STILL from Some Beasts, 2015, directed by Cameron Nelson.

Arts & Entertainment

The Most Memorable Moments From a Decade of Dallas Arts

As the 2010s draw to a close, one writer revisits the stories she was never able to finish, and never able to forget.

Let’s just get this over with first: It’s probably frustrating for an artist to be approached by a journalist for a story and never see it published. I’ve let gems slip through more times than I want to recall. But I recall them, all the time; these would-be pieces haunt me with their impossibilities (it’s too late, there’s no “news peg”), my own inconclusions, or the mysteries of plain stalling. 

As year and decade-end lists materialized, it seemed more interesting to consider forces that escaped the daily turns. Maybe a piece didn’t make it because a work’s deep significance evaded distillation. Maybe a writer couldn’t manage her time.

As I rescued some fragments from notebooks, abandoned Google Docs, and text messages over the past ten years, I found a lot of truth in some false starts. Not all of these are decade-end-list-able projects. Their descriptions are not complete. The idea is simply to share these experiences of art made or felt in Dallas—the moments that are still alive and breathing for me—and perhaps, to inspire you to consider what stays on your mind and why. 

February 2010 

Neon Indian’s last show as a local band at Hailey’s in Denton predictably filled the room. The set  was clean and wracked with the conflict of nervous energy and relaxed grooving that makes Alan Palomo’s work so irresistible live. It isn’t the performance that sticks. It’s the crowd, and what it feels like to press through it. Every single person, it seems, is dancing, except a couple journalists in the back who are judging the other journalists for dancing as if it’s a conflict of interest. 

This should be tied directly to the occasion, but it isn’t. It’s the way people dance at Hailey’s no matter how full the floor is. The night seemed to hold onto itself in the crush of bodies. Light hearts, at least until last call.

November 2012

“Come to the Texas Theatre safe room after 8:30,” Nevada Hill wrote on Facebook, in his own familiar non-mode of capitalization. “Take what you want. Pay if you want. Most things are on the floor, do look through it.” 

In barely lit piles of ink and paper on the floor, wholly unmediated, is a history of North Texas music in playful, guttural prints and flyers. They are both cast aside and precious. Hill’s generosity commanded awe in the room as people came and went. I wonder how he might feel to watch people so taken aback, bending to page through scores and scores of treasure in a gallery where other times they’re not supposed to touch it. I look for Hill to ask but he’s already gone for the night.

April 2015 

Some Beasts by Dallas-raised filmmaker Cameron Nelson has two beginnings. The film opens in a car ensconced by dead leaves, moving somewhere through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The other start, the truest one, comes about ten minutes in. Sal (Frank Mosley) looks for his dear friend, slowly rounds a corner, and finds him facing away with a guitar in a barn-like space insulated almost ritualistically by stacks of hay. Sal listens for almost a full minute before his friend turns around. The drone from his guitar fills the movie, fills my heart. 

The recognition falls to a point of discomfort. I look down the row at friends I’d brought with me to the premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival, searching their expressions for wonder or boredom. Why can’t I just remain with that sound?

September 2017

Even the title of CLEAVER at Beefhaus sends chills. Cleaver, like one who cuts through bone with a knife; cleaver, like one who joins another family and clings to her husband. Lucia Simek treats the gallery like a garage for part of her contribution to the exhibition. Simek’s work appears in pieces—the kind of elements one doesn’t know what to do with and sets like (perfectly good) refuse outside the main house to gather dust.

I watch Simek lead a group of students through the exhibition on a private tour. The elegant urgency with which she speaks about her art and all the references in it—especially the vandalization by architect Le Corbusier of Eileen Gray’s beach house E1028—keeps humming after the show and the gallery have closed. 

September 2018 

Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss is at Circle Theatre in Fort Worth. She is one of the best living playwrights.

Jeremy Schwartz plays Husband. In the final moments of the play, we learned he has financed the production in which his wife, an actor, has fallen into a phase of lust with an old flame, also cast in the play. Husband has overseen all of this, funded it with his own money. There is a benevolent, loving turn of catharsis when She, played by Sarah Rutan, learns that her mistakes are not only forgiven but wholly endorsed as human. 

I thought there was no way this production of Stage Kiss could do Ruhl justice. I thought this because I have never seen one of her plays performed, and because the production is so near where I live. 

I am completely and totally wrong. 

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