Top 10 Favorite Arts Events Across The Disciplines (In No Particular Order)

Chronicle Arts writer Wayne Alan Brenner on his favorite arts events in 2007

<i>Johan</i> by Christa Palazzolo, from  City Folk
Johan by Christa Palazzolo, from "City Folk"

1) "City Folk" (1906 Gallery) The first solo show by painter Christa Palazzolo featured 3-foot-by-4-foot oil portraits of her friends in the Big Apple, rendered in formal compositions and with such stunning realist precision that it made me want to shake my sense of aesthetics like a Polaroid picture. That Roberto Ainslie's 1906 has had to call it quits after only a year of smart exhibits makes me want to shake my head.

2) "Wait and Hope" and "Restless Timber" (Volitant Gallery) This two-woman show, displaying Katy O'Connor's gorgeously life-sized slices of human life in oil on paper and Jennifer Drummond's brush-and-ink portraits of leafless oaks in all their wracked configurations, was a canny pairing of resonant beauty, a study in the contrasts of color and monochrome. And now Volitant's gone, too; more's the pity.

3) A Thought in Three Parts (Rubber Repertory) Rubber Rep brought Wallace Shawn's previously "untouchable" play from the Seventies – featuring a middle section with more extreme sexual hijinks than a "Ron Jeremy Live at Fuckfest '82" highlights reel – to the stage fully realized, treating all parts of the triptych with unerring accuracy. Funniest goddamn thing I've seen in years, and it reportedly brought playwright Shawn (in town to attend the opening) to tears with its excellence.

4) Thom Pain (based on nothing) (Hyde Park Theatre) Do you like magic? Hyde Park Theatre's Ken Webster garnered an Austin Critics Table Award for Outstanding Acting in a Leading Role for his performance of this Will Eno monologue, of course, as the man's fierce acting skills and sense of timing served up a pitch-perfect rendition of the character's funny, thoughtful, pained, and poignant ramble through modern life and personal history.

5) Present Laughter (Zachary Scott Theatre Center) Director Dave Steakley found the perfect man for the lead in this Noel Coward comedy: Jamie Goodwin, joyously overpowering the show as a sort of William Shatner for the Jazz Age in his embodiment of stage actor and epicenter of contumely, Garry Essendine. A fine supporting cast with impeccable blocking and timing made this old-school sitcom a laugh-out-loud pleasure.

6) Salvage Vanguard Theater finally gets a space of its own Sure, original Artistic Director Jason Neulander is releasing the reins after more than a decade of eclectic spectacles but not before having overseen the opening of SVT's own bricks-and-mortar venue on the Eastside, complete with offices, two separate performance spaces, artists' studios, and a visual-arts gallery that's already presented – surprise! – some of the best artists in the country.

7) Little Stolen Moments Yes, your humble reporter produced the first full-length show by Lindsey Taylor, Nicole Whiteside, and Stanley Roy Williamson, but he would not have been inspired to had he not seen the song-and-dance power trio, whether on their trademark minitrampolines or off, explode viewers' expectations with kinetic wit and beauty. The gangly singer's got a ukulele and a voice like a backwoods angel, and he and the two lithe foxes with him dance in sync like Kraftwerk as retrained by Paula Abdul: This was the spectacle at Hyde Park Theatre that had audiences howling for more.

8) Backpack Picnic The comic geniuses David Bewley and Mitch Baker, formerly known as the Edmund Bulldogs, rebounded from an MTV rejection by grabbing Austin improvisers Shannon McCormick and Jeremy Lamb to help create an ongoing collection of brilliant sketches for nascent Internet powerhouse ON Networks. Expertly captured by video wunderkind Rene Pinnell, these slices of gonzo marzipan are a perfect snack for the hyperintelligent and ultrasilly.

9) Golden Arm Trio's The Tick-Tock Club CD release Composer/bandleader Graham Reynolds and his stellar coterie of musicians had the ghost of Dmitri Shostakovich walking Spanish through Memphis and gangland Chicago with strings and percussion and brass, then indulged themselves (and a thoroughly rocked crowd at the Mohawk) in the snazziest version of Duke Ellington numbers this side of jazz heaven.

10) The Alamo reborn The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown closed its location on Colorado and moved, while we all waited with Norman Batesed breath, to the old (and now fully revamped) Ritz, bringing with it not only the usual uncanny cinematic treats conjured by Tim and Karrie League and their film-obsessed friends but live performances like the Dionysium and Master Pancake Theater. If you think of it as an oasis, as a mecca, would you also consider the frat rats along Sixth Street to be insurgents? Hold your fire.

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