Friday, December 27, 2019

A Year in the Arts

We have been ardent supporters of the arts since our undergraduate days. Last year around this time, a colleague at TheaterJones wrote about seeing over 100 shows, mostly theater, I think, and our editor challenged us, critics and audience members alike, to track attendance throughout the year to see if we could hit 100.

I knew for us it wouldn't be a problem, though I never really tallied them up before. At the end of what definitely seemed like a low-attendance year for us, I can now say that we attended at least 120 art events.

We didn't count anything that took place at home. No films watched while sitting on our couch. No podcasts while driving across town. No audio programs while doing cardio at the gym. Each of these 120 events were produced elsewhere and by other people.

A lot of them, thankfully, were free, or free to me, since I do get comp tickets for shows I review. If I continue tracking art events, I'll add a cost column so I can calculate how much I spend in a year. I didn't think of doing that for 2019.

Here's my tally, according to genre/medium:
  • architecture - 1
  • art - 30
  • music/concert -11
  • festival - 3
  • film - 13
  • literature - 2
  • museum/history - 5
  • performance - 8
  • theater - 46
  • workshop - 1
Typically, we attend quite a bit more music/concert events. And we usually see more films, hitting the Oak Cliff Film Festival, which we missed this past year. And we usually go to more galleries and museums. "Performance" can mean something like performance art or it can be a multimedia/interdisciplinary/multi-genre event. The 2 literature events are the Reading Challenge Book Club meetings, each spanned across three months. We typically go to hear more authors and translators speak and present their work. We usually do more architecture. Like I said, 2019 was a low-attendance year.

As far as North Texas theater goes, 2019 was another strong year. Here are my tallies (of more than 1) for local theater companies:
  • Flexible Grey Theatre Company - 5
  • Imprint Theatreworks - 3
  • One Thirty Production - 3
  • Second Thought Theatre - 3
  • Teatro Dallas - 2
  • The Classics Theatre Project - 4
  • Undermain Theatre - 4
  • WingSpan Theatre Company - 3
I regret that I saw only 1 production by Kitchen Dog Theater, especially since they've been one of my favorites and one of the strongest over the years. But doing these 120 things prevented me from doing a different 120.

I won't create a highlights list until later, since there's still a chance I'll be asked to write one for TheaterJones. Also, my list may increase over the next few days.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Opening(s): An Education

When Salvador Dalí was asked about Fred Halstead's fisting classic L.A. Plays Itself showing at MoMA, he is said to have exclaimed, "New information for me." If, like Dalí, fisting is new information to you, then artist William E. Jones' I'm Open to Anything, published by We Heard You Like Books in 2019, wants to be your introductory text.

Jones' 169-page novel is a literary primer of sorts on the art of fisting. No, not the actual act itself, but the literary and artistic art of the act. The book's plot is spare: queer Midwest boy escapes the Rust Belt, ends up in Los Angeles, and becomes a skilled fisting partner to the Latino men in the immigrant communities there. It's seeped in the derelict L.A. of the late 1980s and early '90s that no longer exists.

But the book's potency is found more in the protagonist's musings and conversations with his friends and lovers. Heir to the quasi-pornographic literary legacies of writers like Jean Genet and Georges Bataille, Jones revels in his ability to deliberate with articulate insight on topics ranging from the material conditions of the porn industry to the political machinations behind the Central American crisis. This book also contains some of the shrewdest film analysis you'll find in any form, but especially that of a novel.

At its worst, it's well-crafted erotic fiction. At it's best, it's an education. If you read one book about fist fucking this year, make it I'm Open to Anything. It is the perfect antidote to the anodyne garbage that was Call Me by Your Name.