Arts Eclectic

"This is our 68th year of holding a festival here in Austin for arts," says Eric Hiduke, Chairman of the Board for Art Alliance Austin. "It used to be called Fiesta, used to be held at Laguna Gloria. We do it a little differently now."

Years ago, musician Peggy Stern created the Wall Street Jazz Festival in Kingston, New York. When she relocated to Austin a few years ago, Stern created Lulu Fest, a similar but different musical festival. Like the Wall Street Festival, Lulu celebrates female bandleaders, but unlike the earlier fest, and in keeping with her new town's wider-ranging musical tastes, Lulu embraces not just jazz but all sorts of music.

"Lulu Fest has broad musical appeal... because we think that's the best way into the audience here in Austin," says Stern. "But all of the sets do contain a component of improvisation, which is what we consider jazz."

"I moved to Austin in... '97, with the idea of making it to UT, which never happened," says Salvage Vanguard co-artistic director Florinda Bryant. "And ended up auditioning for Laurie Carlos and meeting Sharon Bridgeforth. That particular audition quite honestly changed the course of my life."

That audition was for the premiere run of Bridgeforth's con flama; Bryant was cast in the show under the direction of Carlos. Bryant didn't know it at the time, but getting cast in con flama set her on a path of arts education that she probably never could have gotten at a college. "[It] gave me an opportunity to explore my craft and become an artist that I didn't even dream was possible," she says. "Working in the jazz aesthetic and working under... two such strong mentors."

In the past couple of years, Salvage Vanguard lost its longtime theater space on Manor Road, and Bryant lost one of her mentors when Carlos passed away. "And I was like, 'okay, I need other artists to be being trained in this particular methodology so that I can continue to do my work,'" Bryant says. "So it seemed really natural to be able to bring this show into our season as a way of honoring my elders, as a way of honoring Laurie Carlos, who's now one of my ancestors."

Bret Brookshire

For the past several years, playwright Kirk Lynn has been fixing Shakespeare one play at a time. "We started with Fixing King John, we have fixed Timon of Athens, and now we're fixing Troilus and Cressida," he says. "The aim is to start with the least-produced plays. Although, like anything, when you're digging in, you know, a band's b-sides... you find 'Oh my God, this is so beautiful!’"

"You know, the inspiration initially was [that] I was jogging and I was listening to the White Stripes play [the Robert Johnson song] "Stop Breaking Down," and I thought, 'This is so great. I wonder what Robert Johnson would think of this song?'" Lynn says. "And I thought, 'I really want to cover something.' And of course, covering something in theater just means adapting it."

"It was started a few years back, and it's basically highlighting the history of Indians in America and their immigrant journey over to the United States," says Pooja Sethi of the Smithsonian exhibition Beyond Bollywood.

"I actually went a few years ago, when I was at my husband's cousin's wedding," she continues. "And I came out really emotional, because ... it was our history for the very first time. And I realized that Indian-American is a whole separate culture. I mean, you have India and you have America, but this is the first time that an exhibit actually told me that I'm a culture."

"This actually didn't originate with me," says playwright Reina Hardy about Agent Andromeda: The Orion Crusade. "It originated as a devised piece. And normally people think of devised work as quite highbrow and... arty and a bit strange. Our show is definitely strange, but it's also wild and sexy and fun and hilarious."

Hardy actually came on board after being approached by director Rudy Ramirez, who himself had been approached by the aerial art group Sky Candy, who were looking to create a sci-fi sex comedy aerial show.

'The Seagull' Takes Flight At Long Center

Feb 16, 2018

"It's sort of a love quartet," director Ann Ciccolella says of The Seagull. "That is, many people are in love with other people, and they don't necessarily get those people. But Chekhov himself said it had tons of love, and that it does."

Michael Thad Carter

Over the past 30 years, artist Patrick Dougherty has created more than 250 Stickwork sculptures across the globe. The large-scale works, which are made from natural elements, tend to resemble whimsical structures or huts; they're meant to be touched, entered and explored from all sides. His latest work has just been completed in Pease Park.

Rey Parla

Landmarks, UT's public art program, is set to unveil a monumental new work by painter José Parla. The mural, titled Amistad America, is the largest of his career, measuring 25 x 160 feet, or some 4000 square feet. 

"I had worked on several large-scale murals before, so I didn't have a fear of how to approach it," Parla says, "I know how to do it somehow -- there's something natural that happens in how I approach it. But this was even larger than anything else I had done before."

A work this large is not created quickly; Parla has been working with Landmarks for the past four years to create Amistad America. He first created a scale model, and even that was a large endeavor. 

"I made this model in my studio, which is not so small either -- it's six feet by twenty-four feet," he says. "So I... transformed myself into a very small person in my imagination and worked the mural from that perspective."

Amparo Garcia-Crow Unveils 'STRIP The Musical'

Jan 10, 2018
Kate Blaising

"I started developing it in 2009," says Amparo Garcia-Crow of STRIP The Musical, "and I was only focused on one character at that point, which was Candy Barr." 

Barr, the Texas-born burlesque legend, lived a troubled life that fascinated Garcia-Crow. "Her story is incredibly distressing and transcending," she says. 

"I was just trying to remember how long I've personally been doing this New Year's Eve show. I think this might be my tenth one in a row," says Hideout Theatre co-owner and longtime performer Kareem Badr. "I enjoy doing it so much that I've dedicated every New Year's Eve to going and doing these shows."

Their "Big Bash" New Year's Eve show is a longstanding Hideout tradition, but this year they're kicking the holiday celebration up a notch or five by doing a full week of holiday-themed improv shows.

"Oh, from such humble beginnings," says co-founder Kevin Collins about the first-ever Blue Genie Art Bazaar. "We just had some space on the East side ... and our friends in the arts community were always struggling to find spaces to show work. And we had a big space, so we just put some walls together and sort of threw it together like a party."

La Pastorela, the traditional Christmas play about the journey of a group of shepherds who are following the Star of Bethlehem to visit the newly born Christ child, has been performed in Mexico for centuries. 

"It was done originally by the Spanish priests, and it was done as a morality play to remind people that angels and demons exist and that they can influence their decisions," says La Pastorela director Alexis Arredondo. "And it worked its way to Mexico, and from Mexico it worked its way into Texas."

"The Interactive Deep Dive is a nine-month intensive that is bringing together people from all across the country and as far away as Spain," says Deep Dive director Jeff Wirth, "to become next generation leaders in the field of applied interactive story and performance."

The group is about midway through the nine-month process right now, with artists and researchers working together to learn more about the field of interactive storytelling. The hope is that this research will someday impact the way virtual reality and digital worlds are created, and how people interact with those worlds.

"We started about 25 years ago, working with the homeless, just directly serving sandwiches and kind of reaching out in the community," says Art from the Streets executive Director Kelley Worden, describing the early years of the organization founded by Heloise Gold and Bill Jeffers. "And as they connected and reached out, they brought pencil and paper ... and found out that there were some amazing talents living on the streets."

"The very first play I ever wrote, in 2015, was -- it's a long  title -- People of Color Christmas: The White Elephant in the Room," says playwright and actress Christine Hoang. That show only ran for one week ("Because that's all I could afford," Hoang notes), but that was long enough for the show to catch the eye of some folks from the Asian American Resource Center, which eventually led to a revival of the show this year, sponsored by Austin Museums and Cultural Programs. 

"So now, this year... ColorArc Productions is presenting this new iteration of People of Color Christmas to Austin audiences for free," says Hoang. "And we are touring the cultural centers of Austin."

"I learned about Buster Keaton while I was studying for film composition, and I just kind of fell in love with him and with silent films," says composer Jackie Myers, who's brining her new project Silent Films Out Loud to the Stateside Paramount Theatre this Saturday.

"You watch a movie now and you think 'there's a team of ten people that created this moment, and it's also a camera trick, and it's also lighting,'" she says. "But you watch his films and you're like, 'it's just him.' It's him that created -- he wrote it, he acted in it, and physically he made it happen."

That love of silent films in general and the films of Keaton in particular led Myers to create Silent Films Out Loud, for which she's tapped four local composers to create new, original scores for four classic Buster Keaton short films.

"It is crazy," Turk Pipkin says of his ambitious new project, Turk Pipkin's Book of the Every-Other-Month Club. As the name would imply, everyone who joins the club gets a new book in the mail every other month for one year; the crazy part is that all of the books are written by Pipkin himself, and some of them aren't quite finished yet.

"As we talk, we have the first one, Moleskin Mystery, back from the printer, hot off the presses. You could get high smelling the glue in the binding," Pipkin says. "The second book, Requiem for a Screenplay, went to the copy editor yesterday. The third book, All for Love, which is a novel... goes to the copy editor as soon as the second one's done. So I'm good on those three," he says with a laugh. The other three are in various stages of completion -- he's still writing the last book, A Christmas Song. But Pipkin assures us he's ahead of schedule.

"It's actually one of my favorites," says Austin Shakespeare artistic director Ann Ciccolella in reference to Much Ado About Nothing. "The last time Austin Shakespeare did it was ten years ago, when I started as artistic director."

"We did it in the park [ten years ago], and I really wanted to do an indoor production, because the Rollins theatre is so intimate," she says of the current production, which is being staged at the cozy Rollins Theatre space at the Long Center.

At the heart of Much Ado is the romantic pairing of Beatrice and Benedick. "They are very argumentative with each other; they love each other but they get in their own way," says Ciccolella of the pair. She tapped veteran stage actors Gwendolyn Kelso and Marc Pouhé to play Beatrice and Benedick, after working with them as a different romantic-but-feuding couple in a recent production of Taming of the Shrew.

"I've been working for several years on the theme of how humans and technology interact," says artist Rachel Stuckey. "Especially on an emotional level."

"I guess maybe I'm a little bit different than... the classic millennial who really has grown up with computers," says Stuckey, remembering the early pre-Internet part of her life. "I remember the day that we got AOL in my house and that sort of started to become part of my life."

"Gosh, I love old comic books," says Austin artist Rob Ozborne. "I also love art and art history, and so my work is ... brush, pen, inks, [and] I always use dots -- halftone dots -- as a tip of the hat to the old comic book printing process."

That love of both high art and comics makes Ozborne a good fit for the "Artists' Alley" section of Wizard World Comic Con, and he'll be setting up shop there this weekend when Wizard World makes its yearly visit to Austin. It's a place where fans come to see his work, and he can let his geek flag fly as a fan as well.

"The thing is, when you go to Comic Con, there's so much cool stuff and there's so many really talented artists, and there's always some unique find and so, yeah, everybody's geeking out about all kinds of things... including me."

Michal Daniel

"It might be a signature role because I've done it a lot of times, but it's always new, always fresh," says baritone Norman Garret about the role of Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen. The character's a bit larger than life, a flamboyent bullfighter who catches the eye of the title character; Garrett has played the role several times, but always brings a little something different to his portrayal.  And he definitely feels a kinship with Escamillo.

"I really wanted to direct a play this year," says director Jason Phelps.

Capital T Theatre artistic director Mark Pickell suggested he read The Brothers Size, by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. "I read it and it was amazing," Phelps says. "And then after I saw Moonlight [this year's Oscar winner for Best Picture] ... by the same writer ... I just wanted to do it even more."

This year, the Latino Comedy Project is celebrating their 20th anniversary by getting the band back together for a one-weekend-only performance of their latest multimedia sketch comedy show, Gentrif***ed

For the past five years, the James Beard Foundation has taken an annual tour across America, stopping in some of the country's best food cities along the way. And this fall, for the first time, Austin has been selected as a destination on that tour. The Austin event (like all the tour stops) will feature nationally renowned chefs cooking with some of our best local culinary artists. There will be dinners, cooking demonstrations, book signings, and more, with a portion of the proceeds going to the James Beard Foundation Taste America Scholarship Fund.

"I [learned] about her in my undergrad here at the Univerisity of Texas," says playwright Elizabeth Doss. "I took a conquest literature class and that's where I learned about Catalina de Erauso. And from that day ... I think it must have been thirteen, fourteen years ago -- I knew I was going to write a play about this crazy, wild, derelict, Don Quixote of a woman."

The historical Catalina de Erauso was born at the end of the 16th century in Spain.

A Glam Rock 'Henry IV'

Sep 27, 2017

"Henry IV has been one of my favorite plays for years," says director Beth Burns. "I don't see it enough. It doesn't have a sexy title, and yet it's this incredible play. I think it's one of Shakespeare's best because it is so funny and so sexy and so adventure-filled and violence-filled. And it's about this great delinquent! The greatest delinquent in history."

For Burns, staging one of her favorite Shakespeare plays opened up a great opportunity to experiment a little and bring something new to a play that's over 400 years old. "I thought, 'what better opportunity to spread our wings a little bit and add this glam aesthetic to it?' It screams for it."

"This is a show that I have been wanting to produce for about 15 years," says director Olin Meadows of A Streetcar Named Desire. "I've really had a solid vision and concept for the show, and finally got to make it a reality."

"To me, this story is heartbreaking from beginning to end, but there's a lot of depth and a lot of meaning in it," Meadows continues. "And I feel like a lot of people kind of leave a lot of the 'whys' and 'hows' out."

For Meadows, diving deeper into Streetcar meant a lot of talking with his cast and crew. "For us, it was a lot of really long, serious conversations about things like alcoholism, sexual addiction, rape culture."

The literary magazine American Short Fiction has been published for over twenty-five years. In that time, it's featured works by authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Louise Erdrich; it's been nominated for national awards, and its works have been published in The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. 

Austin Playhouse Presents 'This Random World'

Sep 14, 2017

"I was on my way to a writers' retreat...  and on the airplane there I made a list of some possible characters," says playwright Steven Dietz. "And then, probably because I've written too many plays, I made of list of 'this is all the scenes that would happen.' As the plane was landing, I realized that's what I always do in my plays... so I decided to make that the list of the scenes that could not happen."

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