The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Dance Salad, John Biggers and More
Members of Introdans in Trompe L'Oeil by Jiri Kylian
Photo by Hans Gerritsen
Li Cunxin, a former member of the Houston Ballet, is set to attend the 20th annual Dance Salad Festival. (The festival has two programs, one on Friday and another on Saturday.) Cunxin won't be dancing; he's here as the artistic director of Australia's Queensland Ballet, one of the companies showcased in the festival. "[This] city holds so many wonderful memories for me...the Wortham stages are where my dancing career was shaped and advanced," recalls Cunxin, who was with the Houston Ballet for 16 years. Queensland Ballet presents Short Dialogues by world-renowned Dutch choreographer Nils Christie, with Phillip Glass's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra as the music.
"This intensely involving piece offers a tantalizing, sometimes unsettling glimpse into three couples' relationships...[a] combination of sculpture-like elegance, grace, fluidity, control and intricate partnership," Cunxin explains. The company will also dance Through to You, choreographed by up-and-comer Andrew Simmons (New Zealand), a work that uses lighting effects to investigate personal connections and mirror images.
Presented by the Houston International Dance Coalition, the Dance Salad Festival hosts established as well as emerging dance-makers and companies from all around the globe. This year's performers include Bereishit Dance Company (Korea), Introdans (Netherlands) and Semperoper Ballett (Germany). Works by choreographers Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa are on the schedule.
Each company performs twice during the festival. Attend both Friday and Saturday to see everything on the program. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit dancesalad.org. $17 to $50.
James Black as Joe Keller and Jay Sullivan as Chris Keller in the Alley Theatre's production of All My Sons
Photo by John Everett
You've missed opening night, but the Alley Theatre's production of All My Sons has just started so you've got plenty of time to see the Arthur Miller drama before it closes on April 19. It's one of our suggestions for Friday.
Famed playwright Arthur Miller wrote All My Sons almost 70 years ago but it sounds like something from today's news. Businessman Joe Keller made money selling defective airplane engine parts to the U.S. military. As a result, 21 American pilots died because of the faulty equipment. Keller, the picture of a devoted family man, has sidestepped any blame in the matter but his partner is in jail shouldering the blame for Keller's actions.
His message about war profiteering speaks as loudly now as it did in the post-World War II era when it was written, says Theresa Rebeck, who is directing this production at the Alley Theatre. Rebeck, a Pulitzer-nominated playwright of some note herself (Fool, What We're Up Against, Mauritius) whose work is frequently shown at the Alley, says Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd urged her to take on directing reins.
"When we worked on Fool (a premiere) last year, he was very inclusive of the playwright's voice. He was constantly inviting me to talk to the actors. At the end he said to me, 'You should be directing.' Other people have said that, but he was not kidding." Within two months, he was asking her what she thought of the cast he was assembling for All My Sons and she was all in.
Rebeck is here working on another play commissioned by the Alley, as well as filling the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Playwriting spot at the University of Houston. Since the play was written so long ago, there is some language in it that doesn't translate to modern audiences, so there have been some adjustments, Rebeck says. What's been retained is the tight structure Miller employs, something that has gone out of fashion now, Rebeck says. "This is a well-made play. But the characters themselves are such complex creations, they're what you follow."
Miller was part of the generation of playwrights who wrote all the time, Rebeck says, penning essays as well as plays. Playwrights then were making a statement about society and culture in any of their writing, she says. "Arthur Miller doesn't let anyone off the hook," Rebeck says of this play. "Miller really believes we can be better and we should be better."
See All My Sons at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Through April 19. Alley Theatre at the University of Houston, Wortham Theatre, 4116 Elgin. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26 to $79.
Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour, in Houston for two shows on Saturday, promises to be full of the same insane and wonderful madness that spawned creations on Brown's long-running hit show Good Eats such as yeast puppets and chocolate pushers. In an emailed response to questions from the Houston Press, he says audiences can expect "A culinary variety show complete with live music, puppets, audience participation, comedy, and some very large, very strange, potentially dangerous culinary demonstrations."
So you have been warned. If you're sitting in the front rows, don't wear anything you care about, as things are going to get messy. Attendees in the strike zone will be offered rain ponchos, and might also be called upon to be culinary assistants.
Brown asked his Twitter followers for dining suggestions for each city he's visiting. Did he get any good ones for Houston? Brown wrote, "I never think about whether they'll be good or not. I just go where the fans send me." He says his best moment on the tour so far was "selling out the Fox Theater in Atlanta, my hometown." That's not the only show he has sold out. The original evening show in Houston sold out. An additional afternoon show has been added to the schedule.
Alton Brown takes the stage at 3 and 7 p.m. Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun. For information, visit altonbrowntour.com/shows/houston. $55.
Redbud Gallery's latest coup is "John Biggers: MAAME," the first commercial exhibition in Houston of work by the muralist in more than 30 years. (The opening reception is on Saturday.) "I was able to pull together 34 pieces for the show," gallery owner Gus Kopriva says. "Houston is a treasure trove. He lived here half a century, living here, making art."
Biggers's murals remain in place around the country, with a good number in Houston. "He is one of our most important American muralists," says Kopriva. "I just want to make sure the younger artists get to know his work. This is a rare opportunity. In this show, we will have works on paper, drawings, Conté and colored pastels; he was a great printmaker. We've captured the essence of color in this show."
The art, which captured the anguish and suffering of those living in the South, often focused on women and everyday objects. "He went from social realism -- women working in the fields -- to African-American art. He nailed it," said Kopriva. "In 1957, he got a [UNESCO] grant and went to Africa, before going to Africa was cool." After that, his pieces morphed into modernism, as he incorporated African symbolism and folklore into his work.
Born in North Carolina in 1924, Biggers eventually made his way to Houston. He served as the founding chairman of the art department at Houston's Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University), and as such directly influenced generations of artists.
There's an opening reception 6 to 9 p.m. April 4. Regular viewing hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Through April 26. 303 East 11th. For information, call 713-862-2532 or redbudgallery.com. Free.
Tit Wall by Thedra Cullar-Ledford
Courtesy of Thedra Cullar-Ledford
Technically, "Thedra Cullar-Ledford: Drawing the Eye to Nothingness" is an art exhibit. Actually, it's more of a visual intervention-slash-street brawl-slash-party. With a mammogram truck and nipple cupcakes thrown in for good measure. If you miss the Saturday night opening reception, be sure to get to the gallery on Sunday for a viewing.
In just 12 short months, Cullar-Ledford (the street brawler) found out she had breast cancer and had her breasts removed. (Actually, breasts remind Cullar-Ledford of chickens, so she uses the term boobs.) She started and then stopped reconstruction surgery, and became an outspoken advocate for Flat and Fabulous, a group supporting reconstruction alternatives. All the while she produced an enormous amount of artwork focusing on boobs (nipples, in particular).
An alternative to the ladylike pink ribbons often associated with breast cancer, Cullar-Ledford's work features pink paint splashed and splattered across oversize abstract works on canvas. "I found myself seeing nipples everywhere and started drawing nipples, all kinds of nipples." Cullar-Ledford drew boobs on all sorts of material, the usual canvas and paper, the not-so-usual paper plates, mirrors and junk-store finds. The exhibit features art works, medical photos, installation and performance art.
The opening-night reception (that would be the party) doesn't have an exactly art-gallery vibe to to it. There'll be plenty of art, and the artist will be on hand. There'll also be nipple-shaped cupcakes from What's Up Cupcake, a mobile mammogram truck conducting mammograms on the spot and a pink-haired artist explaining, "I don't have tits, and I don't have cancer either."
The opening-night reception is 7 to 10 p.m. on April 4. Regular viewing hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Through April 28. G gallery, 301 East 11th Street. For -information, call 713‑869-4770 or visit ggalleryhouston.com. Free.
Ashley Clos, Margaret Downing, Phaedra Cook and Susie Tommaney contributed to this post.
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