arts eclectic

For the past decade, the folks at Summer Stock Austin have brought high school and college age theater students together with working professionals to stage multiple musicals in a short period of time.

Every summer, the kids and adults at Summer Stock rehearse, build sets, do publicity and technical work, and then put on a show in just a matter of weeks. And they do that for three shows at once. It's a bit of whirlwind, but the result is that the students learn a lot about the theater world and audiences get to see a few low-priced live musicals.

Starting July 31, Salvage Vanguard Theater will present the world premiere of the new musical Bright Now Beyond. It's an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1904 book The Marvelous Land of Oz (which was the second in the author's long-running series of Oz books).

Bright Now Beyond is set decades after the events of The Wizard of Oz, and features a few characters  from that story (the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and Glinda the Good all make appearences) along with many  new characters not seen in the classic film. Co-writer Daniel Alexander Jones sees all the characters — the familiar and the new — as being at a crossroads in their life; that's one of the things that drew him to the story.


  The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! debuted on Broadway 71 years ago, and has remained a popular classic ever since. It was a huge hit in its original Broadway run, spawned an Oscar-winning movie version in 1955, and has been performed countless times in theaters worldwide.

In addition to being crowd-pleasing, though, it was also a ground-breaking production, an important work in the development of the 'book musical,' in which the songs and musical numbers progress the story. That's more or less taken for granted in the modern musical, but it wasn't often the case before Oklahoma! took the stage. 

Chris Gibson is, by his own admission, obsessed with Dean Martin. And he has a particular interest in Martin's work in television, where he hosted a popular variety show for nine years beginning in 1965. It's shows like The Dean Martin Show and the later, slightly more kid-friendly The Muppet Show that inspired the new live theater variety show Industry Night.

Hosted by Gibson and his fellow Rat Pack fans Cami Alys and Kenny Redding Jr., Industry Night is a throwback to the old school variety show format, where the hosts and the audience all have a couple of drinks and enjoy the show together. There's always sketch comedy and songs from Cami and Kenny, and each show features guest performers including singers, dancers, comics, improvisers, jugglers, and more.

In the works of William Shakespeare, there are comedies, there are tragedies, there are histories, and then there are the problem plays. These are the plays that defy easy categorization; they tend to have complex themes and ambiguous tones.

All's Well That Ends Well is one such play. It's possibly Shakespeare's darkest comedy, dealing not just with love and mistaken identity like many of his comedic works, but also with war and gender issues. 

By the time of his death in 1943, inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla had accumulated some 300 patents for his works. He's credited for work and ideas that resulted in countless innovations, most notably alternating current, or the electrical system that powers most of the devices in your home.

After his death, Tesla's legacy fell into relative obscurity for a time, but in recent years, he's been embraced by a new generation of scientists and engineers. At this point, he's become a bit of folk hero, seen by many as the epitome of the uncompromising genius.

A couple of years ago, enthralled with the idea of salons where writers could meet, drink, and discuss their work, Owen and Jodi Egerton decided to start one of their own. At first they'd invite other writers to their home, but quickly realized that this was an event that needed sharing.

Now, Owen hosts the monthly One Page Salon at the Whip In. The first Tuesday of every month, he invites a handful of fellow artists — fiction writers, screenwriters, songwriters, even photographers and improvisers — to join him onstage and share one page of a work in progress.

The environmental music piece Music for Wilderness Lake was written 35 years ago by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer. It's a work for twelve trombones with accompaniment by the wildlife that happens to be in the environment. 

Music for Wilderness Lake has traditionally been performed by a dozen trombonists arranged around a body of water, signaled by a director on a dock or in a boat. In the case of this Austin performance, the signaling will be done from a handmade canoe built by Austin woodworker Aldo Valdés Böhm.

Cosmicomics is the latest aerial show from the folks at Sky Candy. Produced in collaboration with writer/director Rudy Ramirez, it's an acrobatic theater version of the much-loved short story collection of the same name by Italian author Italo Calvino.

The stories, first published in 1965, each begin with a scientific fact or theory and from there spin a fantastical yarn based upon it. In Calvino's world, humans used to jump to the moon to gather cheese and pasta is the reason for human existence.

If you're looking for a play with live music, live animals, and a healthy dose of '80s nostalgia, punkplay might be the show for you. The coming-of-age tale is set in the American suburbia of thirty years ago, in the age the cold war, Ronald Reagan, and punk rock.

The play (by Gregory Moss) centers around two teenage boys, Mickey, a disaffected high school student, and Duck, an angry young runaway who befriends him. Their lives and relationship are changed by their exposure to a vinyl punk record.

Enjoy 'Silence!' at Salvage Vanguard Theater

Jun 18, 2014

The Silence of the Lambs won a ton of awards after its 1991 theatrical release, including five Oscars. But there will still some who felt the story would have been better served if it included a little more singing and dancing. And those people are finally in luck, because they can now enjoy a version of the crime drama that doesn't skimp when it comes to lavish musical numbers.

Silence! The Musical is an unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs; it started life as an internet musical in 2003 and was so popular online that it was eventually expanded into a full length show that debuted Off Broadway in 2011. Like the original movie version of the story, Silence! was well-received by critics and won a handful of awards.

Test Tube is an interesting new art space on the East Side. It's tucked away in Tillery Park, which one finds by going through East Austin Succulents, a nursery on Tillery Street. Once in the park, you'll find a handful of trailers that house boutiques and cafés, along with Test Tube itself.

Memory Tag(s), a new exhibition of multi-dimensional artwork, will open at Test Tube this weekend. It features new works by Andy St. Martin, designed to fit the space and inspired by personal losses he's suffered this year. Reflecting on the recent passing of both his mother and his brother, and on his status as an identical twin, St. Martin was inspired to create works that deal with dichotomies and mirror images.

Every Thursday this month, Coldtowne Theater will host BettyFest, which is billed as “a Night of Comedy by Comedians Who Happen to be Female.”  It's  a full night of comedy by folks with two X chromosomes, which is of course the chromosome where comedy is stored.

Each show will be hosted by a different stand-up comic and feature a rotating roster of opening improv acts along with headlining  improv troupe Patio Talk.

For the past three decades, Austin Shakespeare has partnered with the city to present free Shakespeare in Zilker Park. This year, they're finally producing a free-in-the-park version of artistic director Ann Ciccolella's personal favorite Shakespearean play, As You Like It.

It's one of the bard's most joyous works, including hallmarks of Shakespearean comedy such as mistaken identity, cross-dressing, and the search for true love. As You Like It features some of Shakespeare's best-loved characters and most memorable scenes, and in true romantic comedy fashion, a happy ending that includes no fewer than four weddings.

  M. Scott Tatum and Julianna E. Wright have been producing theater together since their high school days. Their partnership continued through college and eventually culminated in the formation of their production company, Half and Half Productions.

The latest show from Half and Half, co-directed by Scott and Julianna, is the classic musical Chicago. Chicago's been onstage in Austin a few times as part of Broadway Across America, and there have been a handful of school productions of it, but this is, perhaps surprisingly, the first professional, locally-produced version presented to Austin audiences.

Austin's Pollyanna Theatre Company specializes in theater for young audiences. And in addition to creating original theatrical works for children, they also believe in theater as a teaching tool.

To that end, they stage shows in cooperation with the Long Center, which are aimed at young children and their families, and also venture into local schools for performances and education.

Their latest play, Plus and Minus: The Vacation Adventure by Katherine Gee Perrone, revisits popular characters Addy Plus and Minus Takeaway and teaches lessons about both math and acceptance.

Am I Invisible? is an ongoing art project written and performed by members of Austin’s homeless population. It  explores their lives through video presentations, monologues and other performances. 

The project began last year when video artist Roni Chelben began facilitating video workshops at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. It led to a series of videos featuring members of Austin's homeless community, and eventually a live show based on the lives of its participants. 

Am I Invisible? incorporates all these elements, including the video segments, performances, and live monologues written by homeless members of our community, inspired by their lives.

Xiwei (Sherry) Chen was born in China and grew up dancing, so when she moved to Austin, it was only natural that she'd look for a way to share traditional Chinese Dance with her new community. That's why she created the April Rain School of Chinese Dance more than a decade ago.

April Rain teaches different styles of Chinese dance, including both formal and folk dances, and in performances, the students wear costumes that Chen brings back from her return trips to her home country. Many of the students stay with the program for years, passing on their beloved costumes to the newer and younger students as they grow up.

Next week, The Vortex will host the Forbidden Film Fest, a brand new festival that's meant to be an exploration of sexuality and eroticism in film. It's a three-day event, with a different program each night.

Night one will feature the Austin premiere of "Goodbye Gaulie Mountain," a new documentary about mountain top removal in West Virginia and the connection between land and body issues. Co-directors Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stevens will appear live via webcast.

Forklift Danceworks is known for their large scale projects, which tend to feature real people performing dances that are based on their actual jobs. They've done performances with sanitation workers ("The Trash Project") and Austin Energy employees ("PowerUP"), among others. 

Their newest project is "Play Ball!," a baseball-inspired dance which will be performed by the players and coaches of the Huston-Tillotson Rams. The dance will be performed on (and also benefit) Austin's historic Downs Field, which during its decades-long history has been home to not just the Rams, but also several semi-pro teams and at least two Negro League baseball teams. Among the many legendary ballplayers to play on the field are Satchel Paige, Willie Wells, Willie Mays, and Buck O'Neil.