Venus in Fur, currently onstage at the Alley Theatre and one of our picks for Friday, is a 95-minute, one-act, two-actor play based on the erotic novel Venus in Furs, which reportedly inspired an Austrian psychiatrist to coin the term "masochism" after its author's last name (Leopold von Sacher-Masoch). In it, a young actress named Vanda (Nicole Rodenburg, making her Alley debut) desperate to get the lead in a play goes toe-to-toe with tough playwright-director Thomas (Michael Bakkensen, who did Ether Dome at the Alley last season).
Brandon Weinbrenner, the Alley Theatre's resident assistant director, will be making his directorial debut in this piece, which he stresses is a comedy, although not one for younger children. "It goes to a dark place with S&M, but it's still a comedy," he says. As he worked with the actors, he explains, "First it was grasping the ideas and concepts from the novel. And then it was seeing how we could apply them to this kooky world that [playwright] David Ives has set for us and then seeing how this world morphs into something that the audience wasn't expecting and Thomas wasn't expecting." Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd, who saw the play off-Broadway before it moved to Broadway, where it was a Tony Awards® nominee for Best Play, said this is a great leap forward in the work being done by Ives. "Venus in Fur is stuck in this wonderful metaphor of the theater," Boyd says. "Any of us who've spent time in this work spent a lot of time in audition rooms or rehearsal rooms, where this play is set. He's really kind of turning it all on its head by saying, 'We don't really know where the power in the room is.'"
See Venus in Fur at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through November 10. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit the Alley Theatre website. $25 to $75.
Another Friday pick is actor/stand-up comedian/reality game-show host Joe Rogan. The comedian, in town for just one night, knows disgusting when he sees it. He's perhaps best known for Fear Factor, the supremely disgusting yet wildly successful gross-out reality game show. In what some would say was an unexpected flurry of good taste and decorum, NBC canceled Fear Factor in 2012 after subjecting its contestants to the unspeakably offensive, albeit inarguably original, challenge of drinking donkey semen and urine, a stunt that offended even Rogan's stalwart sensibilities. But it's not just drinking donkey pee that Rogan finds disgusting; it's joke thieves as well.
"The comics I hate are thieves. Nothing's more disgusting than a guy who steals another person's ideas and tries to claim them as his own," the former co-star of fellow funnyman Phil Hartman's final project, News Radio, told Playboy magazine. "When you snatch little pieces of other people's lives and try to palm them off as your own, that's more disgusting than anything," he philosophizes, punctuating it with: "Robin Williams is a huge thief." Donkey pee and Robin Williams, yeah, there's a joke in there somewhere.
Joe Rogan performs at 8 p.m. Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit the Bayou Music Center website. $38.
If you're heading out to the Theater District on Saturday, watch out for the zombies. No, really. "Every year, we run into people in their tuxedos and [formal dresses] leaving the symphony or the theater. They never know quite what to make of us," laughs Darren Tompkins, organizer of the 2013 Houston Zombie Walk and Halloween Party. "Sometimes they just stop and stare, sometimes they join in and sometimes they run away."
Now in its third year, the Zombie Walk will have a Texas Rockabilly theme for 2013. Most participants dress up ("we get everything from last-minute costumes to elaborate, professionally made cosplay outfits"), but it's not required ("if you just want to come watch, that's fine"). Tompkins says donated costumes and volunteer makeup artists will be on hand if anyone changes his or her mind after arriving at the party. In addition to the zombie walk, this year's party features -music by the Reverend Horton Heat, lots of family activities, food and adult beverages. "You're going to see a monster crowd," quips Tompkins.
The Zombie Walk starts at 2 p.m. Jones Plaza, 600 Louisiana. For information, call 281-783-9337 or visit the event website. $15.
There's only one way for things to go wrong at Sunday's Persistence of Vision, a dance performance directed by dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, costume designer and artist Ashley Horn. "If you get bored, then it's wrong...but that would be my fault." Given Horn's track record, there's little chance anyone will get bored. Persistence of Vision is an open-ended work exploring memory. "I was reading about how memory can change over time, how you can 'remember' doing something that you never did or something that never happened. That was so scary -- if I can't trust my own memory, what can I trust?"
At the show, each dancer performs in her own little space, interpreting a particular memory, adding her own take to Horn's instructions, while the audience moves around the stage from space to space. Horn mapped out a solo, step by step. Then she gave copies of the directions to her dancers, but no two copies were alike. "One dancer got the whole thing, and then with each other copy I blacked out more and more of the information. The last dancer got less than a third of the [directions] the first dancer got." Horn instructed the dancers to fill in the missing pieces. "For a control freak like me, that was really hard," she laughs.
7 p.m. Frenetic Theater, 5102 Navigation. For information, call 832-489-2572 or visit the Ashley Horn Dance Company website. $10.
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Think you've got a cool car? You haven't seen Kerry "Fleetking" Williams's ride. Williams, a participant in our pick for Sunday, the Houston SLAB Parade & Family Festival, drives a fully loaded 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with an LS1 engine. (SLAB cars, by the way, are hip-hop-influenced low rider/art cars popular in African-American communities. The practice originated here in Houston.) Williams's car, painted Kandy Teal green, has a custom 2005 DTS Cadillac cream leather interior, Delorean doors in the front, Eagle doors in the back and a 16-switch hydraulic pump to activate the suspension. There are more than a dozen television screens inside the car. "[I have] one in the steering wheel, one in the radio, two in the front doors and two collapsible 23-inch screens embedded in the rear doors," he tells us. "Throughout the console I have four screens. In the main section I have two 19.5-inch screens, two in the headrests and two in the rear seats."
Williams's Cadillac will be one of some 50 tricked-out cars and dozens of customized bikes in the parade. The SLAB parade and festival, presented by the Houston Arts Alliance and partners the Houston Museum of African American Culture and Workshop Houston, is the first-ever "official" event of its kind in the city.
The SLAB Festival runs 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MacGregor Park, 5225 Calhoun. For information, call 713-581-6131 or visit the Houston Arts Alliance website. Free.
Margaret Downing and Nancy Ford contributed to this post.