Pick Five (Plus)

Your weekly guide to Houston: Near-death art, Fashion on Sale, artsy teapots & Uncle Fester dancing

Your weekly guide to Houston: Near-death art, Fashion on Sale, artsy teapots & Uncle Fester dancing

If there's anything that signals the beginning of 2012, it's the arts community's relentless offerings of concerts, socials, performances, openings and receptions. So much for a break, it didn't take very long for presenters to get me out and about in the new year.

Have you been to a Cultured Cocktails event at Boheme? It's an informal yet chatty gathering of artsy folk every Thursday looking to learn a bit more about organizations and people doing creative and groundbreaking work in Houston. Sponsored by Spacetaker, the same nonprofit troupe that brought Houston the Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM), you know that funds raised affect your local economy.

Aside form the wicked frozen mojitos, it's all about the mishmash-style decor and the recently-upgraded patio, where we found art scene regulars like Heather Pray, Michael Coppens, Mandy Graesle, Nancy Wozny with her hubby Mark, all toasting to last week's featured organization, Society for the Performing Arts. Next week, it's FotoFest

Did you make it to RachFest 1? This is what we thought.

A packed house watched attentively British Arrows 2011 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The screening amassed the best of the best television commercials, ads and public service announcement campaigns. Though there was oodles of hilarity and absurdity — always heightened by British sass — the Best Television Commercial of the Year went to T-Mobile for its instrument-less musical flash mob at Heathrow Airport.

Albeit what piqued my interest were tactics behind communication strategies, like Silver Award winner, Who Killed Deon PSA by The Metropolitan Police, with its efforts to educate youth about the law of joint enterprise that melded elements of engagement with suspense and drama.

How are good commercials designed? Doritos' David Shane had something to say about it. 

Amid sporty socials, football frenzy and an imploding building in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, the past is past. Future is here. On tap for next week:

Aurora Picture Show Screening of "Pretty Dark" Short Films at Barnevelder

Now that the holidays are over, it's time to let go of those happy spirits and take a journey to the dark side. Indy film presenter Aurora Picture Show has curated a Thursday screening of eight short films — ranging in length from five to 13 minutes — that delve into psychologically disturbing themes like tragedy, gluttony, brutality, isolation, gastronomic carnage and wounded rabbits.

I tend to be a merry guy, always looking on the bright side, but a reminder that not everything in life is rainbows and unicorns serves as a mental note that most of us are quite fortunate.

Houston Symphony's RachFest 2 at Jones Hall

It's round two of piano god Kirill Gerstein against Rachmaninoff's brutal writing. Though the composer's tunes are the apex of Russian Romanticism, made in America, whizzing through his scores is an athletic feat not for the faint at heart. If you didn't make last week's RachFest concert, don't be a musical fool, this one is not to miss.

The 32-year-old Gerstein has the physical prowess to take on these masterpiece with musical sensibilities to render the experience aesthetically thrilling.

One piano concerto is plenty. In this installment of RachFest, Gerstein takes on Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 1 and Concerto No. 4, both works often neglected in favor of the Second and Third. Think of it as a double feature. "RachFest 2" runs Friday through Sunday.

Hope Stone Dance Company presents la vie à pleines dents with Mercury Baroque and Houston Boychoir at Houston Pavilions

Three for the price of one? I was already sold at the French title, loosely translated as "live each day to its fullest," though the collaboration with Mercury Baroque and Houston Boychoir is enough ammunition for any art lover to put this Hope Stone performance on his/hers must-do list. 

The content is serious. The company used research and interviews from those who have experienced near-death situations and terminally-ill patients. Lighting design by Jeremy Choate and set/stage design by David Graeve. 

la vie à pleines dents plays Thursday through Sunday at Houston Pavilions on the second level above Yao Restaurant & Bar. 

Fifth Annual International Texas Teapot Tournament at 18 Hands Gallery

Forget milk. Tea does a body good. I learned that when I first embarked in an immersive experience to learn about the stepped beverage at the Path of Tea — where I hold "office hours" regularly. Tea is part of my regular routine evident by the cute owl teapot and mug parched on my desk.

Teapots galore. That's what you'll find at the Fifth Annual International Texas Teapot Tournament. The exhibition opens at 6 p.m. Saturday at 18 Hands Gallery in The Heights, where a myriad of artists from around the world will display more than 60 clay gems.

The show is juried by Cindi Strauss, curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

Peter and the Wolf at Houston Zoo with River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and InterActive Theater

The rain and wind should go away by the weekend, so we recommend taking advantage or the lovely outdoors with an al fresco performance at the Houston Zoo with Peter takes on the Wolf. Yes, we all know what happens in Prokofiev's music, but when River Oaks Chamber Orchestra partners with InterActive Theater, children will have the opportunity to be truly engaged through the musical adventures, and learn about the instruments of the orchestra.

The performance is free with zoo admission, so take time to enjoy the critters that call Houston Zoo their home. There are two performances on Sunday, at 2 and 3:30 p.m. at the Brown Education Center Auditorium.

Assistant editor and nightlife expert party gal Caroline Gallay's pick: CultureMap Fashion on Sale at West Ave

Caroline says: "My pick this week is CultureMap Fashion on Sale, an exclusive shopping event in West Ave above Tootsies Friday through Sunday. Being that it's my 25th birthday month, I'll be arriving early to scoop up discounted fall season designer duds and springtime splurges for an upcoming trip to Cabo.

"VIPs have access to food and drink while they shop, and Q Custom Clothier teaming up with CRU, Ava/Alto, Eddie V and Pondicheri to host a Man Cave for your reluctant boyfriend/dad/brother/shacker. For more info, click here."

Arts smarty pants and dance maven Nancy Wozny's pick: The Addams Family presented by Broadway Across America at Hobby Center

Nancy says: "Gomez and Morticia are back, with Wednesday, Pugsley, Lurch and more in tow. I  hear the familiar opening hand click theme of The Addams Family and I'm instantly transported back to my childhood and favorite 1960s television program.

"What's not to love about this family of adorable creepsters? With tunes by Andrew Lippa, libretto by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) and the design duo of Shockheaded Peter Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, The Addams Family musical is a barrel of macabre fun. Douglas Sills' smooth Gomez Addams will make you forget John Astin and McDermott/Crouch's cool design touch is in full evidence, especially when Uncle Fester performs a pas de deux with the moon. 

"I wonder if Charles Addams, who drew the original cartoons in The New Yorker, ever imaged Uncle Fester dancing? He does, by the way. Plays through Jan 15."

News_Texas Teapot Tournament_18 Hands Gallery_bicycle teapot
One of the whimsical and delightful teapots at the Fifth Annual International Texas Teapot Tournament at 18 Hands Gallery. Courtesy of 18 Hands Gallery
The Addams Family
The Addams Family may be slightly twisted, but the members face problems any loving family encounter when dealing with teenagers.  Photo by Jeremy Daniel
News_Fashion on Sale_logo_THIS
Have a penchant for anything fabulous? CultureMap Fashion on Sale is a must this weekend fashion and accessories in a one-stop-shop shopping bacchanal. 
la vie à pleines dents
Pop-up show at Houston Pavilions courtesy of Hope Stone Dance Company with Mercury Baroque and Houston Boychoir. Titled  la vie à pleines dents, the show encourages goers to live each day to its fullest.
Kirill Gerstein
Kirill Gerstein takes on Rachmaninoff's Piano Concert No. 1 and No. 4 at the second concert run of RachFest. Photo by Marco Borggreve