There's nothing quite like a New Age Native American firewalk to get you connected to a higher power, so says Art Jackson of the Casa Alma Retreat Center near Navasota. But whether you'll be communing peacefully or pleading for your life is tough to predict. The weekend-long cleansing and confidence-building process begins tonight with some getting-to-know-you activities (the easy part) and continues at sunrise on Saturday with a traditional two-and-a-half-hour Indian sweat lodge. After that, you'll break some bad habits by karate-chopping boards, learn to trust by falling into the arms of your fellow participants and, amazingly enough, change your life's patterns by snapping a wooden arrow (pointed at your throat) with the sheer power of your neck. Then, around 5 p.m., you'll walk across hot coals, keeping in mind Jackson's wise words, "There's a fine line between fear and excitement and joy." Casa Alma welcomes firewalking novices, and Jackson says no one has suffered even a blister in the last three weekend workshops. But you might want to know that though Jackson has a master's degree in psychology, he's not a Native American... and you will be asked to sign a release form. We love it: adventure therapy. Call (409)894-3447 or 3448 for more information and to reserve your space. $92 includes meals, two nights' lodging and all activities.
The fashion elite in Paris, Milan and other such cities where they make these important decisions say that the hairstyle of the next millennium will be cropped, straight and slicked down -- an appropriately efficient 'do to go with their utilitarian outfits made from space-age, nonstain materials. But the organizers of the Lawndale Art Center's seventh annual hair- and fund-raising gala, The Hair Ball, beg to differ. The party, which has sent shock waves all the way up to People magazine and The Oprah Winfrey Show, may be taking on a futuristic theme this year ("Hair for the New Millennium: The Future Is Combing, Or Is It Already Hair?"), but the bouffants won't be sagging one inch below sky-high. So get out the Aquanet -- there are some relics of the past/present worth preserving. 7:30 p.m.-midnight. Aerial Theater, Bayou Place, 520 Texas Avenue. Call (713)528-5858 for more information. $150.
Houstonian Joni Rodgers writes what she knows. Lucky for us, she has had a compelling array of life experiences. Her first novel, Crazy for Trying, is the '70s love story of the first female DJ in Helena, Montana -- no doubt culled from when Rodgers herself held that title. The forthcoming Bald in the Land of Big Hair is a humorous memoir about the tragedy of Rodgers's alopecia... and, of course, the chemotherapy that caused it. Her recent release, Sugar Land, hearkens back to Rodgers's youth spent on stage performing gospel openers for old-time country greats such as Ernest Tubb, Patsy Montana and Grampa Jones. In Sugar Land, the Smithers sisters (Kit and Kiki) grow up singing their hearts out and strutting around in gold lame at county fairs across Texas. But that's perhaps where the similarities between art and life end. As adults, the washed-up Smitherses struggle through bad marriages, big mortgages and morning sickness. Meanwhile, Joni Rodgers seems to be at the top of her game. Rodgers reads Sugar Land in Sugar Land at Barnes & Noble, 2545 Town Center Boulevard, at 7:30 p.m. Call (281)265-4620 for more information. Free.
Reading an interview with German artist Peter Vogel is like trying to understand a physicist -- if he were also an art historian and a philosopher. Vogel talks about his art with such words as cybernetic and aleatoric and concepts such as the mind/body dialectic and conditioned reflex. We don't claim to understand him, but since you might be heading off to see the joint "Sound Sculptures" exhibition at the Wells Fargo Plaza Gallery and the Goethe Institut, we feel it's our duty to try to break it down. Vogel creates "sculptures" out of mechanisms such as sound generators, switches, amplifiers and photocells. The photocells act as shadow sensors so that when you step in front of it, the sculpture creates different patterns of sound. Techies can actually follow the sculpture's chain reactions like a diagram; the rest of us can just experiment until the thing makes a noise we like. Just remember that when you're playing peekaboo with the metallic structures you're probably just serving as one of "Pavlov's dogs" in a grand Vogellian experiment. "Sound Sculptures" opens today at Wells Fargo Plaza Gallery, 1000 Louisiana, (713)654-2100, and runs through June 25. Hours are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The exhibition opens May 27 at the Goethe Institut, 3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, (713)528-2787, and runs through June 30. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you keep anything long enough, it becomes fine art. In the 1950s, when hand-drawn animation was in a Mickey-Mouse-Peter-Pan-Cinderella-Lady-and-the-Tramp frenzy, studio parking lots were filled with so many discarded cels that children could "ski" down the piles. If you were smart enough to hold on to a cel or two, get it appraised at Fine Toon Animation Art Gallery with visiting experts John Cairns and Wanda Lunn. If you weren't that smart (or weren't born yet), you can still get retro by checking out the gallery's rare collection of vintage animation artwork. The exhibit is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through May 31. Illustrated lectures and appraisal sessions are Friday, May 21, at 4 p.m. and Saturday, May 22, at 1 p.m. Fine Toon Animation Art Gallery, 2427 Bissonnet, (713)522-6499. Free.
Tom Stoppard has written some great plays -- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Arcadia, The Invention of Love -- but sadly most of us now know him as the Oscar-winning co-author of the Hollywood movie Shakespeare In Love. But relax: The Alley is offering a remedial chance to see Stoppard's work on stage. Travesties is the fictional encounter of three historical figures in Zurich in 1917: novelist James Joyce, dadaist Tristan Tzara and the man who needs no introduction, V.I. Lenin. The revolutionaries' historical roles are extravagantly rewritten in the slightly boggled mind of one of Stoppard's best comedic characters, Henry Carr. Alley Theatre Artistic Director Gregory Boyd returns from The Civil War on Broadway to direct. Travesties opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. and runs Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2:30 and 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. through June 13. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, (713)228-8421. $36-$40.