The One-Act Plays from Irving, Singley Academy and MacArthur advanced to the district level, following impressive performances as the UIL Zone A and B contest March 28. Nimitz High School was named an alternate.
In addition, several Irving ISD students earned accolades for their individual performances. Timothy Dukes of Singley Academy was named “Best Actor,” an award given to only two performers out of 16 casts. Irving students snagged seven of the 16 All Star awards, four of the 16 Honorable Mention All Star Cast honors and five Outstanding Technician recognitions as follows:
Photo: Pet owners wait in line for free veterinary services provided by the Texas Coalition for Animal Protection during Irving’s Pet Pawlooza. /Photo by John Starkey
Animal lovers and volunteers gathered to celebrate pets during Irving’s Pet Pawlooza, where every animal adoption from the Irving Animal Services and DFW Humane Society was $5.
Pet Pawlooza included several vendors and animal experts at the Irving Animal Care Campus celebrating the shelter’s fifth anniversary on Saturday, March 28.
“We want to strengthen the bond between you and your dog,” said Jen Wyffels, who works at the Petco in Cedar Hill. “We see so many dogs that end up in shelters and it can all be avoided with basic training, and that’s why we advocate for adoption.”
Many people came out simply to browse, talk, and have fun with other pets and pet owners. Among them was Suzie Darr, who has been visiting Pet Pawlooza with her husband and daughter for about four years.
“Everybody here is as nutty as we are about our pets,” Darr said. “You can get educated on spaying and neutering. When you combine a dog pound and a rescue in the same building, you can hardly beat that.”
Darr and her husband have rescued six dogs, one of which was from Pet Pawlooza, five cats, two horses, and a donkey.
Most people working with the shelter during Pet Pawlooza were volunteers. This year was volunteer Chris Grinstead’s first Pet Pawlooza.
“I’ve been an animal person my whole life,” Grinstead said. “We always have sweet pets. We offer quite a few other services as well.”
Those services include vaccinating and neutering pets.
“It’s an excellent facility,” said Kerry Rhines, another volunteer who has been with the Irving shelter for about a year and a half. “It has the lowest euthanasia rate of all the shelters in the state of Texas.”
Normally, adoptions at the shelter range from $85 to over $100 for dog adoptions.
“It’s a good opportunity to come out and bring your dogs and maybe adopt a dog,” Rhines said.
Every pet available for adoption is vaccinated, dewormed and implanted with a micro-chip.
Photo: Dyeing to try something new, Denise Bell and Chris Dykes’ interest in the world of fiber began with hand dyeing and continued to grow into a passion. /Photo by Madelyn Knecht
DFW Fiber Fest brings vendors, teachers, dyers, and spinners alike together to buy yarn, take classes, and have a good time with people with similar hobbies. Men and women of all ages gathered at the Irving Convention Center March 20-22, to celebrate their 10th annual event.
Lynette Vierra, the social media director for DFW Fiber Fest, has been knitting for around 15 years, and says that the hobby of knitting and crocheting never really went away, despite the media’s portrayal of these hobbies as belonging to the older generation.
“I’ve heard a lot like ‘it’s back,’ but for us, it hasn’t gone anywhere,” Vierra said. “It just hasn’t really had a venue to the public. Most of it is online.”
There is a large community of knitters online who share information and projects with each other. One person who knows the powerful platform the Internet can provide is video blogger and dyer Laura Jimenez, who owns Gynx Yarns.
“I get so many people who come up to me,” Jimenez said. “They’ve watched my videos and want to introduce themselves.”
The 24 year old Jimenez also disputes the stereotype that knitting and crocheting has no appeal to younger crowds.
“I don’t feel that people in the knitting community feel that way,” Jimenez said. “I feel like more and more young people are getting into it.”
This is Jimenez’s fourth year of vending. She sells yarn she personally dyed in her kitchen. She plans to move the business out of her house eventually.
A couple who has been vending for several years was also present at the event selling their wares, and agreed with Jimenez that the stereotype is well played out.
“The media tends to think that knitting is an old lady thing, and when you see older women knitting, chances are they’ve been doing it all their lives,” said Denise Bell, co owner of Lost City Knits, “We’re creating new knitters who will be doing it for another forty or fifty years.”
She and her partner, Chris Dykes, have been vending together since they began seven years ago.
“She said, ‘I want to dye yarn,’” Dykes said, “and I was like, ‘Sure. What’s the worst that could happen?’”
They both enjoyed their time at the festival, and agree that the only real downside is loading and unloading the trucks.
“The everyday person will see a wide variety of handcrafts when they come to this show,” Bell said. “Everything you see in our booth is dyed by me or designed by me.”
DFW Fiber Fest also features the New Start Project, where visitors, vendors, and staff are able to donate knitted, crocheted, woven or handmade washcloths. The washcloths are given to patients at medical cancer radiation facilities following their final treatment as a gift to wash away the markers used during radiation. The program includes UT Southwestern and Parkland Hospital and will be expanding to Children’s Dallas in the near future.
Beer connoisseurs from around the nation converged on the Irving Convention Center for the annual Bluebonnet Brew-Off. The event featured an amateur beer brewing judging and pub-crawls.
Participants could taste homemade brews and craft beers as well as smoke cigars during the March 20-21 event. Winners of the brewing competition took home coveted Bluebonnet Steins. A hand painted stein is awarded to the first place winner of each Bluebonnet Brew-Off category.
Coordinating the event this year was Richard Dobson, who has been apart of the Brew-Off for 20 years and has actively served on the planning committee for the past 15 years.
“The Bluebonnet Brew-Off happens to be the biggest amateur brew-off in the United States,” Dobson said. “This is our 29th year, so it’s been around this neighborhood for a long time.”
The event started as a friendly rivalry between Dallas home brewers and Fort Worth home brewers.
“We intend to grow this event,” Dobson said. “It’s not just a home brew competition, but it’s a beer festival as well. We sample all the wonderful craft beers that we can round up around the state of Texas and around the country.”
One of the participants and officers, Kelly Harris, was also present to sell his wares. This was the first year the festival allowed vendor booths, so he took the chance to give people a sample of Homebrew Headquarters, his retail store that has been around since 1979.
“[The event] sells out every year,” Harris said. “It’s so big now that we have to limit the number of entries, because we don’t have enough beer judges to run the program properly.
“We’re all about running a quality program and just not having the biggest one. It happens to be the biggest one, because we run a quality program. It’s all volunteer. No one’s paid. These are true beer lovers and aficionados that come to this event.”
Even if someone is not interested in creating their own beer at home, there is plenty of allure for beer lovers at this event, including taste tests and the pub crawl.
“Half the people, if not more, don’t even enter the home brew competition,” Harris said. “They’re just here because they like a good beer, and they have a good time at the event. So to them, to a lot of people, it’s a vacation.”
With over 1,300 entries in the competition plus craft and regional beers available, there were plenty of new brews for beer lovers to consume, and the new vending area will no doubt continue to expand.
“Come out and join us,” Dobson said. “If you’re interested in the hobby of home brewing, this is a great place to get acquainted with people who know what’s going on, and even if you’re not, it’s a great place to get your feet wet in terms of tasting craft beer.”
Hollywood keeps churning out movies adapted from books adored by young adult readers. If I Stay is the latest of these, and one that keeps the motivation moving in the right direction. Though certainly not a film for every age group or demographic, there are elements in this one that most will be able to relate to. Hopefully not to the lengths that the main character has to go through but possibly in the other minor decisions faced in the film. If nothing else, this one at least blends drama and a touch of the supernatural in a way that will make you appreciate your family and hung them a little tighter.
Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young woman preparing to graduate High School. She is preoccupied with auditioning to get into Julliard as a Cellist while trying not to be consumed with Adam (Jamie Blackley), her new boyfriend. She has an amazing family despite her little brother (Jakob Davies) and punk music loving parents (Joshua Leonard/Mireille Enos) being a bit over the top. But when a tragic accident changes everything, Mia finds she is stuck between this life and the hereafter. During an out of body experience, she faces her toughest decision yet; move on or stay and live a life far different and painful then she could ever have imagined.
This is a tragic tale that stays manageable due to the acting of Moretz and the balance of flashback storytelling. Writer Gayle Forman (novel) is able to keep the mood light as she shows Mia interacting with her family, going on dates, and trying to fit her classical soul into the rock and roll world of Adam. This tone not only breaks the tension but also draws you into the treasurable life this young woman has. It makes the decision to stay harder for her and at times more emotional to watch. These are all good people who have been dealt a nasty blow. As a viewer, you sort of want them to all wake up and someone say, “just kidding”.
Moretz proves here that what we saw from her in Carrie and the Kick-Ass flicks was no fluke. She has to, and does, carry this film. There are a wide range of emotions that Mia goes through, and Chloë nails each one. You believe her, whether she is fluidly playing the Cello, crying over Adam’s lack of understanding, or opening up to her mom about how hard it all is. Everyone else takes a backseat to Moretz, and this allows her to set the tone for each scene. They were smart to do it this way. The other actors, though in no way inadequate, at times can seem a little out of place or to be forcing a line. In particular Enos, who is a marvelous actress (see The Killing if you doubt that) but in this role of free spirited Kat she often comes across playing dress up. As if she isn’t sure how to embrace the puck rock heritage her character embodies.
Something else that was solid in this film is the musicianship. Music is a common thread among the characters, and each scene that incorporates a performance looks authentic. When Adam plays the guitar, Blackley is using correct fingering and chords. The references to early punk music are thought out and used accurately. It is most flawless when Mia plays the Cello. The filmmakers did a superb job of seamlessly using the emotions of Moretz with the cello skills of others. We all know that Chloë could not perfect her playing in the time it took to make this film. But there are moments you will second guess yourself and insist she has been playing her whole life.
If I Stay is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material. This is a safe rating though granted some parents may not like how far Mia and Adam take their relationship. Also pre-teen viewers may be a bit traumatized by the thought of family tragedy as depicted here. The film is well written and as mentioned overtly, perfected by Moretz. It is perfect for the high school young adult female crowd and that is who will truly appreciate it.
I give it 3.75 out of 5 for the genre and selected audience. It is a decent choice for a mom-daughter, outing just bring a tissue or two and make sure you dialogue about it afterwards.
There have been many sports films based on monumental achievements; the underdog student making the team, the down and out team winning the big game, overcoming racism, temperaments, playing conditions and more. What is unique about When The Game Stands Tall is how it focuses on life both on and off the field. Like all films, yes, it is a metaphor for life and what sort of person will we be when our “game” stands tall.
The De La Salle High School Spartans are a football team from Northern California. Under Head Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) they went on a 151 game winning streak that covered a decade and shattered all high school records. Most people around that area could not remember what it was like to lose. So when they did lose, it hit everyone hard; everyone really but Coach Ladouceur. For him, all those years were about teaching his players to be better men once they were off the field. He didn’t care about the streak as much as how he impacted his payers lives. The movie begins when the streak ends. And that is the heart and soul of the story.
If the film had been about the 151 wins, we may have shrugged and moved on. Though impressive it doesn’t make watching win after win entertaining. What grabs the attention is how the players and the town as a whole deal with the loss; and how consumed they are with starting a new streak. The incoming seniors seem the worst. They are riding the coattails of the players before them. The graduating seniors understand the importance of learning to live life off the field. It is this different mindset that makes for a dramatic element in the storyline. But at the middle of it all is Coach Ladouceur, and his calling to instill value in these young men.
Football fans do not fret though, there is plenty of grid iron action to balance the off field drama. Each play ran is fast, hard hitting, and will have you on your feet yelling all the way to the goal line. The filmmakers used motorcycle cameras to follow the guys on the field. This truly speeds up the action and puts you right in the middle. There is also much detail in getting every scenario correct. Although they are down they are certainly not out. Each snap of the ball is physical and powerful.
Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking; When The Game Stands Tall is not a perfect film. It mainly falls short in some of the acting from the younger players. As with most films geared toward faith based audiences, the lines often come across preachy and forced. Not that these themes are not important, but when rehearsed into the dialogue, they feel like a public service announcement more than real and normal conversation. Also at times, it tries to tell too many stories. You can’t have every player’s journey included. When you do, they never fully play out or find grounding.
I give it 3 out of 5 first downs. You will find many reasons to stand and cheer and the film has several inspirational moments on and off the field.
2014 Mungleshow Productions. All rights reserved.
Naked and Famous lead vocal, Alisa Xayalith (front center), pumps up the crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas Feb. 21 while fellow band members Thom Powers (guitar), Aaron Short (keyboard), Jesse Wood (drums), David Beadle (bass) rock the theatre amidst a dazzling light show. The band performed as one of two opening acts for the sold-out Imagine Dragons concert. The synth-rock group that began in Aukland, New Zealand will be touring all over the world during 2014 with another stop in Texas set for June 1 at the Free Press Summer Festival in Houston. Photo by Genesis Bishop.
Guests chatted as they sipped Champagne and wine around four round tables, which sat snugly yet comfortably between white, porcelain clothing models and racks hung with a colorful menagerie of springtime skirts, jackets and blouses in the fine apparel section of the Neiman Marcus at NorthPark Center. The centerpiece of the Feb. 18 brunch was a fashion show, featuring New York City designer Lafayette 148’s spring collection, which was also a fundraiser for Irving’s musical theater, Lyric Stage.
Only a couple of years young than Lyric Stage, which celebrates its 22 anniversary in 2014, the League boasts 300 members who, besides zealouslyattending the musicals produced by the theater, coordinate fundraisers and raise awareness for the arts organization.
Not an annual event, the fashion show idea arose after Shirley McGee talked with her son, Chris McGee, who is a manager at Neiman Marcus. The department store was eager to sponsor the fundraiser, Chris explained, because its charitable giving this year is focusedon the arts and children, making Lyric Stage an obvious choice. In the first place, the theater’s artistic mission is unique in the U.S., dedicating the majority of its season to producing classic American musicals with both their original score and a full orchestra. Because of the cost involved in paying professional musicians, even Broadway houses often slim down their ensemble in order to cut costs. Lyric Stage also operates a number of student outreach programs including the Superstars Music Theatre Camp, that develops theater craft and life skills side by side, and The Schmidt and Jones Awards, a Tony-style awards ceremony for musical theater produced by high schools in North Central Texas.
In addition to Neiman Marcus’ inclination to support nonprofits like Lyric Stage, Steven Jones, the theater’s founding producer (Jones is also the President of Irving ISD’s Board of Trustees), believes their generosity speaks mountains about the theater’s reputation within the community.
“I think it says a lot … that Neiman Marcus would offer to do a fundraising event for the Lyric Stage League in their flagship NorthPark store. They have stature in the community, and they’re looked upon as an important group of women,” Jones said. “Neiman Marcus thought that the ladies of the League would be an important group to introduce the spring collection from Lafayette 148.”
Furthermore, Jones said he appreciated the atmosphere a fashion show affords a theater company.
“Fashion is definitely an art as is musical theater, and there can be some synergy and crossover in design and the design elements of a production,” he said.
Because Neiman Marcus provided everything for the event, the roughly $2,000 from the 44 tickets sold to the event went directly to the Lyric Stage League which in turn deposited all the money into Lyric Stage’s general revenue fund. This situation is especially fortunate for the theater company because the overhead costs of organizing a fundraiser usually drain desperately needed money from the proceeds.
The fashion show lasted for about half an hour, and after it was over the ladies filed downstairs for dessert and shopping.
Lyric Stage is currently in the last week of performances of Blue Roses, the world premiere of a musical adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, Glass Menagerie. Their next production will be Mame, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, June 13-22.
I don’t know Tennessee Williams. I didn’t study his work in either college or graduate school, I’ve never read him for recreation and I haven’t seen any of his plays in the theater. So when I went to see Lyric Stage’s world premiere of “Blue Roses” by Shelly Butler, a musical adaptation of Williams’s “The Glass Menagerie,” I had not a single preconception as to what was going to happen. And although I am strongly opposed to the idea that adaptations are to be judged against their original counterparts, I couldn’t help but try to sort out what was Tennessee’s and what belonged to the musical. By the end of the play it didn’t matter.
“Blue Roses,” like the play it’s based upon, is the fairly simple, straightforward story of a strange family desperately trying to mature while being pinned down by circumstance and lack of direction. The mother, Amanda (Sally Mayes), is oblivious and conniving; her son Tom (Duke Anderson) is antsy and trying to plan for the future while at the same time provide for the household. Amanda’s daughter Laura (Laura Lites) is a naïve and hopeless spinster with not the slightest clue as to how she can make her own way in life. For me, this set-up is familiar and easily becomes static, but thanks to Nancy Ford’s restrained yet powerful musical arrangements, I found the entire play accessible and most enjoyable.
Anderson narrates the thing from start to finish, often singing directly to the audience and has the sort of voice that commands attention but not out of sheer power. He handles Ford’s mellow and charming melodies wonderfully, and in doing so brings the audience into the story, makes us want more and excites us for Lites and Mayes to come along. The two women are equally impressive in their ability to maneuver through songs of yearning, mundane conversation and passionate hope. There are a few moments when the storyline slows down or stutters, but Lites is always there to pick it back up and remind us why we’re invested, and that is achieved best through the musical numbers. Kyle Cotton as Jim, the gentleman caller, is a surprise in Act II (more than half-way through the musical). His deep and sometimes boisterous baritone provides the perfect counterpoint to Anderson’s smooth and peaceful tenor. Both impressed me much more than I had expected, and upon reflection, I find that it was their songs that I enjoyed the most.
Nancy Ford’s work is far from the standard “music written for a musical” that we all are familiar with. She brings a refreshing contemporaneousness to the genre, specifically by incorporating jazz elements in the score and often using the violin to articulate them. The three-piece orchestra for “Blue Roses” is comprised of Adam C. Wright at the piano and celesta, Stephen Beall on the violin and Shawna Hamilton on the cello—each was more than capable, not only skilled in their abilities with their particular instruments, but also truly talented in supporting the actors and the story. Ford’s score continually uses strings and voices in an antiphonal relationship, and those moments are fantastic. One of the most remarkable things about this production is that she composed music that actually stands up alongside the story, and it being a Williams story only makes that all the more impressive.
All this convinced me that I need to pay more attention to Tennessee Williams, but more importantly, I want to pay attention to the work that everyone from this production does in the future. “Blue Roses” was a pleasant, truly unexpected surprise. I came away with a smile on my face and the sound of Lites and Mayes singing “Hello Blue Roses” in my head. I still can’t get that melody out, and that’s okay with me.
Abraham Zobell’s Home Movie: Final Reel… presents powerful adventure of love, exile, return and the Last Judgment.
The American tradition as celebrated by Flannery O’Connor and Johnny Cash are exquisitely reexamined, creating a love story that is at times as sweepingly grand as it is poignantly intimate at others, in Undermain Theatre’s world premiere of Abraham Zobell’s Home Movie: Final Reel… by Len Jenkin.
Abraham Zobell (Fred Curchack) is a man returned from the dead, literally. His temporary expiration during a heart operation forced him into a long recovery under the watchful eye of his wife, Anna (Laura Jorgensen). Zobell only wants to make one last trip to the sea before he dies—a queer thought, because if he follows the strict regimen of rest, morphine and saline he will be able to go see the ocean as many times as he would like.
Like many adventurers, Zobell must obey man’s primordial longing for the sea and, unbeknownst to Anna, he slips out of the house and heads for the ocean. Unlike Joyce’s Ulysses, however, Zobell must only travel 10 miles. Here the story weds the traditional long journey and the adventure that takes place in one’s own backyard. The first fills a spiritual void that cannot be satisfied except through pilgrimage. The second elevates the parochial, showing the traveler that the thing he needed to fill the void was sitting in his living room the entire time. By blending these seemingly contradictory adventures, Jenkin puts a new significance on Zobell’s walk through the suburbs on a cold winter night to a cheap boardwalk that is closed for the season.
With a dramatic flair, Zobell takes a video camera with him in order to document the process, and sets out for the boardwalk.
“So they who come can see now where I went and how I traveled,” he said, preparing to step out of his door, dressed only in his pajamas and camelhair coat. Austin Switser’s video design lets the audience see through the eyes of Zobell’s camera—a silent, haunting perspective on the old man’s journey.
As he walks, Zobell sings and dances to the doo-wop songs from his youth, never imagining the macabre assortment of characters that he will meet over the next couple days as his quest is beset on all sides by obstacles disguised as concerned strangers offering rides home andsham wisdom. But Zobell is not alone in his quest, and he soon acquires a traveling companion, a 19-year-old runaway, Stella (played by a caustically vulnerable Katherine Bourne). Although the girl scoffs at the old man’s desire for the ocean, the same fire burns in them both, and the two pilgrims slowly open up to each other. Zobell even tells her his defining story, one of lost love on the boardwalk that he has been unable to articulate for years.
Music (designed and performed by Bruce DuBose) plays a central role in the story, heightening the feeling of epic poetry by moving the plot along at key points and conveying many of the characters’ emotions. The play’s opening song, the spiritual Now Let me Fly, sums up the protagonist’s yearning for his mother in the Promised Land as the hypocrites on the street block his progress.
Similar to his other work, Jenkin plays with the relationship between time and reality, and although he refrains from doing it through directly challenging the characters’ perception of the world (as he did in Time in Kafka), he uses the music to draw out a deeper meaning they perhaps were not even aware of.
The music’s revelatory character takes on the nature of Fate, to some degree. Although Zobell and other characters often sing the lyrics, the music is played, and sometimes chosen, by the blind piano player Sister Fleeta who watches over Zobell’s progress from her bar, the Dollhouse. Her henchmen add to the impressionof Greek tragedy by commenting on the action with the sensibilityand cadence of a Sophoclean chorus.
Music not only rounds out the dusty, American setting, but Zobell’s career as a high school English teacher provides amplematerial for literary parallels, of which the playwright, director and cast take full advantage. It is a testament to the ensemble that the play flowed as well as it did; the script was jam-packed with information that could easily have tripped up Zobell’s quest.
Fred Curchack’s Zobell never loses his sense of style. He dances; he sings; he easily makes friends with all he meets. He is the Duke of Earl. Curchack embraces these characteristics with such gusto that he buoys a role that could have easily slipped into either trite optimism or bland depression when he taps into the genuine sorrow arising from his guilt.A familiar face in Dallas Theater and becoming something of a regular at Undermain, Marcus Stimac deserves an honorable mention for the honesty he brings to both the kind hearted taxi driver and violent dope fiend. Although these are smaller roles than he has had in the past, his performance shows a marked step in his maturity as an actor.
No stranger to Jenkin, director Katherine Owens has a good eye for what to emphasize in order to make the beautifully interconnected story and somewhat ambiguous chronology develop into an exquisite performance.
All of the production’s design aspects developed under the watchful eye of Tony Award winning scenic designer JohnArnone tell their own story of a faded American Dream, adding layer upon layer of meaning to the actors’ words. Linda Noland’s set, reminiscent of a cluttered thrift store co-op, evokes the dusty grandeur of tarnished fashion long relegated to the living rooms of college students with a weakness for nostalgia or irony. Complete living and bedroom sets are scattered across the stage, a Diaspora in still life.
Abraham Zobell’s Home Movie: Final Reel… runs at the Dallas City Performance Hall through Feb. 2.
110 minutes; 1, 15 minutes intermission.
Serving Irving, Las Colinas, Valley Ranch, Coppell and DFW International Airport