News and Features

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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First Up on Frame of Mind

Capt. Allen

Captain Allen. Photo: Mark Birnbaum

  • Join Art&Seek and Video Association of Dallas to celebrate this season and watch Frame of Mind at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Texas Theatre.
  • Tune into KERA on Thursday, September 4th at 10 p.m. to watch Birnbaum’s Swingman in the first episode of Frame of Mind.

You may have heardFrame of Mind is getting its first true season on KERA.  Mark Birnbaum, a documentary filmmaker will be kicking off the series with his film Swingman.  This film tells the story of Marshall Allen, a Fort Worth firefighter who was in a a freak accident that left him physically paralyzed and emotionally healed.

Birnbaum has lived in North Texas for over 30 years and has made a number of noteworthy documentaries, including Stop the Presses; The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress; Slant 45: The Movie, and Swingman.  He began making films while serving as a photographer and filmmaker for the United States Army in Vietnam.  Swingman was premiered at Dallas Video Fest 25 in 2012.

I met with Mark Birnbaum at his house to talk about Swingman.


Capt. Allen on ground right. Photo: Glen Ellman

On the making of the film:

 “A mutual friend introduced me to a woman who had just written a book about Marshall Allen.  I spoke to her on the phone and she invited me to come meet Marshall.  So I met them at a Starbucks down near Red Oak, and, I was immediately impressed by this man.

 “Marshall Allen was a fireman’s fireman.  He was one of the first black fire fighters in the Fort Worth Fire Department.  He was a picture of ultimate control.  He had it all: power, intelligence, confidence, courage, good looks.  Today, Marshall is a quadriplegic.  He needs metal hand braces to help articulate his fingers, but he drives his own van.  He just retired from his full time job as a Captain at the Fort Worth Fire Department.  He continues to command great respect and he’s greatly admired, not just for his tenacity, but for his strong work ethic and leadership.   Marshall is alive; he’s thriving, and by his own account, he’s happier than he’s ever been.

“I met him and I came to understand the potential of that story very quickly.  Why did I make the film?  Because I can.  I have the tools and the experience.  Because he lived right here in Fort Worth, it was a project I could undertake without a lot of travel expense, so I started shooting almost immediately.  There are a lot of interesting twists and turns in the story as it evolved.  I shot for about a year and then I had to stop for a year to work on another project, and then I came back to the story and finished it.”


Marshall Allen at bike accident site. Photo: Mark Birnbaum

On working with Marshall Allen:

“It’s easy working with Marshall.  The film is a character-driven documentary.  Making a film like that means spending a lot of time with that person and a lot of time with the camera on and just seeing what happens in different types of circumstances.  You hope to develop some real trust with a subject like that, and I think we did come to trust each other.

“There’s a scene in the film that’s late at night in his garage, that is kind of a confession.  Marshall called me earlier that day and said that he had been surfing the web and he discovered on Facebook a page for a girlfriend that he’d had when he was about 17 or 18 and he hadn’t heard anything about her for all of those years.  He found her and was reading about her and dredged up a lot of feelings and emotions that he’d had back then about how he behaved.  This was in contrast to his life now which has changed in so many ways since he became a quadriplegic in some very unexpected ways.  So he called me, asked me to come over, and said “We have to talk about this.”  When you’re making a film with someone and they care enough at that moment that when there’s something really important to them that they have to share it, they want to share it with you, on camera.  And it turns out to be one of the most moving moments in the film.

“In that respect, Marshall was a terrific subject.  He embraced the process of making the film and welcomed me into his life because he really wanted to share his life with a wider audience, especially with young men.  He had something he really wanted to say to them — about how they might live their lives with some benefit from what he had learned.”


On his biggest challenge:

“I think the biggest challenge in making a film like this is editing, fashioning a story from glimpses of a life, and finding that arc of a beginning, a middle, and an end.  [Jean-Luc] Godard said ‘editing is turning chance into destiny,’ and I think that’s very true.  There’s a lot of chance that goes into making a film like this and you never quite know what you’re going to get.  Once you’ve got these scenes, how do you structure them to tell a story?  And almost always, the most difficult thing is how does it end?  Because, of course, it doesn’t end — his life continues and expands.  For example, he has recently retired from the fire department and entered a whole new phase of his life, as a grandfather too.  Finding an ending is often difficult to do.  You just have to keep editing until something strikes you that is an appropriate place to stop.”


On his favorite Texas filmmaker:

“[Richard] Linklater is probably my favorite Texas filmmaker.  I just saw Boyhood and it was an amazing film, a truly wonderful film… Almost a perfect film, I think.”


On KERA broadcasting Swingman:

“I’m really excited that it kicks off this year’s season of Frame of Mind.  I know it’s a series that Bart Weiss has worked on for a long time, to make the series work, and it’s a thrill to be able to kick off this season with Swingman.

author Alex Allred, Capt. Marshall Allen

Capt. Marshall Allen and author Alex Allred. Photo: Mark Birnbaum

“Marshall will be at the screening at Texas Theatre the night that the film is broadcast on KERA, His daughter, Talaya, a Dallas police officer who is also in the film and Alex Allred, who is the author who wrote the book about Marshall that got me initially interested in his story will also be in attendance that night.  They’ve been really enthusiastic about the success the film has had.


“Marshall has embraced the film and understands its potential to reach out to people who also may be disabled and in a chair, or suffering from depression which is also a theme in the film.  He’s been a great ambassador for the film and he’ll be there on Thursday night.”


Final thoughts:

“I guess I’ll just reiterate — It’s really a thrill to kick of this season of Frame of Mind with our film Swingman.  I’ve looked at the other films in the series and I know it’s going to be a lot of interesting viewing through the fall and into the winter.  I’m grateful to Bart Weiss who put it in the series and to KERA for broadcasting Frame of Mind.”


To find more of Mark Birnbaum’s work, you can visit his website, and his Vevo.

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The Big Deal: KXT Presents Conor Oberst At AT&T Performing Arts Center

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Conor Oberst has a new solo album out called Upside Down Mountain. Oberst will be sure to be singing some new tunes from the album, as well as some Bright Eyes’ favorites, when he comes to town later this month. Enter to win tickets to hear Oberst fill Strauss Square with his folksy sound when KXT presents the seasoned singer-songwriter on Sept. 21. The show at the AT&T Performing Arts Center venue will be a standing room only, non-BYOB event so leave the chairs and coolers behind. Not to worry: there’ll be plenty of concessions available to purchase.

Be sure to check out and sign up for our two other Big Deals this week – tickets to see Nice Work If You Can Get It at Bass Performance Hall, and tickets to Bruce Woods Dance Project’s Lovett + More at Dallas City Performance Hall.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal. If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for a chance to see Conor Oberst.

UPDATE:  We have our winners. Thanks for playing!

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The Big Deal: ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ At Bass Performance Hall

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Is there someone you’re longing to see – – and maybe take out on a date? Well, you could win a glamorous night out on the town, courtesy of Fort Worth Performing Arts and Art&Seek.  Enter and win this Big Deal and receive tickets to see the new musical, Nice Work If You Can Get It, when it plays at the swanky Bass Performance Hall on Sept. 16.  Set during the Roaring Twenties, this glitzy, Tony-winning new musical is packed with high energy dance numbers, and memorable songs from the George and Ira Gershwin songbook.

And while you are signing up for this Big Deal be sure to check out our other Big Deals this week – tickets to see Lovett + More presented by the Bruce Wood Dance Project at Dallas City Performance Hall, and tickets for KXT Presents Conor Oberst at AT&T Performing Arts Center.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal. If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for your chance to see Nice Work If You Can Get It at Bass Performance Hall.

UPDATE:  We have our winners. Thanks for playing!

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The Big Deal: Bruce Wood Dance Project Presents ‘Lovett + More’

Photo: Brian Guilliaux

Photo: Brian Guilliaux

For their upcoming presentation, Lovett + More, the Bruce Wood Dance Project will introduce their Acting Artistic Director Kimi Nikaidoh. Nikaidoh, a veteran of and founding member of BWDP, has chosen to open Lovett  with Bruce Wood’s 1998 work, Being. It will be performed to Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor.  In contrast, their second piece will have a 21 violin section.  The Dallas Chamber Symphony will be joining the ensemble for an 18-minute piece set to the seductive Tango music of Astor Piazzolla. The large scale production combining contemporary modern dance with a live 36-piece chamber symphony orchestra will be a first for the region. The program will end with Bruce Wood’s most requested works – Lovett.  You’ll love it too if you win this Big Deal, tickets to the Sept. 13 performance at Dallas City Performance Hall.

Don’t forget to take the time to browse our other offerings this week – tickets to see Nice Work If You Can Get It at Bass Performance Hall, and tickets to KXT Presents Conor Oberst at AT&T Performing Arts Center.

PLEASE NOTE: Only Art&Seek e-newsletter subscribers can win the Big Deal. If you are not a subscriber then take care of that first, then sign up below for a chance to see Bruce Wood Dance Project’s Lovett + More.

UPDATE:  We have our winners. Thanks for playing!

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The High Five: Fried Shrimp And Funnel Cake Beer Make For Winning Combo At State Fair Of Texas

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Categorized Under: The High Five
fried shrimp boil

Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil was among the winners at the 10th annual Big Tex Choice Awards at the State Fair of Texas. (Credit: State Fair of Texas)

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Texas’ voter ID law trial starts today; grief counselors will be on hand in Dallas ISD after students are killed in a car crash; the State Fair of Texas names this year’s top new fair foods; and more.

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Saturday Spotlight – Music and Brews at Clearfork Music Festival

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Categorized Under: Uncategorized


For this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re making our way to Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth for the second annual Clearfork Music Festival. This kick-off to the Labor Day weekend features craft beers and art installations as well as music by The Burning Hotels, Larry G(EE), and others.

For more information on the Clearfork Music Festival, visit Art and

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