Press Picks

September 5
Reconfigured: Six Approaches to Figurative Painting "People tend to think of figurative painting as limiting," says Patrick Palmer, curator of this Glassell exhibition, and well they might because Western art is full of posed people. In this show, the familiar figure is still the subject, but according to Palmer, the paintings show "a fascinating range of ways to examine and explore the human condition." Six Houston painters, including Peter Davis, Kelli Scott Kelley and David McGee, present their interpretations of the figure and the human condition, and at tonight's reception the six will meet, greet and answer questions about their work. Reception 68 p.m. tonight; show continues through November 24. 5101 Montrose Boulevard, 639-7500.

Astros wives gala Les Bordes, one of only two five-star chateaux/golf courses in Europe, was built by the Baron Marcel Bic (with pen money, har har) and is open only to a select few. For the average duffer, whacking balls there is an impossible dream, but this year, four people with no more than lots of money can visit the private estate in the Loire Valley. Bob von Hagge has generously donated a two-day, three-night package -- including airfare, meals and greens access -- to the Astro Wives Black Tie and Baseball Caps fundraiser. Funds raised benefit the Houston Area Women's Center, and other live auction items include a World Series package for four, a Michael Jordan autographed jersey and some odd baseball furniture. Those without the scratch to bid on such pricey items can just enjoy the festivities: a silent auction, dance music from Duck Soup and the satisfaction of being part of this gala, a celeb-studded evening benefiting thousands of women in the Houston area. Cocktails and silent auction, 7; dinner and live auction, 8 p.m.; dancing follows. The Astrodome, on the field. For tickets, call HAWC, 528-6798, extension 228, and ask for Lara Berry. $150, single tickets; $1,500 and up, tables of ten; $3,000, table for eight plus an Astro and wife.

A Balanchine Celebration The Houston Ballet launches its first Janie Parker-less season with three demanding one-act ballets, including the company premiere of Agon. Dance critic Bruce Fleming hailed that 1957 work as "one of the most astringently beautiful works of the 20th century," and one of the most demanding for dancers. The program also includes Theme and Variations, which can be seen as (and this is a gross simplification) the Peter and the Wolf of classical Russian ballet. Opening, 7:30 p.m. tonight; other times listed in Thrills, Dance. Wortham Center, Brown Theater, Texas at Smith, 227-ARTS. $10$80.

Tommy Chong When Canadian comics are mentioned, the average egg thinks of SCTV or Kids in the Hall, ignoring the father of Rae Dawn and former partner of Cheech. Tommy Chong was born in Edmonton, learned to play rhythm and blues guitar and ended up gaining international fame as part of a dopehead duo. Nice Dreams and Still Smokin' are available at your local video store, but you can see Chong live for two nights at the Laff Stop. Thursday, 8 p.m.; Friday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. 1952 West Gray, 524-2333. Thursday, $10.50; $14, Gold Circle. Friday, $14; $18, Gold Circle.

september 6
Laugh at cancer Celebrity survivors, non-famous cancer victims and their friends and families will all gather to talk about the value of laughter -- which may not be a cure, but it's at least a way to cope. Living Fully with Cancer is presented by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and survivor/speakers include former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky; Dr. Michael Lerner, founder of Commonweal; and Marcia Wallace, a comic actress best known as either Bob's secretary on The Bob Newhart Show or the voice of Mrs. Krabappel on The Simpsons. (It depends on who's knowing.) The two-day conference has workshops and talk sessions, and concludes with a Celebration of Life birthday party at 2 p.m. Saturday. Living Fully with Cancer commences,8 a.m. today. Doubletree Hotel at Post Oak, 2001 Post Oak Boulevard. For more information or to register, call the Anderson Network, 792-2553. $50, meals included.

T. Paul Hernandez T. Paul did go to art school, got an MFA at UT, and, yet, he can talk plain. He says, "If I had to create a scenario that illustrates my work, it would consist of Giovanni Bernini rising from the grave to redesign Pee Wee's playhouse under the direction of Zora Neale Hurston." At least, that's plain talk for an artist. Hernandez's exhibition of concrete and steel sculpture opens today, 68 p.m. Shows through October 11. Sally Sprout Gallery, 223 Westheimer, 526-6461. Free.

Egyptian Festival Hey, pals and gals, if you just can't wait until the MFA unveils the splendors of Egypt, spend some time Nile-style at the 12th annual Egyptian Festival. Sure, you've heard about Nefertiti's Kitchen and Isis' Pastry Shop, the kofta, grape leaf rolls, basbousa and, of course, strong Egyptian coffee. But what about the goofy stuff -- camel rides and carnival games -- and the shopping? And did you know that this festival is educational? Yep. You can learn how to make your own kofta, grape leaf rolls and basbousa in the Egyptian kitchen, and historical videos and shows will tell stories of ancient and modern Egypt. In the past, festival proceeds have been used for St. Mark Coptic Church; this year, some of the money may go toward a new Coptic church in the Copperfield area. 10 a.m.10 p.m. today and Saturday; noon7 p.m. Sunday. St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, 424 Mulberry, 665-4806. $2, good for all three days; free, children under 12.

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Edith Sorenson