Shtick Shift

These days, stand-up stalwarts like Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres get rich off genial, self-deprecating, politically correct routines, but comedy has not always been so pretty. For half a century or so, in cheesy lounges and joke-filled rooms, Vegas and the Borscht Belt have buckled under the weight of nasty zingers, one-liners, and insults hurled by the great draws of the day: Phyllis Diller, Buddy Hackett, Totie Fields, Redd Foxx. But for sheer sarcasm, no one came close to the king and queen of mean, Don Rickles and Joan Rivers, who make a rare, must-see appearance at Fort Worth’s Casa Mañana on June 29. Rivers, last seen hawking jewelry on the QVC cable channel, hasn’t lost any of her bite: Two weeks after the Academy Awards, she could still be heard bitching about Brad Pitt’s not wearing a tie. And Rickles, enjoying a career boost of late, thanks to bit parts in Casino and Toy Story, is still hurling hockey pucks at the world—including Texas. “Texans in the audience are no different than anyone else in the country,” he told me recently, “except they wear cowboy hats and block your view.” Bah-da-bum. EVAN SMITH


Beyond the Pail

It will be anything but child’s play June 1, when design professionals take up bucket and shovel for the tenth annual Sandcastle Competition on Galveston’s East Beach. Sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and two local architecture firms, the event is expected to draw more than sixty teams of architects, engineers, and contractors. A few crenellated towers are sure to dot the temporary beachfront development, but—freed from such pesky problems as where to put the walk-in closets and washer-dryer hookups—most contestants opt for subjects more fanciful than mere castles. Often, their creations have nothing to do with shelter, and the blockbuster movie of the summer has been a major inspiration: Jurassic Park spawned twelve entries in 1993. Although teams have been known to begin practicing months in advance in pursuit of the coveted Golden Bucket award, actual construction must be completed between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. the day of the contest (a 1994 entry). Spectators, who are admonished not to touch, are free to comment on the sandy sculptures. Even Mother Nature is a critic. Four years ago 60-mile-per-hour winds blew the competition off the beach. In true Island tradition, the participants returned, regrouped, and rebuilt. CHERI BALLEW


Ring Engagement

Down on the aptly named Rancho Gibich, jilted brides Gutrune and Brünnhilde (played by Meredith Robertson,) trade insults, rehashing their double wedding ceremony gone awry. As they chow down on chicken-fried steak at a picnic table that stretches from here to Amarillo, their intendeds—good ol’ boy Gunther and country singer heartthrob Siegfried—are off on a hunt from which only one of them will return. These are highlights from a brand-new production of Das Barbecü, an irreverent take on Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs written by former Texan Jim Luigs and set to music by Scott Warrender. First performed at Seattle’s 1991 Ring Cycle festival as much-needed comic relief on evenings between operas, Das Barbecü took to the road for a well-received tour that ended abruptly Off-Broadway in 1994 (seems New Yorkers didn’t get jokes like the one whose punch line is “Waxahachie”). This revival at Austin’s Zachary Scott Theatre presents a cast of five playing variations on most of the Ring’s major characters, from Wotan, a rancher wandering in search of the lost ring of gold, to the Rivermaidens of Aquamarina Springs—who will be joined, the producer promises, by a “reasonable facsimile” of Ralph the swimming pig. As a swinemaiden, of course. CHESTER ROSSON


A Right to Sing the Blues

At the end of the Civil War, Texas surrendered to the Union on June 2, 1865, but slaves here didn’t learn of their freedom until June 19—Juneteenth—when Union occupation forces arrived in Galveston. Every year the day is marked by family reunions, picnics, church services, and other gatherings across the state. In Houston, though, the celebration of African American cultural pride is too big for just one day, stretching throughout the entire month with events that range from a Miss Juneteenth pageant to a gospel and spiritual sing-out. Perhaps the biggest bash of all is the Twentieth Annual Juneteenth Blues Festival, at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park June 6, 7, and 8. For local treasures like singer Trudy Lynn and guitarist Sherman Robertson, who perform in Europe more often than in their hometown, it’s a chance to shine in front of friends and family. And in the tradition of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan, white blues artists whose careers got major boosts from their appearances at Miller, young guitar flash Hamilton Loomis will put his talents on display before one of the most discerning blues audiences found anywhere in the world. There’s not a better place to hear the blues than in Houston on this particular weekend. JOE NICK PATOSKI


Out of This World

With this month’s opening of new African, Asian, and Pacific galleries, the Dallas Museum of Art completes its transformation into a series of “museums within a museum.” Representing the three quarters of the world’s population whose cultures are usually only peripherally glimpsed in art textbooks, the sumptuous third-floor installation covers a vast sweep of time and territory, from ancient Egyptian coffins to a towering fifty-year-old Melanesian fern-wood figure that probably stood sentry outside a men’s ceremonial lodge. The world-class collection of African tribal art has been a mainstay at the DMA for years, but many standout pieces in the remodeled galleries are recent acquisitions, such as a domed, seven-foot-tall Mughal silver shrine and a glittering textile, woven with gold-wrapped yarn, that served as a backdrop for the bride in a Sumatran wedding. The common thread throughout this eight-hundred-piece trove is a complete absence of the modern Western rift between art and life. From Indonesian village to imperial China, these were societies in which life simply couldn’t go on without art. MICHAEL ENNIS