Texas Go Bragh

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a subdued event. Many natives go to church instead of the pub, and they certainly don’t guzzle green beer. Texans, on the other hand, observe the holiday with great fanfare. Dallasites go to the Seventeenth Annual North Texas Irish Festival, one of the largest Celtic gatherings in the Southwest, where their hunger for Irish stew, soda bread, Guinness, and step dancing will be satisfied. San Antonians summon the spirit of San Patricio with a three-part celebration: the Tenth Annual Alamo Irish Festival, featuring live bands and Celtic craft booths around La Villita; the Thirty-second Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade; and the Dyeing O’ the River Green Parade, in which green dye transforms the San Antonio River into a miniature River Shannon. Corpus Christi also hosts a St. Paddy’s parade and festival that are as rich as a pot o’ gold, and the Chieftains, Ireland’s traditional music superstars, will perform for fans in Houston and Fort Worth. It’s enough to make those leprechauns on the other side of the pond green with envy. KATY VINE


Director’s Cut

Edward Albee says he wrote his first play, 1958’s The Zoo Story, to celebrate his thirtieth birthday. This month the veteran playwright marks his seventy-first birthday by directing it along with another of his early one-act plays, The American Dream, at the Alley Theatre. Albee, an associate artist at the Alley since 1989 and a professor at the University of Houston, chose these particular works because “they seemed like fun.” He hopes they will have the currency needed to attract younger audiences. “Theater unfortunately seems to be a middle-aged, white, upper-middle-class preoccupation,” says Albee. So while it was his 1962 Broadway hit, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, that won him international fame, perhaps Albee selected The Zoo Story—the tale of an ill-fated encounter between a young drifter and a middle-aged executive—because it too has become familiar to a new generation. The American Dream, a biting satire of American values, may cut too close for some people, however. “When it first came out, people thought it was terribly funny,” Albee says, “but I’ve noticed in recent years that audiences are getting a little surly about it. Now I think they realize, ‘This is about me.’ And they don’t like that—which, of course, is fun.” EILEEN SCHWARTZ


Gospel According to Kirk

In 1993 Kirk Franklin brought gospel music into the mainstream. Kirk Franklin and the Family, with its streetwise lyrics and hip-hop influences, became the first gospel album ever to go platinum (double platinum, actually). In 1996 the Fort Worth native won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Whatcha Lookin’ 4, and the next year he won another Grammy, this time for Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album for God’s Property. And the 29-year-old was nominated for four Grammys this year, two of them for his crossover single “Lean on Me,” which featured R&B stars R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige, Bono of U2, gospel singer Crystal Lewis, and the Family (Franklin’s seventeen-voice backup choir). To Franklin’s fans, however, the only fact that matters is that he is scheduled to perform in Dallas and Houston this month, after not touring at all last year. So if your faith is flagging, take heart: When Franklin stomps his feet, shakes his fists, and starts pacing the stage singing the praises of Jesus, the dynamic fireball can make a believer out of anybody. JOHN MORTHLAND


Masters of the University

Some distinguished old masters have a new home in Austin. The Suida-Manning Collection, recently acquired by the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, is one of the country’s finest collections of Renaissance and Baroque paintings and drawings by such artists as Lorrain, Rubens, and Veronese. Some fifty of the approximately seven hundred works go on display March 6, including Passeri’s Musical Party in a Garden (above)—one of only two paintings accepted as his work. Started by Austrian art collector William Suida in the early 1900’s, it grew under the care of his daughter, Bertina, and her husband, Texan Robert Manning, who “put tremendous thought, time, and love into it,” says Jonathan Bober, a curator at the Blanton. In 1994, two years before his death, Robert contacted the museum because he wanted to find a home for the collection in the state. The addition of these European masterpieces makes the Blanton one of the South’s top public art museums and gives Austin new standing in the art world. “It transforms museum going here,” says Bober. “It’s one of those things that’s even better than it initially sounds.” Art lovers must be patient, however; the majority of the collection will not be displayed until the Blanton’s new building is completed in 2002. EILEEN SCHWARTZ