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Best Virtual Bets: God, Judy Garland, and Jacob's Pillow

Jessica Collado with Christopher Coomer at Jacob’s Pillow in Stanton Welch’s Just.EXPAND
Jessica Collado with Christopher Coomer at Jacob’s Pillow in Stanton Welch’s Just.
Photo by Noor Eemaan

Interested in a thoughtful, thought-provoking conversation about the relationship between the Black and Asian American communities in the United States? Want to hear Judy Garland’s greatest hits on Saturday night? How about scrolling through hundreds of works of art and activities? If so, we’ve got you covered and much more. Read on to see just how much you can do in cyberspace this week from the comfort of your own couch.

The racial reckoning of 2020 has spawned a lot of important conversations, and a very special one is about to kick off this year's Women's Leadership Series over at Asia Society Texas Center. On Thursday, October 8, at 6:30 p.m. the organization will host Building Black and Asian Solidarity: Women Leading Across Race, History, and Culture with Prairie View A&M University President Dr. Ruth Simmons and activist Dr. Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. Joining the pair is ABC News’ Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang as moderator, who will lead the cross-cultural, cross-racial discussion on the experiences of Black and Asian Americans in the United States, the divisions between the two communities and the work being done to address both systemic racial and gender inequities. An audience Q&A will begin at 7:10 p.m. and admission to the live webcast is free, but registration is required.

The Bayou City Art Festival is regularly one of Houston’s best festivals – literally, it’s been named “Best Arts Festival” in the Houston Press Best Of Houston® awards by both us and our readers. It was also an early casualty of the pandemic. Luckily, the Art Colony Association, Inc. has moved the fall festival from its usual Downtown playground to a new digital home, the Bayou City Art Festival’s website. The Bayou City Art Virtual Experience, running from October 9 to 11, will feature artist chats and art talk happy hours with the likes of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Director Gary Tinterow and award-winning graffiti artist Gonzo247; demonstrations from Riel Restaurant’s mixology expert Derek P. Brown and noted chefs including Hugo Ortega; an online marketplace, ready-to-buy art from 300 juried festival artists, and more. Virtual festival-goers can get a ticket by donating to the festival here or by texting “SAVEOURART” to 243725 (and you’ll also be entered to win a raffle prize).

Jacob’s Pillow, the ethereally named homestead Ted Shawn turned into a Berkshires-based dance heaven in the 1930s, doesn’t just refer to an almost 90-year-old nationally and internationally renowned dance festival. It also refers to the only place audiences have had the chance to see Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s three-movement ballet Just – until now that is. Houston Ballet will celebrate their move to cyberspace for the remainder of 2020 and open their season with A Night at Jacob's Pillow, opening on October 9. The on-demand program will premiere the exclusive performance footage of Just which debuted during the Ballet’s first return to Jacob’s Pillow since 1979. The $20 ticket will gain you access to a viewing room, where viewers can find their digital program and, of course, the ballet from October 9 through 18.

Reginald Smith, Jr., pictured in an earlier concert, will take the stage during Houston Grand Opera's Live from The Cullen Recital Series.
Reginald Smith, Jr., pictured in an earlier concert, will take the stage during Houston Grand Opera's Live from The Cullen Recital Series.
Photo by Lynn Lane

The booming voice of Reginald Smith, Jr. will fill the Cullen Theater this Friday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m. when the baritone and HGO Studio alum takes the stage for this month’s Live from The Cullen Recital Series from Houston Grand Opera. Smith, who has played “an electric Amonasro,” a “vivacious” Dancaire, and was “unanimously voted into the Big Voice Club” as Marullo, shared with the Houston Press that he wanted to put together a program that would both "convey yearning, a stretch for something more and in the end, hope" and "highlight Black composers." The result is an evening of works from composers like H. Leslie Adams and Robert Owens, and arrangements from Camille Nickerson, Betty Jackson King and Dave Ragland – all accompanied by HGO’s Director of Artistic Operations and Chorus Master Richard Bado. The showcase is free to view on HGO’s website, but you have to create an account (which you can do now here).

Most of us know Oscar Wilde's farce about two men, each trying to escape the ho-hum of their lives by pretending to be fellows named Ernest, vying for the affections of two women who happen to love only men named Ernest. Maybe you’ve seen it on stage, or watched one of the film adaptations. But what you haven’t seen yet is Wilde’s Victorian classic crossed with a 21st-century pandemic. To see that, you’ll have to tune in to Rice University’s YouTube channel on Friday, October 9, at 8 p.m. when the Rice University Theatre Program presents a one-night-only production of The Importance of Being Earnest – socially distanced and fully masked. The play, directed by Rice Theatre Program head Christina Keefe, will be livestreamed straight from Rice’s Hamman Hall for free, so there’s no excuse not to take a peek at our brave new present.

There are few songs as enduringly evocative and comforting as "Over the Rainbow," so much so that John F. Kennedy occasionally dialed Judy Garland from the White House and had her sing a few bars over the phone. This Sunday, October 11, at 6 p.m. A.D. Players in partnership with Artists Lounge Live will present an act that’s as close as we’ll get to that experience: Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland. During the two-hour-long virtual concert, Ingersoll will bring her Emmy-nominated Garland portrayal to the stage along with a six-piece orchestra and the numbers you would most anticipate, such as "Over the Rainbow," "The Trolley Song," and "Get Happy." Tickets are $35 and can be purchased here or by phone at 713-526-2721, and be sure to stay tuned when it’s over because audience members will have the chance to participate in a talkback.

Anat Gov offered an interesting response to Joan Osborne’s immortal question, "What if God was one of us?" with her 2008 play Oh My God: “You mean another patient in some shrink's waiting room?” In Gov’s world, God shows up at a therapist’s office and gives her an hour to do solve his problems in a work with “an outrageously provocative script that showcases the best of contemporary Israeli art.” Mildred’s Umbrella, in collaboration with the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, will open their season on Tuesday, October 13, with a full digital production of the play, which was featured during their 2019 Femfest Houston: Voices of Israel series. Actors Sammi Sicinski and Rhett Martinez will reprise their roles from that reading in this Amelia Rico-directed production. Tickets are free (though donations welcome) and registration is now open here.

The Alley Theatre, in collaboration with Berkeley Repertory Theatre and almost 100 other theatres, will present It Can't Happen Here this week.EXPAND
The Alley Theatre, in collaboration with Berkeley Repertory Theatre and almost 100 other theatres, will present It Can't Happen Here this week.
Photo by Kevin Berne, Courtesy of Berkeley Repertory Theatre

If you don’t know, early voting starts in Harris County on Tuesday, October 13, which is the same day our own Alley Theatre joins Berkeley Repertory Theatre and close to 100 other partners at press time to present Berkeley Rep’s remount of their 2016 world premiere of It Can’t Happen Here – this time, as a radio play. The still all-too-timely production, co-written by Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen, is based on Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 fascist satire that The New York Times dubbed the “classic novel that predicted Trump.” Described as “pithy and animated,” the production gathers together the same director, Lisa Peterson, and members of the original cast with the addition of Oscar-nominated actor David Strathairn. The free audio drama will be released at 7 p.m. on YouTube and available through November 8. Following the broadcast, be sure to stay tuned for a live Q&A session with the creative team.

Since moving their Spotlight Series to cyberspace (from its usual non-pandemic home of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church), Theatre Under the Stars has assessed the state of some of Houston most notable arts organizations and also revisited TUTS’ 1982 premiere of !Ninfa!, based on the life of Houston’s own Tex-Mex maven Ninfa Laurenzo. But this week, TUTS Artistic Director Dan Knechtges will welcome one of the “big beasts of Broadway” when he plays virtual host to award-winning director, librettist and playwright James Lapine on Wednesday, October 14, at 6 p.m. on Facebook for the TUTS Spotlight Webcast. If you don’t know, Lapine is the owner of a Pulitzer and three Tony Awards (one for a “perfect musical” and two for two other little musicals he created with the Stephen Sondheim – one inspired by Georges Seurat and another which you may remember that deconstructed some fairy tales).

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