Arts Eclectic

During the early weeks of lockdown, Tom Booker of the Institution Theater noticed a facebook posting from his friend  Jeremy Moran, which recounted a dream Moran had the night before. In the dream, there was a big party at the Institution that was broken up because everyone was breaking quarantine. The story of that dream quickly inspired Booker to create Quarantine Dream: The Movie, a collection of short videos submitted by anyone who felt inspired to create something.

Leon Alesi

“At Forklift Danceworks, we make dances with people you don’t think of as dancers,” says Forklift’s associate artistic director Krissie Marty.

That’s very true: Over the years, Forklift has created large-scale dance pieces centered around workers from Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, city sanitation workers, and firefighters, just to name a few. 

With their gallery space still closed for the foreseeable future, the folks at Northern-Southern have been looking for ways to continue to share art with the people of Austin without asking those people to gather together in a room. The result of that quest is the new group show Left in Leaves. “

You know, we have to keep working,” says gallery director Phillip Neimeyer. “This is what we do. So [this is] a way to contextualize, a way that we that we could all work and do what we do and have an effect, a positive effect.”

Dana Stringer

Seventeen years ago, while living in New York, pianist Peggy Stern attended a jazz festival and was surprised to discover that it was an all-male lineup. “There were no women performing, and certainly no women leading bands,” Stern says. “And so a friend and I got together and created the Wall Street Jazz Festival in Kingston, New York, where all the leaders are women.”

Charlie Pearce

With her new web series Do Better, Amie Darboe is living a childhood dream. “Essentially I’ve been writing since I was probably 7,” she says. “[I] always knew I wanted to write for TV, but I didn’t do anything about it until I was an adult.”

Austin’s Fusebox Festival was started by Ron Berry over fifteen years ago, and every year since then, it’s brought together local, national and international artists to spend five days performing, interacting, and discussing performance arts of all disciplines. “They’re artists that are coming from all different kinds of artistic backgrounds, but usually there is some element of ‘liveness’ that’s being explored,” Berry says. “So live performance really is at the center of this festival.”

courtesy Trinity Street Players

“One of the things that is very important to us at Trinity Street Players… [is] to build community amongst artists in Austin,” says Trinity Street Players artistic director Ann Zárate. So when the theater closed its doors in March, Zárate started looking for new and different ways to keep the Trinity Street community connected.

Courtesy of ColdTowne Theater

“We had a staff meeting on March 13 and the consensus was that we were closing the theater,” says ColdTowne Theater’s artistic director Will Cleveland. “And without batting an eye, the owners of ColdTowne – Mike Jastroch, Dave Buckman, [and] Rachel Madorsky – told us their plan to pay us through this crisis.”

Austin Playhouse was supposed to open their production of Paula Vogel’s Indecent this week. That didn’t happen, of course, because the theater was closed along with most other gathering places in town (they are now hoping to mount Indecent in the fall). Like many local theaters, the playhouse began looking at how they could continue to connect with their patrons during a time when they couldn’t perform onstage. Without much of a back catalog of recorded plays to share online, co-producing artistic director Lara Toner-Haddock began thinking of another upcoming project, Today’s Gratitude.

Lisa Scheps

“Theater by its very nature sort of needs the gathering of humans together to make it work,” says Ground Floor Theatre co-artistic director Lisa Scheps. “And so, as theater artists, we have got to, during this time, find other ways to create that same magic without having people physically with us.”

The Vortex Theatre – like all theaters right now – is closed for an undetermined amount of time, but the folks who run the theater are doing what they can to continue providing their unique brand of entertainment to the Austin community. They’ve wasted no time in putting together a wide variety of programming online. 

“We’re doing a mix of like rebroadcasting older, vintage, and more current Vortex productions,” says Melissa Vogt, Vortex’s managing director. “And then we’re also doing some individual live performances – we’re doing some play readings… there’s some live music, there’s some burlesque.”

Steve Rogers

In the new reality we’re all living in now, heading over to the local bar and/or going out to see live music isn’t really a thing anymore. So pianist and musical director Ammon Taylor is doing what he can to bring a cocktail lounge directly into your own home.

Looking for some way to encourage people to stay inside, he’s created the Social Distance Piano Lounge, a sort of virtual cabaret show performed live in his apartment and streamed to anyone who wants to tune in from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Kaci Beeler

The members of Parallelogramophonograph, the in-house improv comedy troupe of the Hideout Theatre, love performing together but also respect the CDC’s current social distancing guidelines. That’s why, this past Saturday night, they decided to put on a show even though the Hideout was closed to the public.

Jenna Cockburn

When Jo Carol Pierce wrote and performed the semi-autobiographical one-woman musical comedy Bad Girls Upset By The Truth 30 years ago, she became a local legend and the show became a cult classic. That might be a little surprising, considering Pierce says she never even really wanted to perform the show herself.

Actor John Christopher says he’s been preparing for his current stage role for years, starting long before he even auditioned. He’s starring as Martin Luther King Jr. in The Mountaintop, the 2009 play by Katori Hall that imagines a fictionalized vision of Dr. King’s last night on earth.

“Being able to carry the weight of such a significant figure in American history – world history, really – it’s an honor and it’s a burden,” Christopher says. "But it’s a burden I’m happy to carry, because it’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

The Tin Woman, by playwright Sean Grennan, is currently being staged at Wimberley Playhouse. The play centers around a woman who’s received a heart transplant and who is currently going through a bit of an existential crisis. And, according to Wimberley Players executive manager Simone Corprew, despite the heavy subject matter, it’s really funny. 

Christopher Shea

The play Arden of Faversham was first published in 1592 and is credited to “anonymous,” though many scholars and Shakespeare aficionados believe it was written (or at least co-written) by the bard himself. That includes Beth Burns, the artistic director of The Hidden Room Theatre and a veteran director of Shakespeare’s work.

Now in its sixth year, Austin’s OUTsider Festival is one of those rare yearly fests that’s purposefully trying not to become bigger every year. Curran Nault, the creator and artistic director of the LGBTQ+ arts festival, says that staying small and intimate is central to the mission of OUTsider. “One of our intents is actually always to, in some ways, not get bigger. To kind of stay super-intimate,” Nault says. “Because one of the things that OUTsider, I think, does really well is creating a sense of intimacy between the audience and the artist.”

SaulPaul’s Alien Adventure, a new family-friendly musical, was inspired by musician SaulPaul’s mission to spread positive messages into the world and also – perhaps more surprisingly – by his catching a dance competition show on TV.

“I was actually inspired by watching ‘World of Dance’ … a show I’d never seen before and really wasn’t into,” SaulPaul says. “But I was amazed by the beautiful sets. And each week they’d have these dancers and they’d create this world and they would dance.”

For the next few months, the Neill-Cochran House Museum will host If These Walls Could Talk, a collaborative art piece from actor Jennifer Cumberbatch and sculptor Ginger Geyer. It’s an ambitious undertaking, featuring dozens of Geyer’s porcelain works, several performances by Cumberbatch, filmed pieces, discussions and more.

Geyer says she’s fitting her sculptures in all around the house. There are 78 pieces on display, “tucked into the bedrooms, into the parlors, and actually hidden in plain sight,” Geyer says. “The visitor’s going to be a little fooled by trying to find them, because they are of the tradition of trompe l’oeil, or ‘fool the eye.’ You might call it a scavenger hunt or an Easter egg hunt.”

SoundSpace, the ongoing hybrid art series produced by Steve Parker at UT’s Blanton Museum of Art, returns this weekend with Not Bad Muzak, a new installment inspired by elevator music and its close cousin, telephone on-hold music.

“It aligns with a current exhibition by Ed Ruscha at the museum,” Parker says. “[Ruscha] uses text a lot in his work, and he often paints landscapes in the back. The text is the subject but the landscape in the back he refers to as ‘elevator music."

It might not seem like a natural partnership, but Sky Candy, the aerial arts studio and training center, and the Umlauf, Austin’s venerable sculpture garden and museum, have recently gotten into the habit of hosting galas for one another. “We got in touch through mutual friends, and Sky Candy was kind enough to perform at our other fundraiser, Garden Party, last year,” says Sarah Story, Umlauf’s executive director. 

“I think so often, people see someone performing – like a comedian – and they assume they’re confident and sort of have it all figured out,” says performer Stephanie Thoreson. “But there’s actually a huge intersection between mental health [issues] and the arts community.”

Scott Paxton

For several years now, the folks at Soundwaves Art Foundation have been creating and selling original art to raise money for charity. Their new endeavor is called W’ALL Austin, and while it’s got a similar goal, it’s a much larger project. It’s an actual wall that’s (at its highest point) fifteen feet tall and growing.

Kirk Tuck

Zach Theatre’s musical version of A Christmas Carol is now in its sixth season, but the idea for the show was kicking around in artistic director Dave Steakley’s brain for years before making it to the Topfer stage.

“This has been percolating for me for about fifteen years,” Steakley says. “[And] this version of A Christmas Carol has evolved every year.”

Annie Winsett

Eighteen years ago, the folks at Blue Genie decided to throw together a small art show, to sell off the employees’ art to holiday shoppers.

Dana Younger, one of Blue Genie’s founders, says they didn’t really expect to keep putting on that holiday show every year for the next couple of decades, but that’s what happened.

Dave Hawks

When Next to Normal opens at Ground Floor Theatre on Dec. 5, most of the roles will be performed simultaneously by two actors – one performing in English and one performing in American Sign Language.

It’s something Ground Floor’s artistic director, Lisa Scheps, has wanted to do for several years. Now, thanks to a collaboration with Deaf Austin Theatre, she’s been able to make it happen.

Colton Matocha

Robert Segovia, the writer and director of the new comedic two-act play Losers in Space suggests that the play might not exist if he hadn’t lost his job a while back. “I started writing it three or four years ago, and… didn’t think I was a good enough writer,” he says “And I got laid off, which is sad, but it did give me time of like, oh, it’s kind of now or never to write this thing.”

Alan Trammel

Mark Pickell, the artistic director of Capital T Theatre company, has long been a fan of Chicago-based playwright Mickle Maher, so he was eager to produce Maher’s new work here in Austin.

“He wrote this new one – it just premiered in Chicago this summer – and he sent it [to me], and it was brilliant,” Pickell says.

The new play AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica aims to give a voice to military veterans and their family members. That’s a natural choice of subject matter for Johnny Meyer and Karen Alvarado, the married co-creators of the piece – he’s a military veteran and she’s the wife of a veteran. AFTERSHOCK/La Réplica draws from their own experiences to an extent, but is largely based on the writings of other U.S. veterans. 

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