Six Must-Attend Events: February 14–February 23
The state's top offerings, from seeing Sam Shepherd's manuscripts up close and personal to saving the world's whooping cranes.
Sam Shepard’s Pen
Friday, Valentine’s Day, was supposed to be the close of the exhibition “The Writer’s Road: Selections From the Sam Shepard Papers” at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. That would have made a fitting end to its exploration of brotherly love between Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Academy Award-nominated actor, and Johnny Dark, his longtime running buddy and former father-in-law. But the show has been held over, and now fans have until February 23 to explore this treasure trove of correspondence between the two, which became the book “Two Prospectors,” edited by Chad Hammett, a Texas State English lecturer. “This may be one of the last books of letters that you get a chance to see from somebody who’s not, say, two hundred years dead,” Hammett said, taking into consideration the transience of correspondence in the digital age. The exhibition includes manuscripts and other pieces donated to the Wittliff’s founder, Bill Wittliff, whom Shepard had worked with on several projects. It highlights Shepard’s movie career, hislong relationship with the actress Jessica Lange, and his friendship with the singer Bob Dylan, and includes a poem that Shepard wrote to his family ten years ago, on his sixtieth birthday.
Texas State University, February 14–23, thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu
In his February 3 column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Texas gardening guru Neil Sperry looked back 23 years to the publication of Neil Sperry’s Complete Guide to Texas Gardening, which resides to this day on the bookshelves of many gardeners. He then looked ahead to his self-published book, Neil Sperry’s Lone Star Gardening, filled with hundreds of photographs, thirty plant charts, and a discussion of the many changes in horticulture since the early nineties. “My bet would be that half of the shrubs, annuals, perennials, and fruit and vegetable varieties you’ll find in nurseries this spring didn’t even exist at that time,” Sperry wrote. The book also reviews irrigation developments that address the environmental concerns brought on by increasingly hot and dry summers. Lone Star Gardening will be available in late February or early March, but homeowners who want to get a head start on their yards can attend Sperry’s one-day workshop, Home Landscape School, on Saturday. It covers the basics of landscaping and includes a half-hour consultation with a design professional.
The Plano Centre, February 15, 9 a.m., neilsperry.com
Puppets With Attitude
Jeff Dunham, the Dallas ventriloquist and comedian,can still get away with being politically incorrect. His characters—among them, Bubba J, a beer-drinking, Nascar-loving redneck; José Jalapeño on a Stick, a sombrero-wearing pepper; and Achmed the Dead Terrorist, an inept suicide bomber—have no shame in playing to stereotypes. Remarkably, Mr. Dunham does this without offending one and all; in 2009 Slate called him the country’s most popular stand-up comedian. Dunham has parlayed his puppetry career into a voice role in the new animated movie The Nut Job. The story is about squirrels plotting a nut heist, a subject that is bound to elicit some choice words from the puppet Peanut when Dunham brings his Disorderly Conduct tour to his hometown on Saturday.
American Airlines Center, February 15, 7 p.m., jeffdunham.com
The Grape Escape
Not every couple is able to celebrate Valentine’s Day on the actual day. The Wine Lovers Trail, hosted by Texas Hill Country Wineries, solves this problem with a multiday self-guided tasting tour. For $60 a couple, ticketholders can enjoy one to three tastings at each of 37 wineries, plus a small box of chocolates. Oenophiles may want to visit the Hill Country soon, before the inevitable crowds show up; Wine Enthusiast has included the region in its list of the year’s ten best wine travel destinations.
Various locations, February 14–23, texaswinetrail.com
Birdwatchers who want to augment their experience at next weekend’s Whooping Crane Festival, in Port Aransas, can visit the Houston Zoo on Wednesday for a talk by Dr. George Archibald, the MacArthur fellow who is a founder of the International Crane Foundation and once spent three years dressed as a male crane to avoid human imprinting on an endangered female whooping crane in the name of aiding reproduction.
Houston Zoo, February 19, 7 p.m., houstonzoo.org
Heart and Soul
To reinforce musicians’ place as the heart and soul of Austin, the Sims Foundation, which offers mental health services to local musicians, will host a benefit concert, “Heart of the City,” featuring soul musicians like the upstart Tameca Jones and the longtime performer Bobby Patterson.
Scottish Rite Theater, February 15, 9 p.m., simsfoundation.org