"Small Deaths: Kate Breakey" Who among us -- out on an evening stroll, say -- hasn't had the sort of pedestrian encounter with mortality that photographer and University of Texas at Austin instructor Breakey portrays with such aching, indelible beauty in this traveling exhibit? Still, there's nothing prosaic about Breakey's pieces. Her petite portraits of exanimate animals and plants -- broken-winged birds and belly-up lizards, color-denuded blossoms on fast-bowing stems -- are artfully rendered requiems that give lingering meaning to the brief lives of these unhonored dead beneath our feet and our notice. Breakey makes us notice. She shoots her funereal found objects in extreme close-up, enlarges the ensuing prints and -- like a postmortem makeup artist armed with a jeweler's skill -- hand-inks the images until they glow with false light (and life). It's gorgeous, thoughtful work. Presented in conjunction with FotoFest 98, the installation continues through April 19. The companion exhibit is "Except for Memory: Laura Pickett Calfee." Viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The Rudolph Poissant Gallery, 5102 Center, 802-1886. Free.
Hot Shoe Shuffle Houston-based Theatre Under the Stars presents the world premiere of this so-called "spectapular," conceived and directed by Australia's David Atkins, written by playwright David Hahn and featuring music by Megan Cavalleri (score) and David Goldsmith (lyrics). The story line follows seven tap-dancing sibs from the wilds of the outback to the bright lights of Broadway. Similarly, TUTS hopes Shuffle, co-produced by Seattle's 5th Avenue Musical Theatre and Saint Paul, Minnesota's Ordway Music Theatre, will make its way from the banks of Buffalo Bayou to the Great White Way. And it might, but despite the show's musical-comedy formalism -- this hoofing extravaganza has a plot and everything! -- it's still a knockoff of a knockoff (Tap Dogs) of a true original (Stomp), and the narrow field it's entering is getting mighty crowded. A preview is scheduled at 8 tonight. The first regular public performance is at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by the press opening at 8 that night. Other shows this week: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The run continues through March 22. Music Hall, 810 Bagby, (800) 678-5440. More info: 558-2600. $15$48.
"Stories About Us: Photographs from Juarez" If El Paso is one of the armpits of the free world -- and it is -- what unpleasant portion of the body does that leave for the city's cross-river neighbor, the rank industrial cesspool of Ciudad Juarez? Though Juarez is sometimes held up as a shining example of Mexican economic modernity -- so-called -- thanks to its ever-growing population of maquiladoras (foreign-owned factories) and a subsequently meager unemployment rate, that's a narrow and illusory view. In truth, the available jobs are largely unskilled and low-paying, and the maquiladoras add their spew to one of the most environmentally devastated urban moonscapes in North America. Add high crime and murder rates and rampant drug and gang cultures, and you end up with about two million sob stories in this naked city only 30 feet from the U.S. shore. The shutterbugs whose works are included in "Stories About Us" are charged with the challenging, frequently dangerous task of documenting these stories for the daily newspaper Diario de Juarez (even more difficult -- each photographer must make do with a daily allowance of a single roll of film). The photojournalists represented include Jaime Bailleres, Margarita Reyes, Carlos Vigueras, Gabriel Cardona and Lucio Soria Espino. The show's up through April 11; it's presented in conjunction with FotoFest 98. Viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. Free.
"The Bertolt Brecht Workshop" Subtitled "Twelve Documents on Film Dating from 1923 to 1961," the series salutes the late German poet/playwright, one of the century's great artistic thinkers/tinkerers, on the centennial of his birth. In often-rare bits and pieces and nonlinear fits and starts, the "Workshop" demonstrates Brecht's prowess and process as a theatrical director, and the ways in which his work with the Berliner Ensemble influenced both modern stage and screen. Mann Ist Mann ("A Man's a Man") (1931) and Syberberg Filmt bei Brecht ("Syberberg Films Brecht") (1953) show beginning at 7 tonight. The rest of this week's schedule: Die Mutter ("The Mother") (1958) at noon Saturday, Kurzer Film ("Short Film") and Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar ("Senora Carrar's Rifles") (both 1953) beginning at 7 p.m. Monday and Kuhle Wampe (1932) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The series continues through March 15. Goethe Institut Houston, 3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, 528-2787.
"Surrealism: Music, Art, Film and Literature" DaCamera hosts this multimedia celebration of the 20th-century movement inspired by dreams and other absurdist machinations of the subconscious. The program includes a reading of excerpts from Picasso's play Desire Caught by the Tail and a screening of Rene Clair's 1924 silent film Entr'acte ("Intermission"); the latter's accompanied by a live rendition of Erik Satie's original score, a piano work for four hands performed by Pedja Muzijevic and DaCamera artistic director Sarah Rothenberg. Also planned: a concert of surrealism-inspired compositions, including Satie's Air du rat, Poulenc's L'Anguille, Tu vois le feu du soir and Le bal masque, George Antheil's La femme 100 tetes (after Max Ernst) and pieces by Arthur Honegger and Georges Auric. The small performing ensemble includes aforementioned pianists Muzijevic and Rothenberg, violinist Eric Wyrick, oboe player Allan Vogel, cellist Julia Lichten, clarinetist Laura Flax, bassoon player Marc Goldberg, trumpeter Chris Gekker, percussionist Jonathan Haas and baritone William Sharp. 8 p.m. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $15$30 (DaCamera Music Center: 524-5050). (Note: The program is repeated Monday at New York's Lincoln Center.)
The Threepenny Opera Mack the Knife (a.k.a. the outlaw Macheath, a.k.a. Kurt Weill's "Mackie Messer") reigns as overlord of London's crime underworld in Bertolt Brecht's most famous conception, a satirical adaptation of John Gay's Bierhalle standard The Beggar's Opera that really got under the Nazis' collective skin. There are other things to recommend the work, of course -- Weill's excellent score, for one -- but none better. This version is co-presented by Infernal Bridegroom Productions and Goethe Institut Houston as part of the Brecht homage mentioned under Thursday. Opening performances are at 8 tonight and Saturday. The production continues through March 28. The Atomic Cafe, 1320 Nance, 222-2866. More info: 522-8443. $9.99.
"Essential Cinema: A Survey of the American Avant-Garde" The Austin Film Society organized this in-depth introduction to the short-lived, surrealism-inspired U.S. movement in the direction of cinematic experimentation and independence. The series opens with a program titled 1940s: The Pioneers, featuring Maya Deren's fantastic/fantastical Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and Kenneth Anger's bizarro wet dream Fireworks (1947), plus James Broughton's Adventures of Jimmy (1948), Sidney Peterson's The Lead Shoes (1949) and Harry Smith's Early Abstractions (1939-57). 7:30 p.m. "Essential Cinema" dovetails with an open-to-the-public class of the same name at the Glassell School of Art; it continues through April 3. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for students and seniors.
Bob Marley Festival The late reggae godhead and secular spiritual leader (Marley once outdrew the Pope in Italy) is saluted annually with this one-love traveling show, which traditionally begins in Houston and then crisscrosses the U.S. during late spring and summer. This year's fest, themed "Jammin'," includes the usual mix of music, ganja ideology (watered down for family audiences), poetry readings and arts and crafts. This year's headliners are Michael Black, the Gypsi Fari Band, Roots Awakening, Early Brooks Jr. and Jah Possie, Seefari and Natural Mystic. Noon to 10 p.m. today and Sunday. Buffalo Bayou Park, west of downtown between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive. Info: 688-3773; www.bobmarley-festival.com. $3$5 requested donation (or the equivalent in nonperishable food items; proceeds: JASA House Domestic Violence Center).
"3 from Eastern Europe" Talk about a perspicacious metaphor: The four people at the heart of Hungarian director Bela Tarr's Karhozat ("Damnation"), the film that inaugurates this series, imbibe and connive in a bar named the Titanic as the Soviet empire slips into the drink. Tarr's precognitive piece, released a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, sounds a bit like an update of Robert Sherwood's play The Petrified Forest, another allegory that marked the bitter end of an era. 7:30 tonight; 2 p.m. Sunday. "3 from Eastern Europe" continues through March 29. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for the matinee; $1 off for students and seniors.
Marky Ramone and the Intruders Marky (real name: Mark Neuman) was the original drummer for the Ramones. Now that he and his fellow Ramone "brothers" have put that seminal punk act out to pasture, Marky bashes the skins for his own outfit, whose latest incarnation includes guitarist/vocalist Ben Trokan and bassist/vocalist Johnny Pisano. The Intruders are touring with gore-core godfathers the Misfits. H2O opens. The Abyss, 5913 Washington Avenue, 863-7173. $12$14 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
The Azalea Trail Though we can view the lush blooms all over town early, often and free this year, thanks to El Nino and the prevailing mild weather, this 63rd annual, River Oaks Garden Club-sponsored event still promises sensory overload for buffs of the showy shrub from genus Rhododendron. You can check out the massed azaleas at eight separate stops on this year's tour, including the garden club's Forum (2503 Westheimer) and Bayou Bend (1 Westcott). Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday and the same hours March 14 and 15. Info: 523-2483; www.riveroaksgardenclub.org. $3$15; free for kids 12 and under.
Long John Hunter The guitarist is the latest in a growing line of obscure Texans enjoying wider exposure thanks to America's prevailing blues renaissance. This worthy obscurity cut his chops in the far-western part of the state -- specifically, El Paso and its Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juarez. In fact, the most interesting song on Hunter's debut, Border Town Legend, was "Marfa Lights," a cool, unorthodox riff as uncanny as the ghost lights that haunt the tiny southwest-Texas town where Giant was filmed. Long John's latest disc, recorded in Abilene and Austin, is Swinging from the Rafters. Billy Blues Bar & Grill, 6025 Richmond, 266-9294. $8.
"Parachute" Germany-born, Houston-based Johannes Birringer's AlienNation Co. (which he describes as a "transcultural dance/film and performance ensemble") hosts this series of "installation events created in unused or inaccessible spaces of Houston's historic downtown district." Held in conjunction with FotoFest 98, "Parachute" continues with an untitled exhibition featuring photographic works by Hans Staartjes, Sandra Skrabanek, Yiannis Efstathiou and Lorrie Spencer, a "plastic installation" by Tania Botelho and Zita Giraldo Lang, a text installation about "urban performance ethnography" by Abdel Hernandez and a film installation by Birringer. The show opens today; viewing hours are noon to 7 p.m. daily, through March 29. Info: 521-3325; www.ruf.rice/edu/~orpheus/parapre.html. 316 Main.
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Irish Stew Cook-off and Miss St. Patrick's Day Contest Whet your St. Patty's Day appetite with these twin precursors to the upcoming Houston St. Pat's Festival. The stew chefs cross ladles beginning at noon; judging starts at 4 p.m. At 6 p.m., local Irish roses compete for the Miss St. Pat's crown (and a reserved place aboard a float for the March 14 parade). Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan, 880-1065. $5 (separate admission).
The Boston Chamber Music Society The fine Bean Town ensemble performs Mozart's Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano in E-flat Major, K. 498 ("Kegelstaff"), Dohnanyi's Sextet in C Major, op. 37, and Brahms's Piano Quartet no. 1 in g minor, op. 25. 8 p.m. Stude Concert Hall, Rice University entrance 8 (off University Boulevard). Info: 285-5400. $23$35.
Nomos See Critic's Choice on page 77. 8:30 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. $15.
Rauschenberg Power Lunch You supply the meal; various artists and arts scenesters act as hosts/guides for this biweekly series of events held in conjunction with the touring exhibition "Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective." This time, Brazos Bookstore owner Karl Killian leads the short tour of Rauschenberg's playful, terrific technology works and the discussion that follows. Noon. The Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250. Free.