Press Picks

june 8
Peer Gynt The Houston Ballet is ending its 25th anniversary season with a revival production of Peer Gynt. When Ben Stevenson and the Ballet first presented this work, the New York Times noted that its power came "from a certain theatrical astuteness and also from the excellent performances of the leading dancers." Those words were written a decade ago, a few years after Stevenson choreographed his dance version of Henrik Ibsen's play about a traveling man who makes a lot of stops all over the world, and who at each stop has at least one lovely girl waiting for him. The ballet is set to music composed for Ibsen's play by Edvard Grieg in 1875. Peer Gynt will mark the final appearance with the company of two of our leading dancers, Li Cunxin and Mark Arvin. (Arvin has set his sights on Broadway and Cunxin is moving to Australia with his Brisbane-born wife.) Opening 7:30 p.m. tonight; six more shows between now and June 18. Brown Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue, 227-ARTS. $5-$70.

SumArts Juneteenth Blues Festival It's not just blues anymore -- this year SumArts has arranged for an arts and crafts market; can funnel cakes be far behind? Today, "Texas" Johnny Brown and Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes are the major players; tomorrow, Pearl Murray, Lavelle White and Katie Webster are the stars. The market area opens at 11 a.m. each day and shuts down an hour after the main-stage music starts. Main-stage music begins at 7 p.m. both evenings. Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. Call 520-3290 for details or information on handicapped seating. Free.

june 9
Old West Festival Get back to 1865 and see big, bony, knock-kneed longhorn cattle ambling down a city street, and then amble your ownself down to a reconstructed cowboy camp with cowboys and Indians and a saloon. This all takes place in Montgomery, Texas' third-oldest town and a community dern proud of that fact. The cowboys on hand to entertain and enlighten the eager modern public are blacksmiths, poets, balladeers and nerds. Yes, nerds. The Jose Brothers, JosA (A. Pendejo) and JosB (B. Pendejo), make a special musical-comedy appearance. This weekend of Old West revelry begins with a cattle drive at noon today and continues through Sunday. Montgomery, 17 miles west of Conroe. For details, call the festival headquarters, (409) 449-6693 or (409) 449-6390. One-day ticket, $5; $3 children ages 3-12. Three-day ticket, $10; $6 children ages 3-12. Town Barn Dance tickets are $5 extra.

D.L. Hughley The star of the new CBS show Double Rush brings his standup act to H-town for two shows. Before he was on network TV, Hughley had a hit on cable -- his HBO special was that channel's highest-rated comedy special ever. Of course, people are accustomed to seeing Hughley on cable; he's host of BET's Comicview. Hughley has four shows, 8:30 and 11 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. Just Jokin', 9344 Richmond, 975-7262. $18-$25.

june 10
Challenger No. 3985 Before we had space shuttles, there was the Gulf Coast Eagle. The million-pound Eagle would be dwarfed by modern spacecraft, but this historic luxury train is a more comfortable ride, and one needn't bother with years of training before boarding it. The Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society Inc. is sponsoring excursion rides on Union Pacific Railroad's Challenger No. 3985, the Gulf Coast Eagle. Lucky passengers (those who sign up early, before the seats sell out) will ride from Houston to College Station in fabulous vintage Streamliner railcars from the 1950s, restored to their full glory. Excursioneers will be treated to a lunch at A&M and campus museums will be open for the train passengers. (No word on whether or not the bar car will open in the afternoon.) Today's trip at 8:30 a.m. (There's also a Sunday trip, departing at 9 a.m., to Bay City.) For reservations on the world's largest operating steam locomotive, call NRHS at 597-3413. $99 per person; $149 per person Vista Dome seating.

1995 Bay Day Festival Most of the time, the Galveston Bay Foundation is busily engaged in protecting our waterways and educating the great unwashed about the many ways in which Galveston Bay is important to all of us. However, sometimes they party. This weekend would be one of those times. There are educational events -- a children's "Spillbusters" event wherein tots don protective suits and participate in a mock oil-spill cleanup, and ongoing demonstrations of the finer points of noting an oyster's finer points. There's also a catamaran regatta, an air show and plenty of live music and carnival entertainment, and it all happens only 30 minutes from downtown. Fun starts at 11 a.m. Sylvan Beach Park, La Porte. For more info, call the Galveston Bay Foundation, 332-3381. $2; $1 students. After 5 p.m. the price goes up to $5; $3 students. Also, extra charges for some boat tours and the chili cook-off.  

Hoop-It-Up Terry Murphy, creator and trademark registerer of Hoop-It-Up, says he created this official three-on-three basketball competition "for folks who want to relive their glory days" and as "a fantasy weekend for those who want to be like Mike." The basketball carnival has exhibition games, gallons of Gatorade and 90 courts filled with slama-jama action. Ordinary Houstonians will be playing, just like genuine NBA stars, all day long all weekend. Last year, 3,260 people played. More are expected this year. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (or later) today and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Rice Stadium parking lot, University at Greenbriar. For details, call the hot line, 521-4535. No admission charge; concession and profits benefit ESCAPE Family Resource Center and other charities of the Bayou City Exchange Club.

Stages' 1995 Texas Playwrights Festival Seems there was tough competition this year, and instead of one winner we have two -- Jim Lehrer and Lionel G. Garcia. Lehrer is, indeed, one of the talking heads of the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour and his play is entitled Chili Queen. These plays are chosen in a blind read; none of the judges knew they were selecting a drama penned by a PBS star. Really. In fact, no one at Stages knew that Lehrer had aspirations to the muse. The co-winner, Garcia, titled his opus An Acorn on the Moon. Staged readings of both plays will be presented, with Acorn first, a break for lunch, Chili Queen and then low-key festivities with champagne. 10 a.m. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, 527-8243. $15.

june 11
Hibiscus show and sale Thanks to decades, perhaps even centuries, of work from amateur botanists, there are more than 700 varieties of "Chinese" hibiscus. Moreover, hundreds of those varieties flourish here in our humid swampland. The Lone Star Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society is holding a show and sale. Plants will be sold (and raffled off), and to help novices taking home their beautiful blooming plants, experienced hibiscus growers will offer tips and answer questions and a free leaflet, "How to Grow Better Hibiscus Near the Texas Coast," will be given away with every plant. 1-5 p.m. Bellaire Community Center, 7008 South Rice, Bellaire. For details, call C.T. Lancaster, 668-9772. No admission charge.

Radney Foster at Bay Day Foster is the author of country radio hits such as "Just Call Me Lonesome" and "Nobody Wins," and he seems to be widely listened to -- a mid-May issue of The National Review carried brief notes on Foster by Ralph De Toledano. "I have never been one for country music," De Toledano admits up front, "whose notes I find monotonous and whose lyrics are maudlin. Radney Foster's album Labor of Love avoids both these pitfalls. It is pleasant listening and it makes me suspect that not all country music falls into the category of what we used to hear on the Grand Ole Opry." That last line makes me suspect Ralph never actually listened to the Grand Ole Opry, but he goes on to say that "knowing almost nothing about those who make this music, I do not know where Radney Foster stands in the hierarchy of the genre or how typical he is of better singers. His voice is pleasant and un-twangy and his lyrics for the most part intelligent." By my lights, Foster's voice is both twangy and pleasant, but judge for yourself. Foster sings for the sunburned Bay Day Festival (see Saturday) crowd on the Main Stage 5:30 p.m. Sylvan Beach Park, La Porte. For more info, call the Galveston Bay Foundation, 332-3381. $2; $1 students.

Change for Change Here's a presidential hopeful who's seeking only small change. Dr. Heather Anne Harder, seeking the Democratic nomination for the highest office in the land, invites everyone to "crack your piggy bank and look under the sofa cushions for loose change!" and then "bring it to The Mountain and meet the next president of the United States." Harder is not an M.D. but does have a doctorate in education. Presumably, she uses her education in her business -- she owns three day-care centers. That's not a strong political background, but she does have a book out, and books always help, unless they're scandalous tell-all books revealing some deep, dark problem from the past. Harder's book, we understand, is nothing of the sort; hers is an autobiography, No More Secrets. Her grassroots fundraiser will feature "a musical surprise by Ron Niscosia," a raffle, a silent auction and refreshments. 2-5 p.m. The Mountain, 5000 Westpark. For more information, call 683-9651 or e-mail

june 12
Po' Boy Classic This charity golf tourney has a special bonus -- Robert Reid, Astros flack and ex-Rocket. Reid is the honorary chair and guest host, and one of his many duties is conducting the raffle. Reid has a witty way with calling out raffle tickets and making japes about the winners. Another bonus with this tourney is the quick and easy one-fee registration. Former Oiler and all-around nice guy Alan Pinkett is just one of many who's pre-registered for this event. All golf-related festivities benefit the Sickle Cell Association's summer camp program and begin at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start. El Dorado Country Club, 5900 North Belt Drive. For details call 940-7323.  

june 13
Children's Art Bereavement Program Actually, the St. Joseph Hospice/ Glassell School of Art program is for whole families. Youths ages 6-18 meet in weekly sessions to express their grief through art while caretakers and parents meet in adult therapy groups. Both groups meet with trained counselors. The first six-week program begins today. (Children who are not currently grieving over the death of a loved one can express themselves, too, at Junior School ArtKamp or summer-session classes.) For more information or to see about joining, call the Glassell Junior School, 639-7700. Free.

june 14
Soweto Sunrise The Lively Arts Festival opens its summer season with a program of African music, dance and storytelling. This Juneteenth show will be presented at Kuumba House. "Kuumba" means "creativity" in Swahili, and the Lively Arts Festival aims not only to show children the delightful results of artists' creativity, but also to foster the children's own innate feelings for music, dance and theater. Soweto Sunrise will be presented at 10:30 a.m. today as well as tomorrow and Friday. Kuumba House, 3412 La Branch. Call 520-MIME for details or reservations. $4 adults and children; $3.50 for each member of a group of ten or more.

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