Even before Shakespeare's Hamlet, the gloomy Danish prince haunted by the ghost of his murdered father, couldn't make up his mind back at the castle, he was something of a ditherer while at university. At least that's according to the premise of Wittenberg, a comic play by David Davalos that has Dr. Faustus and Martin Luther fighting each other over the heart and soul of the lonely Dane, who characteristically bounces back and forth between them. Wittenberg is our pick for Friday.
"Each one of them wants to take him under their wing to become their prized pupil," says director Josh Morrison, who's in charge of the Stages Repertory Theatre production. Luis Galindo, who plays Dr. Faustus, describes his character as "a libertine, a free thinker not swayed by his surroundings being in a Catholic University." Playwright Davalos told us: "I don't think of any of the characters as villains -- there's no malice propelling any of them. I think of them more as antagonists and of Faustus as perhaps an antihero."
He says he placed the play at Wittenberg because "to an Elizabethan audience, a reference to Wittenberg both identified a person there as Protestant and as someone immersed in an academic environment of intellectual foment and questioning -- as if an American Hamlet in the '60s were identified as coming home from Berkeley or Kent State."
Ryan Schabach plays Hamlet, and Molly Searcy plays the Virgin Mary and several other women as well. Perhaps the most unexpected bit of casting is that Stages Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin makes his acting debut at Stages, playing Martin Luther. Morrison says they were going through auditions for the part of Luther when McLaughlin suggested he read for it, and it clicked. "Louie is such a powerful actor; in order for the play to work, I needed to have someone who goes head to head with him," says Morrison.
See Wittenberg at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through February 17. 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, visit the theater website or call 713‑527‑0123. $21 to $45.
Allow us a little shameless self-promotion: our pick for Saturday is Houston Press Artopia® 2013, a celebration of the best in the city's arts and culture scene. The party brings together our three MasterMind Award winners, Opera in the Heights, Karen Stokes Dance and the Stark Naked Theatre Company. Sponsored by Stella Artois, the MasterMind Awards acknowledge the trio for their outstanding contribution to the culture of Houston. Oh, and as if that weren't enough, each of the three receives a cash prize of $2,000.
The evening's program also includes back-to-back performances by such local favorites as FrenetiCore Dance Theater, Bagheera, Bang Bangz and Poor Pilate. Some 25 visual artists will have their work lining the walls on two floors of the Winter Street Studios, including panoramic photographer Chuy Benitez and painter (and Artopia veteran) Van McFarland. Liquor will be flowing, and there'll be plenty of food courtesy of Haven, Phoenicia Specialty Foods, The Counter, Sorrel Urban Bistro and The Cajun Stop. Translation: It's gonna be a hell of a good time.
Of course, a party this big has to have its own official after-party. At 11 p.m. the bash moves to Hughes Hangar (2811 Washington), where the fun goes until 2 a.m.
Houston Press Artopia 2013 starts at 8 p.m. at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter. For information, visit the event website. $55 to $60.
On Sunday, enjoy works by local dancemakers in Houston Choreographers X6. Running the gamut in style and experience, there's Kristen Frankiewicz, a dancer/choreographer with international performance credits under her belt; Laura Gutierrez, a native Houstonian currently on the adjunct faculty at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts; Lydia Hance, the founder of multimedia dance company Frame Dance; Erin Reck, a no-holds-barred performance artist with 12 years logged in New York City; Sandra Organ Solis, a former Houston Ballet soloist and local artistic director; and jhon r. stronks, an independent choreographer and a company director for the Houston Met.
The diversity of the lineup has even the artists enthused. "I don't have a clue as to what the other choreographers have prepared," says stronks. "The freshness is going to be exhilarating." Hance, meanwhile, is eager to present her new work, which features "three stunning dancers, a charged musical score [and] a live musician."
See Houston Choreographers X6, part of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center's 33rd Annual Dance Month celebration, at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Kaplan Theatre, 5601 South Braeswood. For information, visit the ERJCC website or call 713-551-7255. $12 to $22.
The hosannas will be swinging on Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church's annual Trinity Jazz Festival's jazz mass with music by Paul English tops off a weekend of concerts, master classes and appearances. "Though jazz in the sacred context may be rare, it is a pairing that makes much sense -- theologically, historically, and liturgically," says Father William Miller, the festival's founder, via press materials. "Sharing some of the same roots as indigenous gospel music, this art form is rightly at home in the sacred context."
The festival's three-day schedule includes vocal/guitar duo Kim Prevost and Bill Solley opening for well-known saxophonist Tom Scott on Friday; drummer Sebastian Whitaker opening for trombonist Robin Eubanks on Saturday; and a jazz mass celebrating the music and life of Louis Armstrong with a slate of performers on Sunday. Friday's featured performer Tom Scott is the son of Nathan Scott, the prolific film and TV composer who wrote the theme songs for Dragnet and Starsky and Hutch and co-wrote Family Ties. The younger Scott was part of the Blues Brothers Band (though he missed appearing in the movie).
The Trinity Jazz Festival runs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Trinity Episcopal Church, 1015 Holman. For information, visit the event's website or call 713-528-4100. $15 to $50.
Another choice for Sunday is Mozart's Don Giovanni performed by the Houston Grand Opera. First performed in Prague in 1787, Don Giovanni is the story of a notorious womanizer who destroys marriages, uses and dumps the women he gets to go to bed with him and kills the father of a woman he is trying to seduce. This being an opera of its time, Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte get away with discussing all this by having Don Giovanni receive his due reward by the end in majestic operatic fashion (a statue that comes alive, no less!). Baritone Adrian Erod of Austria, who is making both his U.S. and role debuts with this production by the Houston Grand Opera, sings the lead role. He says that even though he gets dragged down to the bowels of hell at the end, it's a fun role. And, he points out quickly, "The Commendatore is not a good guy either." The second of three operas (The Marriage of Figaro and Così Fan Tutte bookend Don Giovanni), this work is far from the first or last to deal with the legendary lecher who thinks of no one but himself. "Giovanni is more than a character. He's like a symbol. Everyone who comes and sees the opera has another picture already of what Don Giovanni means to him," says Erod, who has been performing mostly in Europe and Japan while doing a lot of Mozart, Rossini and Britten.
See Don Giovanni at 7:30 p.m. January 25 and February 2, 5 and 8; 2 p.m. January 27 and February 10. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit the Houston Grand Opera website or call 713‑228‑6737. $15 to $354.
Margaret Downing, Bob Ruggiero and Alex Randall contributed to this post.