Press Picks

Seven Guitars The seventh in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson's ambitious, ten-play cycle chronicling the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century, Seven Guitars is a simultaneous homage to the bitterly redemptive beauty of the blues and examination of the travails of the (black) men and women who made -- and make -- the century's most haunting music. Alex Allen Morris stars as the play's linchpin, star-crossed bluesman Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton. The production previews at 8 tonight; the official opening is at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (for other dates and times, see Thrills). The Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 228-8421. Tix: $19-$33 (previews); $31-$46 (regular).

"Millennium Fever" Contact, the ham-handed but hard-to-put-down novel by the late Carl Sagan, outlined the idiocy and chaos uncorked by humankind's near-millennial brush with alien intelligence. The purview of this cheeky show, curated by Susie Rosmarin and Eric Niebuhr, is the alien (that is, non-mainstream) intelligence that lurks in dank corners of Houston's art world. The press release promises an examination of "the various and extravagant ways human beings go berserk at the approach of each new century and millennium," plus explorations of "future art trends such as Art Luxe and cyberpop" and "the viability of techno-subversion as art-making strategy." The exhibit includes works by Brook Stroud, Charles Cohen, Dario Robleto, Julie Mehretu and Hills Snyder; it opens with a reception from 6 to 8 tonight (see Thrills for more info). DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. Free.

The Arturo Sandoval Ensemble Arguably the finest Latin-jazz trumpeter who ever was, the Cuba-born musician (and co-founder of the cult-fave group Irakere) blew away Dizzy Gillespie during Sandoval's inaugural stateside tour, and went on to join Dizzy's United National Orchestra. Sandoval also plays a pretty mean flugelhorn. 8 p.m. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $21-$32 (DaCamera Music Center: 524-5050; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).

february 14
"Robert Rauschenberg: Anagrams" Held in conjunction with the touring exhibit "Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective," this installation includes numerous works from one of the Texas-born contemporary artist's latest series. Essentially, they're large-scale narrative works on paper, achieved via a mating of photography and a vegetable-dye-transfer process of Rauschenberg's own creation. The exhibit opens with a reception for the artist from 6 to 8 tonight (see Thrills for more info). Texas Gallery, 2012 Peden, 524-1593. Free. (Note: Prior to the "Anagrams" opening, Rauschenberg and his longtime dance partner, choreographer Trisha Brown, co-host a gratis dialogue about "the collaborative process" and some of their joint efforts. 3 p.m. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300.)

Orchestra X's La Boheme John Neal Axelrod's combine includes musicians from the Houston Symphony, Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and the University of Houston's Moores School of Music, and aims to capture the fancy of Gen Xers with its interactive, informal concerts and reinterpretations of repertory staples. For this contemporary update of Puccini's tale about a group of cash- and love-poor bohemians, the ensemble's augmented by a worthy cast of opera singers, including Dean Elzinga from New York's Metropolitan Opera, Amy Pfrimmer of the New Orleans Opera and Nmon Ford-Livene from the Los Angeles Opera. The show's performed in English. 7 tonight and Sunday. Cafe Artiste (a.k.a. Puccini's famed Cafe Momus for these shows), 1602 West Main, 528-3704. $15 (225-ORCX; proceeds from a related silent auction benefit AIDS Foundation Houston).

Little Milton and Duke Robillard Mississippi-born guitarist/vocalist Milton (real name: Milton Campbell Jr.) is one of the most underrated bluesicians of all time; he's waxed classic sides like "Little Bluebird," "If Walls Could Talk," "Grits Ain't Groceries" and "We're Gonna Make It" for labels like Chess, Stax and Sun. Fellow ax man Robillard formerly fronted Roomful of Blues; the Duke opens shows at 7 and 10 p.m. Billy Blues Bar & Grill, 6025 Richmond, 266-9294. $25.

february 15
Jamie Foxx The star of small screen (the WB Network's Jamie Foxx Show; the late, lamented In Living Color) and large (Set It Off, Booty Call) does his standup shtick. 7 p.m. Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Freeway, 988-1020. $32-$37 in advance; $34-$39 the day of the show.

february 16
1-900-ALL-KAREN Mouthy performance-art diva Karen Finley -- infamous for sticking unlikely stuff like candied yams where the sun don't shine -- takes her confrontational self on-line (telephone line) to make a few points and a few bucks to make a few more points. Billed as Finley's first national public performance piece, 1-900-ALL-KAREN will, according to the press release, "respond to a range of topics, including observations on news headlines and social injustices as well as more personal reflections on motherhood and daily life." (One of the "social injustices" Finley will surely address -- barring a gag order -- is her own case, recently petitioned for a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, regarding the 1990 rescinding of her National Endowment for the Arts grant on obscenity charges.) DiverseWorks is the local co-presenter of the piece, which begins today and continues, with a new message every day, through August 16. The call costs $1.75 for the first minute, $1.25 per minute thereafter; the funds, after costs, go to the artist.

february 17
"Texas Writers: Modern Perspectives on 'A Whole Other Country' " The series explores "how the state has changed over the past 20 years, and how current changes in demographics, social values and institutions ... will affect the future." Houston author/activist Tony Diaz (The Unspeakable) kicks it off with a lecture at 7:30 tonight. Texas Monthly senior editor Joe Nick Patoski is scheduled to speak at the same time Wednesday. Rice Memorial Center, Rice University entrance 1 (off Main Street). Info: 527-4839. Free.

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