Popular Houston choreographer Kiki Lucas (profiled in our 2012 100 Creatives series) is in her final season with METdance. She’s on her way to Miami soon, but before she says good-bye, her work is being featured in the MET’s annual Sizzling Summer Dance, being performed for one night only on Friday, June 5. The program showcases the MET Too Youth Company, a non-competitive youth training troupe, performing works by four distinct choreographers, including Lucas.
Among the other choreographers who have set work on METdance seen in this show is New York-based Sydney Skybetter, who will premiere his piece titled oso / sos. “Sydney is a technologist who incorporates his background into his choreography,” says Marlana Doyle, METdance artistic director. “This is a full ensemble work that explores technology and how things have shifted over time…items like a typewriter, for example.”
Margot Gelber is a Houston native who was awarded the 2015 Emerging Choreographer position through METdance’s annual application process. She premieres Significantly Other — a work that addresses speed dating and the awkwardness of first meetings, among other themes. The piece features a nine-foot-long table as well as clips from the film When Harry Met Sally. “I aim to make the audience laugh and then to make them think,” says Gelber.
The group also performance a musical theater medley of Bob Fosse favorites.
See Sizzling Summer Dance at 8 p.m. June 5. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-522-6375 or visit metdance.org. Free.
Entering its 18th year, the Extremely Shorts Film Festival is a hallmark event for the Aurora Picture Show. “It’s one of the first curated programs we started doing,” said Mary Magsamen, curator at the Houston institution. “And it really does offer something for everybody.”
Two days of screenings (Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6) will feature the winners of the juried competition, each film running three minutes or less. Jolene Pinder, who heads up the New Orleans Film Festival, was this year’s judge and she selected some two dozen works by filmmakers from around the world. “This event really celebrates the short-form genre,” says Magsamen. “And over the years, as more and more people have learned about short films, we’ve seen a huge jump in entries.”
With films ranging from the funny to the poignant to documentaries, the event showcases multiple personalities. A Door Hinged to Oblivion, from Iranian filmmaker Teymour Ghaderi, is the story of a partridge in a forgotten village. Desta Reff’s The Break Up is the story of a boy and his imaginary friend. And Michelle Marquez’s The Emotional Dimensions of the James River, which was also screened in last week’s Exceptionally Young Film Festival, made the cut here as well, and is an experimental film using music and visuals to illustrate neuroscientific research.
There are two Extremely Shorts Film Festival screenings on Friday, June 5, at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday; on Saturday there's one screening and award ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Aurora Pictureshow, 2442 Bartlett. For information, call 713-868-2101 or visit aurorapictureshow.org. $15 to $25.
The exhibit “Luis Jimenez: Prints, Drawings & Sculptures,” opening on Saturday, June 6 at Moody Gallery, is a bittersweet one for owner Betty Moody. Jimenez was friends with Moody and her husband, noted artist Bill Steffy, since the 1970s. When Jimenez died in 2006 in a studio accident during the construction of his 32-foot sculpture Blue Mustang, Steffy was especially saddened. “They were great friends,” says Moody. Steffy passed away in mid-May. Seeing a gallery full of Jimenez’s works, something her husband would have very much enjoyed, is an emotional moment for Moody.
This is the first solo show of Jimenez’s work since his death. With a large audience of ardent fans and collectors, nine years seems an unusually long time to put together such an exhibit. “The estate had to be settled first and that took a few years. Other people have tried but ran into problems with the estate or a lack of availability of his work for loan. We’ve used works from collectors rather than institutions. It was difficult getting all of these pieces together, but working outside of [museums], we were able to make it happen,” says Moody.
There's an opening reception 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 6. Regular viewing hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through July 2. 2815 Colquitt. For information, call 713-526-9911 or visit moodygallery.com. Free.
Houston-based children’s author Theresa Nelson first had the idea for the book that became her latest release, The Year We Sailed the Sun, in the late 1980s. ‘This was actually the first book I wanted to write, but it kept being put off. I kept coming back to it, and finally it was time,” Nelson tells us. (She'll be reading from and signing copies of The Year We Sailed the Sun on Saturday, June 6.)
The story follows Julia, a little girl who is living at an orphanage. Not the “It’s a Hard Knocks Life” kind of orphanage we saw in Annie. No, it’s The House of Mercy, where heinous Sister Maclovius punishes “bad” children with a trip to the “sin room.”
The book is based on the true story of Nelson’s mother-in-law, who was an orphan and lived in such a place. “She never really talked about it very much, but over the years, I’d hear bits and pieces of the story. When her parents died, (the authorities) came to take her to the orphanage and she hung onto the light pole [in front of her house] trying to keep from going, things like that. That image always stayed with me, of a little girl trying so hard not to leave her home.”
To flesh out her story, Nelson visited the small town where her mother-in-law spent her childhood. “Some of the buildings weren’t there, of course. But some things were. It was so important to me to get to walk where [she] walked.” Nelson says without that first-hand experience, she might have written a different book, not what ultimately became The Year We Sailed the Sun.
Nelson admits the story is dark and might be surprising to some who are unfamiliar with children’s literature. “If you take a look at Huck Finn, that was supposed to be a children’s book and it showed kids in very harsh conditions. Danger and dark themes, they’re really not new to
Theresa Nelson reads from and signs The Year We Sailed the Sun at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 6. Blue Willow Bookshop, 14532 Memorial Drive. For information, call 281-497-8675 or visit bluewillowbookshop.com. Free.
George Gershwin, author of an outstanding song list that included “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” died when he was only 38 in 1937 of a brain tumor. Hershey Felder, a Canadian who lives in New York and Paris, found himself fascinated by Gershwin’s story and ability and 18 years ago created and performed in the show that is on its way to Houston’s Alley Theatre: George Gershwin Alone. “It was one of those things that he actually picked me,” said Felder, remembering how he got started. “I played ‘The Rhapsody in Blue’ in public and at some point, people wanted to know more about the character. So I thought why don’t I delve into the character. Perhaps it would be good to join both disciplines. I think it really came from the interest — his music was so beloved with the public.”
George Gershwin Alone is our pick for Sunday, June 7.
This must be the season for accomplished piano players performing live onstage during a play — first Amy Herzberg playing pianist Rosemary Dunn in The Spiritualist at Stages Repertory Theatre, and now Felder, who has taken this role to Broadway and around the country. Gershwin worked out so well that Felder has also developed and performed in Monsieur Chopin; Beethoven, As I Knew Him; Maestro Bernstein; Franz Liszt in Musik; and his latest, Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin.
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Gershwin, who worked with his talented brother Ira to write many of his songs, had been complaining for a long time of headaches, but the reason for them wasn’t discovered until too late. “He died on the table,” Felder says. “What is really remarkable is that he managed to do what he managed to do with such a big problem for a large part of his life.”
Asked if people sometimes doubt he’s doing the playing onstage, Felder laughed and said they don’t after seeing him perform, but “once when I was in Los Angeles, a CGI guy from Skywalker Ranch asked me, ‘How do you pull off the trick?’” Felder readily agreed that there’s a lot of pressure to perform musically and act in a play at the same time, but added that he’s up to the challenge. “I like the idea of it, but actually doing it is very hard work. It’s a good method of storytelling, and I think the audience appreciates it.
See George Gershwin Alone at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through June 21. Alley Theatre at UH, 4116 Elgin For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26 to $69.
Ashley Clos, Holly Beretto and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.