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Free for All: Art Without a Price Tag

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Have a great time this weekend and enjoy some great entertainment without spending any money at all. We've found three very cool events to attend with zero admission fees.

On Friday, we'll be front row at Amber Benson's reading/signing of her new book, How to Be Death. Benson has built quite a reputation for herself as an actress, producer, director and novelist. Here latest book is the fourth in a series featuring Calliope Reaper-Jones, the daughter of the Grimm Reaper. In this installment, Calliope is taking over the family business. Trouble is (and with an Amber Benson novel, there's always bound to be trouble), Calliope hasn't a clue as to what to do. When her father's handbook, How to Be Death: A Fully Annotated Guide, goes missing, Calliope has to find the book, figure out how to be the president of Death, Inc. and keep the Board of Death off her back, all at the same time.

Benson might seem to be low-key (especially to fans who only know her from her stint as mumble mouthed Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but she's really upbeat and energetic at readings (well, as upbeat as you can be when you're talking about death).

See Amber Benson read from and sign How to Be Death at 6 p.m. at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, visit www.murderbooks.com or call 713-524-8597.

Saturday, it's time for some silliness at the 49th Ann Arbor Film Festival, an outdoor screening of artist-made film shorts. One of the highlights of the program is Michael Robinson's campy These Hammers Don't Hurt Us. Robinson's 13-minute short combines Michael Jackson's Remember the Time music video with clips of Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, along with several other clips of found footage. Robinson culls together a bizarre story of the goddess Isis (Taylor) and her favorite son (Jackson) preparing for their final descent into death. Come on, Liz and Jacko dressed to the nines in a mad mash of found clips. You know you wanna see it.

If found-footage manipulation isn't your thing, you might like Simon Payne's Point Line Plane, in which he uses constantly shifting black, white and gray grids to present the viewer with an optical illusion that seems to define and then redefine space.

See these and other shorts as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival screening at 6 p.m. at Market Square Park, 301 Milam. For information, visit www.aurorapictureshow.org or call 713-868-2101.

On Sunday, we'll be at the world premiere of (Scattered) Arranged, a new play by Michael Weems. At the center of the plot are Phil and Victor, two lifelong friends that aren't really very friendly. Hiding behind polite veneers, the two really don't like each other very much, but they're bound together by the years they've spent together. And the love of a woman. (You'll have to see the play to see who she is.)

Long ago, the two men made a pact to tie their families together by marrying Phil's daughter, June, to Victor's son, Alex. The trouble is, they haven't told anyone about the plan, not their significant others and not the kids. Alex, socially inept and in love with June, thinks it's a great idea. (It's the only way he has any chance with the more sophisticated and mature June.) Naturally, June wants nothing to do with the absurd plan.

The families unite in their opposition to The Edelbraham Pact of 1978, as the men call it. June refuses, Phil's wife balks and Victor's girlfriend disapproves. As the two men try to explain themselves, darker motives become apparent. (It's back to that woman both men love again.)

Today's premiere of (Scattered) Arranged is part of Country Playhouse's New Play Reading Series. Weems is one of six participating Houston-based playwrights. The readings continue through April 8, with a different one each Sunday. See (Scattered) Arranged at 7 p.m. 12802 Queensbury. For information, visit www.countryplayhouse.org or call 713-467-4497.

Jef with One F contributed to this blog post.

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