arts eclectic

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.

Now in its eleventh year, the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival aims to give exposure to films that portray disability in an honest and respectful way. The festival includes a short film competition, which has grown over the years to now include entrants from all over the world. 

The centerpieces of the fest, though, are the feature films that are shown on Friday and Saturday night. This year's Friday night film is Musical Chairs, which tells the story of a dance instructor who, after losing the use of her legs in an accident, learns to continue dancing in her wheelchair. Friday night also features a live performance by mixed ability dance project Body Shift.

UT's Landmarks public art program is dedicated to getting as much art as possible into public places on the University of Texas campus and around Austin. Over the past six years, they've put art in buildings and in outdoor spaces, with the goal of exposing people to art during their day-to-day lives. They're basically turning the UT campus into one big, free art museum.

Their latest installation will be unveiled inside the Gates Dell Computer Science Complex. Created by digital artist Casey Reas, A Mathematical Theory of Communication is a large mural that covers two large walls in the building's atrium. Reas met with professors and students in the Computer Sciences department to gather inspiration for the piece. 

Writer and storyteller Nettie Reynolds has been performing in public for the past twenty years or so, and this weekend she'll be presenting her second full-length sort-of-one-woman show.

Though Reynolds is doing most of the heavy lifting, it's not exactly a solo show, as she'll be joined by a few of her friends -- Walter Daniels and Kacy Crowley will each sing a song, and Cate Berry and Bernadette Noll will each tell a story. 

Shrewd Productions specializes in new works, particularly those that explore women's voices. That makes 'Still Now' a good fit -- the drama, by playwright Katie Bender, is making its world premiere with this production, and was recently included on the Kilroy List, a survey of excellent new plays by female playwrights.

'Still Now' is centered around Annie, a dancer who left America after the events of 9/11 to study Butoh in japan. Years later, she is diagnosed with stage four cancer and returns to Butoh as a way to cope with the ongoing destruction of her own body.

The play is about Annie coming to terms with the end of her own life, and also about the effect it has on those around her. As actor Joseph Gorlock says, "It's about loss, but it's about triumph and love throughout, as well."

Twice a year, the Blanton Museum of Art hosts the SoundSpace series, in which an eclectic mix of musicians and dancers perform among the artwork on display. The next installment of the series, titled Sound Construction, takes place this Sunday afternoon.

Organized by SoundSpace artistic director Steven Parker, Sound Construction will explore timbre by focusing on newly constructed instruments and out of the ordinary musical techniques. The centerpiece of Sunday's installment will be the premiere of Symmetrographia, a new work by Austin composer Travis Weller. In addition to some traditional stringed instruments, Symmetrographia features several instruments invented and built by Weller himself.

Loaded Gun Theory's new original work The Metal Queen: Kneel Before Her Dark Majesty was inspired, in an indirect way, by a play staged last year by a different Austin theater company.  After seeing and loving Capital T Theatre's production of the violent dark comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which featured a mostly-male cast, the creative minds of Loaded Gun Theory wondered "why women couldn't also have a lot of fun wielding guns...and making bad decisions," in the words of co-writer Julie Winston-Thomas.

That thought was the genesis for The Metal Queen, in which women wield guns and make increasingly poor decisions. The dark comedy centers around middle aged mothers Gretchen and Diane; after Gretchen's husband commits suicide, she decides to avoid despair by focusing her energies on a plan to get Diane out of debt by robbing every house in their neighborhood.

'Face Value' at the Davis Gallery

Sep 18, 2014

'Face Value' is a new group show at Austin's Davis Gallery. Curated by Susannah Morgan, it's an exploration of portraiture as an artistic theme, and of how that theme is addressed by different and artists employing different techniques.

There's work from photographers Leon Alesi, Scott David Gordon, and Lesley Nowlin; they're joined by Jamie Panzer, whose makes use of photographs in his collage work. They're all creating portraits of a kind, but their approaches (in terms of concept and execution) are all different.

Nowlin imagines an image and then works to create it, staging her subjects to achieve the look she envisions. A twin herself, she's been photographing pairs of twins for years now, and her recent work in that series will be on display at Davis Gallery.

Bill Peeler

Mel Brooks' 'Young Frankenstein' was released 40 years ago, and remains one of his most-loved films. Co-written by Gene Wilder, it's a loving parody of the classic Universal monster movies of the '30s (particularly, of course, the Frankenstein movies).

The musical version, officially titled The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, opened on Broadway in 2007 and has quickly become a fan favorite. Like the original, it's a send up of old monster movies, but it takes the film's love of old-school vaudeville and burlesque up a few notches, coming complete with dancing girls and a fresh batch of vaudeville-style jokes.

Five years ago, Robert Faires staged his one-man version of Shakespeare's Henry V at the Off Center. Since then, folks have been clamoring for him to become Henry again. 

Now the time is right for Faires to return to the show, and Henry V: A Solo Version is onstage at the Long Center's Rollins Studio Stage. Just as in the previous staging of the play, it's Faires alone on stage (save for a few inanimate co-stars, such as a flashlight and an apple), telling the story and playing all the characters.

Jaston Williams has spent his entire adult life in the theater, so it's only natural that he'd eventually create a theater piece about his life in entertainment. Decades in the making, that show, 'Maid Marian in a Stolen Car,' is now onstage at Zach Theater.

A one-man show, 'Maid Marian' covers the earliest inklings of Williams' show business career (including his childhood renditions of showtunes in the backyard), up through his early days of professional acting (such as performing 'Hamlet' at local high schools), and some of his wilder times as a young adult in the 1970s (like his days in a Taos, New Mexico theater company).

The Austin Troubadours have been playing early music together for the past six years, but the members of the band (including Slobodan Vujisic, Meredith Rudusku, Bruce Colson, Victor Eijkhout, Neli Vujisic, John Walters, and Oliver Rajamani) have all been studying and performing for much longer than that.

They strive for authenticity, using painstakingly reproduced period instruments and even period-appropriate costuming, so seeing and hearing the Austin Troubadours is as close as one is likely to get to experiencing the music of the Renaissance.

Austin's own homegrown science fiction epic The Intergalactic Nemesis has seen several incarnations over the years. It began life as a live show staged in a coffee shop, paying homage to '30s and '40s era radio serials. Later, audio recordings of the live show became actual radio serials (airing here on KUT in the late '90s).

The group show "Wall Dependent?" is now in its final week at 02 Gallery and Project Space at the Flatbed Building. Curated by Troy Campa, the exhibition features the works of four Texas artists, Orna Feinstein, Jonathan Leach, Edward Lane McCartney, and Charlotte Smith.

After retiring from a successful career as an architect in the Houston area, Campa decided to follow an earlier passion of his, and embark on a career in the visual arts. Now living in Austin, he's partnered with Rene Ibarra to curate this show at the O2 Gallery. 

Breaking String Theater was founded several years ago with the mission of bringing the works of Anton Chekhov to the stages of Austin. But depending on which Chekhov scholar you ask, the author wrote either only four or five full-length plays, and Breaking String has now staged all of them.

 For the better part of the past twenty years, Chad Salvata and the folks at his production company, Ethos, have been creating what they call cyberoperas. These works, set in a fantasy world and all featuring elaborate, colorful costumes and sets, have up to now all been live stage shows. But the newest installment in the Ethos canon, Octia of the Pink Ocean, is something different.

Octia is the first full-length feature film created by Ethos. Like their other works, it's an opera, set in a world of fantastical locations and characters. So why film it rather than staging it? For several reasons, according to Salvata. For one, a film will give him the opportunity to share his work with a larger audience; it'll also let him preserve it for all time. Most importanly, perhaps, creating a film and using green screen technology allows him to include sets and characters that he could never create in a stage setting.

  Texas Confessional is an unusual art project, in that it's designed primarily to benefit the participants rather than an audience. In its physical form, Texas Confessional is a small black chapbook made up of actual anonymous confessions. These regrets are submitted online and then compiled and printed by editor/publisher Ty Harvey.

Only 100 copies of the books are made, and they're scattered around the state for strangers to find and read. Harvey strives to place the books in places where he believes they'll be read with some consideration rather than just skimmed and set aside. If you seek one out, you're unlikely to find one (there are 100 books and a little over 26 million Texas residents, so the odds aren't in your favor), but that's kind of the point. Harvey hopes that finding a confessional will be like seeing a shooting star or spotting a four leaf clover.