News and Features

DTC’s Next Season: Bigger, Newer, Older And Football-Related

963The Dallas Theater Center has announced, next season, it’ll premiere a new musical and a new drama about a UT football player. It’ll also expand its season offerings from seven shows to nine. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports, more than half of the shows will be presented in the Theater Center’s old home, the Kalita Humphreys Theater.

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It can look like a retreat, the Theater Center moving most of its season into the Kalita, only five years after moving into its new home, the Wyly. But the decision wasn’t based on money, which is what the theater community has been speculating the past two weeks. In fact, artistic director Kevin Moriarty says the Kalita doesn’t actually represent that much of a cost savings to run than the Wyly.

“No, certainly not in any general way,” he says. The fee for the the Kalita is lower than the Wylie’s, but with the Wylie, you’re paying for everything, including the ‘front-of-house’ expenses, like ticket takers. At the Kalita, you pay less but have to provide the front-of-house staff yourself. Plus, there’s no on-site costume shop — or most of the other amenities the Theater Center enjoys at the Wyly. So the Kalita has some built-in expenses and inconveniences the Wyly doesn’t.

“The way in which the Kalita is cheaper,” Moriarty adds, “is if you were to do a big musical or a big play. There is just less possibility for scenery and you can’t put a big orchestra there. So the space at the Kalita limits how much you can spend.”

Then – why five shows just in the Kalita? Not too long ago, that’d be an entire season for the Theater Center.

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Men in Tights: The Trocks Do Dallas

Photo by Sascha Vaughn, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Photo by Sascha Vaughn, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Strong in their centers, long clean lines, leaps that soar, and turns that would make anyone envious. Obviously, I went to the ballet over the weekend. You might think that I’m describing the prima ballerina of a company and her soloists, but I’m not. I’m talking about men here. Strong and sturdy men. Some of the best male dancers I have ever seen. And, some of the best female performers I have ever seen.

I’m talking about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the 34-year-old institution of professional male dancers who perform a full range of ballet and modern dance repertoire, including renditions of classical and original works with beautiful comedic twists. They are more than just dancers, they are superb actors and comedians, who bring a new life to some old favorites. They performed this past weekend at the City Performance Hall to a theatre full of laughter and much-loved and welcomed encore.

Forgive this history lesson, but a quick look back at the beginnings of ballet provides a point of entrance for the Les Ballets Trockadero (or the Trocks as they are fondly known). In 1661, Louis XIV established the Academie Royale de Danse, which was a professional organization for dancing masters (or, as we’d say today, professional dancers). Here, all the dancers were men, and men in masks dancing women’s roles. For nearly 20 years, the Academie only employed men; it wasn’t until 1681 that women began to dance professionally. What Louix XIV was exploring was the old clowning and pantomime ways of Greek theatre and commedia dell’arte. He was testing the boundaries of comedy, and what the audience would allow and expect to happen. The work was physical, demanding, and fun. But it was a form of theatre that we watched disappear and become more of a underground art form—particularly the drag element, as it quickly became a parody of itself.

Photo by Sascha Vaughn, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Photo by Sascha Vaughn, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Yet, what the Trocks do so brilliantly is flip a classical art form thought to be traditionally for women, take it to its roots, and put a drag show on the main stage. Make it large scale and take it on tour, showing the talent and technique of the male body and the comedy that underlies every single ballet.

But they always start from the original intent of the ballets they restage. When they learn a ballet, they learn it step by step, variation by variation, and in its original format. They work with an experienced ballet mistress who rehearses all of the technical skills, so as to maintain the integrity of the pieces. And that is extremely important to the company. The dancers are interested in presenting a repertoire that stays true to the tradition that has influenced them and has been the reason they have careers.  But they also want to entertain.

They perform with great sense of grace, and yet, there is a casualness to the performance. Room for improvisation and simply, room for fun. They make every cliché about male dancers, and female dancers, a joy to laugh at. As a dancer myself, it was a great catharsis,  being able to laugh at myself, because I saw all my habits up there on stage, mirrored back to me.

Photo by Sascha Vaughn, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Photo by Sascha Vaughn, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center

Further, they don’t try to hide their statuesque builds as other drag artists do. They actually play up their “manliness.” As you watch them whip through a combination of fouettés and pirouettes with such ease, you can’t help but be in awe of both their technique and rippling muscles. It’s almost a ridiculous sight to see what looks like a prima ballerina with legs the size of a tree trunk. Legs that contain such power and skill that gently perform traditionally “female steps.”

And, once you become enveloped by the spectacle and suspend belief, you forget you are watching “men in pointe shoes.” Men in size 15 pointe shoes! Because, all you are really watching is incredible dancing. You came to the ballet, and you better believe, the Trocks deliver.

I spent the whole show in awe of their technique and comedic timing, and of their feet. Seriously, I would trade mine for any pair of theirs any day!

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The High Five: What Do Art Critics Think Of Former President Bush’s Paintings?

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Former President George W. Bush's self-portrait (Photo Credit: Lauren Silverman/KERA News)

Former President George W. Bush’s self-portrait (Photo Credit: Lauren Silverman/KERA News)

 

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Bruce Springsteen sang – and sang – and sang; NASCAR got delayed, thanks to Mother Nature; the Dallas Museum of Art joins a national art competition, and more:

  • The artist formerly known as President George W. Bush unveiled his world leader portraits Friday – and the reviews are starting to roll in. Roberta Smith wrote in The New York Times: “Mr. Bush has an uncanny ability to translate photographs into more awkward images enlivened by distortions and slightly ham-handed brushwork. His skill may be disconcerting for people who love painting and dislike the former president, but still, everyone needs to get a grip, especially those in the art world who dismiss the paintings without even seeing them. If Mr. Bush’s portrait of Mr. Putin were an anonymous find in a thrift shop, most of us would happily snap it up. That these works are by Mr. Bush makes them more complicated, and useful as another lens with which to examine the personality and legacy of a man who may remain the greatest known unknown of his own presidency.” KERA’s Lauren Silverman talked with two art critics to get their thoughts on the former president’s artistic style.
  • Sunday’s rain wasn’t going to stop the Boss. Bruce Springsteen jammed all night long at the free NCAA March Madness Music Festival. He bodysurfed. (You know he’s 64?) And he pulled a few people on stage at the show, performed at the former Reunion Arena site in downtown Dallas. Of course, he performed all sorts of hits. Patti Scialfa, his wife and member of the E Street Band, played her first full show since September 2012, according to The Star-Ledger. The New Jersey newspaper reported: “Since the festival is part of a basketball tournament, Bruce and the E Street Band came out to ‘Sweet Georgia Brown,’ which is the theme music for the Harlem Globetrotters. Then Bruce and Nils Lofgren had a jumpball at center mic as guitar tech Kevin Buell (from Ocean Township) was wearing a referee’s shirt and tossed the ball up. Nils won.” The Dallas Morning News declared Bruuuuce’s performance was “epic, magical and unforgettable. Those hardy souls who braved the cold drizzle — sadly, far fewer than the 40,000 organizers said the grounds could hold — can mark this off their to-do list: Attend the Best Bruce Springsteen Show Ever.” Watch parts of Springsteen’s Dallas performance here.
  • It’s been called one of the unlikeliest championship games ever. Kentucky and Connecticut face off at 8:10 tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the NCAA Final Four basketball championship. No.7-ranked Connecticut stomped all over No. 1 Florida, 63-53, on Saturday night to advance to the Big Dance. No. 8 Kentucky defeated No. 2 Wisconsin, 74-73. If you’re not one of the 80,000-plus folks watching the game in person, you can catch the championship on CBS.
  • What’s up with Mother Nature when North Texas hosts big sporting events? (You recall the massive ice storm during the North Texas Super Bowl in 2011.) Then, over the weekend, during the Final Four and the NASCAR, Mother Nature dumped a lot of much-needed rain on Dallas/Fort Worth – enough to postpone the Duck Commander 500 to 11 a.m. today. Texas Motor Speedway gates and suites will open at 9 a.m. Fans with Sunday Duck Commander tickets will use the same ticket for admission. But the rain didn’t stop the Guinness Book of World Records from finally declaring the speedway’s TV screen as the world’s largest high-definition LED video board. It’s called “Big Hoss” and it’s 218 feet wide and 95 feet high – and it’s bigger than the one at AT&T Stadium, which at one point was the world’s biggest. “It is amazing what technology and money will accomplish,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “It’s the biggest – no period, no qualifier – the biggest, baddest TV on the planet.” Philip Robertson, the Guinness adjudicator, described the screen as “colossal and fantastic.” [Associated Press]
  • The Dallas Museum of Art is teaming up with four big museums across the country to display art in public places across the country. The DMA and the other museums have chosen 100 works of art that represent American history and culture. The public gets to decide which 50 works will be shown across the country – they’ll be displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway posters, and other places. It’s called Art Everywhere US. The Final 50 will be revealed on Aug. 4 in Times Square. DMA director Max Anderson explained to KERA’s Krystina Martinez: “We’re a nation of immigrants, so we have the beauty and the extraordinary breadth and variety of talent, imagination, cultural influences that inform a nation of a third of a billion people.” And in true American fashion, deciding which art will go up will be a democratic process – you get to vote online: “It’s kind of like ‘American Idol’ – you can go on in and make your voice be heard,” Anderson said.

 

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DMA Joins ‘Art Everywhere’ – Largest Outdoor Art Gallery in US

DMA_EdwinChurchEdwin Church, The Icebergs, oil on canvas, 1861 – one of the DMA paintings included in Art Everywhere

Online favorites contest and Top 10 lists are the internet’s ways of drawing traffic when, you know, actual content won’t.  But now art museums are in the game with a big new populist stab at ‘bringing art to the public’ and ‘becoming part of the conversation.’

Its being billed as the “largest outdoor art show ever conceived.” How big, exactly?

Coast-to-coast, every state, Times Square, Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles” is how DMA director Max Anderson puts it. Oh yes, and that includes North Texas, too. The DMA is teaming up with four major museums around the country — from the Whitney in New York to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — to bring “Art Everywhere.”

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Showing Us The Crown Of Her Head

photo_1d0An artist’s practice is often inspired and informed by what makes her head ache — be that a political stand, a gender issue or a medical concern. It is often an ache which is chronic and persistent. For the Dallas Art Fair’s featured artist, Paula Crown, the ache is actually in her head. Genetic migraines have pervaded her life and art. Hence, “Inside My Head: A Contemporary Self Portrait,” now at the Dallas Contemporary. Her video can be seen here.

Beginning with the MRI scans of her brain, Crown uses digital technology to enlarge, embellish, enhance and manipulate those images. Using Photoshop and an open-source program processing, Crown can change perspective and more 2-D drawings into 3-D images.

Since “In My Head” combines science and art, I invited two physicians, Dr. Norma Melamed, a neurologist, and Dr. Jeffrey Glass, a psychiatrist-photographer, to walk through the installation with me. Although a few of the brain images are obvious, both doctors agreed that they would not have recognized several of the manipulated scans as brains. Most appeared as nebulous, organic shapes resembling planets or spiderwebs. Crown provides no titles to offer a hook for non-personal interpretations.

The artists says it is not important that we know the pictures are her brain — or any brain. “I view them as abstract forms and topologies that could be micro or macro in size.” Although Crown has said that landscapes capture her attention and she researches topologies and maps, there is not narrative or symbolism to her work. It’s the various shapes and patterns that interest her. My work is “just a connection between what is happening in our bodies and what is happening in the larger world,” she says. Interestingly, she has said that one picture might resemble a planet with waves. To Dr. Glass, the scan did look like a planet, but he also thought he saw the remains of truncated muscles and nerves from the original scan.

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The Big Guy’s Coming Back.

phpceBjV4PMBen Heppner as Capt. Ahab  in the Dallas Opera production of Moby-Dick. Photo credit: Karen Almond. Photo credit outfront: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Dallas Opera is bringing back its world-premiere production of Moby-Dick. Six years after it debuted to acclaim at the Winspear Opera House, the Jake Heggie-Gene Scheer opera will return – for a limited engagement, November 4, 2016. Of course, he’ll just about have circumnavigated the world by then, having spouted in San Francisco, Canada and Australia and appeared on PBS. It’ll be a somewhat different cast, though (no Ben Heppner, above, as Ahab, but a number of the originals will return).  And this time, the Dallas Opera’s new music director, Emmanuel Villaume, will be at the helm.

 

Here’s the full release:

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Saturday Spotlight – ARTsPARK 2014

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156078_544086128969672_1583145166_nFor this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re off to NorthPark Center in Dallas for ArtsPark 2014. If you want to learn a new creative skill or you just like to watch, you’ll find tons to do at this annual community fair. See live performances of dance and music, art demonstrations, and even live animals from the Dallas Zoo.

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Bradly Brown And The Art Of Staying Busy

cyanotypes1editBradly Brown lays out his early experiments with cyanotype printing on carpet samples. Photo credit: Jerome Weeks

North Texas is heading into a vast outpouring of visual art. This weekend is the Deep Ellum Arts Festival. Next week is the Dallas Art Fair. It’s also Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Dallas Art Week. And the Dallas Biennial is currently going on. KERA’s Jerome Weeks talked with one area artist who’s extremely busy these days. But that’s not unusual for him.

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Bradly Brown is setting out photo portraits on a table. They’re magazine-size headshots. “This was the first piece that I did with this technique,” he says. “This was probably 2000. And I was really interested in cyanotype photography. So this was a series of internet mugshots from the same girl.”

Brown was a UNT photography student then, and cyanotype is old-school, an early form of photography. Today, anyone can manipulate digital images any way we want. That’s why some artists prefer more hands-on photo techniques. These are known as “alternative process photography.”  They’re more tactile, more evocative, more personal.

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The High Five: George W. Bush To Unveil New Portraits Today

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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Rating this year’s Final Four teams; at least one columnist doesn’t get the “North Texas Final Four;” Bruce Springsteen performs this weekend!; and more.

  • The artist formerly known as President George W. Bush is unveiling some new art today. Since he left office, Bush has devoted part of his free time to painting – everything from his dog Barney to self-portraits. Bush has his first real art show today at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. The exhibit, titled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opens to the public Saturday. It features portraits of 24 world leaders, including Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama. But before the big reveal, Bush, who has taken up oil painting, will talk with daughter Jenna Bush Hager about the exhibit on NBC’s “Today” Friday. Later in the day, the portraits will be unveiled to the press at the Bush library. “I think they’re going to be (like), ‘Wow, George Bush is a painter,”’ Bush told his daughter.  But what do art critics think of Bush’s paintings? KERA’s Lauren Silverman talked with two of them.
  • Basketball nuts, rejoice. The Final Four is finally here. Fans from Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Kentucky are in North Texas for the NCAA men’s Final Four, which starts Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The championship game is Monday night. KERA talked with NPR’s sports correspondent, Tom Goldman, to get his thoughts on the team. (Yes, even we at KERA talk about sports from time to time.) “Playing in front of 85,000 people and under that massive jumbotron in Jerry’s World – it’s not quite like back home for these teams,” Goldman said. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Rick Reilly is sounding off about the title of this year’s Final Four – the North Texas Final Four. “This Final Four is not in ‘North Texas,’ as the NCAA keeps insisting on all of its brackets,” he wrote. “It’s in Arlington, Texas. What the hell is ‘North Texas,’ anyway? If we have the Final Four in San Francisco, will the NCAA tell us it’s in ‘North California?’”
  • The NCAA isn’t just bringing basketball to North Texas. The NCAA’s 2014 March Madness Music Festival starts today in what’s being called Reunion Park (aka the site of the former Reunion Arena.) Of course, Bruce Springsteen performs Sunday night. But there are many other groups in town: Jack Ingram, Wild Feathers, Eli Young Band and Jason Aldean perform today; LL Cool J, Tim McGraw and The Killers perform Saturday. The Wind and The Wave, Pat Green Band, and fun. perform Sunday. Reunion Park is going to be packed, so you’ve been warned. To prepare for Bruce, check out our earlier story that features his earlier NPR interviews and his recent appearance with Jimmy Fallon. In honor of the free Springsteen show, KXT on Sunday is going to play a song from each of Bruce Springsteen’s studio albums.  Starting at 9 a.m., there will be two Bruce songs every hour played in chronological order. KXT program director Mark Abuzzahab says he worked off of this list from allmusic.com and ignored live albums. “Bruce’s career starts in 1973, and we want to make sure we represent all eras of his career,” Mark says.
  • More than 150,000 people are expected to show up at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500. The folks at TMS like to remind us that it hosts the largest-attended single-day sporting event in the state. Duck Commander, the company featured on “Duck Dynasty,” is the sponsor. If you go this weekend, you’ll see Big Hoss, which TMS calls the world’s largest HDTV screen. Learn more about Big Hoss. During Sunday’s pre-race festivities, Guinness Book of World Records will be on hand to certify that Big Hoss is the world’s largest HD LED video board.
  • A strong spring storm marched through North Texas Thursday night, slamming the region with lightning, hail as big as baseballs and at least two tornadoes. The National Weather Service reported tornadoes in Farmersville in Collin County and near Cooper in Delta County. A tornado was also reported in Princeton in Collin County. Denton County seemed to receive the worst of the hail, with scores of busted windshields and windows. In Denton, debris covered the streets and about 200 power outages were reported. Before 10 p.m., the weather service reported widespread power outages in Hopkins County. Four people were injured when a suspected tornado destroyed a farmhouse and a mobile home near Merit, about 40 miles northeast of Dallas, The Associated Press reported. Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said the injuries weren’t life-threatening. A Denton County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told WFAA-TV that one person was struck by lightning on Rolling Hills Drive. Look at pictures from the storm from the KERA Weather Blog.
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The Big Screen: Dock Ellis – The Man, The Myth

Longtime Rangers fans might remember pitcher Dock Ellis’ brief stint with the team in the late 1970s. It was toward the end of a turbulent but brilliant career that’s revisited in No-No: A Dockumentary, a new doc playing at the Dallas International Film Festival. The film’s a fine follow-up to the animated short Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No (above), which played DIFF a few years back.

No-No shows Sunday and Monday at the Anglika Film Center. Fans of baseball and outsized characters owe it to themselves to make it there.

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

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