Things To Do

Best Virtual Bets: Beethoven, Femfest, and a Micro-Festival

David Rainey in the Alley Theatre's virtual production of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People.
David Rainey in the Alley Theatre's virtual production of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. Photo by Victoria Beauray Sagady
Well, if there’s one positive to virtual programming, it’s that it’s less likely to be cancelled in the event of bad weather. Less likely, but not impossible. With that in mind, check out our list of this week’s best bets, most virtual and a couple you can attend in-person, rain gods be willing.

First up is a last call: This Sunday, May 23, is the last day to view the Alley Theatre’s virtual production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. Ibsen’s play, translated by Paul Walsh and directed here by Alley Artistic Director Rob Melrose, is about two brothers, one a doctor who discovers the water in the town’s spa is contaminated and wants it shut down and the other the town’s mayor who fears the damage a shutdown would do to their economy. The New York Times said Ibsen’s story – which “intertwines an ethically compromised antihero, political extremism, corruption, environmental activism and a lack of accountability for the destruction of a town” – “resonates in our era” and that was in pre-COVID 2018. Register now to view the free play here.

If you’re interested in or open to learning more about composers like Chevalier de Saint-Georges or George Bridgewater, both named to a list of “Black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often,” then join the Galveston Symphony Orchestra tonight, Thursday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. when they host 500 Years: Musicians and Composers of African Descent in Classical Music and Opera – A Music History Lecture presented by mezzo-soprano Givonna Joseph. The multi-hyphenate (performer, educator, music therapist and founder/artistic director of New Orleans' OperaCréole) will lead the free virtual presentation, which you can view on Zoom here or on the Galveston Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page.

Last Friday, Classical Theatre Company premiered their first episode of their new virtual radio play, J.M. Synge's The Well of the Saints. Synge's tragicomedy, arranged as a radio play by CTC Artistic Director John Johnston, is set in a rural Irish village around the 1900s where an older blind couple (played by Rutherford Cravens and Holly Haire) are met by a saint who restores their eyesight. The only problem is that their fellow villagers have long lied to them about their “beautiful” appearance. You can catch up on episode one of the farce on CTC’s YouTube channel while you await the premiere of episode two on Friday, May 21. The third and final episode will debut on Monday, May 24.

If you missed it during the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston-hosted Festival of Films from Iran back in January, on Friday, May 21, the MFAH will give you a second chance to catch Mohammad Rasoulof’s Golden Bear-winning film There Is No Evil. Within a week of the award, Rasoulof was ordered to begin serving a one-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the system” in his home country of Iran, where he had already received a lifetime ban from filmmaking. In There Is No Evil, “made in open defiance of the restrictions the government put on him,” Rasoulof uses four “Kafkaesque moral parables” to deal “with personal freedom under tyranny” and condemn “Iran’s policy of executing political dissidents.” You can purchase a $12 ticket, good for five days of viewing, here.

If you’re looking for a musical “bon-bon of the most delectable kind,” you can join Mercury Chamber Orchestra on Saturday, May 22, at 8 p.m. when they perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik as part of their season finale Mozart & Mendelssohn. The work, “one of the composer's most felicitous (and famous) ‘little’ pieces,” will be presented alongside Felix Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 11 in F major and Johann Sebastian Bach's Sinfonia No. 5 in B minor. Mercury has made a limited number of in-person tickets available to attend the program at the Wortham, but you can still purchase a ticket for $20 to view the virtual premiere or stream it any time before May 31.

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Houston Symphony Artistic Partner Itzhak Perlman will join the symphony for an all-Beethoven program this weekend.
Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Sixteen-time Grammy Award-winner (and Houston Symphony Artistic Partner) Itzhak Perlman will join the Symphony for this weekend’s program, All-Beethoven with Itzhak Perlman. The violinist will perform Beethoven’s two Violin Romances and lead the Symphony in the Coriolan Overture, inspired by a play based on one of Shakespeare’s little staged tragedy Coriolanus, and Seventh Symphony, which contains a movement “that may have been Beethoven's most popular orchestral composition.” Though in-person tickets are sold out, you can still pick up a $20 ticket to view the livestream on Sunday, May 23, at 2:30 p.m. Also, on Friday, May 21, at 10 a.m. the Symphony will offer access to a rehearsal with Perlman. Tickets for the open rehearsal are available here for $25 to $125.

Performance meets politics in the Blaffer Art Museum’s micro-festival, A Time for Action: Experiments in Interdisciplinary Performance. The festival will encompass six nights of music, dance, theater, spoken word, visual art, and more curated by six local creatives. Sixto Wagan will lead things off on Sunday, May 23, at 6 p.m. with a program including Koomah, Toni Leago Valle’s dance company 6’, and guests from Filipinx Artists of Houston. The festival will run through June 5 with Jake Sandridge responsible for the program on May 27, Aisha Tida Abbassi on May 28, Julia Barbosa Landois on May 29, Rivkah French on May 30, and Houston’s recently named fifth Poet Laureate Outspoken Bean on June 5. Tickets are free, but registration is required as capacity is limited. Note that attendees will be required to complete a COVID-19 screening.

If not for the special interest guitarist and lutenist Arash Noori took in Polish lute music, Ars Lyrica might not be presenting a program, Cantio Polonica, completely dedicated to early Polish music on Sunday, May 23, at 6 p.m. Noori curated the concert, for which Ars Lyrica has partnered with the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Houston and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, to feature lesser known but important composers Marcin Mielczewski, Adam Jarzebski and Wojciech Dlugoraj. You can purchase a single event pass to view the virtual broadcast, which is also the finale of Ars Lyrica’s Side by Side concert series, here for $10.

Want to see sexagenarians try online video dating for the first time? Visit a world where everyone is a remote worker and physical touch is a no-no? Meet a woman who specializes in peddling doomsday wares stuck in her own doomsday bunker with only a sex robot? If so, you’ll want to join Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company this week for the fourth edition of the FEMFEST HOUSTON reading series, FEMFEST HOUSTON: VIRUS EDITION. The three pandemic-inspired plays will be streamed consecutively starting with Brandy C. Carie’s dark comedy Everybody’s Dead from Monday, May 24, to June 3. Lia Romero’s Sitting and Talking will follow from June 4 through 13, and HiTouch by Amy Gijsbers Van Wijk from June 14 to the 24. You can register for free here, though donations are appreciated.
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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.