Hurricane Ike is playwright's inspiration
Published 7:42 pm, Friday, September 6, 2013
Just as resourceful folk make lemonade out of lemons, writers can spin stories out of natural disasters.
Marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Ike's landfall, Houston playwright Fernando Dovalina has created "Eye of the Storm - Tales From Hurricane Ike," a program of short plays, comic and dramatic, showing the various ways catastrophe can strengthen - or break - the human spirit.
A former Houston Chronicle assistant managing editor, Dovalina retired after 31 years at the paper and has since turned his attention to writing plays. He has had many of his scripts produced at area theaters, including "The Man in the Trunk," "American Homefront" and "The Gospel According to Tammy Faye."
In case anyone has forgotten, Dovalina reminds us that Ike turned out to be the costliest hurricane in Texas history and the third costliest in U.S. history, after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
So what perspectives do his nine playlets bring to the disaster?
In one, six infamous hurricanes take human form to argue about which of them had the biggest impact on U.S. presidential politics.
In another, a woman fights to get the last bag of ice left in Houston.
Two are monologues: a slacker teen's description of a hurricane party gone awry; and a dog's-eye view of surviving the storm.
Other vignettes show various figures -a newspaper reporter, a bartender and his customers, a transsexual man and his wife, the owners of a Mexican restaurant - either riding out the storm or coping with its messy aftermath.
One of the pieces even allows 2001's Tropical Storm Allison her own bragging rights - as the textbook case of a storm that didn't even meet the hurricane designation but caused massive damage nonetheless.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 21, with an "industry night" show at 8 p.m. Monday, at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. It runs in repertory with the premiere of Michael Weems' "A Common Martyr," which plays at 8 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Wednesdays, through Sept. 18, at the same location.
Tickets are $15, available at eyeofthestorm.brownpapertickets.
Houston, Dallas museums two-stepping
The directors of Texas' largest encyclopedic art museums believe it's better to share some works than store them. With funds from the Anchorage Foundation and an annual benefit auction in Dallas, the museums have jointly acquired "Black Drop," a 28-minute film by conceptual artist Simon Starling.
Shared collecting isn't new but it is a trend, said Maxwell Anderson, the Dallas museum director.
"Time-based" installations like film are especially well-suited to joint ownership. Requiring dedicated environments that consume a lot of real estate, they aren't shown for long periods. Films also can be exchanged electronically, solving myriad transportation, storage and insurance issues.
"It's truly uncomplicated," Anderson said.
Made in 35 mm and transferred to high-definition format, "Black Drop" connects the history of cinema with several centuries' worth of scientific observation into the transit of Venus, a phenomenon once used in calculating the distance between the Earth and sun. The title comes from an optical illusion that occurs - and creates a margin of error - when Venus' path moves near the sun's edges.
The subject offers an interesting metaphor for the traveling of art from one city to another, Anderson said.
He and Tinterow, who have been friends since college, were hired in Texas at about the same time. "We were curious about the much-discussed rivalry," Anderson said. "The distance from Dallas to Houston is greater than New York to Boston, and they don't compete. ... It makes Texas a better art state if we work together."
This isn't the Dallas museum's first joint acquisition deal in Houston; with the Menil Collection, it co-owns an untitled work by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.
Anderson and Tinterow are open to more shared collecting, in virtually any media, if the conditions are right.
"I'm not saying we're moving toward time shares," Anderson quipped, "but neither of us has a perspective that anything's off the table."
Independently, each museum also has acquired sculpture from Starling's recent project. Houston owns the two-piece "Transit Stones," made last year from discs of yellow marble with black marble insets. Dallas owns 2011's "Venus Mirror," also a disc shape.
"Black Drop" and the sculptures will have their Texas debut next May at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts in Spring, a Houston museum partner.
Was that about finding neutral territory? Apparently not.
"The Fincher staff came to us and asked for a project, and this was on our mind," Tinterow explained.
Pianist unveils new grand piano
When Kirill Gerstein plays Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Houston Symphony this week, he will be responsible for more than the performance. He'll want the piano itself to please the audience, too. After all, he picked it out.
The concerts will inaugurate the orchestra's new Steinway concert grand piano, a 100th-birthday present from the Houston Symphony League, which raised nearly $130,000 to buy the instrument. Then, like many people who need help finding just the right gift, the group turned to Gerstein.
He met league members and Houston Symphony staffers at Steinway & Sons' factory in New York in March. They watched and listened as Gerstein worked his way down a row of concert grands and offered his advice. Gerstein said the piano that was selected "has a larger sound than the current concert pianos and will be a great fit for all types of repertoire. If it sounds good now 'at birth' then it will only get better as it matures.".
Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 should test the instrument's power and poetry. Guest conductor Peter Oundjian and the orchestra also will perform Giuseppe Verdi's Overture to "La Forza del Destino," Claude Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and Ottorino Respighi's "The Pines of Rome." Before each concert, Gerstein and Roger Daily, the orchestra's education director, will talk about the Steinway and why it was selected. The concerts will be at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 15. Details: 713-224-7575, houstonsymphony.org.