Press Picks

july 31
Live Downtown Contest You've been hearing about all that downtown warehouse space being converted to "lofts," living spaces too hip for the homely appellation "apartments." The Annual Downtown Home Tour invites you to peek at these spaces and even sign up for a chance to reside in one (the Rice, formerly the Rice Hotel) rent-free for a year. The tour features ten homes and two residential buildings under construction. Buy tickets and start your tour at any of the following addresses: 2016 Main, Hogg Palace at 401 Louisiana, Four Seasons Place at 1111 Caroline, Houston House at 1617 Fannin, Dakota Lofts at 711 William, Hermann Lofts at 204 Travis, 220 Main. 5:30-9:30 p.m. For info or tickets, call the Downtown Houston Association, 658-8938. $25, advance tickets; $30 at the door.

August 1
Alan Bennett: The Poet of Embarrassment British filmmaker/screenwriter Alan Bennett got his start with the 1960s British revue Beyond the Fringe, which also launched the career of another familiar Brit, Dudley Moore. Since the '60s, Bennett has written or directed over 20 films, many of which are studies of very complex and difficult lives. Two of his best-known movie screenplays in America are Prick Up Your Ears, about the life and murder of the promiscuous, highly acclaimed gay playwright Joe Orton; and The Madness of King George, about mentally unstable King George III, who enjoyed the nickname "Farmer George" and loved pigs. The museum is showing these and 16 other Bennett-written or directed- films during the series, which starts tonight with a double feature of A Question of Attribution, a film about spying, forgery and the art world directed by John Schlesinger; and another Schlesinger film, An Englishman Abroad, the true story of British defector Guy Burgess and a Royal Shakespeare Company actress. 7:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet,, 639-7515. $6 for both films; $5, one film only; seniors, students and MFA members get a $1 discount.

Back To School Clothing Drive Though the dog days of summer are upon us and all kids are dreaming of is a cool blue splash into the nearest swimming pool, it won't be long till school starts up again. And anyone who's been to school knows that every new school year brings new school clothes -- or it should, anyway. Today is your chance to make going back to school better for underprivileged kids by donating new and "gently worn" clothing to the FOX 26 Back To School Clothing Drive. You even receive your own freebies: In the morning, donors receive free coffee and kolaches from Starbucks and the Kolache Factory, and in the hot afternoon, Coca-Cola and Haagen-Das will hand out sweet and cold samples. 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. FOX 26 Studio parking lot, 3935 Westheimer.

Ten by Ten Houston is home to both a thriving community of writers and a burgeoning, eclectic group of small theaters -- and what better combination could there be for original plays? Tonight see ten completely new ten-minute plays by ten fresh voices at Scriptwriters/Houston's seventh annual presentation. Wonderfully good? Amazingly bad? You'll be the first to know. 8 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other times and dates.) Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd., 707-5194. $10.

The Tempest The Houston Shakespeare Festival opens tonight with The Tempest, a romantic drama that many scholars believe was Shakespeare's last play written without a collaborator. After a shipwreck tosses the cast onto an uninhabited island, sorcery, love and longing abound. Meet Prospero, the mighty and magical duke of Milan; Caliban, a lonely, lovesick monster; and of course, the young lovers Ferdinand and Miranda, who endure many Shakespearean machinations before they find happiness. It's a romance, not a tragedy, so it won't break your heart -- that is, unless Caliban is your favorite. 8:30 p.m. (See Thrills, Theater for other times and dates.) Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.

August 2
International Jazz Festival The Men's Wearhouse, of all places, sponsors this jazz festival, which runs all weekend long, all over the city (see Thrills, Music for other dates and places). Today the festival is cheap, outdoors and downtown, where all festivals should be. The weather will undoubtedly simmer and so should the music, provided by impressive players from all over the world. Today hear Jonathan Butler of South Africa; Henry Brun and the Latin Playrz; the Summer Jazz Workshop All-Stars with guest Alex Bugnon of Switzerland; and the Jazz Crusaders with Wayne Henderson and Wilton Felder. Food, beverages and tchotchke vendors will all be on hand. 4-11 p.m. Sam Houston Park, 1000 Bagby, 227-8706. $5 at Kroger; $6 at gate; children under 12, free.

Breastfeeding and the Working Mom Everyone knows that moms provide the best nutrition possible for infants. But most moms work, and what's a mom to do when she has to be on the job from 8 to 5 and baby needs feeding every two hours? Next week is World Breastfeeding Week, and Memorial Hospital is offering

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Lee Williams