Valentines at The Biggs, "Blithe Spirit" at Clear Space and Bettye Lavette at The Grand Opera House




See My Valentine

You’re are not the only one who has looked forward to receiving special cards from special someones and secret admirers on Valentine's Day—nor is the giving and receiving of such cards a recent phenomenon. People all over the United States and Europe have awaited the day breathlessly since the 1880s, when advancements in printing and mailing led to a large number of card makers. For the past 15 years Ann Marcus has collected hundreds of so-called  “pop-up” cards, decorated with flowers, cupids, hearts and other traditional motifs, and you can see them in “Loving Traditions: The Ann Marcus Valentine's Card Collection” at The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover Feb. 3-March 25. It’s a charming exhibition. Take someone special. 674-2111, biggsmuseum.org

High-Spirited Theater

As British wits go, Noel Coward is one of the greats. Clear Space Theatre Company pays due homage with its production of Coward’s classic farce “Blithe Spirit.” The plot: While researching his next novel, socialite Charles Condomine hires Madame Arcati to mediate a séance, but she somehow summons the ghost of his dead wife, Elvira. Let’s just say Elvira is none too happy about Charles’ new wife. Watch the fur fly. Jeff Haslow, a past company actor, directs his first show for Clear Space. The cast includes company members Michael Matthias as Condomine, Dana Peragallo as Elvira, Valorie Jarrell as Ruth, Cheryl Graves as Mrs. Bradman and Elaine Faye as Madame Arcati. They join in what is a historic production for Clear Space: its first show to require construction of a fully functional set. “This show will be very different from anything our audiences have seen us do before,” says Matthias. “The style of humor, the pace, the technical elements—it’s going to be a great a new experience for our returning patrons.”

Past productions have relied on lighting and costumes to enhance performances, but “Blithe Spirit” requires some technical spectacle. That diminishes the acting not a whit. “Although this show fairly relies on spectacle, at the end of the day, it is still about the art of theatre and making sure the performances of our actors really shine,” production designer Chris McLaughlin says. “The real challenge with this production is the fact that it includes ghosts. Things must appear to happen by themselves.” See how the cast and crew does Feb. 3-Feb. 19. 227-2270, clearspacetheatre.org

Little Bit of Soul

Kicking off a banner month at The Grand Opera House is Bettye LaVette on Feb. 3, who, according to The New York Times, is nearly on par with Aretha Franklin as the great soul singer of her generation. For four decades, she has recorded a series of big singles for labels such as Big Wheel, Silver Fox, SSS, TCA, Atco, Epic, West End, Motown and Bar/None. Those records include the Top 30 chart “He Made a Woman Out of Me,” disco club hit “Doin’ the Best That I Can,” “Hey Love,” written for her by Stevie Wonder, and strong covers of hits by some of the biggest names in popular music: Kenny Rogers, The Beatles, Erma Franklin, Neil Young and Etta James, to name just a few. Hear one of the greatest voices in soul when she drops into Wilmington. Nineties’ chart-topper Bruce Hornsby plays Feb. 8. 652-5577, thegrandwilmington.org

Classical Gas

Find out why The Harlem String Quartet is so hot when it joins The Delaware Symphony on Feb. 7 to perform Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-Flat major, Op. 20. Cincinnati Enquirer writes that HSQ is “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing, and intelligent.” The Champagne Chamber Series concert is in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont. As always, enjoy complimentary bubbly, coffee and dessert. 652-5577, delawaresymphony.org

If you’re left wanting more tradition music, celebrate Claude Debussy’s 150th birthday with The Music School of Delaware on Feb. 8. Faculty members will perform some of his most beloved works at the Wilmington branch. 762-1132, wilmingtonmusic.org

 

Don’t Miss This Exhibition of Schroeder

If you thought you were well acquainted with the work of beloved painter Howard Schroeder, take another look. “The Other Side of Howard Schroeder” at Rehoboth Art League is an exhibit of works from the collections of his five children and other family members. The late painter, of Lewes, worked in many styles with many mediums. His subject matter ranged from landscapes to human subjects and beyond. Schroeder could do it all, and he did, mostly in search of new ways to express himself, often by playing with new perspectives and techniques. “The Other Side” surveys his vast output, displaying paintings, watercolors, pastel works and drawings of one of the area’s—and Rehoboth Art League’s—most important artists. The exhibition will end March 4. 227-8408, rehobothartleague.org

Spectacle of Spectacles

We promise that “Blast” at DuPont Theatre is a, um, a blast indeed. Hear and see 35 brass musicians, percussionists and performing artists come together in a unique display that earned them the 2001 Tony for Best Special Theatrical Event and 2001 Emmy for choreography. It runs till Feb. 5. 656-4401, duponttheatre.com

On With the Show

Several great plays continue on area stages this week. In a period of war, “Time Stands Still” is a timely tale. See what happens when life suddenly changes for two journalists working in harsh conditions overseas. It plays at Delaware Theatre Company through Feb. 5. 594-1104, delawaretheatre.org

Find out how a small Irish community really feels about Cripple Billy when he auditions for a Hollywood director in “The Cripple of Inishmaan” through Feb. 12  at Roselle Center for the Arts at the University of Delaware. It’s funny and touching.  831-2201, rep.udel.edu

In the gripping “Parade,” Leo Frank finds himself accused of murder and doomed to pay the ultimate price for it, thanks to corruption and sensationalized reporting. Can his wife or governor save him? The drama, based on a true story, won two Tonys in 1999. It plays at Wilmington Drama League through Feb. 11. 764-3396, wilmingtondramaleague.org

The drama “Miss Saigon” at the New Candlelight Theatre tells the story of U.S. soldier Chris and his love for native Kim in Vietnam during the war, as based on “Madame Butterfly.” The play runs through March 11.Don’t forget: dinner comes with the show. 475-2313, nctstage.org

See It Quick

If you want to see some of the best in student work, visit The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts for “MFA Biennial 2011: Masters of the Visual Universe” until Feb. 5. The 22 artists who are showing are current or recently graduated MFA students from neighboring areas such as Towson University and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Taken together, their work explores the ideas of art education, aesthetics and display. Is educational mastery in art still a fact or a science fiction relic in the eyes of many young artists today? See. Think. Discuss. 656-6466, thedcca.org

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