Best Performance Art 2012 | "Invisible Shell" | by Erica Felicella | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

The Oak Cliff artist designed her solitary confinement in the form of a Plexiglas box. Felicella was on a mission to explore the full range of human emotions that comes from self-imposed isolation, done in plain view. Constructed in her studio and erected in an empty lot behind the Kessler, the box wasn't much larger than a phone booth and it became her dwelling for 48 hours. She even wore a catheter. We only saw movements from the artist as she worked, scribbling a mantra repeatedly onto sheets of colored paper, which when finished were crumpled and dropped to the floor. As they fell, they filled in the limited space around her, until they reached her waist, like water in a dunk tank. Hundreds of curious neighbors gathered to watch and lend support of her mission, but Felicella did not engage with them. Instead, she quietly observed and absorbed their presence. Those who couldn't sit vigil watched her confinement remotely through a live feed that the artist set up before she started her adventure. And when she emerged, wobbly, tired and hungry, we felt whole again. We had gotten one of our own back. So while Felicella's project was meant to research her personal psychological inner workings, we found that it made us take a look at our own emotions and ties to one another.

Cable's Bravo channel came to Dallas and found Courtney Kerr, Matt Nordgren, Tara Harper, Neill Skylar, Drew Ginsburg and Glenn Pakulak, attractive, chatty "socialites" (emphasis on "lite") willing to let cameras follow them around (with producers telling them what to do) for a "docuseries." The show made our city look twinkly by night and sunny by day. It made Dallas singles in their 20s and 30s, like this sextet, look both vapid and voracious in their quests for love with the right paycheck, er, person. Quoth Drew Ginsburg, the formerly fat gay car salesman, about his rocky search for romance: "I do hope to find Mr. Right, but it's super hard because everyone in Dallas tends to be self-centered and shallow." Almost as self-centered and shallow as people on a reality TV show.

He's a wizard with scenery, putting the twinkle and fog in Dallas Theater Center's annual A Christmas Carol. Bob Lavallee also made the boxy Wyly Theatre into a hot box of writhing bodies for Cabaret and this summer painted that stage with whirling pyramids and psychedelic images from the Old Testament for the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. As a production and scenery designer, Lavallee illuminates and expands on the intention of the playwrights' work. When the lights go up on one of his shows, the first thing you hear is the audience saying, "Wow."


Years from now, we'll look back at the work now being produced at the tiny Ochre House theater and marvel that such avant garde brilliance could have come from such a modest company. At the center of it all is Ochre House founder Matthew Posey. He writes, directs and stars in almost everything they do on the 8-by-12-foot stage in his storefront playhouse by Fair Park. Shows like Mean, Posey's dark musical about Charlie Manson (with Posey chillingly good playing Tex Watson to Mitchell Parrack's Charlie). And Ex Voto: The Immaculate Conception of Frida Kahlo starring Elizabeth Evans. And Morphing, a dreamlike cartoon based on Long Day's Journey into Night starring Justin Locklear. With his creative troupe of "Ochre House Boys" (which includes several women), Posey is taking live theater in bold new directions with every new show.


With its devotion to producing American musicals the way their writers and composers intended — full orchestra, full dance numbers, big chorus and big voices — Steven Jones' Lyric Stage in Irving is starting to get the national attention it deserves. Composer Charles Strouse, in his 80s, came to see Lyric's versions of his shows Bye Bye Birdie and Rags (and he loved them). The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate helped with research for this year's magnificent staging of Oklahoma!, which used original orchestrations and added back several numbers usually cut for time. The lavishly produced three-hour show was directed by Dallas' Cheryl Denson, with the 40-piece pit orchestra directed by Jay Dias. Nobody's done an Oklahoma! this size for decades, including the recent revivals in London and New York. Lyric's cast was young and sexy; the singing and dancing sublime. Oh, what a beautiful evening.

Dallas actor and director Jeff Swearingen has created a small but exciting theater company for kids up in Plano. They do plays, musicals and short films, sometimes all in one production, on shoestring budgets. Best of all, he isn't teaching his young thesps the hammy habits some kiddie theaters inflict. Swearingen's actually getting subtle, intensely interesting performances out of very young beginners. His production of Matt Lyle's comedy The Chicken Who Wasn't Chicken made brilliant use of simple props and costumes, but also included impressively done film sequences placing barnyard characters into famous movie scenes. Cute kids dressed as chickens doing dialogue from Gone with the Wind and The Godfather is just downright genius. His adaptation of The Little Prince was another multimedia triumph. This company's latest is an all child-and-teen production of the musical Man of La Mancha. Keep dreaming impossible dreams, Mr. Swearingen. You're doing amazing work.

First, let's get one thing out of the way: Follow Brett Shipp on Twitter and you'll find him to be whiny, self-righteous and enamored with Brett Shipp. That said, the man — not to mention his amusingly large eyebrows — makes great television. In 17 years as an investigative reporter at WFAA, he's broken a ridiculously impressive list of stories and won a slew of awards for his reporting. What makes him truly great, though, is his uncanny knack for provocation. No one else in local journalism could get punched by County Commissioner John Wiley Price, chased across several lanes of traffic by Deion Sanders' football team and get it all on tape for the nightly newscast. The man is an institution.

It had us at the opening theme music. As the camera swooped in for its first shot of Southfork Ranch and then the rising towers of downtown Dallas, we were happy to go along for the ride — again — with the feuding Ewings. The new Dallas series on cable's TNT has sucked us right back into its vortex of sex and villainy with its next generation of young millionaires: John Ross (played by Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalf). They're still fighting about fossil fuels. Only this time, the hero, Christopher, is the environmental crusader; John Ross is the fracking evildoer. Looming over all the plot twists, as usual, is Dallas' eyebrow-twitching Lord Voldemort, J.R., played as ever by Larry Hagman, who grows younger and more amusingly maniacal each week. Brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy, television's greatest whisper-actor) is still trying to save Southfork from developers. J.R.'s ex-wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is off the sauce and into politics. She may be the next governor of Texas. That's all fine by us. After a 21-year break, Dallas has roared back to life and we approve. New episodes start up again in January.

Dad Barry and daughter Barrett Nash have each accomplished something special as actors: They've both starred in one-person shows on Dallas stages, giving gripping performances all by themselves. Barry Nash played the title role in Bob Birdnow's Remarkable Tale of Human Survival and the Transcendence of Self at Second Thought Theatre (after debuting the piece by Eric Steele at the 2011 Festival of Independent Theatres). He's repeated the role, about a pilot who survives a crash that kills his best friends, in Steele's film version, now in production. Barry's daughter Barrett wowed FIT audiences this summer in the one-woman play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, playing an idealistic peace activist who loses her life in a protest in Gaza. Holding an audience's gaze for an hour of live theater is no easy feat. Making them love you is a gift. And there's something about the acting Nashes that simply commands your attention and welcomes your embrace.


Matthew Posey's tiny storefront by Fair Park showcases his brilliant, always shockingly original productions of plays and musicals. This year audiences laughed at The Butcher, a play starring the puppet-corpse of a dead pig, and they shuddered at the musical Mean, about the meeting of Charlie Manson and Tex Watson. You could laugh and cry at Morphing, Posey's multimedia reconstruction of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. He also wrote bio-plays about Frida Kahlo and Henry Miller. You never know what Posey and his "Ochre House Boys" will come up with next, but it's a good bet it'll be something you've never seen before but won't soon forget.

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