Arts & Culture
1996 Readers Poll
1996 Critics Picks
Best Art Museum Fundraiser

For their first fundraising event, Mexic-Arte threw a bash for "Frida-maniacs" at Jalisco Restaurant and packed the house, netting $3,000 (thanks to event underwriter Whole Foods Market). The featured speaker was Guadalupe Rivera Marin, daughter of famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and author of a cookbook featuring the treasured recipes of her stepmother, the artist Frida Kahlo. Jalisco owner Miguel Stupignan's staff faithfully recreated Kahlo's dishes, which were devoured with mariachi music. Frida's Fiestas was so successful that Mexic-Arte is making the fundraiser an annual event. The 1996 edition took place at Fonda San Miguel last week, with celebrity chef Ricardo Muñoz replicating the meals of Señora Kahlo. We can't wait for next year.

Mexic-Arte Museum
419 Congress
512/480-9373
www.mexic-artemuseum.org

Best Bookstore To Be Someone Else

Besides their dark-horse win this year in the readers poll for comics, Dragon's Lair is also Gaming Central, with stacks of books and supplements on the most popular role-playing games, such as Magic: The Gathering, Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Forgotten Realms, and even the granddemon of fantasy role-play, Dungeons & Dragons. The Lair also has a huge selection of GURPS books, so that if you, a self-respecting Masquerade vampire, happen to be sitting in an InterNet Tavern next to a Svirbneflin deep gnome, you can figure out his THaC0 and alignment. Sounds like another world? Step through the door, please...

Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy
2438 W. Anderson Ste. 1-B
512/454-2399
www.dlair.net

Best Bookstore To Get A Clue In

This nifty little bookstore seems to be thriving; its shelves of mysteries, science fiction, thrillers, comics, and more are attracting healthy crowds of the city's book-devouring public. Even more impressive than the stock of new and used books is the amazing array of authors who've appeared at the store, from Michael Moorcock to Mary Willis Walker. Why go there? Elementary, our dear Watson.

Adventures in Crime & Space
609-A W. Sixth
512/473-2665

Best Dimmer Dude

Consistent, eager, and reliable, Segna is a master at a sometimes thankless task. Someone has to be the man in the booth with his finger poised over the go button while dealing with the last-minute nit-picks from the lighting designer. Maybe he is so good because he is also one of the ever-so-cool lighting guys at Eden 2000.

Best Fun, Folk Art Division

Between the spirited exhibition titles -- "Sweet Mud," "Two People Who Drag Stuff Home and Make Art Out of It" -- and playful receptions -- the one for "Elvis Is (Mostly) 61!" featured jelly doughnuts -- this South Congress gallery seems more intent on having a good time than promoting good culture. But hey, who says art and fun are mutually exclusive? Every time we visit Yard Dog and see the funky, odd, enthralling work of the folk artists exhibited there, we're reminded that art is many things, and fun is definitely one of them.

Yard Dog
916 Springdale
512/912-1613
www.yarddog.com

Best Gallery For The Money

Forget about spacious presentation when you walk into this cozy South Austin gallery. Here, art gets jammed together like so many bats under the Congress Avenue bridge. Pieces cover almost every inch of wall space, from ceiling to floor (and sometimes a good deal of that, too). It's just one way AC owners Susan Maynard and David Pratt make the most of their limited resources, and the result is a kaleidoscope of creative imagery that can be dizzying but is invigorating. Maynard and Pratt sponsor intriguing theme exhibitions -- The Mojo Show, He Said/She Said -- that are amazingly inclusive, and they throw a hell of a debutante ball, too.

Alternate Current Artspace
2209 S. First
512/443-9674

Best Razzle Dazzle

Generally, Austin theatre is more about smoke than sizzle, i.e., more pungent scripts than flashy presentations. Maybe that's why we get such a kick from Zachary Scott Theatre Center productions: They aren't shy about showmanship. Whether it's the the lustrous sets of Michael Raiford and Christopher McCollum, the dizzying choreography of Dave Steakley, or the grab-you-by-the-lapels performances in Avenue X or Alice Wilson's crisp revival of Born Yesterday, Zach delivers spectacle with captivating craft. Now, that's show biz!

Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar
512/476-0541
www.zachtheatre.org

Best Reason To Avoid Iambic Pentameter

Wammo, Phil West, Hilary Thomas, Danny Solis, and team coach Mike Henry took their war of the words all the way to the 1996 National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon in August where they finished fourth in the team finals. Wammo went into the individual finals (top six out of an eligible field of 120), where he placed fifth. In our book, they're all winners.

Best Reason To Climb The Stairs

The Public Domain Theatre
807 Congress
512/474-6202

Best Reason To Forget Arthur Murray

Matt the Cat has been squiring women of all ages (and abilities) in front of bandstands across the city and every single one leaves his arms breathless. Bluntly, the man can dance like nobody's business. Small wonder he teaches the popular dance lessons at the Split Rail on Mondays and Thursdays.

Best Support For Cinema

We wanted to be academic about this and talk about how the AFS is one of the best film organizations in the country, bringing classic movies to Austin audiences for a pittance. But what we keep coming back to is how Richard Linklater doggedly kept it going as he went from Slacker to Dazed to Sunrise and -- the most astonishing thing to us -- the way it has attracted support from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, who spent his summer vacation this year running a benefit festival for the AFS at Dobie Theater. Nowhere but Austin.

Austin Film Society
1901 E. 51st
512/322-0145
www.austinfilm.org

Best Theatre Of The Soul

It's common for theatre to engage the intellect or emotions; what's uncommon is for it to engage the spirit. That's what makes root wy'mn an uncommon theatre company. It speaks to our soul, the spark at the core of us all. Make no mistake; poet/playwright Sharon Bridgforth doesn't pen spacy, ethereal verse. Her words are earthy, sensual, brimming with worldly experience. But they explore voyages and displacement and the ache we all feel to find home, and as delivered by Bridgforth's fiery collaborator, Sonja Parks, they get across the truly redeeming power of love. Bridgforth and Parks tour extensively and are earning a strong national rep. But they always come home. And when they do, they bring us home.

Best Theatrical Daredevils

Nowadays, many stage groups shy away from creative risks for fear of running off what few folks still go to theatre. Not Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre. Its adventurous artists take us on unexpected journeys -- to a Big Apple in meltdown, a government hearing for a Greek tragedy, a boyhood memory of funk and Julia Child -- using theatrical gestures of daring: slo-mo movement, environmental staging, word jazz. F@HP aren't Austin's only theatrical daredevils; they're just the ones who most consistently deliver quality and dramatic power. They fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

 
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle