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.

  

From Little Artist Big Artist, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

About fifteen years ago, Austin artist Ethan Azarian started hosting an annual holiday art show. Appropriately called the In House Gallery, the show took place in Azarian's own home; toward the end of the year, he'd move all of his furniture into one room, turning the rest of the house into an empty gallery space. Then every available wall space would be filled with Azarian's (or a guest artist's) works, and the house became the In House Gallery.

Author and UT professor H.W. Brands has spent most of his life thinking and writing about history, and he's always looking for compelling moments or figures in American history as possible book subjects. 

His latest such work is The General Vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nucleur War, which focuses on the stressful relationship between President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, specifically their conflicting views on the possible use of nuclear weapons during that war. 

For Brands, tackling this moment in American History takes him back to his postgraduate days. "When I was a graduate student, I was studying the early 1950s, and I was aware of this controversy that developed within the American government between the president, Harry Truman, and the American commander for the Far East, Douglas MacArthur," he says.  "I had this vague notion then that the United States and the world might've been closer to nuclear war then than at any other time in American history." 

Every year, the Houston Film Commission curates the Texas Filmmakers’ Showcase, a collection of short films by Texas directors. The showcase, which comprises eight movies, is touring the state, making stops in several Texas cities.

This year, the showcase features works by two Austin filmmakers, Bryan Poyser and Jason Neulander.  Poyser is a veteran, having directed three features and five short films over the past fifteen years. "I've actually been trying to do at least one short in between the features that I've made," Poyser says. "With a short, it's a lot easier to just pull the trigger and do one." His latest short (the one that a part of this showcase) is More Than Four Hours, a comedy about a school teacher trying to hide the affects of an accidental Viagra dosing.

For Poyser, creating lower budget, shorter films like this gives him room to experiment a bit and take chances that might not be viable when creating a feature-length film. Or, in the case of More Than Four Hours, to tell a more contained story. "It has a very distinct beginning, middle, and end and wouldn't work if it was sustained throughout the course of a whole feature."

From CareBox Program, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

Mission:

CareBOX Program provides free essential care supplies to cancer patients to help prevent malnutrition, infections, and injuries from falls.

"I feel like the voice that's silenced in America is the black woman," says writer/director Zell Miller III about his new show Ballot Eats the Bullet. 

"The Vortex wanted me to create something that would be political around this time," Miller says. "And for me, being a black person in America is a political statement, and to be a black woman, to me, is the biggest political statement that you can make."

This month, Doctuh Mistuh Productions is presenting the regional premiere of the musical play Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. The show is a good fit for the company, and would've been even if director Michael McKelvey wasn't already a Poe fan. But he's been a fan for years. 

"Look, I went through my goth period like everybody else did," he says. "I still wear black most of the time. Poe, Byron, and Whitman were kind of how I became so enamored with literature."

ColdTowne Theater has been a mainstay of the Austin comedy scene for a decade now, offering improv and comedy shows seven nights a week and also teaching the art of improv to hundreds of students. But it actually had its origins in New Orleans -- that's where ColdTowne was born, in 2005. They performed together in the Crescent City for a few months and then, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, several members fled New Orleans for Austin.

Here, ColdTowne was reborn in what had been a storage room. "The first student group was four folks that were taught in the back of dusty storage room that later became a theater," says managing director Erika McNichol. "It was a pretty humble beginning."

"And now we have hundreds of students at any given session," adds executive producer Dave Buckman. "A modest empire."

To celebrate ten years in Austin, Coldtowne will present special programming all next week, with a weekend-long celebration October 20 - 23 (individual tickets are available, as are badges that will get you into all the shows. There will be parties, roasts, awards, and reunion shows, in which ColdTowne alums from around the nation will return to celebrate. "It's amazing and sweet and beautiful," Buckman says, "being able to look back at ten years of... hundreds of people's accomplishments."

ColdTowne Theater's Ten Year Anniversary is October 20-23.

From the Texas Appleseed, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

About Texas Appleseed

As a nonprofit public interest justice center, Texas Appleseed works to change unjust laws and policies that prevent Texans from realizing their full potential. Our organization does this by anchoring a dynamic network of pro bono partners and collaborators to develop and advocate for innovative and practical solutions to complex issues. Through data-driven research, we uncover inequity in laws and policies, identify solutions for lasting change, and advocate for these solutions. When justice is beyond reach, Texas Appleseed provides the ladder.

This fall, several members of the Yawanawá tribe are leaving their home in the Amazon forest for the first time and traveling to the U.S. to share their culture and try to preserve it.

Over the years, the creative minds behind Ethos have created many ambitious shows at the Vortex. They've filled that theater with performers, musicians, and dancers, creating large-scale shows on a relatively small stage. 

  From the Blanton Museum of Art, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

Blanton Mission Statement:

Founded in 1963, the Blanton Museum of Art is one of the foremost university art museums in the country and holds the largest public collection in Central Texas. Recognized for its modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, the Blanton offers thought-provoking, visually arresting, and personally moving encounters with art.

Blanton Education Vision:

Our Vision: We believe that art matters. Our aim is to provide visitors with engaging and memorable gallery experiences that will motivate further exploration.

We make this vision a reality through the dedicated work of volunteer gallery teachers. Our volunteers make visitors feel welcome in the museum and introduce them to a variety of ways of looking at and experiencing art. A gallery lesson at the Blanton helps visitors develop visual literacy skills and make personal connections with art that can extend beyond their time in the museum.

In 2014, Austin's Doctuh Mistuh staged the first local production of Silence! The Musical, the award-winning musical parody of the 1991 movie Silence of the Lambs. The show was a big hit with audiences -- as a parody of such a popular film, Silence! drew in theater fans, comedy fans, and movie fans. "We drew a lot of audience members in who weren't regular theatergoing audiences," says director Michael McKelvey. It was also a big hit with critics -- it didn't win quite as many B. Iden Payne awards as Silence of the Lambs won Oscars, but it came close.

In the time since, there's been interest from audience members (and from the cast as crew as well) in staging the show again. When some space opened up in Austin Playhouse's August schedule, the time was right.

"It's just a show [where] we all really enjoyed the experience, which is scary to say with this show," McKelvey laughs, "but we had a blast with it, so we said 'Let's do it again."

Writers Jodi and Owen Egerton have been married for a dozen years, and in their time together they've always helped each other with their various creative projects. "We keep editing each other and re-reading each other, and we've found that we have a similar approach to creativity," Owen says. That shared approach to (and love for) creativity led to the pair co-writing This Word Now, their new book on the creative process.

"I didn't think to myself 'Owen and I are launching into a two-year venture to write a book together. Let's see what that approach to marriage and life is going to look like,'" Jodi says. "And it turns out it was actually really fun, but it did take us a while to discover how we write together as opposed to just how we brainstorm together or how we edit each other's stuff."

Peter Max Visits Austin

Aug 17, 2016

Pop artist Peter Max has been drawing and painting all his life, and has been earning a living by drawing and painting for well over half a century now. "I never knew I was going to be an artist when I grew up," he says, "but I loved it."

Husband-and-wife artists Dana Younger and Felice House have shown their works together before, but never in their hometown of Austin. "I think our first debut as an artist couple showing together was in Houston in 2013," House says. "Since then, we've gone to Michigan [and] we've had a show in New Mexico."

  From Ghisallo Cycling Initiative, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:  

Mission and Vision

Our Vision:We envision a community where youth become expert cyclists who grow to become lifelong, safety­conscious riders.

Our Mission:Our primary mission is to develop youth who safely and expertly integrate bicycling into their daily lives, to teach participants self­sufficient cycling skills, and to facilitate the experience needed for youth cyclists to be peer leaders.

This summer, Austin Classical Guitar has been presenting narratives, a three-part series of shows that explores both music and literature. The summer series began with persona [beginning], continued with process [middle] and concludes with nocturne [end].    

Hyde Park Theatre's artistic director Ken Webster has been a fan of playwright Annie Baker for many years; since 2010, he's staged three of her works at Hyde Park. This summer, he's tackling a fourth: the Pulitzer Prizer winning The Flick.

The play fits the Hyde Park mold well. It's got a small cast, primarily focusing on three characters. It's a pretty recent work, having won that Pulitzer in 2014. And it walks the narrow path between funny and sad, which is a path that Webster and the crew at Hyde Park are adept at walking.

For the cast of Doper Than Dope, watching the early '90s sketch comedy TV show In Living Color was a formative experience. In addition to being edgy and often hilarious, In Living Color stood apart from other comedy shows of the time by featuring a cast made up primarily of people of color, which had a big impact on many of its viewers, including a young Ronnita Miller. 

"As a student of comedy," says the Doper Than Dope head writer, "it's very important to me to see people that look and act like people I know represented on screen." 

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