The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Giant Bunnies and the Cistern

It's a weird and wacky weekend in Houston, with giant, glowing bunnies waving their ears in the wind downtown and the oh-so-spooky historic underwater Cistern finally opening up to the public. It's also a weekend for community, and how great things can happen when we come together as a city. From the power of positivity through hip hop at H-Town Get Down, to the fund-raiser for Barrio Dogs in the East End, to the world premiering chamber opera that tells the story of storm survivors, this weekend offers plenty of awesomeness in the Bayou City.

Director Matthew Ozawa says that, if the world premiere of Houston Grand Opera’s HGOco’s After the Storm is a success, there will be no applause at the end. He might be on to something; those who previewed the prologue during a reading last year were moved to tears. Not much remained of Galveston after the Great Storm of 1900, upon which the chamber opera is based, so librettist Stephanie Fleischmann pored through special collections in Galveston’s Rosenberg Library to create a heartbreaking narrative that interweaves a storm from the future with Hurricane Ike. In one rising-water scene: “Eliza is searching for these letters — the letters from her ancestors from 1900 that survived the Great Storm — and as she is searching for them, she realizes she has to go up to the second floor, and realizes they are destroyed,” says Ozawa. As each letter succumbs to the water, the ancestors come alive, one by one, to retell their story and become memories. “Once an audience has gone through the journey, almost the best response will be no clapping, no applause,” says Ozawa, who hopes that the work resonates with people weeks, months and years after they see the show. It's an important message for our region, and we like it for Friday night.

7 p.m. Friday, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas; and 7 p.m. May 15, The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice, Galveston. For information, call 713-228-6737 or 800-821-1894 or visit $22 to $30. 

When Amanda Parer’s giant white bunnies traveled to other cities, the locals interacted with the illuminated nylon sculptures in their own unique ways. “Wherever I go, people project their own decorations on them. In Paris, at a Russian clown’s house, being clowns, they did amazing things with them, offering them giant vegetables,” says the Australian artist. “In Calgary they lit them up with lights, dance party lights inside them. I’m open to people being inspired by them and doing creative things as well.” H-Town took the challenge seriously, and we've been interacting all week with Parer’s monumental installation, titled “Intrude,” part of a four-city national tour presented by Arts Brookfield. We've been posing, petting, jumping up to touch the paws of the tallest one (affectionately referred to as Big Buddha), and posting our videos and pictures on social media. I think we even saw a visit from a dinosaur! From the colorful umbrellas and Adirondack chairs at the installation site, to the reflections of the bunnies in the glass, we think checking out the glowing and gently-waving-in-the-wind bunnies looks like a great way to spend a Saturday. Parer's five original sculptures — in a variety of poses — have been joined by two new sculptures commissioned by Arts Brookfield, each scaling over two stories in height or length. Both menacing and cute, they’re a creative way of shedding light on the delicate ecosystem of our planet, and the havoc that has been wreaked by rabbits in Australia since the landing of the First Fleet. 

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 1600 Smith. For information, visit Free. 

Houston, get ready to bring the house down this Saturday at Miller Outdoor Theatre, when Dance Houston presents H-Town Get Down, featuring funky, fresh and fun entertainment for all ages. The festival brings together a cross-section of talents: spoken word, DJ’ing, graffiti and dance. It features local companies, battling freestylers and independent artists who will delight audiences with energy and creativity. The show is much more than just entertainment; it’s also about community. Joel Rivera, show director and organizer, says “the goal is to not only promote hip hop but also promote the cause of these groups. This is raising money for scholarships. Ultimately, it’s about spreading positivity and enjoyment through hip hop.” A show produced by Rivera is sure to pack a punch. After all, his credits include People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us,” The Early Show on CBS, Super Bowl XXXVIII and MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. Entertainment is provided by MC Outspoken Bean, Wyld Styl, Riot Squad, Soul Street, HIStory and many more. Also be sure to check out the art installation that will be created while the groups perform. At a price that just can’t be beat, this is an event for the entire family!

8 p.m. May 14. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park. For information, visit Free. 

It's creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky, and now we can check it out for ourselves because The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is finally open to the public. This cavernous underwater space is also not for the faint-of-heart, with dim lighting, shallow water, a quarter-mile walk (to fully participate in the tour) and an amazing echo that lasts for 17 seconds. Heck, it might even be a great place to shelter in place if the zombie apocalypse ever happens: the 87,500 square foot windowless cistern (the size of one-and-a-half football fields) has an eight-inch-thick roof and side walls ranging from eight to 18-inches thick. Built in 1926, it originally served as an underwater reservoir for the city, with the capacity to hold 15 million gallons of water. Recent upgrades keep us safe, with an elevated walkway, guardrails, emergency exits and a smooth transition from light to dark by way of a new curving entry tunnel. Reservations for the docent-led tours are filling up fast for this Sunday, so if you can't get in this weekend, view the Cistern online or above-ground with the amazing "Down Periscope" public art piece by New York artist Donald Lipski. It not only lets us peer into the Cistern, but also allows us control of the periscope.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Docent-led tours are offered every 30 minutes; reservations are required. The Water Works, 105 Sabine. For information, call 713-752-0314 or visit Free to $2.

When we say the neighborhood has gone to the dogs, we mean that in a good way. Barrio Dogs is hosting a fund-raiser, Perro de Mayo, to help rescue stray and abused dogs, which is a very worthy cause and our other pick for something great to do this Sunday. While man’s best friend might be the ultimate focus of the event, there’s still a great round-up of engaging activities to draw a good crowd. Mainly, live music, a silent auction, a barrio tamale dinner and a raffle that will leave you howling. KPFT’s Rick Heysquierdo hosts the shindig, and the lineup includes a few favorites: Austin’s Mike and the Moonpies, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue (from New Orleans), and the Latin jazz fusion of Houston’s Zenteno Spirit, plus DJ Jason spinning vintage vinyl. The event grew out of the love of Barrio Dog’s founder and president, Gloria Zenteno, for Houston and for canines, and the need to address an ongoing problem. “We feel like the city of Houston has had this issue for decades. We hope that this message transfers to the homes: It’s our responsibility to care for these animals.” The organization also uses its resources to provide spaying and neutering procedures, vaccinations and educational programming.

3 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The Continental Club, 3700 Main. For information, visit $15 donation. 

Sam Byrd contributed to this post.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney