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.
Quartet Infernal Bridegroom pitches its new production as "for mature audiences only," which means that not only is sex an issue, but the story is fit for an adult intellect. German playwright Heiner MYller based his 1981 play on Dangerous Liaisons (the 1782 novel, not the film, but the gist is the same). A cruel couple plot the moral and sexual destruction of those around them; the action takes place simultaneously in a drawing room before the French Revolution and in an air raid shelter after WWIII. Greg Dean and Shelley Calene play all the parts. Previews at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday. Through May 10 (see Thrills, Theater for additional performance times). Commerce Street Art Warehouse, 2315 Commerce Street, 935-2008. Previews, $6.99; regular performances, $9.99.
Dionne Warwick You know what's in store tonight, maybe because you're psychic, but more likely because Warwick -- perpetrator of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" -- sold more than 12 million records before 1966, and through the '70s and '80s continued to appeal to swoony pop audiences. Now, she's better known as Whitney Houston's cousin and a mainstay of the Psychic Friends Network. Tonight, she sings with the Houston Symphony. 8 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $21-$56.
Houston International Festival This festival's huge, man, the biggest we've got in this big ol' city. The event's basically the same as before, this year with a Chinese theme; there'll be food, music on five stages, and plenty to occupy kids and shoppers. If you're in the market for a date, you may be interested to know that slightly more women attend than men, that half the folks there are college graduates, and on average make more than $50,000 a year. 11 a.m.8 p.m. today, Sunday and April 26-27; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. April 21-25 (see Thrills, Music, for concert times). Spanning 20 blocks of downtown Houston; you can't miss it. $6; $2, optional donation for kids three11; free, two and under.
Tenth Annual Roadside Attractions: The Artists' Parade of Cars Dr. Seuss liked nonsense; "It wakes up the brain cells," he once said. Dr. Seuss would have dug Art Car Weekend. Artists from all over, and especially from right here, have transformed their vehicles into mobile folk art and will parade all 180 products of their overheated imaginations through downtown Saturday, cutting right through the International Festival. 12 p.m. From Allen Parkway at Taft, down Lamar, Smith and Walker to the Sabine Street Bridge at Buffalo Bayou Art Park. The awards ceremony follows at Heritage Park. Free, unless you view the parade from inside the festival.
Totally TV Visit two of the men who give life to the Disney studio's television cartoons: The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Timon and Pumbaa, Aladdin, the new Jungle Cubs and more. Steve Wetzel, production manager for Walt Disney Art Classics, and Raffi Parseghian, Disney artist, compete with their creations this Saturday morning. Those who do pull away from the TV set can see up close how a cel is created, and can even ogle several extremely rare cels. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fine Toon, 2427 Bissonnet, 522-6499. Free.
Elissa Regatta and Parade The Houston Yacht Club is turning 100, and the celebratory parade will be led by Texas's own tall ship Elissa. She's glad to lead the way, no doubt, because proceeds from this annual flotilla have helped keep her in sailing shape. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The parade starts at the entrance to the Bayport Channel near Bayport, heads down the Houston Ship Channel to Barbour's Cut, then turns back. The best viewing will be from 10:15-11 a.m. at Morgan's Point (take Highway 225 east to Highway 146 north; exit on Barbour's Cut Boulevard), (409) 763-1877. Free.
Beat a weatherman On the links, that is. During the Second Annual Weatherman's Classic, our town's most notable weather gurus will be out on the course raising money for a planned Weather Museum and Education Center -- specifically, for an elevator and restrooms. Dr. Neil "Tiger" Frank, who won the first of these events last year, is back; his challengers include Frank Billingsley, Doug Brown, Ed Brandon, Kathie Turner, Mario Gomez and more. Registration, 10 a.m.-noon; tee time, 12:30 p.m.; awards banquet and dinner, 5:30 p.m. Willowisp Country Club, 14502 Fondren, 529-3076. $125. And no, there's not a rain date.
Celebrate Earth Day with Mother Earth This humongous eco-sculpture, a project of the Houston Women's Caucus for Art, will be made from the earth and built by women, their children and their caregivers. Once complete, Mother Earth -- all 80 feet of her -- will recline in a meadow, one hand resting on her pregnant abdomen, the other palm outstretched, offering passersby a place to rest. She'll be missing her left breast -- a sign of loss and environmental concerns. Volunteers are needed to help shape the hills, to help plant the sod and to help water and weed the sculpture once she sprouts like the giant Chia Pet that she is. Challenger Seven Memorial Park, I-45 south to NASA Road 1, turn right, then left at the first intersection after the light onto West NASA Boulevard. The park entrance is a half-mile on the left and the sculpture is toward the bird sanctuary. To volunteer, or just to ask questions, call 520-7840 and push *4. Free.
St. George's Day The Mucky Duck pays tribute to St. George, the patron saint of England and dragonslayer extraordinaire. The special menu includes Dragon Pot Pie. (The proprietor promises it tastes just like chicken.) Plus a mumming play and music, too. 5-7 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. Free.
Houston Fringe Theater Festival Fringe festivals, they say, are showcases for theater that is daring, exciting and adventurous. If you're up to the challenge, come tonight to see Liza Vann's The Top of the Bottom Half, the first of five plays scheduled through May 31. Her one-woman show is subtitled "An Evening with the Keeper of All Knowledge," and some of what she shares is funny. 7:30 p.m. Theater LaB, 1706 Alamo, 868-7516. $15.
Emo's Seventh Anniversary Party Emo's turns seven today, but that fact is sure to be overshadowed by the return of L7 to the club's stage. This all-girl thrash band played the lounge before they were the shit; now frontwoman Donita Sparks has her picture in Rolling Stone. Fame, though, hasn't softened the group. According to the aforementioned Stone piece, Sparks recently pitched a tampon into a crowd -- a used tampon, no less. Get there early for a place close to the stage and catch opening bands Crawdaddy and HOSS. Doors open at 7 p.m. Emo's Alternative Lounge, 2700 Albany, 523-8503. $4, 21 and up; $7, under 21.