Johnny’s List of Quirky Boston Events: 04/08/08


Here’s what’s coming up in New England.

The weird event of the week is Rube Goldberg Machine Design Contest, Apr 12. Fay School somewhere near Westborough, MA. You get to watch a bunch of middle schoolers design strange devices that pass balls back and forth. Connected to MIT somehow.

Also weird, possibly too weird to comprehend, is the Bedford Minuteman Company’s Pole Capping, um, festival, Apr 12. It looks like a pancake breakfast and parade with colonial militia re-enactors, who compete to climb up a pole. And put a cap there. You heard it here first.

Thursday, Jonathan Katz is coming to the Somerville Theatre. He’s a comedian whose podcast I subscribe to, “Hey We’re Back”. Intellectual humor, not full of the 4-letter-words. He does a show where he pretends to be a therapist, dispensing bad and hilarious advice. I sent him an email saying he looks much younger in his photo and possibly he thought I was an ‘admirer’… awkward! Um, I just meant that in a totally non-fanboy way. April 10. Somerville Theatre, Somerville MA. Just go see it.

The Charles River Dance Festival is Apr 11-12. It’s basically a series of dance performances and does not seem to be participatory. Also, I’m guessing it’s indoors. Cambridge, MA.

If you want some actual river in your festival, how about the Athol-Orange River Rat Race? It is Apr 12-13 way out in Athol, MA, which is Western Massachusetts. It’s basically a canoe race, and does not involve any actual rats.

A sign of Spring is when they start having open studios. An open studios is when all the local artists in some community open their private homes or working studios to the public. You stroll around the community, check out their art, possibly buy some — but it’s usually not a cheap merchant thing — and chat with the actual artists, not dealers. First up is the Brookline Open Studios, Apr 12-13,

Too expensive for you? Try going to the School of the MFA Open Studios, on the theory that students need money and you’ll get a good deal. Apr 13.

April is national kite month and this Saturday Apr 12 they’re doing a kite fly at Wollaston Beach in Quincy, followed Apr 13 with a “Seafood Mega-Fly” on Revere Beach, in Revere MA. What I really want to see is the indoor fly on Apr 12. You can fly kites indoors?

Far more commercial is Boston Antiques Weekend, Apr 12-13. All the original artists are dead. You can only meet the dealers, who want you pay double for some really really used second-hand stuff. Bayside Expo Center, Boston, MA.

Finally the Whitin Observatory at Wellesley College is having a public night. Apr 11, 7:30-9pm if it’s not cloudy only. Wellesley, MA.

You know, I wouldn’t keep urging you to visit the ICA, the Institute for Contemporary Art and Boston’s newest major museum, if you’d just do it. I’m like the perfect mom that way. I’ll just nag and nag until I get what I want. Also, they keep having amazing events there! This week’s excuse to see the ICA is Kinodance, Apr 11-12. It’s like modern dance with ‘cinema and sound’. Go figure.

Similar to the ICA, which is pretty small and more worth the trip if you go when something’s happening, is Newport RI. They have a ton of old mansions there open to the public and a cliff walk alone the shoreline. A good excuse to visit the area might be opening week (and discounted pricing) for the Newport Dinner Train. They just sold out through Apr 12 but pre-buy tickets for Apr 19. Also they have Murdery Mystery evenings on Fridays.

Also dinner theatre! It’s the Quincy Dinner Theatre, in Braintree MA. I guess was taken or something. Anyway, their next show, Apr 12-13, has impressionists of Neil Diamond and Englebert Humperdinck. Weird, but totally not for me.

Do you like folk dancing? Perhaps you’d like to dress in costume for the “Elegant Evening”, a major annual dance event, which starts with a dance workshop from England and Scotland and beyond. Apr 12. Dance workshop 3:30pm, party 8pm. First Parish Church, 349 Boston Post Road, Weston Center, MA.

Much closer to the Boss Town is The Harvard Square Bookish Ball. Apr 12, 3pm-9pm. It’s free music, dancing, and book talks. Cambridge, MA.

Chess, the musical about the Cold War, really isn’t as boring as you might think watching a chess game might be. Basically it’s a psychological thriller where the pressure of the International Competition causes the contests to break into song. How ’bout that. Apr 11-13, Boston Conservatory Theatre. It’s the theatre group at the arts college, The Boston Conservatory. 8 The Fenway, Boston.

OK, this one’s weird but you have to travel to New Hampshire. Mount Sunapee, the ski resort, is holding their Annual Intergalactic Cardboard Sled Race, April 12. Newbury, NH. You get some cardboard, some tape, a snow slope, teams of crazy people, and race. Yes it really is 2008, even though their site link is

If you’re insanely into the arts, perhaps you’ll shell out $125 to attend the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, which is some kind of party and comes with a Web site that does not adequately describe the event. At that price it must be a fundraiser. And they promise to have drummers, dancers, and sky-high acts. No wonder on whether they mean acts in the air like silk dancing, or just that their performers will be sky-high, if you know what I mean.

Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian, is performing Apr 18-19, at the Citi-Wang Theatre.

Finally, I went to upstate New York last weekend and wanted to share thoughts on a number of fun venues on the way:

— There’s a place called East Heaven, in Northampton MA, where you can rent a hot tub on the roof. Especially great during cold, snowy, or rainy weather. Highly recommended!

— Dr. Spooky’s is a childrens zoo based around a haunted theme. All the animals are cute-scary instead of real-scary. As an adult it was marginally interesting to me, but my friends loved it and it certainly was creative! 220 Greenfield Rd, South Deerfield, MA.

— There’s an innocuous park in Holyoke, MA where you can actually see ancient Dinosaur Footprints in the stone! You have to really look hard to see them, but they’re there.

— This is SO AWESOME. Want to fly a falcon? There’s a guy named Chris who runs New England Falconry. It’s the only one of its kind in New England. He trains hawks and falcons professionally, and for a reasonable fee you can put on a glove and get one to fly to you and from you. Hadley, MA. Highly recommended.

— There are a bunch of caves in eastern NY, but the most commercial one, and probably best to begin with, is Howes Cavern, which is right next to Secret Caverns, — highly recommended. Also there ARE NO real caverns closer to Boston, I researched it. You will find a few jumbles of granite rocks claiming to be shallow caves in NH.

— They have a butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston, and also one at the Franklin Park Zoo. Well, I also visited one in Western Massachusetts, is it the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, 281 Greenfield Rd, South Deerfield, MA. 413-665-2805. Open 7 days a week, year ’round. It’s worth the trip but similar to what they have (seasonally only) at the Franklin Park Zoo.

Continuing events:

— Smuckers Stars on Ice, to Apr 11.

— Much Ado About Nothing, to Apr 12,

— LEGO exhibit, to Apr 17,

— Big Apple Circus, Boston, to May 4,

I called the organizer of last year’s Boston Zombie March (from Davis Square to Central Square), Allison Auldridge. She is officially out, not even local. I’d organize it but since there’s no mailing list, and the Web site domain was lost… I’d have to advertise from scratch which means dozens of hours putting up flyers. If someone else wants to pick up the challenge, I’ll help advertise. Let me know.

I’m continuing to seek roommates (have an entire house to fill), just 1 minute from Porter Square, new renovation, discounted pricing. Email for pics & description. May 1 or June 1.