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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank and Rock n Roll Rentals.

'Bringing people together around live performance': Texas Performing Arts launches its new season

Bob Bursey
Robert Silver
Texas Performing Arts
Bob Bursey, executive and artistic director of Texas Performing Arts

“One of the things that we look for when we're putting together our performing arts season is what stories aren't being told and what artists haven't been in Austin recently and need to be in Austin and available to our community,” says Bob Bursey, the executive and artistic director of Texas Performing Arts, which hosts live performances in multiple venues on the UT campus. “So we look for things that are both on the cutting edge, new, and experimental – where artists are doing research and asking questions about what the arts can do in the world. And then we also work with household names. So someone like Yo-Yo Ma – who's coming back to Austin and hasn't been in our city since 2011 – is coming this spring. We have the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, another really big name, huge company that tours all around the world but hasn't been in Austin in more than 10 years.”

TPA is also home to Broadway in Austin, which this season will bring shows such as Wicked, Beetlejuice, and The Book of Mormon, among others. Bursey says one or his focuses when putting together a new TPA season is to bring in those big names while also seeking out artists who might not be household names just yet.

“We want to make sure that those [famous] artists are represented as well as things that maybe folks have never heard of, or haven't been in Austin before ever. So we have a remarkable theater maker named Geoff Sobelle, who's coming to do an intimate immersive performance in late January, early February of 2024. That [show is] all about food – where it comes from, how it's made, what the economy of food is. And it draws on physical theater and circus and clowning traditions to make this very beautiful small intimate theater work.”

Later this month, TPA is bringing the trio Love in Exile to the Bass Concert Hall. “it's fronted by Arooj Aftab, who's an amazing Pakistani American singer,” Bursey says. “She [got] a lot of radio play on KUTX when her album Vulture Prince came out about a year ago and this is going to be their only Texas appearance. They're out on a big US tour and they're making amazing music together that's international and American all at the same time. So we're excited to be doing that in partnership with Austin's Fusebox Festival to open up our fall season on September 29th.”

One of joys of his job, Bursey says, is to connect artists with audiences both large and small. “To me,” he says, “That's a great part of the job, is being able to introduce artists into the community for the first time and creating a situation where an audience member is experiencing something that they haven't seen before. So we have some smaller scale projects coming up this spring that really do that. One is by an artist named Tania El Khoury, and her project is called Cultural Exchange Rate. And [it’s] something we're doing with the Fusebox Festival as part of their 20th anniversary edition in April of 2024. And Tania's piece is for 10 people at a time. It's an immersive installation that takes you through her family's history, which is between Lebanon, Mexico and the United States. And it's difficult to describe and difficult to classify because it's such an unusual experience that you participate in. And it's something that I know that everyone who comes to see it is gonna walk away changed by this artist that they've never heard of in a situation that they haven't experienced before. So we love doing things like that.

“I love bringing people together around live performance,” Bursey says. “So giving a platform to artists to share their talents and gifts with the world is just incredible. And seeing how excited our audiences are to come into the theater and have this singular, irreplaceable life-changing, transformative experience of live performance – that is absolutely the best part.”

The 2023 - 2024 season of Texas Performing Arts is underway now. For more information, visit their website.

Mike is the production director 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 When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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