Readers’ choice: David Coffee
Critic’s choice: Todd Hart, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Theatre Arlington
As executive producer of Theatre Arlington, Todd Hart has done more paperwork than stage work recently. But he was exquisitely, uncomfortably funny as the most burned out, smart-ass public school vice principal you’ve ever met. He had audiences hanging on his pauses to see what wearily devastating rejoinder he’d deliver to the hapless bee contestants.
• As a bachelor who’s wary of murderous rumors about the local widows’ club, Lloyd Barnes Jr. in Jubilee Theatre’s The Dance on Widows’ Row supplied spontaneous and hilarious commentary throughout the play.
• In Theater Arlington’s Spelling Bee, Jared Johnson sweetly and bizarrely played Leaf Coneybear, the touchy-feely child of hippie parents who went into strange fits of cross-eyed concentration when he competed for the bee’s top prize.
• In Amphibian Productions’ Three Days of Rain, Mycah Hogan handily stole the first act as a cocky soap opera actor who makes selling out seem only natural.
• Scruffy, foul-mouthed Trey Walpole excelled as a man with homicidal resentments toward his father and brother in Stage West’s The Lonesome West.
Readers’ choice: Deborah (Debbie) Brown
Critic’s choice: Cheryl Tyre, Gem of the Ocean, Jubilee Theatre
Unlike film, theater still honors female actors “of a certain age” with juicy roles. Cheryl Tyre combined sparkling grace, ferocious authority, and touches of comic senility as Aunt Ester, the 300-year-old former slave with Old Testament-style powers of healing in August Wilson’s most supernatural play. That the character is also a busybody in other people’s romantic lives only gave Tyre more delicious mischief to make.
• Stormi Demerson as the sly, bootylicious widow with bedroom eyes and a penchant for poison in The Dance on Widow’s Row, Jubilee Theatre.
• Mikala Gibson blossomed impressively as a timid young housekeeper who must establish her own identity in Gem of the Ocean.
• Krista Scott played the “power mom” and relentless school fund-raiser with a fierce appetite for daytime trysts in The First Day of School, Amphibian Productions.
• Nancy Sherrard registered poignant intelligence as a movie-loving psychiatrist in Something Intangible, Circle Theatre.
Top Five Artworks Created or Exhibited Locally in the Past 12 Months
• “Savannah Oak” by James Blake at William Campbell Contemporary Art: Only upon close inspection do viewers realize that they are looking not at a black-and-white photograph of a gnarled tree but a drawing. Like a catchy song, “Savannah Oak” leaves a lasting impression.
• “Euphoria” by Michelle Brandley at East Fork Gallery: All sorts of ideas about female body issues are wrapped up in this painting of a young woman hovering over a mixing bowl covered in melted chocolate. She’s licking off the sweet stuff that has run onto one of her hands, eyes closed rapturously.
• “Irrational Exuberance” by Daniel Blagg at Artspace 111: Light-hearted and full of symbolism, Blagg’s colorful painting is a stylized depiction of Las Vegas’ Boneyard, where old marquees go to die and, evidently, be brought back to life –– the central image is a sign from The Golden Nugget.
• “Double or Nothing” by Devon Nowlin at Gallery 414: In high photorealist style, Nowlin’s painting of twin boys, naked from the waist up and reaching out toward each other, is as technically brilliant as it is eerie.
• “Sun Behind the Clouds” by Randall Reid at William Campbell Contemporary Art: Reid’s mixed-media work is a small panel of white geometric forms backdropped by rusty blue. The piece’s austerity conjures up a neutral-loving Diebenkorn.
Production Staged by Local Theater and Director of Local Theater Production
Readers’ choice: Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, Stage West
Critic’s choice: Opus, Circle Theatre; Alan Shorter, Opus
Yes, we were frustrated at the abrupt, too-tidy conclusion of Circle Theatre’s otherwise masterful production Opus. That just demonstrated how engrossed we were in director Alan Shorter’s staging of Michael Hollinger’s five-actor drama about a classical string quartet that unravels on the verge of its greatest critical and commercial success. The frail, competitive artistic ego is a tough thing to render as sympathetic, let alone entertaining, but Circle’s Opus neatly mapped how romantic tensions and divergent creative philosophies can spontaneously combine to hijack a collaboration. Area critics pulled out all kinds of musical metaphors to describe the way director Shorter guided his superb cast to express overlapping notes of support and betrayal. Bottom line: It was the most thrilling ensemble work of the year.
Critic’s choice: Zack Hawkins
Hawkins, one of veteran Fort Worth painter Ron Tomlinson’s brightest protégés, has made a name for himself exhibiting all over the country, most recently in San Diego at Fort Worth native Drew Snyder’s venue, the Andrews Gallery. Hawkins’ portraits are gritty and vibrant instead of precise and stale, and his abstract-expressionist excursions are full of bulky, colorful forms, conjuring up what Duchamp might have done were he a graffiti artist.
Outdoor Cultural Event
Readers’ choice: Main Street Arts Festival
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Prairie Fest
For the fifth year in a row, culture met nature at a family-friendly day in the wildflower-decorated acres of the Tandy Hills Natural Area. Prairie Fest again hosted a collection of eco-minded vendors peddling goods and services to help folks live a more earth-friendly life, but there was also plenty of live music (including headliners Brave Combo), painting, sculpture, dance, and theatrical diversions by stage companies like Hip Pocket Theatre and Amphibian Productions.
Gallery Art Show of Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Common Ground at Artes de la Rosa
Critic’s choice: Drawings by James Blake, William Campbell Contemporary Art
Full of mises en scene of everyday life and reckonings of trees with a classic naturalist’s eye for detail, this massive exhibit by the veteran Fort Worth artist was as virtuosic as it was playful.
Solo Dance Performances
Critic’s choice: Leticia Oliveira and Lucas Priolo
While they didn’t dance the title roles together here in Texas Ballet Theater’s revival of Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet, Oliveira stood out as the most complete and brilliantly danced Juliet, and Priolo was the most compelling Romeo.
Museum Art Show of Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Critic’s choice: (tie) Andy Warhol: The Last Decade; and Constructive Spirit: Abstract Art in North and South America, 1920-’50s, Amon Carter Museum
Both shows represented subtle yet significant strides in programming made by the museums. For the Carter, Constructive Spirit exhibited a willingness to embrace non-regional schools, and for the Modern, Last Decade showed a renewed dedication to hardcore scholarship –– until this exhibit, the work produced by Warhol during his final years was often overlooked.
Performing Arts Organization
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Opera
Changing its season to a festival format has generated more buzz for FWO’s productions than the company had under the old subscriber regimen. However, it’s Fort Worth Opera’s commitment to staging new works (at the same time as the standard repertory pieces) that distinguishes our city’s opera scene from everyone else’s and forces the Dallas Opera to keep up. For which we say, “Bravo!”
Locally Produced Comic Book
Critic’s choice: Dead@17: The Witch Queen by Josh Howard
Arlingtonian Josh Howard returns with the latest volume in his cult fave Dead@17. Series protagonist Nara Kilday, finding herself in purgatory, must confront demons within and without and also the queen who rules this particular limbo. As always, Howard’s art excels, with pinup-worthy women and demonic monsters, but this series is noteworthy for pushing the story and characters into truly dark territory. For the penultimate volume in the series, Howard doesn’t spare the darkness, and the comic is the better for it.
Readers’ choice: Artspace 111, 111 Hampton St, FW
Critic’s choice: William Campbell Contemporary Art, 4935 Byers Av, FW
The year started off with Randall Reid’s rusty but light-hearted mixed-media works, followed by Cecil Touchon’s enigmatic yet charming geometric panels, James Blake’s photorealist drawings, and a group show of old and new faces. Now this gallery has brought us a solo show by the lovable Richard Thompson. Most of the stuff exhibited –– and purchased –– at Bill Campbell’s place might go well with the sofa, but it’s always professional and idiosyncratic and, as such, more about inspiration than decoration.
Local Visual Artist
Readers’ choice: Mike Kolanko
Critic’s choice: James Blake
“Overwhelming” might be a good word to describe the feeling you get standing in front of Blake’s better photorealist drawings. He trains his steady hand mainly on nature –– he’s particularly fond of trees –– though he’s also keen to render quaint interiors. Though largely devoid of people, Blake’s ink-on-paper works are far from cold.
Readers’ choice: Mindy Byrd
Critic’s choice: Luther Smith
This TCU prof and MFA graduate of the vaunted Rhode Island School of Design specializes in panoramic landscapes and documentary-style candids. His work can be viewed at the Amon Carter Museum.
Readers’ choice: (tie) Hip Pocket Theatre, 1950 Silver Creek Rd, FW; Creative Arts Theatre and School (CATS), 1100 W Randol Mill Rd, Arl; Stage West, 821 W Vickery Blvd, FW
Critic’s choice: Circle Theatre, 230 W 4th St, FW
We’re not sure who slipped the “great theater” magic potion into the water-cooler at Circle, but there’s no doubt they’ve had a stellar year with one superbly executed show after another: Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Opus, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Something Intangible, and Bach at Leipzig offered a heady mixture of comic and dramatic themes featuring as diverse a collection of times, places, and characters as you could imagine.
Show at Bass Hall in the Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Old 97’s and Telegraph Canyon
Critic’s choice: Jewel
Bass Hall shows off operatic splendor and extravagance to great effect, but when this multifaceted singer-songwriter took the stage last November, she transformed the grand space into an intimate room. Jewel’s talent is remarkable, her voice sultry and distinctive — but it was her stage presence, personality, and connection to the audience that took us by surprise. Yes, she’s almost local and married to a cowboy, but that didn’t influence our decision.
Classical Music Performance
Readers’ choice: FWSO’s Beethoven’s Ninth
Critic’s choice: Pianist Cheng Zhang with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
A 20-year-old studying in this summer’s Piano Texas Festival at TCU, Zhang gave a remarkably mature performance of the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto. It would have brought cheers in Carnegie Hall, and it left listeners longing to hear more from the young artist.
Book by Texas Author Published in Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth’s Fairmount District by Michael S. McDermott
Critic’s choice: Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
The Austin-based Gwynne’s compelling examination of Comanche history and Quanah Parker is a page-turner that was hailed as “nothing short of a revelation” by The New York Times, while The Dallas Morning News lauded the book’s “skillfully told, brutally truthful, history.”
Readers’ choice: (tie) Tom Huckabee and James Johnston
Critic’s choice: David Patrick Lowery
Though he lives in Dallas, he grew up in Fort Worth and filmed his first feature, St. Nick, here, so he more than qualifies as local. Lowery would be notable merely for going against the grain and avoiding the horror and mumblecore genres that characterize so much Fort Worth filmmaking. However, his mesmerizing works are plenty interesting on their own terms. Shot on video, these films nonetheless have a delicacy and lyricism more common to the films of Terence Malick. We hope Lowery finds the right audience for his unique talent.
Locally Made Film
Readers’ choice: Carried Away, Tom Huckabee
Critic’s choice: GasLand
Josh Fox’s documentary took him from Pennsylvania to locations around the country, including North Texas, to chronicle the environmental costs of gas drilling. He wound up winning a prize at the Sundance Film Festival for his irreverent look at the subject. Now available through HBO (and set to hit DVD in December), this is a timely and consciousness-raising piece.
Readers’ choice: “Avenue of Light,” 100-200 Lancaster Av, FW
Critic’s choice: “Beacon of Safety,” Polytechnic Heights Neighborhood Police Center, 1100 Nashville Av, FW
Artist Ralph Helmick’s steel sculpture of concentric rings hangs from the top of a glass-encased tower facing Nashville Avenue. At night, floor-mounted LEDs of various hues illuminate the tower, creating an eerie yet calming aspect.
Critic’s choice: “Dime” by Lynn Day
Both the buildings Dick Hogan owns on Sylvania Avenue are standouts on this busy Riverside thoroughfare, in part due to the metal sculptures that grace them. The one outside his Mega Contractors headquarters is a nice bit of whimsy: a three-quarter-size Tin-Man-looking knight taking an ax to a 12-foot dragon (looking like a giant, menacing bug from a B-movie) that’s climbing the wall. The title for it is “Green Manaleshee,” referencing the old Fleetwood Mac song of the same (though differently spelled) name. And if you’re lucky enough to get buzzed inside, more fun awaits in the form of “Dime” –– a larger-than-lifesize metal sculpture of North Texas’ own Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott of Pantera and Damageplan fame, sitting in its own tiny courtyard. All are the work of Lubbock sculptor Lynn Day.
Critic’s choice: Korean films at AMC Grapevine Mills
They arrive irregularly, without advance word, and usually without stars recognizable to American audiences. The quality of the entertainment (not to mention the English-language subtitles) varies. Still, this series provides a window onto another country’s genre films that’s fascinating even for non-Korean audiences. From masterpieces like Bong Joon-ho’s Mother and Lee Chung-ryeol’s Old Partner to enjoyable popcorn fare like Shin Tae-ra’s My Girlfriend Is an Agent and Jang Hun’s Secret Reunion, this series is an unheralded treasure hidden in a giant multiplex.
Place to See Art Films
Critic’s choice: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW
Not the most innovative choice, but then Fort Worth continues to have no other regular venue for foreign and low-budget films. This regrettable state of affairs may have changed radically by this time next year. Stay tuned.
Critic’s choice: Jordan Roberts
Without a lot of fanfare, Jordan Roberts has been producing show posters and web graphics for area bands and events for several years now, first for his own band, Calhoun, and later for such local luminaries as Telegraph Canyon, The Orbans, and The Burning Hotels. His layouts and designs are instantly recognizable in their elegant simplicity, conveying the soul of their subjects in sinewy lines and colorful silhouettes. Years from now, his art will be a hallmark of late-oughties Fort Worth music, so start collecting his posters now.
Critic’s choice: Louis Torres
Much outsider art (think folk art) is obsessive: heavily worked surfaces often laden with texts and multiples — tendencies, come to think of it, that are found in the pieces of trained academic artists as well. Louis Torres has definitely used multiples in his Currie Street front yard. His material of choice: thousands of beer cans, some shaped into Japanese lantern forms. Strung from tree limbs in graceful arcs and fringes, the silvery blue and white wisps of aluminum catch every breeze. Louis has an eye and a persistence that would serve any formal artist.
Readers’ choice: Main Event, 4801 Citylake Blvd E, FW
Critic’s choice: Tornado Terry’s Family Amusement Center, 4530 Keller Hicks Rd, Keller
While places like Main Event focus on only modern games, Tornado Terry’s has the heart of a true arcade. Newer games like Terminator Salvation and Guitar Hero mix with classics like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, The Simpsons, and Space Invaders. A relatively low entry fee gets you inside, where every game is free to play. Kids can try newer games, adults can reminisce with old favorites, and the result is togetherness at Tornado Terry’s.
Background for a (Warped) Christmas Card
Readers’ choice: Last winter’s snowfall
Critic’s choice: Cash America Building, 1600 W 7th St, FW
“Dear Friends: This year we took out a payday loan (from the company headquartered in the building just behind us) that we may never be able to repay, since the amount we owe seems to keep going up. But we scraped together what we had left and had this card made to send out to all our loved ones. In the true spirit of the season, please send money.”
Critic’s choice: Turner Falls, Davis, Okla.
About 100 miles north of Fort Worth on I-35 is this 6,000-acre park that has everything from hiking trails to waterfalls and swimming holes. Honey Creek cascades 77 feet into a lake where kids and adults can romp. A grotto behind the falls is breathtaking. The creek forms a swimming hole with diving boards and water slides. Great hiking trails along creeks and rock ledges of the Arbuckle Mountains make Turner Falls a great outdoor experience for the whole family.
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Water Gardens
Yes, it’s mostly concrete and water, but these “gardens” are surrounded by trees and greenery. Shut down after four tragic drowning deaths in 2004, the gardens reopened in 2007 with extensive safety improvements. There are noisy pools where water splashes in man-made waterfalls and other quiet pools that provide shady, tranquil spots just a few yards from the bustle of the convention center and nearby hotels. It’s the perfect place to meet a friend or read a book on lunch break.
Critic’s choice: So7, 2604 Museum Way, FW
This neatly kept, oh-so-hip development is a bit pricey but well worth it when you consider that it’s within walking distance of a park, hike-and-bike trails, high-end shops, sports bars, nightclubs, fancy restaurants, a movie tavern, and even a Target superstore.
Urban Redevelopment/Smart Growth
Readers’ choice: So7
Critic’s choice: UTA’s Fort Worth Center, 1401 Jones St, FW
In 2007, the University of Texas at Arlington bought the historic Santa Fe Freight Building on the eastern edge of downtown and made it into its Fort Worth presence. The old warehouse had sat empty for two years after the city’s ambitious plan to turn it into an upscale retail development bombed. UTA made it into classrooms, library, art gallery, and conference rooms. The Intermodal Transportation Center next door gives students excellent access to public transit. Built during the Great Depression, the freight building was a government works project to “give relief to unemployment in the building trades.” Today, it once again is helping give citizens the tools to earn a good living.
Example of New Architecture
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Critic’s choice: Sid W. Richardson Visual Arts Center, Fort Worth Country Day School
Transforming a campus cafeteria into art studios and classrooms bathed in natural light was Gideon Toal’s elegant solution to the challenge of a growing art department. The project was recently selected by Texas Society of Architects as one of 2010’s best.
Example of Public Architecture
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Designed by the Mexico City firm of Legorreta + Legorreta, the new science and history museum is notable for its boxy shape, earthy red hue, and the Urban Lantern, a 76-foot-tall structure above the entrance that lets in natural light during the day and glows a brilliant gold at night.
Critic’s choice: Albertsons, 3563 Alton Rd, FW
Stores in strip malls, the lifeblood of many neighborhoods, are having a difficult time competing with the big shop-a-ramas on highly visible streets. Closures by Minyard and City Market both could have spelled death for the Westcliff Shopping Center on the city’s southwest side, but Albertsons saved the day. The struggling grocer remodeled and settled into its new digs nicely, eliciting a sigh of relief from locals who love the convenience of a nearby neighborhood market.
Place to Skateboard
Critic’s choice: Eastern Hills High School, 5701 Shelton St, FW
Eastern Hills High School is a perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon session. Its stair sets are hairy enough to give novices a challenge, and myriad benches, ledges, and hills make for good lines and transitions.
Place to Take Your Kids
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Zoo
Critic’s choice: Sunshine Glaze, 405 N Carroll Av, Southlake
Got kids with pent-up creative energy? Kids and parents can create their own works of art together at Sunshine Glaze. Pick a piece of pottery, grab a paintbrush, and let your inner Picasso come to life. Or tile a mosaic piece. When the fun is over, you’ll have a permanent piece of your child’s artwork to take home. It costs $6 for an hour of creativity, plus the cost of the pottery.