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.
[Feb 25–Mar 3]
Going to the Chapel
The Rothko Chapel, a non-denominational sanctum emphasizing contemplation, opened forty years ago as an antidote to socio-political strife. To commemorate its anniversary, the chapel will pair live music with the paintings by the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko that line its walls in a synergistic happening akin to a religious revival. But with one critical difference: “The fact that we can experience spirituality without dogma is important, and this is what art allows,” said Sarah Rothenberg, artistic director for Da Camera, the show’s musical producer. Rothenberg, in collaboration with the Houston Chamber Choir and select classical musicians, will lead an ambitious program of avant-garde selections that epitomizes the chapel’s mission of “timeless reflection”—as illustrated by Rothko’s fourteen mysterious, all-black canvases. Piano works by Erik Satie and John Cage will interweave with wordless choral pieces (yes, you read that correctly) by Cage to form a wholly new composition. These shows, alas, are sold out. But if there was ever a place where a miracle ticket could materialize, this is it.
The Rothko Chapel, Feb 25–27, various times.
High Lonesome Sound
Andy Wilkinson, a cowboy poet from Lubbock who claims as a distant relative Charles Goodnight, the legendary Texas rancher, thinks poetry has become too academic. “Cowboy poetry is one of a variety of different ways that ordinary folk can reclaim poetry,” said Wilkinson, citing as inspiration the book Can Poetry Matter? by Dana Gioia, poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Cowboy poets from as far away as Canada will join Wilkinson in deepest West Texas to perform in the 25th annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Expect verse about breaking horses, lonesomeness on the range, and whiskey rivers from the likes of Apache Adams and Biscuits O’Bryan. Then there’s Washtub Jerry, who’s not even a poet. He just plays washtub bass to the oral storytelling of other performers. “I’ve heard a number of folks say, ‘Gee, we would have attended if we’d known there was music,’” said Washtub Jerry. “‘We don’t care much for poetry.’”
Sul Ross State University, Feb 25–27, various times.
For its one hundredth incarnation, Mardi Gras! Galveston is pulling out all the stops to keep revelers intent on a bead-tossing debauch from crossing the state line into Louisiana. Eight new parades have been added to the ten that already existed—including the Salute to George Mitchell Parade, which will pay homage to the Galveston-born preservationist and developer who resurrected the city’s Mardi Gras festivities in 1985, after a 44-year sabbatical imposed in 1941 by “war and challenging times.” Add to that 26 concerts, thirteen “balcony” parties, and five masked balls, and there’s plenty of opportunity for trouble—even for a quarter-million people—before Lent starts and restraint is the order of the day. Another reason to bypass New Orleans: in Galveston you’ve got the beach right there to keep you from burning out.
Various locations, Feb 25–27, various times.
Back to the Beginning
The realist writer Joyce Carol Oates lived in Texas for only a year but it changed her life in a big way. Her first husband, Raymond Smith, moved them to Beaumont in the early sixties so he could teach at Lamar College (now Lamar University). Oates, meanwhile, pursued a Ph.D. in English at Rice University. One day while in Rice’s library Oates, then 22, learned that a short story of hers was being considered for the Best American Short Stories anthology. “Seeing one of my stories so singled out for attention gave me just enough encouragement to quit the Ph.D. program and spend all my time writing, revising my first collection of short fiction, By the North Gate, and working on my first novel, With Shuddering Fall,” Oates said. Oates returns to Texas on Saturday for the Arts & Letters Live speaker series. Among other things, Oates will talk about A Widow’s Story, a memoir on the passing of Smith. Just think, you could be the only one in the crowd who will know to ask her about Beaumont.
Dallas Museum of Art, Feb 26, 7:30 p.m.
The North Texas Farm Toy Show embraces the new fad in farm toy collecting—1/64th scale models, instead of the standard 1/16th scale—so you can fit more tractors, balers, and combines on your mantelpiece.
Gainesville Civic Center, Feb 26, 9 a.m.
If you remember the pie-eating contest in Stand by Me, then you can imagine how the raw oyster–eating contest at Oysterfest, a weekend-long tip of the hat to the local bivalve, might pan out.
Fulton Beach, Mar 3, various times.
• • • • •
Seven more gotta-see, gotta-do events that you can’t afford to miss.
By Annie Samuelson
Seinfeld is coming to town. Yada, yada, yada.
Bass Concert Hall, Feb 25, 7 & 9:30 p.m.
DFW Family Expo
Loads of fun hands-on activities for the kids are promised plus plenty of products and exhibitions for the parents. A true family affair.
Centennial Hall, Fair Park, Feb 26, 10 a.m.
He set the standard for modern country music.
Plaza Theatre, Feb 25, 7:30 p.m.
All Texas Garden Show
No need to wait for “April showers [to] bring May flowers.” Spring is coming early this year (just ask Punxsutawney Phil). Arlington Convention Center, Feb 25–27, various times.
Let them eat cake.
Wortham Theater Center, Feb 24 & 26 at 7:30 p.m., Feb 27 at 2 p.m.
San Antonio Rampage vs. Texas Stars
These two Texas teams will turn up the heat and face-off to see who is going to take the lead in the western division.
AT&T Center, Feb 26, 7 p.m.
Whooping Crane Festival
Known for their trademark call, only four hundred whooping cranes remain in the wild. Come for the opportunity to see (and hear) these unique birds take flight.
Various locations, Feb 24–27, various times.