Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reviews from Elsewhere: Remembering San Antonio's Sterling Houston, by Thomas Jenkins, San Antonio Current, September 16

San Antonio theatre writer Thomas Jenkins remembers the playwright and producer Sterling Houston, a voice of the town's African-American, Latino and gay communities who died in 2006. Jenkins assesses Houston's significance while severely panning the Jump-Start Theatre production of
High Yello Rose, the playwright's all-female musical romp through one of Texas’ foundational myths.

Excerpts from the article of September 19 in the San Antonio Current with emphasis added by ALT:

This month, Jump-Start celebrates the art and leadership of Sterling Houston, who guided the performance company through its formative years before his untimely death in 2006. By everybody’s definition, Houston was a quintessentially “San Antonio playwright,” a designation that now seems a double-edged sword. By concentrating so narrowly — indeed, almost exclusively — on his hometown, Houston obviously gave voice to communities — African-American, Latino, and gay — that had been traditionally elided from most historical narratives of South Texas. But Houston also assumed an audience steeped in (and fascinated by) San Antonio lore: a tall order for even Austinites, and tougher still for audiences further afield.

So it’s doubtful that Houston’s literary corpus — now partly anthologized in a new collection edited by Sandra Mayo and published by San Antonio’s Wings Press — will ever gain much traction outside of San Antonio, and ultimately this will hobble Houston’s artistic legacy [. . . ].

Houston’s commissioned pieces — which are largely historical in focus — are among the weakest in the collection [. . . ] Fortunately, Houston is on firmer ground when unfettered from the constraints of commission. Cameoland, his strongest play, mixes music and jaunty prose in a sweeping, time-traveling exploration of the city’s largely African-American district of St. Paul’s Square. Driving Wheel, a short autobiographical one-act, takes a spin through Houston’s tortured coming-out process, while the antithetically named Black Lily and White Lily explores a war of the Lilies in segregated SATX. (This short play is compelling until Houston paints himself into a corner; the dénouement is preposterous. In sum, a checkered Lily.)

Biography of Sterling Houston published by Jump-Start Theatre in 2006

High Yello Rose and Other Texas Plays by Sterling Houston, edited by Sandra Mayo (San Antonio: Wings Press, 2009)

Click to read more at the San Antonio Current. . . .

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