21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Neil Gaiman, WWE and a Pub Crawl

Tuesday, July 4

Show off your red, white and blue pride as the Houston Symphony continues its long-standing Independence Day tradition at Miller Outdoor Theatre for ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights: Star-Spangled Salute. The national holiday just wouldn’t be complete without Tchaikovsky’s rousing 1812 Overture from The Hill, plus a little something extra this year — the music of legendary American musicians like Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Prince. “I’ve tried to make a balance between patriotic music and good ol’ summer fun-loving music, and I hope people enjoy the mix this year,” says Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke. He also promises a soulful performance of “America the Beautiful” by Grammy-nominated artist Ryan Shaw. Stick around after the 90-minute show (no intermission) for spectacular fireworks. 8:30 p.m. July 4. 6000 Hermann Park. For information, call 832-487-7102 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free. — Sam Byrd

Charge up those phones, because this year’s CITGO Freedom Over Texas has tons of selfie and other photo ops, including a Jose Altuve cutout, a baseball 12 feet in circumference and a salute to our armed forces with helicopters, tanks and Jeeps. Between 5:30 and 6 p.m., there’ll also be a presentation of colors and everybody’s invited to join in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “Just to remind people what the day is about,” says Susan Christian, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and producer of the patriotic shebang, now in its 30th year. “It’s about celebrating America’s birthday and those values that we as Americans cherish. At the top of the list is freedom.” Music, games and concessions round out the event, which culminates in 17 minutes of whiz-bang-boom fireworks. 4 to 10 p.m. July 4. Eleanor Tinsley and Sam Houston Parks, 500 Allen Parkway and 1000 Bagby. For information, visit freedomovertexas.org. Admission is free for children under five years of age. $8 to $10. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, July 5

Abracadabra! The Curt Miller Magic & Comedy Show returns for its ninth year to Moody Gardens Hotel with all-new tricks and surprises. Aside from his stints in Las Vegas, the magician and comedian is known for his act, which is suitable for all ages. “It’s family entertainment, and people will be dazzled, amazed and entertained,” Miller says. Since he started his regular summer show on the Island, he has entertained more than 85,000 people, and says people come back year after year because they enjoy the tricks and illusions so much. He also makes sure to get the audience involved by bringing on lucky guests to take part in some of the feats. Grab tickets today before they magically disappear! 1 and 7:30 p.m. July 5. Also 1 and 7:30 p.m. July 1-4, July 6-7. 7 Hope Boulevard, Galveston. For information, call 832-767-2692 or visit magiccomedyshow.com. $16 to $23. — Sam Byrd

Thursday, July 6

His voice was the stuff of legend in popular music’s heyday. Now all the hits of yesteryear are back in Texas Family Musicals’ The Roy Orbison Experience. Relive favorites like “Only The Lonely,” “Pretty Woman,” “Crying” and other captivating songs. Chris Trimboli leads the cast as the guitar-plucking crooner for this show about the roller-coaster ups and downs of Orbison’s life. Executive producer Mike Skiles tells us, “When [Chris] puts those shades on, and with that dark hair and dark clothes, it looks just like Roy. But it’s not an impersonation show. It pays tribute to his life, and we want to pay tribute to what Roy did during his day.” 7:30 p.m. July 6, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. July 7-8. Moody Gardens Convention Center, 7 Hope Boulevard, Galveston. For information, call 855-667-1221 or visit texasfamilymusicals.com. $15 to $50. — Sam Byrd

We didn't have to fall down a late-night Google search rabbit hole to seek out the most absurd, bizarre and insane flicks from German filmmakers. Dr. Sandy Frieden did that for us and, after 35 years teaching German film at the University of Houston, she knows where those esoteric bodies are buried. During the month of July, 14 Pews is screening four '70s-era classics "guaranteed to mess with your mind." In directing Heart of Glass, set in a picturesque Bavarian village known for producing precious ruby glass, Werner Herzog hypnotized the actors before each scene. The result is surreal, as the actors improvise and portray a town gone mad; that screens this Thursday. The Weirdest German Films I Know and Love continues each Thursday with snacks, drinks and a lecture. Come back July 13 for Fata Morgana (also directed by Herzog and set in a dystopian desert), July 20 for Ticket of No Return (a woman binge-drinks her way across Berlin) and July 27 for Invisible Adversaries (about alien invasion). 6:30 to 9 p.m. July 6. Continuing 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. Through July 27. 800 Aurora. For information, call 281-888-9677 or visit 14pews.org. $25 to $150. — Susie Tommaney

Friday, July 7

It was a monumental task. Looking at work by 549 artists within 100 miles of Lawndale Art Center and deciding who’s in for “The Big Show 2017” would draw beads of sweat on most people. But Toby Kamps, formerly of The Menil Collection and about to step into new shoes at the Blaffer Art Museum, took it all in stride and curated the 200 pieces that we’ll see at this Friday’s opener. “He brought an enthusiasm to this opportunity that was pretty contagious,” says Stephanie Mitchell, executive director. “Toby [wanted] to inspire across the spectrum and take the temperature of what Houston is making now.” Come feel the energy as $3,000 is awarded for works created this past year under Kamps’s theme of “The Rate of Change.” 7 to 9 p.m. July 7. Continuing noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays. July 8 through August 12. 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit lawndaleartcenter.org. Free. — Vic Shuttee

In 1946, just before Sir Alec Guinness made his big-screen debut in Great Expectations, Liverpool police charged him with a homosexual act. (The fact that Guinness was gay wouldn’t be revealed until after his death in 2000 at the age of 86.) In order to avoid scandal, he told law enforcement that he was called Herbert Pocket. The law, apparently not hip to the Charles Dickens character, took the bait. Guinness avoided what would have been an insane media blow-up to star in Oliver Twist and as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the O.G. version of Star Wars. Great Expectations is one of eight in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Alec Guinness: An Actor For All Seasons shebang. 7 p.m. July 7. Continuing 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 22, 7 p.m. August 4, 4 p.m. August 5. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/guinness. $7 to $9. — Steve Jansen

Most of us like to dream big, but the aspirations of local man Craig Butterworth have a decidedly different twist. This multi-hyphenated teacher (Elsik High School), artist (the creative genius behind several art cars), tennis coach and poet says he hopes to one day attain spiritual enlightenment. Either that or host a daytime talk show (whichever comes first). Until that happens, Butterworth keeps on creating and now he's out with a new chapbook titled Not Hungry, Not Homeless, Just Spiritually Lost. He'll read from his latest and sign copies at the next First Friday, which also happens to be the 42nd anniversary of Houston's oldest poetry reading series. Be sure to bring your own dreams and stay after for the open reading. 8:30 p.m. July 7. Inprint House, 1520 West Main. For information, call 832-439-9686 or visit houstonpoetryfest.info. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Psst. Have you heard? One of the hottest new venues in town is JAM Park along the Lyons Avenue Corridor. The Fifth Ward certainly has the pedigree, and they've been celebrating 151 years as a community with the inaugural Fresh Fridays After Five Summer Music Series. We've seen Wazeer and Blaze X Black, Tightn' Up, and Gospel Celebration take the stage and — for the final concert — it's none other than Houston's First Lady of Soul, Trudy Lynn. We inducted Lynn into the 2015 Houston Music Hall of Fame and we've never looked back. She grew up in the Fifth Ward (her mother ran a beauty shop right next to Club Matinee), and now's your chance to hear this living legend at this free concert, courtesy of the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Council. 5 to 8:30 pm. July 7. 3705 Lyons. For information visit facebook.com/5thWardCRC. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Saturday, July 8

Nothing refreshes quite like an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day, and Houstonians know that. That’s why the good folks at Saint Arnold Brewing Company planned the perfect event with its world-famous Downtown Pub Crawl. With 14 bars on the list, no one expects you to hit up every bar. The brewery’s Lennie Ambrose says, “We split it into multiple routes. It’s ‘choose your own adventure’ style. The bar you start at will send you on to the other bars for the rest of the crawl.” Arrive at any of the bars listed on the website between 2 and 3 p.m., and then let the fun begin. Everybody ends up at Historic Market Square Park at 6 p.m. for prizes, a pint glass, and music from Ishi and The Waxaholics. 2 to 6 p.m. July 8. 301 Milam. For information, call 713-686-9494 or visit saintarnold.com/downtown-pub-crawl. Free event; pay as you go. — Sam Byrd

Schumann's last hurrah, one final burst of brilliance before his depression worsened and he attempted suicide, came about in 1853 with Märchenerzählungen, or Fairy Tales, Op. 132. A trio of instruments takes us through a storybook journey: "Lively, but not fast" transitions to fast and accentuated, then calm and delicate, until finally closing the chapter with a happy ending. Now Houston's newest historical chamber music ensemble, La Speranza, is showcasing this Schumann favorite during A Summer Salon: Chamber Music From the Romantic Era. Historical clarinetist Thomas Carroll will play on Ottensteiner clarinets from 1879, joining Yvonne Smith on viola and Andrew Schneider on piano. In addition to works by Brahms and Bruch, the program also includes Schumann's earlier work, Märchenbilder ("Fairy Pictures") for viola and piano, Op. 113. 8 p.m. July 8. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit la-speranza.com. $14 to $22. — Susie Tommaney

Author Neil Gaiman, the Prince of Stories, comes to Houston this Saturday courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts.
Author Neil Gaiman, the Prince of Stories, comes to Houston this Saturday courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts.
Author photo by Kimberly Butler

Saturday, July 8 (continued)

A wise man once said, “Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, forgot.” Fortunately for the lovers of the creative spirit, that wise man is making a stop in the Bayou City. Neil Gaiman, the revered creator of The Sandman and Black Orchid comics, and novelist behind Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and the recently adapted for TV pop phenomenon American Gods, will be expounding his imaginative wisdom and inspiring would-be authors to get home and write, courtesy of presenter Society for the Performing Arts. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even address that recent challenge to do a live reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu. 8 p.m. July 8. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $35 to $75. — Vic Shuttee

Let your taste buds do the walking at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s Introduction to Texas Wines. The organization has planned a tour through its nature trails, paired with several wine varieties from the Lone Star State, for a full sensory experience. Interestingly, Texas is among the top five states for American wine production and has produced wine since the 1600s. For novice wine enthusiasts who want to try them, Texas wine expert Dr. Russell Kane will be on hand to explain the subtle differences of each wine. Guests will be in good hands since Kane is the award-winning author of The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine and Texas Hill Country Wines. Professional tip: Hire a sitter and leave the children at home because this event is 21 and up. 7 to 9:30 p.m. July 8. 4501 Woodway. For information, call 713-681-8433 or visit houstonarboretum.org. $40 to $65. — Sam Byrd

While not busy making massive prints with a steamroller, and between teaching next-gen creatives over at Texas Southern University, artist Leamon Green continues down the road of his own artistic journey. Pulling from branches of his family tree, drawing from African and European influences and seasoned by that Fulbright Fellowship stint in Tanzania, Green's works are fraught with layered emotion. One of his newest pieces from this year, a three foot by five foot woodcut titled Mamy Wata & Refugees, shows a horrific scene torn from the headlines of today's news. Desperation and fright are evident as survivors try to stay afloat in tumultuous waters as they struggle for the safety of shore. This dramatic piece, along with other works, can be viewed in the solo exhibit, "Is The Way Closed," at Hooks-Epstein Galleries. An artist talk is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 8, followed by a reception for the artist from 6 to 8 p.m. Continuing 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. July 8 through August 12. 2631 Colquitt. For information, call 713-522-0718 or visit hooksepsteingalleries.com. Free. — Susie Tommaney

What the world needs now is dance, specifically Dance From the Heart. The Houston-based company specializes in belly dance — fused with ballet, modern and other cultural-based forms — to show humanity’s common ground. The company’s new mixed-repertoire program, Rapport, featuring artist Heather Labonté, takes a wide look at different types of relationships, including romantic, parent-child and friendship, through that variety of dance styles. “It’s about the different relationships in our lives and the way that those impact us and how we struggle or succeed getting through those moments,” says Anne Caruthers, president and creative director. She promises a wide range of emotional content, everything from “make-you-laugh” to “grab-your-heart-and-twist-it-around,” such as a two-part work on Alzheimer’s disease about a person struggling with sense of self and shifts in a sibling relationship. 8 p.m. July 8. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit dfth.org. $20 to $25. — Natalie de la Garza

Think of it as the circus meets the NBA: all the acrobatics you’d expect, with more joy and humor than a Rockets playoff game. As the Harlem Globetrotters mark more than 90 years as a traveling b-ball showcase, they keep wowing crowds with feats such as a shot through the hoop from the rooftop of NRG Stadium back in December, and a 583-footer off San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas. The Original Harlem Globetrotters 2017 World Tour is led by superstar Thunder Law, but let’s not forget trickster basketball history and how the team has gotten the best of every opponent over the decades, including Scooby-Doo villains. 2 and 7 p.m. July 8. NRG Arena, 1 NRG Park. Continuing 3 p.m. July 9, Berry Center, 8877 Barker Cypress, Cypress. For information, call 800-641-4667 or visit harlemglobetrotters.com. $19 to $408. — Camilo Hannibal Smith

Sunday, July 9

This Texas-centric wine tour comes with plenty of swag: merch for just showing up, snacks and pairings at each of the seven wineries, and a keepsake on your sixth punch. But the biggest draw is that harvesting is just about over, which means it’s time for winemaking. Karla P. Nash, official taster, owner and winemaker at Cork This! Winery, tells us it’s a great time for tours. So get out and enjoy the Texas countryside, designate a driver, and divvy up the fun over two weekends on the 2017 Bluebonnet Wine Harvest Trail. 11 a.m. Saturdays, noon Sundays. July 8 through July 16. Bernhardt Winery, 9043 County Road 204, Plantersville; Cork This! Winery, 21123 Eva, Montgomery; Messina Hof Winery, 4545 Old Reliance, Bryan; Peach Creek Vineyards & Winery, 2029 Peach Creek, College Station; Pleasant Hill Winery, 1441 Salem, Brenham; Saddlehorn Winery, 958 FM 1948 North, Burton; Texas Star Winery, 10587 Old Chappell Hill, Chappell Hill. For information, call 936-825-8282 or visit texasbluebonnetwinetrail.com. $35 to $56. — Susie Tommaney

What exactly is The Animal Show tour? Longtime Houstonians might remember Michael Harren; the pianist/composer/performer/educator lived in the Bayou City for most of his first 38 years, though now he calls New York home. He's developed into sort of a superhero, trying to change the world for animals through advocacy and creativity. While up north he discovered the Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary in New Jersey, which offers shelter to discarded and abused animals. Inspired by the animals and relationships he experienced during his residency there, Harren went on to develop The Animal Show, weaving in stories, music and even a few animal recordings. Head out to the Rec Room for a little bit of laughter, a lesson on why it's important to keep animals safe from harm, and an evening unlike any other. 7:30 to 9 p.m. July 9. 100 Jackson. For information, call 713-344-1291 or visit recroomhtx.com. Purchase tickets at artful.ly/store/events/12504. $20. — Susie Tommaney

Born to the lowest caste in medieval Maharashtra, Janabai found her voice through poetry and now holds a revered place in the minds of Marathi-speaking Hindus. Decades later Lal Ded, from Kashmir, found herself married at the age of 12, but eventually broke free and went on to become the creator of the mystic poetry vatsun. Inspired by these 13th- and 14th-century poets, Samskriti is presenting an evening of dance in Mad and Divine: The Voice of Two Mystics by Rama Vaidyanathan. We checked in with Rathna Kumar, Samskriti’s artistic director, about the logistics behind bringing in artists like Vaidyanathan, one of India’s top performers of the classical Indian dance bharatanatyam. Kumar admits that, under the current administration, there seems to be some inconsistency and randomness about who gets approved to tour the U.S. 4 to 5:30 p.m. July 9. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit samskritihouston.org. $25 to $50. — Susie Tommaney

Monday, July 10

WWE returns to Houston with the first Monday Night Raw following the first ever (and unfortunately named) Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view the night before in Dallas. With the first clash between “The Beast” Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe headlining the PPV, Houstonians may see a new Universal champion, a new Raw Women’s champion (if Alexa Bliss loses the belt to Sasha Banks) and a new Cruiserweight champ. We’ll also see the aftermath of Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns’s “ambulance match” (so named because it ends only when someone leaves in an ambulance); appearances by Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Finn Bálor, the Hardy Boyz and Seth Rollins, and maybe even a hint as to just what is going on with current Raw general manager Kurt Angle, as we continue down the road to SummerSlam. 6:30 p.m. July 10. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 866-446-8849 or visit houstontoyotacenter.com. $20 to $105. — Natalie de la Garza

What happens when you become your own worst enemy? That's the premise behind the new thriller Rumination, set to premiere at The MATCH this Monday. Screenwriters include master rapper Q. Guyton (who directed the film), Destiny Barnes, Breona Micole and Darin Venters, with production by Pirate Fame and Q. Solo. We've seen some of the trailers for this one, and expect plenty of suspense, edgy camera work and a soundtrack that's fresh. ANF Visuals, a local production company that has worked with Slim Thug and Young Lyric, sure knows how to turn a Monday into a Friday. 6:30 p.m. July 10. 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit matchouston.org/events/rumination-movie-premiere. $12. — Susie Tommaney

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