LakeCities Ballet in Lewisville to stage ‘Dracula’ for 10th year

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 28, 2015

LakeCities Ballet Theatre will present its 10th fall performance of Le Ballet de Dracula at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater, 100 N. Charles St.

Children can come dressed in Halloween costumes and wear stage makeup to dance with Dracula’s brides during a pre-performance junior bride workshop at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 11. The workshop, for children ages 8 and older, is free with the purchase of a performance ticket and an RSVP to

A haunted house will provide spooky entertainment before each performance and during intermissions. Admission is $3; however, bride workshop participants can enter free with a performance ticket.

Tickets are $17 for general admission and can be purchased at the door, by calling 972-317-7987 or by visiting

Review: Musical Theater of Denton’s ‘The Addams Family’ — a show to die for

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 30, 2015

It was a dark and stormy night – the perfect setting for the Musical Theater of Denton’s performance of The Addams Family.

(Ironically, I almost died twice in the torrential monsoon on the way up from Dallas to see the show.)

I walked in to the Campus Theater off the square through a side door to witness the lobby, decorated spooktacularly as the inside of the Addams home.

But it wasn’t a somber event. The laughs of the lively audience started before the show even began.

“Remember: if you have small children with you, make sure to eat them,” the announcer said as the houselights dimmed.

The Addams Family musical seems to pick up years after the movies left off — filling the void we’ve all craved since the unfortunate Addams Family Reunion.

Morticia and Gomez want to continue living the way they always have. But Wednesday has fallen in love with a “normal” boy from Ohio, Lucas Beineke.  The Addams invite the Beinekes to their home for dinner. Secrets are kept and strain is put onto the family that relishes in pain and suffering.

It’s said the musical follows the characterizations of the animated TV show. But, the makeup, costumes and set design were stylized perfectly after the 1991 movie. In fact, the entire production mirrored the early ’90s films.

Alexis Romero, who portrayed Gomez, delivered each punch line of his dad-like one-liners and each song of his devotion to his wife Morticia, played by Anjelica Houston’s younger doppelganger Liz J Millea, in the style of Raul Julia down to the accent. Millea also gesturized like her predecessor in the role.

Paul Iwanicki played Uncle Fester with the mischievousness of Christopher Loyd, and taught us to love how only Fester can. Kristen Brasher played Grandma Addams, “who may or may not be in the family”. Her hilarious portrayal left me crying from laughter by intermission.

Jason Joos, who played Mal Beineke, made for a potent antagonist — but could have annunciated more as he was often unintelligible. Kristi Smith Johnson, who played Alice Beineke, Lucas’ mother, was surprisingly funny and showed some of the greatest character depth onstage.

The dynamic between Cameron Dinger (Pugsley) and Meagan Black (Wednesday) was perfect and I wish there were more scenes with just the two of them; but the chemistry between Black and Jacob Lewis, who played her love interest Lucas, was lacking.

Lewis had a brilliant improvised line that received thunderous laughter when Black accidentally calls him by his real name, yelling “It’s Lucas!”

However, most of the time Lewis was difficult to hear as his microphone seemed to be turned down.

Overall, it was a true ensemble cast — no actor outshining another. Though at times, even Lurch stole the show without saying a word.

Directors Bill Kirkley and Choreographer Rebecca McDonald made sure the entire stage was used effectively. Some of my favorite scenes, like Wednesday’s loving torture of Pugsley, were conducted on the sides of the stage.

There was not an opportunity missed, except maybe long drop for a mischievous boy from the second story of Addams mansion. The writers even made pointed social commentary in the liberal persuasion.

Of course, no Addams Family production is complete without a killer Dancing with the Stars-esque tango between a loving husband and wife.

Standing ovation after a killer dance and intoxicating musical numbers in second act left everyone snapping and humming out of theater.

The show has some language and sexual references and is inappropriate for children; but, it teaches the values of family and love. Cherish your families, folks.

Serving Denton County, Our Daily Bread aims to feed the working poor

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 25, 2015

Denton soup kitchen Our Daily Bread has always catered to the homeless. Now, it’s six weeks into a Monday night dinner program that helps another group in need — the working poor.

“Monday night dinners are absolutely needed here,” said Myles Wood, 28, who started volunteering in 2013 and was hired by Our Daily Bread in April. “The only other place you can consistently get dinner is the Salvation Army, and they’re very limited on space.”

Dinners, which can accommodate at least 120 people at one time, start at 5:30 p.m. every Monday at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 300 W. Oak St. in Denton.


“It’s a big undertaking, especially since we’re already established for lunches,” Wood said. “But it’s a need and would help a whole lot of people in the community.”

Our Daily Bread is one of 23 agencies selected to receive funds from The Dallas Morning News Charities this year.

In 2004, everything Frank Hurst owned was stolen, including his clothes. Though Hurst, 79, is not homeless, he never fully recovered from the financial blow, he said.

“I had no place to go and no money, but I found out I could get a free meal from Our Daily Bread,” Hurst said. “They even helped me get cataract surgery. I’ve always been grateful for that.”

Hurst said he would like to see the program expanded to add Wednesday and Friday.

“It would make a real big difference for me if it was,” he said.

Rick Holliman, executive director of Our Daily Bread, said the program started with a popular picnic table for day laborers at the corner of Fort Worth and Eagle drives.

“A board member thought they might not eat at Our Daily Bread because they may lose an opportunity to make a living,” Holliman said. “We wanted to find a way to reach out to them without the large investment of a mobile food pantry.”

Our Daily Bread also wanted to further support The Wheeler House, a group home for single working mothers.

“They don’t have an opportunity to eat with us, either,” Holliman said. “So it would really help them if they didn’t have to pay for a meal for their families.”

Our Daily Bread serves about 355 meals on Monday nights, counting second helpings. Most people who attend also eat lunch there during the day, Holliman said.

The organization advertises the dinners through bilingual fliers distributed at schools, libraries, churches and other charitable organizations.

“The fliers don’t just say that we’re having a free dinner,” Holliman said. “They say, ‘Our family invites your family to have a meal with us.’ That way it sounds more like families getting together for a Sunday dinner than a need-based program.”

Our Daily Bread also partners with the Denton Community Food Center to deliver food to students in Denton ISD. The North Texas Food Bank delivers food to the Denton Target Distribution Center, where volunteers sort food before delivering it to children at local elementary schools.

“The food is in backpacks, so it’s not obvious that [the recipients are] in need,” Holliman said. “We also put a flier in the backpacks advertising our Monday night meals.”

Holliman said the dinners might not hit their intended demographic because of fear.

“Some of the working poor are too proud to get help because they don’t want to be affiliated with the stigma of the homeless, drug-addicted ex-convicts and the mentally ill that we also serve,” he said.

He tries to make it a comfortable environment by providing separate tables for families — crayons and coloring books included. Some play the standup piano tucked into the back corner or bluegrass tunes on the mandolin.

“It’s hectic and chaotic around here at lunch, but it’s a real relaxed and pleasant atmosphere in the evenings, almost like a social event,” Holliman said.

He said the volunteers almost act like waiters refilling drinks at their tables.

In the daytime, volunteers who prepare the food also serve it, working from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The dinner preparation crews volunteer from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. before dinner servers arrive at 5:15 p.m., working until 7 p.m.

“We have noticed an increase in new volunteers, particularly college students from both universities,” said Holliman, referring to UNT and TWU. “They’re ecstatic about being here, and some have signed up to volunteer through the end of the year.”

The dinners make Our Daily Bread unique because they feed a section of the community that doesn’t receive much assistance, Holliman said.

“Many people don’t know there’s this class of people who may have a home and job but still need help,” he said.

The organization is also unique because while many of the volunteers are students, so are many of the guests.

“We found out that there are 600 homeless students in Denton ISD and that Denton universities enroll a number of homeless students,” Holliman said. “We need to help those kids to eat, too, as they’re going through school. Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you have a silver spoon in your mouth.”

The only people Holliman said he’ll turn away are previous guests who brought drugs, alcohol, weapons or violence on the premises.

“People have to come to us, but our door is closed to nobody,” Holliman said. “We don’t care if they’re from Dallas or Houston. We don’t care if they’re Christian, atheist or Muslim. We don’t care if they’re straight or gay. We don’t care if they’re transgender. We care if they’re hungry.”

Local painter creates intrigue, beauty in portrait

Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on Feb. 14, 2016

Behind the bar at 940’s Kitchen and Cocktails is an oil painting.

The painting depicts a woman with bright red lips set against a smoky background. It’s flanked by colorful bottles of expensive liquors.

The bar’s centerpiece, which shows three perspectives of the unknown woman’s face, is like a memory of another time — a throwback to the great tradition of paintings of beautiful women behind bar counters.

The portrait feels like a modern Mona Lisa. Like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait, the subject of Daniel McCullagh’s Sight Unseen is shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows the identity of the model or what’s behind the curiosity of her expression — though she looks a little like Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary of Downton Abbey.

Bartender Tyler Jenkins, 26, said much of his clientele asks about the painting. The bar recently held a gallery event featuring McCullagh to give the artist a chance to answer their questions.

“It’s very striking, and the first thing that caught my eye when I came in here to apply,” Jenkins said. “She follows you around the room in a dizzying way.”

Sight Unseen was meant to capture the details that are often lost in motion.

“It’s like when you see a girl out of the corner of your eye and turn to look at her,” he said. “You pick up little pieces of information. Your brain, influenced by your emotions, creates the rest of the image.”

McCullagh said the idea to have the subject turn came to him just after Christmas 2014 while sitting at Paschall Bar talking about art with friends. In the past, he had painted images showing the subject as if it were dripping down and stretching across the canvas.

“Spiraling would give more dimension and depth to her face, emotionally and visually,” he said. “My friends encouraged me to do it.”

McCullagh did not use a model for the painting, he said.

“People tell me that it looks like their friend or family member,” he said. “It could be a real person, but even I’m not sure if it is.”

Working at Jupiter House, McCullagh sees many people every day. Occasionally, he said, someone will come in and look familiar — like a subject of a painting long since finished.

“It will be funny if this woman walks in to get coffee someday and it turns out she’s real,” he said. “Or maybe the face is derived from different people I’ve seen.”

Art critic Bill Marvel, 76, attended the event as a friend of McCullagh’s mother. Marvel said the woman looks curious as she faces forward. Her eyebrows are raised. Marvel argued that the subject is turning away from the viewer; other viewers think she’s turning toward the viewer.

“The painting really left it open to which direction she’s turning,” Marvel said. “If she is turning away, her eyebrows lower, indicating that she’s shy or uninterested. If she’s turning towards us, it indicates that we sparked her interest.”

McCullagh won’t say which way the woman is turning. But, he gave this clue: He did not paint the faces individually; he painted them as if they were one.

The artist would start the brush on the in-focus face and immediately paint the same feature on the next faces, without pulling the brush from the canvas.

“Blurring from one face immediately into the other, instead of painting three distinct faces and blurring them together, makes the movement look a little more organic,” he said.

“It’s the kind of painting that demands you to look at it,” Marvel said. “It does everything a painting like this is supposed to do on a sophisticated level. This is sophisticated bar with sophisticated drinks, and it deserves a sophisticated painting.”