Press Picks

thursday
june 8
Peer Gynt The Houston Ballet is ending its 25th anniversary season with a revival production of Peer Gynt. When Ben Stevenson and the Ballet first presented this work, the New York Times noted that its power came "from a certain theatrical astuteness and also from the excellent performances of the leading dancers." Those words were written a decade ago, a few years after Stevenson choreographed his dance version of Henrik Ibsen's play about a traveling man who makes a lot of stops all over the world, and who at each stop has at least one lovely girl waiting for him. The ballet is set to music composed for Ibsen's play by Edvard Grieg in 1875. Peer Gynt will mark the final appearance with the company of two of our leading dancers, Li Cunxin and Mark Arvin. (Arvin has set his sights on Broadway and Cunxin is moving to Australia with his Brisbane-born wife.) Opening 7:30 p.m. tonight; six more shows between now and June 18. Brown Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue, 227-ARTS. $5-$70.

SumArts Juneteenth Blues Festival It's not just blues anymore -- this year SumArts has arranged for an arts and crafts market; can funnel cakes be far behind? Today, "Texas" Johnny Brown and Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes are the major players; tomorrow, Pearl Murray, Lavelle White and Katie Webster are the stars. The market area opens at 11 a.m. each day and shuts down an hour after the main-stage music starts. Main-stage music begins at 7 p.m. both evenings. Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. Call 520-3290 for details or information on handicapped seating. Free.

friday
june 9
Old West Festival Get back to 1865 and see big, bony, knock-kneed longhorn cattle ambling down a city street, and then amble your ownself down to a reconstructed cowboy camp with cowboys and Indians and a saloon. This all takes place in Montgomery, Texas' third-oldest town and a community dern proud of that fact. The cowboys on hand to entertain and enlighten the eager modern public are blacksmiths, poets, balladeers and nerds. Yes, nerds. The Jose Brothers, JosA (A. Pendejo) and JosB (B. Pendejo), make a special musical-comedy appearance. This weekend of Old West revelry begins with a cattle drive at noon today and continues through Sunday. Montgomery, 17 miles west of Conroe. For details, call the festival headquarters, (409) 449-6693 or (409) 449-6390. One-day ticket, $5; $3 children ages 3-12. Three-day ticket, $10; $6 children ages 3-12. Town Barn Dance tickets are $5 extra.

D.L. Hughley The star of the new CBS show Double Rush brings his standup act to H-town for two shows. Before he was on network TV, Hughley had a hit on cable -- his HBO special was that channel's highest-rated comedy special ever. Of course, people are accustomed to seeing Hughley on cable; he's host of BET's Comicview. Hughley has four shows, 8:30 and 11 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. Just Jokin', 9344 Richmond, 975-7262. $18-$25.

saturday
june 10
Challenger No. 3985 Before we had space shuttles, there was the Gulf Coast Eagle. The million-pound Eagle would be dwarfed by modern spacecraft, but this historic luxury train is a more comfortable ride, and one needn't bother with years of training before boarding it. The Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society Inc. is sponsoring excursion rides on Union Pacific Railroad's Challenger No. 3985, the Gulf Coast Eagle. Lucky passengers (those who sign up early, before the seats sell out) will ride from Houston to College Station in fabulous vintage Streamliner railcars from the 1950s, restored to their full glory. Excursioneers will be treated to a lunch at A&M and campus museums will be open for the train passengers. (No word on whether or not the bar car will open in the afternoon.) Today's trip at 8:30 a.m. (There's also a Sunday trip, departing at 9 a.m., to Bay City.) For reservations on the world's largest operating steam locomotive, call NRHS at 597-3413. $99 per person; $149 per person Vista Dome seating.

1995 Bay Day Festival Most of the time, the Galveston Bay Foundation is busily engaged in protecting our waterways and educating the great unwashed about the many ways in which Galveston Bay is important to all of us. However, sometimes they party. This weekend would be one of those times. There are educational events -- a children's "Spillbusters" event wherein tots don protective suits and participate in a mock oil-spill cleanup, and ongoing demonstrations of the finer points of noting an oyster's finer points. There's also a catamaran regatta, an air show and plenty of live music and carnival entertainment, and it all happens only 30 minutes from downtown. Fun starts at 11 a.m. Sylvan Beach Park, La Porte. For more info, call the Galveston Bay Foundation, 332-3381. $2; $1 students. After 5 p.m. the price goes up to $5; $3 students. Also, extra charges for some boat tours and the chili cook-off.

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Edith Sorenson