Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
This year and last have been especially good for local indie folk darling Sarah Jaffe, who was born in Red Oak, found her audience in Dallas and perfected her craft in Denton. It's been a steady climb, but one that took a steep upward turn following the April 2010 release of her sophomore album, Suburban Nature, which found the performer earning praise from outlets as wide-ranging and varied as Paste and USA Today. Front to back, it's a strong, revealing release from the 25-year-old, but the album's unquestioned highlight is "Clementine," a song that Jaffe says she wrote as something of a throwaway — a means to fill out her once rather short live performance set. These days,"Clementine" has become about as unavoidable as a local song can be; it's in frequent rotation on KKXT-FM 91.7 KXT, as well as in Starbucks coffeehouses around the country. That much is understandable enough; "Clementine" is a really pretty song. But it becomes an especially impressive track when heard repeatedly. That's when Jaffe's rather self-loathing lyrical content shines through. "I wish my name was Clementine," she sings in the song's chorus, claiming that such a name would afford her the chance to be "a little more delicate." It's a song about being self-aware, about growing up and choosing to accept or reject the person that you've become. As she performs it, Jaffe seems uncertain that she's becoming the person she wants to be. On the listeners, it has the opposite effect. To them, it's clear that Jaffe's just fine exactly as she is.
With government support of the arts disappearing, public support of live theater is going strong at Dallas Theater Center. The 2010-'11 season, starting with Shakespeare's Henry IV and ending with The Wiz, was 51-year-old DTC's biggest-ever box office year. Patrons packed the house for Arsenic and Old Lace (performed at Kalita Humphreys Theater, DTC's first home). Cabaret, which reconfigured the 600-seat Wyly into a massive Berlin nightclub, had waiting lists for tickets. Artistic director Kevin Moriarty isn't afraid to challenge actors and audience, coming up with new shapes for the stage and seating for each new show at the Wyly. DTC also is a friend to theater students at SMU and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, casting them in plays and creating internship programs in all areas of the company. Using more local talent every year, DTC again is the theater young and old Dallas actors aspire to work in and theatergoers count on for top-tier entertainment.
No one views Dallas in a better resolution than YouPlusDallas. Their videos are big, and they're gorgeous. They scroll right off the screen; often they crash our minuscule, puttering Observer HQ servers. Masters of the art of slow-motion and time-lapse, the cinematographers of YPD have found the newest way to make Dallas look badass. It's why blogs, like, ahem, ours, constantly feature their beautiful work. But that ain't the half of it. YouPlusDallas.com, which by the way is the most comprehensive new-media site on the subject of Dallas art and music (and is new enough to still be beta testing), has got enough great content to blow any blog out of the water. The best part? It's easy to navigate. No crap, this is important. From tabs breaking down Dallas neighborhoods to their completely fun "Videopinions" (where you can watch and add a response to the conversation) they know how to make a city look pretty and be smart about it.
@FakeSteveBlow would win this even if all the Twitter account did was establish #beansandwich as a trending hash tag in Dallas (which it did following Actual Steve Blow's reminiscence on the food item in his Dallas Morning News column). That said, the tech-savvy version of the saccharine columnist's personality that is @FakeSteveBlow is so very entertaining, if only because we like to think Fake Blow's tweets are the ones Actual Blow would post if he could. Some of our favorites: "Fuck this, what's it take to get a g-d Orange Julius around here?" (December 2010); "Jackie just showed me how to set up my Google alerts. I'll start with 'claptrap' and 'baloney.'" (December 2010); "See, the real answer's as plain and simple as a #beansandwich" (January); "Shit used to be cheap when I was a kid. Shit is expensive now and I am old. Roller coasters. [link]" (February); "Herpadurp. Derpaherpadurpy. Herp derp. Derp a merp. Merpy derperton. Dumpa doopa derp. Doopa herp. Derpahoop. Herpadurp." (March) "If you ask me, this government's been shut down since 1956!" (April); "Craig Watkins, 'diva DA.' Diva! Because he is prissy! My stars, I know how to coin a phrase. [link]" (July); "Jesus Christ, Gold Bond just turns to paste in this heat. Maybe it's time to try boxers." (August). We don't actually know who's behind the account, but if we did we'd rather eat a #beansandwich than expose them.
This year the Nasher's been home to modern neon sculptures, bulbous fiberglass works and approximately 9,000 golden balloons. Yes, it's been quite the year for the young museum with recent exhibitions including Statuesque, which featured sculptures from Aaron Curry, Rebecca Warren and Thomas Houseago, among other artists, and Sightings: Martin Creed, which was a mesmerizing display of thousands of balloons squished into one gallery space. The current exhibition, Tony Cragg: Seeing Things, features about 30 of the artist's most influential pieces from the past two decades and marks the first time the sculptor has shown his work in the United States since 1992. We love the intimacy of the Nasher and its garden spaces, plus it makes a great spot for a lunch date.
Last year, Meadows Museum announced a three-year collaboration with The Prado Museum in Madrid, and as part of the partnership SMU receives three important works from the Spanish museum. Earlier this year, El Greco's "Pentecost" was on display at Meadows, and currently the museum is hosting Jusepe de Ribera's "Mary Magdalene," curated by The Prado's Dr. Gabriele Findali. The partnership has also created a fellowship and symposium that are only furthering Meadows' reputation as a mecca of Spanish art. There's no better place to see the most prolific works of Spain's Golden Age of Art, not to mention a few cute sorority girls.
Art might not be the first thing you notice at the gargantuan Cowboys Stadium, but Jerry Jones and wife Gene are art lovers, which is evident when you take the time to gaze upon the 21 artistic works installed in various locations all over Cowboys Stadium. The contemporary pieces include Eliasson's "Moving stars takes time," located near Entry F in the Main Concourse, Matthew Ritchie's "Line of Play" above Entry K and the sprawling yellow rose and spheres in David Muller's "Solar Arrangement" in the Northwest Concession area. You don't have to purchase a game ticket to see the impressive collection because the stadium offers guided art tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and audio art tours on Mondays and Wednesdays. The massive collection will equally impress art lovers and sports fans, plus you might run into a cheerleader or Cowboy on the tour.
Lest you ever doubted that Dallas adores electronic music, consider this: For nearly two decades, and in the face of pressure from their corporate overlords at Clear Channel, KDGE-FM 102.1 The Edge ran a three-hour Saturday night show dedicated to the genre. Even crazier, people listened. Whether you were a fan of EDM or not, Edgeclub was an anomaly worth rooting for, a locally produced show that smirked in the face of the Edge's alt-rock format — a middle finger to the corporatization of American radio. Never mind the fact that the show's host, DJ Merritt, did an amazing job of turning listeners onto electronic talents national and local. That all went kaput back in November, though, when Clear Channel pulled the plug on the show in favor of a nationally syndicated program. Last we checked, DJ Merritt was trying, if only pessimistically, to get the show back on the air. New Edge program director Josh Venable, a local kid and on-air favorite now charged with running the ship, would do wise to give Edgeclub a second chance. If nothing else, it helped KDGE stand out from the radio clutter.
Here's how talented the guys behind local poster design shop Magnificent Beard are: In January, a poster that the team had come up with to promote a December Wu-Tang Clan concert at the Granada Theater was ripped off — rather blatantly — by another local design team looking to make a poster promoting an all-local show. The plagiarizing parties got torn apart for their move, but the fact that they even thought to steal from another poster design team was telling on two fronts. For one thing, there's a surprisingly large, thriving music poster art scene in Dallas. And, second, Magnificent Beard is the top dog in the market. More impressive: Designing smart, hip, eye-catching posters for the likes of the Granada Theater, The Loft, South Side Music Hall and the Palladium Ballroom is only a side gig for the pair behind the force. Connor Hill and Matt Brinker are ad designers by day, poster designers by night. At this rate, though, they might soon be able to quit their day jobs.
Dallas actors don't just love working for director-choreographer Joel Ferrell, they worship the guy. With back-to-back productions this year at Dallas Theater Center, the Horton Foote play Dividing the Estate, followed by the super-sexy staging of the musical Cabaret, Ferrell, a resident artist at DTC, showed what he can do with big shows on a big stage. For the Foote, he turned the Wyly Theatre space into the crumbling mansion of a fearsome Texas family down on their finances. For Cabaret, the audience, seated at café tables with booze service, became patrons of the show's louche Kit-Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin. Able to draw career-best performances from actors and to surprise the most jaded audience members with provocative ideas, Ferrell is taking local theater in all the right directions.
At the risk of sounding old, back in our day, summer vacation meant no school. Meaning no homework. Meaning no summer reading lists, summer "mindwork" or whatever other euphemism teachers want to come up with for giving kids a bunch of busywork meant to keep their minds from atrophying over the summer but which in practice is just something that parents nag their kids about all summer, until the weekend before school starts up again, at which point the kids do the most half-assed job imaginable at rushing through a stack of paperwork. If only teachers would just let kids be kids during the summer — or have them exercise their creativity at art classes like Oil & Cotton's. Ranging from $10 hourlong craft classes to multiweek advanced sketching classes to four-day songwriting workshops, these instructional camps give kids something to look forward to while also keeping them from going brain-dead in front of the tube.
The Dallas Museum of Art is hardly the first museum in the world to realize that people might rather spend a Friday night in the company of its collection than alongside the Drunky McDrunkerson set, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that they've taken the idea and truly embraced it. Every third Friday of the month, the museum bucks its self-inflicted 5 p.m. close time and entertains the masses until midnight. And we really do meant "entertain." Beyond the art, the museum comes alive with all sorts of events during these extended hours — there are DJs, tapas, movie screenings, live music performances (from the likes, even, of The Polyphonic Spree), yoga classes and guided tours. And it doesn't cost you a dime more than a regular trip here would: The same $10 fee you pay for admission during the daytime applies here; so, too, does the fact that children younger than 12 get in for free. It's a great family-friendly time — if your family can make it that late. If not? Well, it's a good date spot too.