Triple Focus Eighteen years ago, the Jewish Community Center started Dance Month at the Kaplan Theatre, and it's still going strong. This weekend, see three of Houston's finest professional dance companies -- Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, Joan Karff's New Dance Group and Weave Dance Company -- together in concert, all performing original modern and jazz dance works. 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Jewish Community Center, Kaplan Theatre, 5601 South Braeswood, 729-3200. $12; $10, JCC members; $7, seniors and students.
Gigi The line "Thank heaven for little girls" might sound creepy in our 1990s consciousness, but back in the '50s, when French novelist Colette was watching her novel get famous via the machinations of Hollywood, nobody thought twice when Maurice Chevalier crooned those words in his sexy French accent. Theatre Under the Stars has revived the Lerner & Loewe musical version of Colette's tale. And this time, TV's Love Boat captain Gavin MacLeod stars in this tale of a precocious French teenager and the adults she intrigues and mystifies. It's fun and romantic, albeit terribly dated and terribly sexist. (Yes, Virginia, even a woman writer can be sexist.) Thru Feb. 1. 8 p.m. tonight (see Thrills for other dates and times), Music Hall, 810 Bagby, (800) 678-5440. $15-$48.
The Jesus Lizard After headlining a New Year's Eve show at New York's infamous CBGBs, The Jesus Lizard is snaking its way down south to our neck of the woods. This punk-modern-progressive rock and completely original band (some of whose members used to belong to Scratch Acid, out of Austin) will play, wail, sing and do their wild thing tonight. 8 p.m., Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 869-5263. $10.
Chaplin: Between Laughter and Tears Universally recognized by his baggy pants, derby hat and cane, Charlie Chaplin became the century's first superstar; his Little Tramp is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. Tonight, the Museum of Fine Arts begins a series showcasing Chaplin's most famous works, as well as some of his more obscure ones. In The Great Dictator, Chaplin plays two roles: a Jewish barber who resembles the Little Tramp, and Adenoid Hynkel, a burlesque version of Adolf Hitler. Made in 1940, the movie was one of the first that dared to make fun of the Third Reich. 7:30 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5; $4 seniors and students; free, kids 12 and under. (Special note to parents: Though The Great Dictator isn't aimed at kids, it's kid-friendly -- as is the entire Chaplin series.)
Houston Center for Photography Few galleries in Houston lend space for the art of photography. But photography continues to emerge, becoming more and more revealing and thought-provoking as photographers recognize its manipulative powers. Today, three photographers open shows of their work at the Houston Center for Photography: There's Carol Crow's "A Remembrance," Takayuki Ogawa's "Beyond the Mirror: A Self-Portrait" and Marianne Courville's "Based on a True Story." None will be mistaken for Ansel Adams. Thru Feb. 15. Opening 6-8 p.m. tonight, Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama, 529-4755.
Under Construction AlienNation Co., a new nonprofit performing arts organization experimenting with "cross-cultural ideas and multiple media," will hold a benefit party. Besides raising money for its upcoming performance series Parachute, the company is also celebrating the opening of The Americas, formerly known as El Mercado del Sol and now under redevelopment. Enjoy food, live music, DJs, films, visual-art installations and other "performance pieces" while roaming the 385,000 square feet of refurbished mall space, and help yet another new arts organization make it to solid ground. 8 p.m., 2115 Runnels (corner of Navigation & Jensen), 521-3325. $35; $50, couples.
Arbor Day at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens Is there anything more sweetly American-sounding than Arbor Day? Never mind that we have clear-cut thousands of acres of just about every forest on the American continents; there are still organizations that believe in the power and beauty of trees. Mercer Arboretum is one such organization, and the folks there are working hard to take care of the trees we have left, and plant new ones. Today, learn how to prune your existing trees, get a free tree seedling and learn to select a tree or shrub that will do well in the spot where you want it to grow. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., tree giveaway; 10:30 a.m., pruning lecture and demonstration; 12:30-2 p.m., lecture on selecting trees and shrubs. Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, 22306 Aldine-Westfield Road (one mile north of FM 1960), (281) 443-8731. Free.
A Symphony in White The Wonderful World of Horses features the world-famous Royal Lipizzaner stallions, those dancing white horses that have come all the way from Austria to perform in grand equestrian style. See the riding style taught at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, and the leaps and maneuvers once used by riders to protect and defend themselves on the battlefield 400 years ago. 2 and 7:30 p.m., Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza, 629-3700. $14.50-$18.50.
Scotland the Brave! The Regimental Band of the Scots Guards and The Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch arrive at Compaq Center today. The 100 members of this joint ensemble include bagpipers, drummers and horn and reed players as well as Highland dancers, a Ceilidh band and a vocal soloist; they claim to include some of the most boisterous music acts in the world. But perhaps that claim should be taken with a grain of salt: The Scots Guards is the military band that accompanies the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace -- not normally a boisterous ceremony. Today, the Scots will be dressed in their traditional garb of bearskin cap, scarlet tunic and blue trousers as they strut their British stuff in Houston. 3 p.m., Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza, 629-3700. $19.50-$29.50.
Fielday As the name implies, this show will be a sort of festival of independent performing artists. Witness the work of both the long-established and the newly emerging artist, the good and the bad, the old and the young, all working to take risks. Indeed, the creators of Fielday have asked participating dancers, actors, filmmakers and performance artists to pen a "statement of risk," whatever that is. Brace yourself. Performances run 6:30-9:30 p.m. (seating will occur on the hour), The Duplex Center, 1924 Brun, 520-5530. $5.
1998 Methodist Health Care Houston Marathon Seven thousand runners will be standing at the starting gate this morning for Houston's biggest running event of the year. With a purse of $100,500 -- said to be the largest for any non-Olympic marathon event -- it's easy to see why big-name runners will be warming up and ready to go. Of course, there will also be the everyday sort of marathon runners; participants are expected from all 50 states and from 33 countries. If you plan to run, you need to register by Jan. 17 at the convention center. If you just want to watch, some of the best places to see the crazy skinny runners fly by are: The Elysian Viaduct (mile 2), at 8:10 a.m.; The "Westpark Hump" (mile 13, where Westpark crosses over Newcastle, near the Southwest Freeway), at 8:30 a.m.; Memorial Park (mile 20 and 21), at 9:30 a.m.; and, of course, the start and finish line at the George R. Brown Convention Center. 7:45 a.m., wheelchair start; 8 a.m., marathon start; 8:15, Southwestern Bell Spirit of Texas Charity 5K start. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Convention Center Boulevard. For information, try 957-3453 or www.houstonmarathon.com. $50 to run; registration fee must be paid by Jan. 17 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Exhibit Hall D.
"At Home: Form, Function and Custom" After wandering the home and gardens of dearly departed Miss Ima Hogg (now the Bayou Bend part of the Museum of Fine Arts), high school students from Scarborough, Booker T. Washington and Waltrip went back to school and came up with their own drawings, assemblages and essays inspired by the objects and paintings they'd seen. Their works compare early American icons to today's "traditions." See everything from a set of teapots representing the six different countries represented at a dinner at Bayou Bend during the Economic Summit to a "bridge in a box," a model of the popular hanging bridge that visitors walk over to enter the grounds at Bayou Bend. Most of all, see the ingenuity of youth. Thru April 12. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (see Thrills for complete museum hours), Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. Free.
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Martin Luther King Jr. festivities On this day, when we gather to recognize one of our country's most notable proponents of unity, we are once again reminded of the petty things that divide us. Two competing MLK festivities -- one officially a parade, complete with permit; one a marching "celebration" that only looks like a parade -- now plan to commandeer the same blocks of downtown. As we go to press, it's not clear that both will take place as planned. But rest assured that if you claim a spot on the sidewalk, bands and civic groups will march past sometime before noon. Festivities probably start at 9 or 10 a.m. in downtown Houston, between the 500 and 1500 blocks of Main and the 800 and 1500 blocks of Travis. Free.
"Planning Your Year with Astrology" Nan Hall Linke, an astrologer and Jungian psychotherapist, views her ancient star science as a good source of psychological symbols. And she wants to teach you the language of astrology. In this two-hour lecture, she will examine the mythology of astrology and answer questions. She's fast-talking, smart and has been featured in media as diverse as the Houston Business Journal and Ultra magazine. Hear what she has to say about the coming year, tonight. 7:30-9:30 p.m., Renaissance Hotel, 6 Greenway Plaza East (U.S. 59 at Edloe), 520-1551. $15.
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden earned an M.A. in Japanese history, and after a summer at Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo. All this experience with Asian culture led up to his debut novel, about one of the world's most fascinating professions. The Washington Post called this book "astonishing ... a breakthrough performance. By the time you realize the extent of [the geisha's] professional skill, you are seduced as completely as any of her clients, hungry for the story." Hear Golden read from his novel and have him sign your copy tonight. 7 p.m., Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. Free.
Mandy Patinkin You've probably seen him as the creepy Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on TV's Chicago Hope, but he's also a Tony Award-winning Broadway star (Evita and Sunday in the Park with George are just a couple of his credits). In fact, his singing voice has earned him kudos from The New Yorker, which called Patinkin "a musical force of nature." And the Chicago Tribune said of his current tour, "God and Mandy Patinkin only know what he will do in performance.... But judging from his opening night show, whatever he does, it's going to be terrific." Tonight, sponsored by the Society for Performing Arts, he brings his concert/cabaret/theater combo to Houston. 8 p.m., Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-1911. $15-$50.