Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera a Q&A with El Mariachi director Robert Rodriguez in Austin and a grape stomp in Stonewall to Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears in San Antonio. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
Slash and Tell
Robert Rodriguez, the Austin filmmaker known for his no-holds-barred, B-movie-style action movies and being Quentin Tarantino’s favorite collaborator, made El Mariachi, his studio debut, for $7,000. Aided by Rebel Without a Crew, Mr. Rodriguez’s behind-the-scenes book, the movie, about a black-clad mariachi who is packing heat in his guitar case, hatched the acclaimed low-budget indie scene of the 1990s. But Rodriguez didn’t even want the movie released. “It was a practice film,” he said, adding: “I wanted to sell it to the Spanish video market and say I made it for $70,000. With that money, I was going to make a real American indie film.” Rodriguez said he hasn’t seen El Mariachi in its entirety since he made it, so Thursday’s twentieth anniversary screening should be an emotional experience that later fuels a Q & A and a live performance with his band, Chingon. See the origins of the movie’s protagonist in a bonus screening of “Ismael Jones and the Eyes of the Devil,” the ten-minute short film Rodriguez made when he was sixteen with Carlos Gallardo, who plays El Mariachi. Rodriguez said it is a take on Indiana Jones, a template for future characters: “Guy comes into town, guy beats up bad guys, guy leaves town.”
The Paramount Theatre, Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m., austintheatre.org
Take a Bow
Last fall, an anonymous donor loaned a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the second in its possession. The temporary gift makes the Fort Worth Symphony one of the only symphonies in the world to have more than one of the rare instruments of immaculate sound. It’s perfect timing for the symphony’s centennial season, which starts this weekend with the American Festival, three days of performances featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Philip Glass and other titans. Be on the lookout for the Strads, two of only about 600 remaining out of about 1,100 made by the Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari around the turn of the eighteenth century. Their players—Swang Lin and Michael Shih—went to the same elementary school in Taiwan but didn’t establish a friendship until they individually moved to Texas decades later. This bond is apparent in their contributions to the symphony, and is strengthened by their musical fortune. “Just like when you’re a young kid and you hear about Carnegie Hall,” Shih said. “How do you get there? Practice, practice, practice. But that still seemed to be a more attainable goal than it is to play on a Stradivarius.”
Bass Performance Hall, Aug. 24-26, 7:30 pm, fwsymphony.org
Sate Your Crush
The looks on Lucille Ball’s face are priceless when, playing Lucy Ricardo in I Love Lucy, she steps into a half-barrel filled with squishy grapes and watches her Italian counterpart perform a stomping dance in an effort to separate the skins. Eventually, Ball loosens up, as the feeling of pulverizing the nuggets presents the opportunity for her comedy to shine. Try to attain similar catharsis at the 16th annual Grape Stomp, a two-weekend extravaganza marking the end of the harvest at Becker Vineyards, one of the more popular wineries in Texas. Use the first weekend as practice because the second weekend culminates with the Lucy & the Italian Woman Costume Contest.
Becker Vineyards, Aug. 25-26 and Sept. 1-2, various times, beckervineyards.com
On the Job
Joe Lewis, the Austin blues musician who performs as Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, had enough of working for the man, so he grabbed a guitar off the wall of the pawn shop where he worked and taught himself how to play. He poured his frustration into his lyrics; it’s thought that one of his former bosses is the bull’s-eye for the song “Gunpowder” on his big band’s debut album, the James-Brown-sounding Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is. Lewis is wrapping up the tour in support of his sophomore album, “Scandalous,” with one last Texas date. You’d probably leave inspired to skip work the next day were it not a Saturday.
AT&T Center, Aug. 24, 8 p.m., blackjoelewis.com
“November,” David Mamet’s political comedy centered on President George W. Bush, debuted on Broadway in 2008, but now it is in the hands of a Texas theater group, which will inflect it with real local color.
Alley Theatre, Aug. 29-Sept. 23, various times, alleytheatre.org
The chief organizers of The Woodlands’s iteration of TEDx, the renowned speaker series, are Javier and Fabian Fernandez-Han, teenage brothers who Forbes and Fortune herald as inventors and investors, and they will guilt you into action.
Woodlands Art League, Aug. 26, 1:30 p.m., tedxthewoodlands.com