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.

Austin's Umlauf Sculpture Garden is currently hosting the exhibit Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf & Farrah Fawcett. The show focuses on the long-standing relationship between the two artists; while a student at the University of Texas, Fawcett studied under Umlauf and the two continued a friendship throughout Umlauf's life.

Sandy Carson

"Basically, it was an offshoot to concert photography assignments," says Sandy Carson of his new book We Were There.  "I was in the photo pit shooting the bands... and turned my camera around on the fans, basically capturing the energy of the music experience."

From Farmgrass, this month's Get Involved spotlight nonprofit:

Mission: Farmgrass's mission is to promote the mental and physical well-being of independent Central Texas farmers and ranchers.

Farmgrass raises emergency medical funds for local, independent farmers by donating proceeds from community events throughout the year such as Farm To Feast, a locally sourced dinner banquet, and Farmgrass Fest, a family-friendly Americana music festival. These events raise awareness about the dangers and struggles of farming, promote the local food movement, and bring in critical funds for independent farmers who don't have a financial safety net.

"The first festival was in 2007, but we took a break in 2008 ... and then the next one came back in 2009, [so] this is the actual 10th production of the festival," says producer Lynn Raridon of the Texas Burlesque Festival. 

Audrey Maker, who co-founded the fest, continues the history. "I started the Texas Burlesque Festival with Stacey Breakall, and ..." 

"A.K.A. Tijuana Trixie," Raridon adds.

"Underground is a play that's been in my consciousness for many years," says playwright Lisa B. Thompson. "I lived in Los Angeles during the uprising-slash-riots for Rodney King. I also lived in upstate New York during 9/11... and all that's been brewing in my consciousness for quite a long time."

"It began with a woman at the center," Thompson says. "She's now just a name in the play -- the men took over, and I was happy to let them. I've been writing it for some time and the characters announced themselves quite strongly." As Underground took shape in Thompson's mind, the work came to be about two men -- Kyle and Mason -- who reunite decades after meeting in college. 

Marc Pouhé plays Kyle. "At the start of the story... he's the head of the BSA, the Black Students' Association, on campus, and he takes Mason under his wing. But they have different beginnings and different... I don't want to say endings, but different where-we-end-up-meeting-them in this story."

"My mother wouldn't let me have dogs growing up," says Circus Chickendog ringmaster Darren Peterson. "So, you know, look at me now."

From Boneshaker Project, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

MISSION

To inspire kids to lead healthy and active lifestyles!

ABOUT US

Go outside! Run on a playground, ride a bike, grab a racket, and ‘shake your bones’ to feel healthy and active. This is the lifestyle we inspire our community’s kids to live. In AISD the percentage of overweight and obese students varies widely by school, from from 23.5% to 53.5% according to a 2010 Children’s Optimal Health report. Additionally, obesity rates are disproportionate by race, as African American and Latino rates of obesity are twice as high as other racial groups.

"It's really asking the question, 'what is our job as artists in a time of revolution and political unrest?'" says director Jenny Lavery of the play Neva. "Is art important at that time? Is seeing art important?"

Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be the quintessential America play, so it might not seem like a natural fit for Irish director Peter Sheridan. But Sheridan is excited about the opportunity to direct the play for Austin Playhouse. "They were talking to me about Bloomsday, because obviously the fit between me and Bloomsday seems kind of perfect -- it's a play set in Dublin... but I wasn't available for those dates," Sheridan says. "And they just happened to say to me, 'We're doing Death of a Salesman next,' and I said, 'God, I'd love to do that!'."

And when he learned that Austin Playhouse was planning to do the play with an African-American cast as the Loman family, Sheridan grew even more eager. "I thought... that could be a really, really interesting take on the story," Sheridan says. Directing Death of a Salesman also meant that he'd get to work with Austin actor Marc Pouhé, who's playing Willy Loman in this production. "This is a great, great stage actor," Sheridan says of Pouhé. "He's as good as I've worked with in forty years."

At Austin's Hideout Theatre, improv is performed several nights a week, and much of the work presented there is theatrical style. "A lot of improv on stage is just... a blank stage, no costumes... but this is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum," says Hideout co-owner Roy Janik. "We're still improvising the content and the characters and the plot and all that stuff, but we'll oftentimes know what genre we're playing in, we'll tell one long story, and we'll have costumes and lights and props."

From AGE of Cental Texas, this month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:  

Mission:

AGE of Central Texas tackles the challenges of aging with expert solutions, and is dedicated to senior adult and family caregivers to help make aging a journey of compassion and strength.

Who We Are:

"It's pretty layered," Caroline Reck says of Glass Half Full Theatre Company's take on Don Quixote. "We traditionally do puppets, often mixing them with human performers, and that's definitely the case this time." The idea behind Don Quixote de La Redo isn't as simple as just adding puppets to the classic Cervantes tale, though. 

Since 2008, UT's Landmarks public art program has brought dozens of works of art to the University of Texas, turning the campus into a 433 acre art gallery. The latest of those works is O N E E V E R Y O N E, created for the Dell Medical School by multimedia artist Ann Hamilton.

Every year, a promising artist (or two) is awarded the Umlauf Prize, and their work is displayed at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. This year, the Umlauf is displaying not just the current prize-winning artwork, but a retrospective of several past prize-winners.

On Saturday, January 14, the sculpture garden will host an Insights artist talk with several Umlauf winners, including this year's winning artist, Elizabeth McClellan.

"This is the most ambitious production I've ever done," says Justin Sherburn of his new multimedia project The Time Machine. "It's definitely combining music and theater in a way that's new for me," he says, adding "the shows I've done in the past have been mostly music oriented with slight multimedia, [but] this is a full-on multimedia experience."

The show grew out of Sherburn's longstanding fascination with synthesizers. "I just always thought it'd be fun to... basically use a time machine as a theme to explore sythesizers.

In the sci-fi themed show, Sherburn and his band will journey through the 20th century, starting in Austin and moving through the decades and across the planet. Visual designer Stephen Fishman will manipulate an animation sequence live during the show, projecting images onto and around the band. "It makes it look like the band is actually immersed in this machine," Fishman says.

From this Brighter Bites, month's Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

Brighter Bites is a non-profit that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables directly into families’ hands, while teaching them how to use and choose a different kind of fast food. We make it fun. We make it free. And we make it happen via a simple, three-part formula. Since summer 2015, Brighter Bites has distributed over 1 million pounds of produce to more than 3,500 Austin families.

Mission

Brighter Bites creates communities of health through fresh food.

Vision

Brighter Bites is rooted in the belief that if we give our kids something better to munch on, they will. And the lives they lead will be as vibrant as the foods they crave.

Hir, a dark comedy by multi-award winning playwright Taylor Mac, debuted only a year ago in New York to much acclaim. This January, Capital T Theatre is bringing the play to Austin for the first time.

The play is, in broad terms, an installment in the long pantheon of American family dramas; the four person cast includes a father, a mother, and their two children, and much of the drama revolves around their dysfunctional relationships. 

But Hir is definitely a modern take on that long-lived dramatic genre. It's more of a black comedy than a straight drama, and its characters include a father who's barely able to communicate (in a very literal sense, due to a recent stroke) and who dresses like a clown, a mother who is struggling to assert her dominance after years of oppression, a son who's returning from war while also recovering from drug addiction and a daughter who is transitioning from female to male.

Kirk Tuck

In only its third year, Zach Theatre's annual production of A Christmas Carol is already becoming a holiday tradition, for both audience and cast members. 

"I love it," says actress Kelly Petlin. "I tell [director] Dave [Steakley] 'I'll do this until you tell me you tell me I can't do it anymore.'" For actor Michael Valentine, the cast and crew of A Christmas Carol have become something of a surrogate family. "I'm not from Texas, but this is my third holiday season here," he says. "And I've always felt so embraced by this community."

When the Blue Genie Art Bazaar opened for the first time in 2001, founding member Dana Younger didn't realize the art show and sale would take over his holiday season for the next fifteen years (and counting). 

"Yeah, it's amazing that this is our sixteenth year, but it's a neat thing about traditions" he says. "And it's not just a tradition to us and the artists, but it's a tradition to the community, too." 

Once a fairly small showing of arts and crafts created by the members of Blue Genie Art Industries, the bazaar has grown to include works by some 200 local and regional artists, and it's now open daily from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. For Younger, the bazaar has become synonymous with the holiday season..

This month, Street Corner Arts is presenting Constellations, the award-winning play by Nick Payne. It's a love story, featuring only two characters, but with an important twist: we see dozens of alternate universe versions of these characters, playing out their relationship in myriad possible ways.

"The playwright assumes that... multiverses are real, so what he's done is take these pivotal moments in these two character's lives and allow us to see different variations on that moment," says director Liz Fisher. "Sometimes they get together, sometimes they don't, sometimes things are going great, sometimes things go poorly."

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