arts eclectic

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

100 Heartbreaks was originally performed as a one-woman show in Seattle some eight years ago. After that run, writer and performer Joanna Garner found herself, like her heroine Chalane Tucker, longing to play with a real-deal band. 

Following a move to Austin and some tinkering with the script, Garner's now starring in a new-and-improved, expanded version of the show. No longer a solo project, 100 Heartbreaks now features a full cast and band, under the direction of Jess Hutchison and musical direction of Peter Stopchinski.

This weekend, A’Lante Flamenco will present Prophecies, a music and dance production inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s 1923 book The Prophet.   

The book, a collection of poetic essays, addressed many of the issues of the day, as the residents of a village asked a foreign prophet for his insights on the human condtion. While many of those issues remain just as relevant 90 years after the book's publication, and are addressed in the show, the creative minds of A'Lante (husband and wife artistic partners Olivia and Isai Chacon) decided to tackle some more modern questions as well, such as negotiating friendship in the age of social media.

Mark Pickell, the artistic director for Capital T Theatre, first became aware of Dennis Kelly's dark comedy DNA several years ago; it'd been a big hit in London, but had been performed only once in America. He immediately knew he wanted to produce it with Capital T, but saved the script until he felt the time was right. 

When, as part of Capital T's "New Directions" program, Molly Karasch was set to make her Austin directorial debut, the time felt right. "When Molly came on board," he says, "I thought this would be a great fit for her." Karasch agrees, saying that "finding the humor in really dark things" is kind of in her wheelhouse.  

Deus Ex Machina, a new co-production from Whirlygig, Fusebox, and Shrewd Productions, is not a show for folks who enjoy being passive observers to the action onstage. For this show, the audience takes an active role, essentially becoming the gods of Greek myth, deciding the fate of the players before them.

Austin author Ernie Wood has spent years writing non-fiction books, magazine articles, and documentary film scripts. And now, he's published his first novel, One Red Thread.

It's the story of an architect, Eddy McBride, who discovers that he's able to travel through time. Using this ability, he reexamines his own family history, discovering more than he might have intended.

For the past year or so, the talented performers at the Hideout have been staging a weekly Big Bash, and all-star improv show that happens every Friday night at the downtown theater. In each show, a rotating cast of Hideout regulars  present a handful of games and sketches, followed by a longer-form improvised "movie" in the second half of the show.

This holiday season, the folks at City Theatre are presenting Reckless, a non-traditional holiday-based dark comedy that the New York Times called "a bittersweet Christmas fable for our time."

On Christmas Eve, Rachel Fitzsimmons learns that her idyllic life is not so idyllic after all when her husband takes out a contract on her life. As things continue to unravel, she encounters killers, game show hosts, insane therapists and more. City Theatre artistic director Andy Berkovsky calls it "the perfect little holiday play."

"Feast of My Heart" is a solo performance piece, but it's far from a one-person artistic effort. The show will be performed by Jason Phelps, who has called upon two dozen of his fellow artists to help create the vision.

For Martin Burke, appearing onstage at Zach Theatre has become something of a holiday tradition. He starred as Crumpet the elf in The Santaland Diaries for many years, and last year he undertook a one-man version of It's a Wonderful Life titled This Wonderful Life.

Thomas McNeely was named a Dobie Paisano Fellow in 2000, and has just published Ghost Horse, the novel he began during that fellowship. It's largely autobiographical, focusing on an eleven-year-old boy growing up, as McNeely did, in mid-1970s Houston. That was a time of great transition and social tension in Houston; McNeely remembers it as a time when society made it, "after a certain age... not okay anymore" to be friends with kids of other races.

See and Hear 'Yakona'

Nov 10, 2014

The award-winning documentary film Yakona, about the San Marcos River, tells its story without words; it's made up mostly of shots of the river itself, often from under the water. Without dialogue or narration, the film's music is often called upon to convey emotion or to inform the narrative

Yakona's score, by Austin composer Justin Sherburn, is therefore vital to the film, and this month, he'll perform that score live for two screenings of the documentary.

This Sunday afternoon, LA-based art collaborative Lucky Dragons will present a new site-specific work at the Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria. Titled 17,000 Observations, the work will comprise both a sculpture and a live music performance.

Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck of Lucky Dragons visited Laguna Gloria for inspiration (at one point camping onsite for 24 hours), and created the two components of the work specifically for the space. The sculptural aspect is a mobile made up of several round mirrors, which will rotate freely and reflect the surrounding forest in new and interesting ways. The music performance is inspired by the birds who live in and around Laguna Gloria; it'll be performed by several musicians placed at different spots. As one wanders the area, he or she will hear different elements of the piece.