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Photo by Shelley Neuman

Believe it or not, politics can be fun, even if it’s all you talk about for days. The Texas Tribune is proving that once again with incumbent CEO Evan Smith’s last Texas Tribune Festival. From September 22-24, this long-standing annual event will bring together more than 350 influential speakers for more than 100 panels, from politicians in office to journalists and cultural wave-makers.

“It's become a major part of the Tribune's brand,” says Smith. “An important person I respect said to me in 2019, looking around the festival that year — the last year we did it in person — that we used to be a news organization with a festival, and we're becoming a festival with a news organization. And I thought, I'm actually okay with that.”

Smith announced his impending departure from the Tribune in January 2022, in a simultaneously wistful and tongue-in-cheek farewell address that acknowledged his “sentimentality and nostalgia.” He will be finished with his tenure by December, but will continue through 2023 as a senior advisor to his yet-unnamed replacement.

“I will be sentimental about it being my last. Of course, I'm also nostalgic, and I'll be nostalgic about the early days of the festival,” says Smith. “But one of the great things about leaving the Tribune now is that everybody here is in the best possible position to carry the important work that we've been doing forward to the next 13 years. And so I'll be watching like everybody else, with a lot of pride.”

This year, the festival broadened its scope from 2021 and earlier to include even more interests tangential to politics, aiming for the same bullseye as the Tribune always does: the average reader. The festival is always as jargon-free as possible, this year including topics like Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner’s memoir and 50 years of cultural change, retired top tennis player Andy Roddick’s opinions on the duties of nonprofits, and singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett’s experience as a Texas legend.

To help attendees start building their itineraries (or give keen readers at home some things to research), Smith selected the following must-attend events for CultureMap readers to keep on their radar.

Thursday, September 22
Thursday is a shorter day with “a couple of sessions to get peoples’ appetites going,” according to Smith. Of the 10 events, he chose two not to miss:

A Conversation with Katy Tur
9:30 am - 10:30 am

The MSNBC anchor will discuss journalism with Smith himself, with special attention to her recent second book that stretches all the way back through her childhood, Rough Draft: A Memoir. This chat will be in-person, kicking off the festival.

One-on-One with Anthony Fauci
10:30 am - 11:30 am

This prerecorded conversation is only available virtually. Smith interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the U.S. president, about the “layered” public health emergencies of COVID-19 and monkeypox as it emerges.

Friday, September 23
This mid-size day has 43 scheduled sessions. Smith chose one from each time slot:

One-on-One with Glenn Youngkin
8:45 am - 9:45 am

The Virginia governor is, in Smith’s words, “one of the big Republican success stories of the last couple of years,” and will be interviewed by senior correspondent David Drucker of the Washington Examiner. Some speculate that Youngkin will run for president in 2024.

The Forward Presents: One-on-One with Deborah Lipstadt
10:15 am - 11:15 am

U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt is talking about the issue nationally and worldwide, interviewed by Forward editor-in-chief Jodi Ruth Warren.

One-on-One with Walter Isaacson
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tulane University professor Walter Isaacson discusses Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and his current work with Elon Musk. He is interviewed by Pushkin Productions CEO Jacob Weisberg, former editor-in-chief of the Slate Group.

One-on-One with Hillary Clinton
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Former U.S. Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is interviewed by New York Times podcast host Kara Swisher about progressive values in the United States. Swisher runs the Vox Media Code Conference, and is no stranger to the stage.

One-on-One with Ben McKenzie
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Austin-born actor and writer Ben McKenzie is one Austinite speaking out on a large scale about “the case against crypto” as the city grows more and more entangled with it. He is interviewed by Bloomberg Digital executive editor for news Joe Weisenthal.

Saturday, September 24
The longest day of the festival, Saturday hosts 68 sessions. Smith chose one for each time slot:

After Roe
8:45 am - 9:45 am

This panel addressing one of the hottest topics in recent politics is run by Ana Marie Cox of The Cut, and features Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, Texas state representative Donna Howard, and former state senator Wendy Davis, famous for her abortion filibuster.

One-on-One with Annette Gordon-Reed
9:00 am - 10:00 am

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Harvard professor Annette Gordon Reed discusses the legacy of slavery and the morals of studying history. She is interviewed by Errin Haines, editor-at-large for The 19th, founded by former Tribune editor-in-chief Emily Ramshaw.

One-on-One with Ted Cruz
10:30 am - 11:30 am

U.S. Senator and Texan Ted Cruz is slated to talk on Saturday, although he hasn’t yet been matched with a conversation partner. He’ll talk about tension with the Biden administration, the “soul” of the Republican party, and a possible reprisal of his 2016 presidential campaign.

One-on-One with Chris Bosh
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

NBA Hall of Famer Chris Bosh is interviewed by ESPN commentator Kirk Goldsberry on sports, being retired, and voting. Bosh has spoken out about social justice, and always ties it to a message of using one’s voice to create change.

Below the Line
2:15 pm - 3:15 pm

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and urban development Julián Castro joins former mayor of Stockton, California, Michael Tubbs and ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative reporter Vianna Davila to discuss Texans living disproportionately below the poverty line.

One-on-One with Gavin Newsom
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

California Governor Gavin Newsom takes a leadership role, telling MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner about what the rest of the United States can learn from his state. The Democratic governor leans toward messaging about innovation and creating precedent-setting big change.

Tickets for the Texas Tribune Festival ($269 general admission) from September 22 to 24, both virtually and in venues across Austin, are available at texastribune.org.

Photo by Patti Perret / Focus Features

Podcasting becomes cinematic in the lively and deep Vengeance

Movie Review

Over the past decade, the medium of podcasts has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, attracting celebrities, journalists, and everyday people due to the relative freedom the platform provides. As podcasting has grown bigger, it has naturally seeped into other mediums, with the show Only Murders in the Building being the latest and greatest example.

Now, actor/writer/director B.J. Novak has made what might be the definitive movie about podcasting with Vengeance. An unrepentant serial dater, Ben Manalowitz (Novak) is a writer/aspiring podcaster in New York City who pitches his ideas to Eloise (Issa Rae), a producer at a podcasting company.

When Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton), a girl Ben had dated casually, dies of a drug overdose, Ben’s presence on her social media leads her family to assume they were more serious than they were. Guilted into coming to her funeral in Texas, Ben soon finds himself drawn into their world, especially when Abilene’s brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) suggests that Abilene’s death was not accidental. He starts recording everything to not only get to the bottom of the potential mystery, but to document a way of life he knows little about.

The film, the first movie written and directed by Novak, has an interesting tone. It’s not a full-on comedy, although there are a lot of comedic moments. While it has some heartfelt scenes in its relatively short 94 minutes, the inherent cynicism of Ben keeps it from becoming too sentimental. And the story introduces a degree of mystery, but it never becomes consumed by that part.

What Novak seems interested in more than anything is examining the way people from different parts of the country interact. While perhaps not the most profound investigation of the human condition ever put on screen, the film is much deeper than one might expect. Novak doesn’t eschew Texas stereotypes like religion, guns, and Whataburger, but he doles them out in small increments, focusing more on who people are than what they represent.

And so while Abilene’s sisters Paris (Isabella Amara) and Kansas City (Dove Cameron) are seemingly shallow on the surface, they also are worldly enough to know about the works of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Quentin Sellers (Ashton Kutcher), a small-town record producer with whom Abilene worked, gives off a creepy vibe, but he’s also among the most erudite people in the whole film.

Novak obviously knows what type of role fits him best, and he does extremely well as the jaded-but-curious Ben. Holbrook steals the film as Ty, a potentially one-note character that becomes much more in his hands. Rae makes the most of a part that has her mostly talking on the phone. And all of the actors who make up Abilene’s family provide nice color to the story.

Vengeance is much tamer than its title would suggest, and it’s all the better for it. It does what podcasts often do best, diving deep into a particular aspect of American life, providing revelations that can surprise both the podcaster and the audience.

---

Vengeance opens in theaters on July 29.

Ashton Kutcher and B.J. Novak in Vengeance.

Photo by Patti Perret / Focus Features
Ashton Kutcher and B.J. Novak in Vengeance.
Photo by F. Carter Smith

These are the 12 best things to do in Dallas this weekend

Weekend Event Planner

Theater, music, and the wonders of nature are the themes for this weekend in and around Dallas. There will be four concerts with bold-faced headliners, two new local theater productions and a national Broadway tour, and beautiful flowers showcased at two different nature events. You can also enjoy some classical music, an extra artful dance performance, and a visit from a popular podcast.

Below are the best ways to spend your precious free time this weekend. Want more options? Lucky for you, we have a much longer list of the city's best events.

Thursday, April 7

Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group in concert
Lyle Lovett, the Texas-based singer, composer, and actor, fuses elements of Americana, swing, jazz, folk, gospel, and blues in a convention-defying manner that breaks down barriers. Although he hasn't released a full album since 2012's Release Me, he is a regular presence in and around Dallas, playing here once or twice a year. Lovett will play three consecutive nights at Majestic Theatre, joined by Nikki Lane on Thursday, Hayes Carll on Friday, and Old 97's on Saturday.

Theatre Three presents Stede Bonnet: A F*cking Pirate Musical
At long last, following the pandemic and construction delays, Theatre Three will return back to their home on Routh Street with a world premiere production, Stede Bonnet: A F*cking Pirate Musical. Stede, depressed and exhausted of his luxurious life, chooses to leave everything behind and become the best pirate in the world. One problem … he doesn’t know what he’s doing. After a run-in with the dramatic and conniving Blackbeard, Stede wonders if he’s made a terrible mistake. The production will run through May 1.

Jazmine Sullivan in concert
R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan has been a mainstay in the genre for years, notching two No. 1 albums on the Billboard R&B charts in her first three releases. She also earned 12 Grammy nominations over 11 years, but came home every time without a trophy until just four days ago, when she won two awards, including Best R&B album. She'll play at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving in support of her 2021 EP, Heaux Tales.

Dallas Summer Musicals presents Jesus Christ Superstar
The North American tour of Jesus Christ Superstar celebrates 50 epic years since the original rock opera concept album release that began this musical theatre phenomenon. The musical is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes "I Don’t Know How to Love Him," "Gethsemane," and "Superstar." The production runs at the Music Hall at Fair Park through April 17.

Friday, April 8

Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival
Take a road trip south to the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival, celebrating 70 years of bluebonnet trails. It includes vendors, food, a beer garden, wine wander, and live entertainment. Music on the Main stage on Friday night will feature Infinite Journey, a Journey tribute band, while country music artist Rick Trevino will headline on Saturday night. The festival takes place through Sunday in Historical Downtown Ennis, while the bluebonnet trails can be enjoyed throughout the month of April. Read more about the Ennis bluebonnets here, and bluebonnets throughout DFW and Texas here.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents "Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique"
Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents "Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique," featuring conductor Fabio Luisi, violinist Karen Gomyo, and trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth. Selections for the concert, running through Sunday at Meyerson Symphony Center, will include Einem's Capriccio, Strauss' Duett-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon with String Orchestra and Harp, and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.

Uptown Players presents Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song
Uptown Players will open their season with Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, a new and shortened revival of Fierstein’s original 1983 Torch Song Trilogy. The play follows the life of Arnold Beckoff, a Jewish drag queen who makes it his life journey to find happiness in 1970s New York in the midst of homophobia and intolerance, even by his own family and partners. The pioneering gay drama reminds us of the universal struggle between love and fear, and the circumstances we cannot change. It will run through April 17 at Kalita Humphreys Theater.

TITAS/Unfiltered presents Compagnie Marie Chouinard
Compagnie Marie Chouinard will make their Texas debut with Jerrome Bosch: Le Jardin des Delicess (Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights). Watching the performance is to step into Bosch’s extraordinary tryptic and viscerally experience this painting as never before. Expertly choreographed, complex yet stunningly unfiltered, this dance work is a masterpiece within a masterpiece. There will performances on both Friday and Saturday night at Moody Performance Hall.

Saturday, April 9

Kings of The West with Snoop Dogg & Ice Cube
Both Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube are icons of the rap/hip hop genre, with both of their solo careers dating back to the early 1990s. But neither of them is content to let the new generation have their mantle, as they've each released new solo albums in recent years, and they also released a new album with the name of their supergroup, Mt. Westmore. They'll perform at Dos Equis Pavilion as part of their Kings of the West tour.

Lovett or Leave It: Live or Else Tour
On the podcast Lovett or Leave It, Jon Lovett, a former Obama speechwriter and co-host of Pod Save America, is joined by comedians, actors, journalists, and Friends of the Pod for a roundup of the week's top news. At this event at The Factory at Deep Ellum, he'll be joined by writer/comedian Akilah Hughes and Luke Warford, Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commission.

Sunday, April 10

Dallas Arboretum presents Dallas Blooms: "Birds in Paradise"
Sunday is the last day for the Dallas Arboretum's annual Dallas Blooms event, and right on cue, the garden's 125 Japanese cherry trees have begun to bloom, with their 3,000 azaleas about to burst forth as well. The festival of nature also includes larger-than-life peacock topiaries and more than 500,000 spring blooming bulbs to create the largest and most colorful floral display in the Southwest.

Charli XCX in concert
Pop singer Charli XCX has been a big name on the music scene since her 2014 breakout song, "Boom Clap," as well as "Fancy," her collaboration with Iggy Azalea the same year. She's gone on to work with big names like Ty Dolla Sign, David Guetta, and Rita Ora, and her new album, Crash, is the first to reach the top 10 of the Billboard 200 in her career. She'll perform at House of Blues Dallas.

Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg will perform at Dos Equis Pavilion on April 9.

Photo by F. Carter Smith
Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg will perform at Dos Equis Pavilion on April 9.
Courtesy photo

New true crime podcast with CultureMap ties dives deep into baffling case

A Must Listen

If you've got a true crime addiction (and don't we all?), here's another podcast to add to your list. Final Days on Earth comes from investigative journalist Claire St. Amant, a development producer for CBS News who just happens to be a former CultureMap Dallas editor.

St. Amant has produced over 20 episodes of the true-crime television show 48 Hours since she joined CBS News in 2014, along with a handful of stories for 60 Minutes. But she began researching her latest subject while at CultureMap, where Texas-based murders and mysteries were often part of her beat.

Final Days on Earth premiered on April 20 and focuses on Dammion Heard, a college wrestler who vanished after a party in 2014 in Gunnison, Colorado. After a six-month investigation, Gunnison Police ruled Heard's death a suicide, but his friends and family have always wondered if foul play was involved.

The 12-part podcast from Cold Case Productions and PodcastOne covers his baffling disappearance through police interviews with witnesses from the party and Dammion's friends in 2014, as well as original interviews conducted in real time as the podcast is being produced. It debuted at No. 30 on the true crime podcast charts, and is sure to keep climbing.

We chatted with St. Amant about her foray into podcasting, why this case has stuck with her all these years, and why she's hopeful that new witnesses will come forward to shed light on Heard's death.

CultureMap: How did you first become interested in the Dammion Heard case?

CSA: I was actually the managing editor of CultureMap Dallas when Dammion's story first came across my desk in April 2014. It was a compelling story to me because of how suddenly Dammion's life was turned upside down. One day, he's a rising star on the wrestling team, with tons of friends and close relationships with his family, and then he just disappears out of thin air.

The college freshman walked into a party and had no idea it would be the last night of his life. It's just such a tragic turn of events on a seemingly normal night that I had to know more about who Dammion was and what events led up to his disappearance and death.

I never imagined my reporting journey would last this long — seven years and counting — but believe I'm closer than ever to getting the answers that Dammion's family has been looking for ever since his death.

CM: How did the podcast come about?

CSA: I was contacted by a recruiter in 2018 about hosting a true crime podcast and she pitched me on a bunch of different cases, but none of them felt like the right fit for me. I already focus on true crime cases for CBS News, so I have a pretty high threshold of what kinds of cases that I find interesting.

There was a local newspaper poll that came out after Gunnison Police ruled Dammion's case as a suicide, and 85 percent of respondents said they did not believe that police were justified in closing the investigation. I realized it wasn't only Dammion's family who had questions about the suicide ruling, and I wanted to see if I could help find some answers.

Dammion's story had so much material — the Gunnison Police Department conducted 47 recorded interviews with witnesses in the case — and it had never been heard by the public. When I got ahold of that raw audio, it was a jaw dropping moment. I realized it was a podcast waiting to happen, and I wanted to be the one to put it together.

CM: What extra reporting have you done for the podcast?

CSA: I've conducted over 35 interviews of my own for the podcast, and in June 2020, I roadtripped to Gunnison and spent a week reporting on location. The cornerstone of my reporting was putting together a timeline of Dammion's final days on earth and the ones following his disappearance, before police found his body.

The police file on Dammion's case was 187 pages long, but it was just a listing of individual reports from three different investigators. No one had ever taken the time to go through everything and put all the events in order.

Using eyewitness statements, bank records, cellphone data, and information from Western Colorado University about Dammion's ID card usage, I constructed a timeline that paints a much clearer picture than anyone has ever seen in this case.

CM: What was the experience of putting it together like?

CSA: It was a lot harder and took a lot longer than I ever could have imagined when I started the process back in 2018. But I've learned so much about every aspect of podcast production. In the beginning, it took me a week to put together one episode, and it was so stressful handling all the technical aspects of audio editing. But around the third episode, I really hit my stride and got into a rhythm.

CM: Did you discover anything new while making it?

CSA: Absolutely. You'll have to listen to the full season to get all the details, but suffice it to say I've found new witnesses and consulted experts from all over the world, as close as McKinney and as far away as Germany, to get insight and answers that no one else has about Dammion's case.

CM: Do you think this case could benefit from increased exposure and renewed interest from the public?

CSA: Definitely. There are key witnesses in Dammion's case who have never been identified, even though there are vehicle descriptions and other pieces of identifying information available. We need the public's help to get these descriptions out there and hopefully compel someone to come forward and share what they know about Dammion's case.

CM: What are some of your favorite podcasts?

CSA: Oh man, so many! The classics for me will always be season one of Serial and season one of Up and Vanished. More recently, my favorite podcasts of 2020-2021 were season two of American Nightmare; Murder in a Safe Place with Paul Wagner; and Tom Brown's Body, the first podcast from Skip Hollandsworth at Texas Monthly.

---

New episodes of Final Days on Earth with Claire St. Amant are released every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other podcast listening platforms. The 12-episode series runs through July 6.

Original CultureMap Dallas managing editor Claire St. Amant.

Courtesy photo
Original CultureMap Dallas managing editor Claire St. Amant.
Photo by Karen Almond

Shakespeare Dallas expands digital offerings with new monthly podcast

Lend Me Your Ears

Since the pandemic began, theater companies in Dallas-Fort Worth and beyond have been exploring new ways to create art and engage with their audiences. We've seen streamed performances, drive-in productions, experimental Zoom scripts, and now a podcast.

Shakespeare Dallas has launched a monthly audio series called Shakespeare Decoded, of which the first two episodes are available now. The podcast explores the social issues of William Shakespeare's day that remain burning issues in today's global society.

Each episode features panelists from across the country sharing their expertise on themes such as class division, racism, gender, and bias.

Episode 1 is titled "The Badge of All Our Tribe: Religiosity and Identity in The Merchant of Venice" and features Bishop Keith Ackerman, assisting Anglo-Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth; Professor Dan Moss, associate professor of English at Southern Methodist University; and Rabbi David Stern, rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.

In this episode, the group dives into how Shakespeare grapples with religious and cultural identity and what the text of his controversial play written in 1596 can teach us about empathy today.

Episode 2, "Much Ado About the Sexual Distrust of Women," includes guests Rosaura Cruz, executive director of Junior Players; Vietca Do, arts engagement programs manager of The Old Globe; and Lauren Smart, professor of practice in journalism at Southern Methodist University.

This group discusses the perception of women in the Elizabethan era and where that leaves us 400 years after the events of Much Ado About Nothing.

"As we develop new programming, we are always trying to answer the questions, 'Is Shakespeare still relevant today? Are his works truly universal to all, or just to some?'" says Jenni Stewart, Shakespeare Dallas' associate artistic director. "Our goal is to confront the societal pressures affecting Shakespeare's characters and, through that process, examine what it means to be human in our world today."

For Shakespeare Dallas, best known for its Shakespeare in the Park performances, Shakespeare Decoded is part of a larger shift to digital, worldwide programming that has included short films, digital arts education resources, and online youth camps.

Shakespeare Decoded is available for free on the Spotify app and the Shakespeare Dallas website; other platforms like Apple and Google will be available soon.

The second episode discusses Much Ado About Nothing and the perception of women both then and today.

Photo by Karen Almond
The second episode discusses Much Ado About Nothing and the perception of women both then and today.

New national Selena podcast offers personal look at the Texas superstar

High Notes

Selena Quintanilla, known to millions of fans as the queen of Tejano music, is one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the late 20th century. Her immense talent and tragic death captivated millions, and now with a Netflix series and a new podcast, Selena is inspiring a new generation of fans.

On January 13, WBUR and Futuro Media launched Anything for Selena, a nine-episode podcast about the music icon’s life story, her enduring legacy, and what she means to the Latinx community. Ultimately, as host Maria Garcia describes it, “it’s a podcast about belonging.”

Using a deeply personal lens, Garcia weaves her own story as a queer, first-generation Mexican immigrant, while using cultural analysis, social justice history, and real-time politics to explore the impact of Selena. Each episode, available in both English and Spanish, unwraps another layer on Garcia's journey "to understand what it means to love, mourn and remember Selena."

That journey begins at the border where Garcia was born in Juarez, Mexico, and later grew up in El Paso. “[It was] a place where for a long time, I felt divided in two,” she says in her podcast promo.

When she started attending school in El Paso, her schoolteachers anglicized her name to Mary. “This was the early '90s when assimilation was incredibly rewarded,” she says during a phone interview. Around the age of 7, Garcia discovered the rising star on television.

“Red lips, brown skin, big hoops, [Selena] was magnetic no matter what side of the border she was on,” Garcia explains.

Selena debuted on the music scene in 1981 as the lead singer of the band Selena y Los Dinos, which included members of her family. Later, after breaking out as a solo artist, she achieved stardom with songs like "Como la Flor" and "Amor Prohibido."

In 1995, Selena's life came to an end when she was shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar, her friend and former boutique-store manager.

Pop music fans who may be unfamiliar with Selena's Spanish-language work may remember her posthumously released 1995 hit song "Dreaming of You." Two years later, the film Selena was released starring Jennifer Lopez in the title role, catapulting Lopez into international stardom.

Only nine when Selena died and 11 when the biopic was released, both had a formative impact on the young Garcia. “This [podcast] is like my dream,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve been thinking of her all of my life.”

And so, when creating Anything for Selena, Garcia says she needed to tell the story from her own perspective, a goal she feels she has accomplished.

“I wanted to situate it in today,” the host says. “I didn’t want to make a podcast that was just looking back. I wanted to make a podcast that was helping us make meaning of our culture today, of the moment today, of our lives today with the insight of the last quarter-century since her death.”

The podcast will likely find a very public audience, but for Garcia, it's a personal homage to the superstar who helped inspire a little girl growing up in El Paso. Even today, Garcia still listens to Selena's greatest hits whenever she feels she needs a little motivation.

“I love 'La Carcacha',” she says. “It always makes me want to party.”

How about if you’re in a pensive mood?

“'No Me Queda Más',” she replies without skipping a beat.

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The firs two episodes of Anything for Selena are now available for download at WBUR, NPR, Apple podcasts, Spotify, and more.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

A-list fashion stars align at Dallas’ most stylish black-tie awards gala

FGI Night of Stars

It's been called Dallas' version of the Met Gala. More than 300 of Dallas' chicest packed the Thompson Hotel ballroom for the Fashion Group International of Dallas (FGI Dallas) Night of Stars 2022 gala on Friday, November 18.

They included fashion luminaries, celebrities, socialites, philanthropists, business owners, and influencers — all there to raise funds for scholarships for aspiring fashion designers and professionals.

Event chairs Ken Weber, Richard Rivas, and Cristina Graham presided over the glamorous evening, which was emceed by James Aguiar, the VP Fashion and Creative Director for Modern Luxury. Besides being a chic soiree, the event is also an awards extravaganza, honoring the best and brightest stars in fashion.

This year's honorees were:

House of Pierre Cardin, represented by Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fashion (presented by Karen Katz). "Founded and led by Pierre Cardin in 1950, [the brand's] bubble dresses, along with celebrity ties such as actress and model Lauren Bacall, launched the brand into the ethos of the 1960s," event organizers said. "Throughout the decades House of Cardin established itself as an avant-garde fashion house often evoking a 'Space Age' quality to the garments."

Palmer//Harding's Levi Palmer, a Dallas native, and Matthew Harding received the Career Achievement Award in Design (presented by Jan Strimple).

And Fern Mallis, regarded as the "Godmother of Fashion" and creator of New York Fashion Week, was honored as the Icon of Innovation (presented by Ken Downing).

The style highlight of the evening was a fashion show presentation by House of Pierre Cardin and palmer//harding, produced by Jan Strimple Productions.

In total, the organization raised over $45,000 toward student scholarships.

Spotted in the crowd, looking fabulous and enjoying the evening, were numerous patrons and guests, including Amy Van Cleave, Maxine Trowbridge, Nerissa von Helpenstill, Kameron Westcott, Carey Deuber, Leeanne Locken, Kendra Tillman, Lynae Fearing, Laura Harris, Patrick Means, Maryanne Grisz, Holly Katz, Michael Buss, Ashley Anderson Smith, Steve Rahal, Natalie Harden, Holly Quartaro, Chuck Steelman, Gail Bass Good, Osé Azenabor, Sylvie Enoh, Maribel West, Esé Azenabor, Heidi Dillon, Steve Lopez, Darren Deville, Steve Hoyle, James Turner, Jessica Jesse, and Susan Posnick.

FGI Dallas is part of Fashion Group International, Inc., a global, nonprofit, professional organization with more than 6,000 members representing all areas of the fashion industry. For more information about the organization, visit the website.

Photo by Thomas Garza Photography and Danny Campbell

Osé Azenabor, Sylvie Enoh, Maribel West, Esé Azenabor

These are the 13 can't-miss shows in Dallas-Fort Worth theater for December

Theater Critic Picks

This is, in my opinion, the best time of the year to go see a show. There are so many family-friendly offerings just begging to become traditions, and lots of new interpretations of holiday classics.

Plus, there are always one or two non-holiday themes shows, if you need a break from all the tinsel and holly.

Because there were so many holiday shows that opened late last month, they are included again here for easy planning.

In order of start date, here are 13 local shows to watch this month:

My Fair Lady
Broadway at the Bass, through December 4
Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young Cockney flower seller, and Henry Higgins, a linguistics professor who is determined to transform her into his idea of a “proper lady.” But who is really being transformed? The musical boasts such classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “On the Street Where You Live.”

Jesus Christ Superstar
WaterTower Theatre, through December 11
The iconic rock opera, featuring award-winning music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes "I Don’t Know How to Love Him," "Gethsemane," and "Superstar."

Twas the Night Before...
Cirque du Soleil, through December 11

Cirque du Soleil’s spin on the beloved Christmas tale is about the wonders of sharing and friendship. The production is a flurry of Christmas cheer and rip-roaring fun with hugely lovable characters that will introduce audiences to the magic of Cirque du Soleil.

Christmas with Nat and Natalie
Casa Mañana, through December 17
Cozy up in the Reid Cabaret Theatre for an “unforgettable” evening with holiday favorites from Nat King and Natalie Cole. The father-daughter duo separately recorded over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts.

Crystal City 1969
Cara Mia Theatre, through December 18

Inspired by a little-known event in Texas history, Crystal City 1969 is based on the true story of Mexican-American students in South Texas who walked out of their school and into civil rights history. Crystal City became an example of American democracy at its best.

Black Nativity
Bishop Arts Theatre Center, through December 18
Black Nativity, returning to the Bishop Arts Theatre Center stage for its 18th anniversary, is a hand-clapping, toe-tapping, finger-snapping theatrical wonderment, inspired by Langston Hughes' retelling of the Nativity story.

A Christmas Carol: A New Musical Comedy
Casa Mañana, through December 23
Casa Mañana presents a new, fresh twist on a classic Dickens tale that will have children ages 4 to 100 laughing alike. A Christmas Carol: A New Musical Comedy features a contemporary pop score and current pop culture references that are guaranteed to have audiences dancing in the aisles. This show is suitable for all audiences.

A Christmas Carol
Dallas Theater Center, through December 24
Dallas Theater Center presents their annual production of A Christmas Carol, a delightfully reimagined take on Dickens’ enduring classic. Three spirits have come to visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge to take him on a fantastic journey through Christmases past, present, and future that annually delights audiences across North Texas. But will it be enough to save Scrooge’s soul?

Head Over Heels
Uptown Players, December 2-18
An inspired mash-up of posh and punk, Head Over Heels is an unpredictable Elizabethan romp about a royal family that must prevent an oracle’s prophecy of doom. In order to save their beloved kingdom, the family embarks on an extravagant journey where they are faced with mistaken identities, love triangles, sexual awakening, and self-discovery, all set to the music of The Go-Go's.

Six
Broadway Dallas, December 6-25

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. From Tudor queens to pop princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take the mic to remix 50 years of historical heartbreak into an exuberant celebration of 21st-century girl power.

Handle With Care
Stage West, December 8-January 8
A young Israeli woman on holiday with her grandmother in the United States is confronted by an unexpected turn of events. Now, she finds herself stranded in a motel room on Christmas Eve with an oddball delivery man. Is their meeting an accident, or is it destiny generations in the making? Hilarious and tragic circumstances culminate in a heartfelt romantic comedy about what you can find when you feel lost.

The Dimension of Death
Pegasus Theatre, December 29-January 22

The world premiere of the 22nd Harry Hunsacker adventure by Kurt Kleinmann finds us in the year 1955. Harry, Nigel, and Foster have been dispatched to a Top Secret Air Force base in Nevada where a matter of the highest level of National Security awaits them. They’d heard rumors about Paradise Ranch but the reality of what they saw exceeded their imagination. In no time, however, the bodies start piling up and our trio finds themselves trapped in The Dimension of Death.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
Theatre Three, December 29-February 18
Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Robert’s musical is headline the grand opening of Theatre Too, the intimate downstairs space that has been closed since 2020. Directed by Joel Ferrell and music directed by Vonda K. Bowling, this comedy takes on the truths and myths behind what it means to love, date, or lose someone. The run includes special performances on New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, complete with holiday-focused perks like champagne, chocolates, and flowers.




New Nashville hot chicken restaurant in Frisco adds a Lebanese twist

Fried Chicken News

A new Nashville-style hot chicken restaurant has debuted in Texas with a unique twist. Called Crimson Coward, it's a California-based concept that has opened its first Texas location in Frisco, at 3246 Preston Rd. #510a, serving tenders, wings, and sandwiches.

Crimson Coward was founded in the Los Angeles area in 2018, with the first location in Downey, and has opened three more in the southern California, including Long Beach and Garden Grove.

The menu includes tenders, wings, boneless breast, and chicken sandwiches, served on a brioche bun, topped with slaw and pickles. For those who want to skip the chicken, there's a grilled cheese sandwich on toast.

They just introduced an innovative "bunless" Nashville hot chicken sandwich, in which chicken is wrapped in a tortilla, then pressed and grilled, like a Cuban sandwich.

Sides include mac & cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, fried pickles, and fries. There's a decadent item called Joey Eat Fries, a loaded fries dish topped with chicken, slaw, pickles, and melted cheese.

The chicken can be ordered in the usual array of heat levels, starting with no heat and ending with one that cautions diners about its fiery effects.

The twist is in the unique mix of spices, including a heady dose of garlic, that reflect the chain's Lebanese-American heritage.

The Frisco location is from Hassan Bawab, an entrepreneur and founder of Magic Logix, a digital marketing agency. Bawab had done all of the marketing for Crimson Coward and decided to open after location after witnessing its integrity and popularity.

"The feedback from customers was so positive and heartfelt," Bawab says. "I also liked the brand and the quality of the food. I know there are other Nashville chicken places out there, but most are like fast-food, with frozen and pre-made ingredients."

"Crimson Coward uses fresh ingredients, and makes the food to order," he says. "It's not sitting in a warmer. Sides are made fresh daily. It's also 100 percent Halal."

Bawab is already working on a second location in Dallas. He's also related to Crimson Coward's founder, Ali Hijazi, who is his brother-in-law. It's all in the family.

"It's not a corporate franchise," Bawab says. "We put a real focus on the food, the spices, the breading."