Things To Do

Best Bets: Indian Film, Third Ward, and Revolutionists

Christopher Scurlock in Stages' production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Christopher Scurlock in Stages' production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo by Melissa Taylor
World cinema, local history, and crowd-pleasing performances all make this week’s list of best bets. Some events are in-person, some are virtual, but we think all are worth a little bit of your time over the next few days. Keep reading for the full list of this week’s best bets.

If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing musical “with all the drama and quirkiness one can expect from a spelling competition,” check out Stages’ production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, open now. Meet “six young spellers have fantasies of grandeur as they compete for a chance to participate in the National Spelling Bee” in the musical, with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin, all conceived by Rebecca Feldman. Performances are scheduled for Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8.p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for in-person performances, which will run through November 14, are available here for $25 to $79. If you can’t make it out to The Gordy (and are patient), you can stream Spelling Bee online for $25 from November 15 to 21.
No one is going to argue the awesomeness of Bollywood, but Indian cinema has much more to offer. In fact, director Ananth Mahadevan, whose film Bittersweet will be screened at this weekend’s Indian Film Festival of Houston, recently said “the world is looking at Asian and Indian cinema with a lot more seriousness now and watching our films.” You can experience the cinematic voices of India and the diaspora when Asia Society Texas Center hosts the two-day festival, which will feature six films (feature length and short) about subjects such as the sugar industry of Maharashtra, rickshaw-pullers in Kolkata, and a woman who walked more than 2,000 miles over 240 days. You can purchase tickets to the festival, ranging in price from $15 per film to $50 for a full day pass plus reception, here.

Few arias are as famous as the “Habanera” from Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen (really, it’s even been Muppet-approved). This weekend, Houston Grand Opera will give us a chance to enjoy it anew – this time performed by former HGO studio artist Carolyn Sproule. Sproule told the Houston Pressit’s been a dream for several years” to sing the titular role, which she called “an iconic mezzo soprano role.” Particularly special about HGO’s production, Sproule said, is "a really unique concept telling the story also through dance,” which she added produces a Carmen unlike any she’s seen elsewhere. Carmen opens on Friday, October 22, at 7 p.m. with seven additional performances available through November 7 at the Wortham Center. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $210, can be purchased here.

Inspired by his 1829 visit to Scotland, Felix Mendelssohn penned a work which would “conjure up a spirit that would have been deemed folk-like by many of its contemporary listeners, saturated in a passion for Ossianic ballads and other pseudo-exoticisms that stirred Romantic souls.” It’s Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, and the Houston Symphony will spotlight the work this weekend alongside pieces from Otmar Nussio and Ethel Smyth, and one of Sergei Prokofiev's “best-loved works,” his Classical Symphony. Concerts are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday, October 22, and Saturday, October 23, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, October 24. Tickets to the in-hall performances can be purchased here for $26 to $104, or you can purchase a ticket to view a livestream of Saturday night’s concert here for $20.

The Revolutionists, by Lauren Gunderson, is “a play about a playwright writing a play,” one centered around the story of French playwright and feminist Olympe de Gouges – considered to be among the world’s first feminists – “who lost her life during the Reign of Terror in 1793.Dirt Dogs Theatre Co. will open the play, a piece of “meta-theater meets historical fiction” in which de Gouges attempts to “write a play about the French Revolution where the women are the heroes,” on Friday, October 22, at 8 p.m. Performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Monday, November 1; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays at The MATCH through November 6. General admission tickets can be purchased here for $25.
Explore one of Houston’s oldest communities, considered “the cradle of the city’s civil rights movement” and home to former residents as wide-ranging as John Biggers and Beyoncé, when the Catastrophic Theatre premieres the Historic Third Ward Virtual Tour on Saturday, October 16, at noon. The historical documentary, from Houston playwright ShaWanna Renee Rivon, makes different stops at notable Third Ward locations, like the Eldorado Ballroom and Project Row Houses, and includes interviews and storytelling features. The website will also include a map and a message board to share more about Third Ward, which “is best known as a predominantly African American community with a rich history and cultural legacy along with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment.” Viewing the documentary is free and the tour will be available 24 hours a day here through Tuesday, November 30.
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Dance of Asian America visits Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday.
Photo by Kevin Zhang
Dance of Asian America, an organization that “brings the beauty of Chinese culture to thousands each year through dozens of sensational city-wide performances,” will once again visit Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, October 23, at 7:30 p.m. for Dance of Asian America Presents: Asia to the World. Janie Yao, the founder of Dance of Asian America, has said their dance companies "sustain traditions, we educate our community through cross-cultural education, we also foster young generations of artists and we build cross-cultural ties." Register here for a free seated ticket, or grab a blanket or lawn chair and head for the ticketless seating on the Hill. You can also catch this one from home on the Miller Outdoor Theatre website, YouTube channel, or Facebook page.

Recently, The Atlantic described National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen as someone who "writes big books about small lives." His latest novel, Crossroads – nearly 600 pages long – is the first installment of “a trilogy rooted in generation portraiture.” And though the story begins in the 1970s, the “novel’s emotional dishevelments—and its aura of apprehensive urgency—feel viscerally contemporary.” On Monday, October 25, at 7 p.m. Franzen will join writer David Means in conversation, as well as read briefly from his new book, during the latest livestream entry in the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. General admission tickets to view the livestream can be purchased here for $30 and include a copy of Crossroads.
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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.