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21 Best Things to Do in Houston this Week: Live Television, Snow Magic and Festivus

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Tuesday, December 20

Honeys, hold onto your husbands during this holiday performance, because these ladies come with a little extra stuffing in their stockings. RuPaul’s Drag Race’s most notable characters are making a cross-country tour de drag, and the girls have planned a special stop in Houston for Murray and Peter’s A Drag Queen Christmas. Showing off their talents are Season Eight winner Bob the Drag Queen, runners-up Kim Chi and Naomi Smalls, and sixth-place finisher Thorgy Thor, plus runway divas Milk, Trixie Mattel, Pearl and Roxxxy Andrews. The queens are serving fierce makeup, severe comedy, over-the-top choreography, elegant costumes, legendary lip-syncing and audience participation — with just a dash of shade. As always, dress for the occasion. Before you sashay away from the house, make sure to listen to the words of the perennial favorite, “Deck the Halls,” and don your gay apparel. 8 p.m. December 20. Houston of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, call 888-402-5837 or visit houseofblues.com/houston. $20 to $150. — Sam Byrd

With the holiday concert Love Divine, Cantare Houston continues a decade-long annual tradition and partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “The combination of art and music is so intertwined, it elevates the music we sing,” says Amy Solberg, artistic director for the choral group. The program incorporates contemporary and classic Christmas fare, but the main event is Eric Whitacre’s “Five Hebrew Love Songs.” Only during December can music organizations present Stanford motets and “I Wander as I Wander” alongside Hebrew poems. ’Tis the season. “We relate so much of the feeling of Christmas or the feeling of the holidays with the words we hear and, even if we aren’t raised in the church, we recognize the carols that are sung on the radio, whether they’re sacred or secular,” says Solberg. “There’s something about those familiar tunes and the storytelling.” 7:30 p.m. December 20. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-724-9648 or visit cantarehouston.org. $10 to $40. — Katricia Lang

Attending one of BooTown’s Grown-Up Storytime nights is sort of like hanging out with friends and hearing about bowel movements, bad hook-ups and really embarrassing moments. Held once a month, the formula stays the same – half a dozen or so original stories read aloud – but the readers, writers and emcee always change. At GUST 96, we heard Cub Justice, Beers and Tears and Monstronaut. We’re not sure what stories will be told at GUST 97, but it’s sure to be current, a bit off-color, and almost always includes something written by John Wayne Communale. While there’s an occasional goose egg, those tend to happen early on; the writing gets better as the night progresses, with the seasoned writers stacked to close the show. It’s funny to watch when the personality of the reader doesn’t exactly line up with the voice of the writer, and the talent pool is sometimes a bit uneven, but it’s always entertaining. When it’s firing on all cylinders, however, with brilliant writing, a gifted reader and an audience half-drunk, it’s awesome stuff. 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. December 20. Rudyard’s Pub, 2010 Waugh. For information call 832-541-2861 or visit bootown.org. $5. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, December 21

What do an ampersand, a curious cat and a woman sawing some guy’s legs off all have in common? Each was the subject of a short film made entirely on a mobile device for Rec Room’s first cell phone film festival. The seasonal fest returns for the Winter le Film Festival de Mobile Phone, because Rec Room co-founder Stephanie Wittels Wachs says the venue “wanted to create something everyone could do, even if you don’t define yourself as a filmmaker or an artist.” She says everyone has a cell phone and, between Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, everybody is “like a little filmmaker now.” Films vie for best short, best feature length (more than three minutes) and fan favorite honors. She describes the fall fest’s winning film, Dawn, as a fascinating ten-minute exploration of the moment before two people say something to each other. Everyone — winners, losers and guests — can walk the red carpet here. 8 to 9 p.m. December 21. 100 Jackson. For information, call 713-344-1291 or visit recroomhtx.com. $5. — Natalie de la Garza

Since moving to Los Angeles at the age of 21, Houston native Steven “Guero” Charles has performed with plenty of luminaries: Beyoncé, Demi Lovato and Justin Bieber. This weekend, the now 25-year-old professional dancer returns to his hometown to present an innovative dance project titled Awaken. He has envisioned this night for more than a year, with hopes that it will heal and re-energize the dancers and audience members alike. “Some people are losing their fire that they once had to dance and perform,” he says of those he grew up with, “and nobody’s doing anything about it.” Deciding to step in, Charles gathered a cast of 34 dancers from Houston and Los Angeles to create a collaborative experience of learning and inspiration. He says it “lifts you up” to see somebody committing his entire self to something he loves. 8:30 p.m. December 21 and 22. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit matchouston.org. $20 to $25. — Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Thursday, December 22

Straight out of Houston, it’s Lawndale Live. Already known for its eclectic array of homegrown entertainments including last month’s Zine Fest Houston and an anything goes comedy club, Lawndale Art Center has been trying something new this fall, positioning an hour-long show – with band, studio audience and cameras – into the crowded world of talk shows. Featuring the unique perspective of actor, reality TV contestant and failed congressional candidate Maurice Duhon, Jr. (music insiders know him as the rapper Cornbreadd), Thursday's season finale features music by Fat Tony (also a rapper and not the Simpsons character), plus special guest appearances. Expect some sort of collaboration between host Duhon and the series’ band leader, Jawwaad, the locally famous hip-hop trumpeter known for his work with The Young Mothers, Shape of Broad Minds and Black Fetish. 7 to 7:45 p.m. December 22. 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit lawndaleartcenter.org. Free. — Vic Shuttee

Everybody can be an artist at the All Access Art Show Winter Edition, a quarterly event that's bringing back the Traveling Live Art Canvas, which curator Tajay Byrd says was a big hit during the fall show. “Come and paint on the huge collage; we'll make a video,” says Byrd. “We have a bar, food, music, entertainment, our emcee, giveaways, raffles, all kinds of stuff. In the middle, we'll put a Christmas tree.” The first 100 guests who bring an unwrapped toy will receive a drink ticket, and entertainment includes an interactive media room and jams by the Houston Motion Band. Byrd says that more than 600 people viewed work by 30 vendors and artists at the last show. The Winter Edition is co-presented by Byrd, Malik McGhie and HighHopes Clothing. 7 p.m. to midnight December 22. HESS Club, 5430 Westheimer. For information, call 281-736-7706 or 832-593-1710 or visit allaccessartshow/eventbrite.com. $10 to $15. — Susie Tommaney

When the Eritrea-born, Italy-raised filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi dropped into Lampedusa, he expected to grab enough footage for a quick-and-dirty short that would confirm to him (and many others) that, yes, the Mediterranean Sea island is nothing but a mixture of migrant shipwrecks, states of emergencies and populist uprisings. But then Rosi fell ill and went to the only doctor on the island, who, as it turns out, had been at every landing of rescued migrants from Africa over the past 30 years. The two got to talking and Rosi spent a year in Lampedusa. The result is Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare), a 108-minute, commentary-free documentary (in Italian with English subtitles) — and an award winner at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival. The documentary captures two worlds (inhabitants and migrants) who are very much separated from one another, despite the tight island quarters. 7 p.m. December 22. Continuing 7 p.m. January 13 and 5 p.m. January 15. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $7 to $9. — Steve Jansen

Station Theater loves improv, and has recently developed a new way to play with one of long-form’s most popular formats: the La Ronde. In SpaceCat Labs presentation of LaRonde & Aronde, Station coach Angela Mayans Lee thinks it's time to resurrect the genius of 19th century playwright Arthur Schnitzler. “In a typical La Ronde, the first set of two person scenes, they set up the world,” she says. “And in the second act, we see all the characters interact with one another in different combinations, and that’s how we further the narrative. [Here], we simply repeat the first act over and over again, and we get to see how the characters affect each other without meeting.” Working with a set team of Houston's funniest including Chuck Stanfield, Jesse Garson and Lisa Beckman, this Thursday's show opens with laughs from Ophelia's Rope (Autumn Clack and Ruth S McCleskey) and Austin-based improv troupe, Babysitter. 8:30 to 10 p.m. December 22. Station Theater, 1230 Houston. For information, call 832-786-0413 or visit stationtheater.com. $6 to $8. — Vic Shuttee

Holiday shopping is for the birds, but birds make the perfect gift for hard-to-please loved ones. We're in the final days of "Contemporary Texas Regionalism: A Holiday Show" over at William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art, and Texas art just might be the one-stop answer to completing that holiday shopping list. There's Lee Jamison's Don't Dawdle with ducklings in tow for new parents, Fidencio Duran's nostalgic Al Norte about country life with yard chickens for Grandpa, Keith Davis's rugged wood relief Owl and Roadrunner for Uncle Bob, Debbie Stevens's kissing birds for newlyweds and Margie Crisp's saturated watercolors of birds for Auntie. Even the prankster in the family will smile with William Young's playful Like Singing Backwards, where tweeting birds join howling dogs in an optical illusion universe. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. December 22-23. 2143 Westheimer. For information, call 713-521-7500 or visit reavesart.com. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Friday, December 23

How much is that doggy in the window? We finally have a response to that age-old children’s song: less than $200. Continuing a 28-year tradition, the Houston SPCA teams up with Neiman Marcus for Holiday Windows of Life, a showcase of cats and small dogs of all ages in the storefront window. Since the event’s launch in November, the remaining pups and kitties have watched most of their friends get adopted, but they haven’t given up hope to find their forever home too. There are still a few days left to make their Christmas miracle come true. Houston SPCA director of communications Kerry McKeel says, “It’s a fun, unique holiday event and a great opportunity to help animals find a home.” The adoption fee includes a health evaluation, age-appropriate tests and vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery and deworming, plus other perks. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. December 20-23. Neiman Marcus, The Galleria, 2600 Post Oak Boulevard. For information, call 713-869-7722 or visit houstonspca.org. $65 to $195. — Sam Byrd

Strap on the helmet and grease the gears — it’s time to saddle up on the old two-wheeler. EastEndBikeRide is organizing another Pedal For Pizza and Pints — a 15- to 20-mile cycling stretch that involves two stops along the way for some delicious Italian pies. Riders gather at D&W Lounge, one of our picks last year for best dive bar. From there, cyclists will roll out at a casual pace throughout the city’s historic East End. Group co-founder Judith Cruz Villarreal tells us this is an event for all ages and skill levels. “Come out and bring the family. People will be riding bikes of all types. Single speed to mountain bike to BMX riders turn out,” she says. Pro tip: Bring cash for food, a spare tire tube and bicycle lights. 7 to 11 p.m. December 23. 911 Milby. For information, visit facebook.com/events/296036087463829. Free. — Sam Byrd

Yes, it's a three hour tour, but there isn't any danger of setting ground on the shore of an uncharted desert isle for this one. Safer than the S.S. Minnow (and way more fun), the Southern Empress has been spruced up for the new year and is taking passengers along Lake Conroe for a Holiday Lights Cruise. Park the little ones on the first floor, where they can stay busy with Christmas music, cookies and games, then head up to the second floor for 21 and up dancing with a DJ and cash bar. “On the third floor is an open deck with captain's quarters. Seating is available and you can enjoy the Christmas lights and the quietness,” says Courtney Russell, online representative for the replica 1860-style paddle-wheeler, though she does warn us to bring a jacket. The 131-foot Southern Empress was built in Mississippi in 1983, but she came to Texas as fast as she could. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. December 23. Southern Empress Cruises, 7037 Kingston Cove Lane, Willis. For information, call 936-588-3000 or visit southernempress.com. $29.95. — Susie Tommaney

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra decks the halls with rock, not holly, in its 61-city North American tour The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. But in some ways, the tour is just as traditional as Christmas ivy. For one, after performing The Ghosts of Christmas Eve’s titular rock opera, the band plays a best-of set featuring old favorites like the instrumental medley “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.” And while the progressive rock band’s ’70s sound isn’t as old as yuletide, its holiday tale remains timeless, says Al Pitrelli, the orchestra’s music director, lead guitarist, lyricist and composer. “Everyone around the holidays is missing someone,” says Pitrelli, who includes himself in that group, as he’ll be shredding at the Toyota Center instead of being home with the family. This is why the song “This Christmas Day,” wherein a runaway teen reunites with her father, consistently affects concertgoers, posits Pitrelli. 3:30 and 8 p.m. December 23. 1510 Polk. For information, call 866-446-8849 or visit houstontoyotacenter.com. $47.50 to $76.50. — Katricia Lang

Saint Arnold Brewing Company and Santa Claus have been celebrating Christmas Week at Saint Arnold since Monday, but come Friday it's time for a change. Celebrate Festivus with the rest of us with root beer and Fat Cat Creamery ice cream floats for the kiddos, the non-root kind of beer for grown-ups, and an appearance by a shirtless, muscle-bound "Naughty Santa." Bring your chairs and sit back for a 6 p.m. free screening of Die Hard in the parking lot, courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow, and spring for some hot-off-the-grill burgers and dogs during the flick. Yippee-ki-yay. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. December 23. 2000 Lyons. For information, call 713-686-9494 or visit saintarnold.com. — Susie Tommaney

Saturday, December 24

We think the venue staff panicked just a bit when they saw the tech rider for Robby Bennett’s next show; it calls for snow and fog machines, confetti and a hazer. The illusionist, magician and sleight-of-hand artist is both headliner and producer of Winter Wonders: The Magic of Robby Bennett and — without giving too much away — we know the spectacle involves snow, specialty lighting and a pair of guest acts. “We have three capuchin monkeys [Sasha, Cody and Darwin, and wrangler Robert] and an aerial artist,” says Bennett. “Her name is Emma D’Lemma and we’re very lucky that she was even in town; she’s one of the top aerial artists on the planet.” He assures us that D’Lemma makes full use of the 18-foot ceilings, and that his own act includes some back-and-forth with the audience members and family-friendly improv. 7 and 9:30 p.m. December 23, 1 and 3:30 p.m. December 24. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit matchouston.org/events/winter-wonders. $20. — Susie Tommaney

FrenetiCore has caught the uncatchable catch: a multicolored unicorn. The company’s newest show, the Rainbow Unicorn Cabaret, celebrates love, life and community through LGBT-based performance art, culminating in a midnight dance after-party on the main stage. “Houston has drag shows, burlesque shows and film festivals, but we don’t have an all-in-one queer-specific variety show, and that’s what we’re going for,” says curator and performer Koomah. The list of special performers is eclectic: Prepare yourself for special out-of-town talent including Utah's LadyPrince, New Orleans import Dream Meli and Indian hijra dancing by Rimi. No Christmas Eve would be complete without the inappropriate drag king Trigger Warning and the irreverent story, "Lurlene Explains Hanukkah," by Sondee Weiss. Doors open at 10:30 p.m. and Koomah says that, "of course, there will be cake smashing!" 11 p.m. December 24. The Pilot on Navigation, 5102 Navigation. For information, visit freneticore.net. $10. — Sam Byrd

Granny’s burnt apple pie. That annoying cousin. Forced smiles with distant relatives you don’t know. Don’t you want to escape the doldrums of the stale family gathering and let loose on Christmas Eve? South Beach has just the plan. Join the crowds for a dance party with a cameo appearance by RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Mimi Imfurst. She is planning a show-stopping performance for Christmas Eve, followed by an encore after midnight. Live singing, lip syncing, comedy and audience interaction are all on the agenda. Imfurst says, “The performance will have the traditional songs everyone knows, but I’ll mess with them significantly. It’ll be politically incorrect and humorous. I’ll do traditional Christmas stuff, but I’ll turn it on its head.” Looking to save a little holiday moola? Text SOBE to 46786 for perks like free entry before 10 p.m. and updates on future events. 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. December 24. 810 Pacific. For information, call 713-529-7623 or visit southbeachnightclub.com. Free to $15. — Sam Byrd

Sunday, December 25

Stop saying you want to give back for the holidays and go on and do it. For real this time. If you’ve done it before, do it again. On Christmas Day, Food Not Bombs Houston is helping to feed the homeless during its Christmas 2016 Food Sharing, scheduled to take place in the courtyard of the downtown Houston Public Library. Are you a rotten cook? That doesn’t matter, just as long as your dish of beans, rice, bread, casserole, stew, pasta or anything else edible is vegan. Dairy or eggs are okay in a pinch, but organizers have put the kibosh on any meat. It’s not just that it’s hard to keep at a safe temperature; it’s more a statement about the exploitation of livestock animals. 7 p.m. December 25. 500 McKinney. For information, visit facebook.com/houstonfoodnotbombs or houstonfoodnotbombs.org. Free. — Steve Jansen

Let’s face it: For many of us, Christmas is a bummer once we reach adulthood; having to face certain relatives in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election could make this year even more of a debacle than usual. Fortunately, veteran Houston punk band 30FootFALL will be playing their 22nd Annual Christmas Party at Fitzgerald’s — if you’ve never been, you really owe it to yourself to add this show to your bucket list as a good time is always had by all, even those who actually like Christmas. 30FootFALL puts on a fantastic live show and the mosh pit will be spirited; it’s really cool to go out and see live music on Christmas night after hanging around the house — or a relative’s house — all day and it’s a great way to rid yourself of cabin fever and any angst you might be feeling, or just to continue your day of celebration. Not to get too corny, but if the real spirit of the holiday is all about sharing some good times with family, friends and loved ones, 30FootFALL’s annual show truly is Houston’s authentic Punk Rock Christmas event. 7:30 p.m. to midnight December 25. 2706 White Oak. For information, call 713-862-3838 or visit fitzlive.com. $15. — David Rozycki

Monday, December 26

Enjoy a spot of British culture and history when Paloma Trails celebrates British Boxing Day with a fox hunt. No worries about the harming of small animals, though, because the foxes are made of cardboard and some of the hunters are pint-size (as young as 18 months old), which is perfect because so are the horses. We’re talking miniatures, mini minis, big miniatures and ponies. Bring donations of new underwear or lightly used clothing to partake in the fox hunt, then pony up $5 for pony rides or $12 for trail rides. “We’ve got scones and cream, because Boxing Day is a British holiday,” says Amanda Dixon, the only Brit on staff and assistant to owner Paige Clough. Enjoy carriage driving and obstacle course demonstrations at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., plus story time with books written by Clough and based on real horses at the ranch: Jumping Orie and Nosey Rosey. 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. December 26. 35056 Wilson, Brookshire. For information, call 713-715-9363 or visit palomatrails.com. Free. — Susie Tommaney

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