Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from a talk about “ancient Rome’s equivalent of a celebrity sex tape” in Houston to a chance to visit parts of the King Ranch not typically open to the public. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[November 23–20]



Beauties and the Beasts
Art-seekers will know they have arrived at “Cowgirls and Critters,” the new exhibition by the Texas painter and sculptor Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, when they see the window display with the two gold mannequins dressed as old-time cowgirls. “I thought, why don’t I call up my old buddies at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and see if they want to collaborate,” Wade said. Each cowgirl holds a leash, with an armadillo attached to one end and an iguana drinking a cocktail on the end of the other. Meanwhile, a javelina appears to trot alongside the odd foursome. The piece is a riff on a similar project Wade did in Paris, France, in 1977, and perfectly encapsulates his blend of Texas heritage with surrealism. Inside the gallery, there are twenty pieces by Wade that are largely derived from old postcards and photographs that he has enlarged and airbrushed with Technicolor highlights, including “Let ’er Rip,” which depicts a cowgirl riding a horned frog like a bucking bronco. “The show has a lot of Texas humor in it,” Wade said. “It’s tongue-in-cheek. There’s irony. You look at this picture and think, is this guy putting us on?”
William Campbell Contemporary Art, November 23 at 10 a.m. and November 24 at 11 a.m.,


Family Ties
The Robisons—brothers Charlie and Bruce Robison, and sister Robyn Ludwick—form a Texas music powerhouse, especially when they throw Kelly Willis, a Robison by marriage, into the mix (forget for a moment that she’s from Oklahoma). It’s been almost a year since the four musicians have joined forces, but they will come together at Saturday’s Robison Family Thanksgiving show. The last time they shared a stage, they “all just traded songs solo acoustic that night,” according to Willis, who will continue to host her annual Christmas event with her husband, Bruce. “But what’s cool about this show is we each have our bands and will play our own sets.” Of course, there will be the occasional family jam and a grand finale. Willis also said there would be songs from Cheater’s Game, her new album with Bruce, set for release February 12. These might include the title track, a “Stones-y country” number written with the female quartet the Trishas; a cover of the Dickie Lee song “9,999,999 Tears”; and “trademark” Bruce songs (“stories with unstoppable melodies”) like “Leaving” and “But I Do.”
Luckenbach Dance Hall, November 24, 8 p.m.


Elf Power
The Santaland Diaries at Alley Theatre is the story of two Davids. The first one is David Sedaris, the writer whose autobiographical essay about his past experience as a dress-up elf at the Macy’s Santaland display—which he first read on NPR twenty years ago—lives on in this one-character comedy. Readers love Sedaris for his biting sarcasm and brutal honesty, and the holidays are prime grounds for that. The second David is David Cromer, the “MacArthur genius” director. Cromer, though Chicago-based, has honed his skills producing a number of plays at Houston’s Alley Theatre. Since this is the last holiday season that the theater will host this production, this might also be the last time these two heavyweights share the stage.
Alley Theatre, November 24-Dec. 30, various times,


The Chosen One
Few Austin musicians inspire more jealousy than Bob Schneider, a purveyor of eclectic rock-lite. It started back when Schneider began dating the actress Sandra Bullock. That gave the media license to anoint Schneider’s sound as the Austin sound. And that didn’t go down well with a lot of other area musicians. But the plain and simple truth is that Schneider is a consistent force of high-quality songwriting, singing and musicianship. And if Bullock was into him, then he can’t be bad looking. It’s a safe bet that Schneider will put on his best game face for a holiday show with Moonlight Orchestra, featuring the Tosca String Quartet and special guests.
ACL Live, November 24, 8 p.m.,


On the Block
Visitors to Dallas Cityscape, a recreation of buildings making up the skyline as rendered in about three million Lego building blocks, might harken back to their youth and think, hey, I can do that, which should encourage them to enter the “construction zone” and erect their own architectural wonder.
Galleria, November 23-January 6, various times,


Save the Last Dance
Certain ballet companies consider The Nutcracker holiday drudgery, but the Houston Ballet exalts it, with this year’s production marking the fortieth since entering the company’s repertoire as its first full-length work, and the last in which Amy Fote, the company’s principal dancer, will play the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Wortham Theater Center, November 23-December 30, various times,