Houston's Comicpalooza 2014 has four Doctor Who Doctors -- Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann, and comic-book legend Stan Lee is set to make his first appearance ever at the pop culture expo. It's an unheard-of coup for Comicpalooza, which has some 1,500 hours of programming spread over four days, including Friday.
Celebrities set to appear include comic book theorist Scott McCloud (left, below), John Barrowman (Torchwood, center, below), Tricia Helfed (Dark Blue, right, below), Clark Gregg (S.H.I.E.L.D), James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Cary Elwes (From the Earth to the Moon). Former WWE world champions Bret Hart and Kevin Nash will also be on hand.
Activities include Dalek Races (new this year), celebrities vs fans laser tag, performances, concerts and gaming sessions. Panels, workshops and classes cover everything from sexism in comics to costume crafting (there are even daily Comicpalooza 101 sessions for first-timers).
Local pop visual artists Lane Montoya, Chris Foreman and Mark Nasso will be among the dozens displaying work in the Artists Alley. And Tech displays cover some 27,000 square feet, which makes for a sizable gearhead heaven.
Comicpalooza 2014 runs 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, visit comicpalooza.com. $10 to $55.
The term "woolgathering" is an old English idiom for indulgence in daydreams or absentminded imagining, choreographer Ashley Horn tells us. "It came from people who collected wool that had been caught on bushes and weeds when sheep would brush against them. It was a task that required much wandering and little purposeful thought." There's that same daydreaming and wandering sense to Horn's Woolgathering. The performance, which runs Friday and Saturday, takes place in a large dance studio that has been turned into a giant blanket fort, Horn says. "A 3,186-square-foot patchwork blanket [covers] the ceiling and walls. The space is lit with 500 tiny paper lanterns and Christmas lights. It's reminiscent of nomadic cultures, ritual, the night sky and other dream images."
Woolgathering is not exactly a linear story, Horn tells us. "There are a couple of recognizable subplots, but overall the narrative is very loose," she says. "One piece, a duet, was made around a story where two goddesses were created by an ancient tribe. They were worshipped and lavished with gifts and sacrifices. When [the] tribe died out...these deities were forgotten and lost to history. In their duet, they are sentenced to an eternity of being beautiful, bejeweled and utterly alone."
At least that's what Horn was thinking when she created the piece. She understands that may not be what the audience will get from the performance. "I had a great time making all these little stories and filling them out with movement and costumes, but I don't find it necessary to convey the exact story to the audience. I hope that each piece inspires the audience member's imagination to create its own characters and circumstances."
See Woolgathering at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Hope Stone Studio, 1210 West Clay. For information, call 713-526-1907 or visit hopestoneinc.org. $5.
Judy Elliot McDonald's comedy In Juliet's Garden, one of our choices for Saturday, features five of Shakespeare's heroines reworking the Bard's plots. Juliet invites Ophelia, Desdemona, Portia and Kate to lunch in her garden, and each has strong ideas on how to improve her story line. Juliet has, of course, invited Shakespeare as well (they want to give him their suggestions in person). Shakespeare, however, declines the invitation and sends Jacqueline de Boys, his literary agent and editor, to meet with the women instead. This doesn't go over so well with them, and Juliet's garden is turned into a diva-filled battlefield as each character makes her plea for changes in her story line. Director Lauren Hainley tells us, "In this production, we get the opportunity to experience some of Shakespeare's greatest heroines in an intimate and relaxed setting, giving us insight into their hopes, dreams and desires." And, it would seem, complaints.
Juliet's Garden is performed in repertory with Secrets of a Soccer Mom, a comedic look at contemporary parenthood. Written by Kathleen Clark and directed here by Christine Weems, Secrets follows three moms in a soccer game with their sons. The moms plan to lose (a sort of confidence-booster for the kids), but the competitive spirit takes over once the game starts and suddenly it's do-or-die. Cast member Melanie Martin says, "As a soccer mom myself, I know what it's like to try and juggle all the kids' activities but also make time for myself. It's the eternal parenting question: What takes priority? This play addresses that particular mommy struggle in...an intelligent and funny way."
In Juliet's Garden plays at 8 May 24, 26, 28 and 30. See Secrets at 8 p.m. May 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31.Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-303-1578 or visit boilingpointplayers.com. Pay-what-you-can to $15.
The radiant beauty of Tanaquil Le Clercq burns through the grainy images and fuzzy kinetoscopes in Nancy Buirski's stunning documentary tribute Afternoon of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston over several dates including Sunday. One of the most notable prima ballerinas of her generation, Le Clercq was built like a racehorse: long legs; lithe, athletic torso; a beautiful mane of hair. She had power to spare. And unmatched stage presence.
Trained by Balanchine from the age of 12 at his School of American Ballet, the precursor to the iconic New York City Ballet, Le Clercq quickly became the great choreographer's muse. Her unique dramatic style, edgy and full of charm, also deeply influenced young Jerome Robbins, just beginning his prolific choreographic career. Balanchine, Robbins and others created more than 30 roles for her; she premiered such classic ballets as Four Temperaments, Symphony in C, The Concert, Bourrée Fantasque, La Valse and, of course, Afternoon of a Faun. She married Balanchine in 1952, becoming his fourth wife.
She was just 27 and at the pinnacle of her career when, prior to a company tour to Denmark in 1956, she decided not to stand in line to get the new polio vaccine. She was stricken in Europe before the tour had even begun. While she regained the use of her arms and torso, she was confined to a wheelchair until her death 44 years later. Her dancing career spanned only ten years, but her influence on the dance world was enormous.
See the story of Tanaquil Le Clercq at 1 p.m. May 25, 26 and 27, 7 p.m. May 30 and 31, and 5 p.m. June 1. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑639‑7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $9.
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Photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley says her subjects are her partners in creating portraits. She reports, "I see each portrait as a collaborative effort, with the sitter shaping the image that represents them. My exposures are long, and during the full ten to 30 seconds I expose the image, the sitter becomes deeply aware of the image they are projecting of themselves. Although I pose them, they have control over their expression, over the persona that ultimately comes to represent them."
We see the results of several collaborations in the exhibit "Keliy Anderson-Staley -- On a Wet Bough: Contemporary Tintype Portraits," currently at the Houston Center for Photography and one of our picks for Sunday. Recipient of the 2014 Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship, Staley created a new set of tintype portraits of Houstonians for the exhibition. In order to achieve the look of a tintype, Staley uses period brass lenses, wooden view cameras and wet plate collodion, a unique chemical process.
See Keliy Anderson-Staley's work 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through July 6. 1441 West Alabama. For information, call 713-529-4755 or visit hcponline.org. Free.
Jef With One F, D.L. Groover and Jim J. Tommaney contributed to this post.