Friday, May 20, 2016

In Defense of a Dusty Old Relic

What better way to dust off this weird old corner of the internet called blogging than to use it as platform to defend a tiny little venue that could.

I went to see a taping of a podcast on Tuesday.  Because that's a thing that people, myself included, do now.  We do it with such a passion that I am flying into LA in two weeks to see one of the stars of said podcast do a taping of another podcast at a tiny theater called Largo in LA.  Largo is pretty magical and I have flown to LA five times in the past year to see shows there just because I love the place that much.

Which brings me back to that podcast.

I want to make it clear that the aim of this is not to call anyone out.  The people who make the podcast in question has given me thousands of hours of enjoyment and the fact that they came to Dallas was a really special moment for a lot of us in town who have waited a very long time to see them.  We gave them a standing ovation.

That said, they made a lot of cracks about how dilapidated Texas Theatre was. They opened the Austin show the next night by calling Texas Theatre a shithole. And it's certainly not in the best shape. Buuuuut...

I know the owners of Texas Theatre and a little background: because a) it was a part of the worst day in Dallas history and b) because Dallas likes to bulldoze anything old and build a Chase bank on top of a CVS, the Theatre was left to rot in the early 2000's. It was the first theater that Howard Hughes built and has original frescos by an important Texas artist. It's important and in a different city, perhaps a civic arts group or the actual city would decide to put money into it to help save it.  Alas, Dallas isn't that city.

So a group of very poor filmmakers and musicians did what the city wouldn't do and they, along with a community group, bought it and turned it into a very rough around the edges DIY performance and repertory theater space. They are so invested that the owners were the guys making popcorn and refilling the ice behind the bar at the podcast taping. To say that they have a shoestring budget is putting it mildly.

The theater also serves a low income Hispanic community and acts as their cultural center and hosts community events. In short, people move to the area around the theater (myself included) because we have all ponied up money to try to do what the city won't do and not bulldoze history.

The community in which Texas Theatre operates is a community which has been left behind by the city and it's through the local residents that the Oak Cliff Foundation fronted the money to buy the building and save it from the wrecking ball to have a little space to be weird and put on shows and be creative.  I got to see Goblin live playing the soundtrack to Suspiria as it screened behind them there, a show which no one else in Dallas was going to book.  I saw The Sonics there.  These are shows that Dallas wouldn't have gotten unless this ragged little building still stood.
Again, this doesn't really matter because it's all fun and jokes and I know the cracks were definitely not meant to be taken too seriously. 

So there it is. I love this podcast so much but I also love my poor artist friends who have made it their personal mission to try to save a little cultural island in a sea of suburban sprawl.