Top 5 Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: "The Gun Show," the Gerald Clayton Trio, and More

Once a year, the Art Car Museum holds an open-call exhibit. This year's event, "The Gun Show,", our first choice for Friday, centers on firearms. Selecting a rather polarizing topic isn't really a surprise, since the museum regularly pushes the envelope with its shows.

A combination of emerging and professional (and local and national) artists on both sides of the issue have contributed works to the exhibit, including a painting showing a man, rifle in hand, sitting in what seems to be a living room, spent shells surrounding his feet. The piece, by Houston artist Peter Daniel Bernal, is titled The Defender.

There's an opening reception with many of the artists at 7 p.m. December 7. Regular gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Through February 21. 140 Heights. For -information, call 713-861-5526 or visit Free.

It always seemed a little odd to Abby Koenig that her family celebrated Christmas, when her Jewish heritage indicated Hanukkah would be more appropriate. "I grew up in a fairly Jewish neighborhood and none of my Jewish friends celebrated it like we did. I always thought that made us 'special' in a way," Koenig, a performance artist, playwright and frequent contributor to Houston Press, recalls. "It occurred to me that I've had many milestones in my life around the holidays, and that's what got me actually writing." Before you could say, "Hey, spark up that menorah," The Jew Who Loves Christmas, a multimedia exhibit and performance piece, was born.

"The gallery is going to be a Christmas extravaganza of lights and fake trees and blow-up paraphernalia and snowflakes and candy-cane explosion!" Koenig says. "Like a Santa Village...but without Santa." During Koenig's one-night performance on Friday, audience members should expect a timeline of Koenig's Christmases Past, exploring some of her best and worst memories. The opening-night performance will be taped and screened throughout the exhibit's run.

Koenig performs at 7 p.m. on December 6. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Through January 3. Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter. For information, call 713‑868-1839 or visit Free.

A fast-rising star on the jazz scene, the Netherlands-born/California-raised pianist Gerald Clayton cites his father, bassist/bandleader John Clayton, and piano great Oscar Peterson as musical influences. The three-time Grammy nominee was voted as Rising Star -- Pianist in the 2010 Down Beat Critics Poll.

He'll be performing in Houston fronting the Gerald Clayton Trio as part of the Da Camera jazz series on Saturday. Clayton brings along Houston native and HSPVA graduate (and sideman to Terence Blanchard) Kendrick Scott on drums. Fans can expect to hear several selections from Clayton's most recent CD, Life Forum (released on the Concord label after Clayton's departure from Decca).

8 p.m. Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit $35 to $65.

In the case of Mildred's Umbrella's Museum of Dysfunction VI: A Showcase of Shorts, focusing on lives gone astray just goes with the territory. The annual showcase, our choice for Saturday, drew from some 200 short-play submissions. A total of 20 selected works will be presented during its two-weekend run (two different sets of ten plays per weekend).

Texas theatrical lynchpin Ron Jones has a hand in shows both weekends. "Mine are sexier than the rest," he warns/promises of his contributions. "And I like it!" Jones directed Reginald Edmund's End of The World, which finds both a gay and a heterosexual couple lamenting their similar sexual problems. Jones also directs fellow Houston playwright Eric James's Pumpernickel, focusing on a dominatrix and her shy, inexperienced customer. "Let's just say after the initial agreed-upon activity doesn't 'work out' for them both, they begin to debate other possible scenarios," James says of his work. "The guy really doesn't want to spend any more money than he's already paid, but he has some interesting suggestions and fetishes -- and the woman is only right to want to charge more for some of them!"

8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Through December 14. Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832‑463‑0409 or visit Pay-as-you-can.

Our choice for Sunday is the Theatre Under the Stars presentation of Elf the Musical, which has just hit the regional theater market after making a ton of money in New York, tells the story of Buddy, a human child who accidentally ends up at the North Pole after crawling into Santa's bag one Christmas. His discovery that he's not just a really big fairy creature leads him to try to reconnect with his roots in, where else, New York City. There, his task is to persuade his doubting father and others to believe in the spirit of Christmas. Ah, those cynical New Yorkers. Jessica Rush, an Orange, Texas, native, has returned to Houston (where she was last seen in Miss Saigon) to play Buddy's girlfriend, Jovie, who has to be reinspired to find the magic in the holiday season. Fresh from her Broadway performance in Jersey Boys, Rush says she jumped at the chance to play the "quirky" Jovie in the Theatre Under The Stars production.

"I tend to play more traditional ingenues or girls who are not the nicest." The other advantage is that she can invite the youngest of her relatives to see the show (not the case with Miss Saigon). Even people who've already seen the 2003 movie should recognize that live theater is its own special experience, Rush says. "Besides, I think it's fun to see people dancing around in brightly colored costumes." The story doesn't differ much from the Will Ferrell film, but by using music and dance, it tells it in a slightly different way, Rush says.

7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through 22. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit $24 to $121.

Margaret Downing, Nancy Ford and Bob Ruggiero contributed to this post.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez