54th Annual Ann Arbor Film Festival. AAFF is one of the oldest (and one of the most prestigious) experimental/independent film festivals in North America and features 6 days of film screenings, panel discussions, and parties. This year’s event begins on Tuesday and culminates in screenings of award-winning films on Sunday. The competition showcases new experimental and independent 16-mm, 35-mm, and digital films and videos in a wide range of genres, with screenings at the Michigan Theater, the State Theater, and more. Tickets: $100 (members, students, & seniors, $85) for the entire festival and $60 (members, students, & seniors, $50) for weekend passes, available in advance at aafilmfest.org, and $10 (students, seniors, & members, $7) per show at the door. Visit the AAFF website to see a detailed schedule of events.
Apollo’s Fire presents Bach’s “St. John Passion.” University Musical Society presents this acclaimed Cleveland Baroque orchestra, founded and conducted by Jeannette Sorrell, an award-winning harpsichordist. At Tuesday’s show, AF will feature 5 vocal soloists, as well as their renowned professional chamber choir, Apollo’s Singers, in Bach’s dramatic and theatrical oratorio. In this acclaimed interpretation, the action is staged on a theatrical platform within the orchestra, with the soloists performing the main roles and the chorus evoking the wild mob with fierce intensity. With Grammy-winning tenor (and U-M grad) Nicholas Phan as Evangelist, acclaimed baritone (and U-M grad) Jesse Blumberg as Jesus, and accomplished stage actor and baritone Jeffrey Strauss as Pilate. Also, international operatic soprano Amanda Forsythe and Michigan-born, Washington, D.C.-based mezzo-soprano Kristen Dubenion-Smith. Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 2250 E. Stadium in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $45 and $55, available in advance at ums.org and 734-764-2538.
The Moth Storyslam. Monthly open mike storytelling competition sponsored by The Moth, the NYC-based nonprofit storytelling organization that also produces a weekly public radio show. Each month, 10 storytellers are selected at random from among those in the audience who sign up to tell a 3-5 minute story relevant to that month’s theme. 3 judges are recruited from the audience, and monthly winners compete in a semiannual Grand Slam. Space is limited, so it’s smart to arrive early. Tuesday’s theme is “The Dark Side,” and the event runs from 7:30-9 p.m. (doors open, and sign-up begins, at 6 p.m.) at Circus, 210 S. First in Ann Arbor. Admission costs $10.
“David OReilly: A Glitch Is a Glitch.” Part of the U-M School of Art & Design Penny Stamps Speaker Series. Check out a talk by this adventuresome, innovative, Irish-born, L.A.-based animation filmmaker, who directed the funny and touching faux-animated video game in Spike Jonze’s 2013 film “Her,” as well as the Adventure Time episode, “A Glitch Is a Glitch,” as the first-ever guest director for Cartoon Network. Thursday at 5:10 p.m. at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St. in Ann Arbor. Free.
SOLD OUT Diane Rehm event at Rackham. If you’re among those lucky enough to have tickets, consider this a reminder that longtime public radio talk show host Rehm will speak, courtesy of Michigan Radio and Literati Bookstore, at Rackham Auditorium (915 E. Washington St. in Ann Arbor) on Thursday at 7 p.m. Rehm will read from her new memoir, “On My Own,” and speak with Michigan Radio’s Cynthia Canty afterward. A copy of “On My Own” is included with the event’s $30 ticket, but there will be no book-signing following the talk. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Thurston Community Players’ “I Need Some Space.” Thurston Elementary School students, parents, and friends present the school’s 42nd annual original musical. This year’s comic show concerns spaceships, alien abductions, and the potential reinstatement of Pluto at the Planetary Summit. Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 7 p.m., at Clague Middle School auditorium, 2616 Nixon in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $10 (students, $5), available in advance at thurstonplayers.org.
“Charley’s Aunt” at Skyline High School. Anne-Marie Roberts directs Skyline students in Brandon Thomas’s late-19th-century farce about a trio of Oxford undergraduates and their difficulties in wooing the objects of their affections. They arrange for the young ladies to spend a weekend in the country with them, but one of the men must masquerade as “Charley’s Aunt” from Brazil in order to provide the proper young ladies with the requisite chaperone. This period comedy was adapted as the 1948 musical “Where’s Charley?” and remains a perennial favorite with theater companies. Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Skyline High School auditorium, at 2552 N. Maple in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $10 (students & seniors, $8) available in advance at showtix4u.com.
“Warren’s Peace,” presented by Saline Area Players. Marc Holland directs local actors in the premiere of his and Kathy Holland’s comedy set in the fictional small town of Crickwater, Michigan. A National Guardsman is sent to the town to kick off World Peace Day, but the eccentricities of the townspeople, age-old conflicts, and the town’s distrust of outsiders leads to a bumpy ride. (Preceded at 7-8 p.m. by the chance to sample Michigan-made treats.) Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at Fifth Corner, 211 Willis Rd. in Saline. Tickets cost $18, available in advance at salineareaplayers.org.
Ark calendar highlights. On the heels of earning a standing ovation at this year’s Ann Arbor Folk Festival, close-harmony quartet Darlingside has sold out its Friday night show; but don’t fret. There’s more great stuff at The Ark. You can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday night with Star & Micey, a cheeky Memphis pop-folk, Americana, and bluegrass quartet that just released its debut CD, “Get ‘Em Next Time.” They plan on Thursday at 8 p.m. at The Ark, 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15, available in advance at mutotix.com, theark.org, and 734-763-TKTS.
On Saturday, The Ark welcomes back Kathy Mattea. This veteran folk-country singer and 2-time Grammy winner returns to town after an 10-year absence. Mattea sings in a low, luminous, richly shaded voice that she uses to create emotional landscapes that are at once down-to-earth and deeply evocative. She also has an uncommonly sharp eye for good songs and has, as one critic notes, “set her musical sights higher than the sort of cliche-ridden romantic fodder for moonstruck teens and self-absorbed twentysomethings that’s so typical with contemporary country radio fare.” That sharp eye was showcased on her 2008 CD “Coal,” a collection rooted in her own heritage as the descendant of a long line of coal miners. Saturday at 8 p.m. at The Ark, 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $35, available in advance at mutotix.com, theark.org, and 734-763-TKTS.
Young Actors Guild’s “The Hobbit.” Anna Valaskova directs young local actors in Patricia Gray’s theatrical adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s prelude to his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Appropriate for kids in grade 2 and up. Friday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m., at Concordia University Kreft Center Theatre, 4090 Geddes in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $12 (students, $5), available in advance at aayag.org.
Tappan Players’ “Annie.” Middle school students present Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, and Thomas Meehan’s upbeat, Tony Award-winning 1976 musical comedy inspired by the Little Orphan Annie comic strip. Songs include “Tomorrow,” “Hard-Knock Life,” and “Easy Street.” Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. at Tappan Middle School, 2251 E. Stadium in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $12 (students, $10), available in advance at showtix4u.com.
MUSKET presents “Big Fish.” Overflowing with heart, humor and spectacular stagecraft, “Big Fish” is an extraordinary new Broadway musical that reminds us why we love going to the theatre. The story centers on the charismatic Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son Will. As Edward’s final chapter approaches, Will embarks on his own journey to find out who his father really is, revealing the man behind the myth, the truth from the tall tales. MUSKET is a student-run musical theater company at U-M. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher in Ann Arbor. Advance tickets available at http://www.ummusket.org/ (or by phone at 734-764 – 2538) cost $7 for students, $13 for general admission; tickets sold at the door cost $10 for students, $15 for general admission.
Author Owen Laukkanen at Nicola’s Books. This award-winning Vancouver writer will read from “The Watcher in the Wall,” his new novel in his Stevens and Windermere series about 2 detectives in a violent crime task force. This time, the investigators discover an online suicide club of unhappy teens, who are being spurred on by an anonymous presence. Signing. Saturday at 3 p.m. at Nicola’s Books, 2513 Jackson in Ann Arbor. Free.
Drop-in Luminary Workshops. April’s fast approach means that FestiFools and FoolMoon are on the horizon, so every Sunday, local artists are showing drop-in attendees how to make a lantern to carry in the FoolMoon processionals (happening April 1). Materials provided. Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Workantile, 118 S. Main in Ann Arbor. $10 suggested donation.
“An Afternoon of Ann Arbor’s Best!”: Wild Swan Theater Benefit. A family-friendly concert of performances by local favorites, including the popular acoustic folk duo Gemini with violinist Emily Slomovits, harmonica wiz and multi-instrumentalist Peter Madcat Ruth, keyboardist and composer Brian Buckner, and singer-songwriter Joe Reilly with pianist Allison Radell. Emcee is award-winning storyteller Laura Pershin Raynor. Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at The Ark, 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15 (4-pack, $50), available in advance at wildswantheater.org.