QFest Presents: Bones of Contention and Maurice

July 28, 2017, by

qfest-smOn the heels of LGBT Pride Month comes Houston’s own QFest. Entering its 21st year, QFest is dedicated to promoting the arts that are by, about, and of interest to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community, and this year has a wide range of films that reflect this mission. The festival runs from July 27 – 31 and has partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Aurora Picture Show, and Rice Cinema, to name but a few, as venues for screenings. Each year the festival grows larger and stronger, so I talked to Kristian Salinas, the festival’s Artistic Director, about two of this year’s films that have strong literary ties: Maurice (playing Sunday, July 30, 5 pm at the MFAH), which is based on E.M. Forster’s book of the same title, and Bones of Contention (playing Saturday, July 29, 5:15 pm at Rice Media Center), which centers on Spain’s most famous poet, Federico García Lorca. For tickets and more information click here.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: What specifically about these two films made you decide to include them in this year’s QFest? Continue reading

A Book, a Movie, a Play—King’s Carrie

July 13, 2017, by

Carrie Artwork for MATCH JPEG_0We all know about the pig’s blood. Carrie was a game-changer not only for horror and teenage revenge fantasy movies, but also for the careers of Stephen King and director Brian De Palma. On July 21st and 22nd, however, Broadway Performing Arts Studio will put on a production of the ’88 Broadway hit Carrie: The Musical  at MATCH theatre , which, in my opinion, begs a number of questions, so I contacted director Benjamin Luss.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: I’d imagine that some books make for better musicals, but, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t think of Carrie as being such a book. What about it made Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford, and the other creators of the original Broadway production want to turn it into a musical and what qualities of a book make for a good musical? Continue reading

Our Wizard of Oz

June 30, 2017, by

gallery-0--The-Wizard-of-Oz--Presented-by-Class-Act-Productions-1497235164-400x190Through July 30th Main Street Theater and from July 8 – 16th Class Act Productions are staging The Wizard of Oz, a story that was popular in my childhood home, just like, evidently, the childhood home of about every person I told of this play.

For me, my mother and I would watch Judy Garland and Bert Lahr anytime one of my numerable ear infections happened and I couldn’t sleep. For others the ’39 movie or the original book by L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was often played or read at holiday gatherings, childhood events, or just ‘cause. With the dramatic growth in the children’s literature and YA markets over the past twenty years though, I’m curious as to what other books geared toward youths were popular before this contemporary explosion, and where Baum’s book fits in among them.

What I’m immediately reminded of is that there were no adolescents until 1904. More accurately, society didn’t more fully delineate an individual’s development until the American Psychological Association stepped in, meaning that before Baum’s 1900 book, writers didn’t pay much attention to non-adults because society wasn’t really Continue reading

Houston Veteran Authors Share Their Stories About the Forever War

June 19, 2017, by

Bigger Forever WarAs many of us know, writers are the true chroniclers of our history. Through their written pieces we learn about the complexities and varied lived experiences of a particular time and place. And often times—more than facts and figures—the stories, voices, challenges, and emotions of a character or a scenario stay with us long past the written piece has ended.

On Thursday, Brazos Bookstore presents a panel discussion about war fiction with three contributors to the 2017 veteran fiction anthology The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War. American troops have been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. This anthology, including the stories of more than 20 diverse veteran writers, gives readers a look at the aftereffects of the war, a war that continues on today. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an anthology of stories covering a literary terrain as expansive as the seemingly endless ‘war on terror’ that spawned it. These stories provide plenty of revelation on the nature of the war and the soldiers who continue to fight it.” According to Task & Purpose, the anthology “captures the truth about war better than nonfiction. It’s possible―likely even―that these pages from a handful of writers will come to define the warrior perspective for this generation. For that reason, this book is relevant. Its stories are tragic, moving, violent, and devastating, but not always in the ways one expects. It’s enough to enlighten those most insulated from the war.”

We asked Michael Carson, one of the contributors to the anthology who will be at Brazos on Thursday, a few questions about this project. Continue reading

Our Endless Love for Jane

June 8, 2017, by

summerofaustenpostcardOn June 9th Brazos Bookstore will kick off its Summer of Jane Austen celebration with a party and a screening of Persuasion at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Rienzi House. The screening is just one of nearly a dozen events Brazos has lined up from June through August to commemorate the ever-popular author and the 200th anniversary of her death. And, undoubtedly, Ms. Austen should be celebrated with her wonderfully mordant humor, pioneering of Realism, use of free indirect discourse, and focus on strong female characters.

However, there’s something about her that other historically-renowned authors—and even other timeless artists, politicians, and scientists—don’t have, and that’s namely the continued ability to enamor the public. She simply has a quality that gets at us, which makes us want to celebrate her consistently and widely.  For instance, here are but a few examples of the unique space we confer to her.  Continue reading

An Old Story Made New: Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde

May 29, 2017, by

blogimageWhat is it about an age-old story that makes people want to experience it again and again? Certainly variation via content, form, or other means can help, but how many times can a story play this quasi three-card Monte before people’s interests are sucked toward the table up the block?

The answer to this could surely focus on the machinations of narrative or even the socio-biology of humans, or, much more simply, the evident fact that folks love the salacious (like really love the salacious), but one thing is for certain: the phenomenon of a narrative never losing its color despite repeated washings is one that continues to happen. For instance, on May 31st the River Oaks Theatre is having a special film presentation of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, a story that has its origins in the 12th century, and, more to the point, has a history of being told and retold that is more varied and alive than arguably any other narrative. Continue reading

UHCWP Student Spotlight: Selena Anderson

May 26, 2017, by

1517556_10105358955057980_8598560224807440091_nSelena Anderson is one of the University of Houston’s newly minted PhD’s in Fiction. She completed her MFA at Columbia University where she won the Transatlantic/Henfield Prize. She has held fellowships at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Carson McCullers Center, and the MacDowell Colony. Her work appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Joyland, Georgia Review, Callaloo, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review Online, NANO Fiction, and elsewhere.

Recent UHCWP grad Melanie Brkich interviewed Selena about her work, her new teaching job, and what she’ll miss most about Houston.

Melanie Brkich: Congrats on successfully defending your dissertation! How does it feel to be a doctor?

Selena Anderson: Thank you, Melanie! It’s cool! I’ve been working towards it for a long time and it’s always nice to accomplish something that you’ve worked so hard for.

MB: What is your dissertation about? Where did you draw the inspiration for it?

SA: My dissertation is a collection of stories about people who want to win and who make a bad situation worse by trying to do something about it. The stories are set in Texas—but in my imagined Texas of the recent past. There are ghosts, tiny men, a slave ship, dolls, dudes who talk in third person, forest fires, and plenty of girls brooding in their apartments. Continue reading

Ars Lyrica Houston’s Don Quixote’s Excellent Adventures

May 12, 2017, by

AL-Ars Lyrica web imagesAs many Houstonians know, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music from the 17th and 18th centuries on period instruments. The 2016-17 season was no exception, and as the season is now coming to a close, Ars Lyrica is concluding with a decidedly interesting finale: a performance based on Cervantes’s literary classic Don Quixote. I had a chance to discuss the project with Ars Lyrica founder and artistic director, Matthew Dirst.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: What inspired you to take the literary figure of Don Quixote and turn his experiences into an orchestrated musical production?

MATTHEW DIRST: Well, to start with there is a lot of great music surrounding this particular subject, from Henry Purcell’s Incidental Music to Don Quixote to Joseph Bodin de Boismortier’s Ballet on Don Quichotte to name but a few. However, in addition to this there has also recently been an important anniversary as this year coincides with the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Continue reading

Imagine Wanting Only An Evening of Conversation Between Smart Writers

May 8, 2017, by

Upright and cropped IMG_9270On Monday, May 1, Kristen Radke, author of the newly released graphic memoir-inquiry-novel Imagine Wanting Only This, spoke to Houston’s own beloved, award-winning poet and writer Nick Flynn at Brazos Bookstore.

Radke began the event by expressing her “admiration for booksellers.” She is the managing editor of the popular indie press Sarabande, so is familiar with both sides of the book industry. She also explained that Imagine Wanting Only This is “about ruins and abandoned places.” She decided to read an excerpt from the very end and “give it all away.” The section, a monologue, read like poetry in its pacing and probing of abstract ideas. A slideshow of the accompanying illustrations was also played.

Radke then sat with Flynn, who asked about her role as an illustrator and a writer. She admitted that while she studied commercial art as an undergrad and creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa in graduate school, she essentially taught herself how to combine her two passions. As her project continued, she did her research. When Flynn asked which women comics she liked, she answered straightforwardly “every woman who’s ever been a comic” and touched the pop cultural history of comics as a boys’ club with women typically portrayed as “anatomically incorrect.” Continue reading

Seven Reasons to See Catastrophic Theatre’s Snow White

April 24, 2017, by

Photo credit: Anthony Rathbun

Photo credit: Anthony Rathbun

If you haven’t seen it yet, Catastrophic Theater’s production of Donald Barthelme’s Snow White only runs for two more weekends – April 27th – 29th, and May 4th – 6th! (Get your tickets here.)

  1. Snow White by Donald Barthelme – this staging is the world premiere of any fully staged adaptation of Barthelme’s take on the classic fairy tale. Barthelme had begun to write an adaptation himself, which was shelved (okay, put in a drawer) before it could be finished.
  1. The performances – as director Greg Dean put it, he “needed actors with a facility for language, that could ‘switch styles’ easily, and locate the feelings and the jokes that often lie just below the surface of the prose.” His cast delivers, making effortless shifts in tone and energy to match the acrobatic language of the script. Check out the Houston Chronicle and HoustonPress reviews for more.

Continue reading