Michael McKenzie
Michael McKenzie
Courtesy of Michael McKenzie

Ghetto Fabulous

FRI 4/15

If you grew up black in the '70s, your TV idols were either J.J. Jackson or George Jefferson, ghetto superstar or ghetto survivor. The bipolarity of these images is what plagues most African-Americans who grew up poor and became successful -- they still can't shake the ghetto. Michael McKenzie, a Houston author-playwright, dramatizes this dichotomy in his new play, Ghetto Passport. "I've experienced poverty," says McKenzie. "I've experienced the drugs, not having enough money to pay the electricity...I wanted to be a voice for the millions whose trials, triumphs and concerns were and are similar to mine." The play, based on McKenzie's book of the same name, tells the tale of a young man whose traumatic experience in the ghetto prompts him to make some serious life changes. "In the play, he faces issues with his mother on drugs...he faces the reality of his brother being shot," says McKenzie. "It focuses on a guy who grows up in a predicament and meets the challenges and makes it out." Show opens at 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, and runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 24. Silver House Theater, 1107 Chartres. For tickets and information, call 713-547-0126 or visit www.mikemckenzieonline.com. $18. -- Felica Johnson-LeBlanc

Pieces of Asia

The Rosta Jazz Avengers get "Elemental" at DiverseWorks

Rosta Jazz Avengers sax player Seth Paynter studied traditional Eastern music during the two years he spent living in Korea. Later, RJA guitarist John Edward Ross started getting into Japanese stuff. The two decided to explore these influences as a way to push their combo's music past the usual scope of avant-garde jazz. The new Avengers show, "Elemental," which debuts at DiverseWorks this week, is not a typical multimedia performance. "Having all that visual and sonic stimulation happening all at once can be overwhelming for an audience," says Paynter. Instead, short films by Laura Harrison will alternate with RJA's musical pieces to allow the two art forms to complement and enlarge each other. "And it's really important to us," adds Paynter with a chuckle, "that this doesn't come off as just 'crackers playing Asian stuff.'" 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16. 1117 East Freeway. For tickets, call 713-223-8346 or visit www.diverseworks.org. $10 to $15. -- Scott Faingold

Infernal Bitch

THU 4/14

If the word "Euripides" conjures up harrowing flashbacks of ninth-grade English, chill. Not only is Infernal Bridegroom Production's new version of Medea totally modernized, but Medea is one of the great bitches of history. Check out the tale of a woman so enraged by her ex-lover's snubbing that she offs not only his new bride-to-be but also the two children she shares with him. And don't worry about boring Euripidean dialogue; Charlie Scott's interpretation features video projections, Suchu Dance as the Greek chorus and a smorgasbord of music. Opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 14. Show runs through May 7. For tickets and showtimes, call 713-522-8443 or visit www.infernalbridegroom.com. $5.99 first weekend; $10 to $15 thereafter. -- Julia Ramey

Feast on the East

SAT 4/16

The group Dance of Asian America's East Meets West III offers, as the name implies, a blend of Eastern dance traditions and contemporary Western styles. Look for centuries-old renditions of song and dance from the Chinese mainland and subregions, plus some updated fusion of classical styles and modern movement. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For tickets and information, call 713-315-2525 or visit www.thehobbycenter.org. $12 to $20. -- Steven Devadanam


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