The Children's Theater Jim Pirtle, former pre-K teacher for HISD and current performance artist, painter, sculptor, installation artist, video artist and children's theater auteur has, with the help of his Zocalo friends, put together a children's show. The theater experience includes magic, circus acts and animals, and during the play, children are urged to root for the big, bad wolf. Word is, "to an adult, this is pathetic comedy; to a four year-old, it is a magical experience." During his time as a schoolteacher, Pirtle noticed that small children were unmoved by many of the theater experiences to which they were subjected. This is his attempt to give the small fry what they want. 9:30 a.m. today, March 29, and April 1, 2 and 3. Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan(near Memorial and Shepherd), 864-5222. $5; $3, for children. Herds of kids from 17 Houston schools already have field trip reservations, so call ahead to make sure seats are available.
Hoop dreams The Hoop Challenge U.S.A. skill-shooting competition gives kids eight to 14 the chance to show their stuff. Those who make the cut advance to a regional semifinal, then a regional final and, finally, the state championship. And they get a T-shirt. Boys and girls compete, not head to head, but against a shooting grid, so even those who don't do well in direct competition have a shot at winning. 4:30 p.m. Fonde Recreation Center, 110 Sabine. For more information, call 671-9245 or 2600732. $10.
The Information Martin Amis, an author with not only a certain cachet but also readable prose, makes his first Houston appearance to sign copies of The Information. This latest long novel is about a nice guy book writer, fairly happily married, and his bitter, squalid envy of another writer. The other writer is an old, dear friend, and has made it big with New Age pap. (Amis will only sign books purchased at Brazos.) 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701.
Civil Liberties on Trial: The Attack on Fundamental Rights Characters in war movies, charactersin sitcoms and cartoon characters are always saying, "I'm an American, I got rights." This sort of japery supports the notion that rights are durable. They are, in fact, no sooner won than the fight to keep them begins. The Thurgood MarshallSchoolofLawlawreview has rounded up a group of speakers to discuss current threats to civil rights, First Amendment rights, privacy rights, school desegregation, tort reform, women's rights and other rights we often take for granted.9 a.m.DoubletreeHotel,400Dallas. For reservations or more information, call 313-7750. $95.
Net Change The Houston Aeros are having a Net Change fundraiser at tonight's game. While the Aeros and the Cleveland Lumberjacks battle on the ice, Houston firefighters will collect money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. So, while you're knocking back beers and cheering the fights, take a minute to make a Make-A-Wish donation. Spare change given by hockey fans and others enables Make-A-Wish to grant the wishes of 200 terminally ill children each year. Meeting celebrities and trips to Disney World are always at the top of the wish list. 7 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza, 627-AERO. $6-$35.
Trash Bash Today is National River Cleanup Day, and the Brazos River Preservation Society has a river for you to clean. Volunteers will pick up garbage and celebrate the beauty of the Brazos and its bottomland. Also, they'll enjoy entertainment and lunch. The 1996 Cleanup locations are on the Brazos at Highway 59 South and 90A. Activities at each location are from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., with a Trash Bash following until 1 p.m. For those who like to do their garbage hunting by boat, the Trash Bash canoe brigade leaves the 90A bridge at 9 a.m. To be a part of it all, call 499-9091.
Beeping egg hunt As is their wont, the good people of The Lighthouse of Houston are holding an Easter egg hunt for children who can't see. High-tech eggs fitted with electronic beepers are hidden, and the kids find them by listening. Since a basket of beeping eggs would hardly make for a happy Easter, the kids can trade the eggs they find for candy and presents. (Regular eggs are hidden for the sighted siblings of the blind children.) So far, more than 200 children are signed up for the beeping egg hunt. 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The Lighthouse, 3602 West Dallas. For more information or to register a child, call 284-8494. Free.
Kidsfest The daylong zoo-steppin' festival opens with Chloe the Cat and Stu the Dog giving out prizes at the Littlest Pet Shop. Kidsfest continues with country music, storytelling, magic shows and entertainment by Bubbadilla. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Houston Zoo, Hermann Park, 1513 North MacGregor, 525-3300. $2.50; $2, seniors; 50 cents, children three-12; free, children under three.
Spring Westheimer Art Festival Not a truckload of art, but more -- two city blocks of art. Works by close to 300 artists and craftspeople will be on display and on sale at this two-day festival. Children, although often canny art critics, are not expected to be satisfied with art alone, and so the planners have included a kids' area with games and entertainments. Young and old alike can stuff themselves on festival fare at the food court. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Sunday. 1800 Main (at Calhoun). For more information, call 521-0133. $3; free, children under 12.
Visualizing South Asian Diasporas Graduate students from the Rice department of anthropology have organized a symposium with documentaries and discussions about the South Asian experience. These films were made by Americans, Britons and Canadians who have in common South Asian backgrounds and strong ideas about race, culture and identity. This morning's program opens with a "Negotiating Sexual Difference" segment, which includes two short films and a discussion, 9:30-11 a.m. Other highlights of the day include the short film I'm British But E by Gurinder Chadha, 1:45 p.m., and a two-and-a-half-hour segment called "Blind Spots in the American Dream," 3:15 p.m. All events at the Rice Media Center, Rice University (entrance no. 8 off University). For more information, call Lamia Karim, 662-9658, or e-mail lamiarice.edu. During the days of the conference, call the Media Center, 427-4882. Free.
Love Crazy Romance event The Houston Press and the Museum of Fine Arts invite all Houston-area singles to a fun-filled event with William Powell and Myrna Loy. The first 50 placers of Romance ads will get in free; the next however-many ad placers will be charged admission to the movie, but get a free 40-word Romance ad. Love Crazy is great date film, witty and romantic -- think of this event as a group date situation for an entire auditorium full of singles. 6:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call Romance, 624-1414.
Comet watch Things might seem normal to you, but up in the sky, comets Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake are putting on perhaps their most spectacular show of the century. These comets might be visible from downtown, but the best bet is to take advantage of the George Observatory, which enjoys skies six times darker than our local, light-polluted heavens. Though the moon will be fairly bright tonight, Comet Hyakutake should have a proper comet's tail and be visible in the northern sky from 8 p.m.-midnight. On the ground, at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m., Keith Hammons, past president of the Fort Bend Astronomy Club, and Billie Harland, of the Astronomical Society of Southeast Texas, will give talks. One thing they'll explain is that these comets are too close to be seen properly with the observatory's 36-inch telescope, but that binoculars and small telescopes are available. The George Observatory, a facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is 55 miles south of downtown in Brazos Bend State Park. Take Highway 59 to the Crabb River Road exit and then follow the signs. Call ahead for weather and comet updates, 639-4777. Or check the MNS web site, http://www.hmns.mus.tx.us. $5 per car entrance fee.
Lilypons garden party At some point or another, almost every gardener gets it into her or his head to have a pond. At this garden party, experts will explain the do's and don'ts of water gardening. Which plants to use, pond design and drainage questions will all be covered. Also, they might offer helpful suggestions about what to do when your father-in-law stumbles into the pond and ruins his shoes. Noon-5:30 p.m. Lilypons Water Gardens, take I-10 west to Brookshire, exit at FM 1489-Koomey Road, go one-quarter mile south. For more information, call 391-0076.
Funday in the Park! It's time for the third season's first Funday! Norma Zenteno and Tejano Knights will play live music while the whole family enjoys games, rides and contests. 1-6 p.m. Denver Harbor Park, 6500 Market Street. Free admission; delightfully affordable sodas and snacks.
Facing the New World: Immigrant Experiences in Galveston Today, the Texas Seaport Museum is free to all for a special film showing and art opening. West of Hester Street, a documentary about Jewish immigrants in Galveston, will be shown at 3 and 4 p.m. In the gallery, an exhibit of photographs, documents and artifacts, many loaned by Galveston families, will be displayed. Facing the New World will be on display through March 1997. Open free today, 2:30-5 p.m. Texas Seaport Museum, Pier 21 (Harborside Drive between 21st and 22nd streets), Galveston, (409) 763-1877.
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The Boys Choir of Harlem The boys, singing since 1968, will give a thoroughly professional concert of classical, pop and gospel music. 7 p.m. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, Galveston, (409) 765-1894 or (800) 821-1894. $15-$25.
April Fool's Day Opportunities for unrepentant pranking are rare. Make the most of it.
Ain't Misbehavin' Anita, June and Ruth Pointer are perfectly cast in this vibrant musical celebration of Fats Waller and Harlem in the 1930s. The Broadway hit features 30 of Fats Waller's most famous songs, including, "The Joint is Jumping," "'T Ain't Nobody's Biz-Ness If I Do" and "Your Feet's Too Big." All this American music is presented by the Pointer Sisters, singing in sparkling costumes by Bob Mackie. If you only take the family to one touring road show this year, make that show Ain't Misbehavin'. Opening tonight, 8 p.m. Through April 7. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 629-3700. $36-$42.
Walt Disney's World on Ice Sure, we've seen a lot of Disney characters on ice before, but never Cruella De Vil, the all-time most popular Disney villain. Now, along with Mickey, the Little Mermaid and Mowgli, Cruella and 101 dalmatians will sing and skate for the kids. Five days only. Tonight, 7:30 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza, 961-9003. $10.50-$16.50.