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The Week[end]: February 11-13, 2011

Love is in the air and on stage this pre-Valentine's Day weekend, with performances of The Love That Changed My Life by Forward Theatre and An Evening of Romance by the Madison Ballet pairing up with seasonal happenings, from the Garden Expo and Midwest Midwinter Gyspy Swing Festival to Darwin Day and a Mad Rollin' Dolls bout. The calendar also includes: MmoCA Nights and Kids in the Rotunda; a production of The Vagina Monologues; performances by David Garrett, Pro Arte Quartet, and the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble; more live music from Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole, Big Gigantic, Guante & the Tribe, Against Me!, and Justin Townes Earle; and, a new edition of Naked Girls Reading.

Friday 2.11
NOTEWORTHY: Nelson Mandela freed after 27 years in South African prison, 1990.

Garden Expo
Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall, 4-9 pm. Also Saturday (8 am-6 pm) & Sunday (10 am-4 pm), Feb. 12 & 13
Hard as it is to believe right now, spring may come one day. You can prepare at this Wisconsin Public Television fundraiser, which features demonstrations, workshops and exhibitors.

Midwest Midwinter Gypsy Swing Festival
Brink Lounge, 6:30 pm. Also Saturday, Feb. 12, 6:30 pm
The Gypsy jazz legacy of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli gets a full reading from New York's Frank Vignola, Montreal's Dennis Chang (with Christian Howes) and Argentina's Gonzalo Bergara, along with Madison favorites Harmonious Wail, the Gadjo Players and Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble.

MMoCA Nights
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 6:30 pm
MMoCA organizers regularly create a pocket of sophistication with these pleasant events, which see patrons sipping cocktails, enjoying performances (tonight: New Muse and First Wave Spoken Word & Hip Hop Arts Learning Community) and, oh yeah, checking out art (see Nightlife).

The Love That Changed My Life
Overture Center's Promenade Hall, 8 pm. Also Saturday, Feb. 12, 4 & 8 pm
Forward Theater Company presents a seasonally appropriate program of monologues devoted to L-U-R-V. There's work by local writers like Madison theater stalwart Rob Matsushita, as well as national playwrights like Christopher Durang.

Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole
Great Hall at UW Memorial Union, 8 pm
Travel to the bayou this Friday: Grammy-nominated fiddler and accordionist Cedric Watson performs a set of old-school zydeco and La-La French music (a type of traditional Creole tune) with his band, Bijou Creole, for UW-Madison's Fete de Louisiane. With Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys.

Big Gigantic
Majestic Theatre, 9:30 pm
This Boulder, Colo., duo have only been on the scene since 2009, but their pairing of electronic dance beats and lots of jazzy sax solos is sure to resonate with jam-band fans and dance-club lovers for quite some time. With Kraddy and Somasphere.

Guante & the Tribe
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9:30 pm
Hip-hop artist and two-time National Poetry Slam champ Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre returns to his Madison stomping grounds to give fans a taste of his new album, The Best Love Is Free. With Sleepy MC and Stereotype.

Saturday 2.12
BIRTHDAYS: Singer Chynna Phillips & actor Josh Brolin, 1968.

Darwin Day
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 9 am-2 pm
The UW throws its sixth annual salute to the English naturalist Charles Darwin, who famously propounded the "theory" of "evolution." Ha ha, just kidding with the quotes! Anyway, there are learning stations for the kids and talks by experts.

Truly Remarkable Loon
Overture Center's Rotunda Stage, 9:30 & 11 am, 1 pm
The Madison juggler is truly remarkable, not to mention hilariously eccentric. See for yourself at this Kids in the Rotunda event.

Madison Ballet
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 2 & 7:30 pm
"An Evening of Romance" gets a jump (literally) on Valentine's Day with dances featuring video footage from the big-band era, live performances by local jazz singer Jan Wheaton and pianist Michael Massey, and the return of local dancer-made-good Genevieve Custer-Weeks.

The Vagina Monologues
Wisconsin Union Theater, 7 pm. Also Sunday, Feb. 13, 3 pm
The UW presents its annual production of Eve Ensler's play, in which women discuss both their private lives and private parts.

David Garrett
Overture Hall, 8 pm
The German-born violin virtuoso trained at Juilliard, and no one is questioning his classical chops. But lately he's been making his name with albums like last year's Rock Symphonies, on which he rips up tunes by acts like Nirvana and Metallica.

Pro Arte Quartet
Mills Hall in the UW Humanities Bldg., 8 pm
The UW's ace ensemble plays a free concert, including Haydn's "Quinten" quartet and a Brahms quintet featuring clarinetist Linda Bartley.

Against Me!
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Though they pissed off legions of punk fans when they signed to a big label in 2003, Against Me! don't seem to be looking back. Their 2010 release, White Crosses, produced by Butch Vig, is as catchy, polished and radio-friendly as ever, which won't win back old fans but will lure tons of new ones (see Tour Stop). With Cheap Girls and Fences.

Justin Townes Earle
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
The recent winner of an Americana Music Award is making waves in the worlds of indie music and mainstream tunes with his ear-pleasing country and folk. His new album, Harlem River Blues, recently reached number 18 on Billboard's rock chart and number 9 on its indie chart. With Jessica Lea Mayfield.

Sunday 2.13
NOTEWORTHY: Allies begin air strikes on Dresden, 1945.

Mad Rollin' Dolls
Alliant Energy Center's Coliseum, 1 pm
It's a rare matinee outing for our local roller derby league. Watch the ladies make delightful athletic mayhem as the Unholy Rollers battle the Vaudeville Vixens and the Quad Squad takes on Milwaukee's Shevil Knevils (see Nightlife).

Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble
Gates of Heaven Synagogue, 3 pm
The local ensemble plays another program of Baroque music on period instruments. The guest artist is countertenor Gerrod Pagenkopfu, and the program includes Telemann's "New Year" cantata, plus arias by Monteverdi.

Naked Girls Reading
Inferno, 7 pm
Members of this local group create intimate events by reading aloud. Naked. Past readings have featured works by rockers and youthful favorites. This one features readings about love, natch, by Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood and others.

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