Your A&E best bets, Feb. 25-27

"Looking Out the Windows" is one of the pieces part of Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial.

We have to lead off this weekend’s A&E top picks with an incredible show at the IMA: Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial. This massive exhibit looks to be as compelling as last fall’s Andy Warhol show, and David Hoppe’s feature on it seals the deal for me. In it, he quotes from the curator of the show, Joanne Cubb: “They’re epic in their size, but also in what they offer. This incredible, dark beauty. This incredible mystery. Both a physical engagement and an emotional and conceptual one.” Dial’s history is fascinating. Born in rural Alabama in 1928, he spent a large portion of his life working as a welder, helping to make railroad cars for the Pullman Standard Company. This one’s sure gonna be something, folks.

For your stipend of laughs this week, you’ll want to make sure you see Jennifer Coolidge — Stifler’s mom from the American Pie movies, Paulette the beautician in Legally Blonde and its sequel or any number of hilarious characters in Christopher Guest’s movies, including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. But she’s also Jennifer Coolidge: Standup Comic, and she’s in the midst of her first U.S. tour, appearing at Crackers, Thursday — Saturday. Read Marc Allan’s interview with her.

For even MORE laughs, you’ll want to attend the fourth annual Laff-a-Thon. For twelve hours, expect to be at the mercy of Indyprov, the local Emmy-nominated improv troupe, and the hilariots (yes, I made up that word just now) from ComedySportz, as they strive to keep you entertained. Each hour supports a different cause, from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to the National MS Society.

The Red/Black exhibit at the Eiteljorg is getting rave attention here at NUVO as well as elsewhere, but another museum show has opened up that seems just as significant: You are There 1968: Robert F. Kennedy Speaks at the Indiana Historical Society. With new hologram technology that no other museum in the country has, the IHS will make you feel as if you are living in 1968, with actors portraying RFK as well as a few supporters. The historical moment explored is one of huge, national import: Robert F. Kennedy was here in Indy April 4, 1968, expected to make a campaign speech. Instead he had to share the devastating news that Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated.

On stage, opening Friday is diaspora, by Half/Black Productions, adapted from poet Saul Williams’ “The Dead Emcee Scrolls,” a work that explores the life of a forgotten man. The show stars Jonah Winston — who is sure to be a powerful presence on the IndyFringe stage.

Speaking of Butler, Butler Ballet's annual Midwinter Dance Festival, Friday and Saturday, will feature Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet, originally performed by the New York City Ballet in 1980. Plus, five other pieces choreographed by Butler's own dance faculty will be featured, including a piece honoring the Indonesian tsunami victims by Susan McGuire and a piece by Marek Cholewa based on tales from India.

Want more dance? Cultural Explosion Dance Company's Broadway Goes Latin is coming to Indianapolis for one night only, presented by IntoSalsa. The program uses popular Broadway scenes and recreates them with a Latin theme. Musical numbers have been borrowed from West Side Story, Chicago, Dirty Dancing, Stomp, Big Spender and Grease. After-party is at El Meson Mexican Restaurant.

We love the Cabaret at the Columbia Club ‘cause it’s all swanky and cool, and top performers from across the country come visit. On Friday and Saturday, the “Queen of Cabaret,” Andrea Marcovicci, will pay tribute to the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Bing Crosby by singing their most famous silver screen hits — yup, just in time for Oscars weekend.

Speaking of, check out Ed Johnson-Ott’s Oscar predictions as well as local Oscar parties for your pleasure.

Yet another charity event this week: the annual Pack the House, wherein our resident USHL team, the Indiana Ice, takes on a competitor, in this case, the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Don’t miss Joe O’Gara’s story on the Ice’s Blake Coleman, who just may end up with the league’s scoring title this year.

If you’re hankering to join the Polar Bear Club, this event is good training — and good civic involvement: Polar Plunge at Eagle Creek Reservoir. The annual event raises funds for Special Olympics, and if you aren’t brave enough to jump into the water, you can always whip up the courage to go to the After Splash Bash at the Pike Freshman Center.

Finally, you know I’m excited about this one. Health by Design has invited Mia Birk, former Bicycle Coordinator of Portland, Ore., one of the country’s most pedestrian- and bike-friendly cities. Birk will talk about the bicycle lessons learned in Portland in two appearances on Monday. Plus she’s hawking her book Joyride, subtitled “Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet,” something I do every day.

And... next weekend is First Friday — be forewarned!

See you out there.

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