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.
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.
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!
Houston Children's Festival The Great American Barnyard starring Ralph, the celebrated swimming pig of Aquarena Springs, will be on hand. For our money, Ralph is head and shoulders above Babe and Gordie. And, if kids want to know more about the nitty-gritty aspects of farm life, the George Ranch will have a "corral full of frontier fun" set up on the grounds. (Note to kids with swine allergies: the festival features a 90-ton pig sculpted from sand -- there will be porcine fun for every child!) Kids can also romp and stomp in "The Inflatable Forest" and the "Healthasaurus Adventure." Small fry can play in "Lil' Things Lil' Land," and all this sugary cuteness is to benefit Child Advocates Inc. Over the past three years, the festival has raised a quarter-million dollars to fund court advocate programs for youths in state custody -- in fact, one child in four is served by Child Advocates Inc. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Greenway Plaza Park, next to The Summit, 684-6080. $3.75; small charge for some activities and rides.
Houston Auto Show The 007 roadster, a Yugo accordion and the 1997 Plymouth Prowler (which is sillier than any of the 18 Yugo art cars) will be on display along with a testosterone-bubbling array of cars and trucks, and sport utility vehicles, at the Houston Auto Show. As always, classic cars and childcare. 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Through March 31. Astrohall, 8400 Kirby, 799-9500. $6; free, children 12 and under.
Texas Brewers Festival Spring is here, and that means outdoor festivals. This early entry on the festival list cuts out all the fuss and bother and gets down to festival basics -- beer, beer drunk outside from a plastic cup; 40 types of microbrew will be served. Here's the deal, you show an ID and buy a festival mug ($3). Wooden tokens are $2.50 apiece, and each token is good for 14 ounces of foamy delight. Food, music and safe rides home will be provided. (The Wampus Cats play around 2 p.m.) Also, free soda for designated drivers. Noon-8 p.m. today; 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. Market Square, downtown at Preston and Travis. For more information, call (512) 462-1855.
The Great Houston Duck Race The official duck race art for this year's thrilling event comes from Louis DeLeon, a sixth-grader at Gregory-Lincoln Middle School. DeLeon's design, a proud mallard floating serenely on a mountain lake, captures the drama and the quiet pride of the duck race. The gentle smile on the bird's beak reminds us of this race's purpose, to raise money for the Delta Gamma foundation E and what of the foreboding peaks in the background? Well, maybe he likes to use brown paint. In any case, it's a cute picture, and the Great Houston Duck Race is a fine event. Top prize is a two-year lease on a Mercury Sable, and Delta Gamma hopes to raise $100,000 to help the blind and visually impaired. Noon, Kids Karnival, petting zoo, registration; 1, Duck Walk begins; 2, Duck Walk "Waddle Off"; 2:15, thousands of rubber duckies dumped into the bayou; 2:30 p.m., the Texas Cannon launches the race ducks! Entry forms can be picked up at any Oshman's or TSO, and completed forms can be faxed to Duck HQ, 521-FAXX. To be a part of it all, head for Sam Houston Park, downtown, 521-DUCK. $5, one duck; $25, six ducks; $100, 23 ducks; $250, 55 ducks; and $500, 110 ducks.
Aquadrama Tom Kennedy, the man inside Ripper the Friendly Shark, has announced the formation of an art car ballet troupe; Aquadrama, the troupe's inaugural performance, will be performed April 18 at the Art Car Ball. Those who have altered their cars, bikes or skating costumes, and those who are considering altering their cars, bikes or skating costumes, are invited to a meeting. 2 p.m. Art Car Park, downtown at Pease and Travis. For more information, call 880-5764.
Valdir Cruz No doubt many, perhaps hundreds, of Houstonians will wake this fine morning thinking "Golly gosh, I've been meaning to get out and see some Foto Fest art. This is the only day I've got free, and, gol durn it, most galleries are closed." Well, not all galleries are closed Monday, and LaCharl Gallery has a fine show by New York photographer Valdir Cruz. New York by way of Brazil, that is. His subjects are often rural scenes from his homeland -- landscapes with horses and images of tropeiros, the cowboys of Brazil. Through March 31. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. LaCharl Gallery, the Park Shops, 1200 McKinney, 650-0815.
A Woman's Line: Poetry on Women's Lineage, Heritage and Lives In conjunction with the opening of Antonia's Line, Landmark Greenway Theatre presents a reading by strong woman poets handpicked for this event. Jewell Handy, Janet Lowery, Jacsun Shah and Stella Thorp are the poets. 6 p.m. Landmark Greenway Theatre, 5 Greenway Plaza, 850-0217. The reading is free, the movie is $6.75.
1/2 of a 1/2 of a 1/2 Artist and breast-cancer activist Matuschka has a Foto Fest show at the Firehouse Gallery through April, and during the last part of March, she will be making appearances and giving talks around town. This afternoon, the University of Houston department of women's studies sponsors a Matuschka lecture and slide presentation. Matuschka will talk about her life and her art, and how breast cancer affected her life and art. 2-3 p.m. University of Houston, Roy Cullen Building, third floor lounge, 4800 Calhoun. For more information about this and other events, call the Houston Women's Caucus for Art, 520-7840. Free.