Theater LaB Houston's Fringe Theater Festival opens this weekend with Sing Sweet Gospel, a performance that traces the history of gospel and features voices from both the St. Paul A.M.E. Church and the Kashmere High School choir, and Out on a Limb, a one-woman cabaret show by the LaB's own Deborah Boily. The festival continues throughout June and July with Jackie Clune singing the songs of the '70s in Chicks with Flicks and the Women's Works Project's examination of women, their breasts and cancer, Body Ratio 1:8. But the most "fringe" of the festival will undoubtedly be Tim Miller's My Queer Body. In 1991 Miller, one of the famous "NEA Four," was denied federal solo performer fellowships because of his work's explicit gay content. Miller's reaction was "to continue being an activist, slutty, queer point of light." Sing Sweet Gospel runs tonight and Saturday, June 5, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 6, at 5 p.m. at St. Paul's A.M.E. Church, 1708 Edwards. Out on a Limb runs tonight at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 5, at 8:30 and 10 p.m. at Theater LaB, 1706 Alabama. Call (713)868-7516 for information on future shows. $15 each.
Sure, Henry Horenstein's new book is called Creatures, but to call him a wildlife photographer would be entirely unfair. His extreme close-ups and skewed angles turn animal parts like a spider monkey's tail or a Great Dane's tongue into sculptural fine art. At the same time, Horenstein's process of printing black-and-white positive film with color Cibachrome materials gives his photographs a familiar, brown tinge -- as if the subjects aren't wild animals at all but creatures from a children's book or even family pets. The paradoxical photographs will be on display at John Cleary Gallery through July 3. Horenstein himself will be present at today's opening reception and book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 2635 Colquitt (on Gallery Row), (713)524-5070. Free.
A campier collection of creatures will crawl up on Galveston's East Beach today for the American Institute of Architects' 13th Annual Sandcastle Competition. Past sand sightings have included a nine-foot-tall rendition of the poor soul in Edvard Munch's painting The Scream, Godzilla, The Spice Girls, the Taco Bell Chihuahua and the cast of characters from the "Rocky Horror Sandcastle Show." Architecture students from Rice University, the University of Houston, the University of Texas and other Texas schools will descend on the beach at the crack of dawn with buckets, rakes, brooms, spatulas, wheelbarrows and 40-gallon water drums. The building continues until 4 p.m., when the sand sculptures are judged. An awards ceremony follows at 5:30 p.m. Call (713)520-0155 for directions and more information. Free.
When the Houston Grand Opera returned to the Miller Outdoor Theatre last summer for the first time in eight years, its production of Carmen attracted 20,000 people on a single Saturday night. It was the largest audience HGO had ever had. This year, they're back -- big surprise -- with another popular opera, Madame Butterfly. They'll use the same steel-tiered Multimedia Modular Stage with all its video screens and hydraulic lifts, but this year the opera itself will not be updated. Instead, the HGO plans to use all this technology to make the Miller Outdoor Theatre seem just like turn-of-the-century Japan. 8:30 p.m. Also, Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, 8:30 p.m. 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, (713)284-8350. Free.
The "Texas Bound" reading series pairs notable Texas actors with short stories by notable Texas authors. This year, the Alley Theatre's Jeffrey Bean, who recently played Oscar Wilde in Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, will read Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler's Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot. John Benjamin Hickey of Broadway's Cabaret revival and Love! Valour! Compassion! will read Assailable Character, by Tracey Daugherty. And Julie White, who played Nadine Swoboda on "Grace Under Fire," will read from Old Enough, the first book by San Antonio native Mary K. Flatten. 7:30 p.m. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue, (713)228-8421. $14; $12, students, teachers and seniors.