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21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Cinco de Mayo and Dragon Boat Festival

El Big Bad is just one of the many downtown hot spots celebrating Cinco de Mayo this Friday.EXPAND
El Big Bad is just one of the many downtown hot spots celebrating Cinco de Mayo this Friday.
Photo by Marco Torres
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Tuesday, May 2

If you’re waiting for the Mouse House to finally get around to animating The Barber of Seville, you may be waiting a while. Luckily, Houston Grand Opera has you covered. Dennis Arrowsmith, HGO’s touring and ensembles manager, says the Opera to Go! production is like a good Disney movie: jokes for the kids, jokes for the adults and never condescending. “We’re not doing an opera for kids; we’re doing an opera that kids can enjoy.” Arrowsmith says they’ve transported the story to 1840s Texas, and in Kristine McIntyre’s 50-minute bilingual adaptation, the two young lovers are kept apart by more than just Bartolo: They’re separated by language, relying on Figaro to play translator for the English-speaking Almaviva and Spanish-speaking Rosina. But don’t worry, one thing remains unchanged — Gioachino Rossini’s music, which Arrowsmith says “is easily understood, no matter what language you speak.” 11 a.m. May 2. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free. — Natalie de la Garza

Don't expect any egotistical divas at this concert, which calls for musicians to perform without sheet music in almost complete darkness so that viewers listeners can better concentrate on the melodies and sounds. Music in Darkness marks the Texas premiere of "in vain," the monumental masterpiece by contemporary Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas. He composed the piece so that the parts would be easy to memorize, the music could be controllable by ear, and so it would work even without a conductor's visual cues. The microtonal score will be performed by the 28 musicians of Loop38, punctuated by an immediate burst of light, on the serene grounds of the Rothko Chapel. The fairly new chamber ensemble, co-founded last year by conductor Jerry Hou and pianist Yvonne Chen, consists almost entirely of Houston transplants, though it seems they got here as fast as they could. 7 p.m. May 2. 3900 Yupon. For information, call 713-524-9839 or visit rothkochapel.org. Free; $10 suggested donation. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, May 3

If there ever were a man secure in his world who self-destructed, it was Eddie Carbone. The central figure, longshoreman and family patriarch in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge starts off as a happily married man who destroys his life and those of the people around him when he becomes obsessed with his wife’s 18-year-old orphaned niece. While the Alley Theatre production features several company members, visiting actor Mark Zeisler (who was in the 1998 Broadway production that won the Tony Award for Best Revival) stars as Eddie Carbone. “It’s one of the great roles of the American stage. Certainly it’s one of the great roles with Arthur Miller. It’s a mountain that is worth climbing over and over again,” Zeisler says. Zeisler doesn’t see his character as all villain. “He’s understandable; there’s great empathy and great compassion for him. He has a long way to fall from the beginning of the play to the end. He’s a well-meaning man with a good heart, but he unfortunately becomes a party to forces he can’t control in himself.” 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. May 3 through May 21. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26 to $99. — Margaret Downing

The idea’s so brilliant, it makes us wonder why someone didn’t think of it before. George R. Brown Convention Center, the patriotic cruise ship that flanks Discovery Green, is turning on its lights (and ground-floor restaurants) for the locals. It’s time to sip, stroll and jam each Wednesday night along the pedestrian-friendly Avenida de las Americas with heavy hitters like Mango Punch, Say Girl Say, Fat Tony and Nick Gaitan. “The convention center has sat on the edge of downtown since the ’80s, used for this one purpose. What we wanted to do is open it up to locals as well as leisure travelers,” says A.J. Mistretta, director of public relations for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Convoy Group’s Mark Austin, behind-the-scenes champion of H-Town’s music scene, worked with Discovery Green to make sure the acts for Party on the Plaza are robust and, more important, homegrown. May 3, Los Skarnales with Muddy Belle; May 10, Allen Oldies with Ruby and The Reckless; May 17, Mango Punch with Gio Chamba; May 24, SoulDig with Sherita Perez; May 31, Nick Gaitan with Nico Diaz; June 7, Ishi with Romina Von Mohr; June 14, Say Girl Say with El Lago; June 21, Brownout with VODI; June 28, Fat Tony with Young Mammals. 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays. May 3 through June 28. 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, call 713-400-7336 or visit discoverygreen.com. — Susie Tommaney

Thursday, May 4

New York theater producer Matt Murphy tells us Sex Tips was born while he was chatting with his wife about trying to find inspiration for his next big project. “‘I want to do a faux sex tips seminar, but I need to base my advice on something,’ I told her. She said, ‘Well, there’s this book all my friends passed around in college, Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man.’ And there it was, the greatest title for a show since I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” Still running off-Broadway, the aptly titled, laugh-out-loud interactive sex romp is coming to Houston courtesy of Lott Entertainment Presents. Murphy, who adapted the show for the stage, says it is also likely to rev your engine. “The feedback I never tire of hearing is that our show improves people’s sex life,” he says, laughing. “It’s fun, a little titillating, and people blush a little. But it’s also a great refresher course.” 7 and 9 p.m. May 4. Continuing 7 and 9 p.m. May 5-6, 7 p.m. May 7. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit lottentertainmentpresents.com. $37 to $57. — Vic Shuttee

Friday, May 5

It’s always five o’clock somewhere, but when the calendar reads Cinco de Mayo, we really kick it up a notch. While General Ignacio Zaragoza’s unlikely victory over the French forces might not be at the top of anyone’s mind, the Mexican army’s triumph has paved the way for one of our favorite tequila-centric events. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets to Historic Market Square Park, find legal parking and grab a cerveza from Niko Niko’s while Blackbird, Bombón, Chido Machine and Gio Chamba turn it into a fiesta. Afterwards, designate a driver and wander over to neighboring waterholes like Batanga, Little Dipper, El Big Bad, The Nightingale Room, Bovine & Barley and The Pastry War. 6 p.m. May 5. Historic Market Square Park, 301 Milam. For information, call 713-650-3022 or visit marketsquarepark.com. Free. — Susie Tommaney

  • ¡Viva México! The party continues along Navigation Boulevard this Friday when the Greater East End Management District celebrates Cinco de Mayo with mariachis, ballet folklórico, margaritas and cerveza. Extroverts can even try their chance in the "grito" contest. Noon to 10 p.m. May 5. Navigation Esplanade, 2600 Navigation. For information, visit eastendhouston.com. Free.
  • While you're in the neighborhood, check out Piñatafest with a warehouse pop-up party. Chow down on street tacos, smoked pork, smoked brisket and street corn from El Burro and the Bull; and view performances by Ballet Folklórico Azteca, Heaven-Lee Acosta-Mariachi and Boricua Soul Entertainment. 6 to 9 p.m. May 5. The historic R.B. Everett Building, 3118 Harrisburg Boulevard, Suite 101. For information, visit eastendhouston.com/east-end-foundation-presents-pinatafest. Free; reservations are requested.
  • Return to the Navigation Esplanade this Sunday for more piñata fun, including a large-scale sculpture competition, piñata crafts and rock caricatures by Bonnie Blue. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 7. Navigation Esplanade, 2600 Navigation. For information, visit eastendhouston.com/east-end-foundation-presents-pinatafest. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Matt Detrick tells us the world-premiering electro-acoustic string quartet “What Is the Word” began with a kernel of an idea, to do something with an Irish theme. The co-founder and artistic director of Apollo Chamber Players says he first contacted composer Christopher Theofanidis about a year and a half ago. “He has roots in Houston; he went to UH,” says Detrick. As the commission developed, Theofanidis brought in his colleague Mark Wingate, an acoustic composer, and they developed the idea of incorporating the work of Irish poet Samuel Beckett. “There’s basically going to be a recording played in conjunction with our live performance. It’s contemporary, avant-garde. We’ve never done it before, connecting the past with the present and creating some other future,” says Detrick. The program for Irish Odyssey also includes Irish folk songs arranged by Beethoven as a commission (“They sound like Beethoven”), as well as Irish folk tunes and Irish Palatine folk songs. Dig deeper with a pre-concert lecture and discussion at 7:30 p.m. with Theofanidis, Wingate and man-about-town St. John Flynn. 8 p.m. May 5. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 832-496-9943 or visit apollochamberplayers.org. $10 to $35. — Susie Tommaney

More than 100 years later, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring still sounds dangerous, audacious, fresh and relevant. “It’s an iconoclastic work. It has a visceral quality to shock at its very primal, ritualistic source,” says Sarah Rothenberg, artistic and general director of Da Camera. Now, imagine Vijay Iyer, the acclaimed jazz and contemporary concert pianist, re-imagining the work by teaming with the International Contemporary Ensemble and pairing it with a film. Da Camera presents Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi, a multimedia piece featuring pianist Iyer and Steven Schick conducting the heavy-duty, Indian music-tinged ensemble as they play along to Prashant Bhargava’s film about the ancient Holi festival of colors. Instead of a jazz-style arrangement, the piece is a radical note-for-note translation of Stravinsky’s work. “Iyer is responding to it not only musically but also through the Hindu rite of Holi,” says Rothenberg. 8 p.m. May 5. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit dacamera.com. $37.50 to $67.50. — Steve Jansen

When it comes to programming the Houston Palestine Film Festival, executive committee president Khalil AbuSharekh wants to display the Palestine not dominated by politics or defined by the conflict with Israel. He wants Houstonians to see the people, like the surfers of the opening-night film Gaza Surf Club, “a glimpse of hope” the festival has been waiting four years to screen. “It’s beautiful, the Mediterranean on the big screen,” says AbuSharekh, “how blue the water in the ocean is contrasted right in front of your eyes with the poverty and destruction all over Gaza.” AbuSharekh adds that despite being a Palestinian from Gaza, he rarely cries watching films, but “I cried in this [one].” The film’s lead, Ibrahim Arafat, will be in attendance for the festival’s two screenings of Gaza Surf Club on May 5-6. 7 p.m. May 5, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. Also 4 and 7 p.m. May 6, 5 p.m. May 7. Rice Media Center, 6100 Main. For information, visit hpff.org. $8 to $10. — Natalie de la Garza

Be on the lookout for the Crimson Chin this week, as the veteran funnyman is in town for Jay Leno Live in Concert at Smart Financial Centre. The silver-haired master of ceremonies has taken to retired life like a fish to a desert. Ever the workhorse, the alumnus king of The Tonight Show can’t help bringing his topical musings and bu-dum-dum one-liners directly to the people. Between hosting his own car-themed Jay Leno’s Garage for CNBC and the occasional pop-in on Jimmy Fallon’s New York stage, Leno still finds time to hit the road hard, averaging more than 100 dates a year. If his guest-hosting cameo on Fallon’s Tonight is any indication, we can expect plenty of apolitical Trump jokes, good-hearted jabs at celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Kanye West, and that ever-charming Leno smirk. Get to Sugar Land quick, but please, no jaywalking. 8 p.m. May 5. Smart Financial Centre, 18111 Lexington Boulevard, Sugar Land. For information, call 281-207-6278 or visit smartfinancialcentre.net. $55 to $85. — Vic Shuttee

New races begin every 15 to 20 minutes, so come watch the dragon boats fly across the water while enjoying the skyline view, live music and food vendors.
New races begin every 15 to 20 minutes, so come watch the dragon boats fly across the water while enjoying the skyline view, live music and food vendors.
Photo by Leonel Nerio

Saturday, May 6

A long, long time ago, the most beloved Chinese poet had his heart shattered. (Some say by a woman, others blame the political climate at the time.) He decided to drown himself in the river. A group of fishermen saw him and paddled as fast and as hard as they could to save him. “Of course, they arrived too late,” says David Mandell, director of the Houston Dragon Boat Festival. Don’t put on a sad face, because beauty has sprouted from the dark tale for more than 2,000 years in the annual commemoration of the life of poet Qu Juan (340-278 BC). H-Town’s version, now in its 17th year, includes dance performances on the main stage, food trucks and vendors on Commerce and, in Buffalo Bayou, all-day racing in dragon boats, which Mandell describes as serious business, 500-pound, 20-man-powered watercraft. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 6. Allen’s Landing, 1005 Commerce. For information, call 713-205-7373 or visit texasdragonboat.com. Free. — Steve Jansen

Houston audiences are anxiously awaiting the newest production from the Houston Symphony’s composer-in-residence, Gabriela Lena Frank: her world-premiering Conquest Requiem. It’s a multicultural work that interweaves traditional Latin and Meso-American texts with new passages by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz. Afterward, stick around when Andrés Conducts Shostakovich No. 5, a gripping masterpiece sure to keep listeners on the edge of their seats. The piece consists of four movements, but the last one is the subject of a bit of contention. Some find it a reflection of musical excellence; others find it, well, shrill. But you’ll never know until you hear it for yourself. With Andrés Orozco-Estrada holding the baton, we’re placing our money that the music is going to land on the pleasant side of the fence. 8 p.m. May 5 and May 6, 2:30 p.m. May 7. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $136. — Sam Byrd

From eating sushi for lunch to texting with emojis, puzzling over Sudoku and catching Pokémon, “Japanese culture is more a part of your daily life than one might think,” says Patsy Yoon Brown, executive director of the Japan America Society of Houston. But she hopes Houstonians will explore things they are less familiar with at Japan Festival Houston, starting with a stroll through Hermann Park’s recently expanded Japanese Garden. Then peruse the vendors, beat the heat with kakigori (Japanese shaved ice), try your hand at kinyo sukui (a goldfish scooping game), be amazed at the martial arts displays and cosplay competition, and channel your inner tween for a performance by J-pop group Jr. Exile. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 7. Hermann Park, 1700 Hermann Park. For information, call 713-963-0121 or visit houstonjapanfest.org. Free. — Natalie de la Garza

Regardless of the fortunes we accumulate in life, everything stops at the grave. That’s the premise of A.D. Players’ You Can’t Take It With You. The tale, which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Academy Award for best picture, is back to remind us of that age-old wisdom. “How do you want to spend your time? Is it relationships or family, or is it about collecting things you can’t take with you?” asks director Kevin Dean. In the story, Alice Sycamore’s family of lovable eccentrics could not be more different from her fiancé’s well-mannered, aristocratic parents. Plenty of fireworks ignite when both families meet, but, in the end, love conquers all. Even though we know the ending, Dean guarantees it will be worth the watch to see it unfold. 7:30 p.m. May 6. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and May 6 and 20; 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 13 and 27; 2 p.m. Sundays. May 5 through May 28. 5420 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-2721 or visit adplayers.org. $19 to $68. — Sam Byrd

Put on your sleuthing cap, because it's time to solve the whodunit when Old West Melodrama presents its spring murder mystery, The Case of the Malted Falcon. Pay close attention, because we'll be introduced to a host of silly characters, including Sam Club, Velma Vavoomski, Rachael Raven, Abigail Nightingale, Robin Hawkins, Casey Stourbridge, Harvey Featherby and Miss Marbles. Along the way we'll see the theft of a priceless chocolate sculpture, somebody will be murdered, and the audience members will be asked to solve the crime. Dinner and pre-show music begin at 7 p.m.; the melodrama begins at 8 p.m. Continuing 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, May 5 through May 20. Puffabelly’s Depot Restaurant, 100 Main Street, Old Town Spring. For information, call 713-364-9190 or visit oldwestmelodrama.com. $14 to $19. — Susie Tommaney

Most are familiar with the book, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, which was recovered by Anne's father and later sold to Dutch publishers. The Jewish teenager's tragic story was made into a play in 1955 by Albert Hackett and his wife, Frances Goodrich, earning the Hollywood writers a Pulitzer Prize for drama the following year. They went on to adapt their stage play for a movie version, netting three Academy awards. Now Queensbury Theatre is presenting a new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman; The Diary of Anne Frank is tailored for modern audiences and digs deeper into this horrifying story of claustrophobia, fear, laughter and grief. More than 30 actors tried out for the lead, making for a tough decision for director L. Robert Westeen, but the part eventually went to Artemis-Melania Postolos. 8 p.m. May 6. Also 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. May 14. May 5 through May 20. 12777 Queensbury Lane. For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit queensburytheatre.org. $23 to $28. — Susie Tommaney

We're convinced they're fueled by massive doses of caffeine and not much else. When the Tijeras, New Mexico-based artistic community Artrageous takes the stage, they hit the ground running, merging vocals, choreography, live music and comedy with Japanese bunraku puppet theater (half-sized dolls), black lights and live painting. Their show is fast-paced and high-energy, pays tribute to musical genres and American icons (Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Elvis Presley) and, before it's all over and done, results in a gallery full of finished paintings. Nobody's going to fall asleep with this one, as the stage artists interact with audience members, and it's coming to The Grand 1894 Opera House, supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Texas Commission on the Arts and is sponsored in part by Galveston Restaurant Group. 8 p.m. May 6. 2020 Postoffice Street, Galveston. For information, call 800-821-1894 or visit thegrand.com. $22 to $79. — Susie Tommaney

Sunday, May 7

Sister Act fans, eat your heart out. The Bayou City Women’s Chorus is exploring the Seven Deadly Sins with Horns and Halos. The ladies will take us from heaven to hell and back, and they’ll provide the best soundtrack for the ride. “There’s definitely a lot of fun songs, choreography, solos, story lines. It’s gonna be a crowd-pleaser,” says Tyler Ruberg, director of the chorus. Judging from the song list, it’ll be one holy roller of a show. “The Sound of Music” kicks it off, followed by “Oliver” (for gluttony), “Glitter and Be Gay” (for pride), “Stepsisters’ Lament” (for envy) and other tunes designed to pave the path through this deliciously sinful journey. Spiritual healers, stay calm. Even though the ladies take a tumultuous turn toward the dark side, they end up making their amends before the lights go up. 3 p.m. May 7. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-7464 or visit bcpahouston.org. $10 to $20. — Sam Byrd

It’s a familiar story. A once top-of-his-game novelist finds himself in has-been territory. He becomes a private investigator and rakes in a bunch of dough, but then the divorcé pisses away the money on gambling. He can’t pay child support. He can’t connect with his son. He feels like a total louse. Then there’s the turn of fate. What distinguishes After the Storm (Umi yori mo mada fukaku), a 2016 Japanese language film with English subtitles, from other redemption stories is Hirokazu Kore-eda’s directorial touches that led to an award from the Venice International Film Festival. Ryota, the center of the 117-minute movie, is an intimate character with surpluses of sorrow that viewers can connect with, thanks to Kore-eda’s talents. The movie screens as part of the New Releases series at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 5 p.m. May 7. Also 9:15 p.m. May 13. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $7 to $9. — Steve Jansen

Monday, May 8

Talk about clout. Technically, Colm Tóibín’s new book, House of Names, doesn’t release to the public until Tuesday. But as the Irish novelist and essayist was scheduled to appear at Monday’s Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, something had to give. “Brazos Bookstore has special dispensation before the official publish date; we’re the only place in America,” says Rich Levy, Inprint’s executive director. Tóibín’s latest is a retelling of classic Greek legend. Levy labels it a “wonderful, powerful story” about Clytemnestra being “pretty ticked” when Agamemnon sacrifices their daughter in exchange for good fortune in war. It’s written from the point of view of the revenge-driven woman, as well her children: the murderous Orestes and vengeful Electra. “It’s a good story of classic family dysfunction — a little bit of blood, some murder,” says Levy. Tickets are going fast for this one so if you can’t get in, be sure to watch the moderated interview with novelist and University of Houston faculty member (and Irishman) Robert Cremins on live stream or archived. 7:30 to 9 p.m. May 8. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit inprinthouston.org. $5. — Susie Tommaney

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