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Year in Review: Critics Praise Notable 2015 Performances by Meadows Alumni, Faculty and Students

Area arts writers' "best of" lists include plentiful Meadows talent

Numerous performances by alumni, faculty and students were praised by art critics in their “best of 2015” year-end lists.


SMU's Matt Albert, Emanuel Borok, and Andres Diaz rehearse for the world premier of Xi Wang's Valley Rhapsodies at the national meeting of the College Music Society and Pi Kappa Lambda, St. Louis MO.

Nationally, voice alumnus and countertenor John Holiday was named one of two “stars of tomorrow” by The Washington Post, which said his portrayal of Caesar in Catone in Utica at Glimmerglass and with Opera Lafayette at the Kennedy Center was “remarkably mellifluous” and a performance “of memorable beauty.”

Locally, award-winning Associate Professor of Composition Xi Wang's work Tibet Fantasia, commissioned and premiered by Dallas-based distinguished new music ensemble Voices of Change, was named one of the year’s Top 5 Chamber Music Performances by Gregory Isaacs, chief classical music critic of TheaterJones. Isaacs also singled out the performance at the concert by current SMU undergraduate and countertenor Vinnie Mahal, a student of Professor Virginia Dupuy, saying he was “outstanding as he conveyed a wide range of emotions in a made-up language.”

The Tibet Fantasia concert was also named by Dallas Morning News classical music critic Scott Cantrell as one of his Top 10 performances of the year.

Among her favorite performances of 2015, TheaterJones music writer J. Robin Coffelt cited SMU percussion faculty member Drew Lang's marimba solo with Voices of Change, and alumnus and Artist-in-Residence Alessio Bax's standout piano performances with the Mimir Chamber Music Festival and the Cliburn Concerts.


SMU Dance students at an interactive performance of Metropolis for the opening of the Dallas VideoFest

In TheaterJones, dance critic Margaret Putnam named two performances by the Bruce Wood Company (including alum Albert Drake’s Whispers) and two performances by alum Joshua Peugh’s Dark Circles Contemporary Dance company among her Top 10. Both companies feature numerous SMU dance alumni. Putnam also wrote, “And thanks to Southern Methodist University, the Arts Magnet and several dance schools, there is a steady supply of new talent. Wait a few years and you will see some of them on stage with local companies or perhaps with Paul Taylor or David Parsons.”

In her list of Top 5 Dance Premieres of 2015, TheaterJones dance writer Katie Dravenstott cited Joshua Peugh’s It’s a Boy, and Associate Professor Christopher Dolder's original choreography, performed by SMU students, for a showing of the classic silent movie Metropolis with a live orchestra. The Metropolis event was presented by the Dallas VideoFest and Dallas Chamber Symphony.


Will Power (R) led a lecture on Stagger Lee with Meadows alum and Director Patricia McGregor

Dallas Morning News theater critic Nancy Churnin’s list of Top 10 productions of 2015 included Stagger Lee, written by Artist-in-Residence Will Power and premiered at Dallas Theater Center (DTC). Churnin wrote, “Will Power’s script and music was ambitious in its attempt to portray the struggle of two black couples trying to achieve the American Dream. Pooling talent with Southern Methodist University, which gave partial funding through its Meadows Prize, showed the potential of these two institutions working together.”

Three writers at TheaterJones offered additional perspectives on the local theater season. David Novinski summarized great acting moments, including a scene from alumna Lydia Mackay’s performance in Love’s Labour’s Lost at Trinity Shakespeare Festival. Martha Heimberg’s list of outstanding performances included alumni Michael Federico in The Dumb Waiter and Tina Parker in The Totalitarians, both at Kitchen Dog Theater. And Lance Lusk’s review of “The Year in Shakespeare” named the SMU alumni-founded Shakespeare in the Bar company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a standout, saying “A big surprise and a welcome, unique take on Shakespearean performance came in the form of newcomers, Shakespeare in the Bar, particularly with their contagiously drunken interpretation of the fairy play—the top production of the year if I had to rank them.” He also said Shakespeare Dallas’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by alumnus Rene Moreno, was “perfectly directed” and “some of Moreno’s finest work.”

Mark Lowry, veteran theater critic and co-founder of TheaterJones, discussed local theater trends and themes and specific performances in his year in review. Assessing the state of black theater in Dallas, he praised Will Power’s Stagger Lee and DTC and also cited Meadows’ Ignite/Arts Dallas initiative. He noted, “This year Meadows School of the Arts announced an Arts & Urbanism Initiative, led by Clyde Valentín, formerly of the Hip-Hop Theater Festival. Valentín’s work brought the fascinating The Clothesline Muse to the Bishop Arts Theatre Center (co-presented with TeCo) and Detroit-based Complex Movements, which developed an unforgettable, had-to-be-there theater/rap/art installation called Beware of the Dandelions.” Lowry added that The Clothesline Muse was one of his favorite small-scale tours of the year. Discussing the trend of using non-traditional spaces, he cited Shakespeare in the Bar and House Party Theatre, both of which are composed chiefly of SMU alumni and current students. Another trend noted was the combining of theater and dance; he praised dance alum Joshua Peugh and his work in DTC’s Colossal, and the innovative PrismCo Movement Theater founded by alumni Jeff Colangelo and Katy Tye.

Lowry’s best-of picks included:

  • Best Set Design – alum Scott Osborne for Lydia at Cara Mia Theatre Company
  • Best Original Music – Will Power and Justin Ellington for Stagger Lee at Dallas Theater Center
  • Outstanding Ensembles – Stagger Lee (one of seven on the list)
  • Best New Theater Company – House Party Theatre
  • More Great Performances – Assistant Professor Blake Hackler for Love’s Labour’s Lost and King Lear at Trinity Shakespeare Festival, and alumna Tina Parker for The Totalitarians at Kitchen Dog Theater.

And his Top 15 Plays of the Year included Stagger Lee at DTC, directed by alum Patricia McGregor; Colossal, choreographed by Joshua Peugh, also at DTC; Faust, adapted by alumni Michael Federico and Lydia Mackay, presented by The Drama Club; and August Wilson’s Radio Golf at African American Repertory Theater, directed by Assistant Professor Benard Cummings and starring alumnus Adam Anderson.


D Magazine’s story on artists who will have the biggest impact on Dallas culture in 2016 included dance alumnus Joshua Peugh and theater company The Drama Club, which features Meadows alumni. The Drama Club’s 2015 production of Faust earned wide acclaim.

And writing in Arts and Culture Texas magazine, dance critic Manny Mendoza said he is looking forward in 2016 to Joshua Peugh’s new version of Rite of Spring.

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