Happy Thanksgiving: Art Attack Writers & Their Shout Outs to the Houston Art Scene
Jim J. Tommaney
In theater, listening well to the other characters is half the battle -- perhaps more than half -- and I can't think when I saw someone do it better than an actor in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, from the Cast Theatrical Company. What is most astonishing is that it was the first role for the actor, Parker Hearon, and that he is a child actor playing the role of a ten-year old. He grasped playwright William Inge's real intention -- the play is not about the behavior of adults, but about the effect of adult behavior on a child; the shy ten-year old-year old playing on the floor is the protagonist. I'm grateful for a fresh look at a playwright whose once sterling reputation has dimmed. And I'm grateful that God still makes actors like Parker Hearon -no one else can claim the credit.
I'm grateful for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson from Generations Theatre as it combined a driving energy, compelling music, superb acting and total irreverence to create an evening of wit, vivacity and truth-telling not likely to make its way again to our stages. With so much brilliance, it's impossible to single genius out, but the performance of Kregg Dailey as the title character, and the ground-breaking book by Alex Timbers, clamor for me to name them anyway.
The Glass Menagerie is Tennessee Williams's most-produced play, and I was astonished to see it freshly illuminated by Roy Hamlin in the role of Tom, often played as a subsidiary quasi-narrator. Here Tom is front-and center, as Hamlin found the perfect balance of a creative youth trapped in a dead-end job living with a mother dwelling on the past and a reclusive crippled sister, and holding these skeins together with the deftness and skill of a Ben-Hur chariot-driver.His humor and humanity enhanced the production, and reminded again of the genius of the playwright. Elaine Edstrom directed this for the Houston Family Arts Center, and must have had a large part in Hamlin's theatrical brilliance.
I'm grateful for Steve Yockey's Large Animal Games from Mildred's Umbrella, a shaggy dog-story in which, though a great deal of fun, nothing of any real import happens, but it is dressed up so stylishly that everything seems important. The play is a conundrum, and the key line is: "If you say nothing at all, you can't believe all the positive things they will make up about you." I went back to see it a second time, and savored the audience murmuring: "How profound!, proving the playwright's subtle point.
And I'm grateful that the elegant and attractive Mary Westbrook lent her talents to The Country Playhouse for Frankenstein, and transformed herself from a likely candidate for Private Lives to an overweight female criminal up to no good, complete with what looked like makeup-enhanced missing teeth, and one of the world's most-soiled faces. Complimenting her in the lobby after the show, my mind kept insisting: "This can't be the Mary Westbrook I know!" A staggering transformation.
And I'm grateful for all the surprises the next year will bring.
Jef With One F (Rouner)
This year I am thankful for two very specific people in the Houston art scene, Jeremy Bulloch of 8th Dimension Comics and Robert Saucedo of the Alamo Drafthouse. I had pretty much given up on comics until Bulloch opened his store not far from my house. Certainly it had been a decade or more since I'd been a regular single issue reader or followed a superhero book monthly. Nonetheless, with patient enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge he steered me into one of my favorite monthly column. Because of him I discovered fantastic books like Saga, Witch Doctor, Princeless, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and many, many more. Nothing makes me happier than passing those books along to Art Attack readers, and every time I get an email from a fan telling me how much they enjoyed a book I recommended it makes me feel very warm inside.
Likewise, Saucedo throws me incredible curve balls in the name of independent film. Especially indie horror. Juan of the Dead was one of my favorite flicks of 2012, and I can guarantee I never would have seen it if Saucedo hadn't bugged me about interviewing the director. Then there is his penchant for doing things like screening Alligator with real life alligators in the theater . That's the work of a mad genius. Do I even have to mention how he helped get me the dream job of hosting Doctor Who screenings? Saucedo is one of those people that is making sure that the movie cinema industry will remain relevant and incredible no matter how easy downloads and streaming become.