Mark Your Calendar
Editor's Note: As part of CultureMap's State of the Arts series, we are highlighting upcoming fall arts events you won't want to miss.
The fall arts season is set to harvest a bumper crop of new books and visiting writers reading from them. The Houston bookstores’ calendars are filling up with author appearances and Inprint has an intriguing lineup scheduled for its Margarett Root Brown Reading Series with big names like Junot Diaz, T. C. Boyle, and Zadie Smith on its 2012-2013 roster for solo reads.
Readings with two or three novelist or poets tend to be nights of artistic discovery. On a kind of literary double date, we might find our eyes wandering over to this new guy sitting to our old love.
Yes, one of the best things about author readings is that one-on-one audience time we have together to listen to a work in an author’s own voice and then ask our questions. Yet, sometimes it’s double the fun when there are two writers sharing the podium for the price of one, be that price zero (students and senior citizens, if the Inprint event is not sold out) or five dollars (general admission tickets).
Readings with two or three novelist or poets tend to be nights of artistic discovery. We might be a fan of one writer but have little knowledge of the other. On a kind of literary double date, we might find our eyes wandering over to this new guy sitting next to our old love. Beguiled by the new imagined world he temps us to traverse, we decide to take him home with us too (in book form, of course).
There’s also always the possibility for a little discrete, always polite, onstage drama. During Inprint’s two-author events, they seem to enjoy sharing the spotlight most of the time, but there have been nights when the duet turned into a subtle duel because of a literary rivalry or a bad review one had written about the other. Nothing was said onstage, but the body language could have written a novel onto itself.
And sometime it's the other way around. During one Inprint event several seasons ago, two authors seemed rather taken with each other, so much so that they disappeared after the reading and even their agents didn’t know where they had absconded to a day later.
The first of four double author events during Inprint’s 2012-2013 season, the Donoghue and Kunzru read will probably not be so dramatic, but will certainly have some cool accents.
Donoghue is a Dublin born writer who now calls Canada her home. Her previous bestselling novel, Room, won the Orange Prize and was a finalist for the Booker Prize. Her new book Astray will have only been out for 10 days before her Houston appearance.
Novelist, journalist, and essayist Hari Kunzru was born in London, of English and Kashmiri parents, and now lives in New York. Named one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, his latest novel Gods Without Men has been compared to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Gods Without Men tells multiple stories spanning from the eighteenth century to present day that are all in someway connected to the Pinnacle Rocks in the Mojave Desert.
If you enjoy finding those amazing two-for-one specials, mark your calendars for the those literary duets and trios coming this fall.
Mark Your Calendar
Editor's Note: As part of CultureMap's State of the Arts series, we are highlighting upcoming fall arts events you won't want to miss.
If you were lucky enough to see Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly With Me at the Hobby Center in April, you’ll be even more dazzled by this brilliant choreographer’s peculiar take on classicism, The Brahms-Haydn Variations. I remember feeling dizzy from the density and details when American Ballet Theatre premiered it 12 years ago.
Wouldn’t their work be better served if it were simply integrated into the general programming over an indefinite period into the future?
At the time, dance critic Robert Johnson called this wild yet highly-controlled work a “big, fat anniversary diamond” for the company, a “certifiable gem,” and he wasn’t wrong. It is a perfect vehicle for Houston Ballet’s talented artists, and an undisputed masterpiece in the ballet canon.
Canadian-born Julia Adam created Ketubah, which focuses on aspects of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, for Houston Ballet in 2004. Since I know nothing about her, I am really looking forward to watching the piece, which apparently “showcases the natural humor and story-telling style of the affable choreographer,” as described at the company’s website. If she is truly affable, it will be a nice balance with Tharp, who is probably the least affable choreographer I have ever encountered, male or female.
Also from Canada but now based in New York is Aszure Barton, who is likely putting the finishing touches on her world premiere for Houston Ballet as I write. She’s certainly established, having had her choreography performed by major companies such as National Ballet of Canada, The Martha Graham Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Netherlands Dance Theater, and many others. One of her biggest supporters has been none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov. It will be intriguing to see what sorts of artistic matters she is concerned with at present and how the company handles her challenging style.
But really, Women@Art? There is something about it that is worrisome, as if these ballets by female choreographers are best grouped together on a separate-but-equal program. As if they were created by Tweeting, Facebook-friendly femmes.
Wouldn’t their work be better served if it were simply integrated into the general programming over an indefinite period into the future? Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations, for example, could have been included in a Houston Ballet program titled Journey with the Masters, which opens in May. Oh, wait, that features Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. Men, only men.
There's a reason why mosaic artists aren't a dime a dozen. The métier is taxing, time consuming, labor intensive.
Those same qualities are what charmed Metairie, La.-native, Houston-based fine art mosaic doyen Chris Silkwood to the genre.
Analogous to the many fragments that commingle to fashion one of her vibrant compositions, her career has been a colorful bricolage of experiences, including working as a corporate trainer, developing fitness facilities and spa resorts and toiling in sales and marketing. It was when her family relocated to Brisbane, Australia, that Silkwood stumbled upon the smiths of ArtBusters, an esteemed atelier she refers to as the Picassos of mosaic design.
With little experience in the craft, a cold call asking for a spot as an apprentice was received with apprehension — at first. Silkwood talked her way in, and her garage became her workshop. Her neighbors would visit often, wondering what this artsy dame was up to. Silkwood's first exhibition was at her home — and she sold many of her pieces.
After a summer in Italy studying at the Mosaic Art School in Ravenna, Silkwood's style matured into a zestful modern interpretation of the ancient decorative art form.
"I know artists want their work to have very deep meaning. For my art, I really just wanted people to look at it and have joy."
Her vision was to liberate the old world traditional practice and update it to suit contemporary tastes and fit into any décor. She resolved to incorporate three-dimensional materials, paint, light, handmade and natural elements to add depth and interest to her creations.
Rather than suffusing her manner with serious aesthetic meaning, Silkwood sought to evoke joy, light and a sense of wonder.
That was 12 years ago.
"I know artists want their work to have very deep meaning," she says. "For my art, I really just wanted people to look at it and have joy. Sometimes people say this is really happy art, and I've actually come to love that term. I want that piece to be within someone's collection, and when they see it, they say, wow!
"That's something really different, it lights up the space and makes them feel good."
Silkwood is in the midst of preparing for her 2012 fall show, "In Bloom: The Unexpected." Watch the video (above) for more of CultureMap's chat with Silkwood, and get a glimpse of the artist as she works on her pieces and talks about her journey.
"Nancy!" screamed Marlana Walsh Doyle. The dancer charged across the great lawn at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and after a quick hello hug, she was off to join her fellow dancers of The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company to rehearse for their Pillow debut.
August means, for me, a trip to the Pillow to talk, breathe, sleep and live dance during my stint as a scholar in residence.
Doyle and I weren't the only Texans to make the historic dance trek: This summer, there was a Lone Star invasion of the historic Berkshire, Mass.-based festival, starting with Trey McInyre Project and Houston native Allysen Hooks performing with Dance Heginbotham from Aug. 8 through 12, followed by Stanton Welch's world premiere on The Joffrey Ballet in the Ted Shawn Theater from Aug. 22 to 27 and The Houston Met on the Inside/Out stage on Aug. 25.
Joffrey Ballet tackles Stanton Welch's sleek new ballet
Let's start with Welch's new world premiere, Son of Chamber Symphony, set to John Adams' dynamic work of the same name. One of Welch's most musical and witty pieces, the ballet made nods to several classical ballets and felt like a love child borne from his buzzy Divergence and the exotic climate of Tutu.
Full of Welch's signature gestural flourishes, Son of Chamber Symphony also showcased the mighty talents of the Joffrey dancers. Travis Halsey's diagonal designs on the tutus mirrored the architectural lines of the Ted Shawn's rustic barn doors, adding to the polished geometry of Welch's choreography.
This was Welch's second trip to the famous dance rock. Last season, Welch set a new work on the ballet students for the Pillow gala, when he crossed passed paths with his old friend and Joffrey's artistic director Ashley Wheater. I liked to imagine that these two dreamed up the new ballet over some yummy French toast at the Stone Dining Room, but they didn't — a ballet takes years to plan.
One of Welch's most musical and witty pieces, the ballet made nods to several classical ballets and felt like a love child borne from his buzzy Divergence and the exotic climate of Tutu.
"But we did discuss where the ballet might premiere," says Welch, who was in attendance for the Joffrey premiere, along with executive director Jim Nelson and Houston Ballet patron Frank Hood. "The Pillow has such historical significance."
Their paths crossed again at San Francisco Ballet when Welch choreographed several ballets for the company and Wheater served as an assistant to the artistic director. When Wheater took the Joffrey post in 2007, they kept in touch, and talk of a Welch ballet became a possibility.
"I like the company; they have made a huge jump under Ashley," says Welch. The choreographer has set ballets all over the world, but selects his outside work carefully since taking the helm of the Houston Ballet in 2003. "It's like an adventure, and a time for new discovery. These are dynamic and driven dancers."
Houston dancer on the rise
What a great joy to run into Hooks performing in Dance Heginbotham, founded by 14-year Mark Morris Dance Group veteran John Heginbotham. An HSPVA alum and a Juilliard grad, Hooks' career is on an upward trajectory — and in New York of all places, the most competitive of dance communities.
Hooks' crisp and exact dancing are a perfect match for Heginbotham's novel phrasing and unpredictable theatricality. She was a stand out as the female lead in Closing Bell and in Heginbotham's darkly whimsical Twin, which was developed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. In addition to Dance Heginbotham, Hooks also dances with Michelle Mola + Zack Winokur / The Troupe and Esme Boyce Dance. I expect to be seeing more of Hooks on New York and, perhaps, Pillow stages.
Bringing out the celebs
Earlier in August, Trey McInyre Project performed a trio of heartfelt works including Leatherwing Bat, the very work that launched the company as a full-time troupe in 2008. (That I got to be his Pillow scholar was yet another treat.) The company resides in Boise, Idaho, but that doesn't stop dance lovers from calling Trey McIntyre our "Houston dance son," nor does it keep McIntyre from referring to the Bayou City as his "artistic hometown."
McIntyre, who marked his fifth performance at the Pillow, cut his choreographic teeth at Houston Ballet under Ben Stevenson, where he served as a choreographic associate from 1998 to 2008. He choreographed Skeleton Clock, his first ballet for the company while still a member of the Corps de Ballet, at the age of 20.
There's no other way to say this: The Houston Met rocked the Inside/Out stage.
That Girl — as in Marlo Thomas — and hubby Phil Donahue showed up to see McIntyre's world premiere, Ladies and Gentle Men, based on the Emmy and Peabody-award winning show Free to Be...You and Me. That show was headed up by Thomas and a cast of entertainers including Diana Ross, Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson and Alan Alda, who was also in attendance at McIntyre's premiere.
Houston Ballet's rep is chock full of McIntyre classics including the fantastical Peter Pan, which closes the ballet's upcoming season. McIntrye looks forward to next June, when he'll return to Houston to freshen up Peter Pan on a mostly new set of dancers.
Houston looks good
There's no other way to say this: The Houston Met rocked the Inside/Out stage. The audience leapt to its feet after the show featuring Larry Keigwin's "Air" section of The Elements, Kiki Lucas' Rebound and Kate Skarpetowka's Stand Back. With a powerhouse program, luscious dancing and a magnetic stage presence, this small company made its mark on the storied mountain stage. It was a smart choice to include Keigwin — a Pillow favorite — whose joyous moves looked scrumptious in the great outdoors.
Sure, it was a proud Houston moment, but the crowd also roared when Doyle told them she was a Massachusetts native. The wonderful Met dancers included Doyle, Christopher Cardenas, Kerry Jackson, Allie Kronick, Terrill Mitchell, Katie Heintz, Noa Tumpkin and Lisa Wolf. Lucas, whose piece added to the evening's drama, did a terrific job introducing the company and each piece.
"I could feel you beaming from the audience," Doyle told me after the show.
What a great way to end my dancecation, watching hometown dancers perform with stunning grace, framed by mountains and the dramatic late summer Berkshire sunset.
Even Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary showed up to see Trey McInyre Project dance to Puff the Magic Dragon in Leatherwing Bat
Are the best things in life free?
No matter how many times Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson sang "The Best Things in Life are Free," surely they didn't take into consideration that love needs diamonds, romance needs roses and that sex needs wine — and that most of us don't believe sentimental nonsense such as this coming from celebs that are rolling in the dough.
But here's something you can believe in, and it's free.
Free Night Houston is making a comeback. Set for Oct. 5 through 21, the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is in the midst of organizing a two-week fest during which anyone can sign up to sample what's artsy around the Houston region — at no cost.
HAA invites any type of performing organization looking to attract new audiences to participate in Free Night Houston. The initiative strives to "ignite interest and create awareness about the variety of performing arts organizations in the Greater Houston area." What started in Austin, Philadelphia and San Francisco in 2005, in partnership with Theatre Communications Group, has now reached 120 metro centers, more than 700 theaters and performing venues, and has introduced 65,000 art consumers to local, national and international talent.
Organizations hoping to participate in Free Night Houston should contact HAA programs & services coordinator Janel Badrina for more info.
Performing art junkies hoping to grab a free ticket need to sit tight just a bit longer while all the details are being sorted out. Though if you do score some tickets, remember that if you enjoy what you see, there's nothing stopping you from donating what you would have spent on that evening back to the groups that keep Houston's creative economy going.
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Live on Live
If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.
Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.
"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."
Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.
The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.
“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”
The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.
“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”
Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.
one hot minute
One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.
Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.
Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.
Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.
Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.
Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.
The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.
Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.
Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.
While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.
Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.
Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:
- Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
- Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
- Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
- Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
- Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
- Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
- Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
- Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
- Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
- Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park
enough (pizza) to love
Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.
Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.
Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.
The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.
The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.