Recently by FlyOver
I drove out to Marfa, TX for the first time a couple of weeks ago. How deeply embarrassing is it that I didn't make it to one art gallery? (Kind of incredible, really, considering I'm not sure there's one building in that town without "Judd" stamped on it.) (Donald, that is.)
So why was I out there, if not for contemporary art? Good question: I made the almost-six-hour trek to attend the inaugural Marfa Film Festival, a five-day event founded by San Antonio transplant Robin Lambaria and her fiancé, filmmaker Cory Van Dyke. (Incidentally, I did, at least, see Rainer Judd's excellent autobiographical short film, Remember Back, Remember When.)
Marfa itself is without a technical movie theater, so the local theatre venue, the vaguely Alamo-reminiscent Goode-Crowley building served as the main screening space. (Recently-released-on-DVD flicks are shown at the town library. I know: I stayed with the super-interesting, super-sweet guy who runs the program.) Most of the films were shorts and docs; at night the Alamo Drafthouse lent its giant, inflatable Rolling Roadshow screen for outdoor screenings of classics like Night of the Hunter.
The entire weekend was surreal, and honestly it was difficult to separate my "new town" experience from my film fest experience, and so my coverage in the Current ran a little like a travel article. I ran on about the charming Brown Recluse, but neglected to mention the Marfa Book Company, where I spent less time but over whose gorgeous volumes I lusted at length during one afternoon. So many art books, so many screenings to make.
The most surreal event was the MFF's showing of There Will Be Blood on the inflatable screen on the still-standing set. As I expressed in the Current, I struggle with that film: Does it make sense structurally? Tonally? Is there any emotional core, and if not, is it one of those cases where its absence is excusable, even necessary? Why is it when P.T.A. makes a distinctly non-P.T.A. movie, the critics love him? I tend to be of one mind with Nathan Lee when it comes to heaping praise on the dead, and movies that recall too closely their dead forebears. To crudely paraphrase, is like: OK, we've done these old movies -- can we do something new? When in comes to TWBB, I just keep feeling like, Huston and Kubrick did their thing. What's next?
But under the incredibly clear and bright nighttime sky in Marfa, with 300ish others, settled between Little Boston and the Train depot, I appreciated TWBB in a way my two previous viewings hadn't allowed. Methinks it was the meta. (And the margarita. Fine.)
The festival programmer told me they hope to have three daytime screening venues for next year, and with King Airways planning to make a stop in the Marfa area, I imagine more folks from all over Texas will make the MFF a must in the future. I'm sure gonna try.
My apologies for underrepresenting the Lone Star State of late, Flyover friends. (Everything's bigger in Texas ... except arts coverage, wink.) The combination of late-onset NEA Institute exhaustion, health troubles, copious antihistamines, and the formidable "Best Of" of issue (love-hated by altweekly staffers everywhere) on the horizon have prevented me from accomplishing much more than washing my hair every (other) day. I've even developed an immunity to coffee, believe it or not. (Why do I get the feeling that when I tell my friends I'm just drinking it for the flavor, they look as if I'd just told them I read Playboy for the articles. Sigh.)
But things are happening hereabouts. The Marfa Film Fest is near (May 1-5), and I for one cannot wait to watch There Will Be Blood on the Alamo Drafthouse's giant inflatable screen in the film's still-standing set. Definitely wasn't my favorite P.T. Anderson film; in fact, the more distance I get the more reservations I have (or the more I'm able to put my finger on them). But I'll watch anything Robert Elswit shoots.
SA film/makers should be in abundance, too, and apparently Dennis Hopper's coming also. (How long will I be able to I refrain from "Pop quiz, hotshot" jokes? Your guess is as good as mine.)
Now, closer to home, something's has been on my mind since I reviewed San Pedro Playhouse's production of Crowns (Regina Taylor's musical adaptation of Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry's coffee-table book, Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats; not fantastically written, but extremely well performed here).
Anyway, if my snarky ass was in charge of the San Antonio theater scene, programming would be a lot different. All together now: Duh! But I've gotta say, though I may not love San Pedro Playhouse's every show (I lean edgier), I honor its decision to regularly produce plays that showcase local African-American talent. (According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 6.8% of San Antonians identified as black or African American.) Aida, Dreamgirls, and now, Crowns, have all graced the stage of San Antonio's oldest public theater recently.
I haven't attended all of the Playhouse's shows, so I can't say with any certainty how multi-racially cast its other productions are. It's one of my dearest hopes that people don't feel boxed into casting "the canon" with Caucasians all the time, that performers of color aren't ghettoized into plays written specifically about the African-American or Latino experience; the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof revival would suggest we're moving in that direction, anyway.
That's something I'll be keeping my eyes open for here, friends, and I'll be sure to report back. Happy Weekend.
Two weekends ago I experienced San Antonio theater from the other side of the fourth wall. Yes, I, a critic, was in a play. Written by another critic. And I played a man: Menander, the master of New Comedy (so I'm not sweating it either).
This particular production was especially commissioned for an interactive Greek and Roman art exhibit/event at the San Antonio Museum of Art, a castle-like structure just a short walk from my pub's headquarters. Called "The Complete Fragments of Menander: Some Assembly Required," William Razavi's one-act was billed as an "edu-tainment" play for all ages. And indeed, the performance incited laughter from Classics professors and small children alike.
The show was reportedly met with enthusiasm from a representative of another local vis-art institution (which shall for now go nameless) possibly interested in collaborating on something in the same vein.
I always get psyched when different art-form tribes join forces. In mythical, Factory-like environments the lines between media, vis, and theater artists are always represented as blurry. I'm still learning about how much of that exists here (holy crap, look at this: http://www.potterbelmar.org/); our arts editor tells me that SA's other major art museum, The McNay, has begun to develop a resident theater troupe. I'm on the edge of my seat (on the side of the stage where I probably belong).
I'm Ashley Lindstrom, associate editor at San Antonio's alt-weekly newspaper The Current, and newly recruited Flyover blogger. I'm totally psyched to be "holding down the southern front," to quote Mr. Nickell, the person kind enough to invite me to join the ranks after we met at this year's NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater.
A little about me: I've been criticizing theater and film at The Current for just over two years (and other things for, I don't know, ages). Although SA is the seventh-largest city in the US -- with an incredible basketball team, ahem -- it's got a small-town attitude. This characteristic has its pros and cons: Folks are plenty warm and friendly, but we're still working on becoming a hotspot for creative-types. I cover about four to five theaters regularly, and film is another beast entirely: We're always the last market to get those limited releases. And press junkets? Fughetaboutit.
Once a year, though, Central Texas crawls with filmmakers of a slightly more national reputation. (Yes, even more national than SA-born Robert Rodriguez.) And flyover folks like myself finally get to talk to them about their work. That time is rolling around: The South by Southwest Film Festival begins on March 7. OK, so I'll have to drive to Austin for it ... and my inbox will be crammed with messages from promoters ... and I'll be virtually begging for passes for contributors. But is it worth it? In a word: Yes.
More on the wonderful world of Central Texas arts to come ... I've got a screening to catch ...
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