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It’s the New York City marathon for word lovers. Queens Writes Weekend 2014 will facilitate more than 12 literary events at a minimum of six venues throughout the world’s most diverse borough over the last weekend in April. The fun will start on Friday, April 25th, with an open reading at The Astoria Bookshop featuring contributors to the third issue of Newtown Literary, a semi-annual journal. On Saturday and Sunday, the events will differ, but authors of all kinds — young, old, novice, expert — will simply sit down together and write for a few hours. Participants will then share the products of their efforts at an open mic event at Terraza 7 in Elmhurst on Sunday night.

Details: Queens Writes Weekend 2014, begins with Kick-Off Reading at The Astoria Bookshop, 31-29 31st Street, Astoria, April 25th, 7 pm, click here for times and venues on April 26th and April 27th, ends at Wrap-Up Open Mic at Terraza 7, 40-19 Gleane Street, Elmhurst, April 27th, 6 pm, suggested donations at all times to defray the costs of publishing Newtown Literary‘s fourth edition and other good works. So far, events are set for Astoria, Bayside, Corona, Forest Hills, Jackson Heights and Kew Gardens, but more sites are expected to be confirmed before the weekend begins. Schedule and venues will be posted and updated regularly on this page.

Photo: Audrey Dimola

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Some cinema inspires without special effects, beautiful people and Hollywood endings. The ReelAbilities NY Disabilities Film Festival, which is presented annually in 15 U.S cities, features award-winning movies about people with disabilities, post-screening discussions and exhibits. On March 7th, ReelAbilities will start a three-day run in Greater New York City. The Central Queens Y will show Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, which tells the story of an autistic Rockaway Beach teen who rides the subway alone; Gabrielle (below), which is about a singer in a group home for developmentally disabled adults and her inseparable boyfriend; and Do You Believe in Love? (above), a Hebrew-language flick about Tova, who is paralyzed by muscular dystrophy, but works finding love matches for people with disabilities. The Forest Hills venue will also display Pearls Project Photography Exhibit through March 11th. Meanwhile over in Astoria, the Museum of the Moving Image will show Gabrielle and Stand Clear of the Closing Doors as well as Cinemability, a documentary on cinema’s effect on the evolving conception of disability; Little World, a Catalan movie about a wheelchair user who travels from Spain to New Zeland; and Run & Jump, which depicts a family’s struggles after the father suffers a stroke.  

Details: *New York Disability Film Festival, movies and an exhibit at Central Queens Y, 67–09 108th Street, Forest Hills, and movies at Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, March 7th through March 9th, times vary, click here for schedule.

*Movies will also show in Brooklyn; Manhattan; Staten Island; the Bronx; Garden City, Great Neck and Huntington, Long Island; and Mamaroneck and Pleasantville, Westchester. Click here for full list of films.

Photos: NYDFF

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Welcome to a new Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email emily@brownstoner.com.

The Spot: Tuscan Hills, 115-20 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills.

The Deal: Forest Hills restaurant Tuscan Hills specializes in not just Italian cuisine but Tuscan cuisine. Throughout the space are small stories about the birth of the restaurant. For example, when the owners took on a renovation here they didn’t know they’d find a beautiful brick wall hidden behind layers of sheetrock. Also look for the horseshoe which has brought the owners good luck.

The Dish: Since opening, the most popular dish on the menu has been the Caciucco alla livornese, a variation on a traditional Tuscan fish stew in a tomato sauce. Where a traditional fish stew is served with a few pieces of bread, at Tuscan Hills the stew is baked under pizza dough. The restaurant features Tuscan red and white wines that pair well with the dish, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano as the white and the light red Rosso di Montalcino.

The Caciucco alla livornese is served on the dinner menu.

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It’s a completely new take on classical music. Through creative programming and a deep commitment to dialogue and audience inclusion, PUBLIQuartet bridges the performer-listener gap while presenting standard and rare classical music, as well as contemporary compositions and improvisations. On Saturday, this string quartet will perform works by Franz Joseph Haydn, the electroacoustic Howie Kenty and violin-heavy composer Jessie Montgomery in Forest Hills, thanks to Musica Reginae Productions. Kenty and Montgomery are expected to attend the concert and stick around for the reception afterward.

Details: Chamber Classics with a Modern Spin, January 25th, 7:30 pm, The Church-in-the-Gardens, 50 Ascan Avenue, Forest Hills, $12 to $22/free for children under 13.

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Queens will be filled with beautiful music this Sunday. At 3 pm at Flushing Town Hall, Trio Cavatina will play classical and romantic music featuring works by Beethoven and Brahms. It will be the NYC premiere for Douglas Boyce, who writes chamber music that bridges the medieval and the modern, the visceral and the cerebral. This chamber ensemble, consisting of pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute, violinist Harumi Rhodes and cellist Priscilla Lee, won the 2009 Naumburg International Chamber Music Competition. Meanwhile at 4:30 pm, the Con Brio Ensemble will perform a twilight concert at the Church-in-the-Gardens in Forest Hills. World famous violinist Alexander Meshibovsky and pianist Diana Mittler will perform Respighi-Violin Sonata, Bloch-Baal Shem Suite and Sarasate-Introduction and Tarantella. Plus, Alan Hollander will play works for oboe and piano by Telemann, Ravel and Saint-Saens, and baritone Darian Worrell will sing the Four Serious Songs by Brahms. And if these concerts inspire their audiences, the Oratorio Society of Queens will hold auditions for those who enjoy choral singing at Flushing’s Temple Beth Sholom on Monday, January 13th, at 7:45 pm.

Details: Trio Cavatina, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, January 12th, 3 pm, $25/$20 for Queens residents/$15 for students.

Bonus details: Con Brio Ensemble, The Chuch-in-the-Gardens, 50 Ascan Avenue, Forest Hills, January 12th, 4:30 pm, $12/$10.

Final details: January 13th, Oratorio Society of Queens Auditions, Temple Beth Sholom, 171-39 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, January 13th, 7:45 pm, free but make reservations at 718.279.3006. 

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It’s time to hear the pitter patter of big feet. This Sunday, the up-and-coming nonprofit Queens Distance Runners (above) will host the Toy Drive 5 Miler at Forest Park. About 60 harriers are expected to participate in this fun run, which will go up and down a few hills and past some beautiful fields on the wide, tree-lined roads within the park. The event has a charitable aspect as well, as racers are asked to bring Christmas toy donations, which the Queens Centers for Progress will distribute to needy children. Plus, a portion of the event’s proceeds will go to the Queens Tourism Council.

Details: Forest Park 5 Miler, starting area at Forest Park Drive and Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Park, Forest Hills/Woodhaven, December 22nd, 10 am, $22/$17 students, register here.

How to get there: E/F train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike stop, walk down Union Turnpike to Forest Park Drive at Metropolitan Avenue . The starting area is roughly half a mile from the subway station. Or take LIRR to Kew Gardens station and walk down Audley Street to Metropolitan Avenue and Forest Park Drive.

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‘Tis the season to attend concerts… many, many concerts. Various top-notch Queens ensembles are set fill local venues with holiday spirit in the upcoming days. Each gig is unique, and each one offers a slightly different take on Christmas, the new year and winter. On Friday, Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist and composer Amanda Monaco brings her quartet, Formula One, to Flushing Town Hall. The first part of the show will feature original compositions inspired by car racing, while the second half will consist of seasonal favorites. On Sunday, there are three fantastic choices. At 3 pm at LeFrak Concert Hall, the Queens Symphony Orchestra (above) will take the audience on a world tour through music emblematic of various cultural traditions, all bound by the common theme of joy, unity and winter. At 4 pm, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church’s Sacred Music Society will host the Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens. At 5 pm at St. Joseph Church, the Astoria Symphony will celebrate with music by two great French masters: the Bach-inspired Oratorio de Noël by Camille Saint-Saëns and Francis Poulenc’s Gloria. Exactly a week later, the Orchestral Arts Ensemble of Queens will do another show with the Oratorio Society of Queens at the Queensborough Performing Arts Center. Expect Handel’s “Messiah,” Christmas carols and Hanukkah favorites.

December 13th details: Carols and Car Races, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Flushing, 8 pm, $15.

December 15th details: Holidays Around the World, LeFrak Concert Hall, Kissena Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing, 3 pm, $20/$10 children under 13 and adults over 64; A Christmas Concert, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, 110-06 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, 4 pm, $25/$10 for children 12 and under; Noël!, St. Joseph Church, 43-19 30th Avenue, Astoria, 5 pm, $20/$15 seniors and children.

December 22nd details: Annual Holiday Concert 2013, QPAC, 222-05 56th Avenue, Bayside, 4 pm, $30/$25 seniors and students with ID/$10 children 12 and under.

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New York native Rabbi Marc Schneier (above left) grew up in a Jewish community wary of outsiders. The scion of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty, his passion for Israel made him suspicious of Islam. Imam Shamsi Ali (above right) grew up in a small farming village in Indonesia and attended Muslim schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where he was taught that Jews intended to destroy Islam and its practitioners. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rabbi Schneier, who founded the Hampton Synagogue, forged an unlikely friendship with Imam Ali, the spiritual leader of the Jamaica Muslim Center, the city’s largest Islamic center. They became close friends, passionate advocates for mutual understanding between their religions and even authors. This Sunday at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali will discuss their book, Sons of Abraham, and confront their differences, while also looking for the values that unite them. They will talk about the legitimacy of Israel and Palestinian, the idea of the chosen people and the meaning of jihad and shari’a. They don’t always see eye to eye, but when they disagree, they don’t become disagreeable.

Details: Stepping Out of Comfort Zones, Forest Hills Jewish Center, 106-06 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, December 15th, 2 pm, $15-$20. Click here for tickets or contact Peggy Kurtz at the Central Queens Y, 718-268-5011 or pkurtz@cqy.org.

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He’s the mesmerizing master of the marimba. Makoto Nakura‘s artistry, virtuosity and showmanship enlighten and entertain audiences at the same time. On Saturday, the Japanese percussionist will offer a concert in his adopted hometown, Forest Hills, thanks to Musica Reginae. The program includes Nakura’s own transcriptions of Bach’s Solo Partita in E major and Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso; the pyrotechnic display of Paganini’s Caprice no. 24 and Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, and more recent works by Japanese composers Toshi Ichiyanagi and Toshio Mashima. Plus, he will be accompanied by violinist Jesse Mills and pianist Barbara Podgurski from the Oratorio Society of Queens.

Details: Making Music with the Marimba, The Church-in-the-Gardens, 50 Ascan Avenue, Forest Hills, December 7th, 7:30 pm. $20 adults/$15 seniors/$10 students/free children under 12.

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On your marks… Get set… Eat! The tenth annual Queens Restaurant Week 2013 will run from September 30th to October 3rd and October 7th to October 10th with more than 60 eateries participating. A three-course, prix fixe dinner for $28 and lunch for $14 are the general parameters for the promotion, although some establishments will also offer wine or some other items, and many restaurants will continue their specials beyond October 10th. As to be expected in the world’s most diverse county, the cuisine options are boundless. Participating restaurants include Ben’s Best (Kosher, Rego Park), Christos (Astoria, steakhouse with Greek influence), Dazies (Sunnyside, Italian), Haveli (Forest Hills, Indian), Roka (Richmond Hill, Turkish), Tequila Sunrise (Bayside, Mexican) and Uncle Peter’s (Jackson Heights, pan-European).

Details: Queens Restaurant Week 2013, September 30th to October 3rd and October 7th to October 10th. Click here for a participant list.