Press Picks

march 5
"Small Deaths: Kate Breakey" Who among us -- out on an evening stroll, say -- hasn't had the sort of pedestrian encounter with mortality that photographer and University of Texas at Austin instructor Breakey portrays with such aching, indelible beauty in this traveling exhibit? Still, there's nothing prosaic about Breakey's pieces. Her petite portraits of exanimate animals and plants -- broken-winged birds and belly-up lizards, color-denuded blossoms on fast-bowing stems -- are artfully rendered requiems that give lingering meaning to the brief lives of these unhonored dead beneath our feet and our notice. Breakey makes us notice. She shoots her funereal found objects in extreme close-up, enlarges the ensuing prints and -- like a postmortem makeup artist armed with a jeweler's skill -- hand-inks the images until they glow with false light (and life). It's gorgeous, thoughtful work. Presented in conjunction with FotoFest 98, the installation continues through April 19. The companion exhibit is "Except for Memory: Laura Pickett Calfee." Viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The Rudolph Poissant Gallery, 5102 Center, 802-1886. Free.

Hot Shoe Shuffle Houston-based Theatre Under the Stars presents the world premiere of this so-called "spectapular," conceived and directed by Australia's David Atkins, written by playwright David Hahn and featuring music by Megan Cavalleri (score) and David Goldsmith (lyrics). The story line follows seven tap-dancing sibs from the wilds of the outback to the bright lights of Broadway. Similarly, TUTS hopes Shuffle, co-produced by Seattle's 5th Avenue Musical Theatre and Saint Paul, Minnesota's Ordway Music Theatre, will make its way from the banks of Buffalo Bayou to the Great White Way. And it might, but despite the show's musical-comedy formalism -- this hoofing extravaganza has a plot and everything! -- it's still a knockoff of a knockoff (Tap Dogs) of a true original (Stomp), and the narrow field it's entering is getting mighty crowded. A preview is scheduled at 8 tonight. The first regular public performance is at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by the press opening at 8 that night. Other shows this week: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The run continues through March 22. Music Hall, 810 Bagby, (800) 678-5440. More info: 558-2600. $15$48.

"Stories About Us: Photographs from Juarez" If El Paso is one of the armpits of the free world -- and it is -- what unpleasant portion of the body does that leave for the city's cross-river neighbor, the rank industrial cesspool of Ciudad Juarez? Though Juarez is sometimes held up as a shining example of Mexican economic modernity -- so-called -- thanks to its ever-growing population of maquiladoras (foreign-owned factories) and a subsequently meager unemployment rate, that's a narrow and illusory view. In truth, the available jobs are largely unskilled and low-paying, and the maquiladoras add their spew to one of the most environmentally devastated urban moonscapes in North America. Add high crime and murder rates and rampant drug and gang cultures, and you end up with about two million sob stories in this naked city only 30 feet from the U.S. shore. The shutterbugs whose works are included in "Stories About Us" are charged with the challenging, frequently dangerous task of documenting these stories for the daily newspaper Diario de Juarez (even more difficult -- each photographer must make do with a daily allowance of a single roll of film). The photojournalists represented include Jaime Bailleres, Margarita Reyes, Carlos Vigueras, Gabriel Cardona and Lucio Soria Espino. The show's up through April 11; it's presented in conjunction with FotoFest 98. Viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. Free.

"The Bertolt Brecht Workshop" Subtitled "Twelve Documents on Film Dating from 1923 to 1961," the series salutes the late German poet/playwright, one of the century's great artistic thinkers/tinkerers, on the centennial of his birth. In often-rare bits and pieces and nonlinear fits and starts, the "Workshop" demonstrates Brecht's prowess and process as a theatrical director, and the ways in which his work with the Berliner Ensemble influenced both modern stage and screen. Mann Ist Mann ("A Man's a Man") (1931) and Syberberg Filmt bei Brecht ("Syberberg Films Brecht") (1953) show beginning at 7 tonight. The rest of this week's schedule: Die Mutter ("The Mother") (1958) at noon Saturday, Kurzer Film ("Short Film") and Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar ("Senora Carrar's Rifles") (both 1953) beginning at 7 p.m. Monday and Kuhle Wampe (1932) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The series continues through March 15. Goethe Institut Houston, 3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, 528-2787.

march 6
"Surrealism: Music, Art, Film and Literature" DaCamera hosts this multimedia celebration of the 20th-century movement inspired by dreams and other absurdist machinations of the subconscious. The program includes a reading of excerpts from Picasso's play Desire Caught by the Tail and a screening of Rene Clair's 1924 silent film Entr'acte ("Intermission"); the latter's accompanied by a live rendition of Erik Satie's original score, a piano work for four hands performed by Pedja Muzijevic and DaCamera artistic director Sarah Rothenberg. Also planned: a concert of surrealism-inspired compositions, including Satie's Air du rat, Poulenc's L'Anguille, Tu vois le feu du soir and Le bal masque, George Antheil's La femme 100 tetes (after Max Ernst) and pieces by Arthur Honegger and Georges Auric. The small performing ensemble includes aforementioned pianists Muzijevic and Rothenberg, violinist Eric Wyrick, oboe player Allan Vogel, cellist Julia Lichten, clarinetist Laura Flax, bassoon player Marc Goldberg, trumpeter Chris Gekker, percussionist Jonathan Haas and baritone William Sharp. 8 p.m. The Cullen Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $15$30 (DaCamera Music Center: 524-5050). (Note: The program is repeated Monday at New York's Lincoln Center.)