The Bayou City has plenty to see and do this week, and you won't have to break open that piggy bank to have a good time. We've got music, improv and the lost (and found) works of Walt Whitman. There's also a cheap flick at the Italian cultural center, a documentary about Big Oil's battle at Standing Rock, and a look at emerging and established playwrights at Rec Room and Ensemble. Keep reading for ten of our favorite events that won't cost you more than $10 — and six of them are free! Check out the Houston Press calendar for even more things to do.
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, free
Forget the garage; H-Town's up-and-coming talent pools are jockeying for a chance to gig over in the Museum District. There's always cool art, and this CAMH Teen Council-hosted event is always live, bringing original music and edited covers to the stage. Come celebrate the awesomeness of teen arts and music communities in the Bayou City. Insider tip: Be sure to check out the Zilkha Gallery group exhibit, "Origins of the Self," with a focus on questions of personal identity.
Thirsty Thursdays #2
7:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, free
See it first during this new monthly play reading series over at the Rec Room. Pony up to the bar, order a cold one and weigh in on whether this one's destined for the Alley. This Thursday we'll hear Sam Mayer's Chet's Summer Vacation, about surviving the summer heat with a cantankerous air-conditioning unit. Word on the street is that this play is sexy and sticky with a twist.
The EaDo Comedy Show
8 p.m. Thursdays, $8
We did some snooping, and this is one of the most budget-friendly ways to see some of H-Town's hottest comedians. It's a high-energy show, cranking out the lightning-fast scenes without a script and with a few personal absurdities thrown into the mix. Forrest Gump's mama was right: Life is "like a box of chocolates" and — with local improv favorites like Ladies Nite and Flirt Reynolds — "you never know what you're gonna get." What we do know is that we can always count on house troupe Better Linda during this weekly long-form improv show.
Concert Band & Soldiers' Chorus of The U.S. Army Field Band
Miller Outdoor Theatre
8 p.m. Friday, free
Forget Capitol Hill. The thrill is on a different hill this Friday night when "The Musical Ambassadors of the Army," the 65-member United States Army Field Band and 29-member Soldiers' Chorus, join forces at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Their repertoire is more than just "Stars and Stripes Forever," though they've got that one down pat; they've been known to perform everything from orchestral masterworks and operatic arias to Sousa marches, jazz classics and even favorites from Broadway musicals. They have performed at presidential funerals, in all 50 states and even with the Boston Pops, but this weekend it's our turn.
Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: An Auto-Biography; A Story of New York at the Present Time in Which the Reader Will Find Some Familiar Characters book signing
7 p.m. Saturday, free
It seems that lightning does strike twice. Zachary Turpin, a doctoral candidate in English at UH, is a sort of literary treasure hunter. Last year he discovered a previously unknown self-help book by Walt Whitman (Manly Health and Training) and now he's done it again, discovering a 36,000-word mystery novel written by the poet. Using modern-day sleuthing tools (online databases of 19th-century newspapers), Turpin searched key words from one of Whitman's handwritten journals and came upon an 1852 advertisement in The New York Times; he followed the threads, and the result, with introduction by Turpin, is finally getting its day in the sun. His M.O. seems to work; he's also discovered lost works by Mark Twain, Emma Lazarus, Ambrose Bierce and L. Frank Baum; Turpin will be on hand this Saturday to sign and discuss Whitman's novel.
Gathering Our Hearts at Standing Rock
Aurora Picture Show
7:30 p.m. Monday, pay what you wish
It was horrifying to hear the news out of Standing Rock, North Dakota, last November when the Morton County police sprayed the crowds with tear gas and water during below-freezing temperatures. The citizens of Standing Rock Sioux Nation began gathering last spring in an attempt to stop a natural gas pipeline operator from bulldozing sacred sites. Oscar-nominated and Telly Award-winning filmmaker Fidel Moreno has been documenting the event and will screen this work in progress at Aurora Picture Show. The director will be in attendance and can answer questions after the hourlong screening; a traditional water ceremony also will be performed. Admission is pay what you wish; donations will benefit the Standing Rock community and help with completion of the film.
a series of ten minute plays
The Ensemble Theatre
6 p.m. Monday, $5
As this iconic downtown theater celebrates its 40th-anniversary season, The Ensemble Theatre enters its next decade by returning to its Texas roots. The eight-play Salute to Texas Playwrights Stage Reading Series continues this Monday with a series of ten minute plays by Houston-born j.e. franklin (Black Girl, Christchild). The reading is directed by Shirley Marks Whitmore, who delivered us the historical musical Mahalia earlier this year.
The Miraculous: Houston, by Raphael Rubinstein + Heather Bause
University of Houston, Entrance 16, off Cullen
All hours, April 18-23, free
While we're all still mourning the loss of the popular white-tailed squirrel that called UH home base, let's honor her memory and start hunting for all 50 instances of this site-specific public art installation inspired by Raphael Rubinstein's book, The Miraculous. Site location maps are available at all CounterCurrent17 festival venues. Insider tip: The opening reception will be held during UH Public Art Day, noon to 3 p.m. April 22, in the courtyard of the Fine Arts Building.
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La Pazza Gioia (Like Crazy)
Italian Cultural & Community Center
7:15 p.m. Wednesday, $5 to $10
It's sort of like Thelma and Louise, but instead of escaping an abusive husband, Donatella and Beatrice escape from a psychiatric facility. While there are comic moments, the flick also sheds light on the difficulties of living with mental illness. The movie was filmed in and around Livorno and Tuscany; the story is by Paolo Virzì, who also directed the film. ICCC is screening the flick this Wednesday. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and it's only $5 for members. RSVP by calling 713-524-4222, extension 7, emailing email@example.com, or registering on Eventbrite. In Italian with English subtitles.
Mississippi Blood book signing
Murder By The Book
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, free
This author is hot, hot, hot, racking up 14 New York Times bestsellers before an automobile accident nearly took him out in 2011. Although he lost part of his right leg, Greg Iles surprised his medical team by not only surviving, but getting back on the writing horse with newfound zeal. His Natchez trilogy began with Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree; with the release of Mississippi Blood, Iles is ready to complete the story of Penn Cage, his father, Tom Cage, and the tragic story of Viola Turner. Here's a fun fact: While attending Ole Miss, Iles lived in the cabin where William Faulkner and his brothers listened to stories told by their beloved nanny, Mammy Callie. Iles will be on hand this Wednesday to discuss and sign copies of this Deep South thriller.