arts eclectic

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.

Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase is a project years in the making.  The brainchild of Austin's Brian Beattie, Ivy isn't just an album and isn't just a book. It's a full-scale "audio movie" that tells the story of young Ivy Wire's adventures in the underworld through songs, sound effects, narration, and dozens of illustrations; the physical version of Ivy includes a CD and a hardcover book.

Beattie cast a who's who of Austin singers for the album, including his former Glass Eye bandmates Kathy McCarty and Scott Marcus, Bill Callahan, James Hand, Will Sheff, and Daniel Johnston; young Grace London plays the title role. 

Just in time for Halloween, Trouble Puppet Theater Company will unveil The Strange Case of Edward Hyde and Dr. Jekyll. It's of course inspired by the classic horror tale by Robert Louis Stevenson, but it's not at all a straight adaptation.

For Trouble Puppet founder Connor Hopkins, finding a way to put an original spin on well-known stories is a welcome challenge. In the case of 'Jekyll and Hyde,' Hopkins and his team found a way to take a tale with a very well-known twist and make the story surprising and unexpected.

Musician Rob Halverson has long been a fan of John Steinbeck's classic 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. So when it occurred to him last year that the book's 75th anniversary was quickly approaching, he decided to commemorate the occasion with a little help from Austin's artistic community.

Halverson's Grapes of Wrath 75 Project is a far-reaching and ongoing endeavor. It includes a cd and dvd of performance pieces and interviews about and inspired by the novel, as well as a journey undertaken by Halverson (in partnership with the National Steinbeck Center) in which he retraced the Route 66 journey of the novel's Joad family.

Pollyanna Theater Company specializes in educational plays for young people. Performing in area schools and at the Rollins stage at the Long Center, they strive to produce works that will entertain kids while also teaching a lesson. 

This year, they've partnered with the LBJ Presidential Library to create an original play for kids to commorate the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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