Writer/actor Rob Nash has lots of fans. No wonder. His one-man shows, including Junior Blues and Senioritis, which ran this year at the Bienvenue Theater, are pure theatrical magic. Built around his teenage years at Houston's own Strake Jesuit high school, the scripts are hysterically funny. But a lot of what makes these fairly simple stories about adolescent troubles so wonderful is that Nash himself plays every single one of the 30-plus characters in his plays. Each character is truly unique and carefully drawn with a subtle nuance that manifests in the curve of Nash's spine, the smirk on his lips and the twist of his wrists. But Nash's real kick-ass accomplishment is that these characters appear on stage together, not in a series of monologues. Nash snaps with astonishing grace and speed from one character to another. They bicker, tango, French-kiss and share bong hits as they stomp their teenage way toward maturity. He never skips a beat. The whole thing is a tour de force of acting, writing and absolute guts.
Even the surroundings are theatrical -- sort of. When you drive up to Ashland Street Theatre Co., the first thing you see is the factory at the end of the street. Huge and metallic and glowing in the shadowy darkness, the ominous building looks like it could be the hideaway haven of some sort of mythic drug lord. But this is the sweet old-fashioned Heights. And nothing more serious than chain-link fencing seems to be coming from the corrugated walls. And as the theatrical muses would have it, it's not the big scary factory that's full of weirdness; it's the quaint white building a couple of houses over that fills the night with scenes of decadence and human destruction. That's because Travis Ammons, the young and lovely artistic director of the theater, clearly has a penchant for the strange and ribald. The opening season included plays about the nasty things people utter during sex (Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight), monologues about anal sex (Ray Hill) and scenes filled with incest (Fat Men in Skirts). Though not exactly sexy, the shows were certainly brazen and full of youthful chutzpah. And they were good enough and strange enough to make you wonder what kind of encore Ammons has planned for next year.

Even the surroundings are theatrical -- sort of. When you drive up to Ashland Street Theatre Co., the first thing you see is the factory at the end of the street. Huge and metallic and glowing in the shadowy darkness, the ominous building looks like it could be the hideaway haven of some sort of mythic drug lord. But this is the sweet old-fashioned Heights. And nothing more serious than chain-link fencing seems to be coming from the corrugated walls. And as the theatrical muses would have it, it's not the big scary factory that's full of weirdness; it's the quaint white building a couple of houses over that fills the night with scenes of decadence and human destruction. That's because Travis Ammons, the young and lovely artistic director of the theater, clearly has a penchant for the strange and ribald. The opening season included plays about the nasty things people utter during sex (Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight), monologues about anal sex (Ray Hill) and scenes filled with incest (Fat Men in Skirts). Though not exactly sexy, the shows were certainly brazen and full of youthful chutzpah. And they were good enough and strange enough to make you wonder what kind of encore Ammons has planned for next year.

Get your heads out the damn gutter right now! Despite its suggestive title, tongue is a magazine that specializes in the words of local creative minds. Believe it or not, this city has an eclectic poetry scene. And with all the spoken-word nights that circulate from all points of town throughout the year, tongue is just the publication we need to sort out the occasions and highlight the aesthetic attitude that goes on at these events. Published by poet Kim Cotton (better known to all the hepcats and hepkittens as the sultry kim c.), tongue is a literary quarterly that gives regional wordsmiths the opportunity to see their words on the printed page. Okay, so it may not be the Paris Review we're talking about here, but it does offer willing and curious Houstonians the chance to sample the city's poetry culture. And it's not just poetry the magazine is down for; tongue publishes fiction, art, photography, commentaries -- even a whole stage play here and there. So far, you can get it only at a few places, like Brazos Bookstore, Cafe Artiste and the Oscar's Creamery on Westheimer. But if you're a person who craves creativity from a hometown point of view, you gotta spend the $3 and get some tongue. (Once again, get your damn heads out the gutter!) For more info on the magazine and Houston poetry in general, log on to Cotton's Web site at kcotton97.tripod.com/ Houstonspokenwords.html.
Get your heads out the damn gutter right now! Despite its suggestive title, tongue is a magazine that specializes in the words of local creative minds. Believe it or not, this city has an eclectic poetry scene. And with all the spoken-word nights that circulate from all points of town throughout the year, tongue is just the publication we need to sort out the occasions and highlight the aesthetic attitude that goes on at these events. Published by poet Kim Cotton (better known to all the hepcats and hepkittens as the sultry kim c.), tongue is a literary quarterly that gives regional wordsmiths the opportunity to see their words on the printed page. Okay, so it may not be the Paris Review we're talking about here, but it does offer willing and curious Houstonians the chance to sample the city's poetry culture. And it's not just poetry the magazine is down for; tongue publishes fiction, art, photography, commentaries -- even a whole stage play here and there. So far, you can get it only at a few places, like Brazos Bookstore, Cafe Artiste and the Oscar's Creamery on Westheimer. But if you're a person who craves creativity from a hometown point of view, you gotta spend the $3 and get some tongue. (Once again, get your damn heads out the gutter!) For more info on the magazine and Houston poetry in general, log on to Cotton's Web site at kcotton97.tripod.com/ Houstonspokenwords.html.
Selecting Houston's best supplier of over-the-airwaves music can seem like an exercise in picking the lesser evil. Between corporate-held stations controlled by focus groups and a public station run by a general manager who seems intent on destroying its democratic ways, our city's radio offerings don't exactly inspire listeners to switch off the CD player. But Rice University's KTRU is different -- very different. The 50,000-watt outlet is a throwback to a time when stations were programmed by people who really liked music. KTRU's weekly programming list is beautifully color-blind: hip-hop, classic rock, world music, spoken word, reggae, jazz, hardcore and forms of sound that defy classification. There's even a two-hour block each weekday morning dedicated to readings for the blind. That sounds to us like a station fulfilling its educational mission. KTRU likes to call itself free-form, and it is, not only with its music but also with its on-air "talent," which can be refreshingly awkward. For sheer audio adventure, no station tops KTRU.
Selecting Houston's best supplier of over-the-airwaves music can seem like an exercise in picking the lesser evil. Between corporate-held stations controlled by focus groups and a public station run by a general manager who seems intent on destroying its democratic ways, our city's radio offerings don't exactly inspire listeners to switch off the CD player. But Rice University's KTRU is different -- very different. The 50,000-watt outlet is a throwback to a time when stations were programmed by people who really liked music. KTRU's weekly programming list is beautifully color-blind: hip-hop, classic rock, world music, spoken word, reggae, jazz, hardcore and forms of sound that defy classification. There's even a two-hour block each weekday morning dedicated to readings for the blind. That sounds to us like a station fulfilling its educational mission. KTRU likes to call itself free-form, and it is, not only with its music but also with its on-air "talent," which can be refreshingly awkward. For sheer audio adventure, no station tops KTRU.
It's not precisely a cookbook, as Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale makes clear in his author's note, but he has subtitled this gastro-memoir "Recollections and Recipes," so fair game. Who cares if most of the recipes are for Depression-era fare like pinto beans and corn bread. We like these things too. Never mind that Hale prefers store-mix corn bread to scratch. We're as lazy as the next guy. We even forgive Hale his obsessive "soupwich" (bread in soup, get it?), because he clearly made such a good time of figuring out how to feed himself when he woke up an unaccustomed bachelor at age 60. Supper Time is more about Hale's relationship with food -- and characteristically, it's a deceptively simple one -- than about the food itself, but it's a fine read, and it makes you hungry, which is one thing a cookbook should always do.

It's not precisely a cookbook, as Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale makes clear in his author's note, but he has subtitled this gastro-memoir "Recollections and Recipes," so fair game. Who cares if most of the recipes are for Depression-era fare like pinto beans and corn bread. We like these things too. Never mind that Hale prefers store-mix corn bread to scratch. We're as lazy as the next guy. We even forgive Hale his obsessive "soupwich" (bread in soup, get it?), because he clearly made such a good time of figuring out how to feed himself when he woke up an unaccustomed bachelor at age 60. Supper Time is more about Hale's relationship with food -- and characteristically, it's a deceptively simple one -- than about the food itself, but it's a fine read, and it makes you hungry, which is one thing a cookbook should always do.

Only a couple of months after young buck Clay Farmer disbanded his four-piece earlier this year, the singer-songwriter was playing open-mikes whenever and wherever with three of his former four musical deputies in tow. So while technically the Clay Farmer Band remains dead, Clay Farmer the humanoid performer -- gettin' by with a little help from his friends -- has been trudging along, stopping every now and then to take an audience to his skinny lap and deliver his brand of sensible, nearly confessional country like a bedtime storyteller. He's working on an album for release this fall.

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