Thursday, February 19
When we visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, it's usually to see one of the glorious masterworks hanging inside. But what about the buildings themselves? The MFAH is giving props to the architects who designed its art environs during today's drop-in tour. "When the first building was built in 1924, we were just on the verge of modern art," says Stephanie Piefer of the MFAH. "Paintings were smaller, and the original building reflects that. But as artists began to make art that was large and canvases began to get bigger, the space had to change." Enter Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. "If you look at the van der Rohe addition from 1974, the space works just beautifully for these modern pieces -- they need a big, open space." Spend your lunch hour or post-workout evening marveling at the immense freedom Houston's lack of zoning afforded an architectural visionary. Noon, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. Free.
Friday, February 20
How Shakespeare loves to hinge his plots on cross-dressed maidens. In Twelfth Night or What You Will -- written just following the success of "that Scottish play" -- the Bard has the beautiful, shipwrecked Viola disguise herself as a young male page and enter the service of the local governor, Duke Orsino. The duke puts Viola to work delivering love letters to Countess Olivia, who, predictably (for Shakespeare), falls in love with the young messenger, who herself has fallen in love with the duke. Whew! Viola eventually performs a switcheroo, subbing in her twin brother for the affections of the countess, and revealing herself to the duke as marriageable -- even outside Massachusetts. Play opens at 8 p.m. today and runs Tuesdays through Sundays through March 14. Alley Theatre, Hubbard Stage, 615 Texas. For information and a full schedule, call 713-228-8421 or visit www.alleytheatre.org. $20 to $50.
Saturday, February 21
Art is a product of its time and place. In third-millennium America, you get Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body." In pre-World War II Soviet Union, you got Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony. The composer had to withdraw his fourth, which was attacked by the Stalinists as unforgivably "modernist"; his fifth was his purported amends, and it featured the subtitle "a Soviet artist's answer to justified criticism." But the angry, grotesque work was instead a straight-up indictment of the Stalin regime's horrors. You can hear pianist Stephen Kovacevich's interpretation of the symphony, under the direction of conductor Hans Graf, today. Although no "shocks" have been promised outright, perhaps a spectacular tuxedo malfunction will accompany the triumphant final movement, hmm? 8 p.m. today and Monday, February 23; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, February 22. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit www.houstonsymphony.org. $21 to $83.
Sunday, February 22
Even as downtown relentlessly renews itself, Houston's history remains written there. You can see the collision of new and old for yourself on today's Main Street Architecture Tour. "We like to call it hidden history," says David Bush of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. "Some of the buildings along Main Street may not look historic, but hidden behind a modern facade -- a 'slipcover' -- there's a historic building. The former Everitt-Buelow Company -- now it's just a convenience store. But the panels on the second floor have shifted, and you can see the original terra cotta under there." Walk up to the north end of Main and hear about the heights of commercial architecture, then ride back on the METRORail. Says Bush, "You'll see a couple of old Foley's locations and what's left of the Victorian architecture." Hurry before it's all renewed again. 2 p.m. Courtyard by Marriott, 1212 Main. For information, call 713-216-5000 or visit www.ghpa.org. $10; $7 for GHPA members and students, includes rail fare.
Monday, February 23
Is your trucker cap wearing thin? You can replace it with a fresh one and meet the founders of Westheimer's largest preworn emporium at today's Buffalo Exchange 30th Anniversary Founders Tour. BE's first couple, Kerstin and Spencer, are hauling a vintage trailer -- decked out in an old-timey Western motif -- around the country, visiting all their stores and telling the tale of recycled clothing's genesis. Kerstin, who's from Sweden, stocked their very first 390-square-foot store in Tucson with her own clothing and gave birth to an empire. There'll be giveaways (T-shirts, coupons, stickers) and snacks all day, and all sale merchandise will be 50 percent off. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 1618 Westheimer. For information, call 713-523-8701 or visit www.buffaloexchange.com. Free.
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Tuesday, February 24
If you're embarrassed about the voyeuristic TV shows you're totally addicted to, reclaim your shame and drag your habit out into the light. You can meet others with your same mortifying habits at today's America's Next Top Model viewing party. Hosted by Diamond Entertainment, the fete will feature drink specials and a DJ during commercial breaks. Write the name of the model-in-training you think is going to get booted at the end of the night on your business card and drop it in the bowl: A correct answer could win you lunch for two at the new Reggae Hutt. As Kristi Holmes of Diamond says, "It's a guilty pleasure. And the number of guys we get -- you'd be so surprised." 6:30 p.m. The Palace, 5610 Richmond. For information, call 832-242-2765. Free before 8 p.m.; $10 after.
Wednesday, February 25
A Latino author is coming down from his ivory tower to inspire all who hope to overcome a bumpy start in life. Harvard graduate and Yale professor Sergio Troncoso will be the featured speaker at today's Nuestra Palabra February Showcase Spotlight. Troncoso was born in a poor neighborhood in El Paso, in a house with no running water, but he took his lean times and spun them into literary (and academic) gold. The showcase will also feature 12-year-old rapper Baby Jay's positive lyrics; writer John J. Mora's Texas-set short stories; David Enriquez's rock alternativo; and Mexican-born 14-year-old Mayra Triana's poetry. With that kind of generational and experiential spread, it'll be like an intellectual variety show. 7 p.m. Talento Bilingüe de Houston, 333 South Jensen. For information, call 713-867-8943 or visit www.nuestrapalabra.org. $5.