The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Blood on Stage, Blood in Art

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Before there was ever the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, there was Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka, with a similar, but much darker, story of a water nymph who gives up the life she’s had, as well as her voice, for love. Brian Jagde (a winner of the Birgit Nilsson Prize at the Operalia competition) will be singing the Prince role this Friday night — which is a great way to start your weekend — and he says there are real differences with the Disney film and musical. “He’s much more of a cad, a guy who’s just really out for women. He does feel something for Rusalka that he’s never felt before.” This doesn’t keep him from pursuing other women even after his marriage.

Jagde, who grew up northwest of New York City in Rockland County, hasn’t trod a very direct path in his opera career. He sang in high school musicals but never thought of music as a practical career until he went to college for computer science and business for two years. “I hated it. I thought, I can’t sit here and type code that I don’t understand for eight hours a day.” He transferred to a music conservatory where he was classified a baritone — he’d always sung tenor roles before — and it wasn’t until eight or nine years later that he switched back when he got a new tutor. (“I was warming up to high C and I still had no low notes.” Although there’s not a lot of Dvorak performed in the United States, this will be the second time Jagde has done Rusalka. “It’s beautiful music.” This story is really the title character’s, he says, adding that Ana Maria Martinez shines in the lead role. “There’ll be some dancing; there’ll be some killing. It’ll be great,” Jagde says. “There will be blood.”

7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturday and Tuesday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Through February 12. Wor-tham Center, 501 Texas. For information call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15-$357.50. 

“Our bodies are often weird and awkward,” says Kelly Johnson, curator of “Dimpled, Twisted and Buried” at Fresh Arts, who has always been interested in the body and how it’s used, both in art and in real life. “The way they move, the way they age. This is a show that explores what bodies mean, physically, biologically; how they’re built and how we use them.” See what she's talking about at tonight's opening reception, our other pick for Friday night.

Johnson’s first curated show, following the completion of her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, brings together the work of four female Houston artists, working across a variety of media to explore what the human body looks like and how we relate to it.

“Evelyn Pustka’s portraits have people in deliberately awkward poses,” says Johnson. “There’s one in the exhibit of her dad, and he’s sprawling in this exhausted way in a chair by the pool, in a swimsuit. And it’s shot at night. So you’re asking, ‘What’s the story here?’”

Also on display are works by Emily Whittemore, Iva Kinnaird and Jade Abner.

“Jade will sketch the human figure and then zero in on a section of the body, and design abstract interpretations of it. There’s a piece that looks like a torso, bent over.”

Johnson says that she hopes the exhibit will help people see that all bodies are unique, and allow them to see their own bodies in different ways.

“Even as we’re looking at the body in these art pieces, we’re celebrating it,” says Johnson. “The body can hurt. It has all kinds of strange illnesses and different shapes. And that’s perfectly okay and normal.”

There’s an opening reception 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Regular viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Through March 4. Fresh Arts, 2101 Winter. For information call 713-868-1839 or visit fresharts.org. Free.

No need to jet off to Cannes or Hollywood for the latest red carpet event. The hottest ticket in town is at Houston Press Artopia® 2016, our annual celebration of smokin’ hot fashion, bass-thumping music and a sneak peak at some über-creative artists doing work right here in Houston. One of them even puts blood — literally — into his work.

The event kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday night at the Winter Street Studios. Enjoy live music from local bands Catch Fever, Say Girl Say, Gio Chamba and DJ CeePlus Bad Knives.

On the fashion stage, check out the latest from Mod Chic, Chester Roberts, Pardon My Fash-Uhn and Samo Dinero, with modeling by Neal Hamil Agency talent, runway styling by Zahzi Events, and hair and makeup by The Look Salon.

Throughout the Winter Street Studios, check out our curated collection of art from J. Todd Allison, Fikry Botros, Reece Carnley, Fabio D’Aroma, Diane Fraser, Nicole Gavin, Wayne Gilbert, “Uncle” Charlie Hardwick, Jim Hudek, David Huffman, Char Koho, Katherine Mason, Shelbi-Nicole, Hugo Perez, Kelyne Reis, Jermaine Rogers, Sergio Garcia Rill, Nicole Sinclair, Anita Varadaraju, Chell Vassallo and Christopher Woolridge.

It’s also your chance to view photography from our very own Houston Press paparazzi — Violeta Alvarez, Max Burkhalter, Chuck Cook, Troy Fields, Jack Gorman, Ashli Hill, Francisco Montes, Jeff Myers, Yuri Pena, Michael Starghill, Marco Torres and Jay Tovar.Some of their coolest images will be on display near the runway stage.

At 9 p.m., be sure to join us for the eighth annual presentation of the MasterMind® Awards, where we recognize the accomplishments of three artists or organizations, and hand over a $2,000 no-strings-attached grant to fund their passions.

There’s plenty to see and do — and lots to drink — plus samplings from some of our favorite restaurants: BB’s Café, Cajun Shop, Cumbia Coffee, dgn Factory, Eculent Harvest Organic Grille, KUU, Pollo Tropical and The Tipsy Dessert Bar.

It’s not over till it’s over. Join us afterwards for the exclusive after party at Clé Day/Night Club, 2301 Main, from 11 p.m. until closing.

8-11 p.m. Saturday. Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter. For information, visit houstonpressartopia.com. $55-$100.

With two performances this Sunday, you won't want to miss the historic negotiation between LBJ and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. starting in 1963 as President Johnson concentrates on getting the Civil Rights Act passed, with only a hint of Vietnam on the side. In All the Way (winner of the Tony Award® for Best Play in 2014), Johnson (James Black) displays his well-deserved reputation for “brusqueness, a foul mouth and salty tongue,” according to Alley Theatre company member Chris Hutchison (playing Robert McNamara). (James Black opened the play; continuing performances have actor Brandon Potter taking over the role of LBJ.) Not only does Johnson have Congress to convince, but he must persuade King (Shawn Hamilton) that what will become the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is worth his support. King, in turn, must persuade other black leaders of the time.

Alley company actors, local actors and members of the Dallas Theater Center take on a variety of parts in what Hutchison describes as a serious play with comedic moments by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan Jr. Besides McNamara, Hutchison plays several other roles: a butler, a barber cutting LBJ’s hair and a couple of Southern racists. Set in the time beginning shortly after Johnson assumes his presidency after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the play tracks through developments ending with his re-election. “Certainly the subject matter is important,” says Hutchison. “Social justice and inequality are still huge parts of our world. There are many parallels to be drawn. It’s very topical.”

2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through February 21. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $27?$100.

“This is a show that highlights how good people do bad things when they’re presented with what they think is a better option for their lives,” says Jennifer Decker, artistic director of Mildred’s Umbrella, about Steven Dietz’s darkly comic play, Becky’s New Car, our other recommendation for Sunday afternoon.

Sure, Becky’s in a tough spot: She’s middle-aged, she’s living an average life and nothing ever happens.

“Her boss never lets her go home on time. She’s married to a guy who fixes roofs — but hers is leaking. All this stuff,” says Decker. “Her life doesn’t suck. But it’s not extraordinary, either.”

Then one night, this super-rich guy comes into the car dealership where she works and offers her a chance to walk away from her life and have everything she’s ever wanted. What’s a woman to do?

Decker wanted to do Dietz’s play last season, but scheduling conflicts with director Ron Jones called for moving it to this year. She says the play is a bit more mainstream that the edgier fare Mildred’s Umbrella is known for, but the show’s unconventional format and focus on one woman’s challenge put it squarely in the wheelhouse of female-centric shows that Decker strives to produce.

“Becky’s choice is a difficult one,” Decker says. “And I think that dilemma will really resonate with people. Becky’s likable, and she does some really bad things. But then, that’s how people are.”

3 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and February 1. Through February 6. Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. $20. (February 1 is pay-what-you-can Monday.)

Holly Beretto and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.

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