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Best Virtual Bets: Frankenstein, Mozart, and Missing Secretaries

Holland Vavra will be the first performer in the new Stages Studio Sessions.EXPAND
Holland Vavra will be the first performer in the new Stages Studio Sessions.
Photo by Priscilla Dickson
We're back this week with another list of ideas to keep you glued to the couch and safely indoors. From multiple options for theater lovers, classical music enthusiasts, and those desperate for another happy hour, we've got you covered.

Love the Bayou City Art Festival? Of course you do, and we do too. It’s taken the title of “Best Festival" or “Best Arts Festival” more than once in our annual Best of Houston® awards (and most recently was named Readers’ Choice just this year). This Thursday, August 20, at 6 p.m., the festival's producer, the Art Colony Association, Inc., will host their first virtual "Art Talk," a Virtual Happy Hour Series that is part of the festival's "Save Our Art" fundraising initiative. Each week for five weeks, they will welcome an artist to talk about their craft, their process, and their inspirations, along with some planned live demonstrations, auctions, prizes, and audience questions all broadcast on YouTube and Facebook. Graffiti and street artist Gonzo247 will be featured in the first hour-long installment this week, with guests Amanda Bennett, Jennifer Lashbrook, Tony Paraná, and DonkeeBoy to follow in the coming weeks. There is a suggested donation of $10 to the Bayou City Art Festival, which can be done online or by texting "SaveOurArt" to 243725.

If lockdown has somehow caused you to forget just what kind of talent Houston is home to, Stages is ready to remind you. Starting on Friday, August 21, Stages will highlight local performers each week in a new performance series called Stages Studio Sessions. The one-hour programs, which will premiere on YouTube each Friday at 7:30 p.m. and be available on demand for 48 hours, will give these local talents a chance to share a program they themselves create. Holland Vavra will lead off the series, with later installments featuring Outspoken Bean, Kelley Peters, Tamara Siler, Raven Justine Troup, LaBraska Washington, Jasminne and Lupe Mendez, and Mark Ivy. The series will run through October 11, and though it’s free, registration is required.

Speaking of Stages, don’t miss your chance to see their production of MJ Kaufman’s Sensitive Guys. The 90-minute-long, Zoom-captured performance will end its virtual run on August 23, so register today for the free streaming performance before it’s too late. And those who have already caught the performance are encouraged to join the cast and Stages Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin for an hour-long virtual talkback on Sunday, August 23, at 6:30 p.m. It’s free, but reserve your spot here.

Leap and the Net Will Appear will have a second run thanks to a partnership between Catastrophic Theatre and Houston Cinema Arts Society.EXPAND
Leap and the Net Will Appear will have a second run thanks to a partnership between Catastrophic Theatre and Houston Cinema Arts Society.
Photo by Anthony Rathbun

We are now two of three episodes into Tamarie Cooper's 2020: Quarantine Edition! This week is an off week, with the third and final episode going out next Friday, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get your ticket now to catch up before the grand finale. (Remember, one pay-what-you-can ticket gets you access to all three episodes.) But if you’d like even more Catastrophic Theatre in your life, they’ve partnered up with the Houston Cinema Arts Society to present Leap and the Net Will Appear by Chana Porter as the last release in their summer streaming series. The show, which received its 2018 world premiere both here in Houston and New York City, was a hit and earned a finalist nod for Best New Production and a win for Tamarie Cooper as Best Supporting Actress in our own Houston Theater Awards that season. The two-week run opens on Friday, August 19, and will be hosted through September 3 here, with supplemental events on Catastrophic’s YouTube page, including a conversation between Porter and the play’s director, Tara Ahmadinejad, on August 26 at 7 p.m., and composer Andrew Lynch, who contributed original music to the play, performing a live concert on September 2 at 7 p.m. (Both are free with more information to come soon.)

The escape room geniuses over at Strange Bird Immersive have set the standards high for immersive theater in Houston, and the move to virtual experiences hasn’t seemed to slow them down one bit. If you’re looking for proof, check out our recent review of their Zoom-based Tarot readings with Madame Daphne (which are still available, by the way). This Saturday, August 22, Strange Bird will open a new immersive mystery, The Strange Secret of Mr. Adrian Rook, a 90-minute cross between online multi-player “game” and the most sophisticated murder-mystery dinner theater piece you could imagine. In it, the titular Adrian Rook, the secretary to the Raven Queen, has turned up missing, and up to eight guests will get the chance to meet and talk to six different company actors before taking a stab at solving the puzzle at the end. Tickets can be purchased here for $30, and the experience is currently scheduled to run through September 12.

Despite only a nine-show run in Vienna due to sabotage attempts from rivals, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) was popular enough that the emperor still had to limit encores just so people could eventually go home. Luckily, the opera moved away from saboteurs and to an even more receptive audience in Prague, and he followed to not only conduct a performance (maybe more) himself, but to premiere his Symphony No. 38, known as “Prague.” It’s fitting that this Saturday, August 22, at 8 p.m. the Houston Symphony will pair the Suite for Winds from Le Nozze di Figaro and Symphony No. 38 together during Live From Jones Hall: Mozart & Mazzoli. Also on the program is the composer Time Out New York dubbed “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart,” Missy Mazzoli, and her double bass concerto, Dark with Excessive Bright, a title you may recognize from Milton's Paradise Lost. Tickets to the livestream are $10 and can be purchased here.

Manual Cinema's Frankenstein will stream this weekend in honor of the company's ten-year anniversary.EXPAND
Manual Cinema's Frankenstein will stream this weekend in honor of the company's ten-year anniversary.
Photo by Michael Brosilow

All hail second chances! If you missed Manual Cinema's stop in the Bayou City last fall, courtesy of Society for the Performing Arts, where they presented the unlike-anything-we’ve seen-before Frankenstein, we have good news for you. We're in the midst of the company’s 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular, and they have chosen to stream – for free – the live cinema experience, a work of creative ingenuity that marries puppetry, pantomime, stage acting, and live music. But hurry, it’s only streaming here through August 23. There’s also a scheduled talkback with the creators of Frankenstein on August 21 at 8 p.m. on Facebook Live, before the virtual birthday party comes to a close on August 22 with their Tele-FUN-draiser World Premiere Special. It will include special guests, special performances, and the world premiere of a new 15-minute short. And not for nothing, Manual Cinema’s work will be seen in the upcoming remake of Candyman, because yes, it is just that good.

This coming Monday, August 24, at 7 p.m. the Landing Theatre Company will present a reading of a new play set during the Agricultural Revolution, The Seed Becomes by Mik C. Moats, as part of Landing Local: New Works Initiatives. Bree Bridger will direct a cast that includes Rachel Cendrick, Amy Guerin, Golbanoo Setayesh, Herut Ashkenazi, Jordan Tannous, Guy Cohen, Hannah Fadal, and Mohammad Rashid. You can register here, and remember that this is a developmental reading series with the goal of giving playwrights feedback, so be sure to complete the audience feedback survey after the reading.

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