Judging by how often he's cast in local productions, Bill Jenkins appears to be a director's darling. In the three leading roles he's had at three theaters here this year, he's proven versatile, likable and dependable as a performer, expertly tackling a wide range of accents and acting styles. For Addison's WaterTower Theatre, he roared as the ghost of John Barrymore in the high-spirited I Hate Hamlet. At Theatre Three (where he was voted "Patrons' Favorite") he raised the roof as an ambitious young Baptist minister in God's Man in Texas. For Theatre Britain at the Trinity River Arts Center, he oozed cockney charm as The Mysterious Mr. Love. He's also performed major comedic and dramatic roles at Kitchen Dog, Stage West, Casa Maana and Circle Theatre. Watching Jenkins onstage is a lesson in acting technique. His diction is crisp, his physicality well-tuned. His handsome face, with its deeply dimpled smile, can shift from utterly beguiling one moment to dangerously brooding the next. There's something old-fashioned about Jenkins' approach to stage work. He doesn't just say the words and strike the poses; he inhabits the characters and disappears into the roles. When his name is in the program, you know you're in for something good. Applause, applause.
Quite a fuss was made when the Angelika Film Center & Café opened at Mockingbird Station, but here's the dirty truth: Parking is impossible, and once you actually get inside the theater (if you do; shows sell out quicker than most business majors), you're surrounded by every North Dallas soccer mom who still thinks going to see independent (or--gasp!--foreign) films is edgy. Quietly, the Magnolia was up and running a few months later, and since then, it's beaten the Angelika at its own game--finding the sweet spot between the art house and the cineplex--even if the scoreboard doesn't always reflect it. You can grab an adult beverage at Fuel (the cozy and classy bar upstairs) and a Hebrew National hot dog from the concession stand, then sit back and relax with some of the finest films coming through town. And you can do it all in an atmosphere that feels more like you're in your living room with friends instead of the odd man out at a Jewish singles function. Bonus: The Magnolia houses one of the only digital projectors in Texas.
Grand Prairie's Nikki McKibbin was one of the final three contestants, and Burleson's Kelly Clarkson won the whole shooting match. Maybe A&R reps will start paying a little more attention. Then again, what good did winning a televised battle of the bands do for Flickerstick (since bought out of its contract with Epic Records) or D-FW as a whole? Discuss.
Fourteen months ago, Dallas was home to but a single art-house movie theater: the Inwood, as rundown as an Industrial Boulevard "masseuse." Then the Angelika pulled into Mockingbird Station, and where once there were three screens, suddenly there were almost a dozen. Then, earlier this year, the Magnolia opened in the West Village, adding five more screens to the mix, and the stagnant had suddenly become vibrant--exciting, even, as the three theaters began vying for titles in what has turned into an all-out bidding war. The Magnolia's been forced to suffer the most: Film distributors would prefer giving their movies to the Inwood, owned by the once-and-could-be-mighty-again Landmark chain, and the Angelika, which has a handful of theaters, simply because they have more screens nationwide; to dis them would be bad for business. Yet the Magnolia's proved this town's big enough for all comers by taking the Angelika's--and, for that matter, everyone else's--quality cast-offs (including, oh, About a Boy and Tadpole) and wringing more money out of them than anyone expected; indeed, the Magnolia actually ups grosses, making it not only this town's best first-run theater but also its best second-run venue. And the audience wins all around, because not only do we get titles that were long forced to skip Dallas, but they also last longer; we don't miss the good stuff anymore.
Whew. Talk about a way to make enemies. They've all got their niches, as well as their weaknesses--oops, we mean quirks. Here, then, a few peeves and observations. Some of the "top" galleries in this town (no names here) are way too tuned in to the biennials for our tastes. Others (no names) try way too hard to be hip. And of the few good galleries in this town, only a handful--we're talking three, maybe four--fundamentally get what art is about. Too many get caught up in marketing and PR and society columns and party pix and Who Attended What Opening and all that folderol that, in the end, undermine art's only legitimate purpose: the promotion of ideas and honest debate. We know we're sounding a bit puritan here. And we've got nothing against a good party. But we should never forget that making, selling and writing about art are silly and frivolous occupations that mask very serious purposes. In the words of one theoretician, they are "wasteful, privileged endeavor[s] through which very serious ideas are sorted out." Oh, sure, artists have gotta eat, and gallery owners have to pay rent, and it helps to move a canvas here and there. But way too many galleries in this town are more concerned about selling than about serving as good, old-fashioned marketplaces of ideas. And so, with reservations, we're going to have to pick Pillsbury and Peters Fine Art. Yeah, we know. They don't do emerging artists; they don't take big chances. And in a recent, rather unpleasant instance, they seemed to be unable to understand the difference between art criticism and promotion. But the folks at the top, particularly Ted Pillsbury, get the marketplace-of-ideas thing. And it's the one place in town where you can always see something worthwhile. Honorable mentions go to Mulcahy Modern and Photographs Do Not Bend, two places run by folks who are in it for all the right reasons. If they had the space and resources of Pillsbury and Peters, they'd be vying for the top spot.
Is there anything this woman can't do? When she's not producing, directing or designing some wild and woolly experimental thing for Kitchen Dog Theater, her home company down at McKinney Avenue Contemporary, this Texas native and SMU theater grad can take center stage and act up a storm. As "Sister Woman" in WaterTower Theatre's spring production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, she waddled around looking 14 months' pregnant (thanks to heavy padding) and drenched her pit-viper dialogue with Southern Comfort, outright heisting the show from Maggie the Cat. In the summer's Henry IV at Shakespeare in the Park, Parker bounded onstage in punk gear as Poins, a role traditionally cast as a man. Parker possesses that elusive element of stardom, the "It Factor." Her eyes sparkle, her smile beckons. Her technique is awesome, too. Great voice, unbridled energy. She may never play the ingenue, but who cares? She's a talent of consequence, best compared to fellow SMU alum Kathy Bates. Parker's also just a real nice down-home gal. Witness her funny preshow speeches to the audiences at Kitchen Dog, where she greets the crowd with a hearty "Howdeeeee!" and then warns theatergoers to switch off their cell phones and pagers...and deactivate any house-arrest prison ankle bracelets.
You might as well give up on radio, because we can assure you, radio has given up on you. At least the people who run it have. It's all about making the numbers instead of making the listeners happy. Not so at The Bone, where they give the people what they want. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much the same thing Q102 and The Zoo gave them 15, 20 years ago. Sure, there are some "new" tunes (Nirvana, Soundgarden, U2, Pearl Jam and such), but those are just side dishes. The meat on The Bone comes courtesy of Jimi and Journey, Led Zep and ZZ Top, Van Halen (both Dave and Sammy incarnations)--just about anything you'd find on a bumper sticker on the back of a sweet-ass Camaro. And the strategy has paid off, both for the station and the long-neglected Dallas rock-radio fan.
Every year, we make the three-hour trip to the, ahem, Live Music Capital of the World for SXSW, and what we find is a city that pales in comparison to our own (entertainment-wise, at any rate), a place that's been coasting on its rep since before Willie Nelson got in trouble with the IRS. We know moving the yearly music fest north means someone will lose money for a few years. And you know what? We don't care. It's not our money. We just wanna sleep in our own beds after drinking from noon to 2 a.m. Is that too much to ask?
Without a doubt, the Kimbell Art Museum's show tracking Piet Mondrian's long, slow evolution into a 20th-century icon. A gloriously middlebrow effort, the show--organized by the Musée d'Orsay and on display through December 8--sets out to "analyze...the disparate influences upon [Mondrian]--aesthetic, historical, intellectual and spiritual." In other words, museumgoers are treated to that guiltiest of pleasures, a narrative of historical progression, a tale of artistic development in all its outré, Hegelian glory. By consigning formalist analysis to the trash heap of jargon whence it belongs, the organizers manage to telescope much of the story of modernism into the tale of Mondrian. Best of all, they also produced a readable, 100 percent jargon-free catalog.