"Nannygate" -- the scandal that erupted after Zoe Baird, Clinton's nominee for attorney general, was discovered to have hired an illegal alien -- inspired Tony Award-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein to write An American Daughter. The play, set in D.C., concerns the nomination of a highly qualified woman to be surgeon general. When a TV reporter discovers she once ignored a jury summons, the ensuring media frenzy threatens to destroy her shot at the top. The subject matter may seem mild compared to Monicagate, but perhaps it's more relevant in the long run, with media scrutiny scaring away ever more potential leaders. Opening performance, 7:30 p.m. at Main Street Theater's Chelsea Market location, 4617 Montrose. 524-6706. $13. (For more dates and times, see Stage listings.)
Rice Cinema kicks off its Fall '98 series with Insomnia, an atmospheric thriller by Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjaerg. Two taciturn detectives arrive in midnight-sun territory to investigate a murder. Fog and endless daylight in remote northern Norway heighten tensions that already run deep. Stellan SkarsgŒrd of Breaking the Waves, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Hunt for Red October stars as the paranoid investigator. Reception at 6 p.m., with screenings at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Rice University Media Center, Rice campus, entrance no. 8. 527-4853. $5. (For more dates and times, see Repertory film listings.)
"Dracula must have blood. He's addicted to it.... After he seduces a girl, his need for blood is satiated for a minute. But then the cycle begins all over again." So says Timothy O'Keefe, who is dancing the title role in Ben Stevenson's wildly theatrical production of Dracula. The Houston Ballet launches its season with what the New York Times has called "a ballet for the mind as well as the eye." With his deathly pale skin, dark hair and red-rimmed eyes, this Dracula is creepily erotic, ensnaring his victims in a magnificent 30-foot cape. Vampire brides fly through the air, and a ghastly coach careens off the stage carrying the count's victims to their destiny. 7:30 p.m. in the Brown Theater in the Wortham Center located at Texas and Smith. 227-ARTS. $10$84. (For more dates and times, see Dance listings.)
Part of what's neat about the Beer Can House is the whispery sound the aluminum cans make as they shift in the wind. Museums provide a striking backdrop for smaller-scale folk art -- as the current shows at the Menil Collection, Moody Gallery and Blaffer Gallery attest -- but sometimes it's best in an open-air habitat. And that's just where the Artfull Garden puts "The Outsider Outside," which includes work by Ida Kingsbury, Freddie Avila, Carl Block, Isaac Smith, Carl Nash and others. Wander through the garden, and acquaint yourself with the creations of these self-taught visionaries. Opening reception 26 p.m. Artfull Garden, 241 Reinicke, 864-7271. Free. (For more dates and times, see Art listings.)
Helen Frankenthaler took printmaking with woodcuts to stunning levels of complexity, using up to 53 colors per image in her "Tales of the Genji" series (currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston). Little Junior might grow frustrated with such a process, so the museum's Family Day activity will be simpler, thank you very much. Local artists will give demos on woodblock prints and lithography, and parents and kids can make a silk-screen print to take home. 12:15 p.m. MFAH Caroline Weiss Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. Admission is free for children under 18; $3 for adults; $1.50 for seniors.
The beer companies have turned Mexican Independence Day, like St. Patrick's Day, into an opportunity to sell a lot of brew. But there's way more to it than that. History lesson: On midnight of September 15, 1810, a Mexican priest instigated his country's break from Spain, working his compatriots into a rebellious uproar first by giving a speech (known as the "Grito de Dolores") and then by ringing a bell ("El Grito"). Other Latin American countries began fighting for liberty as well. After 11 bloody years of warfare, Mexico negotiated peace and independence. Now the fun part: Houston celebrates La Noche Del Grito -- also known as Fiestas Patrias or Diez y Seis -- with an impressive lineup of celebrities, mariachi music, dance groups, rich costumes and South American food. Dancing by Ballet Mixteco and Ballet Zapata, and a performance by Mexican singer, movie star, television actor and all-around heartthrob Jorge Vargas. 7:30 p.m. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, 284-8350. Free. (For more dates and times, see Events listings.)
Stop by the Rice University Art Gallery between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and you'll see New York-based painter Stephen Keene at work, his right arm a blur, his shirt, pants and shoes spattered with color. He's a human painting machine, slapping acrylic on plywood as fast as he can, completing up to 400 paintings a week. He compares the paintings to souvenirs; he has sold them at bars, rock shows and his own garages sales to senior citizens, children and businesspeople. Critics deride him as schlocky, cynical and anti-art. And one can't help but wonder, is it art or the visual equivalent of fast food? Does his assembly-line style -- 32 paintings at a time -- say something about man's inhumanity to artists, or has he found a gimmicky niche? Ah, grasshopper, you'll have to see this sideshow for yourself to find out. Paintings will be sold for $1 to $15 (limit two per person, please!). For more dates and times, see Art listings. The gallery is located on the Rice University campus in Sewall Hall, 6100 Main, entrance no. 1.