Prehistoric monsters on display, virtual culture, and jazz for a cause in this week’s ‘Things to Do’

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The Academy of Natural Sciences

Academy of Natural Sciences (Google maps)

This week brings good news: as per updated COVID-19 protocols, Philadelphia museums are cleared to reopen. And a historic music venue hosts a weeklong concert to help keep it afloat.

Night at the museum(s)

Yes, Philadelphia’s museums are back after a state-mandated shutdown to stop the surge of coronavirus cases in the area. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Penn Museum, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the Barnes Foundation are all reopening as of this week. (Notable exceptions – the Please Touch Museum, the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the National Museum of American Jewish History – remain closed for the time being.) All of the museums are still operating under COVID-19 protocols including capacity limits and mandatory mask-wearing for visitors and staff. Advance-purchase, timed tickets are required and some museum hours may be limited so check museum websites for updates before planning a visit.

It’s the culture

The Penn Museum is hosting a family-friendly, interactive online Culture Fest to lead up to the Lunar New Year, which starts on Feb. 11. The monthlong festival includes live programming about various aspects of Asian cultures including a lecture on the history of the Chinese zodiac, a film screening about Jiho Im, the ‘Wandering Chef’ who travels Korea in search of food discoveries, and an overview of traditional Lunar New Year lion dances worldwide.

Penn Museum Culture Fest 
virtual, through Saturday, Jan. 30, free.

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Monsters of the past

Before dinosaurs walked the earth, there were mysterious beasts who provided clues to their future evolution but were rendered extinct before modern day scientists could study them. “Permian Monsters,” the exhibit now opening at the Academy of Natural Sciences after the COVID museum shutdown delayed it, showcases what is known about those animals. Researchers have some idea what the creatures were like – there were reptilians who would ultimately evolve into mammals, unusual shark-like fish and a predatory saber-toothed gorgonopsid. The creatures lived during the Permian era, just 290 million years ago. Not only can you view fossils and artist renderings and of what these monsters may have looked like, you can also try being an amateur paleontologist with interactive games and other activities.

“Permian Monsters”
Academy of the Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
Friday, Jan. 8 – Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. $18

All that jazz

The coronavirus pandemic devastated independent concert halls as live music venues and theaters worldwide went dark. Now, a Philly institution, Chris’ Jazz Café is seeking help to keep its doors open. The new stimulus bill set aside $15 billion for live music and entertainment, but even that may not be enough to save beloved venues as there will be thousands hoping for some financial relief. Organized by vocalist JD Walter, the café will try to help themselves with JazzAid, a week of streamed past performances from a global cohort of more than 60 jazz musicians, including bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Rosenwinkel will anchor a 24-hour stream of nonstop music on Sunday, Jan. 10. The café, which also hosted a GoFundMe to pay musicians who are performing in their streaming music series, says 100% of the proceeds will go to keeping the club afloat until they can secure additional financial relief.

Saturday, Jan. 9 – Saturday, Jan. 16, virtual, pay-as-you-wish.

Mood music

New Light Theater in Delaware is starting off the new year with as hopeful a show as can be imagined given all the challenges of 2020. “Songs for a New World” penned by Jason Robert Brown, examines, through music, what happens when normal routines are suddenly upended, something that resonates with anyone who lived through last year. The performers worked together but apart, creating the musical at a healthy distance from each other. The nonprofit venue is working in conjunction with the Theater Philadelphia Emergency Relief Fund that helps local performers impacted by the pandemic.

New Light Theater “Songs for a New World”
virtual, streaming on-demand from midnight on Friday, Jan. 8 to midnight on Sunday, Jan. 10. $10 – $20

Fiery talk

Princeton’s McCarter Center invites you to pull up a chair for a nice Fireside Chat, their on-demand interview series with some of the region’s most creative folks. Hosted by new artistic director Sarah Rasmussen, the interviewees include Pulitzer Prize winners, local artists, business people, and student activists. It’s all part of the McCarter @ Home program which has provided a robust combination of online content throughout the pandemic, from the Adrienne Kennedy play festival to interviews and classes for children and adults.

Heaven on screen

The Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival is hosting a virtual screening for the documentary “Some Kind of Heaven,” a Festival Plus! event. Produced by Darren Aronofsky with Lance Oppenheim in his directorial debut, it brings viewers into The Villages, the largest retirement community in America, located in Central Florida. The doc examines why one group of the residents is unhappy despite the community’s reputation as an nirvana of elderly living. “Some Kind of Heaven,” virtual, on-demand, Sunday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m.  – Thursday, Jan. 13, 7 p.m.  $12 (Note: Only residents of Pa., N.J., Del., and Fla. can access the screening.)

Healing herb

Over the past few years, cannabis has had a moment as its healing and recuperative powers have been utilized from everything from pain relief to mood control. CBD is the non-euphoric and non-intoxicating version of the plant (as opposed to cannabis with THC, which has been used recreationally for its euphoric and psychoactive effects and medically for pain relief). Though cannabis is now legal for medical and/or recreational use in multiple states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, it is still designated as a controlled substance by the federal government. CBD, though, is legal everywhere and is now found in products from body balms and oils to sleep aids, supplements and even for pets. The Northwest Learning Hub is hosting a Cannabis Night Market that will offer a variety of cannabis-related products.

Cannabis Night Market
Northwest Learning Hub, 5838 Germantown Ave.
Friday, Jan. 8, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., pay-as-you-go.

Keep checking in with “Things To Do” as we continue to provide our picks for entertainment during the industry’s COVID-19 hiatus. Please consult our coronavirus updates to keep up with the latest information regionally.

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