It doesn't take a hefty bankroll to have a good time in the Bayou City. This week we've got a theatrical jab at political unraveling, an alcohol-fueled art show with free pancakes, a couple of book signings and a celebration of National Hot Sauce Day. Keep reading for ten of our favorite events that won't cost you more than $10 — and seven of them are free! Check out the Houston Press calendar for even more things to do.
Book signing for Gregg Hurwitz, The Nowhere Man: An Orphan X Novel
Murder By The Book
6:30 p.m. Thursday, free
Hollywood heartthrob Bradley Cooper has already snagged the film rights to Hurwitz's Orphan X series. Come see what all the buzz is about and pick up this page-turner for young adults about the legendary Nowhere Man, who's only spoken about in hushed whispers. It's said that the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save the truly desperate and deserving, but is he just a legend? Hurwitz will be reading from his book and signing copies at Murder By The Book.
Kate Gilmore and Heather Rowe, "Only in Your Way"
7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, free
Kate Gilmore is always putting people in awkward situations, like the time she shoved six women, all dressed in identical pink dresses, into wall cubbies. But it's all for the sake of art, and her public installations often explore issues related to identity, gender, power and endurance. Now Gilmore and another New York-based artist, Heather Rowe, have teamed up for a site-specific exhibit in Houston. DiverseWorks members get first look plus an artist talk at 6 p.m., but everybody's invited to the opening reception at 7 p.m. Come view the newly commissioned sculptural works, installation and a live durational performance this Friday. Rowe’s work often builds upon cinematic experience through the framing of space and rhythmically constructed form.
Staged Reading of The Taming
Main Street Theater, Rice Village, 2540 Times
10 a.m. Friday, free
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1805 West Alabama
7 p.m. Friday, free
8 p.m. Friday, Pay what you can
"Let them eat cake," bellowed the power-hungry ruler with strange hair. Yes, it's Inauguration Day, but we're not talking about soon-to-be President Trump, nor are we discussing Marie Antoinette, though playwright Lauren Gunderson certainly brought her to life in The Revolutionists at Main Street Theater earlier this season. America is in a state of flux and Gunderson felt she had to do something, until she realized her play, The Taming, is the perfect all-female political farce to tell the painful truth about extremism on both sides. Now 40 theaters across the country are presenting this comedy about our country's history and its foundational imperfections, and Main Street is presenting it free with two staged readings this Friday. There's adult language and content, and Gunderson swears she wrote her Hamilton jokes before that "other" Hamilton took Broadway by storm. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Over in west Houston, Queensbury Theatre also is presenting the reading on Friday evening; it's directed by L. Robert Westeen, and a portion of the "pay what you can" ticket price benefits Hatch Youth Montrose.
The Pancakes & Booze Art Show
8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, $5
Maybe Buddy the Elf was on to something with his all-sugar diet. We're not saying syrup on spaghetti will ever taste good, but syrup and booze? The line forms here. This is one of our favorite nomadic events, and they're setting up the griddles at Warehouse Live this Friday night. It's 18 and up (natch), but what could go wrong with free pancakes, a cash bar and beautiful people turning themselves into living canvases? The shows usually feature between 50 and 150 local artisans, plus live music, DJs or both.
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, free
Get back to nature and celebrate the Houston Arboretum's 50th anniversary with Arbor Day. It's more than just sticking a sapling into the ground in a feel-good effort to right your recycling wrongs: This back-to-nature shindig includes guided tree hikes, woodturning demonstrations, crafts and food trucks. But just in case you do get green-thumb fever, the arboretum will be holding giveaways for seed and saplings.
Hops n' Hot Sauce Festival
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, free to $10
Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, free to $10
By now you've missed the boat on SpindleTap's "Name Our Gnome" contest, but hop to it because there's still more fun to be had. We're hoping we'll get to meet the newly named beer sprite as we celebrate National Hot Sauce Day with a weekend of festivities. Don't worry about the weather; it's held indoors, and the organizers have lined up vendors, entertainment, local food trucks and tons of beer. If you're feeling daring, check out the pepper-eating contest. Last one standing wins a $500 cash prize.
The PM Show: Poets & Musicians
Rudyard's British Pub
8:30 p.m. Saturday, $10 in advance
There's something about a dark, wood-paneled bar, intelligent company and a few spirits to better appreciate literature and music. Public Poetry gives us a little of both with its monthly The PM Show. January headliners include wordsmiths Billie Hill, Mike Alexander and Gerald Cedillo, with jams by Harry Sheppard, Chase Hamblin and Free Radicals. Open mike starts at 10:30 p.m., so you've got time to build up that liquid courage. The tickets are just $10, but only if purchased in advance; here's the 411.
Rigging a Chevy Into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague book signing
7 p.m. Tuesday, free
Carolyn Hembree certainly has the gift for coming up with great book titles. This book is actually a sequence of poems, set in rural Appalachia, with an eclectic mix of colorful characters. She's got the vernacular and phrasing down pat (she was born in Tennessee), and weaves us through "wormhole after wormhole" of biblical references and spiritual and material realms. It's the second time at bat for Hembree, and Rigging a Chevy Into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague has already netted her the 2015 Trio Award and the 2015 Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award. She'll be reading from her book and signing copies at Brazos Bookstore, in partnership with Public Poetry and with support from Poets & Writers.
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"Alias: Art and Identity in Cold War Hollywood"
The Menil Collection
7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, free
There's something Bohemian and fascinating about the artists represented in the "Holy Barbarians: Beat Culture on the West Coast" exhibition at The Menil Collection, most of whom came from California and chose to chart their own paths by coloring outside the lines. In conjunction with that exhibit, the Menil is presenting a public program, "Alias: Art and Identity in Cold War Hollywood," that explores how these Los Angeles-based artists navigated the tricky waters during a time when avant-garde art was linked with subversive politics.
Taste of Cherry film screening
Rice Media Center
7 p.m. Wednesday, free
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy, Close-Up, The Wind Will Carry Us) passed away last summer in France, but his directorial vision lives on in this somber film about an Iranian man (played by Homayoun Ershadi) in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide. It shouldn't be that hard; his grave has already been dug, but nothing is ever easy. The film closes with the haunting notes of Louis Armstrong's "St. James Infirmary." Rice Media Center is presenting this winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes as part of its Iranian Film Festival.