Oh, dude, spiders make our freaking skin crawl. You never know when one of those little bastards is gonna drop from the ceiling and fill a limb with venom. Maybe if more of them were like Anansi, they wouldn't get smashed in a Kleenex and summarily flushed down the toilet. Most arachnids inject flesh-dissolving toxins into anyone who starts trouble, but Anansi is smarter than that. The eight-legged puppet uses his mind, man. Taken from African and Caribbean folk tales, the stories of Anansi the Spider are parables of wit over strength, mind over muscle. In one of the stories, Anansi convinces a menacing tiger to let the spider saddle up for a ride.
The Paul Mesner Puppets bring four Anansi stories to life starting at 7 p.m. in the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre (1600 South Withers Road). Tickets for the family show are $5 for adults and $4 for children. For details, call 816-792-6130.-- Michael Vennard
The impish De Niros and Streeps in your household might find that elusive epiphany during Theatre for Young America's open houses for potential students. There, parents can absorb firsthand the experiences their young thespians will encounter. Skills highlighted by the classes include those that even prospective lawyers might use: communication, imaginative thinking, and (never mind those lawyers) understanding emotions. The open houses will be held four times between January 20 and 28 at the theater (5909 Johnson Drive in Mission). For information, call 913-831-2131.-- Steve Walker
Travels With Tolkien
The megablockbuster Lord of the Rings movie franchise was filmed in remote locations across New Zealand, though it was the English countryside that originally inspired the setting for J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy. But who wants to make a movie in England? Sure, the makeup crew wouldn't have had to work so hard to uglify the hordes of orcs with false fangs, but who wants to eat fish and chips in the rain? At any rate, Te, the mysteriously mono-monikered former resident of the English Midlands, takes young man-children on a journey through the landscape that originally evoked Middle Earth. Visualize Frodo at home as Te recalls the scenic village of Sarehole, where Tolkien first envisioned little hairy-footed people living underneath the hills. The free presentation at the South Independence Mid-Continent Library (13700 East 35th Street) starts at 2 p.m. For registration or directions, call 816-461-2050.-- Vennard