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Best Bets This Weekend: The Elliot Trilogy, Sarah McLachlan, and the Schumann Festival

Chapman Dance and Melissa Noble present their collaborative work, Folding/Unfolding, Thursday night at the Blaffer Art Museum.EXPAND
Chapman Dance and Melissa Noble present their collaborative work, Folding/Unfolding, Thursday night at the Blaffer Art Museum.
Photo by Lynn Lane

Welcome to your last weekend before Valentine’s Day, one more chance to appreciate some fun without red hearts and expensive gifts. This weekend, we’ve got two plays from a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, the works of some great composers (we’re talking masters like Schumann and Bach), and the country’s first Muslim woman comedian. Keep reading to see it all.

Collaboration will be a theme this week, and you need look no further than Blaffer Art Museum, where Teresa Chapman’s Chapman Dance, and performance and visual artist Melissa Noble have joined forces for a new dance performance piece titled Folding/Unfolding. Four dancers (Roberta Cortes, Brittany Jones, Lindsey McGill and Travis Prokop) will move through the space, spontaneously constructing sculptures as the dance progresses. The title hints at the tenuous shapes created during this interactive piece, and afterward, audience members will get a chance to make their own objects reflecting the sculptures made during the performance in the Blaffer Café. In addition to Folding/Unfolding, audience members will also get a special preview, excerpts of Chapman’s latest, evening-length repertory work, French Sweets. The piece, the second in a trilogy of dance works, will officially make its premiere in September at Midtown Arts Theater Center.

Folding/Unfolding is scheduled for 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. February 6 at Blaffer Museum, 120 Fine Arts Building, University of Houston, 4173 Elgin. For more information, call 713-297-1529 or visit chapmandance.com. Free.

Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor will join the Houston Symphony during their two-week-long Schumann Festival.EXPAND
Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor will join the Houston Symphony during their two-week-long Schumann Festival.
Photo by Patrick Allen

It’s all Schumann, all the time for the next two weeks over at the Houston Symphony, where a bunch of talented folks will take a deep dive into the life and work of Romantic composer Robert Schumann during the Schumann Festival. Tonight, the Symphony will partner with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to present a live performance by four Symphony musicians and a gallery tour of art from the Romantic era. On Saturday, psychiatrist Dr. Richard Kogan will host Music, Mood Swings & Madness, which will explore the link between mental illness (it is suspected that Schumann may have been bipolar) and creativity. After, Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada will welcome Alley Theatre company member Jay Sullivan as Robert Schumann and lead the Symphony in Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 2, and his Piano Concerto with pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, who will also perform Schumann’s Kreisleriana post-concert at a sky bar in downtown Houston. Orozco-Estrada, Grosvenor, and Sullivan will return Sunday for Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, Symphony No. 4, and a reprise of the Piano Concerto. If that’s not enough to quench your Schumann thirst, check back next week for even more.

The Schumann Festival is scheduled for various times and locations through February 16. For more information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org/schumann. Prices vary.

Gerardo Velasquez, Luis Galindo, and Rhett Martinez in Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue at Main Street Theater.EXPAND
Gerardo Velasquez, Luis Galindo, and Rhett Martinez in Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue at Main Street Theater.
Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography

The work of a Pulitzer Prize winner will take over Houston stages this winter, as three different theater companies each stage a part of Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Elliot Trilogy, starting with Main Street Theater tackling Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue. The titular Elliot is Elliot Ortiz, an Iraq War veteran from a military family (his grandfather, Grandpop, a veteran of Korea, and his father, Pop, a veteran of Vietnam). Nineteen years old and back home with a leg injury and a Purple Heart, Elliot tries to make sense of it all to a soundtrack of Bach. Hudes has said, “I love the mischief in connecting Puerto Rican men who have served in the United States military [with] Bach preludes and fugues. They don't seem like they go well together but, in fact, they go really well together.Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue is the first part of the trilogy, with Stages hosting the second installment, Water by the Spoonful (more on that below), and Mildred’s Umbrella staging a reading of the conclusion, The Happiest Song Plays Last, in March. Don’t be surprised to read this again soon, because with collaboration so fine, it can’t be said enough. You’re going to want to pencil in all three. Read the preview here.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. at Main Street Theater-Rice Village, 2540 Times. Through March 1. For more information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36 to $55.

If you're one of the many who jumps for the remote when you hear the familiar strains of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" emanating from your TV, fearing the sad faces of shivering, cowering puppies and kittens in that ASPCA commercial – you know the one – well, you're in good company. The songstress herself has said, "I can't watch them! It kills me." The Canadian singer-songwriter, three-time Grammy winner and mastermind behind the Lilith Fair, is sure to play "Angel" when she stops by the Hobby Center Thursday night for An Intimate Evening with Sarah McLachlan, and maybe hits like "Possession," "I Will Remember You," "Building a Mystery," "Aida," “Fallen” – remember, she’s sold more than 40 million records, so she’s got quite the catalogue of music to choose from (and if you feel yourself getting weepy and flashing back to those commercials during “Angel,” give in to it and remind yourself that the commercials raised $30 million dollars for a good cause in just the first two years after their premiere).

An Intimate Evening with Sarah McLachlan is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. on February 6 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For more information, visit thehobbycenter.org. $50.50 to $90.50.

A time to talk about connections, made and missed.
A time to talk about connections, made and missed.
Photo by Stages

While Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue plays on the Main Street Theater stage, over at the newly opened Gordy, Stages mounts the second play in Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Elliot Trilogy, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize Drama winner, Water by the Spoonful. The second play picks up with Elliot back home in Philadelphia, haunted and struggling with pain and frustration. And where Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue paired this military family with Bach, Hudes has said that Water by the Spoonful uses “John Coltrane and jazz as a kind of musical metaphor for reentry into civilian life and the dissonance that happens there.” Each play in the series can be viewed as a stand-alone, but with all three playing on Houston stages this winter (don’t forget about The Happiest Song Plays Last, which Mildred’s Umbrella will stage a reading of to conclude the trilogy in March), we’re betting that it would be a missed opportunity not to see them all. Read the preview here.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on the Lester and Sue Smith Stage of The Gordy, 800 Rosine. Through February 23. For more information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stageshouston.com. $25 to $65.

Bach Society Houston will stop by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for a gallery concert in Bach’s Concertos: A Feast for the Senses.EXPAND
Bach Society Houston will stop by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for a gallery concert in Bach’s Concertos: A Feast for the Senses.
Photo by Kevin McGowan

There was a time when Johann Sebastian Bach – the man now noted in history as a great composer of the Baroque era – was hired to be a musical director by people who found him to be mediocre at best. Go figure. Luckily, the Leipzig town council took a chance on him for the position at the Thomasschule, where he composed the so-called “Bach Double,” the composer’s Double Violin Concerto, BWV 1043. Though we don’t know if it was adapted from one of his earlier works, it is known that Bach composed at least half a dozen concertos for violins (one or more) and a few more for the violin paired with other instruments, but the Double Violin Concerto is the only one he composed for two violins. (And, if you’re a fan of Antonio Vivaldi, you’ll probably appreciate the fact that the Double Violin Concerto references his ritornello form in all three movements too.) On Saturday, Bach Society Houston will perform the Double Violin Concerto, along with Brandenburg Concerto 5, BWV 1050, during Bach’s Concertos: A Feast for the Senses, a gallery concert amidst art works from the Baroque period in the Beck Building of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Bonus: There will be a reception after the concert.

Bach’s Concertos: A Feast for the Senses is scheduled for 4 p.m. February 8 at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call 713-400-0514 or visit bachsocietyhouston.org. $5 to $40.

Axiom Quartet will transport listeners to the “City of Lights” circa early 20th century with this weekend's Meet Me in Paris program.EXPAND
Axiom Quartet will transport listeners to the “City of Lights” circa early 20th century with this weekend's Meet Me in Paris program.
Photo by Lynn Lane

If you want to talk about a life lived, let’s talk about Alexandre Tansman. Though his name might not automatically ring any bells (especially for those that don't read Polish), the Jewish composer from Poland was a protégé of Maurice Ravel, a part of the École de Paris, and a writer of 300 compositions that were performed by the best artists of his day and took him all around the world, meeting seemingly everyone from Charlie Chaplin and the Emperor of Japan to Pope John XXIII and George Gershwin. World War II forced Tansman into exile, and he ended up in Hollywood scoring films (where he picked up an Oscar nomination for Paris Underground) for a few years. But as soon as he could, he returned to his chosen home, Paris, and that’s where Axiom Quartet will take audiences during Saturday’s Meet Me in Paris. The ensemble will play Tansman’s String Quartet No.6, along with Ravel’s String Quartet and Igor Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet, so be ready to be transported to the “City of Lights” circa early 20th century – no airplane or time machine necessary.

Meet Me in Paris is scheduled for 5 p.m. February 8 at Cullen Hall, University of Houston, 4001 Mt. Vernon. For more information, call 713-525-3560 or visit axiomquartet.com. Free.

What's Opera, Duck? returns to McGonigel's Mucky Duck to raise money for the University of Houston’s Moores Opera Center.EXPAND
What's Opera, Duck? returns to McGonigel's Mucky Duck to raise money for the University of Houston’s Moores Opera Center.
Photo by Pin Lim

You can always count on the University of Houston’s Moores Opera Center to put on a good show, and that includes when it’s not a full production, but their annual fundraiser, What's Opera, Duck? The evening’s program, led by emcee (and Moores Opera Center director and founder) Buck Ross, is sure to include familiar arias, maybe a few favorites from musical theater, and a host of talented grad students lending their voices to the occasion. In 2014, Ross called the night an “entirely different kind of opera experience,” adding that it is “a casual and entertaining showcase of popular material and a way to hear some great singing in a fun and intimate venue.” All that said, the ever-popular program will see one change this year – two, yes two, performances. Demand is always high for this one, so take advantage of the double opportunity to catch the all-new program (and note that as of press time, standing tickets for the second performance are already sold out).

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What’s Opera, Duck? is scheduled for 6:30 and 9 p.m. February 8 at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For more information, call 713-528-5999 or visit mcgonigels.com. $20 to $22.

In 2018, The New York Times, in big, bold headline asked, "Heard the One About the Disabled Muslim Comic From Jersey?" The comic in question is Maysoon Zayid, who you may recognize from the Adam Sandler comedy You Don’t Mess With The Zohan or, more likely, her 2014 TED Talk, I’ve Got 99 Problems … Palsy Is Just One, which has racked up about 15 million views across YouTube and the TED website. In this, her 20th year as a stand-up comic, Zayid will swing by Asia Society Texas Center to talk about her status as the country’s first Muslim woman comedian and using comedy to talk about family, culture and living with a disability, cerebral palsy. After, Zayid will stick around for a conversation with Houston Public Media’s Ernie Manouse. Prior to the 7 p.m. performance, there will be a reception at 6 p.m. Note that as of press time, this one is sold out, but a waiting list has been created if additional seating comes up. Our bet is that this one is worth trying for. Read the preview here.

An Evening with Maysoon Zayid is scheduled for 7 p.m. February 8 at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore. For more information, call 713-496-9901 or visit asiasociety.org/texas. $25 to $50.

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