The canine contingent invades the Astrodomain during the 21st annual AstroWorld Series of Dog Shows, co-hosted by the Houston Combined Specialty Association and the Houston, Galveston County and Beaumont kennel clubs. Highlights include the American Kennel Club's Dog Agility Tournament, the Multi-Breed Flyball Tournament and the Canine Frisbee Exhibition, obedience trials and breed judging. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The Astrohall and the AstroArena, 8400 Kirby, 799-9500. More info: 791-6069. $8; $5 for kids 12 and under and seniors.
William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan believed they'd hit their highest note with the 1888 piece The Yeomen of the Guard, a semi-serious stab at serious opera by the mainstays of British comic opera (try as they might, the creators of sublime farces such as The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore were constitutionally incapable of anything more than a semi-serious stab). Yeomen is well-nigh Shakespearean with its wonderfully befuddling plot turns and tragicomic setup, which revolves around an English aristocrat imprisoned in the Tower of London on a wrongful charge of sorcery. The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston presents the production, which travels to Buxton, England, to compete in the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival following the local run (G&S/Houston is the only U.S. troupe scheduled to compete at IGSF '98; the company's Pinafore received the first runner-up award at the '95 edition of the fest). Opening performances are at 8 tonight and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday; the Houston run continues through July 26. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas. Info: 627-3570. $12 to $30.
"Merchant Ivory" is neither a designer bath soap nor a guy who makes period films. Rather, it's two guys who make period films: India native Ismail Merchant (who usually produces) and Oregon-born James Ivory (who typically directs). Merchant and Ivory have collaborated on more than 40 movies in 35 years; while the films have differed in the details, all bear the unmistakable M/I signature: a mingling of lush style, literary substance and busily clashing cultures. The touring series "Views of Merchant Ivory: Across Three Continents" offers a broad overview of the M/I oeuvre. It continues with a double feature of Quartet (1981) and The Europeans (1979) at 7:30 tonight. Howards End (1992) plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. A double feature of Maurice (1987) and The Remains of the Day (1993) is scheduled at 5 p.m. Sunday. The series continues through July 26. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Info: 639-7515. $6; $5 for one film only.
The spy comes in from the humidity this afternoon, as former CIA spook Milt Bearden reads from and signs copies of his debut novel, The Black Tulip. Bearden handled the agency's covert resistance against the Red Army (and the KGB) during the Soviets' war with Afghanistan, and Tulip draws on that experience as well as the author's three-decade stint with Central Intelligence. 4 p.m. Barnes & Noble, 12850 Memorial Drive, Suite 1600, 465-5616.
The mythical folk hero of Chuck Berry's 1958 rock standard becomes flesh and blood in the world premiere of Houston playwright Thomas Melancon's Johnny B. Goode. Melancon (Diary of Black Men, Whatever Happened to Black Love?) relocated the story to Texas, applying an unusual twist on the age-old conflict between fathers and sons: Johnny's dad plays the rural blues, and wants his offspring to follow in his footsteps; young Johnny wants to make his name and fortune playing the newfangled rhythm and blues. A matinee is scheduled at 3 today (for the rest of this week's showtimes, see page 45). The run continues through August 16. The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main, 520-0055.
Our front-running boys of summer, the Houston Astros, have a legitimate shot at being boys of late fall this year, with a high-powered offense anchored by hard-slugging first baseman Jeff Bagwell, super 2B Craig Biggio and outfielder Moises Alou. The defending NL Central champions host the Colorado Rockies in what promises to be a two-game slug fest at 7:05 tonight and Tuesday. (For the rest of this week's 'stros schedule, see page 27.) The Astrodome, 8400 Kirby, 799-9500. More info: 799-9555. $5 to $23.
The works in "Judye Williams: Flying Pies and Cowgirls" call to mind Leslie Caron's famous retort to the offended censors regarding her hip-gyrating fox trot with furniture in An American in Paris: "I was dancing with a chair!" Similarly, Fort Worth artist Williams sculpts scantily clad -- frequently nude -- cowgirls of clay, places them in suggestive (though hardly hard-core) settings and snaps digital prints of the resulting scenes. Cornpone porn? Texanarotica? Nope, just "outsider" folk art -- charming and guileless. The exhibit continues through August 15; viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Robinson Galleries, 2800 Kipling, 521-2215. Free.