News and Features

DIFF: Weekend Picks

Here’s your best bets for the final three days:


Neshoba – The big winner at this year’s Texas Black Film Festival looks at the racial troubles that continue to plague the town that gives the movie its title nearly 50 years after three civil rights leaders were killed there.  (4:30 p.m., Studio Movie Grill)


The Shawshank Redemption – Frank Darabont is in town to receive the festival’s Star Award. And while he’s here, he’ll attend a screening of arguably his best film and participate in a Q&A after. (11 a.m., Magnolia)


Cyrus – The great John C. Reilly plays John, a divorced man who meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) at at party.  The two share a connection, but John soon finds himself competing for Molly’s affections with her 21-year-old son (Jonah Hill).  (7 p.m., Studio Movie Grill)

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Vision Loss Doesn't Stop Fashion Designer

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Categorized Under: Local Events, Visual Arts


The American Foundation for the Blind will host a fashion show today featuring the work a visually impaired designer. KERA’s Stephen Becker reports on how a loss of sight hasn’t meant the loss of a haute couture dream:

  • KERA radio story:
    • Click here to watch a video featuring Ermakov’s dresses.
    • Online version:

    Sergey Ermakov runs his hands down a red, formfitting strapless dress to see how it fits the model standing in front of him. He grabs an area where the fabric is slightly bunched and pulls it taught so that it clings just so.

    The Ukrainian fashion designer says it’s the best way to get a feel for the fit. Because he doesn’t speak English, he explains through his assistant, Svetlana Kryukova:

    KRYUKOVA: “Professional designers very often try to feel and to understand the dress by their arm and their fingers. It’s not because blind.”

    The designer will show more than 30 of his creations during a fundraiser for the American Foundation for the Blind on Friday at the Fairmount Hotel in Dallas.

    As producers put the finishing touches on the show Wednesday afternoon, American Foundation for the Blind President and CEO Carl Augusto pondered the unique opportunity that a visually impaired fashion designer presents.

    AUGUSTO: “We want to shatter the myth all the time as to what blind and visually impaired people can do. And we also want to tell the public that losing your vision doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your dreams or losing the way of life that you have.”

    Diabetic retinopathy caused Ermakov to begin losing his site at 11 years old. Now, 38, all he can make out is a bit of color. He still tries to draw his designs for his assistants in his studio back home. The rest he explains verbally. Once the dresses are made, it’s back to the touch technique to make sure all is right.

    Ermakov easily rattles of a list of designers who’ve influenced him: Galliano, De la Renta and Versace just to name a few. And he’s not shy in saying he hopes to be mentioned in the same breath as them one day.

    And Augusto, of the foundation, says there’s no reason he can’t accomplish that goal.

    AUGUSTO: “Sergey, as a world-renowned fashion designer, shows us that with the right attitude, with the right skills, with the right resources, blind and visually impaired people can be successful just like him.”

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    Friday Morning Roundup

    RECENT THEATER REVIEWS: B.J. Cleveland stole the show in Theatre Three’s staging of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee last year. He again plays William Barfee, the bespectacled nerd in Theatre Arlington’s version, which Punch Shaw calls “hysterically funny.” ( … A Song for Coretta at African American Repertory Theater doesn’t sound like it fares as well. The show in theory is supposed to honor the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but when the play makes a left turn near the end, Lawson Taitte wonders, “whether the playwright is honoring Coretta Scott King or exploiting her memory to express its own preconceptions.” ( … Meanwhile, M. Lance Lusk was nonplussed by Stolen Shakespeare Guild’s Pride and Prejudice. “The lackluster plainness of this production means no fun with Darcy and Jane,” he writes. (

    SILENCE!: Do you remember around this time last year the dust-up over the state’s refusal to provide incentive money for a film about the Branch Davidian compound? Well, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression didn’t forget. It has given a Jefferson Muzzle award to the Texas Legislature. More about that on

    MUSIC BITS: Preston Jones walks us through The Regulator, the new album from Dallas’ Nicholas Altobelli. ( … Good Records celebrates its 10th birthday on Saturday. Hunter Hauk asks Chris Penn, who co-owns the store with Tim DeLaughter, about what we can expect during the party/Record Store Day celebration. ( … Thunder Soul, about a Houston high school band in the 70s, has been the most-talked-about film at the Dallas International Film Festival. But it seems that Carter High School was also recording at the time. (Unfair Park)

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    Video: Designer Sergey Ermakov

    Stephen allowed me to tag along with him (with a video camera, of course) as he covered a story about Ukrainian fashion designer Sergey Ermakov, who also happens to be visually impaired. Sergey is making his U.S. debut at Designing With A Vision in partnership with the American Foundation for the Blind. He also spoke with President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, Carl R. Augusto. Check out Stephen’s radio story about our afternoon with Sergey.

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    Q&A: Artist Janet Chaffee

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    Categorized Under: Visual Arts

    Janet Chaffee’s paintings arouse the senses and tease the mind. Her work exudes a sensuality and serenity and invites an inquiry into a deeper part of self. Chaffee’s current visual narrative at Mighty Fine Arts, “Underneath and In-Between” charts an internal landscape. Although she works with precise memories, materials and dimension, she greets chance in her process. Chaffee fuses the tenderness of lace and science of form into one. The eye finds solace and space for private discourse in her elaborate cuttings, her encaustic paintings, and most recent spatial explorations. There is a delicacy in her hand and subtlety, as if leaning into the ear to whisper. Even her encaustic pieces hold a silent strength and thickness of marrow.

    She took time to visit with me this week at the Mighty Fine Arts gallery in Oak Cliff.

    Prussian Blue 2008 Ink, Dry Pigment on Paper, 5' x 6'crop

    Prussian Blue, 2008, ink, dry pigment on paper, 5' x 6'crop

    Tina Aguilar: The word playful comes to mind when I see this piece climbing the wall. This extension looks like velvet, and the other strand conjures up Corten steel for me. Tell me about it.

    Janet Chaffee: This piece is called Prussian Blue and originates from a Jasper Johns show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Jasper Johns: Gray,” that I had seen in New York with catenary lines (tethers hanging from two different points not in a straight line) in them. Sometimes it is painted or printed, and in other paintings there is an actual string with a board that is angled away from the painting. This influenced me, and I thought “why not try that with lace.” These paintings seemed so structural or architectural. I wanted to play with the idea of a feminine looking catenary line as well as the structure and connections within community. It is about play – play with formal design.

    T.A.: How do you feel about the engagement between your work and the viewer?

    J.C.: I want the viewer to want to touch it really bad. I like the illusion of the paper looking like metal, because it kind of tricks people.

    T.A.: This other form has an ethereal quality to it with the haze of film borne out of your flocking process.

    J.C.: The “Magpie” series includes different pieces, and this is the most recent. I flocked it and used orange India ink to pull it away (from itself). The light in the gallery right now works with it, and I enjoy the different shadows that emerge. Even at night, the way the lights work seem to offer a new viewing.

    Magpies No. 4, 2009, ink, flocking on paper, 8' x 6'

    Magpies No. 4, 2009, ink, flocking on paper, 8' x 6'

    T.A.: Why Magpies?

    J.C.: Magpies came about simply, because I found the lace image. I am sure I was attracted to it, because I have done several early paintings containing birds. The birds were often used in place of the figure sometimes standing in for myself or other significant people in my life.

    T.A.: You started working with your lace influences in 2005. What was the first lace pattern or piece that you used or can remember using?

    J.C.: The first lace I used was some that my children’s great grandmother had given to me. She purchased it in Europe as the wife of a missionary. I don’t know what country, I can’t remember.  I still have the paintings it was embedded in.

    T.A.: I sense your whimsy, and these pieces make me smile. How does your work come together?

    J.C.: With the namesake of the show, “Underneath and In-Between,” all the marks that you see, all that are shown here, are meant to be there. I guess one of the things that’s the most fun is the idea and the excitement of, “Oh, I need to try this and see what happens” or the “what if’s?” There’s a freedom and liberty to my gestures. I like to see where my hand or my arm has been. I really like the recording of my moves.

    Numenous, 2009

    Numenous, 2009

    T.A.: To see the visual reminder or see what you have created must have an impact on you, an inspiration. How do you let your art out of your studio?

    J.C.: Some of these pieces have been in my studio for a long time, and the right time for them to be seen was now. I do surround myself with my work, my pieces, and objects that hold meaning for me. I need to remember, to see what I did a month ago. It helps build my vocabulary. I like to look, and there’s something inspiring about those contours we experience in creating and living.

    T.A.: What about the creation of your encaustic pieces?

    J.C.: Through my experiences with my mom dealing with cancer twice, I noticed the intensity of her scar. I started playing with this image of skin and stitching. The encaustic process is a skin of sorts that happens with wax and dry pigment. Then I thought about adding oil. Biomedical technologies fascinate me, and the idea of how a scar could be made attractive.

    T.A.: Where are you with your recent paintings?

    J.C.: I am deconstructing my work and considering how I can take it apart. Like in In between, where the oil painting has led me to where I am now – somewhat more of a minimal approach. I am trained as a painter, and I like to repurpose with my layers and extractions of my older pieces. This process allows a reality that I could never construct, and my recent work deals with connectors. It is reductive, and I learn how far back I can go or not.

    T.A.: How does your work trickle to students?

    J.C.: I am able to work with the conceptual process with my students and introduce this idea of sewing to them. The conceptual process is a higher level of critical thinking skills. For example, if you have a box full of tools, you can use it to solve questions with it and in different ways. When I am teaching, I want them to create something in both a reductive and additive manner. I want them to be able to choose.

    T.A.: Do you listen to music while you paint?

    J.C.: Yes, I listened to a lot of Lucinda Williams for some of these works and, lately, Van Morrison has been really good to me.

    “Underneath and In-Between” can be seen, in addition to the MFA Project Room exhibit by Heidi Lingamfelter, at Mighty Fine Arts gallery in Oak Cliff through May 9. Janet continues to teach as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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    DIFF: Thursday Picks

    We’re nearing the end of the festival. If you haven’t made it out to see anything yet, no time like the present:

    TOUCH OF EVIL: This festival has been pretty good about mixing in a few choice repertory films over the years, and Touch of Evil fills the slot this year. You’ve probably already seen Orson Welles’ noir thriller starring Charlton Heston as a Mexican detective investigating dirty deeds done down along the U.S.-Mexican border. But the chance to watch Welles’ masterful opening tracking shot on the big screen makes it worth seeing again.  (7 p.m., Magnolia)

    CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH: If you saw (and liked) the American-made documentary Nanking a few years ago, here’s a chance to see a narrative telling of the Rape of Nanking made by Asian filmmakers. Stylishly shot in black and white, this 133 min. film has epic written all over it. (10 p.m., Magnolia)

    SOLITARY MAN: As slick and powerful as Michael Douglas can come across in films like Wall Street, he’s really made a career out of playing guys whose worlds are crumbling around them. Solitary Man looks like it could be the next film in that arc, which includes Fatal Attraction, Falling Down, Wonder Boys and others. In it, Douglas plays a titan of industry whose business and marriage collapse at the same time. (7:30 p.m., Magnolia)

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    Think Audio: Local Filmmakers Roundtable

    What does it take to get a movie made and seen these days? Texas filmmakers Tom Huckabee, Clay Liford and Frank Mosley kick the topic around with Krys Boyd on Think. They each have films screening in the Dallas International Film Festival.

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    Thursday Morning Roundup

    Preview of ‘Under’ by Sarah Gamblin from Go Figure Skate on Vimeo.

    DANCING UP IN DENTON: Sarah Jaffe only released her first full-length album this month. But she’s already become quite the inspiration. Sarah Gamblin, a choreographer at Texas Woman’s University, has created a piece set to three songs from Jaffe’s EP, Even Born Again. The new Go Figure Skate blog headed over to shoot the above video preview of the piece, which will be performed today at 4 and Friday and Saturday at 7 at TWU’s Margo Jones Performance Hall.

    [title of show], TAKE 3: Last week, we pointed you to Theatre Three’s behind-the-scenes look at its staging of [title of show]. The group has now posted its third video in the series (above), and word is traveling about the project. In fact, the blog for the original production has taken notice, sending out a salty shout-out this week.

    DON’T BLINK: Don’t have the funds to make it up to NYC this year? Neither do we. But watching this video kinda makes it feel as if you did. In it, you can see every painting that was hanging in the Museum of Modern Art as of April 10. But you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled – the video is only about two minutes long, and that’s a lot of paintings to see. Still, it’s kinda fun to see how many you can ID as they go flying by. (Hat tip.)

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    Joe Dickinson, RIP – UPDATE

    Categorized Under: Local Events, Theater

    island1The co-founder of the Pocket Sandwich Theatre died last night at 78. Joe and Rodney Dobbs established the for-profit venture in 1980, keeping up a steady supply of food, drinks and, onstage, hissable melodramas, movie parodies, comedy troupes (like 4 Out of 5 Doctors) and the annual holiday show, Ebeneezer Scrooge, with Dickinson playing the title role. (That’s Joe, center,  in the late Steve Lovett’s Atomic Cavegirls of Island Zero). Dickinson was pretty much the face of his populist theater, at times doing everything there — including serving beer. Many of the shows were written or co-written by Dickinson, and the PST made a point of encouraging local writers to submit their work — provided they were willing to have the audience throw popcorn at it while it was onstage.

    I had heard several years ago from reliable sources that Dickinson was struggling with cancer, but there’s no official word on the cause of death. The box office at the PST reports that a memorial at the theater is in the works but nothing definite has been set.

    UPDATE: Ethan Robinson, Joe’s grandson, has contacted us to say Joe died from complications of emphysema.

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    Ticket Giveaway: Simply Sinatra in Grand Prairie

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    Categorized Under: Local Events, Music

    On Saturday, Steve Lippia brings his “Simply Sinatra” show to the Uptown Theater in Grand Prairie. He’ll sing Ol’ Blue Eyes’ greatest hits as well as other standards of that era.

    If that sounds like something you might be interested in, we’ve got five pairs of tickets for the first five people who e-mail me ( with “Sinatra” in the subject line.

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