Our Annual Thanks to the Houston Arts Scene

Photo by Jann Whaley
Venus in Fur with Nicole Rodenburg as Vanda and Michael Bakkensen was just one of many endeavors that fired up the Houston arts scene in the past year

It's become a tradition to ask our Art Attack bloggers what they are thankful for in the Houston arts scene this year. Here's this year's reaction:

Think of our performing arts scene as a grand banquet, a great groaning board full of savory dishes. Just since the official opening of the current season, look upon the entrees we've already tasted: classic fare like Main Street's The Real Thing; Houston Ballet's The Merry Widow; the Alley's You Can't Take It With You; Houston Grand Opera's Aida; A.D. Players' Arsenic and Old Lace, all prepared by the finest of chefs.

Then there were the mouth-watering side dishes, like TUTS new underground series that began with the grunge musical Lizzie; GEXA on Broadway's Peter and the Starcatcher and Chicago; and the Alley's Venus in Fur, the flavors were tantalizing. And let's not forget the highly spiced appetizers: Music Box Musicals' Avenue Q; Mildred's Umbrella's Carnival Round; Catastrophic's The Pine, Bayou City Concert Musicals' The Pajama Game. The food never stops, it's finely served, and just makes you hungry for more.

Not satisfied yet, just wait. Look what's in store for the next seating: 50 Shades of Grey; Wagner's Das Rheingold; Other Desert Cities, Aladdin, The Diary of Anne Frank, Vera Stark, American Idiot. The banquet in Houston never stops. Go gorge yourself, giving thanks all the while for Houston's performing arts bounty which is, as we all know, food fit for the gods. - D.L. Groover

I've written several Creatives profiles this year and I am so grateful to see so many people in Houston making a living (or at least a go) at a lifestyle that does not require sitting inside a cubicle. It gives me immense confidence in the creative diversity of this city. It's also so inspiring on a personal level to talk to people who are overwhelmingly passionate about what they do. That makes me want to be a better writer. - Brittanie Shey

I am grateful to Rice University for staging the irresistible A Midsummer Night's Dream outdoors under a giant oak, lit dramatically by Dustin Tannahill to evoke the power of nature - and human nature. And the actor playing Puck, Daniel Burns, whose gymnastic skills further enhanced an already engaging production. The Cabal Productions' intimate and witty production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, allowing me to forget the slick, heartless production I had seen in London.

The costume designs for Wild Party from Bayou Theatrics, where the character-driven outfits matched the personalities - and fit beautifully as well. The one-man show Man 1 Bank 0 which launched Theater LaB Houston's return to producing, in a new venue, with Patrick Combs holding the audience in the palm of his hand for well over two exciting hours. James Pendleton as Cassius, in UH Downtown's production of Julius Caesar - his magnetic stage presence, resonant voice and nuanced reactions made clear that, in an informal production, some important theater was underway.

Joe Kirkendall in The Real Thing from Main Street, giving a remarkable, nuanced performance that was letter-perfect, captivating in its authenticity and refreshing in the vigor he brought to the role of a playwright. The detailed set for Sweeney Todd, from Stage Door, Inc. in Pasadena, far beyond any reasonable expectations, rising to brilliance. The late Arthur Miller for creating John Proctor in The Crucible, an Everyman who is pulsing with the excitement and wonder of everyday life, while remaining an individual caught up in an impossibly difficult moral dilemma. There is more, much more, and I am personally grateful for being able to witness so much of Houston's varied and increasingly interesting theatrical scene. -- Jim J. Tommaney

Being the resident Houston Press nerd is a great gig because it's a wonderful time to be a nerd. All year long I've had things like the Doctor Who 50th anniversary and the return of Neil Gaiman's Sandman to look forward to. That I should live to see the day I'm paid to talk about these things...

More than any of that, though, I am thankful for the string of incredible video games I got to cover this year. Seriously, it was a good one for the last days of the PS3. Tomb Raider was so amazing that I beat it, sold it, and then bought it again just to feel that rush of excitement as the rebooted Lara Croft learned discovered the strength inside her to be the ultimate survivor. Then, we had The Last of Us, another title that has helped take video game story telling to new heights. While it's never going to hold a candle to the terror something like Amnesia inspires, it makes up for that with the white-knuckle dread and the hopeless social commentary of what makes us monsters. Beyond: Two Souls, Poker Night 2, and freakin' Bioshock Infinite all made 2013 my favorite year as a video game reviewer, and offered me so many wonderful nights relaxing at home in these increasingly unbelievable worlds that makers have created. It's the best kind of job, and I'm very happy to have it. -- Jef With One F

Story continues on the next page.

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