Things To Do

Best Bets: Playoff Fan Central, Swingin' Sinatra and Orlando

Tony DeSare will play Sinatra standards at the Houston Symphony.
Tony DeSare will play Sinatra standards at the Houston Symphony. Photo by Bill Westmoreland

It’s official 2024 and today is National CanDo Day. While we always encourage thinking big, you can also think a little smaller – such as thinking of the fun things you can definitely do this coming week. Keep reading for our picks for the best things to do, from gearing up for college football to revisiting a filmic epic.

Hopefully you’re not all college football-ed out following Bowl Mania 2023, because on Monday, January 8, Houston’s NRG Stadium will play host to the College Football Playoff National Championship, where two 14-0 teams, the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines and the No. 2 Washington Huskies, will face each other. In anticipation of the big game, you’ll want to make time to stop by Playoff Fan Central on Friday, January 5, from 12 to 6 p.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The interactive, family-friendly experience will feature games, pep rallies, band performances, autograph sessions, and exhibits dedicated to the history of college football. Playoff Fan Central will continue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, and Sunday, January 7. Entry to the experience is free all three days.

Simply put, Orlando, ma biographie politique (Orlando, My Political Biography) is “an essayistic documentary about transgender and nonbinary identity that draws inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography.” But the “expansive” film – written and directed by Paul B. Preciado – is also a “sharp, witty low-budget experimental work of great political and personal conviction, one that breathes life into Woolf’s novel about a 16-year-old boy in Elizabethan England who, after centuries of trippy adventures, enigmatically ends up as a 36-year-old woman in 1928, the year the novel was published.” You can catch the film at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 5, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The film will screen a second time on Sunday, January 7, at 5 p.m. Tickets to either screening can be purchased here for $7 to $9.

Houston Symphony and Conductor Steven Reineke will welcome vocalist and pianist Tony DeSare back to the Jones Hall stage on Friday, January 5, at 8 p.m. for Swingin’ Sinatra: A New Year’s Celebration. You can expect to hear the songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, who Associate Director of Artistic Planning Stephanie Alla called “one of the most iconic singers of all time” (as well as one of DeSare’s favorite), such as “Luck Be a Lady,” “My Way,” and “Come Fly with Me.” The concert will be performed again at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, January 7. In-hall tickets to any of the performances can be purchased here for $42 to $160. Saturday night’s concert will also be livestreamed and access can be purchased here for $20.

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The Fade To Black Reading Series returns for its seventh season.
Photo by Rudy Mui
Black playwrights take center stage as the Fade To Black Reading Series returns to The MATCH on Friday, January 5, at 8 p.m. for its seventh season. The series will feature eight ten-minute plays, and playwright S. Denise O’Neal, executive director of Shabach Enterprise (which presents both the Fade To Black Reading Series and their annual summer Fade To Black Play Festival), recently told the Houston Press that a short play is “like a commercial where you capture the audience and then you solve the problem in a very short period of time.” The program of short plays will be performed again at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 6 (with an artist Q&A immediately following), and 3 p.m. Sunday, January 7. Tickets can be purchased here for $30 to $40.

Okay, so the holiday season isn’t completely over. Ever heard of Three Kings Day? Día de Los Reyes? Epiphany? Twelfth day of Christmas? They all refer to the same holiday, one that celebrates the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. In Spanish-speaking countries, like Mexico, it’s celebrated on January 6. (Remember, the three wise men got there 12 days late.) On Saturday, January 6, you can celebrate Three Kings Day from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery. The family-friendly celebration includes free gifts, Mexican hot chocolate and Rosca de Reyes, a traditional sweet bread that is shaped in the form of a crown (traditionally with a surprise inside). Plan well, because Pancho Claus will also be stopping by at 1:30 p.m.

World War I veteran John Griffin is reluctantly recruited to find the missing daughter of a wealthy financier, a task that takes the former Marine back to Europe and toward unraveling a much bigger plot in Alexander C. Juden’s new novel Crossing Darkness. The book is “a fast-paced historical thriller that deftly incorporates post-WWI politics, European espionage, and complicated personal relationships” with “a cinematic flair that imbues its scenes with life” as well as “snappy dialogue that is reminiscent of a fast-paced action thriller.” On Saturday, January 6, at 3 p.m. Juden will visit Murder by the Book to sign copies of the book, so you can meet the Houston-residing, Rice University graduate with a background in law, history and political science for yourself.

Return to J.R.R. Tolkien’s ever-present, always pop culturally relevant Middle Earth on Saturday, January 6, at 3 p.m. when Alamo Drafthouse shows the extended edition of Peter Jackson’s 2001 film Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The film – the first in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy – is a “sword and sorcery epic,” and a “good-versus-evil battle fantasy,” about a hobbit starting a quest to keep a ring from the hand of a dark lord. Of course, along the way there are not only hobbits, but wizards, elves, trolls and more in a film that “embodies the kind of innocence that belongs to an earlier, gentler time.” The film will screen a second time on Sunday, January 7, at 1:45 p.m. Tickets to either screening can be purchased here for $11.

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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.