Bill’s Best Bets: Happy birthday, Buddy! Holly-related events, First Friday, two plays

With the arrival of September, there are increased opportunities to enjoy the arts – literally in the form of First Friday Art Trail, but also two theater companies opening new productions and a celebration of what would have been Lubbock icon Buddy Holly’s 83rd birthday … had he lived.

That said, expect additional thousands all weekend at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, 1501 Mac Davis Lane, site of the 31st-annual National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The Parade of the Horse is at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration offers a full schedule of cowboy music, cowboy poetry, storytelling, a national championship Chuck Wagon Cook Off, Old West re-enactors, history presentations, western authors and more.

Look for more information online at cowboy.org.

And keep reading for more of this weekend’s Best Bets:

Buddy Holly Songwriter Showcase, featuring Joe Ely, Kimmie Rhodes, Alejandro Escovedo and Friends

This is an evening of stories and songs celebrating the heart and soul of music, namely songwriting.

The evening is presented by the Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association, aka LEPAA, in partnership with the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation and Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association. Headlining this first in what is expected to become an annual event are singer-songwriters Joe Ely, Kimmie Rhodes and Alejandro Escovedo.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave.

Tickets are $40 on the first five rows (temporary seating in a front row called A-1, and permanent rows A, B, C and D). Tickets are $35 for remaining floor seats, and $30 for standard balcony seating. Balcony box seats are $70 and include free concessions.

Cactus ticket prices listed above are all “base prices,” varied fees and tax always will be added to base prices at time of purchase. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at cactustheater.com.

All sales are final. The Cactus Theater does not permit exchanges, refunds or credit for future shows in exchange for unused tickets. The theater’s box office is staffed at 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, unless Monday is a major holiday.

Call the Cactus at 762-3233 for more information.

This concert marks the end of the inaugural five-day Buddy Holly Songwriters Retreat.

The retreat inspires and cultivates songwriters in Holly’s hometown. Produced by Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company, the retreat partners veteran songwriters with upcoming songwriters in all genres.

During this week-long retreat, writers break up into small groups to collaborate through the creative process of songwriting. Each evening, the groups return, share a meal and then share songs written during the day. At the end of the week, best-of-the-best songs written during the week are presented during Friday’s Buddy Holly Songwriters Showcase.

The mission of the retreat is to cultivate aspiring songwriters through sights, landscapes and the West Texas culture that inspired Buddy Holly. At the end of the retreat, participants will have collaborated with mentors and peers to further refine their songwriting creative process.

Joe Ely, who was the Texas State Musician, in 2016, released 18 studio albums, five live albums, 19 singles, 12 compilations, one EP and one music video. His music touches on honky tonk, Texas country, Tex-Mex and rock ’n’ roll. He performed with Bruce Springsteen, Uncle Tupelo, Los Super Seven, The Chieftains and James McMurtry, in addition to early work with The Clash and more recent acoustic tours with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and the late Guy Clark.

Kimmie Rhodes, a native Texan raised in Lubbock is an Austin-based singer-songwriter who’s has released 16 solo albums, written and produced three musical plays, published a novella/cookbook and written many multi-platinum songs recorded by Willie Nelson, Wynonna Judd, Trisha Yearwood, Amy Grant, Cece Winans, Joe Ely, Waylon Jennings, Peter Frampton, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. In her role as honorary ambassador for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, she annually attends Chris Dillard’s songwriting retreat in Glastonbury.

Texas native Alejandro Escovedo’s new album, “The Crossing,” is about his journey of crossing borders, jumping barriers and taking risks. It ranges from orchestral numbers to classic rock and bursts of 1970s punk.

Buddy Holly Birthday Celebration

Had he lived, Charles Hardin Holley, nicknamed Buddy by his mom, would be celebrating his 83rd birthday on Saturday, Sept. 7. Fans will have plenty of time to pay tribute to him Saturday with a visit to the Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Crickets Ave.

The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with free admission all day.

Note this also provides plenty of time for visitors to Lubbock to have fun at the Buddy Holly Center and still make it to the Texas Tech vs.UTEP football game at 7 p.m.

But be sure to take time out to visit the Allison house. The City of Lubbock did not save Buddy Holly’s historic family home. But the history of Buddy Holly & The Crickets can be felt within the childhood home of Holly’s best friend and Crickets drummer Jerry “J.I.” Allison.

The small home was moved to the south side of the Buddy Holly Center and placed on permanent display.

Recall that Buddy and Jerry spent a Saturday afternoon in 1956 watching the John Wayne/John Ford western classic “The Searchers” at a downtown Lubbock movie theater. Buddy was inspired by the line Wayne repeated in the film: “That’ll be the day.”

So the teenaged Holly and Allison returned afterward to Allison’s family home and, in the drummer’s bedroom, devoted the rest of the day to writing the hit song that opened an international career for Holly: “That’ll Be The Day.”

Musical history resides in that room to this day.

Note that the Allison house will be open at no charge only until 2 p.m. Saturday.

Other offerings Saturday at the Buddy Holly Center:

  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Screenings of documentary “Buddy Holly: Rave On” offered on a continuous loop.
  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – This year’s children’s activities include supervised bank-making.
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – “Buddy Holly Karaoke” takes place outdoors in the center’s Meadows Courtyard.
  • 2 p.m. – Visitors and diehard fans can return to the center, where Buddy Holly birthday cupcakes and punch are served.
  • 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. – The local Jason Fellers Band (pictured above) will perform rock ’n’ roll outdoors in the center’s Meadows Courtyard.
Retirement Home, photograph by Mark McCall, exhibited at Bad Axe Raider.

First Friday Art Trail

By now, the public has grown to expect heavy traffic – including heavy foot traffic – headed toward LHUCA, 511 Ave. K, before 6 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.

Although art lovers could begin their venture at nearly 20 participating venues, it seems thousands opt to head to LHUCA as a first stop for Lubbock’s monthly First Friday Art Trail.

The 180th non-consecutive First Friday Art Trail takes place from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6. There’s no admission charge and those curious about participating venues and which artists are represented at those venues, should visit ffat.org online.

Visitors have a decision to make regarding transport. There are galleries inside and near LHUCA, for those who prefer just hanging out in that vicinity.

Visitors can, of course, use their own cars to visit favored venues.

Or they can take advantage of Friday’s five Art Trail Trolleys, all of which will depart at 6:15 p.m. Friday from the Charles Adams Gallery, 602 Ave. J.

Each trolley will make stops at the Buddy Holly Center, Caviel Museum of African American History, Charles Adams Gallery, GlassyAlley Art Studio and Gallery, Legacy Event Center, LHUCA and Tornado Gallery.

Art trail venues the trolleys will not visit include Art For Goodness Sake, Bad Axe Raider, Bentley Arrow, Bo Tan Fine Arts Studio and Gallery, CASP Live/Work Studios and 5th and J Studios, J&B Coffee, Platform Restaurant, Sugar Brown’s Coffee and Urban Tech/TTU Press.

This weekend marks the anniversary of Buddy Holly’s birthday.

Notable is the Buddy Holly Center’s display of an exhibit titled “Buddy Holly: Life, Legend, Legacy,” derived from the Bill Griggs collection housed at Texas Tech’s Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.

The ladies of Chinquapin Parish on stage in the play Steel Magnolias.  From left to right, Ouiser (Callie Combest), Clairee (Lauren Brownell), M’Lynn (Ayanna Arnold), Shelby (KeAsia Bogus), Annelle (Lindsay Rigney) and Truvy (Andi Babineaux). Photo Josh Aguirre.

‘Steel Magnolias’

Certainly by popular demand, making its return to Lubbock the next two weekends is Robert Harling’s 1987 play “Steel Magnolias.” Produced by non-profit Will of the Wind Productions, the play, directed by Joshua Aguirre, will be staged in the Firehouse Theatre at LHUCA, 511 Ave. K.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The play will be repeated the following weekend at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14; with a closing matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.

Tickets for all ages are $22.75, which includes all fees and taxes. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at willofthewind.org.

Note the production contains mature themes and language.

Cast members include Ayanna Arnold as M’Lynn, KeAsia Bogus as Shelby, Andi Babineaux as Truvy, Lindsay Rigney as Annelle, Callie Combest as Ouiser and Lauren Brownell as Clairee.

The play opens with a discussion of Shelby’s future wedding in the fictional northwestern Louisiana parish of Chinquapin. The six women gather regularly at Truvy’s in-home beauty parlor. Events over the next three years include Shelby dealing with her Type 1 Diabetes; the women interact in varied ways, but remain friends.

While the main story line focuses on Shelby and her mother, M’Lynn, the underlying friendship shared by all six women is prominent throughout the drama.

The title suggests females in the South are as delicate as magnolias, but as tough as steel.

Many no doubt were introduced to “Steel Magnolias” via the 1989 film adaptation, starring Julia Roberts as Shelby and Sally Field cast as her mother.

Fewer know the play is based on playwright Harling’s attempt to deal with the death of his sister, Susan Harling-Robinson in 1985 from diabetic complications after the birth of his nephew and the failure of a kidney donated by a family member.

The Queen (Emily Healy) doesn’t see the snake in the fruit which she is being offered by the queen’s attendant (Nick Muniz) and her slave (Garrett Benson) while filming their Epic movie “Exeunt Omnes.”

‘Epic Proportions’

The Lubbock debut of comedy “Epic Proportions,” written by Larry Cohen and David Crane, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Lubbock Community Theater, 4230 Boston Ave.

The performance will be repeated by LCT at the same times on the next two weekends, Sept. 13-15 and 20-22.

Reserved seats are $20 for the general public and $15 for students and seniors.

Call 749-2416, or visit website lubbockcommunitytheatre.org, for more information.

Direction is by K. Douglas McKennon.

Set in the 1930s, the play tells the story of brothers Benny and Phil, both of whom go to the Arizona desert to work as extras in the epic Biblical film “Exeunt Omnes” (Latin for “Everybody Out”). Phil is a former high school band director, while Benny has fantasized about being a Hollywood star.

The film is directed by the mysterious and reclusive D.W. DeWitt.

More than 3,000 extras are supervised by Louise Goldman, who divides them into groups by asking them to count off by four.

Phil’s experiences as a “Three” include relatively pleasant scenes, including feasts and parades.

His brother, Benny, is a “Four” and winds up being included in all 10 plagues.

As things progress and the movie begins to fall apart, Phil finds himself working behind the camera as the film’s director and Benny winds up in a starring role.

Both men fall in love with Louise, leading to a brother vs. brother rivalry typical of epic movies.

Along the way there are gladiator battles, the previously mentioned 10 plagues – and a cast of thousands portrayed by a few other actors.