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Houston Ballet's World Famous Nutcracker Opens TONIGHT!

Now that Thanksgiving is over we can get on to Christmas and nothing kicks off the Christmas season better than Houston Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker. It has been a long standing tradition in the DISH household for almost since it's premiere in 1972! We defy you not to tear up at the end when the Nutcracker Prince saluts his Princess Clara!! It gets us everytime!!

From November 29 – December 29, 2013, Houston Ballet celebrates the holidays with Ben Stevenson’s breathtaking production of The Nutcracker, seen by over 1,000,000 people since its premiere 26 years ago.  The beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve.  She encounters the frightful King Rat before embarking on a wondrous journey through the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Young and old alike will experience the many special effects, including the Christmas tree which “grows” to 40 feet, 200 pounds of “snow” falling during the snow scene, and the firing of cannon onstage.  Houston Ballet will give 34 performances of The Nutcracker, to a live orchestra, in the Brown Theater at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.  Tickets may be purchased by calling 713-227-2787 or logging on to www.houstonballet.org

Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker has been hailed by the Houston Chronicle as “the crown jewel of holiday entertainment.” Lee Williams of the Houston Press called Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, “ Gorgeous . . . Desmond Heeley’s sets and costumes are reason enough to see this show . . . The Nutcracker reminds us that the holidays have always been a time of dreams, and with productions as yummy as this, sleeping never seemed so sweet.” 

For over one hundred years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in nineteenth-century Germany, the ballet opens at a Christmas party at which the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer gives his little niece Clara a magical toy that takes her on an unforgettable journey.  From the battle scene between the Rat King and the Nutcracker in the first act to the cooks who fly magically through the air in the second act, The Nutcracker is sure to enchant audiences of all ages.

The Nutcracker has a special place in Houston Ballet’s history as the first full-length work to enter Houston Ballet’s repertoire in a staging by Frederic Franklin, featuring scenery and costumes by the English designer Peter Farmer. The company gave six performances of The Nutcracker in 1972 at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, and has danced the work each December without fail for the following 38 years.  In 1976, Houston Ballet presented the production with revised choreography by the company's new artistic director Ben Stevenson. In 1987, the current production with designs by Desmond Heeley, lighting by Duane Schuler, and choreography by Mr. Stevenson was unveiled to a glowing critical response.   

Today, the company gives 34 performances of  The Nutcracker at Wortham Theater Center, and the production plays a key role in Houston Ballet’s financial picture, drawing 73,294 (as of December 2012) theatergoers to Houston’s Theater District and bringing in over $4 million revenues in 2012.

The Story of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll.  One Christmas Eve, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives at the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas party and presents Clara with a special gift: a wooden nutcracker.  After the party, as the clock strikes midnight, Clara awakens to find the room filled with giant mice.  The nutcracker comes to her rescue and a fierce battle ensues as the nutcracker leads the toy soldiers against the mice and their leader, King Rat.  The nutcracker overcomes King Rat, and then is transformed into a handsome prince who takes Clara on a magical journey.

To the delight of Clara and the audience, the evening is filled with dance.  The Snow Queen leads eighteen snowflakes in a brilliant waltz in the Land of Snow, where the trees are laden with icicles.  Then the Nutcracker Prince takes Clara on a boat ride across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Sugar Plum Fairy treats Clara to sweets and entertainment provided by the inhabitants of the kingdom: chocolate, a Spanish dance; coffee, an Arabian dance; and tea, a Chinese dance.  Next comes the comical Madame Bonbonaire whose huge skirt is filled with tiny clowns.  Then there is the Russian dance and the Waltz of the Flowers.   Finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a grand pas de deux.  As the celebration draws to a close, Clara becomes sleepy.  She awakens back in her bed, as the nutcracker salutes his little princess Clara. 

See you at the Ballet, DISHIES! And Merry Christmas!!!


Infamous Hand Doctor Declared Dead in Florida Hospital

Photo Credit: KHOUFormer Houston hand doctor Michael Brown has died after being taken off life support in a Miami hospital accodring to Brown's attorney Dick DeGuerin.

Brown, who has embattled in legal troubles for years had been in a Florida hospital on life support since suffering a heart attack last month.

"This is a real tragedy. He was a brilliant man and for all of his faults and he had many he was one of the most generous human begins I ever knew," DeGuerin said.

An attorney for Rachel Brown, the hand doctor’s ex-wife, said the former doctor was declared brain dead Thursday night, and he was taken off life support around 9 a.m. Houston time on Friday.

"For all the bad things he’s done, he is still the father of her children," said Rachel’s lawyer, Marshall Davis Brown. "It’s a hard time for the family. Anytime somebody passes away, even if there are hard feelings between the people, there’s always the grief that we feel when we lose somebody important in their lives."

Brown was the founder of the Brown Hand Center in Houston, which is now under new ownership, became a familiar face due to his numerous television commercials.

In 2011, Brown went to trial after Rachel Brown, his fourth wife, claimed he physically assaulted her. He was found not guilty.

The explosive relationship made headlines because it contradicted the "family man" image Brown presented in the commercials featuring his family. Allegations that Rachel Brown cheated on him with former Astros star Jeff Bagwell added another layer of intrigue. Bagwell is now very much her boyfriend and they have had numerous public outings together. The story was all the more outrageous because Bagwell was also married at the time and alledgedly had another long term mistress on the side. 

In 2002, Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his third wife, Darlina Barone, with a bed post while she was seven months pregnant. He was fined $1,500 and given 10 years of supervised probation.

In 2008, Barone asked for sole custody of their two children and to revoke Brown’s visitation privileges. She told a Harris County judge that her ex-husband had become increasingly erratic and violent, that a history of drug tests showed cocaine and Xanax in his system and resulted in the revocation of his medical license, and that she knew Brown to have driven with their children in the car after drinking and that the children were afraid to visit his home, according to court documents.

After his 2010 arrest for allegedly assaulting Rachel Brown, the former surgeon voluntarily forfeited his parental rights for his children with Barone.

More recently in September, Brown was sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for a disturbance on a flight from London to Miami.

Brown pleaded guilty in federal court in Florida to one count of assaulting and intimidating a flight crew member. He was arrested last January for choking the flight attendant and threatening to strip naked on the transatlantic flight. His attorney later blamed a reaction to mixing alcohol with an insomnia medication.

Moral of the story: Drugs are bad.


Local Artist Honors Veterans

Veterans Day is just around the corner on Nov. 11 and is a special day set aside to remember the men and women of the nation’s armed forces. Houston-based artist and sculptor, Lori Betz of Betz Art Foundry, was chosen to do exactly that in a very special way. She was commissioned to create five sculptures for the Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa, Fla., two of which have already been completed and installed.

Veterans Memorial Park is separated into different areas, all of which exhibit different messages of appreciation and serve as tribute to national heroes. The first sculpture, created for the park’s Iraqi Veterans Memorial area, is centered around the theme of “All gave some. Some gave all.”

“I am so honored and proud to be a part of this project. It’s a privilege to show our military personnel and their families how much we appreciate their sacrifices,” Betz says.   

Battle Cross - Artist Lori Betz


For the piece, Betz created a 6-foot-tall battle cross. The sculpture exhibits an artist’s depiction of the cross made upon the battlefield when a soldier dies in action. It is made of a soldier’s boots, gun, helmet and dog tags. The dog tags hanging from the battle cross bear the name of the first fallen soldier in the Iraqi campaign while the other side has the name of the last soldier to fall in the campaign. This monumental sculpture is set upon a 7-foot-tall cement plinth that has three large bronze reliefs attached to its sides.


The next sculpture commissioned for the Veterans Memorial Park is for the park’s Committed Forces area.

“For this piece, the theme I came up with is entitled, ‘Our Troops Protecting Freedom Around The World.’ It will feature a 5-foot bronze globe of the world set upon a tall cement plinth that will have four figurines around the base. Each figurative sculpture will represent a different branch of the armed forces,” Betz describes of the next phase in production.

Betz has also designed miniature versions of the larger sculptures that have been installed. She has donated them to help raise money for the park and for other veterans’ charities.  She recently donated one of these maquettes to Helping a Hero, which earned thousands of dollars for the piece during a silent benefit auction. All of the proceeds will be used to build new homes for returning heroes.   

 Betz creates all of her sculptures in her studio and bronze art foundry in the heart of the Downtown Arts District in Houston. Besides creating monumental commemorative sculptures, the Betz Art Foundry team of artists also creates custom architectural works and fountains for some of the most prestigious homes in Texas.

For more information about Lori Betz, view the Betz Art Foundry website.

Artist Lori Betz


Texas Renaissance Festival: Fun From the Inside Out

Everyone has heard of the Texas Renaissance Festival. You dress up, you eat, drink and be merry. It really is a good time and to be outdoors in the gorgeous trees…well it is a rarity these days so it is a nice change of pace.

DISH was interested in going a little deeper into the festival. What does it take to put it on and who is behind the shows and the shops?

We started with a show we fell in love with last year. It is hysterical, irreverent, well acted…in the way that you can only be that cheesy if you are that good…and only semi family friendly. Think dirty Shakespeare on loads of caffeine.

Sound and Fury is a vaudeville-nouveau trio, who present original comic genre-parody plays. Using frequent audience participation Sound & Fury makes their works light & accessible, and non-threatening to a modern audience with limited attention spans….like DISH and buzzed Faire attendees. 

DISH: How long has Sound and Fury been around

Richard: I have been doing this for 15 years and during a cast change up I had hired Patrick. I was on the verge of hiring the third person, this was four years ago, when Patrick told me he had the perfect person in mind. He introduced me to Ryan and that was it. He was and is perfect round out for this trio. We have been going strong for 4 years and travel the world participating in Fringe Festivals. The one in Adelaide, Australia is a competition of over 900 performing groups and we’ve won the “People’s Choice Award” three times and “Best of Fringe” at the Winnipeg & Edmonton Fringe Festivals in 2006 and 2007 so we’re doing something right.

DISH: Why do you come back to TRF every year?

Group: It is the biggest.

DISH: What about New York?

Richard: New York likes to say it is the biggest but by square footage alone this is the biggest. Plus the numbers are huge here. Where else can you put 1400 folks in seats 4 times a day and make all of them laugh? Texas has a great crowd and the people are nice. Ryan lives here now, I travel back to LA most weeks and Patrick (who is totally hot and we are pretty sure is single) will stay with friends. Believe it or not we can actually sleep here at the theatre if we want to. Texas Ren Fest really has an amazing set up.

DISH: Your shows are pretty adult:

Richard: Yes, they are and we tell people that up front. There are a couple of shows that are kid friendly. We play those when schools bus their kids in for a field trip. Hamlet and Juliet for instance is available for schools. There are a few “adult” references but nothing too racy and the kids make that connection. All of the sudden Shakespeare is interesting and fun to them. It makes a difference.

The Sound and Fury can be seen 4 times a day at the Odeon Theatre. NOTE: Please tip and/or buy merch.

More family friendly shows might be Arsene, a magician also at the Odeon Theatre, Birds of Prey at the Falconer Stage, the jousting is always fun at the Arena and there are loads of games for kids of all ages.

DISH also sat down with Cody Dalton, the general manager of Eternal Arms. They sell high quality, historically accurate arms and armor. Cody has been with company 9 months. This follows a few years of being a performer at another Texas Faire. Eternal Arms has three locations at three Texas Faires and has been at TRF for 2 years, the TRF location being their newest

DISH: What is it like for a business owner out here at TRF?

Cody: It’s a more than full time job. Managing the business I have loads more work involved outside of faire hours. I am ordering product, keeping inventory full, dealing with payroll, hiring and managing employees and the general running of the business. None of this can happen during the hours the store is open. I am the general manager of all three but they are all open at different times of the year.

DISH: Do you prefer being a performer or a shop manager, since you’ve been both? 

Cody: Being a performer is much easier because I only had to perform during the shows and that was it. Being a shop manager is more fulfilling though. I am a disabled veteran so this has given me a purpose again. I served in the Army in two over seas tours.

DISH: Do you pay to be there and give a % of sales to TRF or just one or the other?  

Cody: There is a fee to be there but all of the sales are kept as a business owner. So it is a good business plan.

DISH: What is the atmosphere like?

Cody: I get to dress up in funny clothes everyday and enjoy myself. I get to laugh with others and make friends and everyone is in a great mood. The atmosphere is amazing. I would not enjoy my job nearly as much if I were set up in a mall.

DISH: Between the businesses, is it friendly or competitive?  

Cody: The Fair does a great job in distributing similar businesses throughout the grounds so there isn’t that much competition and although our merchandise is similar to what you might find out there it won’t be the same. Ours is high end material and historically based so it will be more expensive but people come looking for it. There are a lot of collectors out there!

DISH: Do you find it more family friendly or adult?

Cody: It varies depending on the weekend theme. Barbarian weekend is basically considered the “naked” weekend. We love the crowd here. They are so friendly and highly involved in the booth and the product. I never stop loving seeing the shock and awe on people’s faces when they come into the booth and appreciate the detail of our work.

And there you have it. Even the performers and shop owners/manager enjoy this experience. Hope you go out and experience it yourself soon. 


Poetry Slams the Alley Theatre

The Alley Theatre will host the Teenpalooza Fall 2013, that showcases the visions and voices of the Alley Theatre’s Slam Poets. The evening of poetry and theatre that celebrates the talent of local youth takes place Monday, November 11 at 7 p.m. on the Neuhaus Stage. Admission is free. Some performances may contain adult language and adult situations

Last year’s Teenpalooza winners, Ter'ell Cloud  and Jennifer Layer from John H. Reagan High School, went on to win at the state competition at the Texas Youth Poetry Slam while representing Meta-Four Houston, a Writers in the Schools (WITS) project. They then went on to compete at the national competition, Brave New Voices, in Chicago. Ter'ell Cloud will be a featured performer at Teenpalooza Fall 2013.

In addition to Teenpalooza, the Alley Theatre’s Education and Community Engagement Department also offers a Slam Poets Artist-in-Residence Program for local schools. Additionally, the Alley Theatre is partnering closely with WITS to create a city-wide Slam Poets platform for Houston’s newest voices. Together the Alley Theatre and WITS hope to give the tools and space for all teens to explore their individual creativity through spoken word. For rates and additional information, email slampoets@alleytheatre.org or call 713.315.5423.

The Alley Theatre, one of America’s leading not-for-profit theatres, is a nationally recognized performing arts company focused on collaborating with resident actors, visiting artists, directors, designers, dramaturgs, and authors to cultivate the new voices, new works, and new artists of the American theatre. Under the direction of Artistic Director Gregory Boyd and Managing Director Dean R. Gladden, the Alley has also brought its productions to 40 American cities, and to Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, and New York’s Lincoln Center, as well as to major European festivals (including two in one season at the Venice Biennale), and Broadway. As a recipient of the Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, the Alley creates a wide-ranging repertoire and innovative productions of classics, neglected modern plays, and premieres, as well as new works that will become classics for the future developed through the Alley’s New Play Initiative. The Alley’s productions are built and rehearsed in the Alley Theatre Center for Theatre Production – a 75,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the theatres themselves and are performed on the 824-seat Hubbard Stage and the 310-seat Neuhaus Stage. The Alley continues to pave the way for Houston audiences to experience thought-provoking, diverse and transformative theatre produced and performed by its professional company year round.