We've got seven reasons why staying home this weekend is a really bad idea. Find sophisticated culture with the Houston Iranian Film Festival and the Turkish Music Festival; court intrigue with Company OnStage's Becket, or the Honour of God; an afternoon block party, courtesy of MATCH; and a historic tour of the famous graves at Forest Park Lawndale. Nature-lovers will want to get in on the action when more than 800 trees get planted at Memorial Park, while anybody who needs some cat therapy should head over to El Gato's painting class.
Growing up in Cypress and Turkey, Mehmet Ali Sanlikol fell in love with the strange, handmade strings and horn instruments that seemed to bend musical notes micro-tonally. Although his later formal training was in American jazz and European classical music, he never forgot his Turkish roots and found a way to blend those influences to create a new sound with international flavor. Notable works include A Story of the City: Constantinople-Istanbul, The Blue Typhoon, and Vecd, a composition that was nominated for a Grammy award in 2014. Sanlikol will be performing at the 2nd Annual Turkish Music Festival, co-presented by Asia Society Texas Center and the Hoppa Project, an organization that brings together western and eastern trained musicians and that draws its name from the region's exclamation of "Come on! Let's Go!" Erberk Eryilmaz conducts Hoppa Project's segment of the concert, one that includes folk and Ottoman court music. The festival also features the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet, an ensemble as familiar with Andean soundscapes as rocking techno grooves.
7:30-10 p.m. January 18, Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Boulevard, 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org, $20 to $30.
What's not to love about the drama, fashion, politics and court intrigue during the time of King Henry II of England? After Thomas Becket is made Archbishop of Canterbury, friend soon turns to foe as Becket battles the king to preserve the rights of the church. Of course, we know how those royals dealt with problems in the Middle Ages; let's just say all doesn't end well for the archbishop. Becket, or the Honour of God is a slightly inaccurate historical drama by Jean Anouilh, translated by Lucienne Hill, coming to Houston audiences courtesy of The Company OnStage. The playwright did get a few things right, including the conflicts between England and France, church and state, and biographical aspects of Becket's life. Highly acclaimed during the play's run in London, New York and Paris, the storyline later gained Richard Burton several Academy Award nominations for the film adaptation. Mark Carrier directs the production.
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. January 20, January 18 through February 9, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 4930 West Bellfort, 713-726-1219, companyonstage.org, $15 to $18.
Rogue filmmaker Jafar Panahi is banned from making films in Iran — he's been accused of making propaganda against the country's regime — but the more he's backed into a corner, the more he feels that he must continue making films to feel alive. His latest, 3 Faces (Se rokh), is the opener for the 26th Annual Houston Iranian Film Festival, a collaboration with screenings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Asia Society Texas Center and Rice Cinema. On Saturday night the MFAH is screening Looking for Oum Kulthum, a film within a film about an exiled filmmaker directing a biopic about a legendary Egyptian superstar, while also struggling with a temperamental lead and hostility from the men on the set. The festival continues at MFAH with Pig, A Man of Integrity, Sly and Feast of Sorrow; at Asia Society with No Date, No Signature; and at Rice Cinema with Invasion and Seeds of All Things.
7 p.m. January 18, 6 and 8 p.m. January 19, 5 p.m. January 20, 7 and 9 p.m. January 25, 7 p.m. January 26 and 5 p.m. January 27, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7515, mfah.org/films, $8 to $10.
2-4 p.m. January 27, Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Boulevard, 713-496-9901, asiasociety.org/texas, $5 to $10.
7 p.m. February 1, 5 p.m. February 2, Rice Cinema, 6100 Main, 713-348-4853, vada.rice.edu/rice-cinema/rice-cinema-events, $10.
We do things our own way here in H-Town. While the rest of the nation celebrates Arbor Day in April, our Zone 9A rating on the plant hardiness zone map makes the upcoming Memorial Park Arbor Day possible. It's Memorial Park's largest volunteer event of the year — a collaboration with Trees for Houston, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Memorial Park Conservancy — with the goal of planting more than 800 new trees. Gloves and shovels will be provided. Can't make it but still interested in the cause? Memorial Park needs help year round with Friday conservation crews, park patrols (about five hours per month), or volunteers to staff the office and events.
9 a.m.-noon January 19, Memorial Park Conservancy, 7575 North Picnic Lane, memorialparkconservancy.org/volunteer/opportunities.html, free.
One of our favorite new-ish performance spaces, MATCH, is opening its doors to all of Houston for MATCH Family Fun Day, but the party doesn't stop there. This year's open house is bigger and better than ever, spilling out to fill an entire city block with entertainment and activities. Main Street Theater will offer performances of Schoolhouse Rock, Prelude Music is doing a concert, and Open Dance Project performs Alice. Activities include bounce houses, face painters, balloon and chalk artists, stilt walkers and much, much more. And if all that excitement makes you hungry, don't forget to stop by Lemond Kitchen's just opened cafe on Main Street.
1-5:30 p.m., January 20, MATCH, 3400 Main, 713-521-4533, matchouston.org, free.
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, voted best cemetery in Best of Houston® in 2013 and again in 2016, has no shortage of famous people at eternal rest. Visitors will discover grave markers, monuments or mausoleums for Jesse Jones, Hugh Roy Cullen, Oscar Holcombe, "Red" Adair, Third Ward bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins, Lloyd Bentsen and murderer Karla Faye Tucker (the last woman to be put to death in Texas). Now Mister McKinney's Historic Houston, Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery and Robert Gallegos (Houston City Council Member District I) are teaming up to show us the way with the Titans and Tycoons Legacy Tours on the third Sunday of each month. It's a free public service from Mister McKinney, the man who has a head for historic facts, and all he asks is that guests "like" his social media pages (Mister McKinney's Historic Houston, the Houston History Bus) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and RSVP (the open air bus only seats 20). Don't have social media? A donation of $10 or $15 will help preserve the history of Houston's East End.
1 and 2 p.m. January 20, February 17 and continuing through July 2019, Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery, 6900 Lawndale, bit.ly/EastEndCemeteryTours, free to $15.
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In our own town's version of "the little engine that could," El Gato Coffeehouse quietly purrs along, doing what it does best. Through its partnership with Friends for Life, the feline-friendly cafe facilitated the adoption of 98 cats last year, including the notorious Wink who was on the run for two weeks after a break-in. Bad burglars! Feeling stressed, lonely or in need of some cat therapy? Stop by El Gato anytime they're open, or during one of their special events like this month's painting class, yoga with cats, book club or movie night. This weekend they're doing Painting with Cats with instructor Laurence Dusaulx, with craft passes designed for different age groups (adults, students, or kids over age 5). All materials are provided, and you'll walk away feeling relaxed and with an artsy take-home. Now that's something to meow about.
11 a.m.-12:45 p.m., El Gato Coffeehouse, 508 Pecore, Suite A, 832-968-3006, elgatocoffeehouse.com, $37 to $41.