Astrid Hadad with VIVA series

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 05/13/2006 - 16:37.


Here you can sample her singing

Here you can see her wild website and read all about her here in English or

Here in Spanish


    We were given tickets to see Astrid Hadad in the VIVA series presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art last night. Because the museum is closed for construction, the VIVA series has spread out around town into different venues, but maybe not different enough. Astrid Hadad a Mexican cabaret singer with a seriously clever satiric ability and an astute political edge was presented at the Bolton Theater of the Cleveland Play House. This artist is clearly a treat; she spoke in English about her work in between songs and during onstage costume changes (which were spectacular).

    But the songs were all in Spanish, so since we could only hear laughter at the things she said in English between songs, we figured that like us, the other grey and dyed hairs in the audience didn't speak Spanish either. Too bad, cause we probably would have been laughing throughout if the wit of her banter was any indication.


Here's the really too bad part though... too bad that given this opportunity to bust out and present the series around town, Massoud Saidpour didn't present Astrid Hadad at Belinda's where she would have been a treat to an audience with more latinas like her. It would have brought the CMA to the west side and shattered that snooty uptown air that the CMA can have in the neighborhood Cleveland community. Bob Bergman would have been delighted to see his Gartner series presented in a little known (to the Museum crowd) hot spot with a seedy exterior but a hot, hot, hot REAL Cleveland interior where more of the audience would have enjoyed Hadad's talent.


            The evening was reminiscent of the traveling days of the Performance Art Festival (PAF) before it died. We would open the brochure and ask “Where does Tom want us to go now?” But it was fun -- a sort of scavenger hunt for art. And Astrid had the sort of acerbic wit and political commentary of the PAF artists we recall. Still we felt a twinge of oddity with the audience being our age and older, mostly white and seated soooo politely at the Bolton Theater of the Cleveland Play House. Maybe it would have been a good time for those super titles that the opera uses so that more of us could understand. Either that or force those eastside CMA donors to see the show at Belinda’s or Touch Supper Club where someone might have been able to translate for them and us.


            We commend Massoud for exposing his audience to irreverent performance art, but would like to encourage him to not keep it under wraps the next time he decides to program outside the box. In fact, we look forward to next year’s series taking us to more Cleveland area landmarks. Sand paintings at City Hall – that’s great; Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares at St. Stanislaus is wonderful. Maybe next year we can see/hear Los Muenoquitos des Matanzas at say, the East Cleveland library.

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The big picture is out there....but so hard to view...trees...forests...our biases

Regional arts institutions must get more creative

I hate going to anything at the Cleveland Playhouse/MOCA complex - my last choice of venue for anything in NEO - which makes me sad, since I like good theater and they have the only significant Philip Johnson building in town.

If Cleveland and Playhouse leadership had ever developed an arts community on and around the Playhouse property (truly linking with the Karamu community, for example), and integrated their facilities and purposes with the regional arts community, their part of Mid-Town/University Circle could be an exciting addition to our cultural landscape.

As far as looking to the Cleveland Museum of Art for cultural outreach across the community, that is a new potential that we may explore with the new director, who I hope will be more progressive, creative and impactful in this community than directors of the past. With what we the community are investing in expansion of current CMA facilities, the museum must create an entire new society of local arts enthusiasts if it is to be financally sustainable. Museum leadership has the immensely difficult task of creating new arts consumers in a regional sprawl context where potential patrons are spewed across hundreds of mles of culturally blighted suburban wasteland. Good luck.

My long way of saying, you are right, Susan, we need to get the arts out of the box and over where they are appreciated - especially as we see so many of our current arts institutions (like Healthspace, the Ballet and the Opera) are not sustainable by our current arts community under current paradigms. These are huge problems for the institutions' founding/supporting fathers and mothers... not that different than the over-building and excess capacity the Catholic Church is dealing with as a result of sprawl... in fact, the arts must compete with religon for this shrinking pie of distracted sub-urban swellers and their over-extended dollars.

But then, as you also point out today, when we look at sprawl and the state of our water and air and the catastrophic problems ahead with that, who cares about today's Playhouses? The cultural pie will shrink here until we solve these bigper social problems. Once people move back into a rational community based culture, there will be critical mass to build up our arts and culture profile for the future, and it may largely be in Spanish.