs. A snarl of complicated relationships and calculations develops, to riotous hilarity. Ohio State theater professor Jennifer Schlueter directs this student production.

Jupiter String Quartet

Oct. 4, Southern Theatre

If the members of the Jupiter String Quartet appear particularly at ease with one another, it's not only the result of more than 10 years of practice and performance. Cellist Daniel McDonough is married to violinist Megan Freivogel, the younger sister of violinist Liz Freivogel. First violinist Nelson Lee rounds out the quartet, who will perform in Chamber Music Columbus' season opener Oct. 4. The quartet is in residence this year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's music school, and that is no mistake, either. Each member of the quartet relishes the opportunity to teach other musicians and lure audiences into a love affair with chamber music. They'll play a program of Beethoven, Bartok and Brahms at the acoustically impeccable Southern Theatre.

Lewis Black

Oct. 9, Palace Theatre

The king of rants comes to Columbus on his "The Rant is Due" tour. Religion, politics, technology-it's all fair game for Black, a Yale-educated veteran of the standup stage, late-night television sofa and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Throughout the duration of his performances, Black's face becomes more contorted, his gestures more filled with rage, and his eyeballs seem to bulge just a bit more. That might be terrifying on some people, but it is side-achingly hilarious on Black, whose fan club is called the Frustrated Union of Cynical Kindreds Universal. Seems custom-made for an acronym, no?


Oct. 12–Nov. 2, Shadowbox Live Backstage Bistro, The Refectory

Opera Columbus takes all the intimidation out of opera with this one-hour English-language version of the Italian classic "Pagliacci." Most of the performances are being staged at Shadowbox Live's comfy and casual Backstage Bistro. For something more posh and unexpected, take in one of the two scheduled performances in the choir loft at The Refectory Restaurant & Bistro. For $90, patrons (just 36 for each show) can enjoy a four-course meal and the performance. Did we mention the show is about comedy, clowns and murder?

Fleetwood Mac

Oct. 19, Nationwide Arena

The band's most famous lineup-Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie-are together again for the first time in more than 15 years. One of the most soap-operatic rock bands of all time-complete with affairs, marriages, divorces and substance abuse-is also one of the best. All that angst and passion flowed through band members and into Rumors and other albums. Ticket prices are staggeringly high-the cheapest seats available are $145-but they are selling, so make your move.

"A Night at the Movies"

Oct. 23-26, Southern Theatre

Theater and television actress and singer Carly Thomas Smith joins the Columbus Jazz Orchestra onstage for four nights, singing and playing some of the greatest songs to grace the silver screen. Music from "Goldfinger," "The Godfather," "Last Tango in Paris," "The Pink Panther" and a tribute to John Williams (best known for his work on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg films) are among the selections. Smith has toured as a backup singer with Taylor Swift, performs as a solo artist and has played roles in "Rent," "We Will Rock You" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe."

Jonathan Franzen

Oct. 27, CCAD Canzani Center

He was labeled the "Great American Novelist" on the cover of Time magazine in 2010, the year his most recent novel, "Freedom," was published. Oprah famously disinvited him from her show over comments about her book club, which had chosen his "The Corrections" as one of its selections. These days, Franzen writes for The New Yorker and offers his opinions on popular culture, technology and even politics in various arenas, including television and essays. Franzen will visit the Columbus College of Art and Design as a visiting artist. Talks by visiting artists, held throughout the year in the Canzani Center auditorium, are fascinating (and almost always free).


Oct. 30, Wexner Center for the Arts

Ahmed Gallab has come a long way from his days in the DIY band scene in Columbus. He's now touring in support of his new album, Mean Love, on the DFA label (run by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem), having spent several years touring with bands like Of Montreal, Yeasayer and Caribou. Gallab's style infuses electronica with soul; by turns, his tracks evoke world music, 1980s synth-pop, disco and sticky funk. His music is eminently accessible and, even better, positively danceable.

Hesperus accompanies "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

Nov. 7, Drexel Theatre

Early Music in Columbus brings long-running traditional music ensemble Hesperus to the Drexel Theatre, where the group will accompany the 1923 silent film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with music consistent with the story's time period, the 15th century. "We did one last fall, and it was so successful that we decided to do it again," says Katherine Wolfe, program director for Early Music in Columbus. Musicians will set up between the front row and the screen and play along to the film. And because seating is set up auditorium-style, you'll be able to see both the screen and the players. Better: Lobby concessions will be open, so you can have a perfectly modern popcorn and soda with your early film and music.

"Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton"

Nov. 15, Ohio Theatre

Think of a Tim Burton film-"Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands," "Batman"-and you're just as likely to remember the sounds of the score as you are to remember the macabre, fantastical makeup and scenery. Danny Elfman has made that signature music for all but two of Burton's movies; Burton and Elfman share one of the closest and most enduring director-composer relationships in Hollywood. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra will perform music from several Burton-Elfman collaborations while the audience is treated to images of Burton's film sketches, drawings and storyboards flickering on a backdrop screen.

"The Nutty Nutcracker"

Dec. 27, Ohio Theatre

You've seen "The Nutcracker" plenty of times. It's a great show-a classic for good reason. But imagine performing it 20 times in a few short weeks every year. You might get a little slap happy at the end, too. Watch BalletMet performers and stage crew put their triumphant, hilarious stamp on the holiday season with a one-night-only performance of "The Nutty Nutcracker." Anything goes at this performance, which is danced to Tchaikovsky's music but leaves everything else to performers' whims.