Houston's definitive holiday art guide: The cultural treats of the season
Welcome to "The Arthropologist's first annual fully vetted holiday guide to holiday art during the holidays."
Those, you know, holidays, are upon us, which means relatives you will need to get out of the house to preserve yours and their sanity. Art is the answer to any successful family visit.
Warning: Because I practice a highly eclectic form of post-modern Arthropology (a shady discipline), my guide is hardly comprehensive. I've left that to others. The fully vetted part is slightly suspect as well as some of these events have yet to take place. In certain places, it's not even all that holiday-ish. Just go with me and enjoy!
Holiday thy name is dysfunction, so why not face it head on at Mildred's Umbrella'sMuseum of Dysfunction on Friday and Saturday and Dec. 9 and 11 at Obsidian Art Space, with works by Tom Vaughan, Sara Jo Dunstan, Tom Stell, Elizabeth Keel, Bob Morgan, Trace Crawford, Kim Tobin, Gabriella Maya, Abby Koenig, Bradley Winkler, Leighza Walker and Darryl Banner.
That's a lot of takes on dysfunction. Your family's particular brand should be covered. You're good to go.
Pantomania and Cindertwist
"I was surprised at how well Pinocchio panto-ized," McLaughlin says. Ryan Schabach reprises his role as "Buttons," a total festival of twisted giggles. Be prepared to boo, hiss and warn Buttons that there's a giant mouse behind him.
With a book by Eric Coble, music by Steven Jones, choreography by Jane Weiner of Hope Stone and direction by McLaughlin, the soon to be known founder of Texas Panto, you will be in expert hands. Sit next to a wiggly squiggly kid for complete bliss. The Ensemble has some fun with a classic too in African American Shakespeare Company's Cinderellathrough Dec. 26.
Rockin around ....
Face it, your college kids want to stock up on food and cash then hit the road. Take them to see Catastrophic Theatre'sBluefinger :The Fall and Rise of Herman Brood at DiverseWorks through Dec.18 and your coolness factor will fly off the charts.
With two fabulous on stage rock bands, a story penned by Jason Nodler about Dutch rocker and visual artist Herman Brood, and music by Pixies frontman Charles Thompson and Brood, it's one substantial night of theater.
Do a little homework by watching Brood perform Saturday Night and you will get an idea of just how spot on Matt Kelly's performance as Brood is. It's luminous. Even his tattoos are authentic. Michael Haaga singing Black Francis' searing anthems will crack your soul. So beautiful. Troy Schulze delivers a crisp performance of Brood's manager Koos van Dijk, who is in town right now seeing the show.
The ensemble cast, in multiple roles, is just terrific. It's an amazing tale of a character who escaped our attention. Brood gets his full moment in the sun in Bluefinger. It feels a bit Messiah-ish too. Brood may have jumped to his death, but he rises again in Bluefinger.
The other Christmas story
"I've been wanting to play this role for a long time. I'm finally the right age so I have to do it now. I like the way Rachel tackles everything in front of her with innocent abandon," Tobin says. "It's quirky, funny, bizarre and moving with a touch of darkness, so just right for us."
Tobin is completely on her game here, full of zany verve, navigating the unruly emotional arcs of Lucas' oddball play with glee, delivering a gut wrenchingly honest performance. Philip Lehl's sensitive direction rides Lucas' momentum well while Kevin Holden's patchwork set is a marvel. Reckless runs through Dec.19 at Wild Fish Theatre in the Galleria area. Brave Dog promises not do this play every year.
Nothing spelled Christmas at my house like broken snow globes. Five minutes proved to be the average time that one survived in the hands of my boys. There are other ways to experience snow.
Or take the tots to see some actual snow, say some 80,000 pounds of the fluffy stuff, soon to be dumped at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Saturday and stay for the mummies in Secrets of the Silk Road.
Decked out plus ROCO
I don't decorate any more. I just head over to the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens during Yuletide and pretend it's my house. You can do that and hear some wonderful music performed by River Oaks Chamber Orchestra's Brass Quintet on Dec. 13 at 10 a.m.
It's perfect for great Aunt Heloise and anyone else who wants to get in the spirit with music and zero untangling of Christmas lights.
Burn the Floor, not anything else
Oh the problem of the Republican brother-in-law. I have just the thing to shut the guy up, drive over to the Hobby Center to see Burn the Floor, as part of Broadway Across America. No plot really, just lots of steamy fantastic dancing by highly lauded professional ballroom dancers wearing very skimpy dresses and unbuttoned shirts.
The cast includes Dancing With the Stars pro and Bristol Palin's partner Mark Ballas, along with a handful of So You Think you Can Dance alums. I saw the show in New York, it's a non-stop think-free sensation.
Messiah me baby
If you wanted your Messiah Rockin, too bad, you missed it last night on the Society for Performing Arts stage. When Uncle Pete won't stop humming "Unto us, a child is born." Mercury Baroque can put his questionable talents to use in their Messiah sing-a-long on Dec. 10. Your adorable nieces and nephews will love Mercury Messiah for kids on Dec. 11 at 10:30 a.m.
For the adults who prefer their Messiah straight up, Mercury is also doing the "Dublin" version on Dec. 11.
"Many people have never heard of the ‘Dublin’ Messiah, but it's actually the very first version of Handel’s masterpiece. It was premiered by Handel in Dublin, Ireland in 1742," says Antoine Plante, Mercury Baroque's artistic director. "Over the years Handel reworked the Messiah to suit different audiences or different performance spaces before he finally settled on the version most often heard today in the year 1754."
All shows are at Wortham.
Houston Symphony also presents Handel's Messiah in Candlelight on Dec. 17 at Jones Hall. Does Houston know how to meet your Messiah needs or what?
I like to begin the year knowing I've seen every show at the major museums. Makes me feel smart and on top of things, which is exactly what your relatives will think of you when you take them to The Menil Collection and The MFAH. When my Buffalo West side family came to town for my son's graduation, I plopped them right in front of Milton Rovovin's photos of Buffalo's west side. You are not going to get that lucky.
Still, there's lots to impress. Calm those holiday stressed nerves at Cai Guo-Qiang's Odyssey. Gunpowder art is always a crowd pleaser and this one won't disappoint. Read all 40 Culturemap stories on Cai's time here and you will be the impressive one.
At the Menil, there's much to ponder at Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage, including a full-scale reconstruction of his strange room called the Merzbau. Take your California ex-pats to see Kissed by Angels: A Selection of Works from Southern California.
For those looking for another ballet holiday gem go to Amahl and The Night Visitors, performed by Sandra Organ Dance Company on Dec. 18-19 at The Hobby Center. Menotti's gorgeous opera gets matching moves by James Sewell. ROCO's Amahl on Jan. 6 features choreography by the city's queen of improvisation, Leslie Scates.
Cabin fever cure
When the clan is getting stir crazy go for a Christmas Cruise on the Buffalo Bayou, meeting on Sabine Promenade on Saturday & Dec. 18. Can't get the family out of their jammies but still wanna get the mood on?
Click on Ross Chitwood's website to listen to the savvy singer croon some holidays tunes. Move over Michael Bubblehead, Chitwood has the chops. This classically trained Juilliard and Shepherd School of Music grad has appeared on a slew of Houston's stages as, what else, the dreamy heartthrob with the velvety voice.
If you are gonna shop till you drop make it artful
There's nothing like shopping to bond with your girl children. Daughters are known to spill all while spending buckets of mom's money. Drop your cash on cool stuff at Spacetaker'sWinter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) presented by Amegy Bank on Dec. 7-10, 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. and a special happy hour on Dec 9, 5-8 p.m. with food and drinks at The Shops at Houston Center.
For all of you coveting my Hello-Lucky earrings and B. Bag clutch, relax, you can get them there. For those lusting after my Community Cloth scarf, you can find all kinds of lovely Community Cloth wares at the Holiday Artisan Market on Saturday and at Smart Meals on Dec. 11.
A civilized New Year's Eve
Oh what to do for that dreaded night where one is either supposed to get blasted drunk or dressed to the hilt for some over-priced party. Fear not, for the more refined among us, there's a choice. Plan on attending Ars Lyrica'sMusical Resolutions at Hobby Center. Ars Lyrica was just nominated for a Grammy Award for their recording of Hasse's Marc Antonio e Cleopatra, last year's New Year's Eve offering.
Bring on 2011 with Handel's sublime Apollo e Dafne and the superb voices of Melissa Givens and Timothy Jones. "The Telemann Concerto, with both Colin St. Martin (Baroque flute) and Kathryn Montoya (recorder), is the musical equivalent of champagne, all bubbly and full of fireworks," says Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica artistic director.
"Handel's "Apollo e Dafne," in contrast, is positively otherworldly. It has two arias in particular that are just heart-stoppingly beautiful, and I can't wait to see what Melissa Givens and Timothy Jones do with them." There's an elegant party afterwards, because even the refined need that.
Put down that girly Peppermintini and cruise over to Anvil for some authentic imbibing. Start with a Tom & Jerry, a hot concoction of cognac, eggs and holiday spices that predates Dickens' Christmas Carol.
"It's like egg nog but way better," says the mad scientist mixologist behind the bar.
Keep this baby handy, you are going to need it. I'm at the bar if you have any questions. Research, of course.