Blood is thicker than…

•September 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sent to me by my aunt this evening…

This place is a dream.  Only a sleeper considers it real. . .

We began as a mineral. We emerged into plant life and into the animal state, and then into being human, and always we have forgotten our former states, except in early spring when we slightly recall being green again.

That’s how a young person turns toward a teacher.  That’s how a baby leans toward the breast, without knowing the secret of its desire, yet turning instinctively.

Humankind is being led along an evolving course, through this migration of intelligences, and though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.

-Rumi

Plays well with others

•March 31, 2010 • 1 Comment

Sometimes, I can’t help but get frustrated by the in-fighting and territorial claims in the art world.

This comes to mind:

“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle and took him In!”

Artists & arts groups, this applies to all of us.  In promotional efforts. In collaborations. In support.

Draw your circle bigger!!!

My current project: Spacetaker’s Apocalypto

•March 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For those of you who may not know, I was promoted to Executive Director of Spacetaker earlier this year- truly a big honor for me!

(Scroll down to the bottom where I continue, but not before you click on the pic for a preview…)

Continued…


I first became familiar with Spacetaker when trying to get a fledgling theatre company off the ground– and David Brown’s organization was certainly instrumental in the growth and attention Nova Arts Project received.  Since then, I have been a big believer in Spacetaker’s mission- and it’s potential to advocate our city’s artists so that they receive the recognition and support they deserve, as well as to equip them with professional development tools to further their careers. I am fortunate to work alongside an amazing team of committed and passionate board members (to whom I owe so much), as well as a thrilling group of local artists.
We have BIG plans for Spacetaker in the next few years… and the success of events like the upcoming gala on March 20th will be what paves the way for those plans.  I welcome you all to join me next Saturday for what I promise will be one of the best parties of the year.  Spacetaker designs each gala to be an arts showcase as much as a fundraiser: there will be 9 different acts (modern dance, a string quartet, a honkey-tonk band, comedy improv, etc!), over 30 performers, over 20 visual artists featured, 10 different restaurants, open bars with drinks abounding… and best of all, the company of wonderful people who love our Houston art scene. (Not to mention our party takes place in the middle of an extraordinary FotoFest exhibition!)  You can get tickets and more info here: http://www.spacetaker.org/apocalypto

I hope to see you there!

Vote of confidence

•November 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I have an admission: I’ve been apathetic about politics for a long time.  I have wavering faith in my ability to influence any real change.  I have wavering faith in the media to provide me with objective, unbiased feedback on our candidates and leaders.  I am turned off by all the mud-slinging and slander that goes on between candidates and politicians.  I have lost interest in all the meaningless generalizations about who’s best for this job or that- so rarely rooted in facts or tangible evidence.  I’ve had an ideological problem with voting for the lesser of evils… so I haven’t consistently been an active voter.

However, I have never been so shamed as I was today.  Walking to my booth at Poe Elementary, I passed a man being helped by a poll volunteer.  As another volunteer handed me my slip, she remarked that the man claimed he couldn’t read or write and therefore, needed to be helped through the process.  After having voted, I walked past the man on my way out and on second glance, it appeared as though he might be homeless.  And I couldn’t help but be moved.

If this man, illiterate and potentially homeless, either believes he can effect change or merely values the ‘right’ to vote enough to show up at the polls, what has been my excuse?  And what is the excuse for the millions of people who fail to take part in the political process?

I ask this question while accepting my part in it.  Our system is only as good as we make it.  Each one of us has the ability to restore faith in our government and the political process- starting with ourselves.  Get out and vote today.

http://harrisvotes.com/

Cabaret Revisited

•June 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After reading responses to the recent production of Cabaret on the TUTS blog, I was inspired to write about audience expectations and propriety in the theatre on my Chron blog here.  But I hadn’t seen the show yet…

Now I have.  And though I know plenty could live out their days without hearing my opinions on the subject, a few of you have expressed a desire to know what I thought of the production.  So here they are…

Sidenote: My date to the musical is a friend and someone who has attended more than a few productions with me over the years.  As we sat down in our seats, he leaned over to tell me that had put on his “Jenni-theatre-watching-filter.” You may wonder what this means.  What it means is, in short, that I am a pain in the ass to accompany to the theatre.  I have a lot of opinions about what I see… and guess what!  If you’re sitting next to me, you will get to hear them.

TUTS’ Cabaret: if I had to sum it up, I would say it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn good.  Certainly worth attending… and worth staying through the second act, which concludes with one of the most striking moments in theatre I’ve ever seen.

Especially after the good reviews from trusted sources and after having written the blog, I was hoping to be swept away from the show’s first drum roll.  Admittedly, this was not the case.  The set was visually interesting; the emcee was as he should be; the voices and costumes were fantastic… but it nonetheless felt like the first few numbers were phoned in.  (This isn’t entirely surprising given it was a Tuesday night after a day off.  Maybe they were just getting warmed up?)  Still, I was surprised that neither Don’t Tell Mama nor Mein Herr– two of the most fun and familiar production numbers- inspired too much applause or stir in the audience.  In the case of Mama, I feel like the costumes- though cute- did the number a disservice.  No longer was it about the lyrics or the choreography, but about watching Sally and 6 chorus girls fiddle with their costumes in an effort to take them off piece by piece.  (If there was ever to be a song about buttons, snaps, and the like, this was it.)  Mein Herr lacked the costume complications, but wasn’t much better in terms of pizazz.  In the end, Sally’s singing didn’t do it for me in these two numbers.  Miss Leslie Kritzer proved herself to be a more than capable singer in several of the later numbers, but her first two simply lacked panache.  Perhaps it was her stylistic efforts that obscured the lyrics, but the ends of her vocal phrases were dropped or thrown away in ways that ultimately undermined the camp of the routines.

It was just at the point that my hopes starting waning that Two Ladies restored them.  Cute, naughty… but just right.  (It was also at this moment that the exodus of offended audience members began.  Sadly.)  Nonetheless, the emcee was pretty fantastic from start to finish.  His was a different emcee than Joel Grey or Alan Cumming, but he won me over with his candid repartee with the audience at the top of Act II… as well as his holding his own in a kick routine with the Kit Kat girls.  Big kudos to Leo Ash Evens!

The moments I was positive the show was going in the right direction were the two back-to-back songs: It Couldn’t Please Me More and Tomorrow Belongs to Me.  The former was sweet and genuine… and was probably my first laugh-out-loud moment in the show.  The latter was beautiful- idyllic even- in harmony and performed by several Adonis-like men and a single dancer.  It set the tone for the reprise in a subtle way… hinting of nationalism, but in a less sinister light.  The show only gets better from this point…

The action of Cabaret escalates until reaching its pinnacle in the middle of Act 2, in a scene in which Cliff urges Sally to open her eyes to the impending disaster around her.  His insistence and her resistance are the jumping-off points for Sally’s final number: Cabaret.  And here’s where I get really picky.  Vocally, I couldn’t have asked much more from Kritzer… but it seemed as though the song was plucked from a review and placed into the show, rather than coming on the heels of having her hand forced in a stressful decision.  In a perfect world, I’d like to see that pressure underneath Sally’s portrayal of Cabaret… isn’t she blowing off steam in that number?  The scene following- which was acted beautifully by both Kritzer and Hanes (Cliff)- only emphasized this point in my opinion.

The ending was the highlight of the show.  While parts of the show were slightly off the mark, the ending couldn’t have been more perfect.  The gradual emptying of the stage, the unresolved chords hanging in the air, the desolation of a society on the brink of collapse- one could see it all.  And for that reason, I am saddened for those who chose to walk out of the show earlier, as they missed the culmination of all the vulgarity they witnessed and the ultimate point.  For the first time in the entire production, there was silence… from singers, orchestra and audience.  That kind of tension isn’t achieved easily.

And here’s the kicker: when it comes to propriety, Houston audiences should start with modifying their own behavior.  There was a lot of fidgeting, chatting, and candy unwrapping during this production.  And- as my date and I agree- the only things for which you should be rifling through your purse during a show are an asthma inhaler or an epi-pen.

The moral of the story? Go see it.  The production is far, far too good to be playing to smaller audiences… help fill in those empty seats this weekend.

Don’t Tell Mama, but Cabaret’s Dirty!

•June 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Am I just desensitized or is this a bunch of hoo-hah? TUTS’ Attendee Responses to Cabaret

Maybe I’m just a dirty girl, but what is all the fuss about? Houston- strip-club capital of Texas!

So I wrote THIS.

Tria Wood aptly pointed out that a tour of the Mendes version came to Houston in 2000. I even saw it… featuring Leah Thompson, who- despite being my childhood girl-crush and a capable singer/dancer- couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag on stage.

I see the show tonight. (Thank you, former colleagues!) Will report back with even more uninvited opinions…

Classical music accused of snobbery? You don’t say!

•June 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

A friend of mine- who happens to be an opera conductor- posted a link to this article about classical music’s alleged elitist tendencies.

I certainly have opinions on this matter, but before I share them, I’d like to hear from YOU.

Please take a moment to fill out my very short survey… it will be most appreciated!!

New Soap Box Erected

•May 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

The cat is out of the bag now, so here it is: some of the blogs that would normally be appearing here will now be posted to my new blog on Chron.com.  A Chronicle staffer with a sense of adventure (and perhaps questionable judgment) invited me to be a part of their City Brights stable.  This is exciting as it’s a new platform through which I might occasionally be able to share something of value with a different audience.  The arts are sadly unrepresented in most publications (excepting the NY Times), so here is my humble effort in the campaign.  You can find the blog, Heavy Artillery, in City Brights, in the Featured Reader Blogs, and occasionally on the home page.  I make no promises to behave myself and will probably do a lot of whining about arts funding.  Consider yourself forewarned.

Thanksgiving

•March 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I recently returned from an out-of-state funeral.  Sad, as funerals invariably are, the event brought a family together that is spread out across the country… a silver lining when one was most definitely needed.  While there, I met a host of people and upon meeting one gentleman in particular, I remarked to my companion that he seemed like a genuinely kind-hearted person.  My friend responded by saying, “He is a good person, but he’s had a hard time of it.  The man has just never really gotten a break.”

And as I watched this man with his family- his attentive, attractive wife and his bright, loving children- I couldn’t help but think he was luckier than most.

As we are all scaling back, conserving, and minding our pennies, it seems we are starting to identify the unique opportunity for renewed perspective.  How can we obsess about the future, when the present needs our attention?  How can we get carried away with what we don’t have without appreciating what we’ve had and taken for granted for so long?

The silver lining of this economic crisis is that the details are being swept to the periphery, bringing into focus what is really important.  It serves as a reminder to us all to not let the next time we see loved ones be at a funeral.

Spacetaker SYNERGY Gala

•February 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

If you love me, you will be here.  If you love a good time, you SHOULD be there.  You will have the time of your life- I guarantee it.  The last one I attended (before I moved to Spacetaker) was the best party all year!  I kid not, my friends.  Plus, you are raising money for an excellent cause: http://www.spacetaker.org.  See you on the 21st!

Spacetaker Banner

SYNERGY: Spacetaker’s 5th Annual Gala
Saturday, February 21st
7-11PM

Join us as we raise the roof in honor of our local art scene- Celebrating Spacetaker’s 5-year collaboration with Houston’s artists!
Tickets:
www.spacetaker.org/gala/2009/
$85 Gala Guest
$50 Spacetaker Artist Registry
$250 VIP Gala Guest
Honoring: Wade Wilson : Caroline Tyson
Gala Chairs: Tiffany Halik : Alton LaDay : Gail Rubin
Attire: Geisha or Bohemian Chic
Featuring: A Rooftop Geisha Lounge
Performers: Audio Telepathy : BooTown : DJ Sun & Soular Grooves : Divergence Vocal Theater : Opera Vista : Peekaboo Theory : Sahira : Leslie Scates : Travesty Dance Group
Visuals: Aerosol Warfare : Death Head : Give Up : Monica Guerra
Fashion: Aerosol Warfare : The Tipping Point : M2M / Jeans Couture : Blue Mambo
Sustenance: Michael Cordua Events (VIP Lounge) : Crave Sushi : Cielo : Collin’s Chop House & Whiskey Bar : Mia Bella : Striphouse : Voice
Sauce: Dripping Springs Vodka : Red Bull : sake2me : Silver Eagle Distributors
Gala Committee: Lisa Benitez : Dianne McAdams : Jody Schmal : Bridget Johnson : Beth Levine : Jonathan Beitler : Jenny Wang :: Elaine Dillard :: Christian Azul
Spacetaker Board of Directors: Jennifer Brugh : Elaine Dillard : Nicole Haagenson : David Brown : Linda Alardin : Federico Bauder-Mantellini : Carlos Go Boncan : Elaine Conway : Linda Darke : Adam Gibson : Nicole Laurent : David Mackie : Lester Marks : Thomas Nauls : Grace Rodriguez : Jim Stevens : Amy Tanner : Santosh Varughese : Tina Zulu