Go Ask Alice
One hundred and fifty years ago, a young blond-haired girl named Alice fell down a rabbit hole, took a potion that made her small before eating a piece of cake that made her larger, met a hookah-smoking caterpillar who taught her to eat a mushroom to regulate her size, joined the Mad Hatter at a psychedelic tea party, and partook in a game of croquet with the Queen of Hearts—which led to the queen demanding, “Off with her head!”—only to wake up and find out that it was all a dream. Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, got the idea for his 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—or Alice in Wonderland, for those who have seen only the Disney movie—from a July 4, 1862, outing with his friend’s three daughters, to whom he first told the tale. A photograph of these girls, one of whom was a six-year-old named Alice, is a highlight of the Harry Ransom Center’s exhibit named after the title of the book, in part because Alice is ostensibly a brunette. Around two hundred items, largely drawn from the center’s collection, include manuscripts, rare editions, translations, Alice ephemera, and photographs that Carroll took. The curator Danielle Sigler counts among her favorite pieces in the show a pair of 1933 paper filmstrips for a Movie-Jecktor toy home-movie projector, which often employed a lightbulb and a handcrank; a paper puzzle that Carroll created called “64=65,” a reminder that he was a mathematician outside of his literary pursuits; and one of the fewer than 25 remaining suppressed first editions of the book, which were “killed” because the illustrator John Tenniel was unhappy with the print quality. “Everyone knows the story of Alice, but relatively few people have actually read it,” Sigler said. “It is filled with references, like ‘quadrille’ and ‘mock turtle,’ and parodies of Victorian texts that are unfamiliar to many modern readers. There is subtle and not-so-subtle humor and wit there that I certainly did not perceive as a child.”
Harry Ransom Center, Feb. 10 to July 6, hrc.utexas.edu
Holed Up With Rauschenberg
The Houston native Jason Moran, a pianist and composer, has taken jazz out of the studio and onto grand stages, where he embellishes it with theatrical elements to create a sort of performance art. For example, during his recent “Fats Waller Dance Party” tour, he often played while donning a huge puppetlike mask depicting Fats Waller, the famed Harlem “stride” pianist. In 2010 efforts of this nature earned Moran a MacArthur “genius” grant; in 2014 they earned him the post of artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center; and now they have earned him a commission from Da Camera, the Houston chamber music and jazz concert programmer, to produce “The Rauschenberg Project: Holed Up,” a collaboration with Robert Pruitt, the Houston visual artist. This piece, premiering on Saturday, is the second in the Da Camera Triptych, a celebration of the group’s twenty-fifth anniversary, in which major composers have been asked to create a work that responds to three artists with strong ties to the Menil Collection: Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg (a Port Arthur native), and Cy Twombly. “Contemporary art has always been a major influence on what I’ve done as a musician,” Moran said in a video interview on Da Camera’s website. “In the past eight or nine years, the work that I’ve done with other performance artists or video artists or choreographers or filmmakers [he scored the movie Selma] has kind of heightened my awareness of where music sits in the context of the art world.”
Wortham Theater Center, Feb. 7, 8 p.m., dacamera.com
It goes without saying that too much booze, beads, and bare breasts can lead to unruliness. The turn of events the past couple of years during the twelve-day Mardi Gras Galveston celebration, the largest of its kind in Texas, led to confrontations nearing riot proportions between police officers and revelers who weren’t ready to call it quits at the appointed hour. To make partying safer at this year’s fete, its one-hundred-and-fourth, the police have replaced themselves at the exit gates with street-sweeper vehicles, which will promptly remove all trash—both literal and figurative—at the stroke of midnight. Given that, there will still be a multitude of ways to enjoy this holiday of maximum excess held before the Catholic season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The merriment will include a total of 22 parades, 20 balcony parties, and 30 concerts—highlighted by Danielle Bradbury, the Cypress native who won season four of The Voice. There’s probably something for every single one of the 350,000 people who are expected to attend.
Various locations, Feb. 6-17, mardigrasgalveston.com
Go West, Young Men
True West, the Cain and Abel-like play written by Sam Shepard, has long been a vehicle for the finest actors of our time. Among the men who have played the characters—Austin, a well-adjusted Hollywood screenwriter, and Lee, a wandering grifter—are Tommy Lee Jones, John Malkovich, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. They are big acts to follow for Rick Frederick and Andrew Thornton, who will play the brothers in the Attic Rep production, onstage at the Tobin Center through the weekend only. This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the play, which Shepard, who has archives at both Texas State University and the University of Texas at Austin, first staged in San Francisco in 1980, two years after his Pulitzer Prize–winning play Buried Child.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, Feb. 6-8, tobincenter.org
In the Rio Grande Valley, playing the accordion like Flaco Jiménez is arguably still cooler than playing the electric guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughan, as will be shown on Saturday at the first of seven talent showcases leading to the finals of the Big Squeeze, the statewide accordion competition for players 21 years old or younger, awarded in three categories: Czech/German/Polish Polka, Cajun/Creole/Zydeco, and, of course, Conjunto/Tejano/Norteño.
La Joya Independent School District Performing Arts Center, Feb. 7, 10 a.m., texasfolklife.org
And the Oscar Goes to. . .
Get a head start on handicapping your Oscar pool during a Dallas Uncorked event benefitting the Dallas Film Society and starring Gary Cogill, the WFAA-TV movie critic turned film producer, who will break down the nominees over glasses of wine while also dishing on the numerous actors he has interviewed, among them Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall, and Julia Roberts.
Veritas, Feb. 8, 6 p.m., dallasuncorked.org