The Chicken Who Wasn't Chicken: Its Yolks, er, Jokes Are Funny and Its Message Isn't Scrambled

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Jeremy LeBlanc is all chicken.

The kids in the sweet, funny new play The Chicken Who Wasn't Chicken, running in Plano through Sunday, February 26, don't know how lucky they are. The script is a new one from Matt Lyle, a former Dallas writer and actor who went on to Second City's writing program in Chicago a few years ago and who now hosts the podcast variety show The City Life Supplement. The play's director is Jeff Swearingen, a gifted comedic actor who starred in two of Lyle's best plays,The Boxer and Hello Human Female. Swearingen now puts on shows with and for kids at Fun House Theatre and Film in Plano, where the chicken play premiered last night.

The kids are lucky because it's evident in their unself-conscious performances and snappy comic timing that they trust their director and understand how to deliver Lyle's fresh, off-kilter comedy. It's an all-youth cast and every young actor on the tiny stage at the Plano Children's Theatre space, even the tiniest chick in the yolk-yellow leotard, hits the punchlines like an old pro. They know how to pull off double-takes. They hold for laughs and don't step on each other's dialogue. That takes a lot of work and focus.

Lyle's plays are all heart and Chicken boils down to a simple love story complicated by a couple of baddies. Mike Chicken (Jeremy LeBlanc) is a video clerk and film buff who recommends his favorite movies, like the romantic A Coop with a View, to his customers. Mike has set his beak for pretty Polly (Kennedy Waterman) but he's too shy to tell her how he feels. Enter two bullies, a pig named Biff (Dalton Walker) and a frog named Ribbit (Jack Waterman), who taunt and tease Mike, trying to leave egg on his face. Mike's boss, Mr. Goat (Madeleine Norton), is no help as defense; he's an old goat who doesn't like to butt in.

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Last Night's Zombi Race 2012: Endurance, Booze and Braaaaaaains

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The guys and gals of the Dallas Derby Devils want to contaminate you.

"All the zombies are our tonight," shouted the guardian of Smokin' Joe's hot dog cart to a passing patrol cop. "OOOOOOOh, it's going to be wiiiiild!" he thundered, fist in the air. The cop rolled down his window, assessed the spectacle occurring in front of The Church and looked severely unamused. In his defense, there were a bunch of hot chicks in fishnets and zombie make-up in the street, aggressively protecting the nightclub's entrance, on roller skates.

The Zombi Race is an annual event that brings in runners by the hundreds and pits them against re-animated corpses at various checkpoints around town. At each spot reached, the runners scan a QR code that reveals another clue to solve or test of endurance (think: dare) to perform. After all clues are opened and achieved (a Yoo-hoo drink at the Double Wide, a bartender serenade, a photograph on a toilet posted to a FaceBook page), runners return to the Swiss Street goth club where they face off against the race's final surprise line of defense: zombie roller girls.

Night of The Living Dead taught us that zombies are lumbering flesh munchers who win only through perseverance. 28 Days Later decided it would be fun to throw another kink in the mix and make zombies move real fast and herky jerky. But c'mon Zombi Race: sexy undead ladies on roller skates? These poor runners are only human.

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That Which is Yes: JourneyDance with Katie Toohil

Categories: Dance, Last Night

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Katie Toohil does all kinds of things I can't do on a daily basis.
A couple weeks ago, I'd expressed some anxiety about attending JourneyDance with Katie Toohil at SYNC Yoga and Wellbeing in Oak Cliff. Dancing, huh?

My own my mom has likened my moves to Elaine from Seinfeld; but, they might be described more accurately as Woody Allen: the Broadway Musical. Further context? I wear suits. And, black. Black on black. I grind my teeth. I power through. I work ceaselessly. I work alone. I've actually drank coffee to the verge of throwing up. I don't really do "relax." I've never so much as stepped into a yoga studio.

Which is exactly why I needed to. Not only would it be a learning experience, one that I could use to push through the multitude of insecurities I've been facing about my body and its place in the world, but it was also a perfect time to experiment with methods of release outside of substance abuse or seething, unrealized and unexpressed, rage. Indeed, it's been a stressful year. And, we're not even through February.

And, since Katie Toohil's the kind of person who, upon first meeting her, you feel as though you've known her for centuries, she tends to make people feel safe and smart and good about themselves. I'd been reading online about her experiences becoming certified as a JourneyDance facilitator, and though I had no idea what that meant, if Toohil felt so passionately about something, I figured it would be worthwhile exploring, if for no reason other than curiosity. As it turns out, JourneyDance was created by Toni Bergins, and it involves moving in a "Shamanic" style, allowing the music to dictate your physical and emotional state. So, I headed over to SYNC last night from 8-10 for Toohil's $15 workshop. While things are still a bit 'up in the air' as to whether JourneyDance will become a permanent fixture at SYNC, the strong turnout and seemingly uniform enjoyment by attendees suggests that there might be more JourneyDance in the near future. I'd sign up today. SYNC would be crazy to turn it down.

The long and the short - I was impressed. I can't wait for another session. Read about my "journey" after the jump.

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Still Think Dallas Has No Culture? Look Underground.

Ponchaveli Design Group
Man, I still get the same old tired line: Oh, you write for the Culture section? In Dallas? What Culture.

Yes, yes. We know. Dallas is no New York. Or, Paris. Or, hell, even Austin. I was just the same when I left here in back in 2006 with both barrels blazing and two middle fingers waving. But, then I realized something. Cities like Dallas, and you know what I mean, tend to foment rebellion. Her manicured nails and sky-high coif -- reaching gloriously to the heavens like a tribute to Reunion Tower -- inspire folks of a recalcitrant nature, giving us something to buck against. When I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was just another pinko lefty nerd drowning anonymously in a sea of my own kind. Back here, I'm that obnoxious pinko lefty asshole nerd, and if you're reading the Mixmaster, something tells me you might catch my drift.

But, for those still spitting jokes about the City sans Culture, after Saturday night, I've got to think that maybe you're just not paying attention. Underground 4, a mashup of everything art by 2011 MasterMinds finalist ArtLoveMagic, went down at the Janette Kennedy Gallery at South Side on Lamar, and it was worth every penny of the $15 cover charge. DJs were spinnin', artists were creatin' and patrons were drinkin'. It was loud, busy, bright and alive, and it was Dallas at her finest.

A yearly event, Underground presents emerging and established local artists working live, all to the tune of live bands, musicians and DJs, as well as spoken-word poets, dancers, and performance artists like the always-entertaining Circus Freaks. Our intrepid photog Taryn Walker snagged shots that are worth a thousand words, but if you've got time for about 500, we've got some observations of our own.

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Life Lessons from Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) and Maira Kalman

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Maira Kalman, Daniel Handler and an unknown collaborator (not shown)
Few things are important enough to make me brave the DMA during prime Gaultier hours, but an Arts & Letters Live BooksmART appearance by Author Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events) and illustrator Maira Kalman made wading through the fashion faux pas well worth it.

Handler and Kalman were in town to tout their newest collaboration, Why We Broke Up, which was recently named a Printz Honor book for "literary excellence in young adult literature" by the American Library Association. Written by Handler with illustrations by Kalman, the young adult novel is the story of Min Green and Ed Slaterton's break up, told through the return of items Min had collected during their relationship.

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Smells Like Dead Icons: "The Society for Olfactory Preservation" at 500X

We still have an hangover, art and otherwise, from Saturday night's gallery hopping marathon, but luckily we were still upright and mostly cognizant by the time we made it to 500X where whiffs of Chris Tennen and Scott Hilton's collaborative installation, "The Society for Olfactory Preservation," wafted among the gallery's gritty wood and concrete.

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Chris Tennen and Scott Hilton want you to inhale.
Unusual, unexpected and brilliant, Tennen and Hilton's interactive brainchild is installed in the downstairs project space through February 5. The exhibition consists of roughly 10 small boxes -- as pictured to the right -- set on spartan wooden stands, beckoning the viewer, well, smeller, to gently press down for a quick breath of odoriferous history. Adorned with white placards tersely describing the aroma within, each box contains an amusing artistic, philosophical or literary reference, such as "The Madeleine of Marcel Proust" or "The Hemlock of Socrates."

Amusingly meta, the installation is tied together with a posted manifesto by the fictive "Society for Olfactory Preservation," which claims that the smells offered are originals, painstakingly curated for decades and centuries, preserving not merely smells, so much as the emotional and cognitive weight that oft-artistically ignored sense bears. As the exhibition tacitly suggests, the greatest art elicits a Proustian "involuntary memory," nimbly creating a profoundly personal subconscious bond between a piece and its viewer.

Clever in both inception and execution, we don't think that "The Society for Olfactory Preservation" can be improved upon. However, we would love to see more, and though it might prove a challenge, logistically, to expand the collection (how does one cleanse one's olfactory "palate," after all?), we have offered our top 10 suggestions of dead (and some not-so-dead) icons who could supplement the already fabulous installation.

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Words Butchered, Possible Corruption at Stripper Spelling Bee

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What's better than big tits and good spelling?

That's right: nothing.

Only problem is, there aren't many opportunities to mix the two, which is why God made stripper spelling bees, and is why the Observer jumped at the chance Sunday night to see the inaugural stripper spelling bee at Baby Dolls Topless Saloon.

After a preliminary screening round, seven girls in bikinis earned the right to spell in front of a packed crowd of raucous and possibly semi-erect men for a $500 prize. In the first round, Baby Dolls' DJ Robert Pennington cut the fat eliminating three girls with the word "circumcise" (the c-i-s-e at the end could fool anyone), "entrepreneur" and "gyrating" (tricky words maybe, but they shouldn't have been butchered to the extent that they were).

In the second round was the Big Reveal, where Pennington rather anticlimactically asked the four remaining contestants to take their tops off. They did, and one girl was promptly eliminated after misspelling "lieutenant." At the beginning of the third round, only three girls remained.

Then shit got shady.

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Santas on a Train: Scenes from the Santa Rampage 2011

Categories: Events, Last Night

All photos by Danny Hurley
Santa Rampage 2011
Couple of weeks ago, City of Ate teased the arrival of the rampaging Santas--where hundreds of folks march on Dallas and bar hop along DART, you know, in Santa costumes and stuff. It's a colorful event that rarely yields unusable photos.

This year was no different, as our roving photographer Danny Hurley brought his camera along for the ride as Santas (and other furry things) rampaged along the streets of Dallas. Fun times, fun times. Check out more shots of ambulatory Santa Clauses below and in our slide show.

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Snooki Smells Like Kiwi, Cupcakes and the Future of All Mankind

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Elaine Liner
Jessica Salas
Outside, standing toward the back of a line of 500 or so fans of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore, Janessa Salas, 12, and her mother Stacey were super excited about getting VIP tickets to meet Snooki. Janessa, a seventh grader at Allen's Curtis Middle School, was dressed in Snooki-like fashion: a floral tube mini-dress, leopard-print platform heels and her long brown hair in a Snooki-like pouf at the top of her head.

"I like her because of her fashion and her attitude," said Janessa as her mom flashed an iPhone photo of her daughter done up as Snooki on Halloween.

To snag the ducat for the meet-and-greet event on Friday at the Perfumania store in the corner of the Allen Premium Outlets shopping center, Janessa and everyone else in line had to purchase a $44.99 bottle of Snooki's signature perfume. Snooki, whose real name is Nicole Polizzi, is barnstorming the country promoting the scent and signing copies of her just-published autobiography, Confessions of a Guidette. She also has a line of tanning products, which she demonstrated at another event in Lewisville before the one in Allen. She's selling the perfume, book, sunglasses and shoes on HSN.

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The 10 Must-See Photos from The Busy (Rainy) Weekend in Dallas

Stephen Masker
Stretching out before the White Rock Marathon
You may have noticed: there was a lot of happenings in Dallas this weekend.

The White Rock Marathon pushed on in the midst of a rainy, cold Sunday morning. Which, many of us here at the Observer missed as we nursed our splendid Artopia hangovers. Before that, our photographer Stephen Masker brought back some damn cheery photos from the Children's Medical Center Parade (serious question: why are there so many Star Wars costumes? Oh wait, they're awesome; so who cares). And let's not forget, oh please don't forget, the Official Twilight Convention at the Westin.

So, yeah, we had our intrepid, soaked photographers out this weekend, and below find our favorite slices from the weekend. Now, get some hot toddy's.

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