21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: The Nutcracker Market and Cinema Arts Festival

November 7
The scaled-up sculptures of Paul Kittelson’s meet a prepared mind somewhere between Claes Oldenburg’s deflated Pop anti-monuments and Arte Povera’s schmutzy surfaces. To an unprepared mind, his sculptures have an easy-to-like quality that belies the kind of mastery of form and materials that went into their creation. Kittelson has a deft hand, and he likes to mess with the thing-ness of things, but in a way that might make a modernist critic blush. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday. Continuing 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 8 through 11. Devin Borden Gallery, 3909 Main. For information, call 713?529?2700 or visit devinborden.com. Free. – Tex Kerschen

Artist Lillian Warren was named one of the Houston Press's 100 Creatives in 2012 and someone you may know from Cityscapes, Trafficscapes or Waitscapes (some of her most popular series of works). Choreographer Annie Arnoult is the founding artistic director of Open Dance Project who returned to Houston just two years ago after spending the last two decades in Chicago. Together, Warren and Arnoult have collaborated for And then I had a nightmare about the ice cream truck, a project that sets Arnoult’s improvised movements against Warren’s paintings and abstracted images to create a unique dialogue between the two. The Aurora Picture Show is hosting the event, and attendance for the performance is limited, so be sure to pick up a ticket as soon as possible. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. 2442 Bartlett. For information, call 713-868-2101 or visit aurorapictureshow.org. Free to $10. – Natalie de la Garza

November 8
It’s 1964, on the eve of Vatican II, and the three sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart are supposed to be getting ready to host a concert. Change is in the wind, not only in the Roman Catholic Church; the local weather patterns predict a sizable snowstorm. Two strangers arrive at the chapel, independently of each other; they and the nuns wind up trapped together in rural Ohio. It’s A Midnight Clear: A Musical Story of Christmas, making its world premiere at Stages Repertory Theatre. Not only is Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin directing, but he wrote the book for this musical; David Nehls, his collaborator on earlier musical I’ll Be Home for Christmas, has written the American folk music and lyrics. Christmas and the holiday season, as anyone knows, can be a mixed blessing, something this work doesn’t shy away from, McLaughlin says. “We have this kind of almost legend that Christmas is this happy time. It’s not always. Not everyone celebrates.” Still, he says, the musical emphasizes the amazing joys and hopes that Christmas can bring to people. There’s another cast member as well, but that’s a surprise you’ll have to come to the theater to find out about. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. November 8 through December 24. 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $25 to $63. – Margaret Downing

Noted author Justin Spring has cooked up a storm with his latest novel, The Gourmand’s Way, a pseudo-biography following six people whose French style of cooking made American kitchens sing. He will join Brazos Bookstore for a special presentation of the book Wednesday, interacting with the crowd and sharing stories from his book following an introduction by Alison de Lima Greene, the Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “For this publication, he’s turned his eye to the 30-year period between World War II and the 1970s, the culture and art of French cuisine in the time and how Americans interacted with it,” says Sara Balabanlilar, Brazos’s marketing director. “It ranges from Julia Child to Alice B. Toklas.” 7 p.m. Wednesday. 2421 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-523-0701 or visit brazosbookstore.com. Free. – Sam Byrd

November 9
Shop, shop, shop until you drop, drop, drop. The holiday gift-grabbing season is right around the corner, and no one does unique shopping quite like the Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker Market. The 37th annual event will sell just about everything a shopper might dream of: from children’s toys and furs to designer candles and the Houston Fire Department’s ever-popular steamy autographed calendars. All proceeds benefit the Houston Ballet Academy and its scholarship programs, plus, says head organizer Patsy Champman, another added benefit. “It’s a great way to get in your 10,000 steps. Online shopping is so popular. But At Nutcracker Market, you can touch it, taste it, see it, and feel it, and you can’t do that siting on the couch.” 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and November 10; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 11-12. NRG Center, One NRG Park. For information, call 713-535-3231 or visit houstonballet.org/about/nutcracker-market. $18 to $135. – Sam Byrd

Bun B does Singin’ in the Rain, a new doc on cremains artist Wayne Gilbert, and a destined for Oscars drama with Frances McDormand? It’s all part of the Houston-centric line-up during this year’s Houston Cinema Arts Festival, our city’s red carpet extravaganza that screens at multiple locations through November 13. The festival opens with Love, Cecil, about controversial photog and costume designer Cecil Beaton (he shot both Queen Elizabeth II and Greta Garbo), and the rap-centric Bodied. "Joseph Kahn, who is the hottest music video director in the world right now — he does Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Eminem, Lady Gaga — he has a brand new feature," says artistic director Richard Herskowitz about the action-packed Bodied that both attracts and repels. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet; 9 p.m. Thursday, Rice Media Center, 3020 University. For information, call 713-429-0420 or visit houstoncinemaartsfestival.org. $12. – Susie Tommaney

The 23rd annual "conference of the parties" (COP), happening now in Germany, sees many of the world's nations gathering under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of stopping global warming. In support of the meeting, Luciole International Theatre Company will present Celsius, a Mixed Media Production, an evening of short plays from around the world. Comedic, dystopian, dramatic and poetic, the works featured will include a trip to a futuristic zoo, a colonization mission to Mars and a piece from the point of view of a couple of eagles looking for food amidst garbage. The work of Houston-based photographer John Bernhard, who’s traveled the globe to capture environmental destruction through the eyes of children, will also be displayed. 8 p.m. Thursday. Continuing at 8 p.m. November 10 and 11; 3 p.m. November 12. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit lucioleinternationaltheatre.org. Pay what you can; suggested price $25. – Natalie de la Garza

November 10
Hollywood’s best screenwriters couldn’t come up with a story better than this. Seven childhood friends grew up in Cuba, honing their musical chops on jazz harmonies and seductive Latin rhythms, all the while aspiring for something more. They each chased the American dream and reunited in Miami, where their “free time” jams gave way to the Afro-Caribbean group, Tiempo Libre. Sixteen years later the septet has seven albums and three Grammy nominations under its belt, and Houston audiences will soon enjoy their high energy sound courtesy of Da Camera’s Jazz Series. “We will play a little bit of everything: jazz, traditional Cuban music, cumbia, classical with a Cuban flavor,” says Jorge Gómez, the group’s pianist and musical director. We expect plenty of seat dancing in the audience. 8 p.m. Friday. University of Houston, Cullen Performance Hall, 4300 University. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit dacamera.com. $37.50 to $67.50. – Susie Tommaney

She’s the dance world’s version of a pioneering explorer. Karen Stokes has journeyed to the bottom of the ocean and the infinity of the cosmos in DEEP: Seaspace and now — to celebrate the 20th season of Karen Stokes Dance — the choreographer has invited former company members to perform in X20, a retrospective of past works and a premiere of Mapping & Glaciers. “Once I decided to deal with the idea of abstraction, of how the body can be mapped in the space, I quickly went to the ideas of maps,” says Stokes. “The environment is changing and redefining maps, even as simple as how the glaciers melt, and that will impact our boundaries.” Expect creative costumes: white and silver (easy to project upon) and a scene with suit jackets that touches on the political (think border wall). 8 p.m. Friday and November 11. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit karenstokesdance.org. $22 to $37. – Susie Tommaney

Chris Lashua, the creative director of Cirque Mechanics, took the experience he gained from his former career as a BMX freestyler, mixed it together with his time working in contemporary circus with Cirque du Soleil, and created Pedal Punk. Set in a mechanic’s funky bike shop, the Steampunk-inspired show features unicyclists, death-defying trapeze artists and high-flying acrobats, but it is Pedal Punk’s centerpiece, the 20-foot tall, 3000-pound, pedal-powered Gantry Bike – which encompasses and supports most of the show’s bike tricks, leaps, contortions and trampoline dancing – that is the real eye-catcher. “We really explore the relationship between the acrobat and the mechanical contraption,” says Lashua. “This combination of the whimsical, lyrical comedy and beauty with this mechanical structure in a playful story is something everyone can enjoy.” 7:30 p.m. Friday. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free. – Natalie de la Garza

From finding yourself in Vegas about to be married by a Tom Jones impersonator to having a chance to write with the Bard himself, the works of Houston writer Bryan Maynard will kick of The Company OnStage’s 2017 Local Author Series during the Selected Works of Bryan Maynard. Director Nicholas Garelick will lead an evening of monologues, short scenes and one-act plays curated by the Maynard, a playwright that has had work featured in festivals around Houston like Vox Feminina, the Playhouse 1960 Short Play Festival and the Five Minute Mile. The series will continue throughout the theater company’s season with the works of Cassie Randall, Conor Farrell and Donna Latham (the author of Company OnStage's recently mounted production of Most Wretched Deathbed Fever Dreams of Edgar Allan Poe). 8 p.m. Friday. Continuing at 8 p.m. November 11, 17 and 18. 4930 West Bellfort. For information, call 713-726-1219 or visit companyonstage.org. $18. – Natalie de la Garza

Two stranglers terrorized London in December 1952. One was John Reginald Christie, a serial killer responsible for the deaths of eight people; the other, a poisonous smog – the Great Smog – responsible for the deaths of 12,000. In Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City, UT Austin journalism professor Kate Winkler Dawson weaves the two stories together and shows their lasting legacies: The Clean Air Act of 1956, which reduced England's dependency on coal, and the abolishment of the death penalty, set in motion when a man, Tim Evans, was wrongfully convicted and executed for killing his wife and child. The real killer was Christie. 6:30 p.m. Friday. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit murderbooks.com. Free. – Natalie de la Garza

Shop alternative DIY media at this year's Zine Fest Houston, this Saturday at Lawndale.EXPAND
Shop alternative DIY media at this year's Zine Fest Houston, this Saturday at Lawndale.
Photo by John Luu

November 11
Just like King Solomon discovered, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Luckily, this time it’s just a favorite Broadway musical, which Houston Symphony Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke has made much easier with Broadway Today. He laments he couldn’t cover all the favorites, but still has a solid lineup, drawn from recent favorites The Phantom of the Opera, Once, Chicago, The Book of Mormon, Les Misérables, Cabaret and more, sung by guest vocalists Betsy Wolf and devilishly handsome Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan. “I could do three or four concerts and still not cover it all,” says Reineke “I worked with the singers to pick and choose things to perform that would be representative.” 8 p.m. Saturday and November 10; 7:30 p.m. November 12. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $40 to $158. – Sam Byrd

It’s two years after the end of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but this time Darcy and Elizabeth aren’t the main characters. No, it’s middle sister Mary Bennet, the studious one apparently destined for spinsterhood, who takes center stage in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. Claire Hart-Palumbo says she jumped at the chance to direct this witty farce set in 1815, co-written by Lauren Gunderson (Silent Sky, The Revolutionists) and Margot Melcon. “Mary’s at a point where she realizes that everyone expects her to be an old maid and take care of her parents,” Hart-Palumbo says. “And she’s not sure she’s really happy with that. She’s questioning her choices.” A curveball arrives in the form of a bookish lord that Darcy has invited to take Christmas dinner with them. Sparks fly between him and Mary and, this being a comedy, all sorts of complications ensue. “This is going to be a really welcome change over the holidays to the usual Dickens. This is a completely new kind of Christmas play,” Hart-Palumbo promises. 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. November 11 through December 17. Main Street Theater – Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheatre.com. $36 to $45; $10 student tickets with ID. – Margaret Downing

The (cyber) future is now at Zine Fest Houston. This year’s festival includes teen zine and animation workshops, a spotlight on Anarchist Black Cross Houston Chapter, a live recording of the all-inclusive LGBTQ+ podcast Veer Queer, food trucks (Moon Rooster, Food Music Life and Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream Co.) and a theme that explores possible cybernetic futures. Co-organizer Stacy Kirages says that while zinesters have definitely taken the self-published DIY art form to the web, the hard-copy zine isn’t going anywhere. “A zine is very tangible and physical, so I think when everyone is so plugged in to the technology of today it’s really refreshing and energizing to be able to come back and make something with your hands,” says Kirages. “They can draw, paint, cut paper, glue. That’s really empowering for people.” 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main. For information, visit zinefesthouston.org. Free. – Natalie de la Garza

Fifty-five years ago, John F. Kennedy stood in Rice Stadium and delivered one of his most famous speeches, telling Americans, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." In ROCO’s upcoming concert, Courageous Catalysts, Michael Gandolfi’s commissioned piece, September 12, 1962, will celebrate JFK’s 100th birthday as well as people who bravely fight for change. The program also includes the premiere performances of Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts’s The Big Heart, a fanfare for chorus about the city’s response to Harvey; Symphony No. 7 in C major by Jean Sibelius; Beethoven’s Overture to Leonore No. 3; and I Will Not Remain Silent, a violin concerto inspired by the life of Joachim Prinz by Bruce Adolphe. 5 p.m. Saturday. The Church of St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks. For information, call 713-665-2700 or visit rocohouston.org. $15 to $35. – Natalie de la Garza

November 12
Straight outta Comedy Central, Happy Madison regular Nick Swardson will unroll his juvenile comedic musings on the Houston Improv for six shows. Coming off of supporting roles in Adam Sandler’s Netflix productions Sandy Wexler, The Do-Over and The Ridiculous 6, the 41-year-old Minnesota native has found success in standup and sketch comedy since his college days; he’s currently the writer-star of the sitcom Typical Rick. While Swardson hasn’t recorded a special since 2009’s Seriously…Who Farts, the comic has kept busy with touring across the country – including a visit to H-Town last April as part of the Sandler-produced “Sandy Wexler’s Here Comes the Funny” tour with Rob Schneider and David Spade. Now flying solo, but no less irreverent, the funnyman should deliver plenty of crowd-pleasing laughs that will bring you straight back to the 8th grade. 8 p.m. Sunday and November 9-11. 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $30. – Vic Shuttee

When Mozart composed the fairy tale opera The Magic Flute, he tailored the parts to the vocalists in his orbit, leaving a daunting challenge for anyone who dares to hit that dreaded high F6 note in the Queen of the Night’s arias. Two sopranos are up to the task when Opera in the Heights presents an updated version with Elizabeth Vickers (Die Fledermaus, La tragédie de Carmen, La traviata) and Natalie Polito (La Bohème) alternating performances. Artistic Director Eiki Isomura says they’ve created a relevant and vibrant telling of the story about a prince tasked with rescuing a princess, making it more relatable to modern audiences and with a striking set by Torsten Louis. “When you enter the theater you will have a sense that this is a darker, more modern Magic Flute.” The singspiel is sung in German with English surtitles, though they’ve streamlined the dialogue. 2 p.m. Sunday and November 19. Also 7:30 p.m. November 10, 11, 17 and 18. 1703 Heights. For information, call 713-861-5303 or visit operaintheheights.org. $12.50 to $74.50. – Susie Tommaney

Francesca Caccini played five instruments, including the harpsichord, lute and guitar; worked as a musician in the Medici court, rubbing elbows with other Italian Renaissance figures like Galileo; and, in 1625, composed the first opera written by a woman. “It’s amazing to see that there were women composing back in a time when women weren’t supposed to do most of the things that men were doing,” says mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, who with sopranos Sydney Anderson and Alexandra Smither will perform the music of three women composers – Caccini, Isabella Leonarda and Barbara Strozzi – during Ars Lyrica’s Italian Sirens. “I think their music is more subtle. I think it’s full of little details,” says Duarte. “They give a lot of importance to the text. The music is very lyrical, also very delicate.” 6 p.m. Sunday. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit arslyricahouston.org. $22 to $65. – Natalie de la Garza

Enjoy a program of solo and ensemble works showcasing American musical theater, opera and the African-American spiritual tradition during the Houston Ebony Opera Guild’s Of Thee I Sing: A Concert of Great Solos and Ensembles from Musical Theater, Opera, and The African American Spiritual Tradition. The program will include selections from Robert Wright’s Carousel, Aaron Copeland’s The Tender Land, George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Stephen Flaherty’s Ragtime and Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Houston Ebony Opera Guild and flood recovery at St. Thomas's Episcopal Church. A reception will follow the concert. 4 p.m. Sunday. Benitez Chapel, Episcopal High School, 4650 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-335-3800 or visit houstonebonymusic.org. Free to $25. – Natalie de la Garza

November 13
Though Saturday Night Fever and Grease proved more successful financially, Urban Cowboy remained John Travolta’s favorite experience as an actor, he told the makers of Urban Cowboy: The Rise and Fall of Gilley’s, a 2015 CMT documentary marking the 35th anniversary of James Bridges’ honky-tonk romance co-starring a young Debra Winger. Mickey Gilley, whose mammoth namesake club in Pasadena became legendary thanks to the film – as did a certain mechanical bull – had a No. 1 hit on the blockbuster soundtrack and remarked, “Every night when I go to bed, I thank John Travolta for keeping my career alive.” Refineries notwithstanding, modern Houston doesn’t much resemble the landscape of Urban Cowboy anymore, but many locals have a soft spot for it anyway. It certainly fits right in as the second entry in Midtown biergarten Axelrad’s month-long “H-Town Proud Movie Series,” with Reality Bites and Brewster McCloud on tap in coming weeks. 8 p.m. Monday. 1517 Alabama. For information, call 713-597-8800 or visit axelradbeergarden.com. Free. – Chris Gray

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