Artistic Education: Creative Mornings, Art Tour, and Glassell Sale at Houston Museum of Fine Arts

This morning was the 11th session of Houston’s Creative Mornings, an international organization of talks based around a changing monthly theme. This month’s talk on Education was at the Museum of Fine Arts and, being just a few blocks away, I jumped at the chance to get one of the coveted tickets to the free event. Considering that last month I managed to miss it by trying to reserve a ticket the day after reservations opened, I was thrilled to make it to this one.

Greeted with gifts (a cute wooden ornament! temporary tattoos! free notebook!) and an interesting breakfast spread (I’m not sure what that nut-toffee concoction was, but it was good) provided by the event’s generous sponsors, I sat back in the theater eager to hear the morning’s talk. I seemed to have forgotten that gathering creatives is like herding cats, because the 8:30 event probably started somewhere more along the lines of 9:17 or so, but I won’t complain. The show started with an acoustic set by Peter Tijerina of Young Girls, whose short songs carried emotion well within their constraints. The talk itself was given by Jay Berckley of Episcopal High School (as well as impressive musical experience) in a last minute switch. For a talk that was apparently arranged for yesterday, the man is a damn good public speaker. The full talk will be on the CMHouston site relatively soon (all sessions have full videography), and I highly recommend seeing his high energy talk on inspiring youth and bringing creative sparks into their lives.

After the talk we were all offered tours of the museum itself, which was taken up by surprisingly few people–I’m guessing most people had things like work to attend to, but I was more than happy to be guided around some of the works. I have a feeling my tour, consisting half of Monet paintings, may have been designed partially to encourage us to buy tickets to the Monet exhibit currently at the museum. Nevertheless, we got an interesting little tour comparing various portraits and impressionist works by our very quick-footed tour guide. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t lose anyone in the tour, and it was still longer than the 45 minutes that were apparently set for the tour. Nevertheless, the museum’s galleries are gorgeous, and I wouldn’t mind taking a more leisurely tour in the future.

I lucked out as I was going back to my car in that the Glassell art school maintained by the museum was doing their student art sale, which was a real treat. The show extends through tomorrow, and there are a large number of art pieces for various budgets available–I’m personally horribly envious of whomever of you takes home Owl and Woodnymph, an oil painting I would have snatched up if it weren’t for the claws of grad student budget and Christmas time frame. In addition to oils, there are watercolors, sketches, statues, ceramics, and jewelry available, so if you have the chance to head over and spend anything from $15-1500, definitely give the gallery a look. If you’re broke like me, looking is always free, and the sculpture garden out back is a grand place to sit around after.

Bloody Brilliant: Alley Theatre’s Dracula

As luck would so have it, my brother being a University of Houston student managed to get ourselves two free tickets to opening night of Dracula, The Original Vampire Play, from which the two of us have just returned. Let me tell you, it’s definitely an experience worth going to Alley’s temporary location at University of Houston’s main campus to watch.

The three-act show, divided by two twelve-minute intermissions, was a delightful take on the old story of Dracula and the search for a cure to sweet, innocent Lucy’s peculiar sickness. The show was campier than expected, deriving laughs from the audience at terribly peculiar moments (there was more than one instance of the poor maid being scared out of her wits that just made the audience laugh instead of feel any fear) though I think it added to the charm.

The sets, derived from Edward Gorey’s work, were absolutely fantastic. Three in all, with huge vaulted ceilings and beautifully monochromatic props that melded into the scene perfectly, truly set the mood for the piece. The amount of detailing in the patterns, I found, was astounding. Costuming did equally well, the color scheme fitting so perfectly that the actors themselves almost seemed to fade away into grey scale.

My, and many audience members’, favorite role was likely Jeremy Webb’s Renfield. I’ve always been fond of the character myself, but the absolute torment, the emotional roller coaster of this performance was astounding. The man is an acrobat as well, I must say, flipping himself around like the madman he was many times throughout the show, often to an explosion of laughter. I did find his odd habit of raising his hands awkwardly to the sky to talk to Dracula as if he were about to break into Thriller a bit of an unfortunate stylistic choice, but otherwise his performance was likely my favorite Renfield I’ve seen in any adaptation.

Dracula plays through November 2nd at University of Houston Theatre, and I highly encourage everyone to get a ticket.

Drinking Pita: Karbach Brewing’s Weisse Versa Wheat

Karbach’s delightfully punny names strike a chord with my disgusting since of humor, I have to say. I remember seeing Weisse Versa a while back while at the store with my dad, nearly breaking down in tears of laughter in the beer aisle while he rolled his eyes in disgust. Naturally, I had to get a can of that sweet, sweet wordplay on my lips.

Weisse Versa is certainly a fizzy beer, as I discovered upon opening a can that had been cold and still for several hours and promptly having the damn thing attempt to explode over my hand. Nonetheless, I soldiered on; a little foam never hurt anyone.

I’ve heard before from people that a Guinness is a meal because it’s just liquid bread. Lord, those people need to get their hands on a Weisse Versa. I swear, if there is a way to somehow turn a slice of pita into an alcoholic, carbonated fluid, the good folks at Karbach got that down. This hefewiezen tasted exactly like the whole-wheat pita I’d had with my hummus the night before, no small feat as I’m the sort of person who gets overly critical about small differences in flavor. This is certainly no downfall in my mind, as I love a good pita, but might be a tad confusing to someone not used to solids suddenly being liquids.

The beer advertises its spiced nature, but I have to admit, I couldn’t find myself picking up on the touch of coriander or the bright citrus peel they advertise. I have to say that’s a slight downfall to me, as I enjoy both flavors, but beyond somehow magically melding into breadiness, neither comes through. I’d probably be more likely to drink this regularly if they could up the spices just a tad, so that it brings another level to the brew.

If you’re anything like me, you’re reading through this and thinking, “Now JD. What about the alcohol.” Well, my drunk friends, don’t worry, our dear Houstonian brewery has got our backs. At 5.3% ABV, Weisse Versa is gifted in being not a sad, puny drink, but it certainly won’t knock you flat on your back for quite a number of cans. Pretty good option to replace your watered-down Bud at the next party, I’d say.