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.

"The Long Center has always, of course, been known as a performing arts center," says Gallery 701 curator Philip Rogers. "And they began to think ... that they wanted to introduce the visual arts." Rogers came on board and, after some recommended renovations to make the space more visual-art-friendly, began putting up art shows.

"One of the things that was stressed to me by the Long Center and by the funding entity was that they wanted to have it as much a community space as possible," Rogers says. "So each show has all been artists from the Austin area, and that will always be the case."

"I used to always talk to my mom about wanting to do something in the park -- something creative, something that would bring the community together," says NOOK Turner about the origins of Jump On It. Twenty years ago, when Turner was still a teenager, he was given the opportunity to create the summer concert series when he answered a citywide call for ideas on using Rosewood Park.

Errich Petersen

"As a woman and feminist, I'm constantly learning about feminism... and it was so surprising to find out, in my naive Sarah Marie brain, that this is not a new idea, women's equality," says actor Sarah Marie Curry. "It's not just the past fifty to one hundred years. And to find out that this woman had made a declaration of women's rights back during the French Revolution... to me is humbling and powerful and also sad."

"We threw a party ... where we had our friends come, dressed as fake wrestlers, and sort of wrestle in my living room," says director and co-founder Chris Monica, describing the humble origins of Party World Rasslin'. "It was really fun, and so we decided we'd do it again in a few months with like more planning."

From there, Monica and his friends moved onto a homemade backyard wrestling ring. "It was really dangerous and really fun," he says. "Afterwards, we were like 'That was a great thing we did. Let's be sure to never do that again."

But friends and friends-of-friends demanded more, and Party World Rasslin' was born. The backyard bouts continued, with crowds getting bigger and bigger. "For the first year, every show we had was doubling in attendance," Monica notes.

"We're all about walking the tightrope where it might go horribly wrong," says the Institution Theater's Asaf Ronen. "And I think people kind of appreciate that about what we do."

"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." 

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."

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."

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. 

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."

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.

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.

"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."

For its upcoming fundraiser, Austin-based nonprofit CareBox Program will feature a lot of fundraiser staples: food, drinks, a live auction. It'll also feature performances from six of Austin's top standup comedians. This is the second year in a row that the young charity has staged a comedy showcase for its annual fundraiser.

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."

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