The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Bayou City Art Festival & More

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Forget Second City. Comedy and improv greats are descending on H-Town this weekend for the Houston Improv Festival; over at the Hobby Center, teenage murder is on the menu with Heathers the Musical; and the jiggly lovelies are doing some great things over at the Benefit Betties Ball. The weather gurus tell us that the rains will begin to clear by Sunday, so we're pumped about the Bayou City Art Festival and the amazing historical homes tour in Galveston.

“I’d gone to Chicago and re-caught the improv bug. I thought, ‘Why doesn’t Houston have an improv fest, and why don’t I start it?’” Festival co-founder Todd Boring is talking about the genesis for the Houston Improv Festival, now in its fifth year and featuring more than 23 improv groups (almost 100 improvisers) from across the city and all over the country. Friday night's lineup looks strong, and it's our pick for a great time.

Local improv favorites like Baby Knuckle, Flirt Reynolds and Max are being joined by out-of-towners like George Lusk (Chicago), Laurelly (Los Angeles) and What About a Reuben!?! (Denver). One group Boring is particularly excited about is Sand, an Illinois-based duo consisting of Scott Nelson and Michael Brunlieb. According to Boring, “Chicago has [three] main improv theaters — iO, The Annoyance and Second City. These guys have trained at all three!” On the local front, CSz Present Improv! The Musical is the only musically inclined team on the roster. “Those guys are making magic,” says Boring. “When somebody breaks into song, it’s just as funny as it gets.”

Beyond performances, HIF also is offering workshops taught by, among others, “the reigning Cagematch champions of iO West,” Kelly Vrooman and Lauren Pritchard. Boring says people will be blown away by the pair.

7, 9 and 11 p.m. April 29 and 30. The MATCH, 3400 Main. There’s a closing improv jam at 2:30 p.m. May 1, tentatively set at Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury Lane. For information and updates, call 713-909-4429 or visit houstonimprovfestival.com. $20 to $160. 

It’s teen angst with more than a touch of blood and guts and death attached; a different kind of high school musical. Based on the late-’80s cult film Heathers (starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater), Heathers the Musical, opening this weekend at the Hobby courtesy of TUTS Underground, tells the story of Veronica Sawyer, who breaks into the best girls clique — Heathers — at her high school and then wants out. McKenna Marmolejo, who plays the Veronica role, describes her character as “very awkward and self-conscious, but she doesn’t care what other people think. She’s very easy to manipulate.” Equally important is the character of J.D., the mysterious newcomer to the school (played by Mason Butler) who spirals more and more out of control as Veronica careens from one mishap to the next and bodies start piling up. And they sing about it in the best tradition (we hope) of Sweeney Todd. With music, lyrics and book by Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness, Desperate Housewives) and Laurence O’Keefe (Bat Boy, Legally Blonde), audiences can expect to go beyond the purely comfortable in this send-up of teenage hierarchies and the characters in power. This isn't one for really young kids, but we think adults and teens will enjoy this dark musical drama on Saturday night.

3 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Continuing 8 p.m. April 29 and May 6;  3 and 8:30 p.m. May 7; 3 p.m. May 1; 7:30 p.m. May 5. 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com/underground. $25 to $54. 

Nothing says “charity” like slithering into something slinky and performing a striptease, right? The ladies and gentlemen of the Benefit Betties (Ruby Joule, Honey Moonpie, Stella Peaks and others) are throwing a tiki-themed burlesque show to support their main areas of interest: military members, animals, and women’s and children’s causes. The event, appropriately titled 4th Annual Benefit Betties Ball: Jiggle in the Jungle, features dancers, circus art, DJ Tropicana Joe, prizes, games, food and an auction. Al E. Cat, president and founder, says the event gets larger every year. “We have performers who are eager to come perform and raise money for charity. It’s a really cool opportunity for this niche of the performing community.” The cover charge helps the organization assemble hundreds of care packages for deployed military members. Sounds like a little bit of jiggle might go a long way this weekend, and it's our other recommendation for Saturday night. 

7 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Last Concert Café, 1403 Nance. For information, visit benefitbetties.org. $20 to $2,500. 

We spoke; they listened. Organizers of the biannual festival (held at Memorial Park in the spring and downtown in the fall) have reduced the number of participating artists at the Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park 2016, making way for wider pedestrian pathways and more food trucks. (Yay!) Other upgrades include more frequent bus schedules and shorter lines at the entrance. “It’s much smaller this year and is more conducive to the artists and the public,” says Bridget Anderson, executive director of Art Colony Association, Inc., organizer of the festival, which is celebrating its 45th year. “We’re going to open it up and have it be more of a festive atmosphere.” View whimsical and colorful animal paintings by featured artist April Murphy, plus work by more than 350 emerging and established artists, while enjoying DJ riffs and enormous soap bubbles. “We’ve decided to do something fun and different this year, and I’ll bet people are going to love it,” Anderson says. We have to agree, and it sounds like a great way to come out and support the arts this Sunday afternoon.

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Also 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 29 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 30. Memorial Park, 6501 Memorial. For information, call 713-521-0133 or visit bayoucityartfestival.com. $15 to $65. 

Will Wright of the Galveston Historical Foundation is “completely unable to pick a favorite” home on this year’s Galveston Historic Homes Tour. The nine turn-of-the-20th-century structures, which date from between 1870 and 1915, are that good, and we think road tripping to Galveston this Sunday is in order. Wright says one of the homes that folks are particularly stoked about is the James and Violet Waters House at 1116 Church Street. “Galveston County Treasurer James Stephen Waters hired architect Henry Collier Cooke of the Nebraska architecture firm Bourgeois Nitchner & Cooke to design this grand Victorian residence in 1893,” says Wright. “The most prominent building on the block, the Waters family sold the house in 2012 to new owners, who are rehabilitating the property. The new owners are the first owners outside of the original family to own the home, and it’s the first time it’s been on tour.” Other homes include the 1905 Marschner Building, former headquarters of Texas Bottling Works; the 1887 Mather House in the East End Historical District; and a Galveston Historical Foundation rehabilitation-in-progress that Wright says was “a ready-made kit house that was shipped to Galveston.”

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 30-May 1 and May 7-8. Ticket holders are able to start the tour from any of the homes on the tour in Galveston. For information and addresses, call 409-765-7834 or visit galvestonhistory.org. $20 to $30. 

Sam Byrd, Margaret Downing, Steve Jansen, Josef Molnar and Vic Shuttee contributed to this post.

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