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Cities across Texas drop the ball to celebrate the new millennium. Plus: The Grace Museum in Abilene puts on a star-studded exhibit; ZZ Top brings a XXX show to Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, and Odessa; the San Angelo Civic Ballet jumps for joy over its Sugar Plum Fairy; and Tuna’s on the holiday menu in Dallas, Galveston, San Antonio, and Lubbock.
THE MAIN EVENT
We’re Gonna Party Like It’s…Oh, Never Mind
Though it seems as if we’ve been hearing the term “Y2K” for at least a thousand years, the good news is that the date is finally upon us. And unless you’ll be ringing in the New Year by either flying in a private jet from time zone to time zone or marching your family into a backyard bunker stocked with fresh water, canned vegetables, and ammo, you should know that cities across the state are holding family-friendly events to celebrate the new millennium. Outdoor festivals, fireworks, food, and music are all on the lineup in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, and Fort Worth. Austin, whose downtown street party is named A2K (imagine that), will include a light show and free performances by Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, and Kelly Willis. As for what happens after the ball drops, well, let’s just hope that nothing interferes with the college bowl games. BRIAN D. SWEANY
Space junkies, your mission this month is simple: Make contact at Abilene. No, there will be no evidence that explains the origin of the universe; this is a purely aesthetic journey. Here’s your briefing: Robert McCall has contributed to the NASA art program since the sixties. His six-story mural welcomes visitors to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. His artwork has appeared on postage stamps. And starting November 20, you can survey an exhibit of his work titled “Space 2000: Visions of the Future, The Art of Robert and Louise McCall” at the Grace Museum. In addition to forty paintings of futuristic spaceships and floating worlds, you can examine McCall’s original designs for movie posters such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek, sketches that inspired movie sets, and twenty photos of a space shuttle mission, as well as still lifes by his wife, Louise. For the exhibit’s opening, McCall will even be joined by an astronaut (whose identity will be revealed at a later date), allowing you the opportunity to discuss futuristic cities and past accomplishments. Prepare your questions, people. And get there before it takes off. KATY VINE
They’ve Got Legs
Which ZZ Top is your ZZ Top? The image that sticks in the head of most folks is of long beards and longer legs. That would be ZZ’s middle period, wherein synchronized, synthesized, Horatio-Alger-in-a-hot-rod morality tales took better advantage of the video revolution than any other artist. For high school kids coming of age before the dawn of MTV, it was the stripped-down, revved-up, three-piece Texas blues of the band before the beards became gimmicks. Regardless, these were the songs boys heard if they’d just sneaked into a strip bar or reached into a cooler full of beer on the way to some out-of-town ball game. It was what they played for the pretty little foreign exchange student who had asked, “Qu’est-ce que c’est ‘low-down?’” The songs were as raw and as dirty as a dog-eared Hustler, and they had to do with beer, butts, and—always—Texas. With their latest record, XXX (see Hot Box), ZZ Top’s sound takes another sharp turn, but after thirty years, the boys have not run out of gas; they’re headed into the new millennium with yet another whirlwind, worldwide tour of Texas. Call them dinosaurs or old farts, but they remain That Little Ol’ Band From Texas: bass, drums, and fuzzy guitar. JOHN SPONG
Coup de Ballet
Every young ballerina longs for the chance to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy, the quintessential vision of beauty and grace from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The music and spectacle of the show are so appealing that for many small ballet companies, income from that production alone sustains the program for the entire year, as the many performances across the state this month can attest. But not every company can have a renowned ballerina to inspire its corps de ballet. This year that Sugar Plum will go to San Angelo, which has attracted American Ballet Theatre’s Paloma Herrera, the extraordinary Argentine dancer who joined the ABT in 1991 at the age of fifteen. “We’re so excited that we can’t stand it,” says Susan Olson, San Angelo Civic Ballet’s artistic director. How did Olson land such a star? It turns out that her students have won acceptance to the prestigious youth programs at the San Francisco Ballet School and the School of American Ballet. Given her company’s growing reputation, and since she herself had “rehearsed”—as she puts it—at the ABT, she simply called Herrera and asked. Who knows: Because of Olson’s aplomb, perhaps some young girl from San Angelo may one day get her Christmas wish to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy in New York. CHESTER ROSSON
In Tuna With Christmas
When Texans get into the holiday spirit, it’s not just visions of sugarplums that dance in our heads. To heck with the turkey and dressing; what we really want for Christmas is Tuna. A Tuna Christmas, that is. Celebrating its tenth anniversary with performances in Lubbock, Galveston, San Antonio, and Dallas, the play starring Jaston Williams and Joe Sears has become a Texas tradition and a treat for theater lovers on Broadway and off. The success of A Tuna Christmas, the second installment of the Tuna trilogy, should come as no surprise. It teems with the same hilarity that made Greater Tuna—which introduced the world to the mythical town of Tuna, Texas—such a coup de théâtre. The holiday havoc begins when the town’s yard displays disappear at the hands of a mysterious Christmas Phantom and the Smut Snatchers try to ban “Silent Night” for containing the lyrics “round young virgin.” Williams and Sears again portray all the play’s 22 characters (both male and female), and they are master quick-change artists, swapping dresses and wigs faster than the Tuna censorship committee can mark up a Danielle Steel novel. Note to Charlie: no need to apply. Texas doesn’t want Tuna with good taste. EILEEN SCHWARTZ