Wed., January 29
Jay had this song on Blueprint 3 that I always thought was one of his most potent moments in the late aughts: “On to the Next One.” There’s that standard braggadocio of platinum watches and stacking paper, but there’s also this brilliantly subtle acknowledgement of every single hip-hop trope of the past 25 years, suggesting he’s done all that and taken it to the next level, almost without our even knowing it. He’s all, “Oh, you got rims? I was rapping about rims like a decade ago, and now I’ve got a jet.” But it also nods to the urbanity of his nascence: projects, product, cyphers, street cred.
In that Made In America doc he made two summers ago, Ron Howard follows Jay through rehearsals and planning sessions. And one of the things that resonates loudest is his insistence on including “Murda, Murda,” or “Murda Marcyville (South Philly Niggaz),” a song that technically comes from Memphis Bleek’s 2003 M.A.D.E. Beanie’s on that track. It’s a small reminder that Jay Z’s had a long loyalty to Philly and to ‘hood talent, wherever it comes from.
What’s just a little bit funny is what he’s become: this polished and high-fashion-wearing, expensive-art-buying, brand-ambassadoring, platinum-selling entrepreneur. Through multiple supposed retirements, a handful of surprising production spots and unexpected team-ups—why does Watch the Throne have to be so damn flawless?)—Jay Z’s career has never really seen any brutal lows.
Oh, and an all-time favorite? That unbelievable Unplugged moment from 2001, with the Roots crew behind him and a slew of the most killer guests you could ask for on an MTV studio moment: Larry Gold providing strings, Mary J. Blige absolutely destroying “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” Jaguar Wright practically pulling out tears on “Song Cry” and the irresistible Pharrell on “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).”
Thanks for the memories, Jay. Tonight’ll be another great one in the Philly scrapbook. / BILL CHENEVERT
8pm. $32.50-$150. Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St. wellsfargocenterphilly.com
Iraqi Voices Speak: Stories from a War-Torn Homeland
The Nationalities Service Center presents this seminar in which former Iraqi refugees share tales of their struggles to build new lives in Philadelphia after escaping the horrors of their native country. 3:30pm. Free. Northeast Regional Library, 2228 Cottman Ave. 215.685.0500. freelibrary.org
Funny Females at Doobies
Doobies marks its first comedy event of the year with the return of this infamous showcase, featuring some of the city’s funniest comediennes. Slated to bring the laughs are Nikki Black, Natalie Levant, Valerie DiMambro and Gina Stitzer. 8:30pm. Free. Doobies, 2201 Lombard St. 215.546.0316.
Thursday, January 30
Closing Reception: Gay, Jewish or Both
Napoleon, one of the city’s most intriguing collectively-run art project spaces, has been host to Gay, Jewish, or Both since the year began. The tightly-packed Chinatown North/Callowhill gallery—aptly named, reflecting its modest, 225-square-feet size—has been converted into a welcoming domestic space for the installation, a joint project by artist and printmaker Leslie Friedman and graphic designer Bernardo Margulis. Featuring a full dining room set, complete with screen prints, plants, found photographs and everyday objects, Gay, Jewish, or Both seeks to accurately reflect the ever-evolving identifying characteristics of its titular citizens while creating an environment to discuss these identities and how they’ve been linked and acquired over time.
Napoleon founding member Friedman and the world renowned Margulis teamed up for the engaging month-long exhibit to examine the modern identities materialized in the gay and Jewish communities. They believe modern homosexuality and Jewishness mirror each other—a notion derived from each group’s respective history of marginalization by the majority. Through the carefully chosen artifacts within the installation, the artists hope visitors are drawn to confronting stereotypes about each identity.
Gay, Jewish, or Both comes to a celebratory close at this final reception at Napoleon, where Friedman and Margulis will be on hand to soak in your well-deserved love. / DANIEL GELB
6pm. Free. Napoleon, 319 N. 11th St., 2L. napoleonnapoleon.com
Just like a real blind date, a fully improvised stage performance is always full of surprises. This round of the Thirdbird favorite will be hosted by Fantasy Grandma duo Myrtle J. and Jane B. 8pm. $12-$15. Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. 215.922.1695. birdbirdbird.org
Set to usher in the Year of the Horse, this year’s Chinese New Year’s Eve celebration will pull out all the stops, with lion dances featuring the Philadelphia Suns and plenty of fireworks to set the night sky alight. 11:30pm. Free. 10th and Race sts. chinatown-pcdc.org
Welcome to Brownsville
Combining child-friendly puppetry with child-unfriendly absurdist humor, Welcome to Brownsville follows a registered sex offender as he tries to escape to Thailand but encounters a slew of problems along the way. Think Sesame Street meets South Park. 7pm. Free. PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St. 267.519.9651. philamoca.org
Friday, January 31
Conversation, generally speaking, is remarkably well suited for clarifying questionable perspectives, particularly across the thorny landscape of America’s race relations and its even more problematic racial history. Within the stagebound world of the Stagecrafters Theater’s Bee-luther-hatchee, the concept of truthful, well-intentioned discourse is challenged and re-imagined in provocative ways by critically acclaimed local playwright Thomas Gibbons. In his story, African-American editor Shelita Burns publishes a collection of autobiographical letters written by a reclusive 72-year-old black woman named Libby Price. After the tome receives high praise in N.Y. publishing circles, Burns decides to deliver the good news to Price in person. To her shock and dismay, in lieu of finding a dotty old woman, an outraged Burns instead discovers Sean Leonard, a white man in his 40s.
The confrontation poses some important questions: Does the validity of struggle wane when it is explored by a non-participant? Can tales of racial and social injustice be effectively imparted if even partially fictional? How does one even broach the subject?
After the Friday night performance of Bee-luther-hatchee—which runs on successive weekends, Thursday through Sunday, through Feb. 9—the Chestnut Hill-based Stagecrafters will host a post-show Q&A session with Gibbons, director Barbara Mills and the drama’s cast. Like the play, its participating artists aim to fan the flames of authorial authenticity and introspective social commentary, using the most effective strategy in the playbook: Talking about it. / KENNEDY ALLEN
8pm. $17-$20. The Stagecrafters Theater, 8130 Germantown Ave. thestagecrafters.org
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Believed by many to be the reigning champs of South African a cappella, the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo have a 50-year history and three Grammy awards to affirm their brilliance. 8pm. Various prices. Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. 215.898.6702. annenbergcenter.org
New York alternative act Brazilian Girls haven’t released any new material in almost six years, but anticipation among thier fanbase is almost certainly reaching new heights with their current tour. The band is known for mixing EDM with genres as diverse as reggae and lounge music. 8pm. $20. With El Malito & The 33rd Century. Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St. undergroundarts.org
Saturday, February 1
Tootie Heath-Ethan Iverson-Ben Street Trio
For a young Albert Heath—the little drummer boy who would eventually come to be affectionately known as “Tootie”—a career in music was never up for debate. Growing up in the heart of Philadelphia, he followed his older brothers, Percy and Jimmy, who played bass and saxophone respectively, into the hazy mystique of the city’s illustrious jazz scene, soaking up a knowledge that led him to his first recording alongside none other than John Coltrane in 1957.
Now at 78 years young, Heath has more than established himself as one of the scene’s most standout performers, particularly in the hard bop subgenre. Over the last half-century, he has shared his talents with Herbie Hancock, Nina Simone and Dexter Gordon among an impressive list of others. Whether adopting the role of bandleader, sideman or educator (he devotes part of his time to instructing at the Stanford Jazz Workshop), Heath never fails to add a fervent sort of energy to whatever his current project is. And the years don’t appear to be slowing him down, as evidenced by Tootie’s Tempo, his most recent collaboration featuring pianist Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus) and celebrated double-bassist Ben Street. The record, which once again finds Heath holding the proverbial reigns, simultaneously honors the longstanding traditions of jazz while also offering a fresh take on classics like “The Charleston” and “Violets for Your Furs.” Like the legacy of the man himself, the music is guaranteed to transcend the boundaries of time. / JAKE ABBATE
8pm. $15. Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St. 215.545.4302. philartalliance.org
Philly Materials Day
Drexel and UPenn team up again for the fourth annual Philly Materials Day. Free to the public, the days’ festivities will feature hands-on science and engineering activities, as well as child-friendly demonstrations and discussions. 10am. Free. Bossone Research Enterprise Center, 31st and Market sts. phillymaterials.org
GET LUCID! The Activist Dance Party
Underground Arts hosts this DJ, live music, visual art and spoken word hodgepodge. The Activist Dance Party proceeds will benefit Philly Urban Creators, a youth-driven organization seeking to brighten the blighted landscapes of inner-city Philadelphia. 8pm. $5-$8. Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St. getlucid.org
Drexel FreshDance Winter Concert: New Adventures
Check out the incredibly talented freshmen dancers at this special Drexel dance event. The dancers will perform a variety of numbers arranged by student and faculty choreographers. 8pm. $5-$10. Mandell Theater, 33rd & Chestnut Streets. 484.469.0288
Sunday, February 2
Gabriel Cabezas and Chloe Felesina
Sensational young cellist Gabriel Cabezas and dancer Chloe Felesina are looking to reinvent the way performance art is enjoyed and explored. Through their inventive collaboration, this gifted pair combine the established grace of classical music and ballet’s rigors with the spontaneity of improvisation and interpretation. Part of the goal of LiveConnections’ breathtaking ClassicAlive concert series, which includes this production, is to push the boundaries of classical music and attract new audiences; if this night’s any indication of what’s to come, ready your datebook.
Cabezas, originally from Chicago, studied at the illustrious Curtis Institute of Music in Rittenhouse Square and made his world debut with the Cleveland Orchestra when he was only 15 years old. From then on, his soloist credits boast the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the New World Symphony, and a host of other prestigious ensembles. A member of Philadelphia’s groundbreaking BalletX, Felesina received her primary training on the West coast from the Deane Dance Center and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance before joining the Sacramento Ballet. She moved on to develop a unique talent for contemporary collaboration, including improvising outdoors routines and working with poets.
Together, Cabezas and Felesina are pushing the boundaries of what’s considered traditional while putting a fresh spin on timeless classics. Whether you’re a seasoned ballet veteran, have season tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra or are new to either scene, this brunch-time outing’s for you. / K.A.
Noon. $11-$16. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St, 215.222.1400. philly.worldcafelive.com
Taste of Philly Dance Fitness 2014 Workshop
Philly Dance Fitness hosts a jam-packed schedule of eight workout classes within their newest workshop. From Zumba to Bhangra Blast to Ballet, the workshop will have something for everyone. 2pm. $20-$25. The Arts Parlor, 1170 S. Broad St. phillydancefitness.com
Philadelphia Tattoo Arts
Villain Arts hosts Philly’s 16th annual gathering of tattooers and artists from across the globe. The Philly convention has grown into one of the largest and most respected festivals in the tattoo world. Contests, vendors, entertainment and, of course, plenty of buzzing machines highlight the weekend. Fri., Jan. 31-Sun., Feb. 2. $22-$45. Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St. 215.765.1129. villainarts.com
Lisa D’Amour’s new stage comedy follows two couples into the woods—with some unintended consequences. 2013 Obie Award winner D’Amour weaves her unique comedic chops into this story of campers gone astray. 7:30pm. $66. Through Feb. 8. The Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. 215.546.7824. wilmatheater.org
Monday, February 3
The Future of NSA Surveillance
The National Surveillance Agency has been in the news a lot recently, mostly because they know everything. Seriously, they’re looking at you reading this right now. (Okay, probably not. But they could.) Created in 1952 and now estimated to be the largest of the U.S. government’s intelligence operations, the NSA has greatly expanded during the war on terror—and many of those expansions have come to light during the Obama era. The agency has teamed up with communications and data companies to supposedly help fight the War on Terror in the digital age, tapping calls, obtaining emails and collecting phone records. And they’ve obviously been doing more listening than talking.
Even though there’s a lot to talk about. For instance: The NSA had a court order to collect the phone records of 120,000 Verizon users, which an independent executive branch board recently said was illegal “and should end,” as noted by the Washington Post. Saying the program raises serious threats to our civil liberties and doesn’t really counter terrorism, it was duly noted that agency’s efforts won’t be sustainable in the long term.
So, what’s the future of the NSA look like? Will our technology come to resemble a Minority Report future, or are people able to stop the surveillance state we’ve created for ourselves? Peter Swire of the White House NSA Review Board, Anita Allen of UPenn and the New York Times’ Charlie Savage will discuss it tonight. / RANDY LOBASSO
6pm. Free, but reservations suggested. National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St. 215.409.6600. ConstitutionCenter.org
Pretty Vacant: The Graphic Language of Punk
The punk rock aesthetic is just as ubiquitous and inspiring as the music itself. New York-based collectors will provide a number of posters, fanzines and record sleeves among other memorabilia, and the works of ‘70s graphic artists—such as Barney Bubbles and Malcolm Garrett—will be showcased. Through March 15. Moore College of Art & Design, 20th St. and the Ben Franklin Pkwy. 215.965.4000. moore.edu
Acclaimed social critic and author of The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf will be reading selections from her 2012 book Vagina, followed by a book signing. 6pm. Free. Penn Bookstore, 3601 Walnut St. 215.898.7595. upenn.edu/bookstore
Tuesday, February 4
Drama about a deaf man living silently among his family—who talk a lot, but don’t listen very well. It’s not until he falls in love with a young woman on the brink of deafness that he fully appreciates what it means to be understood. Through Feb. 23. $59. Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St.
Tuesdays With Morrie
Mitch Albom’s best-selling novel about his relationship with a dying college professor is adapted for a moving stage performance by the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Through Feb. 16. $10-$35. Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol. 215.785.0100. brtstage.org
Wednesday, February 5
La Traviata Free Opera Preview
Adapted from the Alexandre Dumas novel, this free preview of the performance in advance of its run later in February will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. 5:30pm. Free. Helen Corning Warden Theater, 1920 Spruce St. 215.735.1685. avaopera.org
A bitter sibling rivalry comes to a head at their mother’s house in the desert. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sam Shepard, the play is a darkly comic look at the struggle for family dominance. 8pm. $20. Plays & Players, 1714 Delancey St. theatreexile.org
Compiled by Jake Abbate and Daniel Gelb