BEST OF: Thursday, September 19, 2002
Arts & Entertainment

Outdoor Cultural Event

Readers’ choice: Main Street Arts Festival

Staff choice: Fort Worth Symphony’s June Concerts in the Botanical Garden

The combination of live music, your own picnic supper, the relative cool of a June evening, all topped off by eye-popping fireworks, can make for a special evening. The gathering of families around a band shell is an American tradition going back generations. The only hitch here is the amplification system, which creates the illusion that the orchestra is being heard on a 1930s AM radio. With RadioShack a major sponsor of the event, you would think something resembling 21st-century sonics would be available.

Art Show of the

Last 12 Months

Readers’ choice: Main Street Arts Festival

Staff choice: Mondrian 1892-1914: The Path to Abstraction, Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

No offense to local artists and gallery owners, but if great painting is the chief criterion by which art exhibits are judged then Mondrian can’t be topped — the Dutchman’s one of the greatest painters who ever lived. While he’s known as one of the forefathers of modernism in the visual arts, Piet Mondrian could have made high art out of glitter and glue on colored construction paper. Landscapes in The Hague School style, post-impressionist iconography, Fauvism — Mondrian did it all. The Kimbell displays the best of his early stuff, on loan from the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. A funny footnote to the show: One of the master’s modernist grid works, hanging in the museum’s permanent exhibition space, can be seen between two partitions covered in Mondrian pieces. Cute.

Arts Organization

Readers’ choice: Arlington Museum of Art, 201 W Main St, Arlington

Staff choice: University of North Texas School of Music

For everyone who thinks classical music is the equivalent of going to a museum, UNT’s concerts are an ear-opener. Aside from the fact that they happen constantly during the school year, they also include works by contemporary composers as well as the established classics, giving listeners a chance to hear the continuity of musical tradition for themselves while looking to the future.

Art Experience for Kids

Readers’ choice: Pottery Pad, 4818 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

Staff choice: Museum School, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1501 Montgomery St, FW

In a world where Spongebob Squarepants is considered “intellectually stimulating,” it’s good to find real educational inspiration happening somewhere for tykes. For more than 50 years, the Museum School at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History has offered weekly classes for pre-school children. The yearlong course covers myriad topics and involves numerous hands-on activities, from crushing corn in a teepee to examining a dinosaur footprint from the inside. Your kids will eat this stuff up.

Art Gallery

Readers’ choice: Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

Staff choice: Art Space 111, 111 Hampton St, FW

Even though viewers can access this wonderful, intimate (read: small) space only by appointment, seeing whatever’s on view here is quite the reward. What you’ll likely find are works by the twin brothers Blagg, Daniel and Dennis — Art Space 111’s proprietors and the Fort Worth art community’s de facto tastemakers. Nothing “contemporary” (unless you consider painterly skill an anomaly in this, the age of the ironic smirk), the material often exhibited in this gallery is the best thing going in town by still-breathing people. Canvases by Bill Haveron, Nancy Lamb, and Matt Clark also make frequent appearances.

Local Visual Artist

Readers’ choice: Nancy Lamb

Staff choice: Daniel Blagg

You wouldn’t want to dismiss Daniel Blagg’s urbanscapes merely as nihilist tirades against inept city planning: They’re packed with too much pathos. Those patches of real estate where urban blight is the only remnant of “better days” are Blagg’s visual cues. Shuttered Chinese restaurants, ramshackle huts, brownfields, dilapidated houses — this is the stuff of Blagg’s painterly fascination with muted colors and humanist perspectives. Though his paintings sell for big bucks, Blagg’s work is, in content, too aggressive for yuppies looking for something to hang over the fireplace, too folk-artish for museums, obsessed with anti-painting as they are. And that’s why we love him: He paints for himself.

Dance Troupe

Readers’ choice: Bruce Wood Dance Company

Staff choice: Bruce Wood Dance Company

As the epitome of what a dance company should be — a group built around the vision, knowledge, and creativity of its artistic director — Bruce Wood Dance Company is a jewel. Choreographer Bruce Wood’s modern ensemble of 12 handsome dancers always looks bright and fresh, and his choreography bridges the chasm between art and entertainment via a dazzling array of original ballets that operate on so many levels that even his lightest piece rewards multiple viewings.

Theatre Troupe

Readers’ choice: Tie, Four Day Weekend, 312 Houston St, FW and Theatre Arlington, 316 W Main St, Arlington

Staff choice: Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main St, FW

Frankly, last year’s local productions didn’t match those of the previous year. Sage & Silo’s venue change, Allied Theatre’s movement, Shakespeare in the Park’s cancellation, and other goings-on placed the season’s real drama firmly off-stage. Still, all the local companies maintained their decent, if not spectacular, track records. Jubilee shone brightest by doing what it does best — consistently offering solid, engaging entertainment. Purring along like a well-oiled engine, Jubilee’s season was often brilliant and never less than very good. (Although we haven’t been to every show, we’ve yet to see an outright dog at Jubilee.) One could validly argue that Jubilee should occasionally eschew crowd-pleasers for edgier fare. But this troupe is at the top at what it does, and it’s hard to argue with theater done so well.

Arts Leader

Readers’ choice: Richard Rodzinski, chairman, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Staff choice: Rick Stewart, director, Amon Carter Museum

There was no bigger or higher-profile artistic enterprise in the past 12 months than the re-opening of the Amon Carter Museum. The Philip Johnson-designed facility, unveiled last October, uses the ample extra space to demonstrate the amazing breadth of the museum’s collection. For overseeing the expansion, director Stewart and the museum’s entire leadership deserve the praise of the museum-going public.

Male Actor

Readers’ choice: B.J. Cleveland

Staff choice: (Tie) Gary Taggart and Ashley Wood in The Real Inspector Hound, Stage West

Tom Stoppard’s Hound is wonderful, witty slapstick, a goofy, split-screen production in which we, the audience, watch theater critics Birdboot (Taggart) and Moon (Wood) as they watch the play we are also watching. Moon rambles ponderously, showing off instead of critiquing, to the amusement and annoyance of both Birdboot and the audience. A David Lynch-ian twist (minus the creep factor) makes both characters step into the play and assume new identities. What sounds like a mess is actually easy to follow and a total riot. Taggart and Wood nailed the satire, tart rejoinders, and physical comedy parts, and managed to more or less keep things on track.

Female Actor

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: Laurie Vlasich

The noticeable dip in quality in this year’s local productions compared to last year’s makes choosing supporting categories as tough as choosing a best play. Still, Laurie Vlasich is the obvious choice for best actress. Going from sexpot to maid to the other woman to sad-eyed heartbreak girl, Vlasich glides believably from character to character, duly earning sympathy or derision, depending on the role. That she can shine through a rather dreary production like Putting It Together (Stage West) impresses all the more. (Vlasich sang beautifully and delivered a touching, courageous performance with sub-par material.) Even in a stronger year, Vlasich’s work would draw notice. Let’s just hope that all of us, Vlasich included, encounter better productions in the coming season.

Production By a

Local Theater

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: Romeo, Jubilee Theatre

No, not the chore of sitting through this ol’ bore again? Credit Jubilee Theatre with injecting spark and passion back into this dust-covered classic. The troupe’s take was so straightforward and simple that it was unclear how it succeeded. Other than a shift in setting to 1890s New Orleans, much of the original’s mood and dialogue remained. So what was Jubilee’s secret? Other than top-notch production and acting, damned if we know. We left the production spellbound. Granted, it was a lackluster season for local theater, but Romeo would rate notice even in a strong season.

Show at Bass Hall

Readers’ choice: The Lion King

Staff choice: MacHomer

Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy met The Simpsons back in October, and the result was pure hilarity. Rick Miller’s demented one-man show, in which the actor read the play in the voices of the sitcom character’s voices, proved to be a comic tour de force. Why not have Barney, Duff beer’s most loyal customer, play Macduff?

Classical Music

Performance (Individual)

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: No winner

Classical Music

Performance (Ensemble)

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: Norma, Fort Worth Opera

Darren Woods, the Fort Worth Opera’s new artistic director, had his first big success with Bellini’s Norma in a production that won in all categories — musical, visual, and dramatic. With the exception of a gratuitous throat-slitting in the opera’s opening moments, stage director David Gately, making his Fort Worth debut, presented the piece as the stylish ensemble it is rather than as a showcase for the title character. Conductor Christopher Larkin, also new to Fort Worth, propelled the music’s dramatic thrust with a sure hand. Olivia Gorra as Norma and Mary Phillips, singing as Norma’s fellow Druid priestess Adalgisa, were vocally spectacular. We’re talking world-class, coloratura fireworks that brought the house down, and showed us regional opera at its best.

Book by

a North Texas Writer

Readers’ choice: The Crush, Sandra Brown

Staff choice: The Burning, Tim Madigan

This thoughtful and well-written account of one of history’s almost forgotten chapters in the tortured relations between blacks and whites in the South is expertly handled by Madigan, who labors during the day as a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The topic’s obscurity — a 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Okla., that claimed almost 300 lives, most of them black, and left the Greenwood section of the city looking like it had been nuked — is brought to life by Madigan’s shoe-leather reporting and clear prose. If you have trouble finding a hardback of this 2001 issue, a paperback edition is soon to be released.

Local Filmmaker:

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: David Ahearn

When he’s not yucking it up as part of Fort Worth’s comedy ensemble Four Day Weekend, David Ahearn takes interesting sidesteps into making short films. His latest work, Burning The Grump, is a mini-caper that slyly explores the destructive desperation fame causes for has-beens and never-beens. Playing at national film festivals, the piece struck such a chord that Ahearn’s gotten studio interest for his buddy feature Pickle, which starts shooting in March. Until he stretches his legs, Ahearn — and his small stuff — will be amusing movie buffs over at

Western Cultural Event

Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo

Staff choice: Cowboys of Color Rodeo

More than 300 cowboys and cowgirls of African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian backgrounds competed in the Fort Worth installment of this circuit in August. All the traditional events are there, plus activities like an all-female Hispanic equestrian drill team, Mexican trick ropers, American Indian dancers — and a history lesson in who really won the West. Sorry you missed it? You can see the finals in Mesquite on Nov. 9.

Blues Venue

Readers’ choice: J&J’s Blues Bar, 937 Woodward St, FW

Staff choice: Keys Lounge, 5677 Westcreek Dr, FW

This cozy neighborhood bar-cum-blues joint has its “knowledgeable” adherents — with good reason. Musicians appreciate the attentive (but not painfully hip) audience members who clap after solos and dance all night long to blues and R&B when the band is happening. And patrons like the perpetual absence of a cover (the slogan here is “The blues is free”) and the opportunity to see both “name” and unknown local talent at the regular Sunday and Wednesday night jams. Bassist/vocalist Bobby Counts and his band, Count Blue, are fixtures here, but other local acts and a few out-of-towners also grace the stage.

Jazz Venue

Readers’ choice: No winner

Staff choice: The Moon, 2911 W Berry St, FW

This was a hard pick, knowing that Michael Pellecchia does such a good job holding it down Sunday nights at the Black Dog Tavern, but we think The Moon makes sense (understanding that there isn’t a single all-jazz venue in town, unless you count Sardines — but that’s jazz-as-atmosphere, not as focal point). On Wednesday nights The Moon has become the place for proactive jazz listening. One especially enjoyable attribute of the hangout: The rather smallish, dimly lit venue doesn’t allow the music to escape the ambit of your hearing while it lets you carry on a conversation with a neighbor just fine. Pure genius. That, and the level of musicianship there is beyond peer. Props go to owner Danny Weaver for letting it happen and to jazz-jam organizer, drummer Dave Karnes, for keeping it happening.

Rock Venue

Readers’ choice: Wreck Room, 3208 W 7th St, FW

Staff choice: Wreck Room

And you thought the Wreck Room was only the best place to day-drink. The Wreck’s the best place both to see a rock show and, reportedly, play one. (Everyone just raves about soundman Andre.) The crowd there is never too bitchy or rough, and the sound quality is always top-notch. Over the club’s five years, marquee acts like the Flametrick Subs and the Burden Brothers have played the place, as well as local stalwarts like Benway and the Adderallics. If rock ’n’ roll were a person, the Wreck Room would be his house.

Country Venue

Readers’ choice: Billy Bob’s Texas, 2520 Rodeo Plaza, FW

Staff choice: The Finish Line, 12035 Hwy 80 West, Aledo

Someone recently asked where to take out-of-state friends to experience “real” Texas music. While the obvious answer would be the Stockyards — where there are probably more country rooms per square yard than anywhere outside of Nashville — a secluded working-people’s watering hole on the western edge of the city is our favorite. Just take I-30 out to the Linkcrest exit and double back on the eastbound access road. There you’ll find The Finish Line, a great place to hear real country music in the classic honkytonk shuffle style with an audience that’s about equal parts listeners, dancers, and working stiffs grabbing a beer on the way home. In addition to the regular Friday and Saturday nights, there are bands on Tuesday nights starting at 6pm (so you can be home in time to catch the Rangers, if you can stand to) and Sunday afternoons starting at 5pm.

Tejano/Salsa Venue

Readers’ choice: Club Tequila’s, 711 Barden St, FW

Staff choice: Club Tequila’s

This is really corny, but Club Tequila’s is the dream of multiculturalism come alive: Black, white, red, brown, yellow — every skin type comes here, always dressed to the nines, always ready to shake some boo-tay. DJ Fern on the wheels of steel holds it down most nights, playing scorching salsa hits from the likes of Frankie Negron, Rey Ruiz, and Carlos Vega, but he’s not the only thing going here. Early Thursday and Saturday nights, a dance floor full of people shows up for the club’s free salsa dancing lessons. In its three years of business, Club Tequila’s has become a Fort Worth institution.

Place To Dance

Readers’ choice: Magnolia Station, 600 W Magnolia, FW

Staff choice: Bellbottoms, 8407 Grapevine Hwy, N Richland Hills

As far as we’re concerned, the only music to boogie to is disco, so this award goes — hands-down — to the only place that celebrates the sound, Bellbottoms. Yeah, it’s a chain establishment, but not all chains are bad — especially ones that can capitalize on so postmodern a conceit as “retro.” Here, all your memories have been packaged for you — a multicolored light show, disco ball, and, of course, hits from the ’70s (though the club’s ’80s night is a lot of fun, too). A lot of white folks pack this place, so don’t worry if your best moves are more Elaine Benes than Denny Terrio. Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo will be there to help.

Comedy Club

Readers’ choice: Hyena’s, 2525 E Arkansas Ln, Arlington, and 604 Main St, FW

Staff choice: Four Day Weekend, 312 Houston St, FW

It’s really not fair to compare Four Day Weekend, which offers improv comedy, with the Hyena’s clubs, which book traditional stand-up acts. Yet they’re the only game in town. The quality of Four Day’s act can vary, of course, and it costs more to get in. However, Hyena’s makes you purchase items off the menu to retain your seat, so it comes out pricier anyway. FDW’s smoke-free environment cinches the deal.


Readers’ choice: 7th Haven, 2308 W 7th St, FW

Staff choice: The Cellar, 2916 W Berry St, FW

We’re still looking for the jukebox ballsy enough to offer both G N’ R Lies and Earth, Wind and Fire’s Sing a Song. So until then, we’ll have to go with the juke at The Cellar. There, you’ll find Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction and a single song — but what a doozy — by Earth, Wind and Fire, “September.” Good enough for us. The mix of local artists, metalheads, hip-hoppers, and teenyboppers in The Cellar’s juke is also a welcome respite from the one-dimensional cashboxes all over town. Listen to the greats on this one: R.E.M.’s Out of Time, The Best of James Brown, Flickerstick’s Welcome Home the Astronauts, and Jay-Z’s MTV Unplugged. Besides, where else could you play G N’ R’s “Night Train” right after James Brown’s earlier song of similar title?

Example of New


Readers’ choice: Modern Art Museum, 3200 Darnell St, FW

Staff choice: Bank One Building, 420 Throckmorton St, FW

Downtown Fort Worth is jam-packed with buildings so architecturally bad that they border on evil. If the city’s skyline were a contestant in a beauty contest, it would place somewhere below Ernest Borgnine. The addition of the Bank One Building has been a godsend. Designed by David M. Schwarz and HKS Inc., this quaint 12-story, box-shaped structure is über-chic, uber-contemporary — it’s in red brick with cast stone trim on the office tower. Modern form meets postmodern media. The building’s seriousness is offset by the neon Art Deco parking sign hanging over 3rd Street.

Re-Use of Old


Readers’ choice: Flatiron Building, 1000 Houston St, FW

Staff choice: The Homes of Parker Commons, 905 S Jennings Av, FW

If elementary school felt like torture, and junior high gave you nightmares, this place isn’t for you. For everyone else, it’s a great salvage project — turning the high-ceilinged old classrooms of Hogg Elementary and Parker Junior High (formerly Fort Worth Central High) into airy, affordable, loft-like apartments. Even the old auditorium was sectioned into units with soaring ceilings. Many apartments have exposed brick walls and some have beautiful old hardwood floors. A new building on the site of the old athletic field completes the gated complex. These aren’t luxury accomodations — accoutrements are new but not top-dollar — but they’re a great step in the rejuvenation of the near South Side

Staff Only:

Dance Performance (Individual)

Mariana Ryzhkina and Alexander Vetrov, Ballet Arlington, Le Corsaire Pas de Deux

Mariana Ryzhkina, a current principal with the Bolshoi Ballet, and Alexander Vetrov, a former principal now co-directing Ballet Arlington, threw the house out the window in a bravura Soviet-style performance of the acrobatic Le Corsaire Pas de Deux in Bass Performance Hall. Ryzhkina has great strength and fluidity, and Vetrov revels in the in-your-face leaps and turns of the classic showpiece. Russian dance doesn’t get much better than the stylish virtuosity seen here.

Dance Performance (Ensemble)

Bruce Wood Dance Company, Tchaikovsky Third Piano Concerto

Bruce Wood’s whole choreographic style is ensemble-oriented. His focus is on the visual possibilities of using the entire company, either together or momentarily in smaller units, to set a score. In Tchaikovksy Third Piano Concerto, already a George Balanchine classic under the title Allegro Brilliante, Wood suggests the joy and glamour of the 19th century in his own dance vocabulary without reference to Balanchine’s ballet or the toe shoes and tutus of classical ballet. His affectionate look at the romance of another age sweeps you into a kinder, gentler era, and his dancers, with skill and personality, bring the choreography to radiant life.

Film Festival

Fort Worth Film Festival.

Q Cinema brought in the likes of Hedwig and the Angry Inch last year, but their program this year wasn’t up to snuff. In the meantime, Fort Worth’s older film festival boasted Tarrant County’s only screening of the year’s best film, Waking Life, as well as a fascinating retrospective of African-American filmmaker Spencer Williams.

Movie Theater

for Seeing Art Films

UA Hulen, 4920 S Hulen St, FW.

Even after the end of Gourmet Cinema, the AMC theaters downtown gave us Frailty, The Son’s Room, Kissing Jessica Stein, and Y Tu Mamá También. However, in a single week in August, UA Hulen had Lovely & Amazing, Sunshine State, Swimming, and Who Is Cletis Tout? playing. UA Hulen may own this category for all time if the AMC Sundance theaters don’t get cracking. By the way, whatever happened to the art films at Bedford’s EFW Central Park Cinema?

Outdoor Art

“Upright Motives” by Henry Moore, Amon Carter Museum, 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW

The overhyped, unintentionally ironic “Man With Briefcase” sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky recently installed in Burnett Park can make any serious art lover run screaming for a visual sorbet to cleanse the crud off his or her palette. Sculptor Henry Moore does the trick. His three bronze monoliths, called “Upright Motives,” installed in front of the Amon Carter Museum are everything that the brushed-aluminum “Man With Briefcase” is not: simple and yet complex, ancient and yet modern, images drawn from the unconscious rather than the literal world. It’s the kind of outdoor art that represents the best of Fort Worth. “Man With Briefcase,” unfortunately, represents the worst and begs the question, “What was the Burnett Foundation thinking?” A giant cutout of a man holding a briefcase and wearing a fedora in downtown Fort Worth? Somebody get that poor guy a bolo tie or send him packing to Dallas.

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