Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from the opera in Houston and Friday night lights in Odessa to surfing along the coast and hiking in the mountains. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[DEC 3–DEC 9]
Field of Dreams
Houston artist Trenton Doyle Hancock was skeptical when asked to create a work for the new $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium. But he soon realized Jerry Jones and his wife, Gene, were serious about uniting beer-chuggers and Chardonnay-sippers. The Joneses spearheaded the Dallas Cowboys Art Program, which is responsible for nineteen massively scaled, site-specific contemporary works valued at more than the stadium itself. Mr. Hancock’s mural, From a Legend to a Choir, features what he calls “mounds,” hybrid creatures that have some animal and some vegetable characteristics and that recur in his work. “Just like the game of football itself,” Mr. Hancock said, “hopefully my piece reveals the wonderment of a seemingly never-ending and impossibly large field populated by strange playful creatures.” Mr. Hancock is one of seventeen international artists included in “Big New Field,” an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art that showcases mostly other works by the artists in the Cowboys program. Good Vegan Progression, a mixed-media tapestry of the forest where mounds live, will supplant Choir. Nevertheless, it will inspire you to pay the stadium’s hefty parking fee for a glimpse of the commissioned mural itself.
Dallas Museum of Art, December 5, 11 a.m.
A Red River Christmas
“Okie Christmas” is that rare Christmas song that stands on its own no matter the season. With a comedic undertone, it splits the difference between Sooners and Longhorns, and proper Christians and people who take the Lord’s name in vain. Bruce Robison wrote it after a Christmas spent at wife Kelly Willis’s grandma’s house years ago. About the only time you can hear “Okie Christmas” performed live is at the married couple’s annual statewide holiday show. The Austinites are an anomaly: Each has respectable music careers independent of each other. Willis is a dreamboat with a songbird voice and Robison is an accomplished singer-songwriter, with the Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier” to his credit. They will incorporate an especially countrified vibe into this year’s show, exemplified with a mandolin and steel guitar–inflected version of the sultry classic “Santa Baby.”
The Paramount Theatre, December 9, 8 p.m.
Scrooge’s Favorite Fundraiser
Charles Dickens’s relatives have given their stamp of approval to Dickens on the Strand, the Galveston Historical Foundation’s yearly re-creation of Dickens-era London, by regularly crossing the pond to attend. “It was astonishing to me that around 30,000 people turned up on a Texan island to celebrate my great-great-great grandfather,” Lucinda Hawksley said, “and that the majority of the visitors also made the most superb effort to dress up in costume.” The 37-year-old, activity-filled event was conceived as a fundraiser to save from demolition the historic buildings near Galveston Harbor, and it continues today as a fundraiser in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Costumes abound. Do you fancy yourself a Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, or Miss Havisham? Or will you represent this year’s new class of characters, fringe Victorians known as “steampunks”?
The Strand Historic District, December 4 & 5, 10 a.m.
Thanks to digital technology, recent years have seen a surge in “48-hour film festivals,” where participants write, shoot, and edit short films in a mere two days. The screenings at the end of these marathons are often filled with laughs, but the San Antonio 48 Hour Film Experience—which launched in 2005 and has grown from five to twenty filmmaking teams—has also been stocked with artistry. Bryan Ortiz’s winning short from the 2008 competition, The Big Scary German, went on to have a good festival run, and two other filmmakers, Buddy Calvo and Mark Cantu, have graduated to feature films. “Our event is open to everybody from students to retired folks who want to try their hand at filmmaking,” said Drew Mayer-Oakes, director of the San Antonio Film Commission. This year’s assigned locations for the eight-minute films include “deserted highway” and “public art,” among others, and the theme is “Over 40,” meaning one of the actors must be at least that age.
Various locations , December 3–5 & 7, various times.
A Fishy Tradition
Join the tiny Central Texas town of Cranfills Gap, population 358, in honoring its Norwegian heritage at its annual dinner of the traditional lutefisk (which Garrison Keillor once described as, “a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat”).
Cranfills Gap School, December 4.
Saturday Night Lights
A new 75-foot Christmas tree with energy-efficient lighting will add to the Harbor Lights Festival—a grand illumination of the marina—but the carol-singing boat captains are still the highlight. Corpus Christi Marina, December 4.
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Seven more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can't afford to miss.
By Melanie Gasmen
The Santaland Diaries
Who can stand holiday cheer while catering to crazy parents, tantrum-filled toddlers, and egotistical Santas? Adapted from David Sedaris’s essay, the play chronicles Sedaris’s hilarious yet cynical observations during a stint working as Crumpet the Elf at a Macy’s department store.
Zachary Scott Theatre, Thru Dec 31, various times.
Christmas Pops With Marvin Hamlisch
The award-winning composer (think Emmy, Oscar, Tony, and Grammy) joins the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a night of seasonal tunes, old and new.
Meyerson Symphony Center, Dec 2 –4, 8 p.m.
The folks at Cirque du Soleil are at it again, transporting viewers to a far-away world of contortion artists, fire-knife dancing, and stunning trapeze performances.
Don Haskins Center, Dec 1–5, various times.
Palabra: The Written Word, Spoken
Hispanic poets, musicians, actors, and dancers come together for a night of Latin