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Best Virtual Bets: Bruce Lee, Cave People, and Lions in Tel Aviv

Shawn Hamilton in the Alley Theatre's virtual production of Don X. Nguyen's short play Man. Kind. EXPAND
Shawn Hamilton in the Alley Theatre's virtual production of Don X. Nguyen's short play Man. Kind.
Photo by Victoria Beauray Sagady
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If you looking for the best Houston arts organizations have to offer this week you’ve come to the right place. As cautious and responsible optimism grows, below you’ll find not only virtual options to keep you entertained, but a few more in-person, socially distanced events too.

You can join Mercury Chamber Orchestra as they celebrate their platinum anniversary this Thursday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. when they stream their latest digital concert titled Music Among Friends. Mercury’s co-founders, bassist Antoine Plante (who also serves as the ensemble’s artistic director) and violinist Jonathan Godfrey, will be joined by cellist Courtenay Vandiver Pereira for a program comprised of some of their favorite works from composers such as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington. Tickets to celebrate the now 20-year-old ensemble can be purchased for $20 here for the Thursday premiere, which will remain available to stream through April 18.

If you caught the reading of Don X. Nguyen’s The Supreme Leader at the Alley All New Festival back in 2019, you’ll be among the happiest to see Nguyen’s work return to the Alley Theatre – though this time to their virtual stage. Nguyen’s Man. Kind. opens online on Friday, April 9, starring Alley company members Shawn Hamilton and Melissa Pritchett, and directed by Brandon Weinbrenner, who also directed the reading of The Supreme Leader in 2019. The short play, commissioned in 2015 and written in response to the prompt “To Serve and Protect,” features cave people, and if you want to know how those two things might connect, you’ll just have to check out the show. The play is free to view through May 9 with registration here.

Soprano Nicole Heaston accompanied by HGO Director of Artistic Operations and Chorus Master Richard Bado on the piano.
Soprano Nicole Heaston accompanied by HGO Director of Artistic Operations and Chorus Master Richard Bado on the piano.
Photo by Bend Production, Courtesy of Houston Grand Opera.

If you live in Houston, you’ve probably had the chance to hear Nicole Heaston’s “soaring” soprano. Maybe you heard her “controlled passion and composure” in The Magic Flute, or saw her radiate with perfect intonation and quintessential bel canto style in Donizetti’s Elixir in Love. This Friday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. Heaston will take the Houston Grand Opera virtual stage during her own installment of Live From the Cullen with Nicole Heaston and Richard Bado. Since she’s already contending with a digital barrier, Heaston told the Houston Press that she specifically chose a program of works in English, featuring composers such as Aaron Copland and George and Ira Gershwin, so viewers “can just sit back and not have to put on that extra working hard of what are they saying.” You can view the recital, which will be available through May 9, here for free.

This weekend Moores Opera Center over at the University of Houston will open not one, but two operas online and in person (masked and socially distanced, of course). Up first is La finta semplice, the first comical Italian opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart written when he was just 12 years old. But as NPR notes, “the opera is more than a simple curiosity,” calling it “an uncannily adept examination of the intrigues and machinations of adult love.” Next is Benjamin Britten’s “comic gemAlbert Herring, of which The Guardian once asked, “How many operas feature a man who is crowned May Queen because no one can vouch for the virginity of the village girls?

Performances of La finta semplice are scheduled for Friday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m. while Albert Herring will be performed on Saturday, April 10, and Monday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. Free tickets to the virtual livestream of La finta semplice can be reserved here and to Albert Herring here. Or if you want out of the house and you’re happy to follow COVID precautions, you can purchase in-person tickets, ranging from $10 to $20, to La finta semplice here and in-person tickets to Albert Herring here.

Front Lawn Film Nights over at Asia Society Texas Center continue this Friday, April 9, at 8 p.m. with the Bruce Lee, kung fu classic Enter the Dragon. Enjoy the film from the socially distanced safety of your own pod, an eight-foot circle with room for four people. You can bring your own blankets or lawn chairs, and you can even bring your own snacks, but you might want to purchase up a Popcorn and Candy Package with your ticket instead. Each pod is $30 for Asia Society members, $40 for nonmembers, and the Popcorn and Candy Package (for two) is $10. You can purchase tickets here, and note that screenings will continue through June with films like Searching, To Be Takei, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

On Friday, April 9, at 8 p.m. you can view Paisan, one of two films (along with Open City) that made Roberto Rossellini an international name, for free on the front lawn of The Menil Collection. Co-presented by The Menil Collection and Rice Cinema, Paisan is an exemplar of the Italian neorealist movement, a film that shows the liberation of Italy from Nazi forces in World War II in six episodes, and one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films. Scorsese said Rossellini’s approach to the material “seems invisible,” but “somehow this absence of technique amounts to one of the greatest uses of technique of style” that he’s ever seen. Seating is available first-come, first served. Be sure to bring your blanket or lawn chair, and be ready to following safety protocols like socially distancing and masking. You can find more information here.

The next day, Saturday, April 10, at 7 p.m. Rice Cinema will screen rare archival footage of Roberto Rossellini speaking at Rice Media Center back in 1970 when John and Dominique de Menil invited Rossellini to help develop Rice’s film program. RSVPS are required for this in-person screening, and you can register here (limited space available).

The 40th anniversary 2020/2021 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series continues on Monday, April 12, at 7 p.m. when Viet Thanh Nguyen joins Houston author (and Inprint Advisory Board member) Sarah Choi in the Inprint “virtual studio” for a live conversation and reading from his new book The Committed. The novel is a sequel to Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut The Sympathizer. The Guardian says, “ The Committed is a rich and valuable read, but together with The Sympathizer … These two novels constitute a powerful challenge to an enduring narrative of colonialism and neo-colonialism.” You can pick up a general admission ticket to the livestream for $5 here.

Houston Jewish Film Festival: The Sequel continues on Wednesday, April 14, with There Are No Lions in Tel Aviv. The documentary highlights “Mordechai Shorenstein, a Danish rabbi who immigrated to Tel Aviv in 1935 with two full birdcages” and eventually established the Tel Aviv Zoo, which became a “beloved city attraction for 42 years.” Artist Zeev Engelmayer, who brought the man called “Rabbi Doolittle” to the attention of director Duki Dror, calls the story “a wonderful, sad one, of someone who had an obsession and a crazy vision, and managed to make it a reality.” You can register to view the film, which will be available online through April 16, for free here.

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