Manon A number of modern choreographers may have thought that stories were passe, and all that mattered were the dance steps and getting them right, but Sir Kenneth MacMillan, thankfully, wasn't one of them. He knew that people go to the ballet today for much the same reason they went to the Bolshoi at the turn of the century -- for a little of that old Sturm und Drang along with some fine pirouettes and the sight of a nicely turned ankle or two. And in Manon, generally considered MacMillan's prima production, he brought it all together: dancing to die for hooked to a tale of a slutty 16-year-old who corrupts her older and innocent lover. Sort of a Marius Petipa meets Danielle Steele kind of thing. The Houston Ballet, known for its dramatic prowess as well as its dancing skills, is probably better suited to reproduce what the late Sir Kenneth was after than any other ballet company in the States. Of course, having that British tie -- Artistic Director Ben Stevenson was a good friend of MacMillan's -- doesn't hurt. The ballet opens 7:30 p.m. tonight and runs for seven performances through Sunday, May 29 at the Wortham Center's Brown Theater, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $8-$70.
Luis Alfaro and David Zamora Casas These Latino performance artists draw on pop culture and their Chicano backgrounds. Alfaro is known to readers of Artweek and The Advocate through reviews of his performance pieces, such as the acclaimed Downtown (which has a take on urban canyons that Anthony Kiedis' "Under the Bridge" doesn't even come close to). Downtown has delighted -- sorry, fans of the avant who might have hoped for adjectives more appropriate to drooling over trendoid ostensibly politicized claptrap, but "delighted" is my term and I'm sticking to it -- audiences at the Smithsonian, the Boston Center for the Arts and the Alice B. Theater in Seattle.
The second artist on this bill, Casas, has used his San Antonio home (San Antonio, mind you, not San Francisco) for "performances" such as The Last Temptation of the Little Mermaid and One Hundred Love Letters... The Reformation, Through Education and Communication, of a Chicano Sexist. He combines sculpture, poetry and music in Born Again Mexican, which is said to deal with contemporary issues. The double shot is part of the "Beyond Desire: New Gay and Lesbian Performance and Film" series. Tonight and Saturday, 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, two blocks north of downtown at North Main and Naylor, 223-8346. $12, $8 students.
Shaver Grizzled country singer Billy Joe Shaver is a goober deluxe, like Henry Rollins, treasured by those who would be thought of as rough and tough, not for hulking bravado, but because he's a big ol' dumb guy too stupid to know that you can't go around revealing all your miserable, pathetic needs and longings and mistakes. There are things in Shaver's lyrics that many people wouldn't admit to themselves, much less to the world, and, unlike the younger, greener, less bold non-instrument-playing goober Rollins, Shaver writes completely unselfconscious and rigorously thought-out poetry. The title cut on his new album, Tramp on Your Street, might be taken by Top 40 followers as a country story-song about Billy Joe, in his tadhood, walking ten miles to hear Hank Williams sing at the Wonder Bread bakery in Corsicana. It's not about that at all -- the song explains why a ten-year-old boy would walk ten miles to hear a honky-tonk artist in uninspiring conditions. A profound love of art would be why.
Remember the Country Outlaw hype of the early '70s? Shaver wrote the tunes. Thanks to the vagaries of fate and a few ill-timed fistfights, Billy Joe was left standing in the shadows of fame. Maybe his new album will change that. Maybe it won't. Billy Joe Shaver has been writing and performing for decades (he wrote for Elvis) and has no plans to stop.
Billy Joe and his son Eddy, both sons of Texas, play tonight at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. (I suggest arriving early, early enough to enjoy some of Adam Fisher's fine barbecue. Fisher and his son sell sliced beef and sandwiches at a grill in the parking lot. Most of this once-great nation is just a string of strip centers, but there are opportunities, like this, to step outside the mall.) 3616 Washington, 869-COOL. $10.
Pre-Memorial Day Pool Party Houston is a slack town full of boozy losers, and nothing could be more conclusive proof of it than this desperately contrived excuse for a celebration. The pool in question is the well-maintained billiards table at Ernie's, but beach attire is preferred anyway, board-certified lifeguards will be on duty and the management emphasizes that all pool rules must be observed.
Non-pool players can enjoy darts, pinball, that old favorite foosball or what may well be the city's most popular interactive trivia game -- your quarters allow you to compete nationwide. If your nerves can't take the sounds of real live balls being racked and sunk in pockets, or the electronic sounds of games and televisions, retire to the upstairs bar and open-air balcony overlooking Bell Park.
And if the non-stop gaming leaves you feeling peckish, not to worry -- this friendly neighborhood tavern stocks more than stale chips to restore your strength. Revive yourself with crawfish (all you can eat for $5), traditional hot dogs and burgers, pizza and more. Wash it all down with dollar draft or $2.50 'ritas. Ernie's will have Pre-Memorial Day Crawfish Boil and Pool Party drink special all week long. The party starts at noon. Ernie's on Banks, 1010 Banks at Montrose, 526-4565. No cover.
"All Good Things" See the last-ever episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on a humongous projection TV with SurroundSound. Starbase Houston, a proud part of fandom since 1976, is throwing a heck of a wake. In a strange way, the European Tavern and Gardens' Tudor hall is the perfect venue -- there's plenty of cross-pollination between Trekkies and the Society for Creative Anachronism. There will be a costume contest prior to the final episode. (They're trying to get as many weird-looking people as possible -- that's part of the plan to, as organizers say, "make this thing look like a Star Trek event.") "All Good Things," by the way, will feature Q (John DeLancy, who is weirdly sexy in the Roddy McDowall mold) and Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby, Bing's spawn and former Playboy model, who bailed after the first season). This could be the last chance to find out if anyone, anywhere ever liked Riker. There will be also be live Trek personalities such as Grace Lee Whitney, from the first series, and Mark Shepherd, Morn from Deep Space Nine. Plus a writer -- and where would TV be without writers? David Gerrold, author of The Trouble With Tribbles, will be on hand to talk about his new job with Babylon 5. 6 p.m. European Tavern and Garden, 3926 Feagan, 868-1084. (For an excruciatingly detailed recording, call 527-WARP.) $4 admission, standard menu and bar prices.
Dalia Golubich When Dalia Golubich sits down at her Steinway, she will likely bring a blast of emotion to her performance. That won't be news to anyone who has seen her play at Rice's Shepherd School of Music, where she is working on her Ph.D. in performance, and where she has drawn steadily larger audiences for her solo recitals. Golubich always plays as if her life depended on both the passion and the physicality of her performance.
In a sense, Golubich's life has depended on her hunger to make great art, and for this one night, the lives of others will be affected as well. She is Croatian, from the part of the former Yugoslavia that we now unhappily know as Bosnia-Herzegovina; the aim of this concert is to raise funds for both art supplies and the stuff of everyday life for artists in Sarajevo, with the hope that an exhibit of the resulting art can be mounted first in Sarajevo (one art gallery remains open there), then in Houston and elsewhere.
At 16, Golubich (now 24) was the sole Yugoslav to be accepted into the Moscow Conservatory, where she was rigorously schooled in the Romantic tradition. She has never strayed too far from the Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Schubert she will perform tonight. 7:30 p.m. Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 526-0773. $35.
Acoustic jam Tonight, the music at Hoi Polloi matches the mood of the dandy wooden deck outside, in back of the club where a willow tree grows and one can enjoy one of the finest views of the city's skyline. The club's outward appearance offers no clues, but the backyard of this garish dive is a fine place to be. The roses and urban wildflowers are blooming, and Johnny Ray, one of the Hoi Polloi landscapers, has set up a washer-toss game. It's like horseshoes, except that players don't risk getting clunked in the head with a heavy hunk of shaped steel. Many of those who come to play in the acoustic jam want to remain anonymous -- whether they play six nights a week around town, or have their own time at the Kerrville Folk Festival.
Some of the foil has been taken down to make room for a new installation, "KRE8ivDrIve," of art made from or about cars, or maybe just delivered in one. Manager Crimmins also hung a couple of his pieces on the wall and has some art tables made from engine parts -- and the Volkswagen chair is back! Mark Castator made another car-part table for the club. For your further viewing pleasure, a retrospective of the club's better fliers and posters has been put up. They've also got a CD jukebox filled with local titles.
The jam needs some folk percussionists. Guitarists and harmonica players show up in droves, but they'd like a few bongo and washer players, maybe even some Davy Jones wannabes to shake maracas. Hoi Polloi, 3106 White Oak, 869-8438. No cover.
Nature story time It's puppets, songs and other entertainment for kids, pre-schoolers in fact. There is a paucity of entertainment for tots -- possibly because they frequently lack ready cash. Enter the Nature Discovery Center, along with the ongoing exhibits in the discovery room and children's classes they have scheduled a half-hour every week for the environmental enlightenment of small children. 12:30-1 p.m. Nature Discovery Center, 7112 Newcastle, 667-6550. Free, donations appreciated.
Birds Frightened by Machinery Spoken word is headed uptown. Live readings are traditionally found in smoky coffee houses, or in MTV sets styled to look like same, but now the Flying Dutchmen Writers Troupe has dressed up and taken its act to a stylish enclave, Cezanne. The troupe has been spouting prose and poetry, publicly, for five years. The artistes are R.T. Castleberry, Carolyn Davis, A.B. Griffith, Herman "Shake It Baby" Kluge, Janet Lowery and Joyce Walker. What they mean by Birds Frightened by Machinery is, at this juncture, unclear. The frightening thing is, they probably do mean something by it. Many of your literary-event types just throw together a name like that, but with these birds, you can't be too sure. 8-10 p.m. Cezanne, upstairs from the
Black Labrador, 4100 Montrose, 529-0298. No cover.