Life & Arts

Entertainment, live performance, food, cuisine, dining, theater, film, television, art, broadcasting, SXSW, and other arts and culture news in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson says moving the festival out of Texas would not be a solution to protest Senate Bill 4, the state's new "sanctuary cities" law.

"Austin is our home and an integral part of who we are," Swenson said in response to a call from two U.S. senators for the festival to move. "We stand by the City of Austin in their challenge against SB4 and will continue to speak out against it, and all discriminatory legislation."

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Merri Dee, legendary television and radio personality, and author of Life Lessons on Faith, Forgiveness & Grace.

As a trailblazer in both radio and television, Dee has served as a newscaster, talk-show host and staff announcer. Later she served as director of community relations at WGN-TV and as adviser to other Tribune-owned TV stations.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Alamo Drafthouse held two women-only screenings Tuesday of the superhero blockbuster Wonder Woman at its Sixth Street location.

"Typically, if people know séances, they think of a magic show or spook show. They think of kind of a theatrical setting," says Albert Lucio, describing what Austin Séance is not. "We wanted to recreate an authentic séance." 

Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman

A food truck on East Cesar Chavez is serving up street food from northern Thailand. We get a review of Dee Dee Thai from Austin American-Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam.


A 'Scheherazade' For 2017

Jun 1, 2017

Scheherazade, the new show from Generic Ensemble Company, was inspired in part by 1001 Arabian Nights, in part by the current political climate, and in part by the lives of its ensemble members.

Originally conceived by Generic Ensemble Company artistic director kt shorb, the idea was immediately met with approval. "A couple of us were just like 'Yep. We're gonna take that idea and run with it,'" says ensemble member Laura J. Khalil. "And so we've been working together on the idea probably since around this time last year."

Get Involved Spotlight: Out Youth

Jun 1, 2017

From Out Youth, this month's Get Involved spotlight nonprofit:

Out Youth’s Mission:

Out Youth promotes the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well being of sexual and gender minority youth so that they can openly and safely explore and affirm their identities.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the Honorable Michael Tubbs mayor of Stockton, CA.

During the 20th century, Stockton was a commercial hub between Sacramento and San Francisco. It had military installations and was regularly used as a Hollywood set. But when Tubbs grew up there in the 1990's, gunshots whizzed in the streets and more than half of the city’s high schoolers dropped out before graduation.

Musician Peggy Stern created the Wall Street Jazz Festival in 2004 in Kingston, New York. That fest, which lasted for many years, focused specifically on jazz bands with female bandleaders. After moving to Austin in 2013, Stern decided to create a similar festival, but with one key difference: the focus was expanded from just jazz to something a little broader.

"This one is more eclectic," says Stern, "in that we're presenting Western swing music... Brazilian music and salsa music, and jazz." The decision to create a more diverse festival seemed natural to Stern once she'd spent a little time in Austin.

"I've become more eclectic since I'm in town," she says. "I'm playing Western swing music. When in Rome, do as the Romans. And I love it, actually. It's a whole new field for me that I wouldn't have gotten into if I hadn't moved to Austin, so I'm really happy about that."

Ulf Anderson

Dan Chaon's new novel, Ill Will, Chaon explores mystery, death, grief and the personal narratives to which we cling. In this episode of The Write Up, Chaon and host Owen Egerton discuss about the act of writing and its thereapeutic ability to shine a light into the darker corners of mind.

As Egerton points out, “haunting” can be a hackneyed word to describe fiction, but Ill Will can’t be comprehensively described without using the derided descriptor. The novel tells the story of how two crimes impact the life of protagonist Dustin Tillman, examining the familial impact of the deaths of his parents, while also following him as he investigates the deaths of several college students. Ill Will is unsettling, unconventional and unapologetically full of dark humor.


If you go to two different performances of Battle!, there's a pretty good chance you're going to see two very different shows. And that's by design. Created by Jeffery Da'Shade Johnson, Battle! will feature a rotating lineup of performers, and will also evolve over time based on conversation with and input from the audience. 

Sean Murphy for KUT

Austin singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave died Sunday, just days after joining many stars of the city's folk music community to celebrate his life. He was 61.

LaFave was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer last year. A note posted on Facebook by his label, Music Roads Records, said he died at his home surrounded by loved ones.

According to the posting:

Ralph Barrera, Austin American-Statesman

The bánh mì is a Vietnamese baguette sandwich that blends ingredients from France and Vietnam. With Austin's large number of Vietnamese restaurants, there is no shortage of places to try. Austin American-Statesman restaurant critic spoke to us about his new list of his ten favorite places in the city to order a bánh mì. 

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Ann M. Williams, the founder and artistic adviser of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Zenetta S. Drew, its executive director.

After its Broadway debut in 2005, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was nominated for a half dozen Tony awards (it won two of them), and quickly became a popular musical worldwide. It's toured America and has been produced in, among other places, Hong Kong, Oslo, Mexico City, and Jerusalem. So when the members of Sam Bass Theatre had a chance to put the show on in Round Rock, they jumped at the chance.

"What's really great about Putnam County," says Sam Bass board president Brett Weaver, "is that you have the laugh moments and you have the serious stuff, and it goes back and forth [between] really funny, silly dances and then really serious internal dialogues."

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Tim League, the founder and owner of Alamo Drafthouse, has been quietly collecting film prints of obscure movies from the 1960s and '70s for the past two decades. This year, League will begin producing DVDs based on prints from the collection.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. remembers the late Dr. William Charles Akins, retired educator, high school principal and district administer with the Austin Independent School District. Akins died on March 29, 2017. He was 84.

This weekend, the Palmer Events Center will host Maker Faire Austin, a two-day celebration of creativity and DIY culture. Hundreds of folks from the Central Texas community and beyond will come together to show off their works, share tips and advice, and just generally enjoy the Maker life.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

“The thing about racing mowers is: It’s an odd sport,” admits Joe Hopkins.

He’s sitting on top of a big bucket of paint in the backroom of a repair shop on the outskirts of Liberty Hill with six half-assembled mowers laid out behind him.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

When James and Annetta White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964, South Lamar Boulevard had barbed wire fences and rolling pasture — a far cry from the condominiums, restaurants and traffic you see today. But a walk inside the honky-tonk dance hall today doesn’t feel much different than it would have 50 years ago.

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. concludes his conversation with Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., former CEO at the King Center, grandson of Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and nephew of Dr. King Jr.

In this new foreword to the book, King, Sr.’s grandson Isaac Newton Farris, Jr. shares what "Daddy King" meant to him as a family member, and discusses the far-reaching legacy of King, Sr.’s activism for civil rights and racial justice. 

From Girls Rock Austin, this month's Get Involved spotlight nonprofit:

Girls Rock Austin's mission is to empower girls, women, trans and gender-nonbinary youth through music education and performance.

Nathan Bernier / KUT

You may not realize that a bottle of wine can be labeled as if it's from Texas, but only 75 percent of the grape juice used needs to be from the Lone Star State.

House Bill 1514, sponsored by state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), would require "Texas wine" to be made entirely with grapes grown here. 

We learned more about the story from Texas Monthly drinks columnist Jessica Dupuy, who attended a hearing on the bill this week. 


"I think Austin Opera is the highest-potential opera in the U.S. right now," says Annie Burridge, the newly-appointed general director for Austin Opera. "We have an outstanding artistic product."

As part of her mission at the opera, Burridge hopes to keep producing quality work while reaching a new and larger audience. She acknowledges that opera isn't the primary style of music that people associate with Austin, but adds with a laugh, "Now, I hope to change that."

World Gone Gray

Apr 27, 2017

Read by Carrie Fountain

When the ice starts to shiver,

When the fire starts to fade,

When all the water's in the river,

When you finally get paid.

The world gets cold and gray,

The sea no longer beautiful,

The night is in the day,

Beauty no more, the Earth is dull.

The world is cold or heartless,

It feels like hope is lost,

The smart one from the smartest,

Can’t even help our cause.

The underdog can’t save us all,

‘Cause no one seems to care,

The pretty birds no longer call,

This world I cannot bear.

Fabricated Reality

Apr 27, 2017

My dreams are different patterns hidden in thread throughout a fabric

That hides them from my fading memory.

They are no longer the bright, rich colors of a brocade fabric

They’ve become faded, torn, and threadbare;

No longer soft as silk and gentle like cotton.

Instead they fade like rough and thick denim.

Once a beautiful chiffon,

Now a coarse polyester.

My once beautiful, full dreams

Are now tattered and unwanted cloth.

Shattered Whole

Apr 27, 2017

I feel as though

The whole we once

Thought we were

Has been shattered,

Yet still tethered together with invisible tape.

Over time the shattered shards

Have been slipping

Plink, plink,

One by one into the

Shadowy darkness.

Even though our once wholesome whole

is quietly crumbling,

It resembles its shape,

Shuddering silently every time

Another shard slips.

Not everyone can sense the split second

A shard slips,

But those who can

Weep heartbreakingly beautiful tears,

If Racism Was a Natural Disaster

Apr 27, 2017

It’d be a drought,


the cracked ground we walk on,

the beating sun pushing us down.

“But it rained a couple of times,”

they tell us, while the heat


is scorching our skin


and dust is in our eyes.


“Get over it,” they tell us


from their green, watered lawns.

We sit in the sun, baking for generations,

waiting for the forever rain,


no trees to protect us.


The trees were never there to protect us. 

I Dream of Phelps

Apr 27, 2017

Read by Sara Hickman

We walk into Mother's cafe like we usually do

And hear the waiter from behind the counter that’s blue,

He says, “I’ll be right with you.”

My stomach does flips as my mother tells me,

“Hey look! It’s Michael Phelpsie!

Michael! Michael! The man of my dreams,

My secret crush along with his swim team.

He comes to our table with a bottle of wine,

Then chugs it down, as we dine!

School In and Out

Apr 27, 2017

Read by Ebony Stewart

The soft sound of hands brushing eraser shavings

Off the paper

The clicking of pens

The sound of crinkling paper

The squeaking of rubber soles

On the polished tiles

The dull green of the tennis court

Behind the crisscrossed fence

Grass blades flicker under

The wind’s mighty breath

As does my paper,

Disobeying me yet again

Back to humming lights

And disinfectant smells

Chatter I can’t distinguish

Clapping and heavy footsteps

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