Mike Lee

Senior Producer: Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, Sonic IDs

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for kut.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.

Several years ago, he featured a young dancer on his Arts Eclectic program, and she was so impressed by his interviewing skills that she up and married him. Now they enjoy traveling, following their creative whims, and spending time with their dogs.

"It was a group process -- the seven of us sat down and worked on every aspect of it as a collective process," says Alexis Herrera of the show Rosita y Conchita. "So it's been really beautiful to see that from the beginning to now, here we are three years later, still going strong. And [the] show's still getting great response and we still love doing it."

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Carol Walker was joined in the StoryCorps mobile booth by her son David. She remembered stories of her long career doing service work overseas. She began her work in 1954 and it has inspired her family to travel and embrace the world.

There is a lot going on in CB Goodman's new play *some humans were harmed in the making of this show. It takes inspiration from Tony Robbins, PT Barnum, and the true story of the 1903 public execution of an elephant named Topsy; there's drag, there are puppets, and there's self-help testimony.

"There's a lot," says writer/director CB Goodman. "That's why we had to call it a drag-puppetry-self-help-testimony show about Topsy. We're using so many different forms. And I'm really interested in sort of bringing together... how can you do drag and how can you do puppetry and how can you have someone's life story play out in [something] like a big tent revival?"

The play began to take shape in Goodman's mind five years ago, when she read the book Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison by Michael Daly. "And ever since then, that book of Topsy's life and all of the elements that came together to allow her public execution just fascinated me," Goodman says. "And so I decided to take her life and map it onto humans and stage a play."

"I read this play once upon a time and fell in love with it," says Present Company artistic director Stephanie Carll about Kirk Lynn's Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra. "And new works has never been something that Present Company really had a foothold in. It's always been something that I've wanted to pursue." 

Lynn's play isn't brand new -- it's been produced in New York previously -- but it is making its regional debut with this production. Lynn's happy to see a staging of the show in his hometown. "I'm an Austin writer, and I think writing for an Austin company and Austin actors -- there's a buoyancy, I think, to this production," he says. "There's some heavy material at points throughout the play... [but] the majority of the play really has this buoyancy that keeps floating through it."

The Austin Center for Grief & Loss (Austin Grief), formerly known as My Healing Place, is a bereavement center founded in Austin, TX in 2007. Founder Khris Ford had been personally impacted by grief when her teen-aged son was killed in an automobile accident as he was leaving his Houston high school in 1989. Shortly after this tragedy, Khris was instrumental in developing the programming at Bo's Place, a children's bereavement center in Houston.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Garland O’Quinn graduated from West Point, was a member of the 1960 Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Team, spent years as a professor at UT El Paso, and has written books on the subjects of gymnastics and cosmology. He sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth with his daughter, Lanita Woller, who is a teacher, a sufi, and a poet. She remembered some of the advice her father has given her over the years.

"This is a concert and a milonga," says Pooja Kumar of the upcoming event her production company Guardia Vieja is bringing to Austin. "Milonga is probably the word that's not as familiar to most people... it's a tango social, so there will be some social dancing -- you'll see some tango dancers who are going to be dancing to the music -- but we also want people to feel comfortable that it is a concert."

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Henry Melton is no newcomer to comic or sci-fi conventions. He's a lifelong science fiction fan, and he's been going to cons for decades now. But starting about ten years ago, he's gone not as a fan but as an artist. That's around the time he started self-publishing his own sci-fi books, which he says fall roughly into two categories.

There are his several young adult adventures, which tend to feature young protagonists who "run up against something unusual," he says. "Time travel, teleportation, portals to other worlds, all that kind of fun stuff. And then they have to solve the problem [and] dig themselves out of trouble."

And then there's his "Project Saga," an ongoing series that's at nine books so far, with (probably) six more to go. That saga starts in present day Austin, and goes on to feature aliens, supernovae, the destruction of technology on earth, and humans who have been captured and moved off world. It's a pretty ambitious undertaking. 

"The world doesn't need another... how-to manual on how to be creative," says musician Darden Smith while discussing his new book The Habit of Noticing: Using Creativity to Make a Life (and a Living). "I think there's some really good ones out there, and I don't even know how to do it, so I don't know how to write it."

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Cristina Helmerichs sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth with her good friend Bibi Lobo. They talked about Cristina’s longstanding job as a court interpreter, but started by talking a bit about her family history.

"The first one [was] 30 Dates, and then the next one was  30 Loves. and the next was 30 Trips," says artistic director Leng Wong about Lucky Chaos Productions' ongoing series of short plays. For their fourth entry in the '30 Somethings' series (and the first one since 2015), the company is looking at the subject of heroes and heroism.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Sandra Molinari and Lisa Pous are friends and co-workers at the SAFE Alliance, which serves the survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. But when they met, Sandra was a staff member at SafePlace and Lisa was a client. They sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth to talk about their relationship and their history.

From Austin Youth River Watch, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:  

Austin Youth River Watch transforms and inspires youth through environmental education, community engagement, and adventure. As a result of our work, youth are better prepared to create positive outcomes for themselves and the environment, ensuring a better future for all.

Playwright Lisa B. Thompson wrote the play Monroe in the nineties, when she was still a graduate student. For years, the work went unproduced, largely because Thompson herself overlooked it, thinking of it, in her words, as "an early play... how good could it be?"

But that changed earlier this year when Thompson finally revisited the play, which is set in rural Louisiana during the Great Migration. "I had a good friend in California who kept saying to me, 'What about Monroe? Send it out! Send it out!,' and I'm glad I listened," Thompson says. 

Monroe became one of the winners of Austin Playhouse's 2018 New Play Festival, and was chosen by artistic director Lara Toner Haddock to open its 2018-2019 season. She's directing the world premiere production.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Close friends Emily Seales and Stacey Thompson sat down with each other in the StoryCorps mobile booth to talk about their friendship, and how they’ve bonded during the weekly walks they’ve taken together over the past several years.

"For the past little-over-a-year, I've been inspired by this house that's the Smoot Mansion," says artist Valerie Fowler. "Now it's called the Flower Hill Foundation and it's a historic Austin home, right on West Sixth Street, that's becoming a museum."

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Vanessa Lozano-Sanchez spent some time in the StoryCorps mobile booth with her mother, Marión Sanchez. Marión was born in Venezuela and came to the United States as a teenager in the 1980s.

"It's not personal experience for me," playwright Raul Garza says of his new work, There and Back. "But it's a story that's told from a personal point of view, as opposed to something about statistics or policy only."

With There and Back, Garza is attempting to give a human face to the story of immigration. "Obviously -- obviously if you could see and the group -- that's the background that I'm from, Mexican-American. But the experience that we see in the play is not one that I had directly. It's one I saw a lot growing up. It's one that a lot of us, especially from South Texas and Central Texas see in our everyday lives. But we never really get to look at it closely from the viewpoint of the person experiencing it firsthand."

Andy St. Martin

This weekend (and this weekend only), artist Andy St. Martin is showing a collection of new works at Prizer Arts & Letters. "The last year or two, I've decided to try and focus on working on paper," St. Martin says. "And I don't have to prepare that so much -- it's almost like making watercolors. You get the paper out [and] if you have the paint, you can go to work."

From Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:  

Did you know that live music is not only part of Austin's cultural identity, but also an essential economic engine for our city, bringing in billions of dollars through live performances each year? In maintaining this vital identity, it is important for us, as a community, to ensure our musicians are alive and well, and able to keep playing that music we all love.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Sisters Tiffany and Tara Lee sat down together in the StoryCorps mobile booth to share some memories of their mother and grandmother, and to talk about their close sibling bond.

"On all fronts, I've been affected by gentrification," says Zell Miller III. "As a teacher who has a kid who lives in Kyle, or they live in Del Valle. ... I've got kids from Round Rock, man, because their families cannot afford rent anywhere in the city."

Miller, who's an educator by day and also a multifaceted writer and performer, has seen the effects of gentrification for years in Austin, and that worries him. 

"And I know that what tends to happen... when they begin to gentrify areas is that you get over-policing of a particular area, so then you have that issue going on," Miller says. "So all of those aspects caused me to write this show."

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Chris Kirk sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth with his father, Randy Kirk. Chris was interested in hearing more about what he considers an “almost mythical” period in his father’s life — the years between Randy’s graduation from UT in 1967 and Chris’s birth in 1974.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Pilar Sanchez was joined in the mobile booth by her husband, John Hernandez. They talked about the different ways they raised and how they’re raising their eight-year-old daughter, Victoria, who joined them in the booth. They all also weighed in on the correct pronunciation of Pilar’s first name.

"I hadn't painted in almost twenty years," says Robert Kane Herrera. "[For La Raza] was.. one of the last murals I ever painted." Together with fellow artist Oscar Cortez, Herrera created For La Raza in 1992. This year, the two were hired by Austin's Art in Public Places Program to restore the beloved eastside mural.

Twenty years ago, with a young but growing family, Herrera stopped painting to pursue steadier and better-paying work as electrician. Now that his kids are older, he's got a little more time in his schedule to get back to his artistic roots. "I get to be me again," he says. "Or at least who I thought I was."

"We initially came up with the idea just as a joke," says producer/performer Linzy Beltran, who created the female-led jazz and comedy show Jazz Kween with Sarah Marine and Jessica Pyrdsa. "We were like, 'Oh, we should be Jazz Queens' ... because Sarah's from New Orleans and Jess is a musician and I do a lot of comedy in town."

"It's the second in a trilogy of dances with Austin Aquatics," says Forklift Danceworks artistic director Allison Orr, speaking about this weekend's production of Dove Springs Swims. Last summer, Forklift partnered with the city's aquatics division to present Bartholomew Swims, and next summer they'll stage a third performance at a yet-to-be-named east Austin pool.

The StoryCorps mobile booth was in Austin in January, and we’re bringing you some of the stories that were recorded there. Locally recorded stories will air on Monday mornings during Morning Edition and archived here.

Ellie Patel sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth with her longtime best friend, Les McLain. Ellie, who is now a labor and delivery nurse, shares the story of giving birth at age seventeen and giving that baby up for adoption.

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