Year in Review: Critics Praise Notable 2016 Performances and Publications by Meadows Alumni, Faculty, Students and Staff
Meadows talent represented in multiple “best-of” lists
Works and performances by alumni, faculty and students as well as Meadows Museum staff were recognized by numerous area critics in their “Best of 2016” year-end lists.
In recapping the Top 5 Visual Arts Moments in Texas for 2016, Dallas Morning News art critic Rick Brettell named the Meadows Museum catalogue for the exhibition Modern Spanish Art from the Asociación Colección Arte Contemporáneo as one of the two best exhibit catalogues produced in the state in 2016, along with a photography catalogue by the Amon Carter Museum. Citing the Meadows catalogue’s “superb text by Spanish art historian Eugenio Carmona,” Brettell wrote, “It is all too easy to forget about catalogues produced for art exhibitions, but they last a lot longer and carry, in many ways, greater weight than the exhibitions themselves. … These books, produced at the beginning and the end of the year, set a very high standard for art books created in connection with exhibitions in North Texas for 2016 — which are becoming smaller and smaller and more and more ‘saleable.’” In a separate article on upcoming local arts offerings, Brettell named the museum’s Jusepe de Ribera exhibit, which opens March 12, as a 2017 highlight, saying it “promises to be the most important exhibition ever shown in the U.S. devoted to the drawings of the great Golden Age Spanish painter.”
The Meadows Dance production of Appalachian Spring was named one of the top 10 area dance performances in 2016 by Dallas Morning News critic Manny Mendoza, who said, “…the intensely trained Meadows School dancers…once again proved that they’re as good as most of the pros in town.” Mendoza also ranked the Nov. 18 concert at Meadows by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, led by alumnus Joshua Peugh, noting, “Artistic director Joshua L. Peugh’s politically charged program was well-timed, particularly The Great American Sh*t Show, his interpretation of our culture’s excesses.”
TheaterJones dance critic Margaret Putnam’s list of top 10 area dance performances included only premieres, and she noted that was the only reason SMU’s performances of Appalachian Spring and To Have and To Hold did not make the cut. The top 10 included Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s The Great American Sh*t Show, choreographed by alum and artistic director Joshua Peugh, and Dallas DanceFest; Putnam cited the Shakespeare-inspired work Tomorrow and Tomorrow by alumnus Alexander Druzbanski as one of the best performances at DanceFest.
Fellow TheaterJones dance critic Cheryl Callon also included Joshua Peugh’s work in her list of the top dance performances of the year, calling his take on Rite of Spring “unexpected, a bit wacky, but utterly brilliant.”
Alumni and international concert artists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung, both Johnson-Prothro Artists-in-Residence in the Division of Music, received year-end accolades for works released in 2016 on the Signum Classics label. Chung’s album Poulenc: Works for Solo Piano and Duo (with Bax) was named one of SiriusXM’s “Best Recordings of 2016,” as chosen by the
SiriusXM Symphony Hall announcing staff. And Bax’s Lullabies for Mila album, a compilation of soothing classics dedicated to his baby daughter, was included in Apple’s “Best of 2016” list.
Bax was also recognized by TheaterJones classical music critic Robin Coffelt, who named July’s Mimir Chamber Music Festival in Fort Worth as one of her 10 favorite performances of the year, featuring an “absolutely stellar” recital by Bax.
In his year-end review of local classical music news and performances, Dallas Morning News critic Scott Cantrell noted the retirement of bassoonist Wilfred Roberts from the Dallas Symphony after 50 years, saying “His warm, creamy sound and elegant musicianship will be much missed, but he continues teaching new generations of bassoonists at SMU’s Meadows School,” where he is an adjunct professor.
Broadway World announced its 2016 Regional Awards in early January, and music composition alumnus W. Brent Sawyer received the award for Best Musical Direction for Children of Eden at Casa Mañana Playhouse.
Four TheaterJones critics singled out productions and performances by Meadows faculty and alumni:
Janice Franklin named Ophelia Underwater, written by alumna Janielle Kastner, as one of the top 5 shows of the year. Franklin said, “Of the new plays I saw this year, I would most like to see more from this playwright, Janielle Kastner. Loved this one-woman play…”
Critic Martha Heimberg’s story on outstanding work in 2016 noted the performances of alumna Sally Vahle as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and alumnus Michael Federico in Gloria, both at Dallas Theater Center, and Assistant Professor Blake Hackler in so go the ghosts of méxico – a brave woman of méxico at Undermain Theatre.
In naming his picks for best Shakespeare productions of the year, reviewer Lance Lusk praised Shakespeare in the Bar, led by alumnus Marcus Stimac. He wrote “Shakespeare in the Bar hit its stride this year, and although there were some major leadership changes, the future is quite bright – especially anchored by the soul and wit of the project, Marcus Stimac.” Lusk also cited two productions by Shakespeare Dallas – Richard III with alumnus Brandon Potter in the title role, and The Tempest, led by artistic associate and alumnus Rene Moreno.
Mark Lowry, veteran theatre critic and co-founder of TheaterJones, discussed local theatre trends, themes and specific performances in his year in review. He noted that the art of clown and magic has expanded this year, thanks to, among others, theatre alum and magician Trigg Watson and PrismCo, founded by alums Jeff Colangelo and Katy Tye. He also pointed out a small trend in seamless scene transitions, giving a shout-out to director and theatre alum Carson McCain, who “made the scene transitions in Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan at Second Thought Theatre effortless and not distracting.” Lowry also noted as a positive in 2016 that “women rule even more.” He said that many of the year’s best directors were women, including alumnae Carson McCain, Wendy Welch and Tina Parker. He added, “And while Sally Nystuen Vahle was the most notable woman to play a role traditionally cast as a man when she did Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at Dallas Theater Center, we also saw Lydia Mackay as Marley in Carol,” among other key performances by women this year.
Lowry’s best-of picks included:
- Best Actor – Assistant Professor Blake Hackler for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale, both at Trinity Shakespeare Festival, and so go the ghosts of méxico – a brave woman of méxico at Undermain Theatre (Lowry added, “Also love his direction of 10 Out of 12 at Undermain.”)
- Best Solo Performances – Alum Brigham Mosley in Scarlett O’Hara and the War on Tara at the Dallas SoloFest
- Best New Plays by Local Writers – Ophelia Underwater by alum Janielle Kastner and Stacy Has a Thing for Black Guys by alum Ruben Carrazana, both produced by The Tribe
His Top 10 Plays of the Year included The Big Meal at WaterTower, with recognition for the actors, including alumna Lois Sonnier Hart, and 10 Out of 12 at Undermain, directed by Blake Hackler. The list of honorable mentions included The Light in the Piazza at Brick Road Theatre, directed by alumna Wendy Welch; Outside Mullingar at WaterTower, directed by alumnus Rene Moreno; and Stacy Has a Thing for Black Guys at The Tribe, directed by alumnus Jeffery Bryant Moffitt.