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Best Virtual Bets: Sundance Films, UFOS, and The Apollo

Stream the Brentano and Daedalus Quartets this week when they return to DACAMERA to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings.EXPAND
Stream the Brentano and Daedalus Quartets this week when they return to DACAMERA to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings.
Photo by Ben Doyle
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This Friday just happens to be National Fun at Work Day. If you’re lucky enough to be working from home this pandemic, we’re about to provide you a whole list of best bets to enjoy “at work” this week. If not, you can still certainly enjoy them from the comforts of your couch (and in one case, the comfort of your car).

Look toward a new chapter in the history of Freedmen’s Town on Thursday, January 28, at 6:30 p.m. when Zion Escobar, the executive director of the Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy, joins Hesse McGraw, executive director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, to discuss their new creative partnership during “Telling the Story of Freedom” in Freedmen’s Town with Powerful Art and Civic Activation. Dubbed the “Harlem of the South” through the 1930s, Freedmen’s Town and Houston’s Fourth Ward once boasted 95 percent of the city’s Black-owned businesses and a third of the Black population. You can get a peek at what’s to come for the historic area during the free livestream, which you can watch on the CAMH YouTube page.

Experience the Sundance Film Festival in your own backyard – or, more specifically, in your own backseat – when Houston Cinema Arts Society partners with Sundance to bring six official selection films to town. Sundance Film Festival: Houston kicks off Thursday, January 28, and though not a virtual event, the socially distanced drive-in viewings meet the criteria for a COVID-safe entertainment experience. The lineup of official selections includes I Was a Simple Man, about an elderly man in Hawaii facing his death and his past; Passing, based on Nella Larsen’s classic novel of the same name; and Judas and The Black Messiah, about a criminal turned informant dispatched by the FBI to infiltrate the Black Panthers. The festival runs through February 2, and the full lineup, locations and prices can be viewed here.

Last chance to let Tamarie Cooper transport you to the land of the sweets – no wait, it’s the land of unwanted holiday candy. It may be a holiday show, but it’s still Catastrophic Theatre. Yes, the run of Tamarie Cooper’s Holiday Super Show comes to an end this Sunday, January 31, but you’ve still got a couple of days to catch Cooper and Patrick Reynolds’ hour-long show, which is guaranteed to be the only place you can see Cooper’s show-stealing father and someone turn a hose on Santa (in the name of safety, of course). You can pick up a pay-what-you-can ticket here (suggested price $35) and you can join the virtual cast party on Friday, January 29, at 8 p.m.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will turn their Virtual Cinema spotlight toward Mexican cinema this Friday, January 29, when they present the internationally acclaimed Identifying Features (see the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, 2021 Gotham Awards and many other international film festivals from Mexico to Switzerland). Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero’s “unshakable drama tinged with thriller elements” follows a mother on a desperate search to find her missing son, who left home to find work across the border in the U.S. The film “wrestles with the very real atrocities from the sorrowful perspective of a middle-aged woman on a quest to find her missing son, dead or alive.” You can purchase a five-day pass for $12 here.

Both the Brentano and Daedalus Quartets return to DACAMERA this Friday, January 29, at 7 p.m. for their spring stream kick off, Mendelssohn Portrait. The Brentano Quartet will open the stream with two Felix Mendelssohn pieces, newly commissioned performances, before they join forces for Mendelssohn’s “alternately symphonic and intimate” Octet for Strings. The “composer-prodigy” wrote the piece, which he described as his favorite of all his compositions, just shy of his 17th birthday for friend and violin teacher Eduard Rietz. Following the free stream, Mark Steinberg of the Brentano Quartet will join DACAMERA Artistic Director Sarah Rothenberg in conversation. You can register here.

Recall the Lubbock Lights incident of 1951? If not, it refers to an unexplained formation of bright lights that crossed the Lubbock sky back in the day. It became one of the most famous events in UFO history, in part because the 1956 findings of an Air Force lieutenant – who essentially said he knew what it was, and it was completely natural and normal, but then refused to explain it – left a little to be desired. Jaston Williams, the playwright/performer behind the Greater Tuna plays, brings his style of humor to the Lubbock Lights in his new one-man show, I Saw The Lights. Society for the Performing Arts will present the show as part of their SPA Digital programming this Friday, January 29, at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here for $25 (or you can pick up a $35 VIP ticket with extra bonus content here).

This Saturday, January 30, at 6 p.m. the Houston Museum of African American Culture will host a free virtual screening of The Apollo, an Emmy Award-winning documentary about the legendary New York City venue. Director Roger Ross Williams journeys through the Apollo’s 85-year history, from its birth in 1914 as a burlesque house through to its transformation into “a mecca for African-American performers and a beacon of pride for its community.” The film features of trove of clips from its storied history, from Billie Holiday taking the stage to perform “Strange Fruit” to former President Barack Obama briefly but memorably busting out a little Al Green back in 2012. You can join the free virtual screening of The Apollo here.

If it's Beethoven’s favorite it must be good, but you can judge Beethoven’s personal favorite piece yourself on Saturday, January 30, at 8 p.m. when the Houston Symphony tackles his Symphony No. 8 during Beethoven 8 + Haydn. Conductor Paolo Bortolameolli will open the program with El Color del Tiempo by composer Miguel Farias, which will be followed by Principal Cello Brinton Averil Smith featuring during a performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major. Finally, the Symphony will turn to Symphony No. 8 which, though “short, spirited, and in a major key … is one of Beethoven’s most mature and inspired masterpieces.” You can pick up a ticket to the livestream here for $20.

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