Fifty years ago, a choreographer named George Balanchine started a little outfit called the New York City Ballet. From there, Balanchine, along with his associate artistic director, Jerome Robbins, built a ballet empire. Now, Peter Martins carries on the company's artistic legacy, and in this, the company's 50th anniversary season, he hails his predecessors. The New York City Ballet makes a rare Texas appearance as part of its 50th anniversary season; the company will dance a mixed program, including Balanchine's Square Dance and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (with music from Swan Lake); Robbins's The Concert (or The Perils of Everybody) and Other Dances; and Martins's Fearful Symmetries. Tonight through Sunday, October 18. Showtimes: ThursdaySaturday, 8 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets: 25$75. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS.
Have you ever wondered what the inspiration was for Little Shop of Horrors? Some sort of hallucinogenic nightmare featuring an overgrown opium poppy? If you're not familiar with the musical, here's the plot in a nutshell: Dorky Seymour is in love with the bodacious Audrey, his coworker at the Skid Row Flower Shop. He discovers a strange plant, which he names Audrey Two in homage, and people flock from all over to check it out. Ah, but what price fame? When Audrey Two develops a taste for human blood, Seymour must ask himself what he's willing to do to maintain his success. Little Shop of Horrors opens tonight at the Atomic Cafe and runs through November 7. Tickets are $12 ($10 on Thursdays). 1320 Nance (across from Last Concert Cafe), 222-ATOM.
Italian culture isn't all about Marlon Brando's cotton-stuffed cheeks and Joe Pesci's crotch-grabbing, big-mouth Brooklyn attitude. There's a whole world of art, dance, music, wine and some of the best damn food you'll ever eat just waiting to be discovered this weekend at the 21st Annual Festa Italiana. Artisans from far and wide will be on hand, and there will be educational displays for the kiddies, a pasta-eating contest, celebrity grape-stomping, performances by the Houston Grand Opera and all the Italian food you could possibly want. Festa Italiana takes place at the City Hall reflection pond today and tomorrow, from 11 a.m.11 p.m. (8 p.m. Sunday), with mass at 10 a.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 for those 16 and older. For more information, call 524-4222.
If you want to get out of town today and do it in sublime Texas style, head to Shiner for the Fifth Annual Bocktoberfest at the Spoetzl Brewery. Check out Texas homeboys (and girls) like Robert Earl Keen, Reckless Kelly, the Ugly Americans, Ian Moore, Marcia Ball and the Reverend Horton Heat. Need a little more convincing? Consider these Texas favorites: Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde and Shiner Honey Wheat Ale. Now then, don't hurt yourself in your mad dash to the car. Noon10:30 p.m. Check out URL www.shiner.com/bockto/boctomap.html for a handy-dandy map.
Is there anything under the intellectual sun that Susan Sontag hasn't done? Take a peek at her resume: The Stripe-Haired One has two novels under her belt, as well as six collections of essays and four feature-length films (which she wrote and directed). Besides that, she's an international theater director and playwright, and has taught philosophy, the history of religion and literature at Harvard, the City College of New York and Columbia (among others). Feeling like a major underachiever yet? If you can pick up the pieces of your shattered ego, console yourself with Sontag's lecture, "The Art of Fiction: A Reading" tonight at 5 p.m. Chin up, and go take some notes. Stude Concert Hall, Alice Pratt Brown Hall on the Rice University campus (entrance no. 12 from Rice Boulevard or entrance no. 8 from University). For more information, call 285-5157.
London's Victoria and Albert Museum has a lot of really, really old and expensive art, and about 250 pieces of it are now visiting the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum opens today at the MFAH, and includes the original manuscript of Dickens's Bleak House, paintings by Dante Gabriel Rosetti and François Boucher, sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini and Giovanni Pisano, ceramics from major Chinese dynasties and original Chippendale furniture. The Victoria and Albert Museum was formed to bring art to a broad audience; this is your chance to become a part of it. Through January 10, 1999. Hours: Thursday 10 a.m.9 p.m.; TuesdaySaturday 10 a.m.5 p.m.; Sunday 12:156 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300; www.mfah.org. $3; $1.50 for students, seniors and children six to 18; free for kids five and under. Free general admission, Thursday.
Are you or is someone you know a breast cancer survivor? If so, there's a plethora of information for you at the Reach to Recovery Breast Cancer Forum today. Here you can learn the latest developments in breast cancer research, diagnosis and treatment. You can also check out exhibits of prostheses, breast reconstruction displays, bras, wigs, lingerie and swimwear from various vendors, and you can pick up literature from the American Cancer Society and local support groups. 69 p.m., Texas Medical Center's Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, 2151 West Holcombe. For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 266-2877.