Charles Simic In tandem with the Joseph Cornell show currently up at the Menil Museum, Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Charles Simic will read a selection of his work at the museum tonight. His enigmatic, quirky and philosophic poetry creates odd worlds that challenge our most cherished notions of language. Consider this excerpt from "Nowhere": In which No "lives, / Happily ever after. Its sky has no stars, No morning or evening, / No earth under its feet / It's happy because / It only has a word for them, / And the poor Yes / Has a place, ... And an onion / That makes him cry." 7:30 p.m. (no late seating). The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 525-9400. Free.
Whole Foods Market Holiday Cooking Class The holiday season is barreling down upon us, and soon, strange and "wondrous" concoctions will appear on tables everywhere. If you can't stand one more year of your great-aunt Mimi's canned-green-bean-and-orange-Jell-O-salad, spend a couple of hours with the folks from Whole Foods tonight, learning some new and healthful ways to cook for the holidays. They'll show you how to make festive foodstuffs from fresh produce, whole grains and other wholesome ingredients. 7-9 p.m. Spring Branch Community Center, 1731 Pech Road, 789-4477 for reservations. Free.
Grand National Velvet Brown, the 14-year-old butcher's daughter who wants to race horses, was made famous by a young and lovely, violet-eyed Elizabeth Taylor in the 1944 film National Velvet. Now, all these decades later, comes the musical version. As in the original, Velvet still dreams of winning the Grand National with "The Piebald," the big-hearted misfit of a horse that she wins in a raffle. But the "authentic Celtic music" of this version ought to bring an interesting richness to this sentimental tale of an English girl's determination to win against the odds. Houston Community College has produced this world premiere, which includes a cast of 35 and a band of musicians with authentic Irish instruments. Thru Nov. 16. 8 p.m. tonight (see Thrills, Theater for other dates and times). The Heinen Theatre, 3517 Austin at Holman, 718-6570. $7; $5, seniors and students.
Willy Wang's Workshop Imagine a quiet Saturday morning in the company of 15 of your favorite acquaintances, all of you gathered for the sole purpose of making art. That's what happens every Saturday at the Unitarian Fellowship on Wirt Road in the Willy Wang Workshop. Folks bring $5 (to pay the model and the rent) and draw, paint and sculpt, all under the gentle tutelage of Willy Wang, the altruistic (as in, you don't pay him anything) guide of the course. You don't have to come every Saturday, and sometimes there's even coffee and donuts. Best of all, it's a great place to meet other people who like thinking about art. But is the work any good? Find out tonight, when this ragtag bunch of artists opens a show of their work that the public is invited to check out. Show runs thru Nov. 30. Opening reception 7-9 p.m. St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer, 462-0650 for information.
Godspell Christopher Ayres and Philip Duggins, Masquerade Theatre's artistic and producing directors, have worked hard to bring this '70s musical into the '90s with stylistic borrowings from Stomp and Rent. Thru Jan. 4. 8 p.m. Masquerade Theatre, 720 W. 11th St., 861-7045. $15.
Studio and Stages presents: Carrie Peters Studio and Stages, a group of artists and friends "committed to the discovery of the artist in everybody," open their evening with a dance performance by featured artist Carrie Peters -- but it won't be long, they hope, till you are up on your feet moving to your own inner voice. Jon Kinsella, community "art facilitator," will teach you "magical games" in hopes of releasing that artist inside, too long squelched by workaday capitalism. 7-9:30 p.m., The Jung Center, 5200 Montrose, 880-3067. $10.
Independent Japanese Cinema Sex and family: two great topics for great literature -- and films. This weekend, the MFA hosts five movies by young Japanese directors: Kana-Kana: The Summer That Never Was, Breakable, March Comes in Like a Lion, This Window Is Yours and Osaka Story. All focus on how young folks try to find love and independence under the terrible weight of parental expectations -- proof that the same struggle happens all over the globe. Kana-Kana: The Summer That Never Was shows tonight at 7:30; it's followed by Breakable at 9:30 p.m. See Film Capsules for other dates and times. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5; $6, double feature.