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21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Avant-garde Art and Naughty Reindeer

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Tuesday, December 13

Nobody puts Lynn Lane in a corner. The multi-talented New York import has taken Houston by storm since moving here in 2010. You've seen his photographer's credit on images for the Alley Theatre and Houston Grand Opera, and the Houston Press keeps thinking up new ways to say bravo: Best Photographer in 2015's Best Of Houston®, 100 Creatives and our 2014 list of Houston's Top 10 Photographers. He is showing his sound and multimedia artistic side this week, under the moniker of The Transitory Sound and Movement Collective, rounding up a few musicians and dancers for the premiere of a new collaborative work, Take the J Train. Mix in a little spoken word, some soundscape and field recordings, and a film by Ron Kiley, and you've got all the ingredients for an immersive and experimental avant-garde experience. 7:30 p.m. December 13. Rec Room, 100 Jackson. For information, call 713-344-1291 or visit recroomhtx.com. $10. — Susie Tommaney

It seems that every year the holiday decorations get bigger and better, and it’s that “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that makes this time of year so great. Hop on The Wave’s 7th Annual Holiday Lights Tour for a rolling spectacle tour of the best and brightest. “We go to City Hall. Market Square also has great lights. We go to Discovery Green, and then we stake out lights in River Oaks beforehand, so we’re not driving around aimlessly. We vote on favorites, [go to] Woodland Heights, do the same thing,” says Lauren M. Barrash, founder and president. She says the buses are decorated for the holidays and, unless it’s really cold, they make stops for photo ops. Come early and get your grub on; several businesses at Market Square Park are giving food or drink discounts beforehand. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. December 13-15 and 20-22. Historic Market Square Park, 301 Milam. For information, visit thehoustonwave.com/events. $35. — Susie Tommaney

There is life after Star Trek, and the former Mr. Sulu proved the point when he took a run at Broadway to star in the musical Allegiance, inspired by true events after Pearl Harbor. During World War II, fear and suspicion were rampant, and an estimated 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced to leave their homes and reside in internment camps. Almost two-thirds of those internees were United State citizens and, as a child, Takei was among those incarcerated. Takei developed the musical which premiered in 2012 and Fathom filmed the production during its Broadway run. Now Allegiance: The Broadway Musical on the Big Screen is streaming to movie theaters for one night only. Fathom extras include behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and creators. 7:30 p.m. December 13. Edwards Houston Marq*E Stadium 23 & IMAX, 7600 Katy Freeway. Price varies by location; visit fathomevents.com for participating venues. $19.49. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, December 14

What's next for Bat Boy? We were both horrified yet fascinated when Colton Berry embodied the half feral/half human Edgar during this summer's musical romp. Berry has popped up again, this time in A New Brain, the debut production for EaDo Playhouse. Everything's new here: a new theater space, a kinda-sorta new play (more on that later) and a new incarnation for Berry. His unfulfilled character (Gordon Schwinn) writes music for a children's television show starring a giant frog named Mr. Bungee, but he's not happy about it. Diagnosed with a serious brain disease, Schwinn invites the audience into his brain in an emotional and comical journey. After falling into a coma, he begins to hallucinate scenes involving people in his life (including the talking frog) in what turns out to be a musical within a musical. The play (music and lyrics by William Finn, arrangements by Jason Robert Brown and book by Finn and James Lapine), has been updated by EaDo for this limited run engagement. 7:30 p.m. December 14. Continuing 7:30 p.m. December 15 and 18, 8 p.m. December 16, 2:30 and 8 p.m. December 17. 2619 McKinney. For information, call 832-210-5200 or visit EaDoPlayhouse.com. $25. — Susie Tommaney

Conspiracy theorists should enjoy the latest from New York Times bestselling author James Rollins. President-elect Donald J. Trump is certainly trending now, and the author has found a way to weave in his uncle, John G. Trump, a professor of engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who once led the National Defense Research Committee.The story goes that the committee was tasked with reviewing research by the late visionary genius, Nikola Tesla, and that a key notebook with evidence of a world-changing, never-before-seen energy source was not returned to Tesla's family. In The Seventh Plague, Rollins follows that thread, adding in a deadly organism that attacks male children and asking the question, could the biblical plagues of Egypt return on a global scale? Rollins will be reading from his book and signing copies at Murder By The Book. 6:30 p.m. December 14. 2342 Bissonnet Street. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit murderbooks.com. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Rec Room likes things weird. Now it’s producing the Weird Sh*t New Works Play Festival, which delves into the wacky imaginations of local playwrights. Organizer Grace Cunyas says the festival aims to fill a void in the Houston dramatic landscape. “We wanted to do a new-works festival solely dedicated to producing plays that can’t really be produced because of their weirdness. But also plays that are just good, you know?” Each date is different: There’s a new play slam, a couple of nights of ten-minute plays, and a closing night that doubles as a celebration of the fact that the school semester has finally ended. 8 p.m. December 14-16; 9 p.m. December 17. 100 Jackson. For information, call 713-344-1291 or visit recroomhtx.com. $10. — Vic Shuttee

Thursday, December 15

A John Waters Christmas is quickly becoming an unlikely seasonal tradition in itself, one in which he rekindles the disappearing art of comic storytelling à la Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde, in order to wax acidic on the subject of holidays past and present, like a dapper Marley, except more prone to wit than whining. Waters’s polymath perversity looks its best when draped around archly traditional subjects. After all, he’s best known as the iconoclastic filmmaker who has basted genres in sleaze, like the trash Americana of Pink Flamingos; the mawkish rock and roll B-movie Hairspray; the venal, craven art world in Pecker; or the normative American nuclear family in Serial Mom, as well as for his own forays into art and literature as a primo collector and manufacturer of trash, kitsch and other tell-tale dross of the American dream. It’s one of those self-evident truths that every iconoclast needs icons to smash, so here comes Santa. In Mr. Waters’s words, and these must lie near the heart of Thursday’s show, Santa is the first lie that parents tell their children, the one that moves kids to completely mistrust authority and, later, to heroin and meth abuse. 8 p.m. December 15. The Heights Theater, 339 West 19th. For information, call 713-861-6070 or visit theheightstheater.com. $40 to $45. — Tex Kerschen

Before the holiday rush gets (more and more and) more chaotic, Aurora Picture Show is hosting its annual Holiday Party + Raffle and Art Auction, “a warm and fun holiday gathering of the Houston arts community in Aurora’s multi-use space on Bartlett,” says Peter Lucas of the nonprofit media arts center. A silent auction includes original works by Houston artists such as Jason Dibley, Daniel Heimbinder, Gabriel Martinez, Emily Peacock, Kelly Quarles, Patrick Renner, Krista Steinke, Lillian Warren and Pablo Gimenez Zapiola, while a raffle gives folks an opportunity to score gift certificates from local museums, arts organizations, indie businesses and one-off events such as a kids cooking class and a cocktail/animation party. The event’s backdrop features the screening of classic Christmas television clips; some spinning of soul-, jazz- and blues-tinged holiday tunes; and Double Trouble Caffeine and Cocktails and Phoenicia serving cocktails and snacks. 6 to 9 p.m. December 15. 2442 Bartlett Street. For more information, call 713-868-2101 or visit aurorapictureshow.org. Free. — Steve Jansen

We’re not sure what to expect when Lawndale Art Center turns itself into a comedy club, and that’s a good thing. Houston comedian Nick Meriwether and local filmmaker Emily Peacock are hosting a one-night stand-up showcase titled Lawndale Comedy Club, lining up both amateur and professional comics, as well as artists from other mediums trying their hand at the mike. “It’s an hour-and-a-half mixed bag,” says Peacock, who claims to be a total hobbyist when it comes to comedy. “But we’ve got Daniel Webb out of Austin, who is hilarious. In fact, this past summer Daniel got to fist-bump Obama [at his day job].” Talk about a presidential seal of approval. Filmmaker Stephanie Saint Sanchez is on deck, along with photography guru Vinod Hopson and artist Tony Sonnenberg, who will wear just about anything for art (and laughs). Expect a few other surprises before the curtain closes on this one. 8:30 p.m. December 15. 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit lawndaleartcenter.org. $5. — Vic Shuttee

Chris D’Elia considers himself a stand-up first and an actor second. The comic turned TV star is known for headlining a string of short-lived comedies with talented fellow comics, including TBS’s Glory Daze (opposite Tim Meadows), NBC’s Whitney (co-created by Whitney Cummins) and, most recently, the critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged live sitcom Undateable, which was inspired by the book Undateable: 311 Things Guys Do that Guarantee They Won’t Be Dating or Having Sex. With TV on hold for the moment, D’Elia will be showing Houston a good time with six shows at the Houston Improv. The Jersey-born comic has been telling jokes since he was 25, and is known for incorporating sarcasm and observational comedy into an appealing conversational style. 8 p.m. December 15, 8 and 10:30 p.m. December 16, 7 and 9:30 p.m. December 17, 7:30 p.m. December 18. 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $30 to 50. — Vic Shuttee

Friday, December 16

This Christmas, Revels Houston is keeping up with the Joneses — Tom Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones and other Welsh luminaries — in its presentation of A Welsh Celebration of the Winter Solstice. During its 45-year history, the group has staged English celebrations (Medieval, Medieval-Renaissance, Elizabethan and Victorian) in its annual Christmas Revels production, but this is the first time the group has devoted the program exclusively to Welsh traditions. Set in 1950s Wales, the theatrical event draws inspiration from A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a memoir by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and “Deck the Halls,” which is actually nicked from a Welsh New Year’s Eve carol, “Nos Galan.” Bob Stevenson, who has been a cast member in every Christmas Revels show since the performing arts organization’s inception, boasts, “You haven’t heard singing until you’ve gone to a Welsh rugby game,” where crowds sing the 19th-century Welsh hymn “Calon Lân.” Stevenson adds, “Thirty thousand people stand up and sing this gorgeous song in four-part harmony.” 7:30 p.m. December 16, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. December 17, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. December 18, 7:30 p.m. December 19. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-668-3303 or visit revelshouston.org. $14 to $38. — Katricia Lang

When things were down for George Frideric Handel — in debt, out of favor and damaged by a stroke — the resilient composer was able to bounce back. After a stint at a German spa, he returned to London, setting to work on new choral works depicting biblical subjects. His three-part Messiah was the toast of the town, telling the story of Jesus’s birth, his sufferings and all the drama of Judgment Day and resurrection, when the sound of the trumpet signals the opening of graves. The Houston Symphony presents these emotional, dramatic works in Handel’s Messiah with guest soloists Teresa Wakim, Jakub Józef Orlinski, Thomas Cooley and Kevin Deas. “They look yummy on paper because they have active careers as early music singers,” says Dr. Betsy Weber Cook, who directs the chorus. “Stylistically, I’m looking forward to brilliant performers.” The oratorios, with familiar compositions like “Ev’ry Valley” and the “Hallelujah” chorus, have become a seasonal mainstay. (Yes, expect to stand during this part.) 8 p.m. December 16 and 17, 2:30 p.m. December 18. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $29 to $130. — Sam Byrd

Expect bad puns, cat towers and a festive holiday atmosphere when the cat cafe without a home — El Gato Coffee House — throws its Holiday Cat Cafe Paw-ty for homeless cats from the Houston Humane Society. Sure, hanging out with 17 other humans and petting cats for an hour helps to socialize these animals and perhaps find them a new home, but there’s another benefit too. “I call it cat therapy,” owner Renee Reed says of the calming experience. “There have been proven benefits that petting cats lowers blood pressure and levels of anxiety. For myself, I test the theory all the time.” Don’t delay; reservations for the 7 and 8 p.m. slots are already full. “I hate to see people upset on Facebook, sad little icon faces, when we do get sold out.” It’s all gearing up for the big opening when El Gato moves to its permanent home next year. 9 to 10 p.m. December 16. In the circa-1930 residence behind Nia Moves, 508 Pecore. For information, visit elgatocoffeehouse.com. $20. — Susie Tommaney

If this gift-giving season seems a little too materialistic this year, then channel your inner Charlie Brown and check out Queensbury Theatre's Christmas Celebration featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas. The classic animated television special comes to life on the big stage with Lucy thinking up big ideas and Linus coming to the rescue when everything falls apart. Now that Downton Abbey has been put to rest, local television and radio personality St. John Flynn is available to host this immersive experience that weaves together a children's chorus, adult actors, dance performances and familiar holiday songs. To keep the spirit of the season in play, holiday-themed drinks and snacks are available before, during and after the show. Snap photos with Santa one hour prior to curtain call at 8 p.m. on December 17 and 2 p.m. December 18. If you've been jonesing for those childhood memories, note that this is the last weekend for your Peanuts fix. 8 p.m. December 16. Continuing 2 and 8 p.m. December 17, 2 p.m. December 18. 12777 Queensbury Lane. For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit queensburytheatre.org. $25 to $40. — Susie Tommaney

Saturday, December 17

KiKi Maroon’s Burly Q Lounge is hot, hot, hot, and the burlesque beauties are theming up this month's show for the holidays. Rumor has it that Roxxy Reckless will be performing her stripping Krampus act during HO HO HOliday VarieTEASE. On the nice side, they've arranged for pictures with Santa, but it's the naughty side that keeps things spicy. Look for cheeky Christmas carols (wink, wink), naughty reindeer showgirls, comedy by Owen Dunn and amazing body painting courtesy of the very talented artists at RCC Creations. Imaginary friend and clown Rex T. Impossible does a hilarious, silent movie stand-up act, and Maroon is both host and emcee for the evening, which includes racy tunes by "Luxurious Songstress and Fascinatrix" Bianca Karina Montalvo and the smokin' hot Remy Martini. Shows often sell out, and they're no longer selling standing room only tickets, so get your sizzle on. 8 p.m. December 17. Warehouse Live, 813 Saint Emanuel. For information, call 713-225-5483 or visit kikimaroon.com. $25. — Susie Tommaney

Dreaming of a sandy Christmas? Moody Gardens has you covered with Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner and Show, an entertainment extravaganza specially designed for the Galveston attraction. Start with a holiday buffet dinner with a chocolate fountain finish. Then, be astounded by a bevy of balancing artists, including Christian Stonier from America’s Got Talent fame, quick-change artists, jugglers, a twirling hula hoop girl, and host and musician Michael Hix. Fanny Kerwich, an eighth-generation circus performer and creative director for presenter Lone Star Circus, produced the event. “We created the most fantastic atmosphere to provide the best evening possible. It’s going to be a great adventure and treat for everyone,” says Kerwich. After the show, the tickets do double duty as admission to Moody Gardens’ Festival of Lights. 6:30 p.m. daily, December 16 through December 25. 7 Hope Boulevard, Galveston. For information, call 409-683-4186 or visit moodychristmasshow.com. $15 to $95. — Sam Byrd

Day for Night Festival knocked us out with its 2015 debut, and we have high hopes for its collision of light and sound this year. Björk Digital, an immersive virtual-reality experience of Björk films and concerts, promises to be an exciting distillation of music and high-tech visual art. The arrival of Aphex Twin, the experimental electronic solo act who hasn't played stateside for the better part of a decade, has fans buzzing. There's so much more to see beyond the festival's top billing: the experimental R&B of Blood Orange, the influential jazz of Kamasi Washington or the hometown favorites Welcome to Houston. But perhaps the most important reason to attend Day for Night is what it means for festivals in general. Day for Night is a flash of colorful light in an otherwise monochromatic festival landscape. Its ambition and scope are an inspiration that other music festivals should envy and emulate. Don't miss it, especially when it's in our own backyard. 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. December 17 and 18. Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin. For information, visit dayfornight.io. $100 to $700. — Katie Sullivan

Sunday, December 18

In preparing for holiday festivities, there is no reason to stress about finding the perfect wine. Simply take a trip to Bryan for Messina Hof’s Christmas Cellar Tour, which offers an opportunity to taste four varieties of wine straight from the tanks and barrels. Although the family-owned business hosts a cellar tour most Saturdays, this particular event features a favorite holiday classic — mulled wine. “The tradition behind mulled wine actually dates back to the Roman Empire,” said Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo, chief executive officer and son of winery founders Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo. “You warm up the wine. You add a little bit of brown sugar. You put in the spice bag, and you let it steep.” Messina Hof spice bags, he adds, are available for purchase. Your holiday shopping is complete. 6:30 p.m. December 17, 5 p.m. December 18. 4545 Old Reliance, Bryan. For information, call 1-800-736-9463 or 979-778-9463, extensions 234 or 223, or visit messinahof.com. $25. — Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Holiday cheer soars through town this weekend, quite literally. Aerialists and acrobats are performing daring tricks high above audiences in the family-friendly Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular. Produced by TCG Entertainment, the circus troupe is accompanied by local orchestras on its 28-city North American tour; during its stop at the new Smart Financial Centre, in Sugar Land, the troupe will be accompanied by the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, which will be playing favorite holiday songs. View Santas and elves, plus hijinks and splits, in this athletic daredevil production. This show also offers a sneak peek inside the new performance space, which officially opens in January. “This production gives us an opportunity to get our feet wet and open the doors to the public for a performance prior to our grand opening,” said Randy Bloom, general manager of the 6,400-seat facility, in his email to us. 6 p.m. December 18. 18111 Lexington Boulevard, Sugar Land. For information, call 281-207-6278 or visit smartfinancialcentre.net. $25 to $85. — Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Is there ever too much of The Nutcracker? We think not, and especially if it's courtesy of Moscow's famed Bolshoi Ballet. This live 2014 performance of the timeless holiday classic was filmed for the big screen and is presented by Fathom Events in association with BY Experience and Pathé Live. Relive the magical moments with all of your favorite characters: the Nutcracker Prince, Marie, Drosselmeyer and everybody's favorite villain, the Mouse King. Step back in time to this enchanting Christmas eve story performed by Bolshoi Principal dancers Denis Rodkin, Anna Nikulina, Andrei Merkuriev and Vitaly Biktimirov along with the Bolshoi Corps de Ballet. 12:55 p.m. December 18. Edwards Houston Marq*E Stadium 23 & IMAX, 7600 Katy Freeway. Price varies by location; visit fathomevents.com for participating venues. $16.24 to $19.49. — Susie Tommaney

Monday, December 19

Gussie Black, the devout granny at the center of Ted Shine’s Morning, Noon, and Night, has a strange, Arsenic and Old Lace way of keeping people from coming between her and her beloved grandson, says The Ensemble Theatre’s artistic director, Eileen J. Morris, but it’s one that’s rooted in family. The “sinister comedy,” which the Ensemble is staging as part of its Salute to Texas Playwrights staged reading series, centers on a woman trying to keep her family together, as dysfunctional as it may be, and “family is key, especially this time of year,” says Morris. The play, chosen by Dr. Shine himself for the series, is directed by Allie Woods, and “without the bells and whistles,” like lights, sets and costumes, the actors will create their characters with their voices, the inflection of words and Shine’s use of the language, which Morris calls “very natural.” 6 p.m. December 19. 3535 Main. For information, call 713-520-0055 or visit ensemblehouston.com. $5. — Natalie de la Garza

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