Susannah Samuel Ramey is back, in the opera that made Carlisle Floyd. Floyd, no fool, builds his operas not from the weird, large-scale drama of ancient classics but from the weird, large-scale drama of the Bible Belt. His Willie Stark (based on All the King's Men) and Of Mice and Men had all the best elements of the Southern gothic and grotesque, and Susannah is no different. Maybe because of this, Floyd's story of Susannah and the church elders, set in rural Tennessee, is one of the most performed operas in America. Superstar bass Ramey returns to Houston to play the Reverend Olin Blitch. Soprano Nancy Gustafson is Susannah. The all-American cast also includes tenors Mark Baker and Richard Markley. Opening tonight, 7:30 p.m. (Additional performances listed in Thrills, Theater.) Wortham Theater Center, Brown Theater, Texas at Smith, 227-ARTS, $27$150.
The Story of Burford, Category 5! It could happen -- we could have a category five hurricane that leaves our city inundated and with canals instead of freeways, just like Venice. Radio Music Theatre reprises The Story of Burford, a show that looks at the lighter side of disaster. (The girls of Rick's, as one might expect, turn out to be especially buoyant.) The show previews tonight, 8:30 p.m. Radio Music Theatre, 2623 Colquitt, 522-7722. Reservations required. $14.
Central fashion show The fashion design, merchandising and visual arts students of Houston Community College System Central present their 1996 collection. The show features designs from the Futuristic Bridal Gown competition and the Texas Natural Fibers contest. Proceeds go to a scholarship fund. 7 p.m. HCCS, Heinen Theater, 3517 Austin, 630-1890. $7; $5, students.
The Apotheosis of Corelli The Four Nations Ensemble, a onetime ensemble-in-residence at Lincoln Center, has been brought to town for the Houston Harpsichord Society's season ender. The program includes J.S. Bach, Francesco Geminiani and Antonio Vivaldi, and concludes with Francois Couperin's "Apotheose de Corelli." Ryan Brown (violin), Loretta O'Sullivan (cello) and Andrew Appel (harpsichord and fortepiano) are the spunky players in the Four Nations Ensemble. They're joined by guest violinist Katherine Kyme. 8 p.m. First Presbyterian Church, 5300 Main. For advance tickets, call 497-7382. $15; $12, seniors and students.
Media Darlings This production was made possible in part by funding from the Cultural Arts Council Houston/Harris County, and that shows how broad-minded (geographically speaking, anyway) CACHH is. This original play, written, directed by and starring Joey Berner, is about two brothers who go on a chicken restaurant and convenience store crime spree in Chicago. Media Darlings is presented with live music, Mexican restaurant music and television show theme music from Rick Mantler. It's 70 minutes long, with one intermission. Opening, 8 p.m. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan, 541-1242. $5.
It's Five for Keep 5 Alive! Get up early and put on your work clothes; today's the day for the fifth annual cleanup for Fifth Ward and Denver Harbor neighborhoods. More than 1,000 volunteers and area residents are expected to do their part. In the past, hard workers have improved homes and parks by picking up more than one and a half million pounds of trash. 8:30 a.m.2:30 p.m. Headquarters for the cleanup is the Julie C. Hester House, 2020 Solo. For more information or to volunteer, call 621-7020.
Historic homes tour Visit the grand old mansions of Galveston on the 22nd annual historic homes tour, which takes you inside some glorious homes from the Gilded Age. Back then, there was nothing unseemly about ostentatious displays, and the monied merchants of 19th-century Galveston built some outstanding homes. Visitors can drive from home to home, or take a shuttle. 10 a.m.6 p.m. today; noon6 p.m. Sunday. The Strand Visitors Center, 2016 Strand, is a good place to start. For more information, call 280-3907. $15.
Adopt-A-Thon '96 Are you ready for a pet? Really? Last year, just five animal shelters of the dozens in Houston and Harris County had to put down 79,320 animals -- and that number doesn't include the thousands of lost or stray animals that were killed by cars. Those five shelters found homes for less than 15,722 animals. Such statistics prove that more people think they want pets than are actually prepared to care for them. If you do want a pet, this weekend is the time to get one -- the nationwide Adopt-A-Thon offers dogs and cats and puppies and kittens for next-to-nothing, and shots, deworming and spaying or neutering are included. Famous people such as Phil Donahue and Sarah Jessica Parker have lent their names to this cause -- they're encouraging people to adopt pets. But remember that famous people such as Phil Donahue and Sarah Jessica Parker are rich; they can hire help to care for their pets. The Adopt-A-Thon is a great opportunity, but think carefully before you take an animal into your family. Six area shelters -- Citizens for Animal Protection, City of Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation, Harris County Rabies/ Animal Control, Homeless Pet Placement League, Houston Humane Society and Houston SPCA -- will be participating in Adopt-A-Thon this weekend.
Battle of the Bugs There are a lot of reasons for loading up a van full of friends and heading out for this event -- live music and a spectacular array of boiled crawfish, for two -- but the most compelling reason is the Miss Mud-Bug pageant. While area restaurants compete in a "head-to-head" cook-off, one lucky lady will be crowned Miss Mud-Bug. The open crawfish boil, and the pageant, continue through Sunday. Gates open at 11 a.m. Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, 629-3700. $7; $5, advance.
Super soaker Six Flags WaterWorld opens today. Little kids can play at Squirt's Splash, a water playground for toddlers. Thrill seekers can plunge 82 feet over the Edge, a huge water slide, or go tubing on the Run-A-Way River. Or if playing in the water isn't your thing, make like a hippo and relax in the mild Main Stream. Through May 19, the park is only open on weekends. Six Flags WaterWorld, next to AstroWorld, Loop 610 at Kirby (take the Fannin exit), 799-1234. $13.95; $10.95, children less than 48-inches tall; free, children under three.
Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes It's a book thing about the independent movie thing. Indie-movie maven John Pierson will talk about low- and no-budget filmmaking and tout his book, a tome with useful advice such as, "If your parents offer to pay $5,000 for your sister's wedding, it's your duty to demand the same to fund your movie." Pierson will also show outtakes from movies such as She's Gotta Have It (by the Spike of his title, Spike Lee), Roger and Me (by the Mike, Michael Moore) and Clerks (which accounts for the slackers; the dykes are their own film). 3 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $6; $5, seniors and students.
Take the Monopoly Challenge This family fun fundraiser brings in money for programs at the Jewish Community Center, and it's an official Parker Brothers International sanctioned tournament. The winner will automatically be entered in the state tournament and, with a little luck and a Get Out of Jail Free card, might go on to the national and international tournaments as well. There will be two 90-minute games for players age 14 and up. Everybody at every table will get some sort of prize. 711 p.m. Houstonian Hotel, 111 North Post Oak Lane. For tickets, or to purchase a gaming table, call 729-3200, ext. 3298. $500, table sponsorship; $50, individual participation ticket; $15, spectator admission.
An Evening with RuPaul Most people either know all about Town Meeting, a nonprofit organization devoted to gay and lesbian issues, and famous transvestite performer of the moment RuPaul, and are excited about tonight's concert, or they find the whole deal beneath their notice. Pinque is on the bill with RuPaul, and Pinque says, in the words of the late, great Minnie Pearl (but in her own down-home accent), "I'm just so proud to be here!" 710 p.m. Rich's, 2401 San Jacinto. For tickets, call 526-2853. $100, VIP package, which includes a three-course lunch and open bar with RuPaul at La Strada and access to the VIP lounge; $25, at the door; $15, advance.
Boom! Have an appetite for destruction? Then get up early and get on out for the implosion. The last standing structure of the Blue Ribbon rice dryers on Studemont will be imploded promptly at eight o'clock this morning. A raffle winner will push the button, and the Zocalo Bus is offering a breakfast tour of the whole event. To "see history crumble" on the bus, call Jim Pirtle, 864-5222. To see history crumble from the sidelines, show up early, since parking is heck, and join the crowd standing where the SPCA used to be, on Studemont at Memorial.
Cinco de Mayo Blow Out Block Party Remember the Alamo and celebrate Cinco de Mayo -- for some people, any excuse for a party will do, and those people will be at the Cadillac Bar today, partaking of shots served by shooter girls, chowing down and enjoying live music from Global Village and Norma Zenteno. This cultural mishmash also includes a Velcro wall and a bungee pull. But what the hey, the Mexican commander of the Battle of Puebla, General Ignacio Zaragosa de Seguin, was from Goliad. Proceeds go to Ripley House, a nonprofit organization helping inner-city Hispanic families. The party starts at 11 a.m. Cadillac Bar, 1802 Shepherd (at I-10), 862-2020. $5 admission.
Cinco de Mayo Elvia's Cantina, a Mexican pub, is having a more traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration, with live music by the Latin Connection and authentic folk dance from the Rodriguez Academy of Dance. 611 p.m. 2727 Fondren (at Westheimer), 266-9631. Food and drinks at regular prices; $5 cover.
Adopted a pet? If you did get a cute, puppy, a bouncing kitten or even a grown dog or cat that no longer possesses the charms of youth at the Adopt-A-Thon, you should go to a library, or a bookstore, today, and pick up a text or two on animal care and (if your choice was canine) dog training. I favor the unsentimental Koehler method myself, but any program will work if you stick to it. It's never too early or too late to start training a dog.
My Memories of Ray As part of Landmark Theatre's The Masterworks of Satyajit Ray series, Minkakshi Ghosh, longtime friend of the filmmaker and longtime connoisseur of art and film, will talk about the revered Indian director. Ray's influence is wide and deep -- scholars believe that the Simpsons character Apu is based on Ray's Apu series of early films. Following the talk, art film fans can attend a screening of Jalsaghar (The Music Room), a 1958 Ray film about the decline of an aristocrat. In black and white, Jalsaghar has the staginess and grandeur of a classic Universal horror film. Talk, 6 p.m., free; the film follows, $6.75. Landmark's Greenway Theatre, 5
Greenway Plaza, 626-0402.
"Still Life with Tattoo and Cheese" What still lifes, tattoos and cheese have to do with poetry and fiction isn't all that clear. Probably, the Flying Dutchman Writers Troupe just used that title to draw attention to this reading. In any case, this all-woman spoken word event features Gail Finley, Simone Gers, Kathy Biehl and Sally Ridgway. Prose and poetry mavens can sip espresso or have a glass of wine while the women read. 89 p.m. Zimms Wine and Coffee Bar, 4321 Montrose, 529-0198 or 664-0472. No admission charge.