Don't Worry, Rene Steinke's Novel Friendswood is Not About You

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Photo by Michelle Ocampo
The inspiration for her novel Friendswood came when author Rene Steinke was back visiting friends in her hometown of the same name. "They were talking about a neighborhood on the edge of town that had to be demolished," explained Steinke. "It was close to an old oil refinery where chemicals had been dumped in a field for decades." Her friends were referring to the real-life Brio Superfund site, which Steinke thought made for an excellent jumping off point for a new book.

"[My friends] were talking about how this place had become something of a ghost town. I was fascinated by the stories they were telling. My friends knew someone who had lost their home, another person who had cancer, and someone else who was related to [a refinery owner]." The interconnectedness intrigued Steinke, who saw potential in a setting where all of the characters' fates are so intertwined, that there would be repercussions for all in the end.

Steinke will present Friendswood at Brazos Bookstore on Thursday, October 9, at 7 p.m.

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Houston's Newest Woodhouse Day Spa Location Opens September 20 in Tanglewood

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Photo by Lubyanka
Attention writers--you need this.
In which I show up for a tour, and receive a luxurious, complimentary volcanic massage.

Located at the corner of Bering and San Felipe, Houston's newest luxury day spa is preparing for its grand opening on September 20. A modest sign hangs along the San Felipe side of the building, but the spa itself is accessed, quietly, from the interior court of the building where Dish Society is also located.

Upon entering, a friendly staff is ready to greet spa patrons in the combination reception and retail boutique area. At this point, it's important to resist the shelves full of Skinceuticals, Clarisonic, and other luxury bath and body products--proceed to the counter for pampering, and shop later.

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Incendium Gallery Gathers Houston Jewelry Artists to Show Off Local Flare at WhiteSpace

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Irrepressible by Houston jewelry artist Melanie Hoo. Hoo's work is among that of nine artists showing with Incendium Gallery on Friday, September 12.
When Goldesberry Gallery closed a few years ago, local jewelry artist Ruth Brenton felt a gap open up in the local arts scene. "They were around for many years, and were a great supporter and resource," Brenton recalled. "After the owners retired, no one stepped into that niche." As time passed, Brenton felt that it was time for a personal transition, and the idea to start her own gallery took hold. Hoping to step into the void left by Goldesberry's exit, Ruth created Incendium Gallery and kicked it off with a premier at this year's White Linen Nights, showing the work at WhiteSpace Houston, where "Local Flare" will also be held.

"We had a focused show on Jan Arthur Harrel's work. She's a great enamellist, and very well-known in that segment of the art world," said Brenton. "She's taught enameling at Glassell for many years. Her work showed beautifully in the space, and it's kind of full steam ahead now."

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Politics Aside: Senator Wendy Davis Signing Forgetting to Be Afraid: A Memoir at Brazos Bookstore on September 13

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Maybe you #StandWithWendy, maybe you don't, but on Saturday, September 13, you'll have the chance to stand in line to meet her at Brazos Bookstore. Senator Wendy Davis will be signing copies of her highly-anticipated new book, Forgetting to be Afraid: A Memoir, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and the event was an anticipated sell-out before it was even announced.

"The book is coming out next week, and there is a lot of excitement about it," said Brazos manager Jeremy Ellis. "We certainly expect a huge crowd, which is why we are limiting tickets to one per person." Ellis anticipates about a thousand tickets will be sold for the two-hour event, and is urging patrons to order tickets early to ensure a spot in line. Tickets are $27.95, and include a copy of the senator's memoir; a second copy of the book may be reserved and purchased, but tickets are strictly limited to one per person.

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Houston Theater District's Open House and Our Theater Awards Issue

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Photo by Marie Noelle Robert
For entry level opera-goers: Sweeney Todd
Besides the ballet, the theater companies and the symphony, this year's 21st Annual Theater District Open House will feature food trucks in Jones Plaza, tango lessons from the Society for the Performing Arts and has expanded to include Bayou City Music Center and Bayou Place (known rather more for their rock music than classical works).

And even though Alley Theatre has moved to a temporary home at the University of Houston where its first show of the season The Old Friends opens Wednesday, its personnel will still be on hand to show visitors through its production rooms to plumb the mysteries of costumes and wigs and rehearsal halls.

Perryn Leech, acting board chair of the Houston Downtown Alliance and Houston Grand Opera's managing director, says this year as always gives visitors an up-close-and personal (and free!) look at the Houston arts scene with the added benefit of being able to sign up for discounted subscriptions. "There are good bargains to be had," he says.

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Tying in to all the occasion, the Houston Press this week presents its annual Houston Press Arts Guide as well as the third year of our Houston Theater Awards, in which we draw attention to what we believe were the outstanding theatrical performances in our city during the 2013-14 season.


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Murakamania Midnight Release Party at Brazos Bookstore on Monday, August 11

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Haruki Murakami fans may want to consider taking a cat nap on Monday, August 11, in advance of Brazos Bookstore's Murakamania Midnight Release Par-tay [emphasis added], which kicks off at 10 p.m.

Stop in to talk about what you talk about when you talk about running with other Murakami fans, and walk away with a one-of-a-kind, Brazos Bookstore-designed original Murakami-themed coloring book--"What I Talk About When I Talk About Coloring." At the stroke of midnight, copies of "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage" will go on sale, but beware--the store strongly encourages pre-ordering, in anticipation of a sell-out.

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Finding the Black and White Truth on Tomlinson Hill

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If your car radio is usually tuned to NPR, you may have already heard from journalist and author Chris Tomlinson--his recent appearance on Fresh Air with Terry Gross likely caused a driveway moment or two. Tomlinson will be discussing and signing his new book, Tomlinson Hill, at Brazos Bookstore on Wednesday, July 30, and he says that sharing the story of his own Texas family's slaveholding roots is an exercise in personal and historical honesty.

"Almost every day I read or hear a Texan bragging about being a fourth or fifth-generation Texan, but I don't hear them talk about what that means," said Tomlinson, who recently joined the staff of the Houston Chronicle. "If you can trace your family history back that far, you are going to have a family history much like mine. I get angry when I hear people talk about being a fifth-generation Texan, but they don't want to talk about slavery or Jim Crow; they want to choose the history they talk about, and when they do that, they deny African Americans their history and their experience, and that's problematic."

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Throwback Thursday: Put on Your Dancing Shoes at Spring Street Studios

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Put on your dancing shoes

Many people know Spring Street Studios is where you go to watch theater offerings from Stark Naked Theatre Company and Mildred's Umbrella and that it is filled with visual arts studios as well.

This Thursday, Spring Street Studios is hosting its first ever Throwback Thursday to celebrate both theater companies' upcoming seasons and to also highlight the other building occupants.

"We have a lot of artists but we also have some businesses in the building," says Stark Naked's co-founder Kim Tobin-Lehl. Sponsored in part by the Houston Press, the event will also highlight a bicycle tour company, a yoga studio, and a paper company.


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Combined Smashin' Fashion Show + Houston's Best Stylist Competition Promises a Double Dose of Fashion Fun

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For Houston image expert Sarah Shah, style happens from the inside out. "I help people bring out what's inside them, rather than just putting something on to them," Shah recently explained over coffee at Down House. "Most people in this business tell people what they should wear, and then get mad when [the clients] don't like it. My job is to figure out a person's natural style, their own innate sense of what they should wear, and I take that and go from there. I guess I go a little backwards!"

Now Shah is poised to make a splash with yet another makeover, and this time it's a big one. She's making over the entire runway on July 31 at the first-ever Smashin' Fashion™ Show--Houston's Best Stylist Competition, at The Art Institute of Houston.

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7 Texas Drive-In Theaters That You Can Still Visit

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Photo by Andrew Dupont
The Starlite in Brenham still stands as a reminder of the halcyon days of drive-in theaters

The Starlite Drive-In Theater lies abandoned just off of Highway 290 in Brenham, looking like a dead monument to a time long gone. Anyone taking that route between Houston and Austin will have seen the back of its single screen and a tall metal fence around the perimeter.

Scattered around America, there are many old drive-ins. Most are lifeless husks, either abandoned and slowly being claimed by the elements, or having been repurposed into something entirely different. In other cases, they're simply gone, demolished so the land they sat on could be redeveloped into something more profitable.

Those that have disappeared entirely are relegated to the memories of locals who can still remember going to see movies there, but as time goes on fewer people are around who went to movies when they were open for business. There's a definite ghostlike quality to those old, boarded up drive-in theaters. It seems that most of the ones still standing are usually scattered on the outskirts of small towns where land is plentiful, and not in high demand. There's no rush to buy the theaters, and in those cases they simply stand vacant, as a reminder of a long gone era of American entertainment.

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