Comedian Craig Shoemaker actually highlights Hollywood Squares in his bio. He was also Magic Johnson's sidekick on the unmagical Magic Hour and the host of VH1's short-lived game show My Generation. Still not impressed? Well, Shoemaker wrote an episode of Just the Ten of Us, guest-starred on Fresh Prince of Bel Air and played a teacher in Scream 2.... Hollywood is hard on its comedians. Though you'd never guess it from his television credentials, Shoemaker is funny. In fact, he received the prestigious American Comedy Award for Best Male Standup in 1997. It's the "Lovemaster" that'll get you: Shoemaker's Barry White-inspired alter ego pokes fun at male insecurities by slow-talkin' about the prowess of his penis. Shoemaker performs tonight and Sunday, April 18, at 8 p.m. ($12.50). Also, Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17, at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ($18). The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, (713)524-2333.
Don't expect tots in tutus at this ballet recital. The Houston Ballet Academy's 31 "Level 8" students are destined to be the next members of the corps de ballet in companies like American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Company and, of course, the Houston Ballet. Ben Stevenson himself has choreographed a physically demanding pure-dance work called 5 Poems to show off the talented young men in the class. The up-and-comers will also revive two of Stevenson's older ballets, Espanol Classico and Tangos for Emily, and will perform the first work created by Houston Ballet Principal Dancer Barbara Bears. The Houston Ballet Academy's Professional Division Performance is at 7:30 p.m. in the Cullen Theater of the Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. Call (713)227-ARTS for tickets. $11; $26, including a postconcert reception.
If you're out of the loop and still view world music as a quaint, ethnic novelty, this year's Houston International Festival will explode that notion like a Bosnian hoedown. The 1999 edition packs more global talent on its many stages than any other assemblage on the continent. A few of the headliners may ring familiar: South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Africa's best-known jazz musician; Angelique Kidjo, whose modernized Afro-pop has found vast audiences here and abroad; and Haiti's Boukman Eksperyans, whose overdrive island style has its own name, rara rock. The others may not resonate in Yanqui ears, but they fill stadiums overseas: Thomas Mapfumo, whose uncompromising electric roots music fueled Zimbabwe's revolution in the mid-1970s, is a Bob Marleylike figure back home. Same goes for Malian diva Oumou Sangare and South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. The sleeper: The Red Elvises (three Russians and a Texan), who play a mean and wacky Siberian surf rock. In addition to the six entertainment zones featuring live music, the International Festival features a replication of the ruins of the Great Zimbabwe, a Southern African habitat safari, a Caribbean cruise and international open-air markets. The party covers nearly 20 blocks of downtown and continues Sunday, April 18, and Saturday and Sunday, April 24 and 25. Call (713)654-8808 or go to www.hif.org for more information. Tickets are $6 at the gate; free for kids under ten. (Bob Burtman)
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California-based installation artist Jason Rhoades takes a "big-bang approach to sculpture," cramming gallery spaces to the brink with seemingly random but thematically calculated found objects. The bravado of these themes (i.e., The Purple Penis and the Venus) has earned him a reputation as an art-world bad boy. The New York Times called Rhoades's most recent SoHo installation, Propposition (in collaboration with Paul McCarthy), "ambitious, nasty fun." It combined porn, fake leather doughnuts, a deconstructed Ferrari and a mechanical bucking bronco. You figure it out. The Rice University Art Gallery is sponsoring Rhoades's 2 p.m. talk at the Freed Auditorium of the Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose, (713)639-7500. Call (713)527-6069 for more information. Free.
Tonight's Murder By The Book guest author is more silly than scary. Often compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore sure has some interesting titles under his belt: Practical Demonkeeping: A Comedy of Horrors, Bloodsucking Friends: A Love Story and Island of the Sequined Love Nun, to name a few. His latest novel, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, is the story of an unethical therapist who keeps most of her hometown sedated with pills she gets from a druggist/dolphin fetishist (who gives her a kickback). When the therapist's conscience gets the better of her and she switches the town to placebos, the townspeople all react by getting drunk. Meanwhile, the Sea Beast, a hundred-foot-long lizard who loves the steel guitar, is awakened and attacks the town ... with lust. Moore will sign his bizarre book at 5:30 p.m. Murder By The Book, 2342 Bissonnet, (713)524-8597. Free.
The Museum of Printing History's current exhibit, "From Edo to Tokyo: Three Centuries of Japanese Woodblock Prints," sounds a little stuffy. But it's not. It seems that Japanese artists let loose a little when they were faced with the competition of photography. They drew comic-striplike narratives of the newsworthy events of the day, of "adults" at "play" and of the shocking and grotesque. One surprising print shows a young pregnant woman being tortured by her very old and ugly husband. We're guessing the paternity test came back negative. "From Edo to Tokyo" is on display Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 5. Museum of Printing History, 1324 West Clay, (713)522-4652. $2; $1 for kids, students and seniors.
Okay, okay. You've already done your multicultural duty at the Houston International Festival. But you should still see Athol Fugard's Valley Song at Stages Repertory Theatre, not because it's set in South Africa, but because it's one of an internationally acclaimed playwright's best works. Three characters played by two actors tell the story of a country on the verge of the end of apartheid: Manning Mpinduzi-Mott alternates between Abraam Jonkers, the 76-year-old "Coloured" farmer who's devoted to the old ways of caring for land he doesn't own, and The Author, a sixtysomething white playwright who comes to own the title of the land Abraam tills. Melita Hawkins plays Abraam's granddaughter, who dreams of leaving the land and taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by a changing society. Valley Song plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through May 2. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, (713)52-