Thursday, May 23, 2024 May 23, 2024
74° F Dallas, TX



On opening night for City of Angels at Fair Park’s Music Hall, I fell asleep three times in the first act. When I awoke, I noticed that my seatmate was dozing-in spite of the din from a crackling speaker right above our seats. And then there was the echo. . .Despite the strengths of a clever script, excellent cast and good reviews from its Broadway run, more than a few people left before the show was over.

A few weeks later, when Tommy Lee Jones lent his rich San Saba, Texas, accent to a piece of Larry McMurtry’s writing at the Dallas Museum of Art, no one was nodding off. In fact, the DMA’s current Arts and Letters Live series-filled with simply staged readings of poetry, short stories and Texana-has been selling out, and not just when “stars” are on the calendar.

I cannot fully explain why some events work and others don’t, and I know I could never make a living as a critic of Broadway touring shows and literary festivals, especially since my cumulative knowledge of the arts would fit on a ticket stub. And I sure wouldn’t survive as an actor, director or producer. Who wants to deal with picky, know-it-all reviewers as well as a sometimes boorish public-especially those Dallas patrons who leap from their seats as the last words are being uttered? In the immortal words of someone, “Yeow.”

Enter Porter Anderson-a man who loves the arts as only someone who’s been on stage can.

Porter found his way to Texas about a year ago, wooed here from The Tampa Tribune by the Dallas Times Herald. He brought a strong voice and the knowledge to go with it-three degrees in theater and fine arts, specifically in acting.

But in some cities that’s not necessarily enough. As D noted shortly after Porter’s arrival: “His announcement that he was leaving Tampa for the Herald prompted a spate of letters from readers bidding him good riddance. One of them suggested the people of Dallas ought to be warned that their arts community was in danger. Even some of his critics, however, admit that Anderson’s opinions about the state of the arts in Tampa were painfully true.”

I am confident that Dallas has a thick skin, and that we also have a vibrant and broad-if still evolving-cultural arena. Yes, many organizations have closed their doors in the past few years, and artists have left in pursuit of greener stages, and Dallasiles are often less than supportive of out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Yet so much still exists out there, waiting to be experienced and often operating in relative anonymity.

In her years as senior editor, Anne Warren has showcased many of the players in the arts community, but she knew D needed a consistent arts voice to assess the people, the issues, the ongoing stories. So shortly after the Herald closed. Anne and I took Porter to lunch. We knew D and Dallas needed to keep him here-that we needed Porter, with his wit and style, to raise the level of critical thought.

A city is only as strong as its individual elements-its politicians, its academic, corporate and religious leaders, its athletes, its institutional and physical core and its creative soul. And a city magazine is only as strong as its ideas, people and conscience. For both the city and the magazine, these elements are highly subjective and often misunderstood. And change, as we all know, takes time.

Porter will be a part of D’s change, and this month he debuts with a feature on Richard Hamburger, the Dallas Theater Center’s new director and a likely center of controversy in the months to come. I won’t give the plot away (see page 50). but Porter obviously likes the DTC board’s choice, although he’s not so sure the Dallas viewing public will.

Porter will be in D again next month, when we launch his monthly arts column as one of several new elements in a redesigned, repackaged magazine (much more on that in my May column). As a contributing editor, he’ll also write frequently on other topics. Don’t expect to agree with him always. Do expect lively, provocative and knowledgeable writing.