Friday, March 20, 2009

Miscel-Lanie: Feral Cats, Art Exhibits, Ballet, Theatre, Etc.

Some weeks are crazy. Go, go, go. Busy, busy, busy. But even most crazy weeks are not like the one I've just had. It started last Saturday. I finally managed all the arrangements to capture Mom - our feral cat friend - and have her spayed. Except for one little problem. No way was Mom going into our trap, thank you very much. What we found in the trap early Saturday morning was Dad, the male cat who Smudge looks just like. Well, a neutered feral cat of any gender is a blessing, so we took Dad to SNAP (Spay and Neuter Assistance Program) to be fixed.

Michael and I then zoomed home and did some housework before changing into good clothes and heading back into town. First, we attended an Artist Talk at the gallery show of our friend Lillian Warren. Lillian's new work at the Rudolph Projects | Artscan Gallery impressed me a lot. Titled "Here is Nowhere," the art explores the landscape of contemporary America with all it's sameness and anonymity.

Originally photographed or videotaped, often from within a car, the scenes have an "anywhere" feel to them. Those could be electrical lines anywhere; highway overpass buttresses anywhere; highway signs anywhere; street scenes anywhere. For me, this gives the paintings the feeling of being everywhere. Each scene looked like someplace I have been although I can't quite put my finger on where it is. The colors in the paintings are subtle, mostly early evening or early morning colors, dusky or smoky, full of purples and roses and soft blues. Everything identifiable is slightly fuzzed out, adding to the sense of everywhere-ness.

After a lively discussion with Lillian and her gathered admirers, Michael and I moved on to Gallery 3 at the Winter Street Studios where our friend Piyali Sen Das Gupta has a show mounted. Piyali, hosting an open gallery, greeted us when we arrived. Her current show features her dog, Scooby, a basset hound I have had the pleasure of meeting in person. "The Dog Stories," as she titles her exhibit, features much more than a dog; it is the story of the conjunction of a woman's life and a dog's life and how the dog fits into and enlivens the woman's milieu. The paintings are whimsical, brightly colored, and enchanting. Scooby is always somewhere in the art, always looking up from his short, basset hound position with soulful, adoring eyes at the woman or the viewer.

Although she also has drawings and prints in the show, Piyali primarily hung paintings done in egg tempera. I have learned a bit about egg tempera from Piyali over the years and admire her work even more because of the demanding nature of that medium. Egg tempera paintings take a great deal of time and layer after layer of paint that has been hand mixed using perishable egg yolks. If you haven't seen the exhibit, hurry and get over there before it comes down at the end of March. It is well worth the effort.

We visited several studios on our way out of Winter Street, discovering something to enjoy in each one. Then we grabbed a bite to eat, picked up Dad from the clinic, returned our rented live trap, and then made a beeline for home. Once there, we set Dad up with food, water, a bed, and the surgery-required litter of non-irritating shredded newspaper in our shed for safe keeping, not that he appreciated the effort much. Back into the car as fast as possible, we sped down the highway to the Wortham Theatre for a performance of the Houston Ballet.

Luckily, we managed to get there for most of the dance talk, an informative presentation on some aspect of ballet that the company offers to patrons before each performance. The show, "Masters of Movement," featured three short ballets: The Leaves are Fading, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Soldiers' Mass. I found The Leaves are Fading" to be the least interesting. Very pretty and romantic to the point of sentimentality, it went on too long for me. Without drama, I became bored, although I loved the flowing, gauzy costuming.

"Vertiginous" lived up to its title in every way. A new word for me, vertiginous required a trip to the dictionary when we returned home. It means "having or causing a whirling sensation; liable to falling," and that is exactly what the performers delivered, an on-the-edge thriller with five dancers who remained in motion every minute of their time on stage. Lasting only twelve minutes, it seemed to go on forever (in a good way) and left me breathless and wondering where the dancers' stamina came from. The final piece, "Soldiers' Mass" moved me to tears. Featuring an all-male cast, it recreated the experience of a unit of soldiers who all died in their first battle on the first day of World War I.

It took me until the Kyrie Eleison was sung to realize that the music actually was a mass. It had been written to commemorate these very deaths and then later choreographed by Jirí Kylián. The dancing was superb and the fear, suffering, and bravery of the doomed soldiers came across beautifully. As you might guess, "Soldiers' Mass" gets my vote as the best of the three, although the Houston Ballet did each one beautifully.

After the ballet, we headed home and turned in because we had more excitement ahead on Sunday - a play at the Alley. This performance - "The Man Who Came to Dinner" - had us belly laughing. The actors' performances were collectively excellent and some individuals were absolutely superb. Which ones, you ask? Well, go see the show and find out for yourself! (Hint: the Alley's rep company regulars outdo themselves in this production.)

I intended to catch up on my week, but find myself pooped after Saturday and Sunday. I guess my readers will have to wait for me to catch my breath before they hear anymore.


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