arts eclectic

Hyde Park Theatre's artistic director Ken Webster has been a fan of playwright Annie Baker for many years; since 2010, he's staged three of her works at Hyde Park. This summer, he's tackling a fourth: the Pulitzer Prizer winning The Flick.

The play fits the Hyde Park mold well. It's got a small cast, primarily focusing on three characters. It's a pretty recent work, having won that Pulitzer in 2014. And it walks the narrow path between funny and sad, which is a path that Webster and the crew at Hyde Park are adept at walking.

For the cast of Doper Than Dope, watching the early '90s sketch comedy TV show In Living Color was a formative experience. In addition to being edgy and often hilarious, In Living Color stood apart from other comedy shows of the time by featuring a cast made up primarily of people of color, which had a big impact on many of its viewers, including a young Ronnita Miller. 

"As a student of comedy," says the Doper Than Dope head writer, "it's very important to me to see people that look and act like people I know represented on screen." 

The Austin-produced web series The Pantsless Detective returns for a third season this week.  The serial, a comedic take on classic film noir detective stories, was created a few years ago by friends Tom Chamberlain and Dipu Bhattacharya and has gone on to become an award-winning continuing series.

This weekend, A'Lante Flamenco will present Snapshots: New World Flamenco, the first installment of what they hope will become an ongoing series. For Snapshots, A'Lante (under the leadership of husband-and-wife creative team Olivia and Isai Chacón) has partnered with two guest artists to showcase what Olivia calls "an outsider's perspective of flamenco."

In 1985, famed sculptor Charles Umlauf and his wife Angeline donated their home, Charles' studio, and many sculptures to the city of Austin. Six years later, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden was opened next to Zilker Park. Now, as part of the museum's 25th anniversary, the Umluaf is giving visitors a way to get a unique view of the late sculptor's work process. 

Curator Katie Edwards hopes to one day open Charles Umlauf's actual studio to tours, but in the meantime, the museum is offering a preview of the studio, in the form of a stage-set-like reproduction. Created by designer Stephanie Busing, it's a pretty faithful reproduction of the studio in which Umlauf worked for years.  "It's very, very close, but we also had to make some choices as to what to exclude from it," she says. "We chose to make it a little bit shorter and more manageable, but otherwise, the layout is very, very close to his original studio and we used his original artifacts." So when you see cans of paint thinner and WD-40 on the shelf at the museum, you're seeing the actual cans (and tools and assorted personal items) that Umlauf owned and worked with in his studio.

Kaci Beeler and Curtis Luciani have been performing together for many years, mostly as an improv duo. Those years of experience working and creating characters together eventually led to the creation of their new play Subject to Control. "This is just an attempt to take what we've been doing and push it in a direction that's daker and more theatrical," Luciani says.

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.

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.

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 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."

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.

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.

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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