There are two great shows opening this week so it's going to be tough deciding which performance to attend on Friday. Thankfully, both continue through next week so you'll have time to catch them both before either ends their run.
First up on Friday is FrenetiCore Dance's first full-length narrative production in two years Dancing with the Machine. The conflict between 21st-century technology and 19th-century morality is at the center of the narrative.
"[Our current] humanity is in an era of high technological advancement, but socially and morally, many people are stuck in the 1800s. There are those who still believe the world would be a better place if women were second-class citizens and gays would simply vanish," says FrenetiCore member and sometime Houston Press contributor Adam Castañeda.
The stylized Steampunk production follows Aida, a young, free-spirited heroine living in a postapocalyptic world who's on a quest to challenge the society's troublesome political climate. Throughout Aida's journey, she unearths personal family secrets, discovers a mystical machine and falls in love with a fellow revolutionary.
Based on a story by Castañeda, Dancing features choreography by company Artistic Director Rebecca French and costumes by dancer/filmmaker/designer Ashley Horn. Horn was asked to design wardrobes for "sketchy barmaids, dispossessed wanderers, rebel fighters [and] minions of the crooked government," Castañeda explains. "The movement [in the show] reflects each character's temperaments and inclinations." In order to exhibit such personality in the dancing, French called upon her knowledge of modern and contemporary vocabulary while mixing in hip-hop, jazz, ballet and Broadway-musical dance.
Dance with the Machine runs 8 p.m. March 27, 28, 29 and April 2, 3, 4; 2 p.m. March 29. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. For information, visit freneticore.net. $5 to $30.
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Also on Friday is Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company's upcoming annual short-play festival Museum of Dysfunction VII: A Showcase of Shorts. Houston theater lovers will recognize several of the playwrights with new works in the festival - Michael Weems, L. Robert Westeen and Leighza Walker along with Elizabeth Keel and former Houston Press contributor Abby Koenig are among them.
More than 200 submissions from across the country were sent in to the festival. The arduous task of selecting the 20 finalists was left to the team at Mildred's and Wordsmyth Theatre. According to Jennifer Decker, artistic director and co-founder of Mildred's Umbrella, the team concentrated on the quality of the writing when selecting the finalists. "We don't kick anything out because it is too graphic or the subject matter is too adult. We choose the most interesting pieces and do them truthfully."
The final plays were selected last May and rehearsals began in January. "I'll see their final product for the first time the week of the show," says Decker. "It's a whirlwind, but it has always worked well in the past."
There are two groups of plays, each being presented for a single weekend. (If you want to see all the productions, you'll want to attend both weekends.) Group I includes One, Three, Two by Weems; The Thief's Monologue and The Lovers Meet, both by Keel; Reston by Westeen; and The Bullet by Walker. Works by Denise O'Neal, Steven Korber, Linda Griffin, Rhea MacCallum and Evan Guilford-Blake complete the lineup.
Group II includes Syllogistic Infantilism by Koenig; Getting Over Grace by Jaclyn Grogan; Unspeakable by Helen Stewart; and Lunch by Eric James. Works by William Duell, Asher Wyndham, Jason Rainey, Katharine Sherman, Wayne Mattingly and Holly Hildebrant compete the second group.
Catch the Museum of Dysfunction at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Through April 4. Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. Pay-as-you-can.
On Saturday, more than 30 notable artists from across the state come together for a group signing of the book The Texas Abstract: Modern | Contemporary. It's easily the most star-studded visual arts gathering of the year. Included are four pioneers of modern art -- Gertrude Barnstone, Leila McConnell, Henri Gadbois and Richard Stout -- and 28 contemporary painters, all of them featured in Texas Abstract.
Authors Michael Paglia and Jim Edwards compiled the impressive book, which has been earning glowing reviews since its release just four months ago. Today's group signing session is the brainchild of Bernard Bonnet, book buyer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Shop. Bonnet was so impressed with the volume, he contacted the publisher, Fresco Books in Albuquerque, and suggested a mass signing. The response was overwhelming, with artists from across the state agreeing to participate.
The signing will be loosely organized with artists sitting at tables in the lobby of the museum's Beck Building. (There are no line numbers, for example.) Photos will be allowed but because of the expected crowds, will be limited. If you can't attend, contact the museum to reserve a signed copy of the book.
The signing starts at 3 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5601 Main. For information, call 713‑639‑7360 or visit mfah.org. Free. This story continues on the next page.
Sophia Torres, artistic director and founder of Psophonia Dance Company, is not the only person disturbed by the slew of public figures and athletes who have been recently accused of abusing women -- but she may be one of the few who have choreographed a dance about it.
Torres explains that the piece, titled Fractured, is her "first attempt to decipher the emotional complexity of the physical act" of such abuse. It may be a heavy subject, but Torres, along with six other modern dance choreographers from the Houston area, is interpreting myriad contemporary problems, familial ties and wide-ranging ideas within their showcase, Ensemble Dance Works, which includes a Saturday performance.
The subject matter for the works, which will be performed by the University of Houston's pre-professional company, the UH Dance Ensemble, differs for each choreographer. For instance, Annie Arnoult's jazz trio is upbeat, features dime-a-dance girls and even pays tribute to the dance marathon craze of the 1930s -- so we know the tone of the evening will range from contemplative to jubilant. But these vastly diverse pieces promise to be passionate and exhibit the utmost in modern dance technique. Says Teresa Chapman, dance professor at the University of Houston and director of the event, "Discipline is nonnegotiable."
See Ensemble Dance Works at 7:30 p.m. March 26 to 28; and 1:30 p.m. March 29. Quintero Lab Theatre, 133 CWM Center for the Arts. For information, call 713-409-2838 or visit udtdance.info. $10 to $20.
On Sunday, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston continues the third edition of its annual Houston Turkish Film Festival. Marian Luntz, MFAH film and video curator, traveled to Turkey last fall and compiled a short list of films in collaboration with colleagues at the Consulate General of Turkey.
The newly released Whisper If I Forget is directed by Çagan Irmak, who will be present after the screening for a question-and-answer session. "Through the efforts of Consul General Ferhat Alkan, the film's director...was confirmed. He is a veteran director whose career is well-known by Houston's Turkish community," said Luntz. Irmak's résumé includes 21 directorial credits and 25 writing credits. He both wrote and directed his 2005 film, My Father and My Son, which won the Turkish Cinema Writers Association awards for best film, screenplay and director. In Whisper If I Forget, an aging former pop star returns to her childhood home and, through flashbacks, costume and song, we see the story of her early climb to fame.
Mix Tape is the first feature film for director Tunç Şahin, who also will be present after the screening for a question-and-answer session. "So festival audiences will get two different perspectives on filmmaking in Turkey," said Luntz. "Both guests are traveling from Istanbul to Houston specifically for our festival."
Mix Tape tells the age-old story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, but with a twist. At the age of 13, Ulas makes a music tape for the object of his desire (Emir), only to discover she already has a boyfriend. Over the next ten years, he continues to pine for Emir, and they eventually reconnect. But romance is never as easy as it seems.
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Why Can't I Be Tarkovsky was directed by Murat Düzgünoglu. It tells the story of a successful director who remains unfulfilled because he hasn't attained the professional glory of his idol, Soviet and Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, a noted film theorist who delved in the metaphysical.
Winter Sleep was directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and earned the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. A newspaper contributor and hotel owner converses with guests and locals, doing anything to keep from working on his novel. Events unfold that cause him to reconsider his priorities. Jazz in Turkey was directed by Batu Akyol and includes more than 50 interviews arranged chronologically and interspersed with archival footage.
All films are in Turkish with English subtitles. Screening times vary. March 27, 28 and 29 and April 4. Brown Auditorium Theater, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $10.
Susie Tommaney, Ashley Clos and Sarah Gajkowski-Hill contributed to this post.