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Best Virtual Bets: Scary Stories, Día de los Muertos, and the Fringe Festival

The Xfinity Día de los Muertos Celebration comes to Discovery Green and straight into your home this year.
The Xfinity Día de los Muertos Celebration comes to Discovery Green and straight into your home this year.
Photo by Katya Horner

Happy Halloween weekend! This week, we’ve got best bets to get you in a spooky mood while staying home and socially distant, along with plenty of non-seasonal activities for the arts lovers in Houston. Read on to learn more about what’s coming up this week.

A journey comes to an end this weekend when Apollo Chamber Players’ 20×2020 Virtual Festival wraps up with two digital world premieres in Episodes 19 and 20. First up tonight, October 29, is Episode 19 featuring composer Eve Beglarian’s “We Will Sing with One Voice” for string quartet and guest percussionist and duduk player, which (if you’re familiar with the instrument) is a hint toward the piece’s Armenian inspiration. The final episode on Sunday, November 1, will debut Jennifer Higdon’s “In the Shadow of the Mountain” for string quartet. Those familiar with Higdon’s first (and Grammy Award-winning) opera Cold Mountain might recognize the reference in the piece’s title, which does has a thematic connection to that decorated opera. Each episode is free and will premiere at 7 p.m. on Apollo Chamber Players’ YouTube and Facebook pages.

The telling of spooky stories long predates even Samhain, but that doesn't mean Halloween would be complete without them. Luckily, we’ve got Main Street at the Mic: Things That Go Bump in the Night, an evening of online readings, to fill any scary-story-void this year. The program, directed by Main Street’s Associate Artistic Director Andrew Ruthven and hosted by Joel Sandel (fresh off a “magnificent” performance in Main Street’s virtual production of RFK: A Portrait of the Life of Robert F. Kennedy), will feature performers Callina Anderson, Estée Burks, Kregg Dailey, Mai Le, Rhett Martinez, Mark B. Robbins and Adi Teodoru, taking on Poe, Gorey, and a couple of original works by local writers. The live premiere is scheduled for Thursday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m., and will be available on YouTube through November 1. You can register here for free, but donations are always appreciated. This will be the first of three Main Street at the Mic editions, so keep your eyes peeled for what’s to come.

Get in the Halloween spirit with the Houston Symphony on Saturday, October 31, at 8 p.m. when conductor Michael Krajewski leads the Symphony in Live from Jones Hall: Haunted Halloween POPS. The complete program will be a surprise, but we know it will include music from Bernard Herrmann's iconic Psycho score, to which Alfred Hitchcock himself attributed "thirty-three percent of the effect of Psycho"; the Harry Potter series, with something from composer John Williams, who scored three of the series’ eight films and the leitmotif "Hedwig's Theme," a likely inclusion; and (speaking of leitmotifs) "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg, the leitmotif of Fritz Lang’s 1931 influential thriller M. As is the new normal, Saturday night’s performance, played before a socially distant audience at Jones Hall, will be livestreamed for the audience at home. Tickets for the hour-long program can be purchased here for $20.

A tradition continues when ROCO takes their annual Musical & Literary Ofrenda to cyberspace at 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 1. The Día de los Muertos celebration, presented in partnership with Grupo de Teatra Índigo and MECA @ TBH, will be held in memory of Macario Ramirez of Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery, who for years spent his October Saturdays teaching Houstonians to build their own personal ofrendas (altars).

The livestream will feature the world premiere of a ROCO commission based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead, “Coming Forth by Day” by Kerwin Young, a genre-crossing composer whose work with Public Enemy led to an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Following the premiere, Grupo de Teatro Índigo will stage Calavera con Calavera by co-founder Eddie Gonzalez, a play accompanied by mariachi performers from University of Houston Downtown and dancers from Danza Chikawa Dance. The free program can be viewed on Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or on ROCO’s website.

Local ensemble Kinetic will open their season this Sunday, November 1, at 7 p.m. with a reflective (and aptly titled) program, Textures of Change. The evening, livestreamed from a James Turrell Skyspace (the Live Oak Friends Meeting House), will feature “Limestone & Felt” from Caroline Shaw, the youngest composer to win a Pulitzer Prize, in which “she imagines herself in a Gothic cathedral, where shards of melody bounce off the walls and intertwine”; a world premiere commission from Paul Novak inspired by the pandemic; and Metamorphosen, composed after the October 1943 bombing of Munich National Theater during World War II. Metamorphosen has been described as “a memorial elegy” written “not just for the bombed opera houses, but for the shattered culture that they represented and which Strauss himself had embodied so fruitfully.” Tickets are available here for $25 or pay what you can.

Following last week’s tease, when Cameron Douglas (son of Michael, grandson of Kirk) headlined a sneak preview night talking about his autobiographical Long Way Home: A Memoir of Fame, Family, and Redemption, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston officially kicks off their 48th annual Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book & Arts Festival this Sunday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. with Max Brooks. The bestselling author of World War Z (and son of Mel Books and Anne Bancroft) will join ABC13 anchor Tom Abrahams to discuss his new book, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. The virtual festival will continue through November 22 with more than two dozen events, including guest speakers like Brooks, Joan Lunden and Michael Ian Black, and even a drive-in showing of Resistance, starring Jesse Eisenberg. Prices vary, but a full schedule and ticket prices can be found here.

Alas Dance Company kicks off this year's virtual Houston Fringe Festival.EXPAND
Alas Dance Company kicks off this year's virtual Houston Fringe Festival.
Photo by Pin Lim, Forest Photography

The Houston Fringe Festival takes their week-long performance festival to cyberspace this year to present their 13th season. Alas Dance Company will kick off the free festival’s online programming on Monday, November 2, at 7 p.m. with performances of two Lídice Núñez-choreographed works: the Zaida del Río-inspired “Bird Women” and "I will be your mirror," set to Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor.

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The festival continues through November 8 with works from performance artist Brittani Broussard, choreographers Brittany Bass and Loren Holmes, ensemble Relative Dissonance and Thomas Helton, Bharatanatyam specialists Tejas Dance, spoken word artist Edgar Guajardo, musical trio Aurum Son and three pieces from artists that fans of the Pilot Dance Project are sure to recognize: Ashley Horn, Lori Yuill and Adam Castaneda. Each event will be streamed on Facebook Live and Zoom, with artist panels to follow. More information can be found here.

Speaking of Day of the Dead celebrations, you can join Discovery Green’s online celebration, the Xfinity Día de los Muertos Celebration, by contributing to a virtual community altar. From now until November 15, Houstonians can upload photos and share memories of their loved ones here, and you can view the growing gallery here.

On Monday, November 2, at 7 p.m. you can also view a special free performance by Las Fenix, a “self-contained, Houston-based Latin pop and norteño family act” that “sings and dances while playing its own instruments” with “youthful energy” that “makes it a crowd favorite.” Las Fenix will be joined by Nueva Luna Ballet Folklorico, and activities will include a face-painting tutorial and an in-depth look at Day of the Dead traditions.

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