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.

Playwright Elizabeth Doss has spent the past few years creating theater pieces about her family history. Hillcountry Underbelly was inspired by her own childhood in Central Texas, and in last year's Mast she crafted a tale based on the true life adventures of her maternal grandparents.

Now, for the third work in that loose trilogy,  she's reaching further back in time, all the way to her great-great-great-grandfather, Herman Melville. "It's, in a large part, tracing not just the life of Herman Melville but specifically my lineage up to him," she says, "so all that family are the characters in this play."

Before embarking on a long and successful career as a standup comedian, Lewis Black had another, less successful, career as a playwright. One of the plays he wrote during that time, One Slight Hitch, has recently seen a resurgence in popularity decades after its creation. After being performed at a handful of theaters across the country in recent months, it's now making its Austin premiere thanks to the folks at Paradox Players.

From Divine Canines, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

Divine Canines provides free therapy dog services to more than 60 sites around Austin and Central Texas. Our specially trained dog-and-handler volunteer teams visit children and adults facing various physical and cognitive challenges, including mental illness, physical limitations and dementia. Clients who interact with our wonderful dogs benefit emotionally and physically, showing signs of improved mood, confidence, communication and trust. Our dogs love the attention and affection they get from our clients!

The fine arts festival Art City Austin has been a yearly event for well over six decades. Over the years, the name has changed (it was known as Fiesta for many years) and it's moved from location to location, but its core mission has remained intact: to showcase fine art from Austin and elsewhere in a block-party like atmosphere.

For this, the event's 66th year, it's moving back to its original location -- it'll be held at Palmer Events Center, the site of Austin's old City Coliseum, where Art City began in 1950 as Art Mart.

When Bale Creek Allen found his new art space, he hoped to take his time opening the gallery. He'd planned to open the space with an exhibition of his own work on April 22. That plan changed when David Thornberry (a mutual friend of Allen and artist/musician Daniel Johnston) got in touch looking for a venue for SXSW. Filmmaker Gabriel Sunday was looking for a place to show Hi, How Are You, his short about Johnston.

Though not a Texan herself, actress Holland Taylor was and is a big fan of the late governor Ann Richards. Finding herself greatly affected by Richards' death, Taylor decided she needed to pay tribute in some artistic way. Since her background is in film and television acting, Taylor originally thought she'd work with a writer to create a TV or movie project.

Mikayla Slimmer

Meg Mattingly and John Brewster have been hosting Backyard Story Night for three years now. It's a simple idea -- people come together and tell stories in a backyard. The storytellers aren't curated or vetted ahead of time, so Mattingly and Brewster are as surprised by  their stories as the rest of the audience. The only restriction put in place is a relatively laxly enforced five-minute time limit.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas. 

In our fouth week, we'll look at the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, philanthropist Mary Couts Burnett, musician, writer, and activist Maude Cuney Hare, and more.

Nathan Wagoner

Microsessions, the creation of producer Paul Schomer, are designed to expose fans to new live music in an efficient and time-conscious way. Each event features five acts playing five sets simultaneously (but in different rooms or areas of one location). Audiences are divided into "pods" which move from room to room until they've experienced a short set from each of the featured musicians. He likes to refer to it as "speed dating for new music."

Schomer was inspired to create Microsessions after attending a house concert with an ever-expanding bill. "I went to go see a friend of mine play," he explains. "It was a double bill, and I got there and I realized that three more artists had been added. And before I knew it, it was almost midnight... and my friend still hadn't played." By the time he got home, he'd planned out a way to achieve something similar but in a shorter time frame. "And it may seem weird to approach something artistic with sort of an eye to making it more efficient, but that was the idea," he says.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas. 

In our third week, we'll look at lawmaker Irma Rangel, groundbreaking singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, the Texas Women's History Project, and more.

This weekend, artists and performers across America and beyond will do what they do best with one shared goal in mind: to raise money for those affected by the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. As part of the Hip Hop 4 Flint initiative, dozens of cities will hold simultaneous fundraisers on March 19, each hoping to raise at least $2000 to go toward the purchase of 500 water filtration systems to be given to Flint residents.

When Da'Shade Moonbeam was approached about organizing Austin's Hip Hop 4 Flint show, he at first wasn't sure he'd have time to spearhead the event. But after thinking about it, he asked himself "if the water were to go off here, or anything was to happen to our water, would I want somebody else in another part of the planet to be like 'I'm too busy to organize something to help Austin'?" Once he realized he had to do what he could to help the cause, Moonbeam was left with the daunting task of putting together a day-long hip hop show during SXSW. "It's crazy," he says, "but we're ready to go."

He's aiming for what he calls a "four elements hip hop show," which includes DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, and MCs. "It's gonna be more of a theatrical party vibe," Moonbeam says. "We're going to try to keep it around having fun, but we want to make sure we cover some of the social issues."

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas. 

In our second week, we'll look at former First Lady and environmentalist Lady Bird Johnson, rancher and philanthropist Petra Kenedy, legendary singer Janis Joplin, and more.   

Ten years ago, writer and performer Zell Miller III was inspired by his then six-year-old son to create the one-man show My Child, My Child, My Alien Child. Several years later, he created a sequel about his second child, titled Oh...Sh*t...It's a Girl! Now that son is 16 and that daughter is eight, and Zell's ready to complete the trilogy with Oh Snap, My Alien Children Are Trying to Kill Me.

From Drive a Senior, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

Meeting the Needs of our Community

For most of us, car keys represent freedom and independence. Staying connected is essential to healthy aging, but without transportation, many seniors feel stuck and alone. Public transportation may not be available in their area, or they are surviving on a restricted income. For thousands of senior citizens in our community, not having transportation may mean they are no longer able to stay in their own homes.

Express Yourself, the new show from ColdTowne Theater, began life as a parody of a specific genre of film: movies like Dangerous Minds, Finding Forester, and Freedom Writers, or what co-director Frank Netscher calls "white savior public school movies." 

Over the years, Justin Sherburn has composed new music for old movies, new movies, stage shows, puppet shows, and all sorts of other things. His latest work, Monolith, was written for Central Texas' favorite ancient dome of granite, Enchanted Rock.

Like many in the area, Sherburn has long been fascinated by Enchanted Rock. "It was one of the first things I knew about Austin," he says, "that there was this sort of mystical place outside Austin called Enchanted Rock." His interest in the place led him to not only compose music for it, but to start asking others about their connections to Enchanted Rock as well, "recording people's interviews and conversations about their experiences at Enchanted Rock."

Comedian Brian Gaar has been performing standup in Austin and around the country for years now, and as of a few months ago, he's also a late night TV host.

His show, ATX Uncensored(ish), has been airing since the end of September on the CW in Austin. What's the like? "After four months, I think we're still trying to figure that out," he laughs. "It's a late night comedy show, so it's very topical, and it's very focused on Austin."

This month, Austin will host the second annual OUTsider Festival. The fest, which will last five days, aims to celebrate the diverse nature of the LBGTQI creative community.

From Art from the Streets, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

Through its 23 year history, Art From the Streets has helped hundreds of homeless individuals improve their circumstances - literally and figuratively - by providing them the means to make art. We believe that anyone can make art and that making art is good for everyone. 

Granite sculptor Jesús Moroles was a large figure in the Texas arts community, well known for both his enormous  artworks and his enormous energy and generosity. Among his many awards, he received a United States National Medal of Arts in 2008. His untimely death in an automobile accident last year was a shock and a large blow to his friends at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden.

Since November, they've been hosting a tribute to Moroles, displaying many of his works. The exhibit, simply titled Jesús Moroles: A Tribute, was put together by two of Moroles' closest associates, his sister Suzanna and her husband Kurt Kangas, who was Moroles' right hand man. They've tried to put together a showing that would make the artist proud. "I think he would be pleased," Kangas says, adding "You know, doing this without him is difficult. It's very bittersweet, it is. But it's an honor also." 

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