By Meda Kessler

THEATER

Archival photo of the embalmed body of Julia Pastrana

Amphibian Stage The True History of the Tragic Life & Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World was the opening production for Amphibian when they unveiled their new theater in 2012 on Fort Worth’s now rapidly developing Main Street. Performed totally in the dark, it was a revelation to us and everyone in the audience — an experience that gave us goose bumps and forced us to truly listen. A true story, it is as mesmerizing as it is sad. Set in the world of traveling circuses and freak shows, the play shows Pastrana holding on to her hopes and dreams despite the cruel intentions of her husband/manager. She shows us beauty although we never see her. While the theater remains closed, you can immerse yourself in audio performances of the play at home. Amphibian encourages you to turn off the lights and turn up your headphones. Performances run July 16-30; tickets available at amphibianstage.com.

Jubilee Theatre How I Got Over is available online through July 26. The musical tribute to Mahalia Jackson celebrates the joy and power of gospel music. Go online, jubileetheatre.org, to purchase tickets.

EXHIBITS

Portrait photography, the early years

If you’ve browsed through old photographs at an antiques store, you’ve likely seen cabinet cards.

Typically measuring around 4 inches by 6 inches, the photos are mounted on stiff cardboard and often bear the imprint of the photographer or the studio, as well as the name(s) of the subject. They were introduced in the mid-1800s and were called “cabinet cards,” as people displayed them in cabinets in their home parlors. They were popular with performers and personalities, but also with regular citizens.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s new exhibit, “Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography,” introduces us to the 19th-century phenomenon to show its relevance in the historic progression of photography. The subjects appear comfortable; unusual props are commonplace. Many remind us of the photos we take daily with our camera phones: pets, kids, kids with pets.

Cabinets, ca. 1880s, celluloid-covered album, Robert E. Jackson Collection

Cat, A.M. Nikodem; Chicago, IL; 1880s, albumen silver print, Robert E. Jackson Collection

The Carter says of the exhibit, which opens Aug. 18: “Cabinet cards coaxed Americans into thinking about portraiture as an informal act, forging the way for the snapshot and social media with its contemporary ‘selfie’ culture.” “Acting Out” consists of hundreds of photographs, many of which will be seen publicly for the first time. They’ve been sourced from not only the Carter’s own photography vault but from collections nationwide. The exhibit is divided into four parts, “Caught in the Act,” “The Trade,” “Sharing Life: Family and Friends” and “Acting Out,” which chronicles the birth and evolution of the cabinet card and traces Americans’ acceptance of the camera as a way to share moments in their lives.

“This exhibition reveals how 19th-century Americans approached photography far more playfully than ever before, a transformation that forever shifted our relation to the medium,” says John Rohrbach, the Carter’s senior curator of photographs.

THE DETAILS

Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography The exhibit runs Aug. 18-Nov. 1; member preview days are Aug. 14-16.

Texas Made Modern: The Art of Everett Spruce The Texas painter (1908-2002) has work in notable institutions ranging from the Whitney Museum of American Art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spruce is best known for his modern Texas landscapes. The Carter exhibit features 50 works from 50 years. See how Spruce adapted his style and subjects to the era in which he was working. The exhibit runs Aug. 18-Nov. 1; member preview days are Aug. 14-16. 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-738-1933, cartermuseum.org