Shirley Clarke (nee Brimberg) would seem an unlikely choice to direct one of the seminal black films of our time. The Jewish-American princess was reared on New York's Park Avenue, attended various upscale educational institutions (Johns Hopkins and Vermont's Bennington College among them) and danced with Martha Graham's troupe before becoming president of the National Dance Association at age 21. But Clarke found her calling as a controversial proponent of cinema verite -- a style she applied successfully to her 1963 film The Cool World, which foreshadowed the rise of the Black Power movement later in the '60s as well as the deadly gang culture of the '90s. One can see the birth pangs of the Bloods and the Crips and their empowerment-by-any-means world view in Clarke's film -- especially in the cold, hard face of its central character, Duke, a Harlem teen whose life's ambition is to buy a gun so he can "be somebody." In honor of Juneteenth, The Cool World plays as a double feature with Third Ward Blues; one admission ($5; $4 for matinees) covers both films. Cool World: 8 tonight and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday (see "Serenade in Blues" at right for Third Ward times and details). The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Info: 639-7515.
The Juneteenth Freedom Festival honors Abraham Lincoln's 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Highlights include performances by Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws and the 100-member Juneteenth Gospel Choir, a beauty pageant and a barbecue. 8 p.m. The Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park, 284-8350. Free. (For info about other area Juneteenth activities, see Events in Calendar.)
The cheap and easy way to approach Ka-Tap would be to label it a subcontinental variation on Tap Dogs (about whom see Sunday). But the production by New York's 12-member Kathak Ensemble is more than that (and a good deal less high-concept), merging Kathak dances of northern India with American tap, and classical ragas with stateside jazz by the likes of Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock. The program's reputed showstopper is "Tabla Tap Talk," a duet by tapster Neil Applebaum and tabla player Samir Chatterjee. 8 p.m. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $18 to $50 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS).
Billing its performance style as "testosterone tap," the troupe called Tap Dogs features six male hoofers from Australia who attempt to fill the void between the click-heeled grace of Fred Astaire and the rock-'em/sock-'em roustabouts in Stomp (cynics say the Dogs borrow over-liberally from Stomp's oeuvre; founder Dein Perry has acknowledged that his group's name was a swipe from -- er, an homage to -- Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs). The run closes with performances at 2 and 5 this afternoon (for the rest of this week's showtimes, see page 51 ). The Brown Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $12 to $40 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
The Houston Astros versus the Minnesota Twins; it still sounds odd, doesn't it, the National and American leagues butting heads in the regular season? Baseball purists continue to sputter about the interleague switcheroo (now in its second year), but Major League Baseball's most significant sea change since the designated-hitter rule has turned out to be a well-struck blow for the common fan -- though its real aim, of course, is to separate said fan from even more of his money. The NL Central-leading 'stros take on the Twins of the AL Central in games at 7:05 tonight and 12:35 p.m. Tuesday. (For the rest of this week's Astros schedule, see page 30.) The Astrodome, 8400 Kirby, 799-9500. More info: 799-9555. $5 to $23.
Most of us will never set foot on the fourth rock from the Sun, so "Mars: Race to the Red Planet" might be the next best thing to being there. Billed as "the interactive embodiment of NASA's vision for the first human mission to Mars," the recently opened exhibit includes a fast hop into the future via the Red Planet Virtual Reality ride, spins aboard the zero-gravity Multi-Axis Trainer (MAT) and the Mars Transfer Vehicle (MTV), a virtual jaunt on the planet's surface and a trip home courtesy of the In-Situ Resource Utilization unit (the ISRU is supposed to distill energy from Martian resources to power the real MTV on its return voyage in the year 2020). "Red Planet" continues through September 7; daily hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Road 1 (20 miles south of downtown, off I-45 at Johnson Space Center), Clear Lake, (281) 244-2100. $12.95; $11.95 for seniors; $8.95 for children four to 11; free for younger children.