arts eclectic

"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."

To close out the opera's current, 30th anniversary season, they're presenting a fresh staging of Puccini's classic Madame Butterfly. "It's a timeless piece, but the themes of hope and love and conviction and the ways in which war can bring all of those things tumbling down is certainly a timeless theme," Burridge says. "And the reason that the opera persists and persists is because the music is that outstanding and the subject matter is that compelling."

Award-winning baritone Michael Chioldi is returning to Austin Opera to sing the role of Sharpless. It's a role that he's played to great acclaim several times, and one that he has grown to appreciate more as he's grown older. "I used to call him Pointless instead of Sharpless when I was younger," he says. "I wanted the meat, I wanted to do... the heavy lifting, as it were. And Sharpless does the heavy lifting in a very quiet way. And as I've matured as an artist and as a performer, I've realized how effective this role can be."

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."

"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."

"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."

Color Arc Presents 'A Girl Named Sue'

Feb 13, 2017

Writer and actress Christine Hoang has been working on A Girl Named Sue for over a year. It started in the holiday season of 2015, when Hoang hosted a trunk show of BettySoo's jewelry (in addition to her career as a singer/songwriter, BettySoo sells handmade jewelry on Etsy). After showing her wares, BettySoo played a couple of songs.

"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.

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."

About fifteen years ago, Austin artist Ethan Azarian started hosting an annual holiday art show. Appropriately called the In House Gallery, the show took place in Azarian's own home; toward the end of the year, he'd move all of his furniture into one room, turning the rest of the house into an empty gallery space. Then every available wall space would be filled with Azarian's (or a guest artist's) works, and the house became the In House Gallery.

Pages