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summary: From Nanci Griffith to Butch Hancock, the stars will shine at this year’s Kerrville Folk Festival—the kickoff of a year-long twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration. Plus: Dead presidents in Austin, Spanish masterpieces in Dallas, a haunting opera in Houston, and tee time in Fort Worth. Edited by Quita McMath, Erin Gromen, and Cheri Ballew
The Main Event
That’s All, Folk!
The Kerrville Folk Festival, which was launched in 1972 with 13 performers over 3 days, will showcase 125 artists in 25 days this year, inaugurating a yearlong twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration. Unfolding on wooded ranchland with ample campgrounds under the Hill Country sky, Kerrville has become something of a pilgrimage destination, with distinct spiritual overtones, for “Kerrverts” nationwide. Indeed, the festival’s offerings have included musical religious services and, in recent years, performances of Native American singing, chanting, and dancing. The entertainment kicks off May 23 with a reunion concert featuring seven of those 1972 acts, including Carolyn Hester and Michael Martin Murphy. Among this year’s stars are Nanci Griffith, Lucinda Williams, Butch Hancock, and Kevin Welch (right), and lesser lights have a chance to shine in such traditional events as the Ballad Tree (where unknowns take a turn at the mike) and the New Folk competition (which helped launch the careers of Griffith, Williams, and Lyle Lovett). The casual evening campfire sings keep many up till dawn and occasionally uncover a diamond in the rough like Michelle Shocked. JOHN MORTHLAND
The premiere of Larry L. King’s comedy-fantasy The Dead Presidents’ Club, presented by Austin’s Live Oak Theatre for three weeks starting May 3, should be downright heavenly. In the new work by the playwright best known for The Night Hank Williams Died and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, four former presidents—Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry Truman—find themselves in an exclusive holding pen outside heaven, awaiting the decision of an admissions committee. “Just who is on that committee?” asks the recently arrived Nixon. “That’s the problem: a buncha narrow-minded goddamned saints!” Johnson replies. As the sanctified weigh the leaders’ good deeds against their sins of omission and commission, Landslide Lyndon and Tricky Dick (played by Texan G. W. Bailey, who is also the show’s director and was Sergeant Luther Rizzo on M*A*S*H) plot to get around the bureaucracy to the Boss Herself—who, as it happens, is black. Says King: “She’s a combination of Pearl Bailey and Barbara Jordan.” CHESTER ROSSON
The Spanish Acquisition
While prospecting for oil in Spain in the fifties, a young financier from Dallas discovered an even richer natural resource: Spanish art. Algur H. Meadows was smitten from his very first visit to the Prado, Madrid’s venerable art museum. Some early acquisitions turned out to be costly fakes, but Meadows persevered and went on to amass an enviable Spanish collection— baroque still-lifes, modern canvases, and Renaissance statuary (right, a polychrome-and-gilded-wood bust of Saint Ignatius Loyola, c. 1609—22). He eventually donated it all to Southern Methodist University, whose Meadows Museum quickly became known as the Prado on the Prairie. To mark its thirtieth anniversary, the Meadows has committed its entire four thousand square feet of gallery space to a two-month celebration of its Spanish beauties. Besides the luminous masterpieces that underpin its holdings—works by Velázquez, Murillo, Ribera, Miró, and Picasso—the exhibit will offer a peek at several Goya lithographs and etchings that have rarely been placed on public view because of their extreme fragility. In addition, patrons can admire the museum’s latest acquisitions, including The Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1615), an ambitious canvas by Juan Bautista Maino. ANNE DINGUS
No, not Susanna from Louisiana but the Houston Grand Opera’s season finale, Susannah. Composed by Carlisle Floyd, the hauntingly melodic opera recasts the biblical tale of Susanna and the Elders as American folklore. A coproduction with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, it opens May 2 with superstar bass Samuel Ramey (right) singing the role of Olin Blitch, the charismatic preacher brought low by lust when he betrays Susannah’s innocence. (The role was created by the redoubtable Norman Treigle forty years ago, when Susannah had its premiere with the New York City Opera.) “Ramey does the role with tremendous authority; he’s the logical inheritor of the Treigle tradition” of dramatic characterization, says Floyd, who happens to be enjoying several milestones this year: the aforementioned anniversary of his opera’s premiere, his seventieth birthday, and his retirement from the University of Houston School of Music twenty years after his appointment to its M. D. Anderson chair. RENEE BOENSCH
The frolicsome spirits of past Colonial Golf Tournaments should be especially lively the week of May 13. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Colonial, the oldest PGA event to be played at the same location—Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club—since its inception. No tournament has a more colorful history. Who can forget Ben Hogan, face contorted with pain from injuries suffered in a near-fatal car accident ten years earlier, limping toward the eighteenth green on his way to his fifth and final Colonial title in 1959? (Above: Hogan, right, with Amon G. Carter, Sr., after winning the first tournament in 1946.) Or Lee Trevino’s carving out a course record twelve under par in 1978? Or Nick Price’s making up seven shots to win in 1994? Or the orange-haired groupie who became infamous for dyeing more-intimate patches of body hair pink to please a famous golfer in the mid-seventies? The Colonial is to Fort Worth what the Derby is to Louisville or the Masters is to Augusta. With the most prestigious names on the tour competing for a purse of $1.5 million, this year’s event will surely live up to its reputation. GARY CARTWRIGHT