The Children's Theater Jim Pirtle, former pre-K teacher for HISD and current performance artist, painter, sculptor, installation artist, video artist and children's theater auteur has, with the help of his Zocalo friends, put together a children's show. The theater experience includes magic, circus acts and animals, and during the play, children are urged to root for the big, bad wolf. Word is, "to an adult, this is pathetic comedy; to a four year-old, it is a magical experience." During his time as a schoolteacher, Pirtle noticed that small children were unmoved by many of the theater experiences to which they were subjected. This is his attempt to give the small fry what they want. 9:30 a.m. today, March 29, and April 1, 2 and 3. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan(near Memorial and Shepherd), 864-5222. $5; $3, for children. Herds of kids from 17 Houston schools already have field trip reservations, so call ahead to make sure seats are available.
Hoop dreams The Hoop Challenge U.S.A. skill-shooting competition gives kids eight to 14 the chance to show their stuff. Those who make the cut advance to a regional semifinal, then a regional final and, finally, the state championship. And they get a T-shirt. Boys and girls compete, not head to head, but against a shooting grid, so even those who don't do well in direct competition have a shot at winning. 4:30 p.m. Fonde Recreation Center, 110 Sabine. For more information, call 671-9245 or 2600732. $10.
The Information Martin Amis, an author with not only a certain cachet but also readable prose, makes his first Houston appearance to sign copies of The Information. This latest long novel is about a nice guy book writer, fairly happily married, and his bitter, squalid envy of another writer. The other writer is an old, dear friend, and has made it big with New Age pap. (Amis will only sign books purchased at Brazos.) 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701.
Civil Liberties on Trial: The Attack on Fundamental Rights Characters in war movies, charactersin sitcoms and cartoon characters are always saying, "I'm an American, I got rights." This sort of japery supports the notion that rights are durable. They are, in fact, no sooner won than the fight to keep them begins. The Thurgood MarshallSchoolofLawlawreview has rounded up a group of speakers to discuss current threats to civil rights, First Amendment rights, privacy rights, school desegregation, tort reform, women's rights and other rights we often take for granted.9 a.m.DoubletreeHotel,400Dallas. For reservations or more information, call 313-7750. $95.
Net Change The Houston Aeros are having a Net Change fundraiser at tonight's game. While the Aeros and the Cleveland Lumberjacks battle on the ice, Houston firefighters will collect money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. So, while you're knocking back beers and cheering the fights, take a minute to make a Make-A-Wish donation. Spare change given by hockey fans and others enables Make-A-Wish to grant the wishes of 200 terminally ill children each year. Meeting celebrities and trips to Disney World are always at the top of the wish list. 7 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza, 627-AERO. $6-$35.
Trash Bash Today is National River Cleanup Day, and the Brazos River Preservation Society has a river for you to clean. Volunteers will pick up garbage and celebrate the beauty of the Brazos and its bottomland. Also, they'll enjoy entertainment and lunch. The 1996 Cleanup locations are on the Brazos at Highway 59 South and 90A. Activities at each location are from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., with a Trash Bash following until 1 p.m. For those who like to do their garbage hunting by boat, the Trash Bash canoe brigade leaves the 90A bridge at 9 a.m. To be a part of it all, call 499-9091.
Beeping egg hunt As is their wont, the good people of The Lighthouse of Houston are holding an Easter egg hunt for children who can't see. High-tech eggs fitted with electronic beepers are hidden, and the kids find them by listening. Since a basket of beeping eggs would hardly make for a happy Easter, the kids can trade the eggs they find for candy and presents. (Regular eggs are hidden for the sighted siblings of the blind children.) So far, more than 200 children are signed up for the beeping egg hunt. 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The Lighthouse, 3602 West Dallas. For more information or to register a child, call 284-8494. Free.
Kidsfest The daylong zoo-steppin' festival opens with Chloe the Cat and Stu the Dog giving out prizes at the Littlest Pet Shop. Kidsfest continues with country music, storytelling, magic shows and entertainment by Bubbadilla. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Houston Zoo, Hermann Park, 1513 North MacGregor, 525-3300. $2.50; $2, seniors; 50 cents, children three-12; free, children under three.
Spring Westheimer Art Festival Not a truckload of art, but more -- two city blocks of art. Works by close to 300 artists and craftspeople will be on display and on sale at this two-day festival. Children, although often canny art critics, are not expected to be satisfied with art alone, and so the planners have included a kids' area with games and entertainments. Young and old alike can stuff themselves on festival fare at the food court. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Sunday. 1800 Main (at Calhoun). For more information, call 521-0133. $3; free, children under 12.