|Best Of - Culture: Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Best Of Culture
Solo Dance Performance (Female)
Critic’s choice: (tie) Leticia Oliveira, Olga Pavlova
Pavlova’s portrayal of the star-crossed Juliet in Paul Mejia’s condensed version of the classic story for Metropolitan Classical Ballet was a moving, poignant look at the tragic heroine. Texas Ballet Theater’s Oliveira continues to fascinate in a string of major and cameo appearances that show her technical brilliance and dramatic flair.
Solo Dance Performance (Male)
Critic’s choice: (tie) Shea Johnson, Andre Silva
Johnson literally leaped to prominence in Metropolitan Classical Ballet’s Diana and Acteon pas de deux, with a full-out Russian version of the familiar showpiece. Silva outdid even his reputation for dazzling eyes and hearts in the “Nut Bush City Limits” section of Love Thing for Texas Ballet Theater.
Outdoor Cultural Event
Critic’s choice: Jazz by the Boulevard
Late September nights here are optimal for outdoor get-togethers. Throw in sounds from the likes of local and national jazz greats such as Buddy Guy, David Sanborn, and Lee Ritenour — recent JBTB performers — and you have what has quickly become one of Cowtown’s finest outdoor cultural events. The 2007 version had all of the trappings of the previous four years — refined crowds, huge turkey legs, fine wines — plus superior performances by the headliners, along with ones by locals like Adonis Rose and the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra.
Gallery Art Show of the Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Arts Goggle
Critic’s choice: Tasty Bits, Gallery 414 414 Templeton Dr, FW
Another excellent group show at Fort Worth’s most adventurous (nonprofit) gallery, Tasty Bits featured work by newbies and vets alike, including Steve Cruz, Harmony Padgett, and 2004 critic’s choice for best visual artist, John Hartley. The “bits” here weren’t morsels of food but small visual ephemera that lay like ruins as often as they functioned as building blocks. Paul Greco’s “The Junker Bombing of Arlington, Virginia (1943)” was a collage of motifs from Heartland, U.S.A., while John Lewis’ Lego sculptures seemed to be dissolving on the very wall on which they hung.
Museum Art Show of the Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: The Impressionists Kimbell Art Museum
Critic’s choice: Ron Mueck
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Hyperrealist figurative sculptor Ron Mueck has bona fide star appeal. Not because he’s young and hot. He’s not. (No offense, Ron.) And not because he’s dated a series of young Hollywood starlets. (He hasn’t, as far as we know.) No, the skinny, banana-faced fortysomething Australian simply makes art that can fascinate aesthetes and philistines alike. As the Southwestern host of his traveling exhibit, the Modern did him right, juxtaposing his Brobdingnagian figures against his Lilliputian ones, his young’uns against his oldsters, and the clothed against the nekkid, giving the thousands of viewers who turned out for the Modern’s biggest-ever touring exhibit untrammeled sightlines and an overall dynamic junket.
Performing Arts Organization
Readers’ and critic’s choices:
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
While Fort Worth Opera works out the kinks in its new festival format and Texas Ballet Theater struggles with its budget, the Fort Worth Symphony remains the backbone of all of the groups: financially stable and artistically satisfying. Under Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s direction, FWSO has reached international status and performs with equal brilliance for the FWO, TBT, and, later this season, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Critic’s choice: F6 Gallery
2800 W Division St, Ste F6, Arl
Not your traditional gallery, F6 is basically a garage in a business park in west Arlington that has one big blowout show per month, with performance painting, experimental DJs, sonic art, you name it. F6 is decidedly geared toward young artists whose work may be too much like graphic design or illustration for workaday galleries but whose skillz are, as the hipsters say in their most ironic urban patois, mad.
Local Visual Artist
Readers’ choice: Nancy Lamb
Critic’s choice: Ron Tomlinson
Some of his paintings have an outsider-ish naivete about them. Some conjure up the old masters, with graceful impastos and patient brushwork. Others manage to incorporate dozens of different schools into single tableaux. In any case, Ron Tomlinson’s paintings look like his handiwork and no one else’s. The former art professor at Texas Wesleyan University and indefatigable bon vivant recently earned the Distinguished Texas Artist Award, an honor established five years ago by the Exhibition Advisory Panel of the Fort Worth Community Arts Center and given to a successful living artist who also gives back to the community. His classes take place after-hours and in a warehouse, where the paint reportedly flows as plentifully as the vino.
Readers’ choice: Plaza Theatre Company, Cleburne
Critic’s choice: Theatre Arlington
Our theatrical tastes run toward dark, angsty material, sometimes to a fault. But we also recognize a fine balancing act in a season schedule when we see one. Over the past year, Theatre Arlington skillfully matched plays like Moonlight and Magnolias (a sweeping survey of 1930s America through the eyes of the screenwriters of Gone with the Wind) and The Book of Liz (David and Amy Sedaris’ machine-gun comedy about religious aescetism and secular 12-step society) with musicals like The Boyfriend (a fizzy send-up of big-budget Prohibition-era movie romances) and Working (an adaptation of Studs Terkel’s oral history of blue collar laborers). Call its fare ambitious escapism, but Theatre Arlington knows its audience and sells out shows with clockwork regularity.
Readers’ choice: Christopher Abram
Critic’s choice: Mandel Hill, A Lesson Before Dying, Jubilee Theatre
Playwright Romulus Linney’s adaptation of Ernest J. Gaines’ novel explores whether an unjustly convicted young black man (Christopher Piper) in 1940s Louisiana can gain any wisdom or perspective on his fate in the last few weeks before his execution. Piper was excellent, but the standout performer was Mandel Hill as the convict’s former grade school teacher, a deeply ambivalent man assigned to teach his ex-student to identify and articulate lessons learned from a short, unhappy life. Hill feels duty-bound to tutor the volatile inmate but is itching to ditch the mission the whole time. The sympathetic honesty of Hill’s performance guaranteed the show didn’t wallow in cheap nobility.
Readers’ choice: Dana Schultes
Critic’s choice: Judy Keith, The Trip to Bountiful, Fort Worth Theatre
Not many 55-year-old stage DELETEs prove to be as poignant but clear-eyed as Texas literary icon Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful. In Fort Worth Theatre’s compelling revival, veteran actress Judy Keith proved a powerhouse of emotional realism as Carrie Watts, an elderly widow fated to end her days in a claustrophobic Houston apartment as the frustrated marriage between her son and his wife unfolds. Watts is determined to escape to her Gulf Coast birthplace, Bountiful, and as that destination gradually proves to be mythical, Keith registered Watts’ hard-learned lesson with impressive detail about idealizing the past.
Production Staged by a Local Theater
Readers’ choice: Gutenberg! The Musical!, Amphibian Stage Productions
Critic’s choice: Snake in the Grass, Circle Theatre
Director Robin Armstrong has a pitch-perfect ear for the witty malice of English playwrights. Under her direction, Alan Ayckbourn’s psychological thriller was a delicious haunted house for adults, full of the kinds of ghosts — alcoholism, sexual abuse, toxic resentment — that can’t be explained away. Elly Lindsay and Emily Scott Banks starred as sisters who’d made very different choices in life yet were both irrevocably linked to their late, dictatorial father. Eschewing talk-show platitudes for a type of misanthropic fatalism, Snake posited the scary possibility that forgiveness and redemption aren’t always cards in the hand we’re dealt.
Show at Bass Hall in the Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Lyle Lovett
Critic’s choice: Avenue Q
The scintillating Tony Award-winning puppet musical dropped into the hall in July, and who knew that a show with songs titled “Schadenfreude” and “It Sucks to Be Me” could be so much fun? The play’s gimmick — human characters and puppets making raunchy adult jokes in songs that sound like they came out of Sesame Street — is uproariously funny, but the genuine emotions underneath all that made this a memorable evening at the theater. Between this show and Monty Python’s Spamalot, Casa Mañana, which presented both, suddenly turned hip this summer. Hopefully, it will stay that way.
Classical Music Performance
Readers’ choice: Mahler cycle
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, at
Carnegie Hall, New York City
Though we may be stretching the definition of “local” here, FWSO’s major-league debut was worth writing home about. Sounding like a big-budget international orchestra, conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s forces delivered memorable performances of the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello and the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony as well as the world premiere of Meriel for Cello and Orchestra. The legendary New York concert hall’s great acoustics brought out degrees of tonal shading and performance sophistication only dreamt of a few years ago. Cellist Alban Gerhardt combined a depth of feeling with extraordinary technical skills to create some blissful listening.
Book by a Local Author
Readers’ choice: The Homeless Christmas Tree, by Leslie Gordon
Critic’s choice: An Epic Life, by Joe Nick Patoski
Willie Nelson has lived an open life and talked freely about his women, life on the road, and habitual marijuana smoking, so you might not think there’s much left to say about this small-town Texas boy who became an icon. But Patoski’s 576-page biography of Nelson goes where none has gone before and, since Patoski was raised in Fort Worth, he devotes much of the writing to Nelson’s early years spent struggling in Cowtown. It’s a fascinating must-read for all fans of Willie, country music, and Fort Worth.
Readers’ choice: Chad Feehan
Critic’s choice: Jose Juan Sauceda
Yeah, yeah, we know. Austin is set to be the next cinema hotbed. For like the past 10 years. But you know what? Cowtown births plenty of talented indie filmmakers of its own. One such is up-and-comer Jose Juan Sauceda, a prize-winning graduate of the RTVF department at the University of North Texas and master of gritty DIY shorts. Working primarily in horror, Sauceda has a keen eye for clever shots of knife-wielding psychos and an even sharper one for subtle jabs of visual wit. Plus, he pretty much does it all: writing, directing, editing, and presumably catering. Watch out when someone wises up and gives him a budget!
Locally Made Film
Readers’ choice: Nowhere But Texas 2, by Channel 13 KERA-TV
Critic’s choice: Fissure, by Russ Pond
Filmed in Dallas and the Mid-Cities, Russ Pond’s thriller screened at the AFI Dallas festival in March. The movie is about a cop who discovers rifts in the time-space continuum while responding to a domestic disturbance call. The action is set mostly in one house, and the first-time director handled the temporal shifts (and his actors) with an impressive degree of assurance.
Readers’ choice: Nutcracker
Texas Ballet Theater
Critic’s choice: Coppelia
Texas Ballet Theater
Ben Stevenson’s staging of the familiar classic was a blend of traditional choreography and his own indefinable inventions sumptuously set by Desmond Heeley and exuberantly danced by the first-class company. Another triumph for this great band of dancers.
Readers’ choice: “Man with Briefcase,” by Jonathan Borofsky
Critic’s choice: Peace murals by
Jo Dufo, E Lancaster Av, FW
Striking, brightly painted murals created for Sister Cities International cover the sides of two empty buildings near the corner of Kentucky and Lancaster avenues in east Fort Worth. They’re the work of muralist and art teacher Dufo and several of her students. The huge works, showing Dufo’s signature influences from Picasso and Matisse, are alive with colorful birds, hearts, rainbows, flowers, peace signs, and the words for peace in different languages, all celebrating the theme of world peace and friendship. The murals are a pleasure — and a surprise — to behold in an area that is better known as the gathering place of the friendless in our society. Ironically, this joyous celebration of positivity is in the same neighborhood as two of the city’s largest homeless shelters.
Readers’ choice: Magnolia at the Modern
Critic’s choice: Fearless Film Festival
This one-day event devoted to short films of every genre had its second running in April, and it will be back for a third time next year. Attached to the annual Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival, the 3F2 offered six hours of programming, with space given to foreign entries, documentary shorts, music videos, and winners of the Teen Video Fest for public-service announcements made by local high school students.
Place to See Art Films
Critic’s choice: Lone Star International Film Festival
Fort Worth’s film festival was long overdue for a rebirth, and it finally sprang back to life with a flourish last November. The movies on display weren’t lacking in star power (David Strathairn, Woody Harrelson, Zooey Deschanel, Kristen Stewart, Barbaro), but the films without big names were often equally fascinating, such as the Thai horror film Signos and Hell on Wheels, the documentary about the infighting in Austin’s roller derby league. Next year’s festival will be under a new artistic director, and it will have a tough act to follow.
With a style as iconic as Coop’s or Big Daddy Roth’s, Pussyhouse Propaganda deals in subversive mashups of pop-culture effluvia, specializing, according to www.me-thinks.com/pussyhouse.html, in “stencil work, graffiti, fliers, CD layout, web design, and any goddamn thing you can think of.” The brainchild of Gorak and Lokar (a.k.a. Ray Liberio and Calvin Abucejo), Pussyhouse references everything from Barney Fife to Sam-I-Am and every Dr. Zira-in-a-bikini in between — we’re just waiting for that coffee table book that gets the word out and takes them nationwide.
Locally Produced Comic
Critic’s choice: PvP, by Scott Kurtz
So it’s a webcomic. Sue us. Arlingtonian Kurtz’ strip about everyday folks — and one goofy blue troll — who work at a video game magazine just turned 10 years old and just keeps getting better. Kurtz’ draftsmanship has improved at a pace equal to his storytelling: He married two disparate characters, rapidly aged two teenagers, “lost” a lovable character (the aforementioned blue troll), and more. Visit www.pvponline.com.
Critic’s choice: Tina McIntire
The mosaic art that McIntire makes from antique cut glass is colorful, light-bending magic. Hang one of her mosaics in your window, and you’ll have some major-league eye candy for years to come. Her works are so eye-catching that one of her mosaics is featured on the glossy posters created as advertising for the 6th Annual Jazz by the Boulevard music and arts festival. As of this writing, that same mosaic was among a half dozen of her works on sale at Uncommon Angles at Montgomery Plaza, a local dealer of McIntire’s work.
Critic’s choice: Putt-Putt Golf & Games, 7001 Calmont Av, FW;
609 Loop 820, Hurst
In this Xbox era, video arcades still survive but mostly as offshoots of movie theaters or shopping malls. Putt-Putt exists primarily for mini-golf, but both locations also offer decent selections of video games without the absurd overpricing that you get from GameWorks or Dave & Buster’s. Bonus points for selling ice cream.
Background for Warped Christmas Card
Critic’s choice: Your house (kind of)
First, take a picture of your family in front of the ancestral manse. Get on Photoshop and put a gas-drilling rig in the driveway, with Santa Claus hanging from the top like King Kong on the Chrysler Building and being tasered by Mayor Mikey. If there’s room in the background, drop in an image of JPS hospital, where a semi-unconscious St. Nick will be taken to be ignored, perhaps fatally. Talk about warped. Talk about Fort Worth these days.
Critic’s choice: Alto, Texas
A few hours southeast of us on 287, Alto is home to one of Texas’ most expansive and elaborate historical sites, the Caddo Mounds, where the Caddo people — some of the state’s earliest inhabitants — lived from about 800 to 1300 A.D. Accompanying texts provide thorough explanations of the remains (mostly dwellings). And with a climate that betrays its equatorial geography, the site makes for a great — and restorative — escape.
Critic’s choice: Kimbell Art Museum lawn
Green space is just about nonexistent in the Cultural District and is disappearing fast all over town. Gas rigs, however, are growing faster’n shoots in the rain forest. While the rigs may well be part of the landscape for years to come (sigh), the least the city could do is save what green space there is that the Chesapeakes and the Devons and the XTOs can’t get their drill bits into. Today the vast expanse of lawn in front of the Kimbell that provides a lovely swath of uninterrupted green between the Louis Kahn architectural masterpiece on the east and the Philip Johnson-designed Amon Carter Museum to the west is threatened by an equally celebrated architect, Renzo Piano, who wants to expand the Kimbell’s limited exhibit space by building an addition on the lawn. What cheek! The lawn is a living, breathing, broad canvas, its colors and figures changing daily. It is a serene and very public square, a true community space, accessible to one and all, with kids throwing footballs, folks walking dogs, families having picnics, workers taking lunch breaks, power walkers, bicyclists — and the admission is free. If Fort Worth lets this space be bulldozed, it would be like taking a knife to a Monet.
Readers’ choice: Montgomery Plaza 2600 W 7th St, FW
Critic’s choice: Lancaster Lofts
1324 E Lancaster Av, FW
Urban lofts can be so cool, but developers too often simply tear out the charming old amenities and install boring ol’ contemporary ones, replacing the old windows with new ones, covering the concrete floors with wood, putting in a floor plan that might as well be in Southlake. At Lancaster Lofts just east of downtown, developers Paulos Properties have kept much of the old in this four-story 1926 warehouse. The original industrial windows are still there. The floors are concrete. Artists work in the studios on the bottom floors, with more artists living above. And the neighbors down the street are in homeless shelters. Now that’s urban.
Example of New Architecture
Critic’s choice: Cantey Hanger Plaza 600 W 6th St, FW
There’s too much classical Modernism in town, courtesy mainly of David M. Schwarz. Merely for mixing things up a bit, Cantey Hanger Plaza, cattycorner from “Man with Briefcase,” deserves the nod. The four-story building’s sleek, Brutalist design is daunting — you may wonder where in the hell the entrance is — but it’s perfect for Cantey Hanger, a law firm whose partners don’t chase ambulances and don’t require any sort of homey, “Come on in!” feel. The building, the first ever built downtown for a law firm, also has room on the ground level for retail — for what reason, we’ll never know. A close runner-up: Developers Haydn-Cutler’s low-lying Mondrian-inspired storefront on Camp Bowie Boulevard in the Cultural District.
Example of Public Architecture
Critic’s choice: Ella Mae Gratts Shamblee Branch Library
1062 Evans Av, FW
As one of the anchors of the Evans/Rosedale revitalization, the Shamblee doesn’t sacrifice form for function. Though pretty much just a red-brick cuboid, the new branch library is inviting, with a dynamic entryway that’s all right angles, wings, and glass. Winding along the ground in front is “The River,” a tile mosaic by local artist Letitia Huckaby, who also designed a photographic mural inside that depicts African-American history-makers from the area.
Urban Redevelopment/Smart Growth
Readers’ choice: Stage West
Critic’s choice: Race Street corridor, Riverside area
Despite a few missteps, this area continues to grow and glow, with colorfully redone old buildings, new cafés, and other businesses. Locals are enjoying the fact that they can now pick from dining options such as Fuzzy’s Tacos, Mamma Mia’s, and a sports bar without ever leaving the neighborhood (not to mention a tattoo parlor, banquet hall, and motorcycle shop).
Readers’ choice: West 7th Street area
Critic’s choice: Worthington National Bank, 500 Main St, FW
For its preservation and re-use of the historic Burk Burnett Building downtown, Worthington National Bank won a Texas Historical Foundation award last year. The building on Main Street, named for rancher-banker Samuel Burk Burnett, was Fort Worth’s first skyscraper in 1914. By the 1980s, the bank-turned-retail-store had fallen into disrepair. Architectural columns had cracked, and the marble floors were hidden by concrete. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, so when Worthington CEO Greg Morse led the drive to turn it back into a bank in 2004, he faced years of negotiation with the city, county, and Historic Fort Worth Inc. CHS Architects had to recreate the interior using archival photographs, since no blueprints existed. The Foundation’s 2007 award acknowledged the adaptive reuse of the building and also praised the collection of Texas-themed art and the work of Texas artists in the bank’s lobby and offices.
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