arts eclectic

This fall, several members of the Yawanawá tribe are leaving their home in the Amazon forest for the first time and traveling to the U.S. to share their culture and try to preserve it.

See 'The Totalitarians' at the Off Center

Sep 20, 2016

Theatre en Bloc's Jenny Lavery became aware of The Totalitarians shortly after it was first produced a few years ago. And in that short time, the political comedy has already started to feel less farcical.

"I knew that it was timely," she says, "but with current politics as it is, the play has become even more timely. Peter  Sinn Nechtrieb wrote a crazy, outlandish farce based on the Obama and Palin election cycle. But now with Trump and Clinton in the mix... it's now becoming more realistic."

Over the years, the creative minds behind Ethos have created many ambitious shows at the Vortex. They've filled that theater with performers, musicians, and dancers, creating large-scale shows on a relatively small stage. 

In 2014, Austin's Doctuh Mistuh staged the first local production of Silence! The Musical, the award-winning musical parody of the 1991 movie Silence of the Lambs. The show was a big hit with audiences -- as a parody of such a popular film, Silence! drew in theater fans, comedy fans, and movie fans. "We drew a lot of audience members in who weren't regular theatergoing audiences," says director Michael McKelvey. It was also a big hit with critics -- it didn't win quite as many B. Iden Payne awards as Silence of the Lambs won Oscars, but it came close.

In the time since, there's been interest from audience members (and from the cast as crew as well) in staging the show again. When some space opened up in Austin Playhouse's August schedule, the time was right.

"It's just a show [where] we all really enjoyed the experience, which is scary to say with this show," McKelvey laughs, "but we had a blast with it, so we said 'Let's do it again."

Writers Jodi and Owen Egerton have been married for a dozen years, and in their time together they've always helped each other with their various creative projects. "We keep editing each other and re-reading each other, and we've found that we have a similar approach to creativity," Owen says. That shared approach to (and love for) creativity led to the pair co-writing This Word Now, their new book on the creative process.

"I didn't think to myself 'Owen and I are launching into a two-year venture to write a book together. Let's see what that approach to marriage and life is going to look like,'" Jodi says. "And it turns out it was actually really fun, but it did take us a while to discover how we write together as opposed to just how we brainstorm together or how we edit each other's stuff."

Peter Max Visits Austin

Aug 17, 2016

Pop artist Peter Max has been drawing and painting all his life, and has been earning a living by drawing and painting for well over half a century now. "I never knew I was going to be an artist when I grew up," he says, "but I loved it."

Husband-and-wife artists Dana Younger and Felice House have shown their works together before, but never in their hometown of Austin. "I think our first debut as an artist couple showing together was in Houston in 2013," House says. "Since then, we've gone to Michigan [and] we've had a show in New Mexico."

This summer, Austin Classical Guitar has been presenting narratives, a three-part series of shows that explores both music and literature. The summer series began with persona [beginning], continued with process [middle] and concludes with nocturne [end].    

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.

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