Thresholds, milestones, next steps and big changes. They happen in an artistic life.
They are happening right now for three outstanding Houston artists, Roberta Stokes, with Tie-Breaker at Art League Houston through April 2 Jessica Boone, making her television debut tonight on ABC's Missing while staring in parts 2 & 3 of Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, at Main Street Theater (MST) through March 18, and Courtney D. Jones, a well-known dancer-turned-actor, opening in Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) at Stages Repertory Theatre Friday through April 8.
All three are accomplished artists already, but their careers have each gotten a recent Texas-size bump up.
Ties that bind for Stokes
At Tie-Breaker, Stokes may have brought out the most dance luminaries at one Houston art opening in history. It's not surprising, she's one of the pioneers of Houston's modern dance scene. She reminded the packed crowd that her art life actually started in the visual arts, took a few decades dance detour, and then circled back to the art studio.
"My husband gve me 20 ties to pass on to Goodwill, but instead I decided to save them to make art," Stokes explains.
The show examines the design possibilities of men's ties. "My husband gave me 20 ties to pass on to Goodwill, but instead I decided to save them to make art," explains Stokes. "I'm extremely happy to have this opportunity at the Art League. I feel so honored, especially after working on this project for eight years."
The ephemerality of dance peeks through in her graceful tie kimonos, which are arranged in animated postures across an entire wall of the gallery. The ties stay intact and are just gently stitched together. "They could be easily separated and returned to being ties," suggests Stokes, grinning.
Sometimes, the ties spill out from the frames as if they could not be contained, while others are neating woven into patterns. Even the labels fascinated Stokes; a collection of them are pinned like precious specimens in a wood collector's box.
Stokes had such a prolific run with her tie project, she has a second show at Set for Life, March 22-May 3. "It includes more painterly work, numerous flying ties, canvas paintings that have a small piece of tie and mobile kite-like hangings from the ceiling," she adds.
Boone is anything but Missing
Boone's career roll includes the big stage and the little screen. For the next 10 Thursdays, you can watch her in the television series, Missing, as Rabia, a field coordinator for the Paris CIA office, co-starring with Ashley Judd.
"It was a true privilege working with Ashley," says Boone. "I learned so much from just watching the way she works; she can be all at once extremely focused and grounded as well as open and relaxed, doing things like initiating charades between long set ups to keep the creative energy flowing."
The series was filmed in Prague, where Boone lives with her partner Guy Roberts for half of the year. The plot centers around Judd's character, whose son goes missing.
"Film work is about thinking as opposed to performing," Boone says. "I had to dial it down. Plus, there's no audience feedback as in live theater."
Film work is about thinking as opposed to performing," she says. "I had to dial it down. Plus, there's no audience feedback as in live theater.
Boone hopes Missing is a big success so there will be another season. "At heart, the show is about family, and what was so wonderful about the entire Missing experience was the really nurturing sense of family that the producers created on set," Boone confides.
Or, you can catch her on stage as the emotionally fragile Natasha Tuchkov Ogarev right now in the final installment of The Coast of Utopia, Part 3: Salvage. Her busy season continues as Lady Anne in Richard III, also at MST, April 26-May 13, which travels to Prague through a collaboration with the Prague Shakespeare Festival. Non-stop performing is an actor's dream, and Boone is grateful for her success. "Yes, it all feels huge."
From mover to speaker, Jones takes the acting plunge
Jones is already a steady presence on the local dance scene, having recently choreographed for Urban Souls Dance Company and performed with Hope Stone Dance. She was also named one of "25 to Watch" in 2012 by Dance Magazine and arrived here with New York dance company street cred and a stint performing in the national touring cast of Wicked under her belt.
"Rehearsals have been like an accelerated master class," Jones reports. "There is nothing more humbling than purposely putting yourself out of your comfort zone."
After performing in her first non-dancing role in Auntie Mame at Stages, the acting bug entered her body. Jones plays Elizabeth, a housekeeper and mother of two, who recently lost her third child to cholera in Ruhl's examination of love, marriage and "hysteria" during the late 19th century. "I appreciated that this character was not stereotypical or a poor example of a black woman," admits Jones. "She is aware of her status during this period, but she is so wise and sees everything."
It's her first serious role in a play. "Rehearsals have been like an accelerated master class," Jones reports. "There is nothing more humbling than purposely putting yourself out of your comfort zone. When I learned I got the part of Elizabeth, I kept saying I never dreamed that would happen, to which my a friend responded, 'well you need to change your dreams because they are happening.'"
Houston dancers need not worry, Jones is not leaving the field, but adding to her art life. "I'm glad I don't have steps to worry about. I need the time to focus on learning from what feels like the ground up," she says. "It does feel like a change in my career, one that will include acting."
Enjoy the trailer for ABC's Missing.