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Best Virtual Bets: ReelAbilities, Twilight, and An Atwood Opera [UPDATED]

Houston Grand Opera presents Songs for Murdered Sisters as part of the 2020-21 HGO Digital season.EXPAND
Houston Grand Opera presents Songs for Murdered Sisters as part of the 2020-21 HGO Digital season.
Photo by Dario Acosta
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If you happen to have all of your essential needs covered at the moment, well, good for you. Below you'll find a short list of the best virtual bets coming up to help you pass the time until we're all that lucky. And soon (hopefully) your fellow Houstonians will get a chance to enjoy them, too, as they'll surely be looking for ways to forget this freezing hell as soon as possible.

Last call: Main Street Theater’s production of Caridad Svich’s The Book of Magdalene will end its digital run on February 21, and it’s a can’t miss. The New York Times shouted out the show, a futuristic and “jazzy riff on Mary's sullied reputation and journey into repentance,” stating that director “Amelia Rico’s meticulous production triggers sense memories of watching fresh work up close in small spaces, where the ingenuity of unfamiliar artists can surprise you.” Tickets are pay-what-you-can for $20 to $54, with a regular price of $40. Each ticket gets you a 48-hour viewing window during the production’s run, which ends February 21.

It’s time for the 2021 ReelAbilities Houston Film & Arts Festival, a celebration of the lives and stories of people with disabilities, and for the first time in nine years, all the film, music and art events are free and virtual. Sixteen films are available now on the Eventive platform here (and two are available on Netflix) to be watched before their corresponding Q&A sessions. Notable events include the world premiere of One Step at a Time, a documentary about Houstonian Michael McCulloch’s climb to Machu Picchu on Saturday, February 20; opening night film Rising Phoenix, about athletes of the Paralympic Games on Sunday, February 21; and Movie Club Night on Monday, February 22, where you can choose one of six films and then join in a discussion about it. You can register and view the full schedule here. The festival runs through February 24.

On Friday, February 19, at 7 p.m. DACAMERA will bring pianist Sullivan Fortner into our homes when they present him in recital, recorded at the Steinway Piano Factory in New York City, as part of their virtual spring programming. Fortner will play both original works and standards, and it’s been said that he has “mastered the ability to shift musical shapes using myriad ideas to bring new life into classic jazz tunes.” After witnessing “his extraordinary technique and finger work,” and “dynamic control,” the Grammy winner will join the DACAMERA audience for a live discussion. As with all DACAMERA’s virtual concerts, this one is free but you have to register here.

Following the murder of his sister and two other women at the hands of her ex-partner, baritone Joshua Hopkins conceived of a song cycle, which drew the attention of composer Jake Heggie and author Margaret Atwood. The resulting work, co- commissioned by Houston Grand Opera and Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra, is Songs for Murdered Sisters, which will make its digital world premiere this Friday, February 19, at 7:30 p.m. ahead of the album release on March 5 (right before International Women's Day). James Niebuhr directs the film of the eight-song cycle. You can stream Songs for Murdered Sisters HGO Digital free for one month following its premiere. We interviewed Hopkins about his project.

Editor's note 02.19/21: The symphony had to cancel the performance because of the winter storm's power outages.

Mezzo-soprano (and two-time Grammy Award winner) Sasha Cooke will join the Houston Symphony this weekend to perform Gustav Mahler’s first song cycle, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) during the Symphony’s Classical Series program titled Schubert’s Death and the Maiden . Mahler’s work, a post-breakup written composition about “an unhappy man setting out to find himself in the aftermath of a shattered affair,” will join Jessie Montgomery’s “rhythmically infectious, ceaselessly inventiveStarburst and Mahler’s string orchestra arrangement of Schubert’s titular quartet, considered “one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire,” on the program. The concert will be livestreamed Saturday, February 20, at 8 p.m. Tickets are available here for $20.

On Monday, February 22, at 7 p.m. you can enter the Inprint “virtual studio” to hear from authors Lily King and Chang-rae Lee as part of the 40th anniversary 2020/2021 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Maggie Galehouse, a former Houston Chronicle book editor, will lead both writers in conversation, and both will give readings from their latest books. King will read from Writers & Lovers, a “wonderful, witty, heartfelt novel” about “a distressed young woman finding her way in late 20th century New England.” Lee will read from My Year Abroad, “a travelogue and a coming-of-age tale — and a mafia thriller that also skewers global capitalism.” You can purchase a ticket here for $5, and support your local bookstore by picking up one or both of the books at a discount from Brazos Bookstore.

If you’re looking for a second chance, look no further than Wednesday, February 24, when Dirt Dogs Theatre Co. opens an encore digital run of Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Directed by Malinda L. Beckham and featuring 33 local actors, the work of documentary theater delves into the riots that followed the acquittal of four police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King. Of its 2020 run, the Houston Press said, “Twilight mashes theater and film mediums to deliver a show that’s as satisfying to watch onscreen as it would have been seeing it live in the theater.” Tickets are pay-what-you can with a starting price of $5 and a suggested price of $25. You can purchase a ticket here, and note that this short run will end on February 28.

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