Fotofence '97 A while back, some innovative educators got the idea that putting cameras into the hands of students would improve their abilities to communicate. The result is a rare chance to see what life is really like for little kids -- the way they see themselves and the way they want us to see them. The photos and accompanying essays by more than 700 HISD and Fort Bend ISD students make up Fotofence, and Councilwoman Gracie Saenz will be on hand at the unveiling to lead the praise for these kids' efforts. Opening reception, 10 a.m. NationsBank lobby, 700 Louisiana, 247-6000. Free.
Frontier Fiesta '97 Starting in the mid-'40s, UH had a student-run Western-themed festival that Life magazine called "the greatest college show on earth." The event, attended by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and James Garner, lived up to that billing a little too well: The fun was squelched in 1959. The kids revived Frontier Fiesta in 1992, and attendance has doubled each year since -- 23,000 last year! The big draws are a barbecue cook-off, 21 variety shows and music -- Perfect Stranger tonight, Jerry Jeff Walker Saturday, Doug Supernaw Sunday. (Those shows start at 10 p.m.) 6 p.m.-midnight today; noonmidnight, Friday and Saturday. Fiesta City at the University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun (near entrance no. 1). Unlike the other big fest this weekend, Frontier Fiesta is free.
Art Car Ball: Full Speed Ahead The Art Car Ball is the means by which the Orange Show Foundation finances the madness of the Art Car Parade, but the gala is well disguised as part of the fun. Here you can get hitched, short-term, at Our Lady of Eternal Combustion's McMarriage booth (rings, holy water, snack cake and demon spray included); then ponder a life-size Mousetrap game. Also, ogle the art cars, meet the artists, pig out on food (barbecue for carnivores; veggie tamales for herbivores) and dance on the rooftop of a downtown parking garage to the nuclear polka of Brave Combo. Horseshoe, the Suspects and others perform, too. 7 p.m. Allright Parking Garage rooftop, 1301 Main (at Clay), 926-6368. $45.
Main Street Drag/Art Car Symposium Sick folks needn't worry about missing Saturday's Art Car Parade: Many of the artists will caravan from the Astrodome to the Medical Center, stopping to visit patients. From there, this prelude to Saturday's big event continues through the Museum District and downtown into the North Main barrio. If you're not stuck in the hospital, consider a symposium later in the day at the Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Art car artists will explore the connection between their masterpieces and stationary folk art. Parade, 10 a.m.; symposium, 6:30-9 p.m. Call 926-6368 for info on either event. Parade, free; symposium, $5.
Zoobilee Laissez les bon temps roulez with Rudi the orangutan and all his hairy, furry, prickly, scaly, feathered and/or rubbery pals. The Houston Zoo's Zoobilee Cajun fest offers spicy food and zydeco along with special tours of the new digs for the zoo's fish -- a 40,000 gallon aquarist's dream -- but only if you're a zoo member. 3-8:30 p.m. Houston Zoological Gardens, Hermann Park, 1513 North MacGregor Drive, 523-5888. Memberships start at $30 per couple, a donation so modest it hardly qualifies as philanthropy.
Houston Conference on AIDS in America Hear what the experts have to say about the latest in America's battle with AIDS. The info -- on subjects ranging from innovative therapies to the patient/physician relationship -- will be detailed enough to earn credits for nurses, but laymen are welcome. If the jargon gets too impersonal, stroll over to the nearby AIDS Memorial Quilt and remind yourself of the human beings lost to the disease. 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. today; 8 a.m.-noon, Saturday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenue of the Americas, 965-0566. The admission charge is a donation to Names Project Houston.
Boris Godunov When Modest Mussorgsky first presented his opera in 1869, the historical epic lacked a leading lady, and nervous Russian theater directors pooh-poohed it. Numerous revisions and reorchestrations followed, some by Mussorgsky himself, but it wasn't until nearly 40 years later that an "acceptable" version -- one with a babe -- hit the stage, and that version became the standard. Houston Grand Opera thinks we're ready now for the original: the tragic tale of a troubled 16th-century czar, sans chick. Vladimir Matorin, leading bass at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, makes his HGO debut as Boris. 7:30 p.m. Through May 4 (see Thrills, Theater for additional showtimes). Wortham Center, Brown Theater, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $15-$175.
Arabian Nights When a prince finds big trouble at the hands of an evil sorcerer, Sinbad and Ali Baba come to the rescue; in the end, though, it's their wives who save the day. Presented in grand style by Express Theatre, Houston's grandest theater company for kids, for three performances only. 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Wortham Center, Cullen Theater, 500 Texas Avenue, 227-ARTS. $7-$30, plus $15 for tonight's opening night dinner feast.
1997 Edward Albee New Plays Workshop The three-time Pulitzer Prize winner lends his name and expertise to the production of five new plays at the UH School of Theatre. He picked the plays, then matched them with directors from the UH graduate program. The workshop series kicks off tonight with two short works: The Wedding, a "united we stand, divided we fall" story; and Valadon, in which 19th-century French artist Suzanne Valadon recounts her turbulent life and love affairs. 8 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for additional shows and showtimes.) Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 52-STAGES. Free.