News and Features

Philanthropist Ted Strauss Dies at 89

Ted Strauss  Photo by Kristina Bowman

Ted Strauss. Photo: Kristina Bowman

Ted Strauss, the well-known Dallas banker and philanthropist, died this morning. He was 89.

He was responsible for several Texas businesses and banks over the years. He made a $1 million donation to the AT&T Performing Arts Center in 2004.

He died of natural causes, The Dallas Morning News reports.

“Ted had a deep sense of compassion and service to the community,” Matrice Ellis-Kirk, chair elect of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Board of Directors and a longtime friend of Strauss, said in a statement. “Whether advocating for the arts, serving the homeless or any other number of civic efforts – the Strauss family has truly helped shape the Dallas that we are today.”

Strauss was married to Dallas’ first female mayor, Annette Strauss.

His brother died about six months ago. Robert Strauss  was a former chairman of the Democratic Party and an ambassador to the Soviet Union.

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Saturday Spotlight – Local and Handmade Beer and Art

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For this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re shopping local and handmade at the M.A.D.E. Pop-Up Bazaar at Rahr & Sons Brewing Company in Fort Worth. Check out jewelry, crafts, and other items handmade by North Texas artists and designers. You’ll also enjoy beer tastings and a performance by Texas musician Zach Coffey.

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The High Five: Oral Fixation Will Head To The Suburbs

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Categorized Under: The High Five

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Oral Fixation will hold a show in the suburbs, with possibility for expansion; Texas blues legend Johnny Winter’s final album, and more.

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Secrets of the Meyerson: The Sound


Visit to raise and lower the Meyerson’s acoustic canopy. Photo: Dane Walters

Listen to the report that aired on KERA FM

Spectacular acoustics. That was the holy grail for the designers of the Meyerson Symphony Center. KERA’s Art & Seek is taking a behind-the-scenes look at the building’s 25-year history in a series called Secrets of the Meyerson. Today, Jerome Weeks reports on KERA FM that setting out to replicate the sound of great concert halls built a century ago was a serious gamble.

Architect I.M. Pei and acoustician Russell Johnson designed the building, and in an unusual move, they were hired as equals. Not surprisingly, they quarreled. But those disagreements were,  observers say, a classic case of creative tension.

In the end, they got so much right in the looks and sound of the building, says Nicholas Edward, an acoustics expert who worked with Johnson.

Edward and Johnson had some unconventional ideas about acoustic design, like the reverberation chamber that runs around the top of the Meyerson’s auditorium. Sound floats into the reverb chamber, bounces around, and goes back into the hall, giving it the warmth it’s famous for.

And it was Edwards who designed the auditorium’s shape.  The great old halls were built like shoeboxes. The Meyerson is more rounded than that, but it has the same effect. It helps reflect sound from the sides and the back to the listener’s ears.

You can hear the podcast of Art & Seek’s Jerome Weeks and music historian Laurie Shulman discussing the Meyerson’s history with Krys Boyd on THINK. And you can raise and lower the Meyerson’s acoustic canopy, open and close the reverberation chamber doors, and watch the Meyerson “dance” in the Sound chapter at Art&Seek’s interactive website,



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Think: Acoustics At The Meyerson


Laurie Shulman

What’s author Laurie Shulman’s favorite seat in the house? Visit to find out. Photo: Dane Walters

  • Listen to the excerpt from Think that aired on KERA FM this evening.
  • Tomorrow morning, as part of Art&Seek’s Secrets of the Meyerson series, Jerome Weeks explains how its designers borrowed the most successful design elements from the world’s greatest concert halls.
  • Listen to the podcast of Think.
  • Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Meyerson at


When building a concert hall, architects have to consider how their structural choices are going to affect the sound. To mark the 25th anniversary of the Meyerson Symphony Center, Krys Boyd talked today on Think to the author of a book on the Meyerson about how the buildings’ designers factored acoustics into their plans.

Laurie Shulman says that there are three elements that combine to form the sound of a hall. The first is its shape. After studying concert halls around the world, the designers of the Meyerson chose a shoebox configuration.

“It is a common misperception when listening to a symphony orchestra that you are hearing sound coming directly at you from the stage – for example if you are sitting at rear-center orchestra,” she says. “You are actually hearing sound coming at you from the sides, reflected down from the ceiling, reflected up from the floor.”

With the shape locked in, the designers had to decide how big to make the hall. Shulman says that more seats could actually fit in the Meyerson, but that would have been bad for the sound.

The final decision concerns materials. Hard surfaces like wood or marble provide better sound reflection. Carpet tends to deaden sound.

“They thought very carefully about every single material on the seats, on the sides on the ceiling and on the floor, and, of course, on the stage itself,” she says.

All of those tiny decisions, when added together, give the Meyerson what acousticians call “audible tail.”

“That sense of the sound just hovering in the air,” she says. “Not an echo, so much as reverberence.”

That’s the kind of detail that makes a good hall great.


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The Secrets of the Meyerson

The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Art&Seek takes you back stage and behind the scenes at the home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

On KERA FM today, Jerome Weeks kicks off the series with a look back at the high stakes and decade-long struggle to build the hall.

Listen to the report:

At, jump into our interactive web site.  Take a video tour of the parts of the building you’ve never seen, learn about the sound,  read expanded versions of our radio stories.  You can even make the building dance – raise and lower the acoustic canopy, open and close the reverberation chamber doors.

And tune in to Think today at 1 p.m. Krys Boyd interviews Jerome and Laurie Shulman, author of  The Meyerson Symphony Center, Building a Dream.



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Michael Urie Goes Shopping With Barbra Streisand

buyer and cellar play

Buyer & Cellar opens tonight at the Dallas City Performance Hall and runs until September 6. Photo: AT&T PAC

Listen to the interview that aired on KERA FM

Michael Urie is probably best known for his work in the ABC television show Ugly Betty, playing scheming fashion magazine assistant Marc St. James. But the Plano native is no stranger to the stage, performing on and off Broadway. Now, he makes his debut in Dallas,  in Buyer & Cellar.  That’s cellar, like basement.  Specifically, Barbra Streisand’s basement.

Watch the commercial for Buyer & Cellar:

On the setting of Buyer & Cellar….It is the completely fictional tale of a completely made up guy who works in the absolutely real street of shops at Barbra Streisand’s house that she has in her basement…someone gets hired to run those shops and he has one customer…I play everyone. I play Alex More to begin with, who is the struggling actor who gets hired to be the clerk in the street of shops. I play the lady of the house herself, Ms. Streisand…He’s not sure what he’s supposed to do until she says, “You have nice things here.” And he realizes, “We’re going to play shopkeeper.” It starts there and it’s hilarious but it goes to so many wonderful places and then it becomes really about what it’s like for a have and a have-not to be friends.

On playing an iconic figure such as Streisand….I was a fan, not a super-fan. I wouldn’t have called myself a devoted fan. I didn’t follow her every move. In 1994, she did her big comeback concert and I remember really liking it but also I remember my mother explaining it to me…I’m not just going to do an impression of her because there’s no costume changes. There’s no fingernails or putty nose, or you know, a wig or sequins or anything like that. I sort of just become her.

On bringing a piece of off-Broadway back to Dallas….I grew up here going to Fair Park Music Hall, seeing giant musicals in a giant room. And shows like mine couldn’t play in a room like that. But that is a part of New York theater. You know, because a Broadway play can push the boundaries, but it still has to have a kind of universality. You have a lot of seats to fill…This is will be my professional acting debut in the Dallas area. It’s the first time I’m coming home to show everybody what I’ve been working on and it’s crazy. I am nervous. I am nervous about it.

I had a great time talking to Urie, but couldn’t fit our whole conversation on the air. Here are a few other things you may want to know:

On his documentary Thank You For Judging….It’s actually about TFA state [competition], which is the Texas Forensics Association, which is a big, big deal here. And when I was in high school, I competed in it. It was like the mother of all speech tournaments. So we made a film about it. We followed my old coach and a few other coaches and met a lot of kids. It’s an activity where kids who might not fit in elsewhere, flourish.

On the influence of speech in acting….It’s not as known as the debate side of it. Kids are doing humorous interp or dramatic interp and that is more like acting. It’s almost like the play I’m doing because you’re acting alone and doing all the parts. You can do whatever you want in a published work, doing all the parts. You’re basically the actor, producer, and director of your own one-person show. I know so many people who have gone on to be film directors, lawyers, doctors, actors, and teachers. All of these professions not only need to be able to talk to other people and lead other people, but tell a story from beginning to end. I go back to my speech and debate training instinctively, far more than I would to Shakespeare.

On art as a competition….I don’t love that it’s a competition but it’s true. There’s two plays happening right next door to each other and you only have one night, one’s going to win. So it is. If we want to be paid as artists then we are putting ourselves out there to be judged.

On his introduction to speech….I was in theater and a lot of the theater kids were also doing speech. It’s like all the drama kids all went to the same place every weekend. Why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to be with hundreds of people like me, as opposed to being a minority in my high school?

On moving from community college to Juilliard….It was actually in a speech tournament that I decided that I was thinking I was going to go to a school here in Texas and get my degree in education and become a drama teacher. It was during a forensics round that I was doing a very dramatic poem that people kept laughing at. I said, “Maybe I’ll make this funny.” So I did and I won. I scrapped all my plans to go to state school and learn teaching and I wanted to stay here and see about becoming an actor. I went with that group to New York on a field trip and we toured Julliard. After the tour, [one of the teachers] pulled me aside and told me, “You have to audition for this place.” It seemed so impossible to me and I did it because he suggested it. I auditioned halfway through my first year at community college and I got in. I was going to stay and see where the wind took me.

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Dallas Theater Center Managing Director To Retire

hkThe Dallas Theater Center has announced that Heather Kitchen will retire in 2015 — after 40 years in the theater, but only four of them at the DTC. Kitchen, 62, joined the Theater Center in 2011 after 14 seasons as the executive director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. During her time at the DTC, subscription and ticket income have increased more than 40 percent. The annual fund was doubled from $1.8 million in 2010 to $3.9 million in the last fiscal year.

She will remain on the job until her successor is appointed.

Here’s the full release:

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The Big Screen: Frame of Mind

BigScreen_logoSMALLOn Thursday, KERA-TV will air the first episode of Frame of Mind. The 13-week series features some of the best independent films by Texas directors. This week, we talk to Bart Weiss, who curated the series, about what the films say about the state of Texas filmmaking.

First up in the series is Swingman, a documentary by Dallas filmmaker Mark Birnbaum. He talked to Art&Seek about the film during a recent Q&A. Check that out, and then make plans to attend a special preview screening Thursday night at the Texas Theatre.

Be sure to subscribe to The Big Screen on iTunes. Stream this week’s episode below or download it.

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Flickr Photo of the Week

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Categorized Under: Visual Arts

flickr 600x300 post

Congratulations to Patrick Harvey of Duncanville, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! This is the third time Patrick has won our little contest.  His last win was in August. Patrick follows last week’s winner, Jimmy Ball.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took earlier than the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Monday to Sunday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Monday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on

flickr guyNow, here’s more from Patrick.

Title of photo: Dallas Sunset (2)

EquipmentNikon D3200

Tell us more about your photo: That night was a gorgeous sunset out in Dallas, so I went out to West End to take a night shot of the downtown freeway looking at the Hunt Hill Bridge. It came out real neat.

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