Best of Houstonia

Our 2014 Fall Arts Guide

Our top picks in theater, visual art, dance, classical music, and more.

By Michael Hardy September 30, 2014 Published in the October 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine


The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes
Classical Theatre Company, Oct 15–Nov 2 

“The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson attempt to solve a bizarre murder at a remote country house, is the only Holmes mystery that author Arthur Conan Doyle adapted into a play. 

Kinky Boots
Theatre Under the Stars, Feb 10–22 

With music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, this musical, about a British shoe factory owner who partners with a drag queen to save his business, took Broadway by storm last year, not to mention the Tony Award for best musical.

Stupid F*****g  Bird
Stages Theatre, March 18–April 12 

Aaron Posner says that his Off Broadway hit is “sort of adapted” from Chekhov’s The Seagull, meaning that it’s set in Hollywood and includes postmodern touches like characters who ask the audience for plot suggestions. The comedy, first produced to acclaim by Washington’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, later played LA, where a local paper declared it the best Chekhov adaptation in decades.

Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult
Alley Theatre, April 24–May 24 

Innovative UK theater company Kneehigh makes its Texas debut with the show that put them on the map, an irreverent musical interpretation of the Tristan and Isolde legend that sounds like the love child of Shakespeare and Monty Python.  

Worth the Drive: Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen
Classic Theatre, San Antonio, Nov 7–23

In the ’Burbs

Our city’s outer fringe is a cultural desert no longer. Here’s a small sampling of the innumerable arts events beyond the loop this season. 

Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, Oct 10

Beethoven’s Fifth
Houston Symphony, Sugar Land Baptist Church, Nov 13

Texas Before the Boom, 1850–1900: Selections from the Bobbie and John L. Nau Collection
Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts, Spring, Thru Dec 13

A Conversation with Garrison Keillor
The Grand 1894 Opera House, Galveston, April 12

Mendelssohn & Schubert
Mercury Houston, Dosey Doe, The Woodlands, April 12.


Ulysses, Home
Musiqa, Jan 10 

Opera lovers won’t want to miss the world premiere of composer and Rice University professor Anthony Brandt’s chamber opera Ulysses, Home, with a libretto by Neena Beber.

La Clemenza di Tito
Opera in the Heights, Jan 30–Feb 8 

Following his completion of The Magic Flute, Mozart was commissioned to write this piece to celebrate the coronation of the new king of Bohemia. The story involves political intrigue in ancient Rome and features some of the composer’s most powerful arias. 

Rappaccini’s Daughter
University of Houston Moores Opera Center, April 10–13

When this opera by Daniel Catán—based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fantastical short story about an Italian scientist whose garden of poisonous plants has an unusual effect on his daughter—made its US debut in 1994, it was the first time an opera by a major Mexican composer was ever presented by a professional company in this country. A Mexican opera based on an American story set in Italy? Sounds perfect for Houston.

Die Walküre
Houston Grand Opera, April 18–May 3 

Last spring, Spanish theater company La Fura dels Baus’s spectacular production of Das Rheingold, the first chapter in its daring interpretation of Richard Wagner’s four-part Ring Cycle, wowed Houston audiences with special effects as impressive as the cast’s singing. The saga continues in 2015 with Die Walküre, arguably the most popular work in the cycle. 

Visual Arts

Robert Hodge
Contemporary Arts Museum, Oct 3–Jan 4

This show surveys the career of veteran Houston multimedia artist Robert Hodge, who assembles old newspapers, posters, and other ephemera into daring collages that examine African American history and culture. 

Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Oct 30–Jan 11

This traveling exhibition is America’s first full-scale show devoted to the art of the Joseon dynasty, which ruled Korea for over 500 years. Among the show’s 150 works are ceremonial screen paintings, ceramics, illustrated books, and works of calligraphy. 

Mel Chin: Rematch
Blaffer Art Museum, Jan 11–March 21; Contemporary Arts Museum, Jan 16–April 19 

Houston-born artist Mel Chin is best known for his large-scale sculptures, such as the steel palm tree behind the Contemporary Arts Museum, but he also works in painting, video, installation art, and other media. This two-museum retrospective examines the full range of his practice.   

Barnett Newman: The Late Work
Menil Collection, March 27–Aug 2 

This is the first exhibition to focus on the last five years of pioneering minimalist painter Barnett Newman’s life, including three unfinished canvases owned by the Menil Collection. 

Worth the Drive: Rock and Roll Photographers in the Will Vogt Personal Collection
Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, thru Jan 4


A Man’s Requiem
SEOP Dance Company, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Nov 7 

SEOP, one of South Korea’s most acclaimed dance companies, combines traditional Korean dance with contemporary movement to create a theatrical experience filled with stunning choreography and unforgettable imagery.

Fresh Cuts
Psophonia Dance Company, Nov 14-15 

It’s always a leap of faith when a company director allows someone else to choreograph a show, but Sophia Torres, the founder and artistic director of Psophonia, doesn’t seem to mind. She’s devoting the troupe’s fall performance to works by emerging Houston choreographers, all of them current or past members of Psophonia.

Diavolo – Architecture in Motion
Presented by the Society for the Performing Arts, Jan. 9 

Diavolo is a Los Angeles–based dance company that combines dance and gymnastics for an immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of the human body. 

Romeo and Juliet
Houston Ballet, Feb 26–Mar 8

The Houston Ballet last performed the Bard’s seminal love story in 2012, but this season’s production isn’t the well-known Ben Stevenson version. Instead, it features all-new choreography by artistic director Stanton Welch, who will use Prokofiev’s epic score to spin his own tale of star-crossed lovers.

Worth the Drive: The Merry Widow
Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth, Feb 6–8


Morton Feldman’s For Philip Guston
Da Camera, Nov 2

Da Camera sets up shop at the Rothko Chapel for a free marathon performance of 20th-century American composer Morton Feldman’s four-hour work dedicated to the memory of his friend, painter Philip Guston. Audience members are invited to attend as much or as little of the performance as they like. 

Houston Symphony Presents the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Jones Hall, Nov 3

The result of a partnership between the City of Houston, the Houston-Leipzig Sister City Association, and the Houston Symphony, this concert by the renowned Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a program of work by Bach and Mendelssohn. 

Amadéus Leopold
Society for the Performing Arts, Jan 23

South Korean violinist Amadéus Leopold (né Hahn-Bin) is the David Bowie of the classical music world. A Juilliard grad and Itzhak Perlman protégé, he stands out for his androgynous looks, flamboyant costumes, and theatrical flair.

Lang Lang Joins Andrés
Houston Symphony, May 12 

Speaking of classical music rock stars, famed Chinese pianist Lang Lang—whom Time recently named one of the world’s 100 most influential people—visits Jones Hall this spring for a one-night-only concert under the baton of music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada. 

Worth the Drive: Strauss Festival
San Antonio Symphony, Jan 16–Feb 7

Readings & Lectures

James Ellroy
Brazos Bookstore, Oct 6 

As contemporary crime novelists go, they don’t get any more hard-boiled than Ellroy, the author of L.A. Confidential and a worthy successor to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Ellroy will read from his new novel Perfidia, about the murder of a Japanese family in 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

David Sedaris
Society for the Performing Arts, Nov 8

Humorist/perennial crowd-pleaser Sedaris drops into town in support of his latest wackily titled collection of personal stories, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Chang-rae Lee
Brazos Bookstore, Jan 14

The Korean-American Lee broke through in 1995 with his debut novel Native Speaker, a powerful examination of the American immigrant experience. His fifth and latest novel On Such a Full Sea is set in a dystopian future where urban neighborhoods have become labor colonies ringed by gated “charter villages.” (Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound so far-fetched.)

Geoff Dyer
Inprint, May 11 

As a novelist, critic, essayist, and travel writer, the insatiably curious, intellectually omnivorous Dyer has helped redefine what it means to be a 21st-century man of letters. His latest book, Another Great Day at Sea, chronicles daily life on the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. 

Worth the Drive: Lena Dunham: Not That Kind of Girl 
BookPeople, Austin, Oct 12

Pop & Jazz

The Psychedelic Furs & The Lemonheads
House of Blues, Nov 2

Legendary British post-punk band The Psychedelic Furs, who helped define the sound of the ’80s with synth-heavy hits like “Love My Way,” join forces with alt-rockers The Lemonheads, who helped define ’90s college rock. 

Fleetwood Mac
Toyota Center, Dec 15 

The history of Fleetwood Mac resembles nothing so much as a long-running soap opera awash in affairs, break-ups, betrayals, and frequent changes of cast. The band’s latest reunion tour marks Christine McVie’s return, as well as a forthcoming album, their first in over a decade.     

Jason Moran, The Rauschenberg Project
Da Camera, Feb 7 

Houston native Moran, one of the country’s leading jazz pianists and composers, returns home to perform his world premiere composition inspired by the work of artist (and fellow Texan) Robert Rauschenberg. 

Sutton Foster
Houston Symphony, Jan 30

Tony Award–winning singer/actress/dancer Foster has starred in numerous Broadway hits, including Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes, and Shrek: The Musical. She brings her considerable talent to this all-singing, all-dancing concert with the Houston Symphony.

Worth the Drive: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dec 11

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