5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Madame Butterfly, Artopia 2015 and More

Categories: Top 5

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Photo by Lynn Lane
Ana Maria Martinez in Madame Butterfly
The original Madame Butterfly was a two-act disaster that premiered in 1904. Composer Giacomo Puccini hauled it back in and rewrote extensively in time for another try later that year, and in the two years that followed, after another few revisions, came up with the three-hanky classic that audiences have appreciated ever since and that Houston Grand Opera has lined up to be its next production this season. Our choice for Friday, the story begins with the marriage of Cio-Cio-San (Madame Butterfly), a 15-year-old Japanese girl, to American Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton. He sees the marriage as a temporary stop on his worldwide travels; she thinks it's permanent. He splits and while she waits for his return, she has their baby. Baritone Scott Hendricks plays Sharpless, the American consul who presides over Pinkerton's marriage and tries to make the officer take responsibility for his actions.

Texas native Hendricks, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut a year ago in the role, says: "Sharpless is the moral conscience of the piece. He feels for Butterfly and warns Pinkerton not to take this lightly." And it only gets worse for the consul. He has to tell Butterfly her husband is not coming back to her and that Pinkerton and his American wife, Kate, want to take Butterfly's child. "He's been put in an awful position by Pinkerton's actions and his selfishness," Hendricks says. So why do people continue to turn out to see this opera, the most tragic one Puccini ever did? The music, Hendricks says, as well as the fact that the story remains relevant, with resentments con-tinuing to this day over the actions of U.S. servicemen overseas (in 2012, two U.S. sailors were accused of raping a Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa, he points out). Hendricks, who says, "It's nice not having to play a bad guy," sings a lot of Puccini and Verdi as well as new works. Houston favorite Ana Maria Martinez returns as Butterfly. Hendricks has a special reason to look forward to this HGO production. "My mom missed my Met debut, so she'll be coming from San Antonio to see this."

See Madame Butterfly at 7:30 p.m. January 23, 28, 31 and February 6; 2 p.m. January 25 and February 8. Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713‑228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15 to $354.

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The 5 Best Things to Do This Weekend: The Naughton Sisters, Mel Chin and More

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Photo by Jordan Jaffe
Ty Doran and Lindsay Ehrhardt in Tigers be Still
Art imitates life when father and son Justin and Ty Doran play father and son in Black Lab Theatre's production of Tigers Be Still, a black comedy by Kim Rosenstock and our choice for Friday. Joseph is a high school principal; Zach is his son, who's still reeling from losing his mother in a car accident. Joseph hires Sherry, a newly graduated art therapist, to work with his son but since Zach's range of emotions is limited to snark, she doesn't make much headway.

Sherry (Samantha Slater) has her own problems. She's moved back home, which rather resembles a psychiatric ward. Her sister Grace (Lindsay Ehrhardt) is permanently entrenched on the living room sofa, wallowing in depression; her mother, who's upstairs in her bedroom and won't come out, talks to her daughters only by phone.

Oh yeah, and a tiger has escaped from the zoo and is roaming the neighborhood streets. Tigers is directed by Jordan Jaff, Black Lab's artistic director.

See Tigers Be Still 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and January 19. Through January 31. Wildfish Theatre, 1703 Post Oak Boulevard. For information, call 713‑515‑4028 or visit blacklabtheatre.com. $25.

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The 5 Best Things You Can Do in Houston This Weekend: Diavolo, Hot Box Girls and More

Categories: Top 5

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Photo by Alexander Slanger
Diavolo company members in Fluid Infinities
Jacques Heim's Diavolo dance company has an unusual tagline: "Architecture in Motion." The phrase eloquently describes Heim's fusion of industrial set pieces with concert dance. In town on Friday for a one-night stand courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts, Diavolo has two dramatic works on the bill, Fluid Infinities and Trajectoire.

Originally created for the Hollywood Bowl and commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Fluid Infinities is set to Philip Glass's Symphony No 3. In it, company members dive, slide and propel themselves through crater-like holes in a 1,600-pound dome sitting onstage that looks like the moon. The work investigates our connection with space and time. Trajectoire also features a large set-piece with a giant, rocking ship onstage. The performers (dancers, gymnasts and actors) take the audience on a suspense-filled voyage.

The French-born artistic director Jacques Heim founded Diavolo in 1992. Since the emergence of his Los Angeles-based company, he's choreographed for notable shows such as Cirque du Soleil's Kà.

8 p.m. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713‑227‑4772 or visit spahouston.org. $28 to $70.

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The 5 Best Things You Can Do in Houston This Weekend: Robert Hodge Closes at CAMH and More

Categories: Top 5

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Courtesy of Robert Hodge
The Great Electric Show and Dance by Robert Hodge
Visual artist Robert Hodge didn't have far to drive when he attended the opening of "Robert Hodge: Destroy & Rebuild" a few weeks ago. His first ever solo museum show is in its final weekend. (We strongly suggest a Friday visit.) Hodge grew up in and still has his studio in Third Ward, just a few blocks away from the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston that hosted "Destroy & Rebuild." The exhibit is a collection of recent and new work. The pieces, works on paper, are made up several layers of found paper (posters, signs and such) that Hodge collected from around the city. Hodge cut text in the top layer, so the viewer sees bits and pieces of the paper underneath. The text comes from music lyrics.

Among them is "There's a war going on outside no man is safe from / You can run but you can't hide forever" from hardcore hip­hop duo Mobb Deep's "Survival of the Fittest." There's also "The Great Electric Show and Dance," a nod to Houston blues guitarist Lightnin' Hopkins.

Catch "Robert Hodge: Destroy & Rebuild" 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Through January 4. 5216 Montrose. For information, call 713‐284‐8250 or visit camh.org. Free.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: 2014 DocFest and More

Categories: Top 5

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Photo by Gary Spector
Bettina May
Kick off your weekend with the women from the Ruby Revue Burlesque Show. Pinup queen and burlesque dancer Bettina May, who's often compared to Rita Hayworth, appears as the special guest artist at one of Friday's two shows. It's easy to see why May gets compared to Hayworth - the Titian-haired beauty has a 36-28-38 figure, movie-star good looks and a vintage Hollywood glamour style. But Rita Hayworth never shimmied like Bettina May.

Among her most popular routines are a classic gown peel (her ode to Hayworth), a chair dance (a nod to Marlene Dietrich) and a showgirl showstopper (echoes of Josephine Baker). Originally from Canada, May earned her green card for her skill as a striptease artist. (She was deemed an "alien with extraordinary ability," a category usually reserved for scientists, world-class athletes and such.) Now based in New York City, May is the author of the recently released Everyday Bombshell, a how-to guide for women who want to add a bit of vintage pinup beauty to their lives.

Also appearing as a special guest is Grace Gotham. Billed as a bawdy chanteuse, the Dallas native has been known to take a spin on a pole if there's one handy. Gotham's a gourmet of sorts; she writes Tassel to Table Cuisine, a popular food blog.

The women of the Ruby Revue will take their turn in the spotlight. "We'll be performing our award-winning group act, Taste The Rainbow," troupe member Ginger Valentine tells us. "We won Best Troupe from [the] Burlesque Hall of Fame for that routine, and crowds always go nuts." Shelbelle Shamrock (also known as The Get Lucky Girl) is performing She's Dangerous, a routine that showcases her hip-hop and break-dancing skills. And Renee Holiday draws on her opera training for La Petite Morte, a satire of a classic aria.

See Bettina May, Grace Gotham and the Ruby Revue Burlesque Show at 6:30 and 10 p.m. on Friday at the House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, visit therubyrevue.com. $32 to $40.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Christmas...With Monkeys!

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Photo by Dalton DeHart
Joe Kirkendall
On Friday, standout musical theater stars Joe Kirkendall, Jennifer Gilbert, Joel Sandel, John Gremillion and Tamara Siler tackle The Great American Christmas Songbook in the Bayou City Concert Musicals holiday program Christmas on Broadway. Sharon Williams, president of Bayou City Concert Musicals, tells us that while the show is called Christmas on Broadway, that's just one genre on the program. "We're taking a rather broad definition of 'Broadway,'" she says. "We're including music from Broadway shows, film scores and the standards." And, yes, a few Christmas carols. "We're doing 'Little Drummer Boy' and 'Peace on Earth,' so there will be a little bit of traditional music, but most of the program is made up of pop and show tunes."

Under the direction of BCCM Musical Director Michael Mertz, the group sings "A Winter Wonderland," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" and "The Christmas Song." "We're jazzing 'em up a little. Jennifer Gilbert is going to sing "Hard Candy Christmas" from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. We're keeping it fun." Fun, Williams is quick to point out, doesn't mean unsophisticated. Group numbers include "Believe," "Countdown to Christmas" from the Broadway show A Christmas Story, and "Jing-a-ling-a-ling," which is an Andrews Sisters song. "Those group numbers can get really complicated. [The singers] have to make it seem so easy, but there's a lot of difficulty in [the arrangements]. There's lots going on."

8 p.m. Ovations, 2536 Times Boulevard. For information, visit bayoucityconcertmusicals.org. $25 to $35.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: "Double Life" and More

Categories: Top 5

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From Mountains of Encounter
A trio of international artists explore the idea of performance beyond the usual definition of live artists presenting to an audience in "Jérôme Bel, Wu Tsang, and Haegue Yang. Double Life" which has an opening reception on Friday. The works blur the differences between performing and visual arts, documentary and fiction.

Based in Paris, choreographer Jérôme Bel contributes two works, the 2004 video Veronique Doisneau and 2009's Cédric Andrieux. In both, Bel invited dancers onstage to discuss their life experiences through movement and dialogue. (By becoming both the subject of the work and an active par-ticipant in its presentation, each dancer becomes more than just a physical body translating movement.)

Wu Tsang contributes For how we perceived a life (Take 3), a 16mm film loop capturing images of the artist and other performers lip-syncing to segments from Paris Is Burning, the legendary documentary by Jennie Livingston. Presented out of context, the statements made in Paris take on new meanings. Tsang also premieres his newly completed commission, Miss Communication and Mr:Re, a two-channel video installation showing several encounters between the artist and poet and critical theorist Fred Moten.

Haegue Yang's Mountains of Encounter is an installation of bright red suspended Venetian blinds. Illuminated by moving spotlights, Mountains references a series of secret meetings between Helen Foster Snow, an American journalist, and Jang Jirak, a Korean national, in China during the 1930s. Snow eventually wrote a book, Song of Ariran, based on those encounters that records the complex, often troubled history between Korea, Japan and China. Yang's work is filled with angles and peaks that echo both the mountain region where the two met and the searchlights and bars of the prisons, the probable punishment for their activities.

Related special events include "In Conversation: Haegue Yang and Dean Daderko" on December 13 and a performance by dancer Cédric Andrieux January 30 and 31. There's an opening reception at 6:30 to 9 p.m. December 12 with a gallery tour led by curator Dean Daderko. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Through March 13. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. For information, call 713‑284‑8250 or visit camh.org. Free.

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The 5 (+ 1) Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: The World Premieres Edition

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Photo by Ashley Horn
Detail from Dans La Lune with dancer Prudence Sun
Houston audiences received their Christmas presents a little early this year - in the way of five (yes, cinco) productions making their world premieres this weekend. Our choices for Friday include Ashley Horn's Dans La Lune, a dance program inspired by the film of the same name. Also on Friday, and just to make it really difficult to decide which one to see on that day, we've got Kendal Kaminsky's new play The End of Side A. (Both productions also have a Saturday performance, so you can see each of them.)

On Saturday, we recommend Panto Rapunzel (and Zombies) over at Stages Repertory Theatre. The latest installment in the company's ongoing panto series, Panto Rapunzel (and Zombies) includes some non-lethal zombie cast members. Also on Saturday, there's the Houston Grand Opera's A Christmas Carol. The holiday opera may be just the first in what the organizers tell us may be an ongoing tradition for HGO.

On Sunday, there's Ho Ho Humbug, an original stage play being presented by Stark Naked Theatre. Our sixth suggestion (our +1) is the comedian Hannibal Buress, who has a one-night stand set for the House of Blues on Sunday.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Zoo Lights, The Nutcracker and More

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Photo by Stephanie Adams
See an electrified giraffe at Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo, our suggestion for Friday. The life-size, long-necked giraffe, a wire structure wrapped in lights, has lots of company with dozens of brightly lit horses, apes, hippos, elephants and other animal sculptures scattered around the zoo's illuminated and decorated grounds. Jackie Wallace, zoo spokesperson, tells us that with a total of 2 million lights, this year's Zoo Lights is bigger than ever. "It's doubled in size," she says.

Among the features that are new this year are a walk-in snow globe and more toy train scenes. Past visitor favorite Holly Berry, a 1958 Cadillac that's been heaped with holiday decorations and lights, is back, playing seasonal favorites. (Someone must have left her radio on.) The zoo's live oak trees, covered in twinkling lights, are a must-see. Most evenings, local choirs perform holiday carols.

"Most families take about two hours to see the entire [exhibit]," Wallace says. "There's a path for you to follow; that way you make sure and see everything." That "everything" won't include many live animals. "A lot of them are sleeping in their [quarters]," Wallace explains.

Giant turkey legs, pizza, funnel cakes, s'mores, hot chocolate -- with or without a shot of Baileys ® -- beer and wine are on the menu at the zoo's Macaw Cafe and Cypress Circle food court.

6 to 10 p.m. Daily. Through January 4. 6200 Herman Park Drive. For information, call 713-533-6500 or visit houstonzoo.org. $10.95 to $12.95.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Samurai Warriors, François Truffaut and More

Categories: Top 5

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Courtesy of the Houston Museum of Natural Science
Seven hundred years of Japanese history and tradition goes on display when the "Samurai: The Way of the Warrior" exhibit opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Friday. Composed of pieces from one of the most important private Samurai collections outside of Japan, "Warrior" includes rare and elegant examples of the samurai's complex armor and advanced weaponry, along with cavalry equipment and personal items. "The swords that they carried were exquisite works of art and incredibly technologically advanced," says Dr. David Temple, an anthropological curator for the museum. "The elaborate armor that they wore, the weaponry that they used, all of that communicated not only the traditions of the samurai but also the power of [the Japanese state they served]."

As heavy and bulky as some of the armor is, it would seem the samurai would find it difficult to walk, much less fight. Temple tells us much of what's on display is ceremonial regalia, rather than everyday outfitting. "You didn't use all of these [items] on the battlefield, but they were certainly adapted from the battlefield. The swords seen in the exhibit, for example, were extremely effective weapons, but they were more often used in ceremonial [functions] or as badges of honor for the elite. Bows would certainly be used more often on the battlefield."

The exhibit also includes ink wells, correspondence boxes and writing tools "You think, samurais writing? But it made perfect sense. In order to administer the government, they had to write decrees and keep records. They were administrating an empire and writing was important."

See "Samurai: The Way of the Warrior" 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Through September 7, 2015. 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713‑639‑4629 or visit hmns.org. $25.

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