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.

On October 30 and 31, Wizard World Comic Con returns to Austin, and it'll feature all the stuff you expect in such an event. There will be plenty of special guests, mostly familiar faces from geek-friendly and/or genre movies and TV shows (including Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell and RoboCop/Buckaroo Banzai portrayer Peter Weller among others), but also a surprising number of sports figures (including Texas legend Earl Campbell, no relation to Bruce). There will be lots of comic book writers and artists. There will be panel discussions such as "How to Write Comics" and "Diversity in Geek Culture." There will be lots of comics and colletables for sale and lots of people in elaborate costumes.

This Saturday night, The Vortex is hosting 'Salvador Dali's Naked Feast," a performance/cocktail party that will also serve as a fundraiser for the upcoming Vortex season.

The entire Vortex compound (which now includes the theater space itself, the Butterfly Bar,  and Patrizi's Italian Restaurant) will be overtaken by the party, which will feature aerial performances, live music, dance, food, cocktails, and more. 

The dark comedy Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric play debuted to acclaim and award nominations in 2012, and this fall it makes its regional debut in Austin, courtesy of the theater program at St. Edward's University. David Long, artistic director of St. Ed's Mary Moody Northen Theatre, was keen to bring Mr. Burns to Austin because he was "excited about not only the premise, but the content, dealing with something that travels in time, and most importantly... the importance of community [and] theater."

From Farmshare Austin, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization: Farmshare Austin is a 501c3 that teaches organic agriculture and provides fresh produce to partnering nonprofits that alleviate hunger and supply nutritious food to low income individuals.

Nat & Veronica (Nat Kusinitz and Veronica Hunsinger-Loe) are theater artists from New Orleans, and they're currently partnering with Austin's Rude Mechs to bring their show She Was Born to local audiences.

Hands Up Hoodies Down was originally staged in March of this year at the Vortex, but its origins go back to 2012, when the killing of Trayvon Martin affected Miller, in his words, "not only as an artist, but also as a dad."

In the years since, he continued to read more and more news stories about the violent deaths of black Americans, often at the hands of police officers. "It just got to the point, for me as an artist," Miller says, "I felt like I needed to say something." 

The Warriors: A Love Story, from ARCOS Dance, isn't an easy show to sum up, even for its creators. It's a multimedia piece, using all the arrows in the ARCOS quiver: film, interactive video projections, live and recorded music, dance, theatrical elements, text, and narration. They've worked to make all those elements work together, though, "in a way that doesn't feel like there are multiple media; we try to make it feel like as immersive an experience as possible for the audience," says co-director Eliot Gray Fisher. "You can't just call it theater or dance...we've been struggling with what to call it. We're calling it 'multimedia performance' because that's kind of broad."

From Austin Parks Foundation, this month's Get Involved spotlight organization:

Austin Parks Foundation is devoted to connecting people to parks. Since its establishment in 1992, Austin Parks Foundation has focused on developing partnerships that foster on development and maintenance of Austin’s treasured parks, trails and public green spaces. Austin Parks Foundation focuses on volunteerism, park activation, community resources, sustainability projects, and public-private partnerships.

Ebony Stewart's 'Hunger'

Aug 26, 2015

Spoken word artists Ebony Stewart has been a big part of the Austin slam poetry scene for about a decade, but she's never created a full-length solo show until now. Her new one-woman show, Hunger, has been a long time coming, she says. 

The show is based on Ebony's difficult relationship with her own father."It basically stems from the idea of me trying to get over my daddy issues," she says. "I feel like I am constantly mourning not having the father that everyone else has." The title Hunger refers her need and desire for a positive male role model. "I crave my dad," Ebony says.  "I crave having that experience or that relationship, or being reared by a man."

Terrence McNally's acclaimed play Love! Valour! Compassion! made its Off-Broadway debut in 1994 and quickly started winning awards. It transitioned to Broadway the following year and was adapted as a feature film a couple of years after that. It's frequently hailed as McNally's finest work and has remained popular for the two decades since its original run.

This month at the Vortex, Generic Ensemble Company presents the new original work Robin Hood: An Elegy.

The play, written by Krysta Gonzales (with portions devised by the ensemble) invokes not just the legendary folk hero Robin Hood, but also the current movement #blacklivesmatter. In this story, Robin Hood transcends space and time to experience state-sanctioned violence throughout the centuries.

From Mother's Milk Bank at Austin, this month’s Get Involved spotlight non-profit:  

The Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin is a community-based non-profit organization whose mission is to save babies’ lives by providing prescribed donor human milk, primarily to premature and ill infants.

You can contribute your time and talent to help improve the health and lives of preterm and ill infants.

You can join our Pour Team! Work on the front lines with our pour team!  You will work in groups of 3-4 in our lab, mixing and pouring donated milk for pasteurization. Involves standing for several hours at a time and lifting flasks of milk. Bonus: You get to “scrub in” and wear cool garb that makes you feel like you have a medical degree.

Last year, the folks at 7 Towers Theatre company made a decision to try and focus on smaller, more intimate shows this season. The result of that decision is their current production of Closer, a four-character dramatic comedy about, as director Amanda Gass says, "human relationships and the way that people are kind of messed up and treat each other poorly."

Mast, the current show from paper chairs, is a brand-new, world-premiere production. It's also a story that's been with playwright Elizabeth Doss for most of her life. Doss's grandmother, grandfather, and uncle all died before she was born; she never knew any of these people, but she's always been fascinated by them. "There were lots of things that happened in their family that were really peculiar and mysterious that have haunted my imagination since I was a kid," she says.

David Heymann is quick to point out that his debut book, My Beautiful City Austin, is not autobiographical.  He understands why people make the assumption, though; it's pretty common for first-time authors to create characters based on themselves, and his book's central character is a young man named David who is, like the author, an architect living in Austin.

In recent years, the production company Doctuh Mistuh has staged crowd-pleasing musical versions of Evil Dead, Silence of the Lambs, and Reefer Madness; it's safe to say that pop culture musical theater is in their wheelhouse. So it's not too surprising that they're the company that secured the rights to produce the regional premiere of Heathers, the Musical, based on the 1988 dark comedy cult film. 

Rich Merritt

Sky Candy has been producing aerial dance works for several years in Austin. Their seventh and latest full-scale work, Swings Asunder, is now being staged at the Rollins Studio Theater at the Long Center.

Like any Sky Candy production, Swings Asunder is the result of many artists (including dancers, aerialists, musicians, visual artists, and more) working together, but it's also a personal piece. 

The website Women Painting Women was launched several years ago by artists Alia El-Bermani, Diane Feissel and Sadie Valeri. The mission of the site was (and remains) fairly simple: to create an online space for female artists to share works which feature women as subject matter.

For a show that was born out of very real pain, 'Fragile Rock' is a lot of fun. While dealing with a divorce and the depression that comes along with such a life-changing event, Brently Heilbron found himself wanting to give in to the urge to write depressing, self-pitying songs. And since he's a comedian at heart, he saw the humor in that urge. The image of an all-puppet emo rock band singing sad songs stuck in his head, and before he knew it, 'Fragile Rock' was born.

Since he had no background in puppetry, Heilbron sought the help of puppet maker Shaun Branigan and the felt cast of 'Fragile Rock' began to come to life. More songs were written, a story began to take shape, and the show came to life. 

From Sustainable Food Center, this month’s Get Involved spotlight non-profit:

 

Sustainable Food Center cultivates a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food.  SFC envisions a food secure community where all children and adults grow, share and prepare healthy, local food.

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