Press Picks

September 4
Torch Song Trilogy Harvey Fierstein's compilation of one-acts, all concerning a gay man who must learn to accept and love himself as he learns to accept and love those around him even with all their collective limitations and fears, won a Tony Award in 1983. And though some may think the story a tired one, now that we've entered the Ellen days of 1997, any serious reader knows that questions of identity, sexual and otherwise, are some of the most constant and universal in literature. This is the Masquerade Theatre's second show of their first season. The first one, Runaways, was held over twice. Check out what all the hoopla's about. 7:30 p.m. The Masquerade Theatre, 720 W. 11th Street. 861-7045. $12; $10, seniors and students.

Houston House Beautiful Show Creating a swanky abode can require lots of window-shopping, forcing you to trek from the Galleria to Town and Country Mall to the Highland Village area. Wouldn't it be great if all that shopping could be done in one stop? Your wish has come true. The Houston House Beautiful Show, the largest of its kind in the Southwest, begins today. Over 600 companies will offer their wares in 1,000 booths spread across 375,000 square feet. Now that's a shopping mall. Find everything from tips on making your home more energy-efficient to a working, water-spouting fountain set in the middle of an indoor "garden." Of course there will be rugs, kitchen cabinets, pillows, couches, electronics, remodelers -- in other words, everything you need to make your heart practically burst with desire. Get ideas, get facts, get in the mercantile spirit of the day. 3-9 p.m. (See Thrills, Events for other times and dates.) George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Convention Center Blvd. For information, call Southwest Exhibitors at (817) 421-6522. $6, adults; $4, seniors and juniors (1216); free, children under 12; and the whole thing is free today if you get there by 5 p.m.

Houston Ballet The Houston Ballet begins its new season tonight with three ballets. One intentionally throws the dancers off-kilter: The Four Temperaments was choreographed by George Balanchine, who reveled in paradoxes, such as the idea that dancers off-balance can be both graceful and beautiful. Sinfonietta, a "spiritual" work, is set to a score by Leos Janacek, who employs elements of Czech folk music. Finally, there's the premiere of a brand new work, Eclipse, choreographed by the ballet's artistic director Ben Stevenson. His abstract piece is inspired by space travel, a Texas artist and, of course, eclipses; he sets all that inspiration to Chopin's Second Piano Concerto. The evening sounds both eclectic and strangely unified, a combination Balanchine would have surely appreciated. 7:30 p.m. (See Thrills, Dance for other dates and times.) Brown Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $10-$88.

September 5
Houston Philatelic Society The philatelic life is often a lonely one. How many stamp collectors have experienced a raised eyebrow, a hidden snicker, a rolled eye from some skeptical outsider who knows nothing of the joys of collecting those tiny scraps of colorful paper from distant lands and times, then filing them into their own little home in a box or book? But this weekend, stamp collectors can be among their own and joyfully announce, in public, the thrill of seeing for the first time the "Jenny Invert" up-close and in person. Besides presenting this popular and recognizable stamp error, with its upside-down airplane, the society will feature 32 dealers, a beginners' area and hundreds of pages of stamp collections. Today there will also be an auction of the Vanderford Collection conducted by Sam Houston Philatelics. Come out of the enveloping confines of secrecy and announce your love of stamps to a world of folks who understand. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (See Thrills, Events for other dates and times.) The Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway, (281) 537-1081. Free.

Houston Symphony Maestro Christoph Eschenbach, now beginning his tenth season, has taken the symphony across the globe, garnered it tremendous praise and produced such interesting marketing strategies as a singles' night out. Tonight, to kick off a season celebrating the partnership of Eschenbach and the symphony, there's an all-French program. "Vive la France!" will feature pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque, who will perform the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos. Also on the program is Berlioz's overture to Roman Carnival, Saint-Saëns's Carnival of Animals and Bizet's Suite from Carmen. You don't have to be single to enjoy the night out. 7:30 p.m. (See Thrills, Music for other dates and times.) Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $18-$60.

September 6
Good/Bad Art Collective These folks have been known to seal themselves inside a building wearing nothing but boxer shorts while munching on nothing but bread for three days, and one of them recently floated off into the wild blue yonder sitting in a lawn chair attached to 45 weather balloons. Oh, the sacrifices of the artistic life! Today marks yet another in a long series of one-day "art events" put on by this collection of wacky -- but truly serious -- artists. The entire art space of DiverseWorks will be turned into a roller rink complete with art installments for your skating pleasure. Roll by the art, roll around the art, ignore the art, but most of all participate in this innovative attempt to expand not only our minds, but our definitions of what art can be. Noonmidnight. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. Free.

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Lee Williams