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Your weekly guide to Houston: Five (plus) don't-miss events — Shakespeare frolic included

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Houston Shakespeare Festival 2014 Two Gentlemen of Verona
Kiara Feliciano, Crash Buist and David Huynh in an inventive staging of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Courtesy of Houston Shakespeare Festival/Facebook
017_White Linen Night, August 2012, Joe Ortiz
You never know what kind of free spirits, like Joe Ortiz offering free hugs, will roam White Linen Night in the Heights. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Mildred Umbrella Theater Company Pollywog
Presented by Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company, Pollywog is the story of Polly's conversion from an innocent 9 year old into the caretaker of her mother. Photo © Gentle Bear Photography
Joel, Messina Hof, July 2012, vineyard
The gorgeous vineyard at Messina Hof Winery and Resort in Bryan. Photo by Joel Luks
13 Party Like a Rock Star August 2013 The Spice "Girls" - Theresa Rich, Christina Gates, Christian Ong, Brittany Batte, Bethany Parks
A scene from "Party Like A Rock Star." Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Houston Shakespeare Festival 2014 Two Gentlemen of Verona
017_White Linen Night, August 2012, Joe Ortiz
Mildred Umbrella Theater Company Pollywog
Joel, Messina Hof, July 2012, vineyard
13 Party Like a Rock Star August 2013 The Spice "Girls" - Theresa Rich, Christina Gates, Christian Ong, Brittany Batte, Bethany Parks
Joel Luks, head shot, column mug, April 2013

On tap this week is a 40-year thespian celebration in the city's favorite amphitheater, a New Orleans-themed community party, a world premiere theater production, a festival that lauds the Lenoir grape and a fabulous costumed young professionals fundraiser-cum-dance party.

40th Annual Houston Shakespeare Festival

What's summer in Houston without Shakespeare in the park? The University of Houston and Miller Outdoor Theatre continue this four-decades-old tradition that presents two works of the Bard side by side — for free.

David Rainey, who plays Falstaff in the history play Henry IV, Part 1 and Antonio in an inventive staging of the comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona, says that for Shakespeare to be successful it takes thespians who are comfortable with and understand every nuance of the text. Only then can audiences move beyond some of the unfamiliar vocabulary to understand the depth of characterization that renders these works as relevant today as they were in the 16th century.

Expect the stellar cast to do just that.

The skinny: Friday though Aug. 10; Miller Outdoor Theatre; free tickets are available for the seated area.

White Linen Night in the Heights 2014

Stroll, shop and drink your way through a charming ambiance borrowed from the spirit of New Orleans as The Heights is transformed into a community party that spotlights the merchants, artists and good-doing folks that add color to this historic nabe.

Sponsored by Silver Eagle and Neurowater, the white-themed celebration spreads through 11th, 18th and 19th streets, Studewood Street, Heights Boulevard and Yale Street and features performances by jazz singer Moji Abiola (6 p.m.), country singer/songwriter Leslie Krafka (7 p.m.) and soul musician Randy Weeks (8 p.m.).

Don't worry about getting around as the Wave shuttle and Lone Star bike cabs will be offering free rides. If you find yourself on White Oak, stop by Gelazzi for free scoops of Italian ice (the lemon is to die for).

The skinny: Saturday, 6-10 p.m.; The Heights; free event.

Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company presents Pollywog by Keian McKee

You have to admire small theater companies such as Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company for having the vision to stage world premiere performances. In an interview on Broadway World, playwright Keian McKee says that her work, directed by Matt Huff, will transform viewers.

Pollywog is the story of Polly's conversion from an innocent 9-year-old into the caretaker of her mother and swim instructor who suffers a debilitating stroke. The protagonist relives her experiences as she prepares to scatter her mother's ashes in the ocean.

The skinny: Runs through Aug. 16; Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios; $20 general admission, $12 students and seniors, Mondays are pay-as-you-can.

Messina Hof Winery and Resort Harvest Festival

Grape picking and stomping, wine luncheons, tastings, food classes and themed dinners are part of the summer tradition at Messina Hof Winery and Resort (full schedule here). The winery, with locations in Bryan and Fredericksburg, pays homage to the Lenoir grape with a series of interactive events during which visitors delight in winemaking traditions.

Been there, done that — and I won't hesitate to do it again. Make it a mini-vacation by booking one of the attractive rooms at the Villa Bed and Breakfast.

The skinny: Friday through Aug. 23; Messina Hof Winery and Resort; pricing varies by event.

13th Annual "Party Like A Rock Star" benefiting Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

The people watching is fabulous at this annual young professionals costume party in which guests go all out as they summon their inner rock star chic. Chaired by Natalie Alfaro and Mayra Cuello, the fundraiser moves from to Winter Street Studios for the 13th annual 1990s-themed bash that always morphs into a high-decibel dance soirée.

The skinny: Saturday, 8 p.m.; Winter Street Studios; tickets start at $50.

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