Night & Day

Thursday
August 27
Now that you've recovered from Titanic fever, you may be suffering from Zorro mania. You've seen the movie; perhaps you've ordered Zorro merchandise off the Internet (the "official" Zorro whip, just $595, comes with an instructional safety video). Here's an opportunity to work another angle of the obsession -- Zorro: The Musical. The Theatre Under the Stars production features handsome New York City Opera baritone Richard White as the masked hero of Spanish California. It's based on the character created in 1919 by writer Johnston McCulley for his serialized novel The Curse of Capistrano, in which the besworded swashbuckler fights injustice in the pueblo of Los Angeles. Tonight's performance, at 8 p.m., is closed-captioned for the hearing-impaired. It's on stage at the Brown Theater of Wortham Center, 500 Texas. Tickets: $14 to $55; call (800) 678-5440, or visit the Wortham Center box office. Through August 30.

Friday
August 28
Like a bookstore without cappuccino, what's a modern art museum without ... mixed drinks and lounge music? Some purists may lament the decline of art for art's sake, but we like the idea of downing a stiff cocktail while pondering paintings. Since early spring, the Contemporary Arts Museum has transformed itself into a hip club called "Steel Lounge," piping in cool sounds and serving beer, wine and the "Artini of the Month," the last Friday of every month. The event has proven wildly popular, with nearly 450 people in attendance last time. This week's party takes place in the midst of the splendid exhibit "Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas." This month's drink? The "Deity-ini." (Get it?) Friday, August 28, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose. Admission is free; bar is cash. Info: 284-8250.

Saturday
August 29
Hey guys! Let's load up the Ford Taurus and go visit the Johnson Space Center! C'mon, it'll be fun! Seriously, now -- stifle that snort of derision -- we know you've lived in Houston forever, and never bothered to check out NASA's Mission Control room or tour the Neutral Buoyancy Lab or try on a space suit. This is your chance to blast off into an educational adventure -- or at least force your children to experience one -- exploring our great nation's extraterrestrial activities at a daylong open house at the starplex on NASA Road 1. Star Trek it's not; even better, it's the site of certain segments in the current disaster pic Armageddon. Climb inside the KC-135A aircraft used to film the weightless scenes in Ron Howard's movie Apollo 13. Get a real live astronaut's autograph. Kids can try out robotic arms and hands. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Road 1. The open house is free. Info: (281) 244-5312, or visit the web site. The open house coincides with the Ballunar Liftoff Festival, also on NASA grounds. At 6 p.m. Saturday, a multitude of hot-air balloons will ascend en masse into the steamy sky.

Sunday
August 30
Ever wonder where Alley actor James Black powders his nose before a performance? Ask him yourself! Black, fielding questions from his adoring public, will be one of many attractions in a snoop-behind-the-scenes Theater District Open House at the Wortham Center, Jones Hall and Alley Theatre. The Society for the Performing Arts will sponsor tango exhibitions and Japanese drumming performances at Jones Hall, followed by a 4 p.m concert by the Houston Symphony. Houston Opera Studio will perform throughout the day at the Wortham. Ballerinas in costume will tell the stories behind the famous ballets. The Aerial Theater will feature live jazz on the patio. Theatre Under the Stars will preview its upcoming season with songs from Guys and Dolls. Sunday, August 30, noon to 5 p.m. Free food, free drinks, free admission.

The Nazis plundered countless works of art from Jewish collectors. Fifty years after the war, 20 percent of it was still missing -- passed along from top German officials to unscrupulous art dealers and auction houses. When the Paris-based Puerto Rican journalist Hector Feliciano asked Holocaust survivors why they had not pursued the recovery of their collections, "They said they were so happy to live that they didn't ask for material things," Feliciano said. That answer didn't satisfy Feliciano. Feliciano, who set out to find the missing works by Cezanne, Matisse, Vermeer and Picasso, ended up writing The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art after seven years of research. Feliciano will give a slide lecture at 3 p.m. Sunday, August 30, in the Brown Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. Following the lecture, Feliciano will sign copies of his book. Free; limited seating, arrive early.

Monday
August 31
Teach your tykes sponge painting and a Martha Stewart-esque dining room will be yours for free! (Do child-labor laws apply to one's own progeny?) Spend some quality time with your offspring and cultivate their Pollack-like impulses without worrying about paint spatters on the furniture. The Children's Museum of Houston is offering a class in the aforementioned art form for children ages two to five. Now that the bratty elder siblings are back in school, the museum is scheduling a series of preschool activities through September. Monday, August 31, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The museum is located at 1500 Binz. Admission is $5 per person; children under two free. Info: 522-1138.

Tuesday
September 1
Beautiful, poignant images that capture the rhythms of life in Houston's Third Ward are the subject of the fourth annual exhibition of photographs, Eye on Third Ward: Yates Magnet School of Photography. During the 199798 school year, high school students studied the photographic medium, then began scouring the neighborhood for urban scenes, casual moments in everyday life. This work was selected from end-of-the-year portfolios. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 12:15 to 6 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300; www.mfah.org. $3; $1.50 for students, seniors and children six to 18; free for kids five and under. Free general admission Thursday.

Wednesday
September 2
Charles August Albert Dellschau, who immigrated to Galveston from Prussia in 1850, worked as a butcher in Fort Bend County and lived a seemingly unremarkable life -- until tragedy struck with the deaths of his wife and six-year-old son. He then took a job as a clerk for Houston saddle maker Stelzig, founded by his son-in-law -- all the while quietly pursuing a secret hobby. Forty years after his death at age 93, scrapbooks containing a vast collection of his fanciful drawings of flying machines -- hybrid contraptions resembling umbrellas, circus tents, pinwheels or airborne bellows -- surfaced in a junkyard and began making their way into museums. It is this flotilla of crazily painted aircraft designs that forms the centerpiece of the Menil Collection's current show, In and Out: Naive, Folk and Self-Taught Artists. Perhaps Dellschau's mysterious creations offered escape from some private vortex of grief; perhaps they simply are the result of a boyish fascination with aeronautics. (The scrapbooks date from 1903, the year the Wright brothers flew for the first time.) The exhibit offers a peek at rarely seen works, ranging from 19th-century circus-wagon figures to the blue-and-red prison doodles of the late Texas inmate Frank Jones. Through October 11. Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 1515 Sul Ross, 525-9400; www.menil.org. Free.


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