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Best Virtual Bets: Clue, Zarzuela, and Mysterious Seas

HGO Artistic Advisor and Grammy winner Ana María Martínez will Suite Española: Explorando Iberia, Houston Grand Opera’s latest digital program.EXPAND
HGO Artistic Advisor and Grammy winner Ana María Martínez will Suite Española: Explorando Iberia, Houston Grand Opera’s latest digital program.
Screen Shot Provided by Houston Grand Opera
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Optimism grows and, if we don’t screw things up in the meantime, there might be a lot more opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy in-person art experiences again in the nearer-than-far future. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This week, while you’re designing your own festivities for “Make Up Your Own Holiday” Day, check out the best virtual bets the arts community has to offer. On the schedule? Opera, dance, theater, and even a trip 20,000 leagues under the sea.

Currently on display over at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is an exhibition, “Wild Life: Elizabeth Murray & Jessi Reaves,” which brings together Murray’s paintings and drawings with Reaves’s sculptures. Within the walls of their exploration, which finds roots in the feminine, Donna Crump and Kayla Collymore will premiere a new work titled “Gend[H]er” today, Thursday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m. Crump says the performance, neatly set during Women’s History Month, “examines the reversal of gender roles and how they are portrayed through society’s stereotypes,” adding that “the piece really studies the Divine feminine energy.” You can watch the free performance here.

Whether you’re a traditionalist (“It was Miss Scarlet in the conservatory with the candlestick”), or a cult classicist (“Flames, flames, on the side of my face …”), Cone Man Running Productions is sure to satisfy with their virtual, livestreamed production of Clue by Sandy Rustin. This is the last weekend to enjoy the Christine Weems-directed whodunit, which draws from the 1985 film, itself inspired by the Hasbro board game. Three shows remain, one each on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. You can purchase a general admission ticket to the show, streamed from the Broadway on Demand platform, for $24 (plus a $3.95 service charge) here.

Stages Studio Sessions return this weekend with Muhammad F. Khaerisman.EXPAND
Stages Studio Sessions return this weekend with Muhammad F. Khaerisman.
Photo by Josh Morrison

On Friday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m., Stages will premiere this week’s installment of their Studio Sessions featuring Muhammad F. Khaerisman and Pajama Sam in a program called Alhamdulillah. Khaerisman and Pajama Sam will use movement and music to explore the meaning of home to a Muslim immigrant. You can register for the free show here or, if you want to get some air while you watch, you can reserve yourself a socially distanced pod to watch it from The Brown Foundation Lawn at The Gordy for $25 per person. Sessions continue through April 18 with John Ryan Del Bosque, Anna Maria Morris, and Carolyn Johnson.

If you love Broadway musicals, operetta or opera, but zarzuela is a new word to you, don’t worry – the popular Spanish-language musical theater will be a mix of pleasantly familiar and excitingly new. This Friday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. HGO Artistic Advisor and Grammy winner Ana María Martínez will lend her soprano voice to a celebration of Spanish music, including zarzuela, during the digital premiere of Suite Española: Explorando Iberia, which she also created. Joining Martínez for the program will be three musicians, two additional vocalists from the HGO Studio, and two flamenco dancers. You can learn more in our preview and stream the concert free on HGO Digital.

Esa-Pekka Salonen debuts with the Houston Symphony this weekend.
Esa-Pekka Salonen debuts with the Houston Symphony this weekend.
Photo by Andrew Eccles

Esa-Pekka Salonen, the recent recipient of an honorary knighthood courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, makes his Houston Symphony debut this weekend and you can watch from home on Saturday, March 27, at 8 p.m. During Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Bach, Beethoven & Salonen, the Finnish composer-conductor will lead the Symphony through Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, works from Bach as arranged by others like Anton Webern and Luciano Berio, as well as Bach’s “Preludio,” which will be joined by a piece Salonen composed for architect Frank O. Gehry. If you’re questioning the connection, Salonen and Gehry both worked on the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the first notes to sound through the space were from “Preludio.” You can purchase a ticket to the livestream for $20 here.

On Sunday, March 28, at 2:15 p.m. Opera in the Heights will take to Marmion Park Gazebo for Oh! Resident Artists in Concert. Mezzo-soprano Kaarin Cecilia Phelps, soprano Amanda Levy, and bass-baritone Jason Zacher will be joined by pianist Laura Bleakley to perform arias, duets and trios from some of the best operas of all time including Verdi’s Rigoletto, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and more. Though the group will perform in front of a small audience of Oh!’s donors and subscribers, you can enjoy the recital from the comfort of your own living room on Facebook Live.

Join the Houston Cinema Arts Society and The Ensemble Theatre on Sunday, March 28, at 6 p.m. for Celebrating 45 Years of The Ensemble Theatre: A Women’s History Month Special. The multimedia tribute will look back to the founding of the Ensemble by George Hawkins in 1976, take stock of the theater’s present standing as the oldest and largest professional African American theater in the Southwest under the leadership of Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris, and finally look toward the future. Along the way, and in honor of Women's History Month, you can expect readings from classic works like Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun, and a live panel discussion with audience Q&A. You can pick up a free ticket to the program here, but donations are encouraged.

The next night you can join The Ensemble Theatre again for the next installment in their EDI (Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion) Conversation Series: a live reading of Pearl Cleage’s Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous. The play centers around an actress, Anna, who back in the 1970s caused quite the stir performing monologues from August Wilson’s Fences in the buff. Twenty-five years later, Anna and her director Betty are returning to the U.S. for a staging of the piece at a women’s theater festival. But, unfortunately for Anna, a younger woman – with a background in the adult entertainment industry – has been tapped to play her role. Following the reading on Facebook Live, you can join a conversation in the chat room about race, gender, and politics.

If you’re as surprised as deep sea biologist Diva Amon was to learn that less than 1 percent of the deep ocean has been explored – yes, the ocean that covers more than 70 percent of the planet – then you’ll want to check out National Geographic Live: Mysterious Seas, courtesy of Society for the Performing Arts. On Tuesday, March 30, at 6 p.m. Amon and marine biologist David Gruber will offer a glimpse at what is far below the surface during the presentation, which includes a live conversation and audience Q&A. You can purchase an individual ticket for $20 or you can get a household stream for $35 here to watch the show via SPA Digital.

Though a proper celebration of the Dance Salad Festival’s 25-year history has been pushed to 2022, you can still enjoy the Dance Salad Festival Choreographers’ Forum, which goes virtual on Wednesday, March 31, at 7 p.m. The forum, annually hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will feature commentary from the festival’s founder and artistic director, Nancy Henderek, and showcase highlights from the festival’s quarter century, including works from choreographers like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Jirí Kylián. You can sign up to view the forum on Zoom here.

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