Hidden Indoor Gems

Funny dancers, a giant whale, painted food porn and James Franco fill Houston summer with cool arts happenings: All indoors!

10 quirky can't-miss summer arts happenings in Houston: All indoors!

Every summer Houston’s most acclaimed performing arts institutions head outside for some sizzling artistic endeavors in the fresh air, but when all that wonderful dance, drama and music gets a bit too hot to handle, remember plenty of art is still chillaxing inside to the hum of our sweet, sweet air conditioning.

There’s several blockbuster exhibitions this season like the MFAH’s Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections and China’s Lost Civilization: The Mystery Of Sanxingdui at the HMNS. Meanwhile, the Alley Theatre brings back their beloved Summer Chills farce The Foreigner.

Yet this year, I’m also making a list and checking it twice for some hidden gems, those dramatic live performances and visual bounties you might not have at the top of your own don’t-miss list. So whether you’re looking for some edgy film, hilarious dance or dark theater, here’s enough cool art out there, indoors, to fill your whole summer.

Visions and Illusions of Texas
The Blaffer Art Museum at UH exhibits the Sound Speed Marker trilogy, video installations by renowned international artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, who now make their home in Austin. Along with photographs and an outdoor sculpture these three videos Grand Paris Texas, Movie Mountain, and Giant will likely leave viewers musing on how Hollywood’s myths and cliches of Texas have influenced the way the world sees the state and how the very reality of our landscapes has been changed by film. On view from now until Sept. 5.

Seriously Funny Dance
Dance can be intense, emotional and inspiring but the Comic Dance Festival presented by Suchu Dance want Houstonians to discover dance’s LOL side. The program’s oh-so-serious mission, to challenge 25 different dancers and companies to create humorous new work without “the burden of having to be serious, deep or meaningful.” The laughable leaps take stage June 12-27.

Youngsters Go Classical
Another summer means another opportunity to hear the future stars of classical music at the Texas Music Festival. For 25 years the Festival has continued to give college-aged and young professional musicians intensive summer orchestra training while presenting the rest of us a sound peek at the next generation of music masters. Along with a full concert schedule at UH’s Moores School of Music, a series of concerts will take place noon every Tuesday in June in the Crain Garden of Methodist Hospital.

Dramatic Counter Programming
With most of Houston theater companies bursting into song, the always strange but equally unforgettable Mildred’s Umbrella goes dark with the experimental The Drowning Girls, the true-life story of how bigamist George Joseph Smith murdered his three wives. July 16-Aug. 1.

If you’re looking for something a bit lighter, Stages Theatre will be Driving Miss Daisy starring Houston theatrical icon Sally Edmundson. Ride-share with Sally from Aug. 4-Sept. 13.

Extreme Close Ups
Challenge your own perceptions of beauty in Pretty/Dirty, this provocative, sometimes disturbing and definitely beautiful Marilyn Minter retrospective at the Contemporary Art Museum. From her early stark photographic depictions of her mother as a southern bell in decay to her prophetic visions of food porn decades before Instagram to her almost microscopic look at the female face–one gorgeous flaw at a time–the paintings, photographs and videos might leave you feeling dirty in a very good way. Those 18 and older can get close up from now until Aug. 2.

Special Guests at QFest
Summer usually means explosive movies at the multiplex, but it’s also time for some fascinating film fests. During QFest, the Museum of Fine Arts has invited some insider speakers to add context to the selections, including '50s movie icon Tab Hunter along with the producer of Tab Hunter Confidential, which gives a look into life inside the Hollywood closet.

Meanwhile, director Justin Kelly will be here to introduce I Am Michael, his already deemed controversial film starring that controversy magnet James Franco and Zachary Quinto. The film depicts the life of gay-activist turned conservative Christian pastor, Michael Glatze. The fest runs July 23-27.

A Summer of Shakespeare
Brazos Bookstore and The University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance conspire, Macbeth style, to get the city ready for the annual Shakespeare Fest at Miller Outdoor Theatre with a chilled program of Shakespeare talks, reading groups and special performances at Brazos including dramatic readings by Houston actors of the soliloquies on July 24 and Main Street Theater presenting an abridged version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for young audiences on Aug. 8.

A World Premiere Whale of a Tale
For a homegrown pick, I’m very intrigued to see the latest Horse Head Theatre project, The Whale or Moby-Dick by Houstonian Timothy N. Evers, Philip Hays — in and out of town long enough we’re claiming him — and non-Houstonian but probably only because he’s dead, Herman Melville.

The production will also be crewed by a veritable who’s who of Houston’s most innovated theatrical artists. The improbable project: a one-man retelling of Moby Dick preformed inside a whale’s stomach. Hays plays the man swallowed, while a geodesic event dome on the banks of Buffalo Bayou will play the whale. Enter the belly on July 29-Aug. 15.

Horse Head Theatre's Moby Dick
Philip Hays gets swallowed up by The Whale in the Horse Head Theatre production. Photo by Logan Sebastian Beck
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston opening reception: Minter - Pretty/Dirty
Get Pretty/Dirty at the Contemporary Arts Museum with the provocative, sometimes disturbing and definitely beautiful Marilyn Minter retrospective. Courtesy of the artist, Salon 94, New York and Regen Projects Los Angeles.
Blaffer Art Museum presents Sound Speed Marker
Visions of Texas in Sound Speed Marker at Blaffer Art Museum.  Photo courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin
Suchu Dance presents Comedy Dance Festival
Suchu's Comedy Dance Festival is guaranteed to make you laugh. Photo courtesy of Suchu Dance
James Franco stars in "I am Michael."
Director Justin Kelly will introduce his controversial film I Am Michael, starring James Franco, at Q Fest. Photo by Cara Howe
Horse Head Theatre's Moby Dick
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston opening reception: Minter - Pretty/Dirty
Blaffer Art Museum presents Sound Speed Marker
Suchu Dance presents Comedy Dance Festival
James Franco stars in "I am Michael."