The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: ScreamWorld 2015, Tosca & More

Get an early jump on your scared-silly fun with a Friday visit to Houston’s ScreamWorld 2015.

The popular complex offers five attractions: The Swamp, Jake’s Slaughterhouse, Edge of Darkness, Clown Asylum Maze and Zombie Graveyard. And yes, they will all scare you. (We’re speaking from experience here.) Owner Jim Fetterly explains the ScreamWorld experience begins as soon as you get to the location. “It starts with an outdoor chain-­link maze with powerful strobe lights, so you can just almost see where you’re going. You have to find your way through it while we have four to six actors there in full makeup scaring people. After that, you have three haunted attractions inside the 12,000-­square-­foot facility, and those attractions flow from one to the other. When you come out, there’s a zombie­-apocalypse graveyard area, and before you leave the property, there’s a vortex tunnel that spins as you walk across a bridge.”

Looking for more Halloween fun? Check out our Bayou City Haunts: The 2015 Houston Press Halloween Guide. 

Some 60 scare stations dot the complex. “Some scenes have multiple places, and they’re often in areas you would never expect. A scene might even have an actor pop out of a wall.”  One of the impressive things at ScreamWorld is the detail, particularly the characters’ makeup. “The makeup is a huge part of ScreamWorld. We have a makeup room with 12 makeup artists: six for special effects and six airbrush artists. We can get about 100 actors ready in two hours.”

ScreamWorld awaits you 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays; 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. October 30 and 31. Through November 1. 2225 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For information, call 713-­914­-1313 or visit $25 to $39. 

The Houston Grand Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca has two things in common with ScreamWorld. One, it also makes our list of Friday to-do list. Two, everybody dies (or more accurately acts like they die). 

Puccini’s Tosca, a whirlwind of intrigue, romance, violence and death, is set in Rome in 1800, and the city’s residents are waiting to see what will happen with Napoleon marching their way and whose political alliances will win out in the end. Houston Grand Opera has brought back the tried and true for its opener for the 2015­-16 season at the Wortham Center.

“It’s one of the great tragic operas of all time. A combination of a very dramatic story and an absolutely ravishing musical score makes it what can be an unforgettable experience at the opera house,” says director John Caird. Last time he was in Houston, he had “a strange spectral figure” on the set, but this version will be different, he says. “I got slightly bored with that and sacked the shepherd girl. It’s always good to do something a bit different.”

Caird praised the lead role singers for this. Liudmyla Monastyrska sings the title role, while Alexey Dolgov sings Cavaradossi and Andrzej Dobber sings the evil Baron Scarpia role. “The thing is with these great popular warhorse operas that get done everywhere, there aren’t that many singers internationally who can sing these parts at the level required. So they tend to repeat the roles in many, many different performances,” Caird says.

The main roles have to be able to work well together, he adds. “They have to fall in love with each other, they have to caress each other, they have to murder each other. So it’s quite an intimate relationship these soloists have to have with each other for the piece to work. Not to just be singing out front all the time.”

Floria Tosca is a diva, a singer of great renown who had been raised in a convent. She loves painter Mario Cavaradossi, who tries to help the escaped political prisoner Angelotti get away from his pursuers, which in turn brings Cavaradossi to the attention of Chief of Police Scarpia. Scarpia, who’d like to have Tosca for himself, is able to prey upon her suspicions that Cavaradossi is being untrue to her, and we’re off to the races in a long and convoluted plot of lies and misunderstandings that ends in death for the three protagonists.

Houston Grand Opera Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers conducts the production, which is sung in Italian with projected English translation. An alternate cast performs on November 14.

See Tosca at 7 p.m. October 23; 7:30 p.m. October 31, November 3, 6 and 14; and 2 p.m. October 25. Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-­228-­6737 or visit $18 to $252. 

Looking for something less scary than ScreamWorld or less adult than Tosca to do on Friday? We've got you covered. We suggest the Houston Symphony's spooky family-­friendly Halloween concert, Hocus Pocus Pops at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. And just to make the performance even more appealing for families with little ones, there's free seating on the Pavilion's lawn. 

Conductor Lucas Waldin leads the orchestra in this popular annual event that includes a pre-concert session of Halloween-themed family activities. Costumes are encouraged for the kids. Actually, costumes are encouraged for everyone so if you want to give your costume a trial-run, go ahead. 

Still looking for a costume? Check out our article The Best Cheap and Lazy Halloween Costumes of 2015.

“The hour-long performance features a wide variety of seasonal favorites, explains Waldin. “It’s a mix of classical music, movie music, Disney and musical theater music, all related to Halloween. I put forward my favorite selections, and [the Houston Symphony and I] worked together to make sure it’s a great show for everyone. The music is always completely different every year, which keeps it exciting. We’re going to do a Sinatra tune called ‘Witchcraft,’ which is fitting — you got to have something for the parents as well.”

Family activities begin at 6:30 p.m.; the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. October 23. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive. For information, call 281­-363­-3300 or visit ­ Free to $20. 

On Saturday, Ballet Hispanico, the New York-based performing arts troupe known for its celebration of Latino culture through dance, performs its first full-length narrative work: Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s CARMEN.maquia. It's a don't-miss dance event. 

“What attracted me is that this is the iconic Spanish story. Pretty much from the opera, from the music, [Carmen] is so beloved, such a perfect story. Such intrigue and passion,” says Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro. “On the artistic aesthetic side, I was attracted to it because it was a retelling of a Spanish story by a Spanish choreographer.

“The idea of bullfighting, in Spain, it’s called tauromaquia, hence the name CARMEN.maquia. The bullfighting comes from the scenic design [by Luis Crespo] and the designer’s real impetus of using Picassoesque styles. Picasso loved bullfighting, as you know, his famous bullfighting sketches, and he also loved sketching Carmen; he loved the idea of the gypsy Carmen. The sets are pure white, so that it doesn’t bring up any iconic suggestions, so that it suggests space, the bullring, the bar, the mountain.

“It’s sexy, but in ways that are unexpected. It could be some shadowiness of a drape, or the line of a dress. It’s not blatant, but it is inferred,” says Vilaro. Fashion designer David Delfin has created a sophisticated look with minimalist black-and-white costumes to pair with the Modernist set design.

“When they’re dancing, the movement is fast, it’s angular, it’s athletic, and it is not your typical kind of balletic gestural movement that you might see in classical dance, or when people speak and use their arms to accentuate. No, no, no, no. This is fast-moving, wickedly difficult.”

See Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s CARMEN.maquia at 8 p.m. October 24. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit $33 to $103. 

On Sunday, you can get a double dose of the undead in TCM Event Series: Dracula Double Feature.

First it’s Tod Browning's classic 1931 horror film starring Bela Lugosi as the vampire Dracula. Dwight Frye appears as the unfortunate Renfield, a young lawyer visiting Castle Dracula. Renfield doesn’t last long; he quickly becomes Dracula’s slave and is turned mad by what he sees at the castle.

The newly insane Renfield lands in a sanatorium, where Dr. Seward (Herbert Bunston) and Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) discover that the poor lunatic is under the control of a vampire. When Dracula attacks Dr. Seward’s daughter (Helen Chandler) and her friend (Frances Dade), Van Helsing sets out to kill the vampire.

Dracula was made during the golden era of horror films - in fact, it's responsible for much of the genre's early success. Seeing Bela Lugosi as Dracula on the big screen is a rare treat, one that’s made doubly enjoyable when it’s followed by Drácula, director George Melford's Spanish-language version of the horror story. It was filmed at night on the same set as Browning's English-language version when Lugosi and his castmates weren't using it. 

A special short by Turner Classic Movies introduces the two films.

Watch the Dracula / Drácula double feature at 2 and 7 p.m. October 25 and October 28. Various locations, including Edwards Houston Marq’E Stadium 23 IMAX, 7620 Katy. For information, visit $13. 

Bill Simpson, Margaret Downing and Susie Tommaney contributed to this post. 
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Olivia Flores Alvarez