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Model Jordan Leigh on the lawn of the Kimbell Art Museum. Photo by Wyatt Newquist.Cover model Jordan Leigh

Not too long ago, definitely pre-pandemic, the fine arts would — like an all-Christmas store in Grapevine — shut down for the summer. Not so anymore. Our museums and theaters keep churning out product and programs all year long, and the next few months will be no different. From Broadway shows to blockbuster exhibits, Fort Worth’s fine-art purveyors want their comfy seats occupied by your butts.

Don’t throw away your shot. The multi-Tony-winning musical Hamilton returns to Bass Hall this June. Courtesy Bass Performance Hall

Easily one of the biggest shows this summer, the Tony Award-winning Hamilton returns to Bass Performance Hall (555 Commerce St, Fort Worth, 817-212-4280) Jun 11-23. Having seen the Broadway production onscreen a few years back and the touring show in Dallas a couple years ago, I highly recommend it. What I love best about the piece is that it’s a work of art largely fueled by zesty wordplay. Even in the long expository beginning, when the play tells us about Alexander Hamilton’s roots and motivations instead of showing them to us, the literary cleverness is hard to look away from. (“We’re finally on the field / We’ve had quite a run / Immigrants: We get the job done.”) Even if rap’s not your bag, there are enough melodic and poignant songs and moments to hit you in the feels, too.

And now something for the Boomers at the Bass. And their offspring. Spinning a tale of young love and wacky comedy to the tunes of disco giants ABBA, the award-winning jukebox musical Mamma Mia! will brighten up the downtown venue Jul 16-21. Dancing in the aisles is encouraged — walkers and metal hips, be damned.

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Now, we’re talking Boomer kids explicitly. Gen-X, I’d say. Like me. The first time I saw Grease, it was part of a double-bill matinee (forget the other flick) at the theater up the street in our little Italian-American neighborhood back home in Yankeeland. Third-grader me was scandalized — scandalized — when my best friend Greggy G. told me the movie was going to get better — he could see me dozing off — when Olivia Newton-John came out “lookin’ sexy.” *clutches Rosary Beads* “Sexy,” Greggy?! Don’t you know you’re gonna go to hell!!! for having impure thoughts, you perverted spawn of Satan?! The homicidal nuns had warped me majorly, and I’m still recovering. Thanks, Catholic schooling. Anyway, Grease is so much fun, and the songs — “You’re the One that I Want,” “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” and a few more — are catchier than any in Hamilton, or any in contemporary Broadway altogether. (There, I said it.) I’d say they’re right up there with ABBA. “Grease” will be the word that you heard Jun 1-9 at Casa Manana (3101 W Lancaster Av, Fort Worth, 817-332-2272), and while I didn’t appreciate Olivia in red pumps and black hot pants until later, I *makes sign of the cross* was thankful to my still-dear friend Greggy G. for implying that my urges weren’t sinful and horrible at all. They were as natural as ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.

It’s not a blockbuster in the technical sense, but the new exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (3200 Darnell St, Fort Worth, 817-738-9215) is copious, vibrant, dynamic, and worth y’all’s time. Hanging now thru Jul 28, Surrealism and Us explores the genre in mostly the Caribbean but also Africa. More than 80 paintings, sculptures, drawings, videos, and installations from the 1940s ’til today interrogate the notions of the Afrosurreal and Afrofuturism in the United States by playing on totemic imagery and vibes from the diaspora, including slavery, religion, and *fist pump* voodoo. #kewl

And opening Friday and running thru Aug 25 at the Modern, New Yorker Rebecca Manson’s “Barbecue” will occupy the ellipse, the museum’s oval first-floor gallery (where the winged book usually sits). Composed of thousands of “individually crafted ceramic leaves, flowers, a barbecue grill, and assorted detritus,” the site-specific installation is reminiscent of a suburbanite’s backyard in August. This is Manson’s first solo museum show, and it’s gonna be cooking. (So sorry.)

 

The Amon Carter shows how photographer and cinematographer Karl Struss helped shape American cinema during its Golden Age.
Courtesy the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Hollywood photography is a lost art. Before there were essentially only cameraphone pics of Ryan Gosling and *heart-eyes emoji* Anya Taylor-Joy striking poses on red carpets all over the world, there were lovingly framed and conceptualized portraits of starlets and stars (and some scenery) that looked like art. Up thru Aug 25 at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (3501 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-738-1933), Moving Pictures: Karl Struss and the Rise of Hollywood is a multimedia retrospective of the groundbreaking titular photographer/cinematographer and his marked influence on the Golden Age of American cinema, with archival materials, films, and more than 100 photographs from the Carter’s vast Struss Artist Archive. These aren’t just snaps where the subjects themselves do all the heavy lifting by the power of their celebrity status alone. Each Struss pic is different, with different poses, different moods, and different perspectives. We may have done race relations wrong and economics wrong and a whole lot of other things vastly wrong around the turn of the 20th century, but we really got Hollywood photography right (v important), and Struss is proof.

 

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will be in full swing over these next couple weeks, starting with Dvořák’s Eighth: Dvořák and Chopin Fri-Sun and ending with the Season Finale: Jennifer Higdon, Kevin Day, and Mahler 5 Fri-Sun, May 31-Jun 2. Both concerts are at Bass Hall.

FWSO members will keep rolling throughout the summer. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden (3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-463-4160) will host a Night of Strings at the Garden several Fridays in June at 7:30pm: the 7th, 21st, and 28th. And at 8:30pm on Sun, Jun 9, the orchestra will perform a Concert on the Lawn at the Amon Carter — pack a picnic — and at 11am on Sat, Jun 15, members will play Peter and the Wolf at the CR Smith Museum (4601 Hwy 360 3, Rm 1C-200, Fort Worth, 682-278-9085). Both shows are free, but you must RSVP.

The FWSO puts a wrap on summer days Fri-Sat, Aug 23-24, with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Orchestra World Tour at Bass Hall. Led by renowned conductor Arnie Roth, the full orchestra and chorus will perform all-new symphonic arrangements of the game’s music, backdropped by high-def videos.

 

At the Kimbell, the tapestries will have you thinking they’re oil paintings.
Courtesy Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples

Tapestry fans, unite! This overlook-it-at-your-peril artform is at the center of the new exhibit at the Kimbell Art Museum (3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-332-8451) from Jun 16 thru Sep 15. Art and War in the Renaissance: The Battle of Pavia Tapestries gathers seven large-scale historical tapestries on view for the first time ever in the whole country. More expensive than paintings back in the day, tapestries often functioned as tools for storytelling and propaganda, all told in fine wool, silk, and metal-wrapped thread and at monumental scale. Each tableau at the Kimbell is about 27 feet wide and 14 feet high, depicting Emperor Charles V’s decisive victory over French King Francis I that ended the 16th-century Italian Wars. The pieces were designed by court artist Bernard van Orley and woven in Brussels by Willem and Jan Dermoyen. These bad boys really look like oil paintings. You can feel the sweat equity (but don’t touch).

 

Why is New York the center of the artistic universe? Having lived there for a few years back in the day, first as a student and, later, as a worker bee, I know it’s not what it once was. New York used to have a middle class. Now, you’ve got to either be super-rich or super-poor to live there. Hard pass. Anyway, the point is, New York remains the center of the artistic universe whether I like it or not, and now the city is the setting of a play everyone should see. Running May 31 thru Jun 30 at Jubilee Theatre (506 Main St, Fort Worth, 817-338-4411), Thoughts of a Colored Man follows seven unidentified Black men … in Brooklyn … as they contemplate their “lives, pressures, and passions,” with each character representing a certain trait: lust, love, anger, passion, wisdom, depression, and happiness. Though I’m the father of a Black boy, I would not know for certain, but something tells me the “lives, pressures, and passions” of New Yorkers are a lot different than the ones of Texans and, more broadly, Black men in the South. Something to do with slavery and the KKK and whatnot. Still, I’m here for what playwright Keenan Scott II has to say, and Jubilee is so awesome, they can never do any wrong.

 

What’s coming up at Amphibian Stage (120 S Main St, Fort Worth, 817-923-3012) is really amazing, and more people should take note, especially you locavores. Love theater? You do because you’re smart and totes cosmo. Love dance? Uh, yeah. We got rhythm, don’t we? Love comedy? Seriousness sucks. Love music? Duh. So drop by the SoMa theater for all that and more Jun 6-18. The ’Phibs’ annual installation of SparkFest celebrates not only the “future of live entertainment” but, this year, the artistry of the Asian American & Pacific Islander community.

 

As you can see in our Books section (pg. 34), I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and Stage West (821/823 W Vickery Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-784-9378) is putting on a show right up my dark, mysterious alley. Running Jun 6-23, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear features a guest appearance by a soon-to-be-discovered Vincent Van Gogh (hence, the “elusive ear” part). Along with main squeeze Irene Adler and trusty ol’ companion Dr. Watson, the great British sleuth goes about solving the mystery while crossing paths with Oscar Wilde and the daughter of the dreaded Professor Moriarty. Written by David MacGregor and directed by Jay Duffer, the Elusive Ear is making its regional premiere and is Part 1 of three Holmesian adventures planned at Stage West. The game is not afoot but … an Ear. (I’ll show myself out.)

 

Another regional premiere, Hundred Days asks the question: What would you do if you had only 100 days to live? Written by the indie duo The Bengsons and with Sarah Gancher, this “whirlwind rock journey” runs from Jun 6 thru Jul 6 at Circle Theatre (230 W 4th St, Fort Worth, 817-877-3040).

 

Out at Hip Pocket (1950 Silver Creek Rd, Fort Worth, 817-246-9775), it’s another summer of ka-razy theater, starting at 9pm Sun, Jun 2. That’s when internationally renowned puppetry artist Basil Twist drops by with his A Twisty Intergalactic Spectacle, with music by local treasure Joe Rogers. The fun continues at Hip Pocket Jun 14-Jul 7 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Guitar virtuoso Darrin Kobetich will provide the music. The summer wraps up with Raft Project by Lake Simons and John Dyer Aug 9-25 at “a venue to be named soon,” because it sounds like there’s some water involved. Maybe?

If the summer plan involves not leaving town but getting out of the house, read our Staying Power staycation feature here.

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