Arts & Culture
2001 Readers Poll
2001 Critics Picks

photo by John Anderson

Best 20th-Century Latin American Collection

With more than 1,600 pieces of Latin American art, it's no exaggeration to say that the museum on the UT campus has one of the finest collections in the nation. Aside from the sheer beauty of the art itself, 20th century themes add a poignant sense of urgency to the impressive collection. From Fernando Botero's iconical Santa Rosa de Lima Según Vásquez to Clorindo Testa's more abstract Sin Título, these works are as provocative as they are inspiring.

The Blanton Museum of Art
200 E. MLK
512/471-5482
blantonmuseum.org

Best Addition To A Three-Opera Season

Four cheers for Austin Lyric Opera, where the fours have been wild these past few years. First ALO added a fourth performance, turning Monday nights into an audience-friendly, not-so-highbrow night of operatic bliss for many of Central Texas' opera lovers who couldn't find a ticket in the days of the three-performance format. Now ALO has gone one better and added an entire opera to its season, bringing even more variety to its programming and practically lavishing opera lovers with options. This past season the sumptuous extra show was Carmen, joyfully produced in the City Coliseum. Next year ALO again offers four operatic productions that hail from strikingly different musical worlds: Gounod's Faust, André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire (yes, it's an opera, too), Puccini's The Girl of the Golden West, and Verdi's Rigoletto. Quite the quartet.

Austin Lyric Opera
901 Barton Springs Rd.
512/472-5927
www.austinlyricopera.org

Best Comedy Action Heroes

Once upon a time, there were three funny boys who performed at the Alamo Drafthouse. Their duty? To entertain us with bad movies -- Hollywood wipeouts like Xanadu and Footloose and Star Trek V. But that ain't all. Oh, that ain't the half of it. Armed with their own special talents, John Erler (the tall one), Owen Egerton (the short one), and Jerm Pollet (the dark one) offer an evening's entertainment that ranges from the political to the scatological, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Their Friday-night comic jam sessions in the front row of the Alamo Downtown have become the can't-miss hit of the year, the must-see ticket of the millennium, the don't-get-there-late-or-you're-shit-outta-luck sensation of the season. And why not? Action! Laughter! Cross-dressing! And maybe even a little romance. Finally, these three guys prove that even comic actors can be strong, sassy, and – above all – fashionable.

Best Filmmaking School For Amateurs

Sign up for one of filmmaker Steve Mims' 14-week filmmaking classes to find out whether there's a career in cinematography (or on a film or editing crew) in your future. Even if you aspire to the less-careerist goals of simply raising your cineaste's IQ or satisfying your curiosity, we guarantee a major kick when the lights go down and you and 200 of your and your classmates' closest friends watch your five-minute class project on the Alamo Drafthouse's big screen.

AustinFilmWorks
4606 Rosedale
512/467-0731
www.austinfilmworks.com

Best Metamorphosis Of A Film Festival

We love a film festival that keeps on giving. With its year-round schedule of events, aGLIFF (Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival) gives us an excuse to see our friends without always encountering them in dark theatres. In the past six months alone, aGLIFF has sponsored an Academy Awards party, a Wizard of Oz sing-along at the Paramount, and a no-holds-barred event called "My Gay Movie" that showcased amateur gay filmmakers. Now aGLIFF allows us to do two of our favorite things – watch movies and be gay – at the same time, all year long.

aGLIFF
1107 S. Eighth
512/406-9699
www.agliff.org

Best Mingling With The Departed

The kick-off party for Texas Writers Month was held at the Texas State Cemetery this year so, although the state wouldn't permit booze, participants were nevertheless able to commune with Fred Gipson (Old Yeller), J. Frank Dobie, and Walter Prescott Webb. Rod Moag performed Western swing, and a cake very nearly the size of Texas had us in its thrall. Austin screenwriter Cary Roberts, who heads up Texas Writers Month, and the Barnes & Noble booksellers, who put on the party, deserve a round of applause for their creative party-planning.

Best Missionary for the Arts

When folks have no background in the arts, too often all they see in culture is "cult": small bands of devotees ritualistically going to look at and listen to often wild-eyed adherents of certain aesthetic creeds. It takes real skill and persuasion to convince arts outsiders that this is no strange fringe religion, but a part of society that belongs to and can speak to everybody, and Austin Lyric Opera's Joe McClain has those qualities in spades. When he talks about his chosen art form, it's clear he's a believer – his eyes gleam like a tent-show revivalist's – but he doesn't just preach to the chorus, as it were. He describes the stories of the operas (and how they were created) like they're thrilling films or novels and provides illuminating details about his approach to staging a work and how it comes together, peppering his delivery with references to pop culture, current events, and daily life. In short, he finds a common ground on which everyone can relate to this rarefied art form and where his enthusiasm is infectious. And then he backs it up with operatic spectacles that are accessible, engaging, and habit-forming. No wonder ALO has made thousands of converts in this previously opera-indifferent city.

Joseph McClain
Austin Lyric Opera
901 Barton Springs Rd.
www.austinlyricopera.org

Best Poetry/Performance Art Venue

If you like a theatre-like space for that booming voice rant of yours to rattle the soul cage drunkards in the back, this is the place for you. Dark enough to brood in, enough tables to pretend it's a dinner club, and dinner downstairs if you want to actually eat instead of allowing that emptiness to feed on the demons of your tongue.

Best Proof That Art And Comfort Can Coexist

The proof's in the popcorn and the nice cushy seats: At the Arbor, you can watch your restored-print Bertolucci pic with the same comfort you'd get at one of those monster-size moviehouses, but with the intimacy and passion for film that befits an arthouse theatre. The Arbor is dedicated to providing a venue for independent and foreign films, plus it happily sponsors film series from the likes of AFS and aGLIFF, and what leg room!

Best Second Act By An Arts Group

Last summer, after Austin Writers' League administrators discovered that a surprising 43% of its members don't even live in Austin, it suggested a name change to Writers' League of Texas. But in this case more than a name was being changed; the entire scope of the organization had to be rethought. Former Executive Director Jim Bob McMillan, in addition to being an all-around workhorse, successfully saw the state's largest writing organization through a risky growth by taking the pulse of the League in his unassuming, inclusive way.

Writers' League of Texas
1501 W. Fifth Ste. E-2

Best Set of Pipes

Though often overshadowed by the concerts held at the Hall, the pipe organ is a marvel unto itself. With pipes stretching up to the shadowy ceiling, and tucked into corners or within panels, it's difficult to count the actual number present. The metallic sheen is complemented by the light wood used in the hall. Also creating aesthetic happiness is the Frank Lloyd Wright-esque shell top, which can be raised or lowered according to acoustical need.

Bates Recital Hall
2406 Robert Dedman
512/471-2787
texasperformingarts.org

Best Use Of That Exquisite Living Room

The housing market may not be quite what it was a year ago, but that doesn't mean that the houses are any less impressive. What better way to put some of those fine social chambers to use than with social evenings of classical chamber music performed by excellent musicians, accompanied, of course, by delectable victuals and vintages? It's the way this music was meant to be enjoyed. Of the many estimable groups that have taken to performing in Austin's private homes, the Austin Chamber Music Center has led the way with its "Intimate Concert" series. Under the guidance of Felicity Coltman and Ora Shay, ACMC has turned those exquisite salons into charming chamber concert halls, bringing to your table, as it were, some of the best-known classical musicians in Austin.

Austin Chamber Music Center
7600 Burnet Rd., Ste. 190
512/454-0026
www.austinchambermusic.org

Best Vanishing Actor/Best Invisible Man (in A Part)

Some actors command our attention through larger-than-life charisma, some through a mastery of theatrical technique. Then there is David Stahl, an unassuming, understated actor who compels us to watch him by just subtly, slyly becoming the characters he plays. No one else on our local stages slips so invisibly into a part. With Stahl, you don"t see acting with a capital A; you can't find the seam between artist and role. He can be a milquetoast in hysterics, as in Yasmina Reza's Art, or a ruthless royal, as in Shakespeare's Richard III, but the part always appears to be a natural extension of his self. Oh, he has technique, honed to razor sharpness, and more than ample charm, but he applies both delicately, elegantly.

Best Vocal Conspiracists

Whether performing choral works Medieval or modern or in between, the Conspirare Choir, under the guidance of Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson, has tuned its amazing collection of voices to create some of the most scintillating sounds around. Singing exciting, challenging, yet accessible works, the conspiring choir sings with emotion and clarity that leaves patrons spellbound. At the annual New Texas Festival, the highlight of the New Texas Music Works season, Johnson puts the Conspirare Choir through its vocal paces, matching evenings of Conspiratorial bliss with a generous helping of other choral work of equal caliber. The Choir performs throughout the year, but keep an ear open for sounds of next summer's festival.

 
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Entertainment

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