Leave it to old Bill Shakespeare to bring you deep despair and bloody daggers one night, and slapstick chauvinism and cross-dressing the next. The Bard's Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew are hitting the stage this summer for the 30th annual Houston Shakespeare Festival in Hermann Park. But both productions will have a twist. Friday, feudal Asia replaces the lightning-strewn plains of Scotland in director Rob Bundy's version of Macbeth. And Saturday's Shrew, directed by Sidney Berger, has been set in the Wild West instead of Elizabethan Italy.
The idea behind the latter's relocation, according to festival associate producer Linus Craig, is that the Wild West will make the misogynous Shrew more politically correct: Instead of capitulating to her husband's will because society expects her to, the woman "trades her obedience for protection in an untamed world." So basically, the idea is that modern audiences can't handle wives obeying their husbands, but they're cool with wives ordering their husbands to kill people. Fascinating.
On a side note, the more superstitious among us may -- or may not -- want to check out the Friday the 13th performance: Acting lore has it that there's a curse on Macbeth. "You're never even supposed to say the name of the play," says Craig, "and we scheduled a performance outdoors in a metal band shell on Friday the 13th." Uh, sit away from the trees. Opens at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 30, and runs through August 14. Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park. For more information, call 713-284-8352 or visit www.uh.edu. Free. -- Julia Ramey
Death Becomes Her
If you're intrigued by artifacts of death, particularly Victorian mourning jewelry or atypical gravestones, then you'll find a peer in the fictional professor-cum-cemetery-enthusiast Sweeney St. George. The heroine of author Sarah Stewart Taylor's new novel, Mansions of the Dead, likes nothing better than to traipse through graveyards in wintry Northeast locales seeking clues about murders. Yeah, same here. This is Sweeney's second such escapade; the series' first installment, O' Artful Death, was an Agatha Award Finalist. Taylor, who shares her protagonist's fascination with old cemeteries and funerary art, discusses and signs Mansions of the Dead at 6 p.m. Friday, July 30. Murder By the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit www.sarahstewarttaylor.com. Free. -- Julia Ramey
Sweat for the Art
What to do when you're forced to spend extended time away from your honey? You could wallow in your misery or sob to your friends. Or, in the case of Aimee Jones and Wyatt Nash, you could throw a big sweaty art show. The artsy couple is hosting "Summer Sucks" at Raw Space Gallery. The event is billed as one part exhibit and one part send-off for Nash, who'll be attending Rutgers in the fall. The art show will feature interpretations of summertime in Houston by 17 local artists. "We've got drawings and sculptures," says Jones. "It's about hot summer craziness when you're delirious from the heat, and who knows what the hell you're going to do." Dress cool -- literally -- as there won't be any a/c. But, promises Jones, there will be "plenty of beer." 8 p.m. Saturday, July 31, through August 15. 121 St. Emanuel. For information, call 713-227-7774. Free. -- Steven Devadanam
Eastman Gallery hangs its walls with art by locals
As curators of the only Space City space dedicated exclusively to Houston artists, founder Richard Eastman and his assistant Makenzie Hogge proudly give up their walls to upwards of 80 local creators each year. Every six months, in January and July, the gallery presents its "Human Form and Mixed Media" show, displaying and celebrating the crème de la crème of area visual talent. This summer's exhibition will feature a few dozen artists, including Gabriel Palomino, whose work is a mixture of paper printing and oil painting; Mary Erbert, who creates almost psychedelically colorful, erotic pastel and oil florals; and Santosh Varughese, who makes innovative digital images. 6 p.m. Friday, July 30. 7026 Katy Road. For information, call 713-426-6669. Free. -- Scott Faingold
And God said unto the shrimp, "Jump into the nets, so rich people can eat thee!" At the 36th annual Kemah Blessing of the Fleet and Boat Parade this weekend, you can submit your invocations for full nets and calm seas alongside local clergymen while watching a procession of decorated yachts, fishing boats and dinghies. Last year, boats masqueraded as tropical islands, the Alamo and a giant St. Christopher medal. Fleet blessing dates back to 325 AD, though we're betting they didn't have Mrs. Galveston County as an emcee back then. 1 p.m. Sunday, August 1. Kemah Boardwalk by the Cadillac Authentic Mexican Restaurant. For more information, call 281-334-2303 or visit www.kemah.net. Free. -- Julia Ramey