Vandals, Launch 2005, Jimmy Eat World, OVAL @ OMA and more

Thursday •6

LAUNCH 2005 You can't exactly say that Playwrights' Round Table has a tradition of kicking off the new year by staging a program of short plays by member authors: The first and last such foray took place way back in 2002. Venue-booking snafus caused the group to sit out 2003 and 2004, says PRT stalwart John Goring, but "Launch 2005" is confirmed for a weekend's worth of shows at Theatre Downtown. Each night, audiences will witness performances of a sextet of playlets that have already gone through the group's relatively involved workshopping and evaluation process. Among the pieces being presented in their new and (one infers) improved forms are Cecil, a Buffy-like vampire tale written by David W. Womble, and If I Were You, a Jack McGrath comedy that puts a trailer-trash spin on the pressing issue of identity theft. As a framing device, singers Stephen Combs and Marylin McGinnis will perform a series of hit Broadway numbers, all in support of the ambitious-sounding motif PRT has chosen as the theme of the evening: "Broadway Bound." "We say that with tongue in cheek," Goring clarifies. That's a relief. (8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at Theatre Downtown; 407-788-8468; $15)

OVAL @ OMA This unusual double-O combo brings the spirit of downtown's OVAL (Orlando Visual Arts League) gallery and its cadre of local artists into the Orlando Museum of Art's "1st Thursday" affair. Downtown to Loch Haven Park isn't such a big leap in distance, but both institutions have their own distinctive scenes and scenesters, even as they share a mission to bring together the arts and the community. Unlike most "1st Thursday" events, there won't be a hokey theme behind the art and music, so expect a free-form flow through a variety of art styles, media and subjects that'll be all over the place. (Shipyard Brewing Co. will be selling beer, and ZaBella something to soak it up.) Parking overflow is directed to the Orlando Science Center parking garage ($2) and those pedicab kids are around to give rides for cash tips if you want to end the night with a chilly ride around Loch Haven Park. (6 p.m.-9 p.m. at Orlando Museum of Art; 407-896-4231, ext. 5; $9)

Friday •7

VANDALS Even though The Vandals would claim that it's been tenacity and consistent touring that's won them their fans, they owe a huge debt to Penelope Spheeris. Her direction of the 1983 punk drama Suburbia, in which the Vandals played live, promptly drove legions of impressionable adolescents to buy Peace Thru Vandalism to piss off their parents as a rite of passage. Some 20 years later, even with some members' fingers in more prolific musical projects (A Perfect Circle, Tenacious D, Oingo Boingo, Guns ' Roses), The Vandals keep cranking out one snarky pop-punk album after another. And we can't figure out why. All the rebellious teens from the '80s have (we hope) grown up, and punk music as a means to goad the folks is as innocuous as big-hat country music. Maybe it's time to think farewell tour, huh? (with Adolescents; 7 p.m. at Hard Rock Live; 407-351-5483; $15)

RECEPTION FOR DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY AS COMMUNITY AND PUBLIC ART The name is long and windy but the master class taught by Rick Lang and Peter Schreyer is not about talking, it's about doing. In keeping with Crealdé School of Art's history of producing compelling community photo projects, the top teachers/photographers challenged their students to "explore the photo-documentary as a mirror of the present and a window to the past." The black-and-white insights captured over the 16-week course will be the main draw, but the school is also hosting an open house/registration for its winter-session classes, which begin Jan. 10. (reception 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Crealdé School of Art, Winter Park; through Feb. 26; 407-671-1886; free)

Saturday •8

JIMMY EAT WORLD Two words: Gil Norton. Just when we thought pure, unadulterated hatred for Jimmy Eat World couldn't grow any stronger, they went and signed up Norton to produce their most recent album. The Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen, Throwing Muses and even Foo Fighters have benefited greatly from Mr. Norton's excellent ear, but Jimmy Eat World? Those obnoxious, über-emo kids? They neither deserved nor could gain from a Norton production, right? Wrong. JEW's Norton-helmed disc, Futures, all but redeemed their sorry asses, not because it was some great and daring adventure into sound, but because Jimmy Eat World finally figured out that they were neither a punk band nor a whiny emo band (like the millions jacking their sound). We stopped hating Jimmy Eat World because Jimmy Eat World stopped hating the idea of being a full-blown, mammoth-sounding rock band. The thick bombast employed on Futures provides an appealing contrast to their unnecessarily introspective lyrics, and there's less of that jittery, stop-start action than before. Good on them. (with Reubens Accomplice, Elefant; 8 p.m. at House of Blues; 407-934-2583; $16-$29, sold out)

Sunday •9

THE MOSCOW PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA We were holding out hope for some Shostakovich in this program, but if an orchestra's going to be traditional and Russian, they could do a lot worse than an all-Tchaikovsky program, which is what the Moscow Phil will bring to town. Although the orchestra typically chooses challenging works (any group that invites Krzysztof Penderecki as a guest conductor is unafraid of scraping the skulls of its ticket-buyers), the current conductor is shying away from avant-garde pieces. Yuri Simonov's background is strictly straightforward, with an emphasis on opera and mainstream composers. That's not to say that Simonov and the Moscow Phil don't have the chops or are boring: Although the Tchaikovsky pieces on the program are well-known (and, in the case of the Capriccio Italien, somewhat fanciful), the music will be thoroughly engaging. And when Taiwanese violinist Cho-Liang Lin sinks his teeth into the Violin Concerto, Op. 35, it's likely listeners will find an entirely new appreciation for the term "chops." (3 p.m. at Carr Performing Arts Centre; 407-539-0245; $40-$80)

Monday •10

COLLEGIATE FOOTBALL: THE DICK BUTKUS AWARD Perhaps it was the regular ass-kickings by jocks that some of us received back in high school that tainted our overall opinion of football. Even now, moving a ball from one side of a field to another strikes us as a Sisyphusian pursuit; thusly, the name Dick Butkus did not ring familiar. But wussy writers can hustle, too, and it turns out that the fearless Chicago Bears legend got an award named after him for being the ultimate extreme linebacker of the helmet-smashing, body-slamming variety, dating back to his early, still-unequaled college years (373 tackles). The trophy encourages other collegiate linebackers to do the same, and for 2004, Texas Longhorn Derrick Johnson was distinguished as the nation's best. What few people know is that the prestigious Butkus Award is the brainchild of the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando and the gala awards dinner, with Butkus at the top of the list, was held Dec. 10 here in town. So the history center has devoted a small exhibit to brag about our town's importance in Butkus-kissing. Still, the pigskin hero's name makes us giggle. Say it: Dick Butkus. Again: Dick Butkus. Now with feeling: DICK BUTKUS. You can see why we got beat up. Go Trojans! (through Jan. 31; Orange County Regional History Center; 407-836-8500; $7)


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