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.

'Greater Tuna' had its world premiere in Austin in 1981. In the 34 years since, the comedy (written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard) has remained an enduring favorite, spawning three sequels about the residents of Tuna, the "third smallest town in Texas."

Austin Translation is the new mainstage show at ColdTowne Theater. Produced and directed by Second City alum Dave Buckman, the show was created using the Second City method; over the past couple of months, Austin Translation cast members brought in ideas, worked on them together through improvisation, and then chose the best of the best to craft into scripted sketches.

Yoko Ono celebrated her 80th birthday on February 18, 2013. To mark the occasion, two of her friends (famed rock photographer Bob Gruen and KUTX's own Jody Denberg) put together a photo book of Yoko's life as a present for her. After receiving the gift, Jody says Yoko "kind of demanded, or at least requested, that we publish the book."

It started when Jody Denberg met up with Bob Gruen during 2012's SXSW. Though not close friends, the two had met on occasion through Yoko. For many years, Bob was the official photographer for Yoko and John Lennon, and has continued a friendship (and continued taking photographs) with Yoko in the years since John's death. Jody has also known Yoko for many years, and has conducted several interviews with her in that time. He hit upon the idea of putting together a book using Bob's photos and excerpts from his interviews with Yoko, and soon enough the gift was taking shape. "It's really a family scrapbook in some ways, this book" says Jody of the finished product.

Theatre en Bloc is currently staging the world premier production of Jacob's Ladder by local playwrights Dennis Bailey and David Mixner. Set in 1944 Washington, it's the story of a young Jewish staff member in the FDR White House who discovers that there is much he does not know about the war effort and what's really happening in Europe at the time.

God's Favorite isn't Neil Simon's best known work, but it does hold a special place in the heart of director Eric Nelson. It was one of the first plays he read after entering the theater world, and he fell in love with its wit, quick pacing, and characters. It's a script he's wanted to work on in some capacity ever since, and he found the chance to direct the play at Round Rock's Sam Bass Theatre.

From Candlelight Ranchthis month’s Get Involved spotlight non-profit:  

Candlelight Ranch Mission and History:

In the summer of 1999, Randy, Don, and Jeri (Don’s wife of blessed memory) Barr, purchased some acreage on the North Shore of Lake Travis that contained beautiful and diverse ecosystems with a wide range of flora and fauna, spring fed creeks, and two striking canyons that were created when the roofs of caverns collapsed.  They decided to share the property so that community groups that worked with children with special needs or challenging life circumstances could bring their children out to a natural environment.  They named this nature safe haven, Candlelight Ranch.  Now, almost 15 years later, Candlelight Ranch has grown into a respected non-profit that serves over 1,700 individuals annually in the Central Texas area.

Forklift Danceworks specializes in dances starring people who don’t consider themselves dancers – firefighters, baseball players, sanitation workers, and now, members of the City of Austin’s Urban Forestry Division. 

Staging a large scale dance with the people and machinery of Urban Forestry is a natural fit for Forklift; they've already undertaken similar projects with the city's sanitation and power departments.

The piece, The Trees of Govalle, is more tied to place than some of Forklift's previous works. It's about the people of Urban Forestry, the work they do, and the trees they service, but it's also about a particular area of town: the Govalle neighborhod in East Austin. As such, it'll take place in Govalle Park. And, in addition to the Urban Forestry workers who will be dancing and participating, The Trees of Govalle will also feature Govalle resident and bona fide musical treasure Manuel "Cowboy" Donley, who will perform along with his daughter Sylvia Donley.

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.

Bret Brookshire

This month, the modestly-sized Hyde Park Theatre has been transformed into the smallest megachurch you're likely run across. That's because they're staging a production of The Christians, by Lucas Hnath, which is set in just such a church.

This is only the second worldwide production of The Christians; after a well-received premiere at the 2014 Humana Festival, several theaters clamored to get the rights, but Hyde Park beat the others to the punch.

The play centers around Pastor Paul (played by Hyde Park artistic director Ken Webster), who has come to the conclusion that he no longer believes in the existence of hell. This puts him at odds with Brother Joshua (Joey Hood), and their theological debate forms the heart of the play.

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 union organizer and educator Emma Tenayuca, groundbreaking singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, the Texas Women's History Project, and more.

When one thinks about Austin in the 1960s, organized crime isn't the first thing that springs to mind. But during that decade, the Timmy Overton gang did everything it could to take over the Capital City.

That chapter of Austin's history is now largely forgotten; author Jesse Sublett, despite being a history buff and a fan of the noir, knew nothing of the story until stumbling across a newspaper article while researching an unrelated book.

The folks at Glass Half Full Theatre like to combine elements in their show. The combination of live performance and puppetry is a trademark of Glass Half Full, and they also tend to mix a little social commentary in with their comedy.

The new work 'Simple Sundries' uses all those elements. Using an earlier short play about a woman and a pigeon as their basis, writers Caroline Wreck and Parker Dority crafted a full-length show that includes puppetry and physical comedy and also has something to say about the changing face of Austin's East Side.

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.   

From Creative Actionthis month’s Get Involved spotlight non-profit: 
Our MissionThe mission of Creative Action is to spark and support the academic, social and emotional development of young people.

Creative Action serves more than 20,000 youth annually in seven area school districts. As the largest provider of creative youth development programs in the Central Texas area, Creative Action uses the arts to activate the academic, social, and emotional development of young people. Through interactive classroom performances, after school, summer camp, and teen programs, Creative Action's team of professional teaching artists inspire youth to be creative artistscourageous alliescritical thinkers and confident leaders in their community. By discovering their own voice, gaining confidence in sharing their perspectives, wrestling with big ideas, and deeply engaging in the world around them, youth become better prepared to work through social, emotional and academic challenges to become the next great thinkers, doers, and makers in our world.

Paul Bardagjy

Since 2008, the folks at Landmarks have been commissioning and installing public art across the University of Texas campus. Piece by piece, they're turning the university into a self-guided outdoor museum space.

The latest piece in the Landmarks series is also the largest. Monochrome for Austin, by artist Nancy Rubin, stands nearly 50 feet high and stretches across 24th street. It comprises around 75 kayaks, canoes, and small boats, arranged together to form an impressive whole that almost resembles a giant, otherworldly tree. The piece is so large that, when assembling it, considerations had to be made to ensure that it wouldn't block the path of any firetrucks.

Audrey Hukari recently sat down in the StoryCorps mobile booth with her friend Megan Trout, who works as a hospice chaplain. While Megan loves her job and feels that she has found her calling in her life, she didn’t enter the seminary planning to work with the dying. 


Lu Zeidan met her friend Qusay Hussein through her work with refugees at Interfaith Action of Central Texas, and they recently sat down together in the StoryCorps mobile booth. In 2006, when he was 17, Qusay was playing volleyball with three brothers and some friends in Mosul, Iraq, when a car bomb was detonated at the court. Dozens were hurt and 16 people were killed in the explosion. Qusay was severely injured, and later taken to a U.S. Army base for treatment. There, he was unconscious for twelve days, during which his family thought he was dead.  

Justin Sherburn and his band Montopolis have been performing live film scores for a few years now, creating original music for silent films and documentaries. For their next project, though, they're playing the music of another composer, the legendary Ennio Morricone. In fact, the project began with Sherburn's desire to pay tribute to Morricone and grew from there. 

He selected the 1916 silent film western 'The Return of Draw Egan' as a canvas, largely because it contains all the elements you'd expect to see in a classic western (gunfights, love interests, bad men trying to go straight). Then he decided to add an extra layer to the project, by changing the existing title cards to something a little funnier, creating what is essentially a Mystery Science Theater treatment for the silent film. Once he sat down to start writing some comedy, Sherburn came to an important realization: he's not a comedy writer.

Esther Garza and her fiance Patrick Brickley had a conversation recently in the StoryCorps mobile booth. They talked about topics including their family histories and the coincidences they've experienced over the years. They also talked about Esther's health. Nine years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and is now classified as N.E.D., or No Evidence of Disease. In this section of their conversation, she shares a story of finding the strength she needed to deal with the disease.

Austin author Martha Louise Hunter recently published her debut novel, Painting Juliana. The book has elements of magical realism, but it was inspired by actual events in Hunter’s life.