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.

Katie Bender describes the premise behind her new solo show thusly: “I’m hosting a series of séances to communicate [with] and hopefully resurrect the spirit of Harry Houdini.”

“This piece is called In Light, and it’s really the exploration which I have been doing for many, many years – the human journey on the earth in these times,” says Sally Jacques, the artistic director of Blue Lapis Light. “So it deals with our human experiences and then the possibility of transformation.”

“Paper chairs [is] always interested in making the pedestrian – the familiar – feel strange,” says paper chairs co-artistic director Elizabeth Doss. “And this play sort of delivers that in spades.”

Errich Petersen

“It’s crazy,” says director Jenny Lavery of the new comedy Dance Nation, which is having its regional premiere at the Long Center this month. “The playwright [Clare Barron] is pushing form and content in a way that I have never seen before."

From League of Women Voters Austin Area, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

About Us

The League of Women Voters Austin Area is an all-volunteer, membership nonprofit covering Travis and Williamson Counties.  Our strength, for 100 years, is rooted in the commitment of grassroots members, volunteers, and help from donors like you. 

Writer and performer Laura de la Fuente created the character Liz Behan spontaneously one day, while driving from Marfa back home to Austin.

“There was a lot of open road, I was with my wife next to me, and I had just bought this new hat,” de la Fuente says. “It was this gorgeous felt hat with leather around it and studs. [I] put on this hat while I was driving back and started singing this song, and it went ‘Open road, Texas sky … I love my wife and I’m a womaaaaaaan!’ And from there, Liz Behan was born.”

“It came from personal experience,” says playwright Lisa B. Thompson of her new play, The Mamalogues. “I wanted to talk about women that were like me, that I didn’t see represented in… in anywhere.” 

MS, the one-woman play by writer Molly Fonseca, isn’t exactly an autobiographical work, but it’s pretty close to being one.

“Yeah, it is [about me], more or less,” Fonseca says with a bit of a laugh. “I like to tell people that the destination is the same, but Maby [Fonseca’s onstage alter-ego] takes a couple of different pit stops.”

Thomas Hartnett

Thirty years after opening the first iteration of Flatbed Press, owner Katherine Brimberry is finally creating the printmaking art space she wanted all along.

“I had a business partner, Mark Smith, and he and I started a small press over on West 3rd Street in 1989,” Brimberry says. “[But] the space was limited and we didn’t do a lot of exhibitions there.”

From Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas exists to help young people in our community – particularly those facing adversity – achieve their biggest possible futures. We do this by creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships between children ages 6 – 16 and caring adult volunteers who offer support and encouragement to each child.

Corinna Browning

“I want people to leave this show like really mad,” says Last Act Theater Company artistic director Rachel Steed. “Mad that this is the current state of the world.”

The show she’s taking about is Seven, a “documentary play” conceived by Carol Mack and written by seven female playwrights about seven real women who have been working to fight injustice in seven different countries in the world. 

Over the past five years, Justin Sherburn and his band Montopolis have been creating not just music, but a series of immersive concert experiences that focus on the diverse landscape of Texas.

Cindy Elizabeth

Forklift Danceworks has created performances starring roller skaters, Elvis impersonators, and the city’s sanitation department (and their trucks). Oh, and also baseball players, traffic cops, and marching bands. Non-dancers dancing in unexpected places is kind of their specialty. 

From Breakthrough Central Texas, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:  

About Breakthrough Central Texas

Breakthrough Central Texas creates a path to and through college for students who will be the first in their family to earn a college degree.

From sixth grade through to college graduation, Breakthrough offers out-of-school learning experiences, leadership skills, and comprehensive advising to students across Central Texas. By fulfilling a 12-year commitment to each student, we ensure their long-term success from middle school to high school graduation to college diploma and beyond. 

Maria Luisa Mendoza has seen a lot of changes in the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood in the past few decades.

In 1988, she and her husband opened the health store and restaurant Mr. Natural on East Cesar Chavez Street, and while other businesses have come and gone since then, hers has remained and become a fixture of the community.

Chloe and Lane Ingram – who perform under the portmanteau Chlane – had already been married for about a year when they started taking improv classes together a decade ago. Since then, they’ve performed together and apart in various improv troupes, and that shared love of performing led them to eventually create their own sketch comedy show.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Public Library launched its own music streaming service late last year, offering up a collection of tracks by local musicians. Electric Lady Bird is free for anyone – whether or not you have a library card.

The idea behind the service is to share Austin music and to help practicing musicians find new fans.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

“I definitely lobbied [for the job],” says Liz Fisher, who is directing Penfold Theatre’s new production of Shakespeare’s Henry V, “because it’s a play that’s been very near and dear to my heart for many, many years."

Fisher says it was one of the first plays she ever performed in and got her "hooked" on Shakespeare.

From Texas Rollergirls, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:  

Formed in 2003 as the only sports league of its kind, Texas Rollergirls Rock-n-Rollerderby® started today's Flat Track Derby movement. There are now more than 300 Flat Track Derby leagues worldwide, with more forming every week. In its current incarnation, Roller Derby is a genuine athletic competition complete with well-defined rules, divisions, tournaments, and a governing body: the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

“I was doing it for two years in New York with my co-host and good friend Liisa Murray,” says Meghan Ross of her variety show That Time of the Month. “And then when I moved to Austin I wanted to bring it down here with me, so it’s been about two years in Austin as well. And it’s grown since then, and changed in format. And, yeah, it’s found a nice home here in Austin.

This weekend marks Austin’s first People of Color Comedy Festival. But while the fest is brand new, it’s been a dream for founder Leng Wong for several years.

Eric Culver, one of the co-founders of the online marketplace ArtStartArt, got a degree in art and later went to business school, so starting a business that helps art students sell their works online was a natural use for all of his schooling. “Yes, it’s certainly kind of the culmination of all my both education and professional experiences,” Culver says. “This definitely makes sense, at least on paper.

“I had done some productions for KLRN prior to [Carrascolendas]… without budgets, you know,” says Aida Barrera. “But then I decided that maybe the time had come to go out and look for some funding and do a series that would have a different kind of goal. That turned out to be Carrascolendas.”

This weekend, Capital City Men’s Chorus will present two performances of Andrew Lippa’s new work Unbreakable. “The goal of Unbreakable is to tell the story of the LGBT history in the United States – the story that hasn’t been told before,” says Paul Halstead, the chairman of the board for the chorus. “It takes themes from the life stories of several characters through history that most of us have never heard of before and it puts those stories to song in a way that’s uplifting and fun and sometimes serious.

“This was started in 2004 in Kingston, New York, as the Wall Street Jazz Festival,” says Lulu Fest founder Peggy Stern. “Because a partner and I had noticed that there were very few women bandleaders playing in these festivals. Sometimes there were band members that were women, but still very few. And it was just a glaring oversight of the jazz business, which is supposed to be forward-thinking. And so we thought we’d help it along by creating this festival.”

Image courtesy of Ethan Azarian

For the past few years, artist Ethan Azarian has been working to create murals on the exterior walls of Austin schools. This year, he’s been creating a piece just outside the entrance to Travis Heights Elementary School. For this work, as is always the case with his school murals, Azarian is collaborating with the school’s students.

From Pease Park Conservancy, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

As one of Austin, Texas’ most iconic green spaces and oldest parks, Pease Park is a civic landmark and regional treasure. Unfolding across 84 acres, Pease Park serves as a shaded and lush oasis in the heart of the city – providing residents and visitors alike with an intimate, yet sprawling, natural amenity for picnics and birthday parties, nature walks, recreation and relaxation, connectivity, and general enjoyment and exploration of the outdoors.

Plein air is a French term that was established by the French impressionist painters back in the early 1900s, which meant the artist would go out on location and paint on location and try to get at least a study or an established painting while they were on site,” says artist Alexis McCarthy, president of Plein Air Austin.

“I was down here when it started, because I kind of knew when they were having the big parties down on Sixth Street,” says Shannon Sedwick, a longtime organizer of the Pecan Street Festival who’s now considered the “chair emeritus” of the Pecan Street Association. “But it was all … really haphazard at that time and not half as organized as it is right now. It was more like a block party.

“I think a lot of plays… even if it’s just a question that you’re asking, you’re always sort of writing from inside your own mind, so in some way it’s autobiographical,” playwright Elizabeth Doss says of her new not-exactly autobiographical play Severe Weather Warning. “But [for] this play in particular… I was thinking about old friends that I’d had, and sort of the loaded history that emerges.”

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