Talk about commitment to one's art. For the title role in Barbette, a new biographical play by Bill Lengfelder and David Goodwin performed at Kitchen Dog Theater in June, Joey Steakley spent nearly a year learning the art of the trapeze and perfecting the moves of the "Spanish web," a balletic circus act on a rope 30 feet in the air. His performance as the Texas-born transvestite circus star involved not just perfecting aerial stunts but delicately depicting the young "Barbette" (real name Vander Clyde) as a dreamy farm boy in Round Rock, Texas, and his subsequent journey to musical hall stardom in drag and his stormy affair with a great poet in Paris in the 1920s. Steakley's fine, subtle acting in the physically demanding role--he did that rope ballet wearing little more than satin shorts, pasties and a blond wig--made the stuntwork even more breathtaking and affecting. For a young actor (he earned his degree in drama in May), fearlessness is as important as talent. Steakley has more of both than most actors of any age.

Best Place to See the Famous Wilson Brothers Eating Mexican Food with Their Parents

Javier's

Javier's Gourmet Mexicano

Owen and Luke Wilson, this year's Hollywood It-Boys, make it back home to Dallas pretty often, and when they do, they inevitably drop in (with their handsome 'rents) at this pricey but delish Park Cities Mexican spot. The country-club crowd this restaurant attracts (need the valet parkers for the Rollses, doncha know) generally ignores the Wilson clan and lets them eat their Barra de Navidad and Filete Cantinflas (two Javier's specialties) in peace. Some of us just enjoy feasting on the sight of the Wilsons in the flesh.

Unlike its crosstown cousin, not much of Dallas resembles the days of cattle drives or cowboys, and maybe that was the idea behind this popular public sculpture. The large herd of longhorns and cowboys, which promoters say is the "biggest outdoor sculpture of longhorns and cowboys in the world," is a most impressive sight. Plopped down in the middle of a bustling city near the convention center, the longhorns are gaudy and cool, like the city they represent.

Let's admit something to each other. For the most part, they're all the same. Sure, there's a difference in the personnel, in the tone, of each station. Channel 8 has a bunch of vets and an air of superiority, which works if you don't watch 'em every night. Channel 5 HAS THIS LATE-BREAKING NEWS DA DA DA DAAAAA. Channel 4 tries hard and actually does a better job than most think with limited resources. And WB33 has Friends reruns following it, which is nice. But, you know, try what we do some nights and flip between all five at 10 p.m. For the most part, on most nights, they're all doing the same stuff, often in the same order. Which means it comes down to a question of which tone you prefer. We like Channel 11. They keep the happy talk to a minimum, which is no small thing. They put the big stories first--national news, international news, then local everyday stuff. They have Kristine Kahanek delivering the weather forecast, which is nice for obvious reasons. And Babe Laufenberg has grown into a fun-to-watch sportscaster. All in all, as solid as TV news can be.

For their first theatrical production, an update of Rick Najera's comic collection of sketches about Latino life, this group of young theater tyros had to hold opening night in a cramped conference room at the Ice House Cultural Center off Swiss Avenue. With only a tiny platform, minimal lighting and a sweaty audience sitting an arm's length away, actors Otis Gray and Marco Rodriguez turned in firecracker performances, playing dozens of characters in a wild array of wigs and costumes. For the level of energy and skill they exhibited, they could just as well have been onstage at Carnegie Hall. It was the kind of show that left theatergoers looking at their programs going, "Who are these guys?" They are that good. Under executive producer Miranda Martinez, by day a worker bee in the corporate world, this company of talented Hispanic actors, designers and writers is looking ahead to ambitious theatrical events. Early next year they'll mount the world premiere of a new Najera play, Buford Gomez: Tales of a Rightwing Border Patrol Officer. Watch for this creative bunch to make their mark on the Dallas theater scene in years to come.

It is hard to miss the eye-catching work of famed sculptor Hans Van de Bovenkamp as you make the walk through the pedestrian tunnel connecting the transit center and the light-rail station. The 8-foot red aluminum free-form structure in the shape of an "O" appears to be alive, undulating, seeming to change shapes as the sun hits it from different angles during the day. The sculpture is a variation on a theme called "Gateway" that was erected in Oklahoma City's Myriad Gardens in 1993. Just because it is in the hellhole that is Oklahoma City, don't hold that against ol' Hans.

Much to the joy of most Dallas-area media, the former Dallas city councilman took off the electronic shackles 27 months into his 41-month sentence of house arrest (watching television). Just about everybody seemed downright giddy at the announcement that an appeals court overturned his sentence, not because Lipscomb was wrongly convicted but because of a legal technicality. Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland gleefully fawned over Lipscomb and defended him, actually going so far as to say, "He was charming and charismatic. He was circumspect. More important, he was contrite, acknowledging that he erred by not reporting he was taking money from a cab company owner doing business with the city." Guess Ragland could overlook the fact that Lipscomb started pushing the cab company's agenda after monthly cash payments started. Maybe the voters could forget it, too. Welcome back, Al!

TV news is suddenly crowded with 20-something models who stumble on words with more than three syllables and are never quite sure if famine in Bangladesh is happy news or sad. Tracy Rowlett reassures precisely because the years have bequested him with the opposite set of traits--some wrinkles, some schnozz, a bit of jowl and a dead-on news sense. When Rowlett relates a major story, we can tell that he himself knows what the story is about. We trust him never to announce with an engaging smile that Washington is under attack.

Kitchen Dog Theater

With most theaters jobbing in actors (Dallas Theater Center gets 'em from New Yawk City, no less), a good old-fashioned repertory company is getting hard to find 'round these parts. Now in its second decade, the Kitchen Dog Theater's resident acting company still is composed mostly of SMU acting and directing grads (and professors) who created this theater for themselves 12 years ago (and named it after a reference in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot). In two acting spaces at McKinney Avenue Contemporary, artistic director Dan Day and his small band of gifted thespians--Tina Parker, Christopher Carlos, Tim Johnson, Bill Lengfelder--continue to create remarkably edgy and ambitious work in a nearly year-round schedule of full-length plays and cabaret shows. Always looking to shake up theatergoers' expectations, KDT has lined up a bold new season that includes Beckett's Happy Days (now playing), King Lear, George F. Walker's Heaven, the controversial prison play In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott and the Fifth Annual New Works Festival, including one main-stage production and seven staged readings.

Landmark Magnolia

If you're a fan of independent cinema--movies that don't suck, usually--here's the best deal in town, in the country...OK, in the world, whatever. Pay a small fee, and every other Sunday or so you can wake up a little early and be greeted by a sneak preview of a would-be art-house hit. Now, you won't know the name of the movie until you arrive at the theater, but the odds are good in this game of Reel Russian Roulette: Among the movies that have been part of Harlan Jacobson's Talk Cinema series are Gods and Monsters, Gosford Park, Sunshine State, No Man's Land, Pulp Fiction, L.A. Confidential and Breaking the Waves. The only downside is after the screening you have to listen to some local film critic, including on occasion some schmuck from the Dallas Observer, pontificate on the movie's meaning and the filmmaker's intentions before opening up the room for discussion. But, hey, that's the small price of being so danged special. For more information about Talk Cinema, which begins its new series September 29, go to www.talkcinema.com.

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