Hope Stone Dance's Lemonade Stand: i scream, running Friday and Saturday, was originally scheduled to be at the Photo Booth, the site of previous Drive By Dance performances. Those plans changed unexpectedly and the group scrambled to mount the show in another space. "I was going to do a fishbowl dance originally," says choreographer Jane Weiner. "Now it's in a 15,000-square-foot space."
Weiner admits the size and shape of the new venue influenced the production, but says it didn't change its basic goal: to break through the fourth wall in dance performance. "With my Lemonade Stands, I continue to break down the proscenium." Weiner says she tries to balance doing something new and different with doing something that's accessible to audiences. "I want to do something that brings people back into a theater to watch dance and to enjoy dance. (Other artists) are purposely provocative. I don't think I'm provocative. I feel like I'm early Apple -- I want to be user-friendly so that people aren't scared to come to a performance. I want to do work that people don't come out of the theater saying, 'What was that about?' I want them to know that it can be about anything."
The soundtrack for i scream is a happy amalgamation of odd, errant sounds and seemingly unrelated music. "We've got music being played on [traditional] Swedish instruments; we've got music from college that's come back to haunt me. I'm using a new composition by...Mike Wall. We've got something from Kurt Weill, who sounds like a German mad scientist that decided to sing in his lab one day. Pearl Bailey is in there and so is the Oakland Marching Band."
See Lemonade Stand: i scream at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Art Square Studios, 2327 Commerce. For information, call 713-526-1907 or visit the Hope Stone website. Pay-what-you-like.
Our first pick for Saturday is Maz Jobrani, a stand-up comedian of Middle Eastern descent, who often discusses during his show the angst that goes along with his heritage, but not in that whiny, Reza Aslan, FOX News-y kind of way. "Being Iranian American presents its own set of problems," Jobrani explained during a TED talk. "I was born in Iran, but now I'm an American citizen, which means I have an American passport, which means I can travel," he continues. "If you only have an Iranian passport, you're kind of limited in the countries you can go to with open arms -- like Syria, North Korea, Venezuela. I remember getting my American passport and thinking, 'Woo-hoo! I'm going to travel!' Then I opened it up and it said, 'Born in Iran,' and I'm like, 'C'mon, man! I'm trying to go places!'" Regardless of what his passport says, Jobrani, the founder of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, has indeed gone places: Previous Axis of Evil tours took him and other comedians of Middle Eastern heritage beyond the United States to sold-out shows in Dubai, Beirut, Cairo, Kuwait and Amman.
Join Maz Jobrani at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Improv Houston, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit the club's website. $25 to $40.
"I am fascinated by the incomprehensible energy, size and scope of Houston, which on the surface may appear to be a bland metropolis," says Gaia, the artist behind "Gaia: New Installation" at Rice University Art Gallery, our second pick for Saturday. "There is a tremendous sense of interconnectivity in the ways in which people relate to one another and navigate their city." Gaia is a street artist whose internationally acclaimed projects with the collective Wall Hunters include humongous portraits of residents and other locals, plastered on their crumbling urban residences. While the "unsanctioned" works often result in ire and embarrassment on the part of neglectful landlords, Gaia's point isn't about assigning blame but rather to shine a spotlight on the deteriorating neighborhoods. Now he's turned his focus toward Houston. "Here, Gaia's installation will be a reflection on his perceptions of the Rice and Houston communities during his site visit and residency," explains Rice Gallery Assistant Curator Josh Fischer. "Houstonians will recognize views of the city including the Fourth Ward, downtown and the Galleria, as well as portraits of individuals with whom Gaia has spoken during his time here." Among the standouts in this site-specific installation is a detailed, floor-to-ceiling mural painted on three gallery walls.
Regular viewing hours for "Gaia: New Installation" are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through December 6. Rice Gallery, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-348-6069 or visit the Rice University website. Free.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Musical, our first pick for Sunday, is a road show for the modern ages set to the pop music in which two drag queens and a transsexual board a battered old bus for a journey through the Australian Outback. Their goals: love, friendship and a father's desire to meet his son. The musical is said to have been the most successful one ever produced in Australia before it went to Broadway with Bette Midler as its producer. Bryan West was part of the original production on Broadway of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Musical and when offered the chance to go on tour in one of the lead roles as Adam/Felicia, he jumped at the chance. "My character is definitely sassy. He's a smart aleck. He always goes for those one-liners," West says. "He has the most to learn out of the three. He thinks he's invincible, and he's obsessed with Madonna. His dream is to climb Ayers Rock in Australia." With songs that include "It's Raining Men," "Finally" and "I Will Survive," the audience will be hard put not to sing along. "Everyone can enjoy the songs they know and the costumes (which won the 2011 Tony Award in that category), and the sets are so amazing the audience just gets swept up in the fantasy," West says.
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See Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Musical at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through October 12. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit the Theatre Under the Stars website. $24 to $101.
Our second pick for Sunday is a reading and signing session with children's book author R.J. Palacio who was out with her children getting ice cream when she saw a little girl with a deformed face. The girl had Treacher Collins Syndrome, a condition characterized by an abnormally small lower jaw, downward slanted eyes and malformed ears. Palacio's young son started to cry at the sight of the child. "I couldn't stop thinking about how that scene had played out," Palacio has said. "It occurred to me that [that family] probably went through something like that dozens of times a day, hundreds of times. What would that be like? What could I be teaching my children so they could understand how to respond better next time?" The incident inspired Palacio's novel Wonder. The book follows a fifth-grade boy named August who has Treacher Collins Syndrome as he enters school for the first time.
Palacio will read from and sign Wonder on Sunday at 3 p.m. Johnston Middle School, 10410 Manhattan Drive. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit Inprint Houston's website. Free.
Nancy Ford, Jef with One F and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.