The Quadroon Ball: An American Tragedy The New York Times described Damon Wright's play about a mixed-race southern family as an "intelligent, affecting new play about race, family, honor and freedom." In it, Jeanette, a quadroon in 1830s New Orleans, wins the heart of a white French prince at a ball. She falls in love and bears him a child, but when the prince is summoned back to France, leaving her in New Orleans, she creates a new life (and another child) with her own black slave. Of course, Jeanette is forced to choose between her two lives. Thru Nov. 2. Opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. (see Thrills, Theater for other dates and times). Main Street Theater, 2540 Times, 524-6706. $12$17.
Houston Fire Fighters Calendar Celebration By now, lots of Houstonians have flipped through the pages of those sexy firemen calendars. Each month is graced with yet another glossy, handsome, hunky guy who has gallantly doffed his clothing and allowed his image to be sold, all in the name of helping the Fire Fighter's Burned and Crippled Children's Fund. (What a really good reason to get naked!) This year, you have a chance to meet your favorite guy in the flesh, so to speak. Evin Thayer Studios and La Strada Restaurant are hosting a calendar-signing party. Meet Chelsi Smith-Blair, Miss Universe of 1995, or your favorite firefighter, and enjoy the atmosphere of La Strada Restaurant, which is also celebrating its 11th anniversary at this party. 6-9 p.m. La Strada Restaurant, 322 Westheimer, 223-5287. Free.
The Good, The Bad and the Bugly! Creepy, crawly and completely wonderful! Jillions of little boys and little girls, too, are going to love the new permanent exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Leaf cutter ants, aquatic insects and giant beetles are ready to show their arthropodic selves in the new Insect Zoo, which is housed in the lower lobby of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. See a toe biter, a spiny devil, a velvet ant, or if you're really brave, the hissing cockroach from Madagascar. Not to mention insect relatives such as spiders and scorpions .... Some of the bugs are so accessible that the staff and docents can bring them out for visitors to touch. Just imagine that millipede tickling your palm -- or if not yours, then certainly that of the child sitting next to you. At the opening celebration today, see a bug and puppet show along with special guest Dr. Arthur Evans, one of the world's foremost experts on beetles. Learn a lot, and meet a death-head cockroach while you're at it. Opening celebration, 1-3 p.m. (See Thrills, Museums for regular museum hours.) The Houston Museum of Natural Science, 1 Hermann Circle Drive, 639-IMAX, $3.50, adults; $2.50, children.
Camino Faux Infernal Bridegroom Productions, one of the most innovative and talented theater companies in town, hosts its second annual season-kickoff/fundraising party at the Art Car Park. In the spirit of their opening play, Tennessee Williams's Camino Real, the gathering promises to be as festive and fun as a crowded bordertown street fair. The strangely beautiful creatures of the Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre will take the stage, and the group de Schmog will perform de Schmog Fairy Tale, a 45-minute rock opera. Sidewalk artists, jugglers and street dancers all will wander among the guests, performing for the crowds that gather. A smoking room will offer air conditioning for the faint of heart who can't stand all the grime of street life, but the oily dirt and sandy grit are part of the fun of being out among the elements. A cheap, loud, delirious way to spend a night on the town. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Art Car Park, 1615 Travis, underground parking garage at the corner of Travis and Pease (the entrance is on Pease), 802-0250. $14.99 tickets include free beer and wine; $2, cocktails.
Bus Stop One of Marilyn Monroe's most memorable movie roles has to be the part of Bus Stop's Cherie, the sexy, funny blond full of a visceral yearning for stardom. In William Inge's wonderful script, a bus full of folks moving west from Kansas City ends up stuck in a roadside diner during a snowstorm. Trapped together, the ordinary folks reveal their extraordinary dreams and hearts. The University of Houston School of Theatre has smartly chosen this gently written play to open its 1997 season. Inge, who also wrote Come Back, Little Sheba, is a master at revealing the tender and complicated psychology residing under the seemingly ordinary exteriors of everyday Americans. Thru Oct. 12. 8 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other dates and times.) Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre, UH Main Campus, entrance no. 16, 743-2929. $9; $7, seniors and students.
Antigone Poor Antigone, faced with one of those classical conundrums: let her brother's soul go to hell or be exiled for breaking the laws of the state. What's a girl to do? Of course, Antigone's a good sort, and gives up everything for her dear brother's eternity, but Creon, her uncle and king, turns out to be the jerk Oedipus accused him of being way back in Sophocles's earlier play, Oedipus Rex. In this latest Houston offering of the very old Greek tragedy, Renaissance Performing Arts Center's artistic director Tyrone Dargins has transposed the play to Africa. Patrick Allen, a former Houston Oiler, plays Creon; thus, this production promises to be muscular, to say the least. Thru Nov. 1. Opens to-night at 7:30 p.m. (see Thrills, Theater for other dates and times.) 400 Northline Mall, Suite 308, 695-7469. $10; $7, seniors and students.