arts eclectic

Years ago, musician Peggy Stern created the Wall Street Jazz Festival in Kingston, New York. When she relocated to Austin a few years ago, Stern created Lulu Fest, a similar but different musical festival. Like the Wall Street Festival, Lulu celebrates female bandleaders, but unlike the earlier fest, and in keeping with her new town's wider-ranging musical tastes, Lulu embraces not just jazz but all sorts of music.

"Lulu Fest has broad musical appeal... because we think that's the best way into the audience here in Austin," says Stern. "But all of the sets do contain a component of improvisation, which is what we consider jazz."

"I moved to Austin in... '97, with the idea of making it to UT, which never happened," says Salvage Vanguard co-artistic director Florinda Bryant. "And ended up auditioning for Laurie Carlos and meeting Sharon Bridgeforth. That particular audition quite honestly changed the course of my life."

That audition was for the premiere run of Bridgeforth's con flama; Bryant was cast in the show under the direction of Carlos. Bryant didn't know it at the time, but getting cast in con flama set her on a path of arts education that she probably never could have gotten at a college. "[It] gave me an opportunity to explore my craft and become an artist that I didn't even dream was possible," she says. "Working in the jazz aesthetic and working under... two such strong mentors."

In the past couple of years, Salvage Vanguard lost its longtime theater space on Manor Road, and Bryant lost one of her mentors when Carlos passed away. "And I was like, 'okay, I need other artists to be being trained in this particular methodology so that I can continue to do my work,'" Bryant says. "So it seemed really natural to be able to bring this show into our season as a way of honoring my elders, as a way of honoring Laurie Carlos, who's now one of my ancestors."

Bret Brookshire

For the past several years, playwright Kirk Lynn has been fixing Shakespeare one play at a time. "We started with Fixing King John, we have fixed Timon of Athens, and now we're fixing Troilus and Cressida," he says. "The aim is to start with the least-produced plays. Although, like anything, when you're digging in, you know, a band's b-sides... you find 'Oh my God, this is so beautiful!’"

"You know, the inspiration initially was [that] I was jogging and I was listening to the White Stripes play [the Robert Johnson song] "Stop Breaking Down," and I thought, 'This is so great. I wonder what Robert Johnson would think of this song?'" Lynn says. "And I thought, 'I really want to cover something.' And of course, covering something in theater just means adapting it."

"It was started a few years back, and it's basically highlighting the history of Indians in America and their immigrant journey over to the United States," says Pooja Sethi of the Smithsonian exhibition Beyond Bollywood.

"I actually went a few years ago, when I was at my husband's cousin's wedding," she continues. "And I came out really emotional, because ... it was our history for the very first time. And I realized that Indian-American is a whole separate culture. I mean, you have India and you have America, but this is the first time that an exhibit actually told me that I'm a culture."

"This actually didn't originate with me," says playwright Reina Hardy about Agent Andromeda: The Orion Crusade. "It originated as a devised piece. And normally people think of devised work as quite highbrow and... arty and a bit strange. Our show is definitely strange, but it's also wild and sexy and fun and hilarious."

Hardy actually came on board after being approached by director Rudy Ramirez, who himself had been approached by the aerial art group Sky Candy, who were looking to create a sci-fi sex comedy aerial show.

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