Around the State
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Root, root, root for the home teams at the Astrodome and the Ballpark in Arlington. Plus: The lights go up (again) at the State Theater in Austin; motorized masterpieces parade through the streets of Houston; a world-premiere opera in Houston resurrects an old story; and Bonnie and Clyde’s steps are retraced in Dallas.
The Main Event
Swinging Into Action
Randy Johnson came and went in a blink, Tom Hicks was too busy trying to buy a piece of the Dallas Mavericks to trade up for a quality pitcher, and Roger Clemens is a Yankee—guess he didn’t want to come home that bad after all. Those details have transformed baseball the game into baseball the business, but they dissolve into mere trivia on opening day. From then until October, it’s nine innings at a time for the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers. Both won division championships last year (we’ll forget about the playoffs), and both have the talent to make a run for the pennant this year, given the power of the Rangers’ Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez (see “Our Juan and Only,”) and the return of Ken Caminiti to Houston. Is this the year the Rangers turn one of the hottest ballparks in the majors into a home field advantage? Will Houston fans wax nostalgic about baseball’s final season in the Eighth Wonder of the World, savoring memories of exploding scoreboards and groundskeepers in space helmets? Plop into a seat, grab a cold one, take off your shirt in the bleachers, and find out for yourself. The Rangers open at the Ballpark in Arlington against Detroit in a day game on April 5, and the Astros follow the next evening in the ’Dome against Sammy Sosa and the Cubs. Play ball, y’all. Joe Nick Patoski
On With the Shows
In late February the artistic director of Austin’s State Theater Company was talking to building inspectors and checking in on his construction crew. “I’m working as a general contractor, production manager, and carpenter,” said 59-year-old Don Toner as he pointed to a temporary wall he himself had built at the State Theater. “Those skills come from a past life, when I designed homes for a living.” Now in his eleventh year with the troupe (formerly the Live Oak Theatre), Toner is creating his grandest work yet with the $2.5 million renovation of the 64-year-old building on Congress Avenue. After three years of fundraising, planning, and construction, the lights will go up on April 10, when honorary chair Horton Foote, whose name will be given to a smaller theater still under construction at the State, hosts the building’s reopening gala, highlighted by a presentation of My Fair Lady. Why did Toner choose that show? “It’s the premier musical of the American theater,” he said. “It’s about a man who makes a lady out of a guttersnipe and then falls in love with her. This project is like that for me. We’re carving something beautiful out of something that had fallen into disuse. We’re making our own beautiful lady.” Brian D. Sweany
More than ten years ago Houston Grand Opera commissioned a new work from avant-garde composer Tod Machover. When the 45-year-old presents the world premiere of Resurrection on April 23, Houstonians will find that it was well worth the wait. After much searching, Machover—who heads the Opera of the Future research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory and has written two modern, electronically enhanced operas—found a worthy subject for his production in Russian literature. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s tale of sin and redemption, Resurrection features a decadent czarist prince who discovers that a woman he had raped in his youth has become a prostitute who is framed for murder. Seeking atonement, the prince renounces his worldly life and follows her into exile. Though this is perfect operatic material, it is hardly the stuff of Machover’s previous experimentation. He yearned, however, to compose a more classical work and drew from his roots (his four grandparents emigrated from Russia) and his love of Russian music to craft standard arias, duets, and choruses. “I imagine this as a work that will speak directly to opera lovers,” says Machover, “without being conventional in the negative sense.” Chester Rosson
Some of the most notorious criminals in Texas history—from Belle Starr to Sam Bass—have been elevated to folk hero status. So John Neal Phillips makes no apologies for leading a Dallas Historical Society tour that traces the bloody footsteps of the state’s most famous outlaws: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. “There’s no doubt they wreaked holy havoc,” says Phillips, a local historian who has written a book about the lawbreaking lovers, “but if there’s an interest, I’m ready to talk about it.” Now in its third year, the bus tour through Dallas County includes stops at the two cemeteries where the Barrow brothers and Bonnie are buried, the west Dallas house where Clyde killed a Fort Worth deputy sheriff during a gunfight, the remains of a gas station that is part of the house built by Clyde’s father, and the spot along Texas Highway 183 where a Dallas sheriff and his deputies first attempted to ambush Clyde. Though Phillips concedes that the tour may not be appropriate for small children, he believes it’s a valuable study of the past. “There’s so much early-twentieth-century Dallas history entwined in this story,” he says. “It’s about coming to terms with who the heck we are.” Eileen Schwartz