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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Stop the Pounding Heart, Saturday Pop-Up Burlesque and More

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Meet Houston-based filmmaker Roberto Minervini on Friday at a preview screening of his latest project, Stop the Pounding Heart. Three members of the film's nonprofessional cast -- Sara, LeeAnne and Tim Carlson -- will also be in attendance. Minervini, who has spent the past ten years filming in Texas, teaching in the Philippines and working toward his doctorate in Spain (yes, all at the same time), has crafted an offbeat coming-of-age story. At the center of the film is teenage Sara (played by Sara Carlson), the eldest of 12 children in a devout Christian family of goat farmers. Taught that she should be chaste and submissive, Sara has met Colby (played by Colby Trichell), a rodeo rider who lives nearby. Her growing attraction to him throws into doubt everything she's been taught.

Minervini is careful not to comment on the validity of the conservative Christian doctrine Sara's family lives by. Stop the Pounding Heart is not an examination of theology or feminism, but rather a quiet look inside the heart of one young woman who is becoming aware of a world that's larger than the confines of her family farm. Stop the Pounding Heart is the third in a trilogy of movies Minervini has filmed set in Texas with the Carlson family and their neighbors playing barely altered versions of themselves.

Minervini and the Carlsons will be in attendance only at the Friday screening. See Stop the Pounding Heart before it hits the art-house circuit. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑639‑7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.

The Moonlight Dolls burlesque troupe is getting ready for the grand opening of its new home, the Prohibition Supperclub & Bar. Until the Prohibition's doors official open (sometime in late August), the group is performing a series of Saturday Pop-Up Burlesque shows at Studio 1000, just to keep Houston audiences sufficiently titillated. Choreographer and Dolls founder Lian Pham has put together a 21st-century cabaret act that mixes classy classical and naughty neo-burlesque routines.

See the Dolls at 10 p.m. Saturday. Studio 1000, 1000 Prairie. For information, visit themoonlightdolls.com. $15.

Director Matt Huff wasn't looking for swimmers when he cast Pollywog, but he got them. "The play is about swimming, and...I was originally planning to have a swim coach spend some time with the cast in order to teach them the proper technique for each stroke," he tells us. "Strangely enough, everyone in the cast was a competitive swimmer at some point, so they already knew them! Swimming experience was not something I was looking for during auditions, so this turned out to be a very convenient -coincidence."

In Keian McKee's Pollywog, one of our picks for Saturday, the lead character is a woman named Polly. About to go on her first ocean swim, she has her mother's ashes with her. As a child, Polly was being taught how to swim by her mother, but those lessons stopped suddenly when her mother had a debilitating stroke. The comedy follows the adult Polly on her swim as she encounters various characters from her past. There's her mother (both pre- and post-stroke), her father (a former sailor, he's a cemetery salesman) and several imaginary playmates (they helped Polly care for her mother). Oh, and a couple of Hollywood swim idols (think Esther Williams and Johnny Weissmuller) are also in the water.

Pollywog runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Through August 16. Studio 101, 1834 Spring Street. For information, call 832‑463‑0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. Pay-as-you-can to $20.

There's a new con in town, The Houston Con and we suggest a Sunday visit. (Founders of the venture were previously involved in the well-regarded Space City Con.) Game of Thrones fans will be excited to learn that James Cosmo (Commander Mormont) is appearing. Houstonian Dylan Sprayberry (who played young Clark Kent in Man of Steel and stars in Teen Wolf), Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Chuck) and Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) will also be there. Todd and Hatch both have roles in Star Trek: Axanar, an independent film that's set before the original series during the Four Years War between the Federation and the Klingons. A 20-minute teaser just debuted at San Diego Comic-Con, but the Houston Con is the first time the entire Axanar cast will be available.

Houston martial arts master Jason David Frank (who played the popular Green Ranger on the 1990s television show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) is at this con to start stirring up some excitement for the new Power Rangers movie that's in the works. He's appearing with four actors from other incarnations of the show including Erin Cahill, Jason Faunt (Power Rangers Time Force), Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue) and Hector David Jr. (Power Rangers Samurai). The group is being referred to as The Chosen Five.

Programming is scheduled for noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Gaming runs 24-hours a day through Sunday. The Hilton Houston North, 12400 Greenspoint. For information, visit thehoustoncon.com. $25 to $500.

You don't fool us, Moody Gardens -- you can call it Shark University Week and hope the word "university" makes parents think it's educational if you want, but the bald-faced truth is we wanna see blood and biting and gore. We just want to see it from behind the safety of an unbreakable aquarium wall. No? Oh, okay. So Shark University Week, one of our suggestions for a Sunday visit, actually won't have the scare factor of the televised celebration of terror and mayhem we've come to know as Shark Week, but there will be live feedings, keeper talks and other kid-friendly activities. All of them promise to be educational; we're holding out hope at least one or two will involve blood and guts.

Shark University Week runs 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Through August 10. 1 Hope Boulevard, Galveston Island. For information, call 800-582-4673 or visit moodygardens.com. Activities included with paid general admission. Prices vary.

Barrett White and Phaedra Cook contributed to this post.

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