The moment gay college student Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die, Laramie transformed from an obscure Wyoming outpost into an unlikely crossroads for global dialogues about prejudice, acceptance, hate and fear. After the news crews left town, playwright Moisés Kaufman and his Tectonic Theater Project remained -- for a year and a half, in fact -- talking to residents. This weekend, the Rice Players present The Laramie Project, a montage of the local voices that Kaufman and his team recorded. The project reveals Laramie as a far more complex place than any small-town stereotype would permit, and the play, a Broadway success, was made into an HBO film two years ago.
Rice Players director Trish Rigdon had her team of actors learn their own lessons of tolerance by casting without regard to gender and sexuality and by having each play multiple roles. But the star, she says, is "the character we don't see": Shepard himself. The conversation continues at 8 p.m. Friday, October 8, and runs through October 16. Rice University's Hamman Hall, entrance No. 14 (off Rice Boulevard). For a full schedule, call 713-348-7529 or visit www.rice.edu/players. $8 to $16. -- Julia Ramey
Get spacey with NASA artist Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson first gained notoriety in the late '70s for doing stuff like playing her violin atop a block of ice while it slowly melted beneath her. But she's probably best known among the general public for her 1982 left-field single "O Superman." Fast-forward 20-odd years and the quirky, saucer-eyed, spike-haired musician-performance artist has just completed a stint as NASA's first ever artist in residence. Anderson's latest work incorporates songs and stories, with support from her trademark violin and minimal electronics. Befitting the end result of research she did while working for the space program, it's called The End of the Moon. Finally, some authentic space rock. 8 p.m. Saturday, October 9. Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.spahouston.org. $30 to $45. -- Scott Faingold
With little fanfare, the annual Festival Chicano -- now in its 25th year -- has slowly become a local cultural icon, channeling the same kind of passion and memorable musical performances as Selena's raucous rodeo gigs. This year's lineup boasts a solid mix of national, regional and local acts showcasing Tejano, conjunto, mariachi and traditional folk genres, with headliners including Ram Herrera, Shelly Lares and Gary Hobbs. The finale features Grammy-winners Little Joe y La Familia and, arguably conjunto's most accomplished conquistadors, Houston-born Jaime de Anda y Los Chamacos. 7 p.m. daily, from Thursday, October 7, through Saturday, October 9. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive. For information, call 713-284-8350 or visit www.milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free. -- Greg Barr
Dom Carrying On
You've seen hangdog-faced comedian Dom Irrera on a million nicey sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens. But the south Philly native, who grew up in a multigenerational Italian household, is edgier on stage, with a mouth that would never get past the FCC. You got a fookin' problem wid' dat? Opens at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 7, and runs through Saturday, October 9. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $18.50 to $21.50. -- Bob Ruggiero