Press Picks

thursday
march 21
Senior Olympics For a mere $20, athletes 50 and older can enter as many events as they like. For one full week, a variety of arenas, pools and courts will be crowded with toned old folks playing everything from basketball (free throw and around the world) to volleyball. There are ten age categories, and medals for the top three in each category in each event. The Houston Senior Olympics are qualifying games for the State Games, which will be held this fall in Temple. Medal-wise, only a few will win, but when it comes to fun and fitness, this is a win-win proposition. The games begin with a check-in, noon-6; barbecue dinner, 6-7:30; and opening ceremonies, 7:30-8:15 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 5601 South Braeswood. For more information about the Senior Olympics, call 551-7250.

Mississippi Freedom Robbie McCauley was one of the performers in the original Broadway cast of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, but she's best known for her own works. Sally's Rape won an Obie, and like that play, Mississippi Freedom is about the African-American experience. Mississippi is a dialogue and multimedia presentation about Freedom Riders. Using interviews with those who were involved in the civil rights movement, storytelling, speeches about modern events (such as the O.J. trial) and on-stage discussion, McCauley's piece celebrates the triumphs of the voting rights struggle and reveals the still very present racism in our society. 8 p.m. Tonight, Friday and Saturday. Diverse Works, 1117 East Freeway, 228-0914. $12, $7, students.

Jeff Altman The well-known comic once described his on-stage self as "the guy next door who just had a hot caramel enema," a line that may or may not mean something. Altman's mild lunacy, his unpredictable edge, is what keeps his act fresh. He does the standard standup stuff -- my dad, our generation, yadda yadda yadda -- David Letterman (more than 30 appearances on the old show, once on the new show) and commercials. The trick is, he doesn't always do the same thing. Sometimes he's observational, sometimes he does slapstick and sometimes he aims for the bizarre. His scattershot approach has kept him in the public eye, and earning good money in clubs and on television commercials, for 20 years. Jeff Altman is here for five special shows. 8 p.m. Tonight; 7:45 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Spellbinders, 10001 Westheimer, Carillon Shopping Center, 266-2525. $10-$15.

Julia Olivarez Olivarez can sing the Jobim songbook in Portuguese, and has worked with the Gypsies, but her idea of a good time is singing Brecht and Weill (sometimes in the original German) and Sondheim. She worries a bit about coming off like "a caricature of Marlene Dietrich or, funnier still, Madeline Kahn, but," she says, "since I am short, Hispanic and raven-haired, I don't think anyone will be making any immediate connections." Andrew Lienhard will accompany on the piano. 8 p.m. Ovations, 2536 Times (at Kirby), 522-9801. $6.

friday
march 22
After the Fall The Rice Players, despite the fact that their school has no theater department, are still going strong. Arthur Miller's play is the 250th production by the troupe. When the play was first produced, in 1964, lurid critics wrongly assumed it was about Miller's disastrous marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Critics can see more clearly now and realize that the play is about disastrous failures in general and how our own petty, hopeful deceits ensure that we will continue to fail disastrously. On the other hand, he does suggest that knowing, self-awareness, is a better deal than deliberate ignorance and even the genuine innocence of Eden. Through March 30. Wednesday through Saturday, 8 p.m. Rice University, Hamman Hall (entrance no. 14 off Rice Boulevard), 527-4040. $8; $4, seniors.

Les Ballets Africains The National Dance Company of the Republic of Guinea will be in Texas for one show only. The 35-member ensemble offers a vibrant program of music, dance and storytelling. Heritage is tonight's program, and in this bold, lively show, the 40-year-old ensemble presents a 12th-century legend of the Mandingo Empire. Like all the best legends, this has a princess, a sorcerer and magic. Curtain talk, 7:30; Heritage, 8 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $10-$47.

saturday
march 23
Bluebonnets bloom Wildflowers are beginning to bloom now, and Waller and Washington counties are brilliant with bluebonnets. Thanks to mother nature (and Lady Bird, always a champion of shrubs and bushes), Texas highways and back roads will be glorious this spring. (Craig Steffens, the bluebonnet lord of Texas and one of the few tax-paid employees who's loved by all, says the harsh winter took a toll on this year's bluebonnet crop, but his standards are higher than the average mortal's.) Mindful of the draw flowers have, the proprietors of the Liendo Tea Room offer maps to the bluebonnets. As of today, those headed toward south-central Texas for picnic and flower-photographing can make their first stop in Hempstead, and pick up a snack and a map. Back roads are marked with a dotted line; regular roads (for a quicker return trip, perhaps) are shown with solid lines. Take 290 to Hempstead; the Liendo Tea Room is at 306 Tenth Street, (800) 826-4371. Don't forget bug spray!

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