Best of Texas Wine Awards and Tasting Before prohibition, Texas was a grape-growing state. Prohibition knocking out our vineyards is a trifle odd, given that they were first planted by Spanish missionaries. (The good padres needed sacramental wine. Anyone who's spent a moment on the parching Gulf Coast can surely understand.) This is the tenth annual tasting of wines from Texas, and while the cynics among us might suspect that this is just another promotional event for just another industry, the sponsors say that the only reason for this event is to revel in the joy of grape. Could be they're right; The Houston Club, home of one of the Southwest's finest cellars, is the driving force here, and they expect more than 500 local wine lovers to attend.
Wines from Texas, more than 75 different types and vintages from more than 16 Lone Star vintners, will be served with international cheeses, French bread and fresh fruits. (Buffet dinner by reservation only in the Azalea Room.) The tasting is, especially considering its locale, quite reasonably priced. 5:30-7:30 p.m. The Houston Club, 811 Rusk, Tenth Floor, Texas Room. For tickets, call 225-1661, ext. 215, or Ticketmaster, 629-3700. $18.50.
Fright Fest What could be more exciting than a funhouse with a "carnival clown gone mad" theme? We just don't know, and that's only one stop at Fright Fest. Six Flags AstroWorld has daytime and nighttime specialties all over the park. Much as homeowners might hang a skeleton from a tree, or put their garbage in pumpkin trash bags, AstroWorld HQ has decorated AstroWorld for the Halloween holiday. The theme park folks are offering an "Arena of Fright" and three haunted houses; Bugs Bunny Land has been decorated as "The Creepy County Carnival"; and Six Flags WaterWorld has been prepared for "Jean La Fright's Haunted Treasure Quest," a spooky hayride. And where do we find the "carnival clown gone mad" theme? At what the Six Flags folks call "The Fantom Funhouse of Fright." (Wonder if a "fantom" is anything like a phantom?)
For more ancient chills, look near the Sword and Crown medieval-theme dinner-theater restaurant (which will be offering dinner dances with diseases of yore). Right next door is "Arania's Castle of Doom," a dark castle with a black widow bride. All of Fright Fest plus AstroWorld's rides, shows and attractions. Fridays, 6 p.m.- midnight; Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Through Oct. 30. Discount coupons are available at participating Kroger stores. Six Flags AstroWorld, Kirby at the Loop, 799-8404. $28.09 adults; children 54 inches and under $19.43; two years and under, free.
Tobacco and Boys: the tragical history of Christopher Marlowe ... and the description continues, "the man who outwrote Shakespeare, until politics and the plague intervened." This is an original work by Mike Hanks, of the Goat Song Theatre Group. This troupe is all set for staging a life of Marlowe. Check out Edward II: "My Men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns / Shall with their goat feet dance the antic hay." Marlowe wrote, "I count religion but a childish toy / And hold there is no sin but ignorance" and either died young or, better yet, faked his own death. Marlowe was more of a punk than Rimbaud, also more of a poet. 8 p.m. tonight and Saturdays through Oct. 15. Presented by Goat Song Theatre Group at Kuumba House, 3414 LaBranch (at Holman), 525-5960. $12; discounts for groups, seniors and students.
Evidence of Floods Janie Geiser's puppet theater is an old-world style, otherworldly event. Carefully crafted but not complex marionettes present an ominous, continuous story. The audience peeps through windows and cracks in the ceiling of the puppets' home. This unconventional staging is the first of the performance's series of wonderful, unsettling surprises. The quiet, eerie story has a woman who runs away from her husband and then returns. She returns disguised as a private eye assigned to investigate her own disappearance. Ten Houston artists are employed as puppeteers. The puppets themselves are the same as they ever were. Those not intrigued by the notion of modern puppet theater might well be curious to see pieces of wood that have won Obie and Bessie awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Tonight and Saturday. Admission every 15 minutes between 8-9:30 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. $12, $10 members, $7 students.
Mark Morris Dance Group Dance's bad boy, the first punk provocateur from Seattle, has a rep for frequently raising eyebrows and inspiring snide remarks, and people who should know better go on and on about his smoking and homosexuality. One would think, one would really hope, that his extraordinary reputation as a choreographer and dancer would matter more. But, well, some people have little minds. Mark Morris does not. He is a genius who brings his own wonderful, fresh ideas to modern dance without ever for a moment making a contrived effort to stay away from other forms.
Dance is, in Morris' art, a product of bodies and music. The Mark Morris Dance Group, 16 dancers, have five works for Houston. Gloria was previously presented during the group's 1987 Houston engagement; Handel Choruses is a well-known Morris favorite; and Lucky Charms, Rondo and The Office premiered this summer, and did so to tremendous, delighted acclaim. Gloria alone is worth the price of admission. Today and Saturday. 8 p.m. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 227-1111. $18, $22 and $26.