21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week (Scary and Wonderful)

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Tuesday, October 18

Get “scared to death” at the National Museum of Funeral History. The largest museum of its type is celebrating Halloween with its 5th Annual Haunted House — a PG-13 collection of spooky and macabre vignettes that incite goose bumps in every trick-or-treater. Genevieve Keeney, president of the museum, tells us that despite its spooky feel, the maze is really quite family-friendly. “It’s whimsical and has an element of fear, but it’s also geared for kids,” she says. For a special treat, haunted house tickets are half price when purchased with regular museum admission, making this the perfect outing for the whole family. Permanent exhibits worth the undertaking include the celebrity-inspired “Thanks for the Memories” and the mummified “History of Embalming.” 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through November 2. National Museum of Funeral History, 415 Barren Springs. For information, call 281-876-3063 or visit nmfh.org. $3 to $10. —Sam Byrd

Toxocariasis, leishmaniasis and Chagas are three of the most important diseases you’ve never heard of, says Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., dean of Baylor’s National School of Tropical Medicine and author of Blue Marble Health: An Innovative Plan to Fight Diseases of the Poor Amid Wealth. Hotez shows in his book that those living in poverty in wealthy G20 countries actually suffer more from these “neglected tropical diseases” than residents of impoverished Third World countries. “Everyone’s so focused on catastrophic threats, the high killers, Ebolas or avian flus,” says Hotez, who was galvanized by a move to the Gulf Coast, known as “the epicenter” of tropical infections. “In my frustration, I sometimes say what gets attention are the imaginary illnesses that scare white people.” At his book reading and signing at Brazos Bookstore, he’ll discuss policy changes that could reduce or eliminate some of the worst of these poverty-related illnesses. 7 p.m. Tuesday. 2421 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-523-0701 or visit brazosbookstore.com. Free. —Natalie de la Garza

Wednesday, October 19

Better than a gladiator's match, come watch the third and final presidential debate as The Donald and Hillary duke it out for POTUS points while Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace tries to enforce Robert's Rules of Order. Appropriately nicknamed “Fight Night,” they'll be broadcasting live from Las Vegas, but we can view the fireworks on the big screen courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It's free at both the Mason Park and Vintage Park locations, but advance purchase of a $5 food and beverage voucher guarantees your seat. See all the facial contortions, hurled insults and political drama magnified on the grandest scale. It will be huuuuge. 8 p.m. Wednesday. 531 South Mason Road and 114 Vintage Park Boulevard. For information, call 281-492-6900 or 713-715-4707 or visit drafthouse.com/houston/show/2016-presidential-debate. Free to $5. —Susie Tommaney

Thursday, October 20

When dance-maker Karen Stokes eliminated a section on the Houston Ship Channel from a 2003 program, she had no idea if she’d ever return to the subject. Not only did she revisit it, she turned it into a three-year initiative that culminates with DEEP: Seaspace. The two-parter, choreographed and directed by Stokes, celebrates human exploration and innovation through two of the city’s defining institutions, moving from the industrialism and man-made ingenuity of the Houston Ship Channel in Sea, to NASA and “the sense of awe and wonder that you can have when you look up at the stars and think about the universe” in Space. 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit karenstokesdance.org. $15 to $38.50. —Natalie de la Garza

Mx. Justin Vivian Bond (she uses the gender-neutral alternative to Ms. or Mrs.) brings her Love is Crazy show complete with band from Joe’s Pub Series to Houston, courtesy of Lott Entertainment Presents. Previously known for her long-running Broadway show Kiki and Herb, in which she played a character significantly older than herself, the Tony Award-nominated trans-genre performer decided to switch things up. “It was just a very successful act that took so much commitment and time that really kind of stifled me creatively in a bizarre sense. People just expect you to keep doing the same thing. You can honor the crowds or honor the muse. Fortunately, I made the choice to honor the muse, and the crowds have come along.” Expect folk, jazz and contemporary music, plus a little eye candy. “I’m going to look as pretty as I can. And I only hire attractive people, so there will be nice things to look at.” Lott moved its productions to the Alley Theatre this season so be sure you’re headed in the right direction when you go out to see the show. 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org or lottentertainmentpresents.com. $37 to $47. —Margaret Downing

Friday, October 21

Dimitri Pittas plays Nemorino, the lovestruck lowly worker in Houston Grand Opera’s season opener, The Elixir of Love. And although his character is often played as a country bumpkin in his attempts to secure the love of Adina, the local beauty and hotel owner, Pittas says that’s not how he sees him in the bel canto comic opera. “He’s a very levelheaded guy who’s honestly in love with this woman,” the tenor says. “In this production he works for her.” And then tries to secure a magic potion that will win her over. Set in the 1950s on the Amalfi coast, the opera also stars Nicole Heaston as Adina, Patrick Carfizzi as Dr. Dulcamara (a man of questionable ethics) and Jane Glover as the conductor. Pittas says Donizetti’s music is perfect. “It’s bel canto of the highest level.” Sung in Italian with English projections. 7 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. October 26, October 29 and November 4. Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15 to $290. —Margaret Downing

Ruby Rae Spiegel’s play is about an abortion, but don’t call Dry Land an abortion play, warns Julia Traber, who is directing the regional premiere for Mildred’s Umbrella. “I read this script, and it was an instant yes,” she says of the play that put Spiegel on the short list for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2014. “It’s an interesting script because I think, on the surface, you might worry this is just an after school special. [The abortion] is the primary crisis, of course, but what’s so good about the writing is the show is very character driven.” Traber says the playwright shows the complexities of the characters without delving into stereotypes. “It’s a coming of age story, really. The way she’s written the dialogue, she still relates with these girls, and it really resonates [into] believable, life-like characters.” 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, October 20 through November 5, 3 p.m. October 30, 8 p.m. October 31 (pay what you can). Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. $15 to $25. —Vic Shuttee

Comedy’s favorite smart-ass is back on the road with three shows at the Houston Improv, and David Spade says he’s been doing a few sets in L.A. to practice. “I haven’t done a long set in a while, so it’s like homework to make sure I give a good show.” Between this year’s releases (The Do-Over and The Ridiculous 6, both with buddy Adam Sandler) and an upcoming series, why still work the road? “Because it’s still hard, and it wakes you up. You want to see if you can keep up with these guys, no matter what age,” he says. “It’s the one thing you have control over.” Though the comic blushes at his nearly three decades in the field (He gives a good-humored heel turn at the number’s mere mention, quipping, “Easy, buddy, there might be girls reading this.”), the sarcastic slam king still has plenty of gas in the tank. Buh-bye! 8 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday. 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $45 to $50. —Vic Shuttee

Saturday, October 22

Thomas Cromwell rose from nothing to become a very powerful court minister during King Henry VIII’s reign. As the play Wolf Hall makes clear, one of the essential ingredients in his accomplishing this was keeping up with the latest gossip — and if you think it was all about fashion, you don’t understand the times. Taken from Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the two-part play — having its regional premiere at Main Street Theater — “is a wonderful study of how your soul can get subverted even with the best of intentions,” says Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden. There’s also humor as the king tries to rid himself of Catherine of Aragon so that he can move on to Anne Boleyn and then Jane Seymour and everyone else tries not to get hit by any shrapnel. “[Cromwell] takes care of people, but he’s also a scorekeeper and a vengeful man and as the play goes on, the requirements of staying on top in the back and forth of the politics of the court begin to corrupt him pretty thoroughly.” Part I begins Saturday and Part II begins October 29; the parts alternate by week and then daily during the run. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through December 18. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $10 to $45. —Margaret Downing

Hari Kondabolu has a unique perspective to share. After having spent the past year and a half developing his new album, Mainstream American Comic, and reflecting on his first album, the former Totally Biased writer admits conflicted feelings. “I recorded that in Oakland after the Trayvon [Martin] verdict came out, and they were still suffering from Oscar Grant’s murder. There’s a lot of that energy in the air; those people were protesting the day before. It sounds like a rally, almost.” While Kondabolu’s act is certainly politically active, he dismisses the idea that he’s doing activist comedy. “I would never call it that, because for me, it’s more observational. I don’t write stuff with the intent of educating people. I write with the intent of speaking my truth.” The writer postulates that the social awareness in his act stems from a cultural shift. “How many South Asian American voices that talk about political things were there before me? I don’t think there were any. It’s a sad kind of pioneering, [but] I haven’t existed before.” 9 p.m. Saturday. The Secret Group, 2101 Polk. For information, call 832-898-4688 or visit thesecretgrouphtx.com. $20 to $24. —Vic Shuttee

While San Antonio and Austin have been busy with their silly little taco wars, we here in Houston have been diligently planning taco peace and bliss. The second annual Houston Press Tacolandia presented by TABASCO® Sauce is an outdoor ode to everything that rules about tacos. Some of Houston’s most notable tastemakers are posting up at the outdoor taco-sampling shebang. Beer and cocktails are available for cash purchase at the rain-or-shine, 21-and-over event that also features live bands and awards for best tacos in a variety of yummy categories. 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The Water Works at Buffalo Bayou Park, 105 Sabine Street. For information, call 877-987-6487 or visit microapp.houstonpress.com/tacolandia/2016. $30 to $80. —Steve Jansen

TSA prohibits aerosols, so we're guessing the shelves of every hardware and art supply store have been cleared of Krylon right about now. Street artists from as far away as Iran, Spain, Brazil and Australia have been tricking out H-Town with 20,000 square feet of colorful, original murals over the past week. It took about 190 hours, with assistance from about 100 volunteers and local artists, to pull off the second iteration of the Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival. What's even better is that almost 90 percent of the murals painted last year are remaining, so we're looking pretty good for Super Bowl LI come February. There are a lot of moving parts and locations with this year's HUE Mural Festival, plus parties, happy hours and a festival, and it's all wrapping up this Saturday night with a celebration and VIP after party. Bring it. The HUE mural completion celebration is 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at 1503 Chartres. The VIP after party is 10 to 11:30 p.m. at 2219 Canal (badge required). For more information, visit huemuralfestival.com. Free to $80. —Susie Tommaney

Major kudos to the folks at The Printing Museum. Pulling off the Houston Rare and Antiquarian Book Fair is never a small or insignificant feat. Now consider this year’s edition: The museum has had to deal with the aftermath of a May fire that damaged a decent chunk of the building (but not too much of the collection, thank God). “It has been crazy juggling repair work with when we’re going to be open,” says Keelin Burrows, the museum’s curator. The good news for bookworms is that they’ve carried forward and will present the 14th annual festival that showcases more than 20 dealers offering fringe, collectible and aged books for purchase. Additionally, book appraiser Kurt Zimmerman is on site with a free preservation lab (limit two items per person, pretty please), and J.P. Bryan, founder of The Bryan Museum in Galveston, dishes about his personal collection of maps and other printed goodies. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. 1324 West Clay. For information, call 713-522-4652 or visit printingmuseum.org. $8. —Steve Jansen

Put the pedal to the proverbial metal at BikeHouston’s 44th annual Moonlight Ramble. Kick off the evening with more than 1,500 biking enthusiasts for fun, frothy beverages and food trucks. Jazz up your bike with lights and don your best costume for the contest portion of the evening. Then, take a midnight ride around Houston. Cyclists of all skill levels can participate in a few different ways: Novices will appreciate the ten-mile path, while veteran riders can challenge themselves with the 20-mile course. True to its cause, the cycling event benefits the Bayou City. “The fund-raising helps us to make Houston more bike-friendly. We want to cover 600 miles of bike lanes for Houston for the future,” says Doug Waldrep, development manager for BikeHouston. And remember, safety comes first: Requirements include bike lights, helmets and obeying all traffic laws. There’s a pre-party at 10 p.m. Saturday, with biking starting at 11:59 p.m. Saint Arnold Brewing Company, 2000 Lyons. For information, call 832-819-2453 or visit bikehouston.org. $35 to $50. —Sam Byrd

As the Metropolitan Opera celebrates its 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center, and on the heels of its season opener (Wagner's Tristan und Isolde), view Mozart's masterpiece Don Giovanni live on the big screen, courtesy of the award-winning MET: Live in HD series. Simon Keenlyside makes his MET debut as the fictional seducer, Don Juan, in this melodramatic comedy with just the right touch of supernatural. As a special Fathom bonus, view behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew during intermission. The running time for the two-act opera (ranked in the top ten of most-performed operas worldwide) is three hours, 45 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. 11:55 a.m. Saturday. Edwards Houston Marq*E Stadium 23 & IMAX, 7600 Katy Freeway. Price varies by location; visit fathomevents.com for participating venues. $28.15. —Susie Tommaney

Sunday, October 23

The Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow is back with more high-flying action and death-defying stunts. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels headline the show, and rumor has it that this is the last chance to see Fat Albert, the C-130 Hercules, before it gets sidelined for the year. Also on deck is Tora! Tora! Tora!’s thrilling re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor, plus famed aerobatic stunt pilot Sean Tucker. Precision and velocity are all part of the package for the sky-high show, with flying performances scheduled between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. On the ground, crowds can visit restored military vehicles circa 1942, cargo planes and flight simulators. A touching memory, the show coincides with the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and highly decorated war veterans will be signing autographs and taking photos. Don Johnson, chairman of the air show’s board of directors, says, “It’s one of the most interesting community events. The pilots put on a great show. There is a lot of pyro and flames, and it highlights the principles on which our country is founded.” 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (gates close at 3 p.m.). Ellington Airport, 510 Ellington Field. For information, call 713-266-4492 or visit wingsoverhouston.com. Free to $150. —Sam Byrd

There was no shortage of material for this year’s Halloween Magic extravaganza, the world-premiering RandPaul’s Drag Race: Destination 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It imagines the 2016 United States presidential election as a beauty contest between, among others, “Donatella Trump” and “Bernadette Sanders.” When terrorists plot to incite mayhem at the pageant site, Charlie’s Angels Bill Clinton, Melania Trump and Sarah Palin swoop in to try to save the day. “Halloween Magic likes to take things and twist them. This year, we didn’t have to because things are already twisted,” says Dennis Draper, director of operations and events for the Alley Theatre, who’s directing the annual fund-raiser benefiting Houston-area HIV/AIDS service organizations. Because of the never-ending nonsense between the real-life presidential candidates, they’ve had to rewrite the script several times for this 25th-anniversary edition. 4 p.m. Sunday. Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church Gymnasium, 2025 West 11th. For information, call 713-526-3880 or visit halloweenmagic.org. $50. —Steve Jansen

Uncle Philip’s Coat just might have you rethinking family gatherings. Emmy Award-winning composer and playwright Matty Selman is bringing his family’s story to the stage in an award-winning show that he labels “a biographical piece.” The New Yorker goes on to add, “The stories that are depicted are from my life, and the life of my family.” Inspired by his uncle, Selman’s one-man show has traveled the country and makes its Houston debut at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston. “Uncle Philip was a very iconic figure in my life,” the actor says. “He [had] this amazing old coat with pockets full of charms and candy and little penlights, things he would give to me. Through a child’s eyes, this man was just a king, the most magical person I ever saw.” Yet, as Selman grew, he saw his uncle in a truer light. “He was almost a homeless person. He just barely got by as boardwalk peddler, selling Waterman fountain pens and women’s bras.” Uncover the vagabond’s secrets with Selman, perhaps best known for his collaboration with Iris Burnett on The Gefilte Fish Chronicles (music and lyrics), as well as his original compositions for CBS’s Martha Stewart Living8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. 5601 South Braeswood. For information, call 713-729-3200 or visit erjcchouston.org. $16 to $30. —Vic Shuttee

Director King Hu went all in with A Touch of Zen (Xia nü), an epic action-adventure drama about a woman fleeing to escape corrupt officials after her family is murdered. Along the way she joins forces with a shy painter – who has been living in a haunted, abandoned fortress with his mother – as well as a gang of Buddhist monks who are remarkably proficient in the art of war. Expect plenty of strange characters in this tale of heroic chivalry, including a mysterious doctor and his assistant, a blind fortune-teller and a swordsman with an agenda. While there are touches of insight and philosophy, it's predominantly a martial arts film, and it's being presented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in its original, uncut version (three hours). In Mandarin with English subtitles. 5 p.m. Sunday. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $7 to $9. —Susie Tommaney

Monday, October 24

The trial scene in which John Proctor is finally accused along with so many others of consorting with Satan “is the most thrilling,” says Buck Ross, director of Moores Opera Center. Yet somehow it is the last act, in which the hero of the piece is in prison himself, “that tops it,” Ross says. University of Houston voice students are readying themselves for The Crucible, the Pulitzer prize-winning opera about the Salem witch trials based upon Arthur Miller’s famous play. “The parts of the play which tend to get talky and a little preachy, vanish,” says Ross. “We go right to the emotional heart of the piece.” The opera, with music by the late Robert Ward, features a large ensemble cast that is perfect for university productions but a little more daunting for professional companies, who would have to pay their cast. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Monday; 2 p.m. Sunday. University of Houston, 120 School of Music Building. For information, call 713-743-3313 or visit uh.edu/cota/music/opera. $12 to $20. —Margaret Downing

Donald Trump talking about Second Amendment rights? Not sexy. But what is hot is the new exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science that springboards the musty old pages of the Bill of Rights into something pretty awesome. Step inside the photo booth and make your own campaign poster, or count the number of ways television scriptwriters have butchered the Miranda warning. “Amending America: The Bill of Rights” also has fun with smear campaigns, laying out some pithy gossip and asking, “Would you vote for him?” Nicole Temple, vice president of youth education, says that “President Harrison allowed the White House to be wired for electricity, but he would not use it; he was afraid of the light switches.” And Thomas Jefferson was fascinated with mastodons; “mastodon fever swept colonial America.” There’s one sobering exhibit that illustrates how the right to vote hasn’t always been guaranteed, especially for those who weren’t white, male, moneyed landowners of a certain age. Saturday afternoon reenactors will talk about quartering soldiers or the differences between the colonial militia and the British military. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Continuing 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $12 to $30. —Susie Tommaney

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