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.

Kirk Tuck

Director Nat Miller isn’t a stranger to Zach Theatre’s Mainstage productions – The Santaland Diaries is his third – but he’s spent more time directing shows for Zach’s Theatre for Families series. But despite Santaland’s decidedly more adult nature, he says the jobs are pretty similar. “I find that Santaland Diaries and doing plays for young people aren’t that different,” Miller says with a laugh. “It is on top of a toyland set. There just happens to be some swearing involved.

“We didn’t see this coming at all,” says Blue Genie co-owner Dana Younger about the enduring appeal of the group’s annual bazaar. “I think one of our employees one year said ‘You know what? Y’all should do a Christmas show.’ And we said, ‘Oh, OK, we’ll do a Christmas show.’ And we put some things up, we invited some friends to put some things up, and we were shocked when things sold.”

After the surprising success of that first show, the folks at Blue Genie said, “’That was great. That was fun. We should do that again,’”  Younger says.

For Ryan Crowder and the other folks at Penfold Theatre Company, producing old fashioned radio plays has become a holiday tradition. “This is our seventh Christmas radio show to do,” Crowder says. “We started out in downtown Round Rock in this little British tearoom. We took a radio script that was already adapted – of It’s a Wonderful Life – and had such a great time… we said, ‘Oh, we have to do this again.’”

This holiday season, Ventana Ballet will present its debut performance, a new, interactive, re-imagined version of The Nutcracker called The Watchmaker’s Song. For producers AJ Garcia-Rameau and Dorothy O’Shea Overbey, it’s a project that’s been a long time coming.

From NAMI Austin, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:  

NAMI Austin will celebrate 35 years of providing no-cost classes and support groups to families and individuals living with mental health conditions in 2019. In the last 5 years, NAMI Austin’s programming has expanded to include free site-based mental health education and training in schools, workplaces, faith communities and with law enforcement. Because mental health challenges impact 1 in 5 people in our community, the need for our programs is increasing.

Our Impact

In 2018, NAMI Austin impacted more than 21,000 people in Austin and surrounding counties who participated in our free education, support and advocacy programs. Our 2018 Impact Report and Strategic Plan reflect where we are today and what we hope to accomplish in the next three years as we expand our programs to serve the needs of our growing community.

“I didn’t know I was going to like painting, but it’s the color that I gravitate toward, so my stuff is all pretty loud,” says artist Marilyn Swartz, who’s getting ready to show a year’s worth of new paintings at the upcoming annual art show and sale put on by Art From The Streets, Austin’s long-standing art therapy non-profit.

“We’ve been working with the homeless and at-risk in Austin, Texas for twenty-six years. We’ve had shows all through the community, and this is our big annual show,” says Art From The Streets executive director Kelley Worden. Artists who participate in the program have free access to art supplies and studio space three days a week. “We work all year, gathering artwork and working with our artists in open studio. They paint [and] create beautiful pieces of work and have a culmination show, and that’s what this show is.”

“Now, we did this show almost thirty years ago at Capital City Playhouse, a formerly legendary theater in Austin, Texas that no one remembers,” says Turk Pipkin of his upcoming show with old friend Butch Hancock. “So, back by lack of popular demand after thirty years.”

It’s been a while since the last installment of their “two-man one-man show,” but Butch and Turk have remained close friends since meeting decades ago in Austin. “I met Turk right out here – you know, two hundred yards from here, out on the Drag,” Hancock says. “And he was out there juggling and I was totally amazed and went up and talked to him and from that day on, we’ve known each other.”

“When I inherited these works and artist friends and people in the art world in Washington, D.C. would come in, they’d say, ‘Oh, who did this?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, that’s my grandma,’” says Marni Roberson, the granddaughter of 19th century American painter Anna Stanley. “But, you know, she wasn’t a little old lady in tennis shoes.”

Anna Stanley’s art career wasn’t long – she died at only 42 – but it was prolific and world-spanning. She was born in Ohio, but painted in Paris, Holland, Asia, the Philippines, and across the U.S., including an extended stay in San Antonio. Her works were diverse; she painted landscapes and portraits, and showed a notable affinity for capturing the lives of working women she encountered in her travels. Many of her works are currently on display in the Neil-Cochran House Museum’s exhibition Through Her Eyes: The Impressionist Work of Anna Stanley.

From The Trail Foundation, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

Led by Executive Director Heidi Anderson, The Trail Foundation (TTF) is dedicated to preserving, enhancing, and connecting the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail for the benefit of all. The Butler Trail is the 10-mile lush, urban path in the heart of Austin that meanders along the edges of Lady Bird Lake, encompasses 199 acres of green space, and gets more than 2.6 million visits every year. Since its founding in 2003, The Trail Foundation has achieved restoration and beautification projects to the Trail’s infrastructure and environment, while honoring the original vision of the Trail’s founders and ensuring its vibrancy for generations to come.

"We did this two years ago, [and] it was a regional premiere of the work," says Michael McKelvey, Doctuh Mistuh Productions’ artistic director. “A friend of mine sent the soundtrack and I thought it was one of the most inventive things I’d seen, so I brought it here to Austin.”

That 2016 production of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe was a big hit for Doctuh Mistuh, selling plenty of tickets and winning a handful of awards. Given the popularity of the show and it’s appropriateness for the Halloween season, it made sense to bring Nevermore back this October.

"This show examines what it means to be human and to feel all the things that humans feel and experience all the things that humans feel but have outsiders impose labels on you that make you essentially subhuman," says Trinity Street Players artistic director Ann Catherine Zárate of the musical Side Show.

"And so it plays with those ideas of 'Who's an insider? Who's an outsider? How do we all function together?' And ultimately, 'What does it mean to live in community and to feel and experience love and friendship?'"

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 Jackie McDonald and Jeannie Barnes spent some time together in the StoryCorps mobile booth, sharing memories of growing up together and of their loving parents, Fred and Donna Thomas.

"It's about motherhood, it is about female sexuality and the veneration of women... particularly looking at how women are shaped and formed in patriarchal, hierarchal institutional environments, says Tryouts director Diana Lynn Small, who goes on to say that "it's totally unconventional and it breaks almost all the rules. And in many ways it's more of like a play poem... we looked at it like it's a theatrical painting."  Then she adds, "It's so wild and bonkers."

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 Kroger spent some time in the StoryCorps mobile booth with her daughter, Carolyn Kroger Estes. They shared a lot of family stories, including Sandra’s memories of being a child during World War II, and her meeting her lifelong friend Sandy.

"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."

From The Austin Center for Grief & Loss, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

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.

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