Before Bruce Willis came on as emcee to introduce the evening’s stage attractions for the opening gala Wednesday night at the Wyly Theatre, Jose Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, announced the first two recipients of the Meadows Prize — both of them smart and very intriguing choices. You may recall that the Meadows Prize is the new wrinkle on the old Meadows Award, although this time, instead of simply awarding money to an established master who comes to campus, the Meadows Prize is designed as one-to-three month residencies. The recipients will be expected to “interact in a substantive way” with Meadows students and to leave a lasting legacy in Dallas — such as a new work of art. The prize is sponsored by the Meadows School and the Meadows Foundation — in partnership with the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Hence, the announcement at the Wyly.
The first recipient is the Gramny-winning ‘new music’ ensemble, eighth blackbird (above). The name might ring a bell even if you’re not particularly au courant with the likes of young composers Derek Bermel or Jennifer Higdon. When the great percussion-minimalist master Steve Reich finally won the Pulitzer for music this April for his piece, Double Sextet, the premiere of the work was performed by eighth blackbird, caught in this rehearsal video.
The second winner is Creative Time, which isn’t an ‘arts organization’ in the usual sense, like a theater company or band. The New York outfit is more like a think tank/collective of producers. Creative Time’s best-known projects are probably last year’s Playing the Building by David Byrne, in which the former Talking Head turned an entire ferry terminal into a giant musical instrument, and the previous year’s production of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, in which Samuel Beckett’s tramps were stuck on a flooded house waiting for the FEMA rescuers who, of course, never came.
That artists of this adventurous stripe were the first ones picked isn’t just mighty cool. It suggests a whole new ballgame has begun. The evening could have stopped right there, and I’d have been buzzing.