Around the State

June 1998By Comments

What a hall! The Houston Museum of Natural Science’s new wing has a mask of a pre-Inca lord, a re-creation of a Mayan temple, and more. Plus: An international opera star takes the stage in Fort Worth; boxer Oscar De La Hoya goes round and round in El Paso; the curtain rises on a little-seen Tennessee Williams play in Houston; and dinosaurs live again in Dallas. Edited by: Quita McMath, Erin Gromen, and Katy Vine

The Main Event

Hemisfare

Hemisfare With ears bigger than Lyndon Johnson’s, the mask of a pre-Inca lord stares coolly across the centuries at visitors who enter the striking new John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. A highlight of the seven hundred objects on display there, the sheet of hammered gold with its slanted eyes and jadelike ear ornaments was sealed in a royal tomb more than a thousand years ago. Today it shares exhibit space with a replica of a mummy in the museum’s Ancestors of the Andes Gallery, where visitors can find out how the Americas’ very own King Tuts were preserved for all time (hint: secret minerals, dry air, and freezing nights will do the trick). Opening June 12, the hall pays homage to the indigenous cultures of North, Central, and South America, and every inch of its 12,000-square-foot area is crammed with fascinating objects and interactive displays. But museumgoers will have the most fun with the walk-in structures: scaled-down re-creations of a Hopi kiva, a Mayan temple, the Aztec Templo Mayor in Mexico City, and the royal tomb mentioned above from the north coast of Peru. Texas’ renowned Wilson-Leonard archaeological site near Austin is represented in a simulated cross section of earth spiked with real bison bones and stones from a 10,000-year-old fire pit—the remains of a prehistoric barbecue, no doubt. Patricia Sharpe

Music

Angels in Fort Worth

Hailed as “the Carmen of the decade,” Denyce Graves has triumphantly toured the opera capitals of the world over the past few years, earning extravagant praise not only for her lustrous mezzo-soprano but also for her ability to bring alive the heroine of one of the genre’s war-horses. “Whenever an opera house anywhere in the world thinks about doing a production of Carmen, Graves is at the top of the list,” brags the Washington, D.C., native’s hometown mag, The Washingtonian. But Texas has reason to take pride in Graves’ success too. As a member of Houston Grand Opera’s young artists program in 1988, she caught the ear of superstar guest artist Placido Domingo, who later invited her to join him in productions of Samson et Dalila and Carmen that helped launch her international reputation. Back in Texas this month for the Fort Worth Opera’s gala at the new Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, the 33-year-old Graves will sing arias and duets from those two operas with tenor Clifton Forbis, who got his start in the chorus of the Dallas Opera. “We’re also going to be doing a lot of new songs,” says Graves. “Jazzy, bluesy things that I’ve never performed in public before.” Among the special treats she has in store is the lovely spiritual “Angels Watching Over Me,” in honor of the Bass hall’s signature trumpeting angels. Chester Rosson  

Sports

Fighting Words

Fighting Words Experts agree that either Roy Jones, Jr., or Oscar De La Hoya is the best fighter pound for pound in the world. Jones’s problem is that he lacks credible opponents among either middleweights or light-heavyweights. De La Hoya’s is that he seems to avoid the most challenging opponents in the welterweight division. But for De La Hoya (right), at least, that will change on June 13 in the Sun Bowl, when Texas boxing fans will get to see the 25-year-old (27-0, 22 KOs) meet Patrick Charpentier of France (27-4-1, 23 KOs), who is 28, for the World Boxing Council’s welterweight championship. Boxing purists should be warned: Many present that night will be ignoring the fine points of boxing. De La Hoya is the first teen heartthrob boxing has had in years, and his appearances always draw an enormous, screaming crowd of young women. The crowd is at least half the fun at a marquee boxing match, and this fight should be no exception. Gregory Curtis

Theater

Ode to Nightingales

Sex, violence, and the South: These basic elements can be found in most of Tennessee Williams’ dramas, and his new play is no exception. Wait . . . new play? Well, sort of: Not About Nightingales, an unproduced early play, had languished at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center for more than thirty years. This month it will have its U.S. premiere in Houston (it debuted in London in March) in a production that marks the second collaboration between the Alley Theatre and Vanessa and Corin Redgrave’s Moving Theatre company. (Two years ago the Redgraves came to Houston for coproductions of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra.) Starring Corin Redgrave (above, with Sherri Parker Lee) and directed by the Royal National Theatre’s Trevor Nunn, Not About Nightingales is grittier than most of Williams’ more familiar works. Inspired by a real penitentiary riot in 1938, it is a harsh attack on what the playwright saw as the inhumane treatment of prisoners. Vanessa Redgrave had read the play in the Ransom Center’s Tennessee Williams archives on her trip to Texas and brought it to the attention of Gregory Boyd, the Alley’s artistic director. Says Boyd, this opportunity is “equivalent to working with a new Shakespeare text.” Erin Gromen

Exhibit

Dino Might

It seems that skeletons are popping out of everyone’s closets these days—including the Dallas Museum of Natural History’s. Of course, its skeletons are bones to be proud of, and they’ll go on view June 6 when the museum opens “Dinoworld,” one of the largest dinosaur exhibits ever mounted in Texas. Ponder the lowly state of the gecko, a relative of the extinct reptiles, as you wander past a fifteen-foot-long Tenontosaurus skeleton, thirteen life-size skeleton casts (including a Tyrannosaurus rex, above), six skulls, and at least two dozen eggs. Texas has been a hotbed of dinosaur discoveries in the past decade or so, and the exhibit includes bones from an Alamosaurus, a genus of the family Titanosauridae, that were excavated last year in Big Bend and the skeleton of an as-yet-unnamed new dinosaur found in Comanche County in the eighties. Also on display are skeletons of a mammoth, a giant sea turtle, and a large, carnivorous marine lizard called a mosasaur. When gazing at prehistoric remains gets old, you can duck into the paleo-laboratories and watch real paleontologists at work or get your hands dirty at the simulated excavation site. This exhibit is something everybody can dig.  Katy Vine

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