Mark Curry A while back, Mark Curry was working in a drugstore, keeping the customers in stitches. No, he wasn't tending their wounds; he was making them laugh. And he was compelled to try it on a larger scale, taking his standup act to comedy clubs in his native California, then to the rest of the country via outlets such as Showtime at the Apollo and his own HBO special (there's a second one on the way). Now, he's a nice-guy basketball enthusiast from Oakland who, on the hit television sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, plays a nice-guy basketball enthusiast from Oakland. The role-model/actor/comedian performs at 7:30 and 10 p.m. tonight and 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday. Laff Stop, 1952-A West Gray, 524-2333. $18.
National HIV Testing Day Since the mid-'80s, AIDS has been a concern to many in this nation, yet this is only the second annual National HIV Testing Day -- a promotional tool that comes not a minute too soon. Folks at the Montrose Clinic say that, because of new medicines and better health programs, HIV is becoming more manageable, but potentially life prolonging treatments can only start after the disease has been identified. Get tested, both for yourself and the ones you love. Testing from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Montrose Clinic, 215 Westheimer, 520-2000. Testing is free, but the clinic suggests a donation of $20 for those who can afford it.
KRBE Twi-Lite Fun Run Despite the cute "lite" spelling in the name, don't expect this evening run through Memorial Park to be a breezy 5K. Get real: at the appointed hour of 7:30 p.m., the Houston heat will still be coming at ya full on. On the plus side, however, a party with munchies and music starts as soon as the runners make their way around the track, and proceeds benefit the Tomjanovich Foundation. Pick up entry forms at the KRBE studio, 9801 Westheimer, or the Memorial Park Tennis Center, 1500 Memorial Loop. For info, call 266-1000. $15, which includes a 100 percent cotton T-shirt; watching fit people sweat is free.
Texas Music Festival Orchestra For four weeks, gifted young musicians have studied their crafts under professors with the University of Houston's Moores School of Music and members of the Houston Symphony; tonight, in a free public performance, they show off what they've learned. A family affair makes this concert extra special: conductor Maxim Shostakovich will lead the students in selections written by his father, Dmitri Shostakovich, the preeminent Russian composer of the Soviet generation, in honor of what would have been the elder Shostakovich's 90th birthday. Plus, Maxim's son Dmitri will perform a piano tribute to the grandfather he's named for. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 363-3000. Free.
Houston Symphony Chorus auditions The all-volunteer chorus needs new voices for its 50th anniversary season. The test for admission into this, the official chorus of the Houston Symphony, includes vocalization, sight-singing and performing a two-minute prepared solo in the language of your choice. (Obviously, the gig requires more experience than having sung in the shower.) Those who make the cut will sing Mozart's Requiem, Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe and Brahms' German Requiem during the golden anniversary season. To request an audition information packet, call Marilyn Dyess at 238-1443. Auditions held today and Saturday.
The Uninvited The title seems wasted: it would've been perfect for a play about a pushy co-worker who always butts in on your lunch plans. But what we have here is a comedic yet classic ghost story presented with special effects. A brother and sister buy a house, find their new home occupied by spirits, then hold a seance to find out who's doing the haunting. Shows through July 14. Pasadena Little Theatre, 4318 Allen Genoa Road, 941-4636. $9.
An American in Paris Vincente Minnelli's 1951 Oscar-winner is considered the pinnacle of the Hollywood musical genre. George and Ira Gershwin provided the score; Gene Kelly choreographed and starred. In this simple, romantic tale, Kelly plays an ex-GI who falls for Leslie Caron's gamine. Shown as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen, as part of a double feature with Anchors Aweigh. 7:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University (entrance No. 8 off University), 527-4853. $4.50.
Bayou Bash It's a little bit country / It's a little bit zy-de-co. Well, Donny Osmond won't be there, but Joe "King" Carrasco, Kevin Eagan and Joe Douglas will. And there's plenty more music where that comes from during this so-called "Best Fest West of Louisiana." And where there's a fest, there's food; expect plenty of tasty boudin. 2 p.m. to midnight. Astrohall, Kirby at Loop 610. For tickets, call 629-3700. $4; $1 if you have a ticket to that night's Astros game against the Mets; free, children 12 and under.
Plantationland and Frank Dreams The second video in this double feature is Ben Sayeg's debut; Sayeg dreams, too, and his visions are of future success in the film industry. See if he's off to a good start with his tale of a young man who dreams of joining "Big Franks" Jumbo club. Plantationland is Kelli Scott Kelley's 45-minute look at race relations in America. Filmed on an old plantation in Louisiana, the story is of a mixed-race spirit family confronting secrets of the past. 8:30 p.m. Zocalo Theatre, 5223 Feagan, 861-2442. $5 per person or $10 per carload.
MDA Celebrity Waiter Benefit A fine dinner will be served at the Houstonian tonight, but should you have a problem with the service, think twice about complaining: your waiter could well be a Texas boxing champ (Ricky Jackson), a peace officer (Sheriff Tommy Thomas), or worse (!), a comedian used to wisecracking hecklers (Billy D.). The waitrons at this fundraiser for the local Muscular Dystrophy Association will also include politicians, DJs, news anchors, athletes and Houston firefighter calendar models. 7 p.m. The Houstonian, 111 North Post Oak Lane. For info, call Sarah Tutt at 522-8561. $50.
Professional Housecleaning for Amateurs Dorinda Wessels offers her talents for maintaining an immaculate home to those of us unable to achieve a spiffy living space. She's not coming over to clean for us; rather, the owner of Texas Coastal Cleaning Service conducts a class about the most basic and effective cleaning tools available, as well as the implementation of said products. She uses words such as "quickly" and "thoroughly" in her course description, yet offers no hint of how one might gear up mentally. (On July 2, Dwight McDonald offers a similar course on yard maintenance.) Leisure Learning Unlimited, class number 1100. For info, call 877-1981. $19, plus a $5 registration fee may apply.
Cat on a Hot Tin Streetcar This musical comedy revue sounds like a reworked Gilligan's Island episode: the star keeps getting hit in the head and switches between personalities with each bop. In this production, our heroine flip-flops between two Tennessee Williams plays. Laura Yancey and Jerry Crow star. 7 and 9 p.m. Friday and tonight and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Strand Theatre, 2317 Ship's Mechanic Row, (409) 763-4591. $12, Friday and Saturday; $10, Sunday.
More than a Constructive Hobby: The Paintings of Frank Freed Those who lament that youth has passed them by, that new endeavors are inconceivable past a certain age, haven't followed the tale of late-blooming artist Frank Freed. In 1948, Freed was a middle-aged insurance salesman in Houston who signed up for a beginning painting class at the MFA's art school in search of "a constructive hobby for old age"; what he found was his true calling. Because he employed a narrative style during the age of abstraction, Freed's works were sadly overlooked during his 27-year career; but his paintings are sensitive and humorous, and offer astute social commentary. In the words of MFA director Peter Marzio, Freed's paintings provide "Houstonians a wonderful sense of the city's transformation into a modern metropolis." This, the first in-depth exhibition of Freed's art, includes more than 40 paintings. Displayed through September 8. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-3700. $3; $1.50 children ages six to 18 and seniors; free on Thursdays.
Shakespeare by the Book Festival Perhaps when you think "political thriller," Tom Clancy or Tom Cruise comes to mind. But remember Shakespeare? He didn't need fancy special effects and grown-men toys to relay his tales of greed, assassination, power, corruption and revenge. Suzanne Phillips of HSPVA directs the young talents at HCCS Central and Southwest Drama Departments in Julius Caesar as part of their ninth annual festival, and she uses "ominous nightmare imagery" -- a tool that has proven effective over centuries -- to bolster her production. 7 p.m. Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin, 342-4455. $3 and $5.
Rebel postage In the spirit of rebellion, the tiny island of Montserrat has one-upped our own proud U.S. Postal Service and issued a collection of James Dean stamps. The press material brags that the nine-stamp series shows Dean at every stage of his career. But alas, Dean didn't have the opportunity to alter his look a la Elvis; he appears basically unchanged on every stamp. For your own set, as well as the pocket guide 99 Little Known Facts About James Dean, write to the International Collectors Society, 10045 Red Run Boulevard, Suite 170PRW, Owings Mills, MD 21117; for a more immediate Dean fix, head to your local video outlet and rent Rebel Without a Cause, a gut-wrenching classic featuring Dean and Natalie Wood at their best. Stamps are $9.95, plus $3 for postage and handling; the video can be had for a buck or two.
Dinosaurs ... It's Big, Very Big! There's not much happening in town today, so head down to the Park Shops or West Oaks Mall, where you can pile the kids atop a parasaurolophus for a family portrait. The star of this robotic dinosaur exhibit is a 42-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex. Via a joystick, kids can control the head, leg and tail movements of a dino-robot known as a Dimetrodon. Rex and his pals -- a triceratops, an apatosaurus, a stegosaurus and an allosaurus -- will menace shoppers through late July (even on July 4). The Park Shops, 1200 McKinney, 759-1442; West Oaks Mall, Highway 6 at Westheimer, 531-1332. Viewing free; small charge for photos.
Crayola Imagination Station At this temporary exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science, kids can dig in mineral rich soil, swing through a tropical forest or dive into a deep, refreshing ocean. Well, they can imagine doing those things, anyway. Crayons figure into the fun as kids learn about ecosystems. Through July 8. Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park, One Hermann Circle Drive, 639-4629. $3, $2 children ages three to 11.
Sand volleyball Grown men and women will squish their toes in the sand or, more likely, pumice their elbows and knees with the stuff as the Houston Sports and Social Club kicks off its summer sand volleyball league season this evening. 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Play is at Third Coast Volleyball Club, 5652 Forney. For info, call the Houston Sports and Social Club at 439-0519.
Star-Spangled Salute Miller Outdoor Theatre has dibs on the Houston Symphony for Independence Day proper, but the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion has wrangled the musicians for a Fourth of July preview tonight. Cannons will blast as Stephen Stein leads his players in The Star Spangled Banner, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and The Stars and Stripes Forever. Plus other good American tunes: Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the Duke Ellington Fantasy, a Texas sing-along medley, four dance episodes from Copland's Rodeo and much, much more. The really big treat is that the pavilion is allowing folks to bring their own picnics with them (no drinks, though; you'll have to buy those when you get there). Pianist Scott Holshouser is the featured artist. 8 p.m. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 364-3010. Free.