arts eclectic

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.

A few years ago, Austin was one of the homes of the annual Maker Faire, a two-day celebration of arts and crafts, creativity, and all kinds of do-it-yourself projects. The Maker Faire eventually stopped coming to Austin, but after a brief hiatus, the Austin Mini Maker Faire arrived to fill the void.

Aside from being only a one-day rather than two-day event, the Mini Maker Faire is "mini" in name only. It's still a huge event, with dozens of workshops, talks, hands-on activities, and performances taking place in the name of creativity and fun. The chief difference between the new mini fair and the old full-sized fair is that these days, most of the Makers actually hail from Austin or Central Texas locals instead of from the larger world.

This Saturday night at Bates Recital Hall on the University of Texas campus, the Austin Civic Orchestra is partnering with UT's Butler School of Music to present a free spring concert. Called the "Texas Risings Stars" concert, the event will feature four award-winning UT music students playing with Austin's own non-profit orchestra.

The first half of the concert will feature music students Benjamin Penzner, Grace Youn, Roman Yearian, and Eun-Mi Lee (no relation to the host of this program) leading the orchestra in selections of their choosing. For the second half of the presentation, the orchestra will branch out on its own, featuring two pieces chosen by orchestra director Lois Ferrari.

Now in its third year, the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival is quickly becoming one of the largest comedy festivals in America. For this year's fest, around 100 comedians will come together from Austin and around the world to perform dozens of shows, including sketch, improv, and lots of standup comedey.

Headliners include The Kids in The Hall, Hannibal Buress, Mike Birbiglia, Maria Bamford and more. They'll perform at the Paramount Theatre, while several smaller venues host shows nearby.

There have been many incarnations of The Intergalactic Nemesis over the years. The 1930s era science fiction story started life as a live radio serial staged in a coffee shop, then became an actual radio serial that ran right here on KUT many years ago. Then there was a revised version of the stage show, then a comic book series, and finally a live action graphic novel, which combines all the previous elements into a large-scale show that has toured the world.

But it’s never been captured for the screen until now. This Saturday at the old Austin City Limits Studio, The Intergalactic Nemesis will tape its newest incarnation before a live audience. The show will go back to its radio serial roots in a way, as it becomes a series of short web videos produced by KLRU and PBS. It'll also be available as a TV broadcast and a DVD.

For only their second outing, young theater company Soubrette Productions is taking on a challenging show: Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins, a musical that examines the motivations behind the actions of attempted and successful assassins of American presidents. It's long been a controversial work, as it examines the history of and parallels between the men and women who were convinced that their violent actions were justified or even necessary.

The subject matter isn't the only difficult aspect of Assassins. It's also a pretty elaborate production, with a large principal cast and detailed costuming, sets, and props. All of this makes the production a challenge for the folks of Soubrette, but a challenge they were eager to undertake.

Producer Ron Berry created the Fusebox Festival a decade ago as a way to foster communication between Austin's arts scene and the national and international artistic community. The conversation he started way back then is still going strong; Fusebox has grown every year and this year celebrates its tenth anniversary.

As has usually been the case, this year's festival will feature hundreds of artists and performers, with roughly a third of them hailing from Austin, a third from the rest of the USA, and a third from other countries. What is different about this year's festival is that all events will be free to the public (although for some shows, reservations are required).

For the past few years, the band Mother Falcon has been operating a summer camp for young musicians. The many members of the band are still pretty young themselves, but when they were even younger, they spend their summers at various music camps, so the idea of starting their own seemed like a natural.

They aim to encourage creative musical thinking, guided by their camp motto, "Musicality over Technicality." During each week-long session, the students are divided up into bands with diverse instrumentation, where they'll hopefully encourage one another to experiment and broaden their creative horizons. Each sessions ends with a showcase concert by the kids, during which they'll play original songs, covers, and do a little jamming. 

Ten years ago, Hyde Park Theatre produced The Drawer Boy to great acclaim. Michael Stuart, one third of the three-person cast, took home a Critic's Table Award for best actor; Ken Webster won the B. Iden Payne best director award. It was also named Outstanding Drama by one group and Outstanding Comedy by the other. "It's that kind of script," Webster says.

Now they’re restaging the play, which centers on a young theater student who comes to study and work with two middle aged Canadian farmers. Stuart is returning to his role as Angus, a decade older and closer to actual age of the character. Webster is directing again, and this time also acting, as the curmudgeonly farmer Morgan.

Josh Wechsler has appeared onstage in numerous musicals and straight plays, but he really loves old-school cabaret,where a performer sings songs and chats with an intimate audience. That’s the vibe he’s going for with his new show, "Here With You! Unexpected Songs from Sondheim to Zeppelin."

When going through his repertoire to prepare for this show, Wechsler discovered a common theme in many of the songs he'd chosen -- that of community and shared experience. That theme works nicely with an intimate, cabaret-style show, and "Here With You!" came into being.

The Women of the World Poetry Slam is a yearly festival that brings together 72 of the world’s best female poets for workshops, open mics, parties, and of course a multi-day slam poetry competition. This year, for the first time, it’s happening in Austin.

Things will kick off at the Spiderhouse on Wednesday, March 19, with the Last Chance Slam, where poets who are not yet registered for Women of the World can vie for a slot in the competition. Bouts will continue at the Spiderhouse and Love Goat on Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21; workshops and other events will also happen on those days. The festival will conclude with a championship bout at the Paramount Theater on Saturday, March 22.

The tragicomedy The Whale won plenty of awards following its world premier in Denver in 2012. The play, by Samuel D. Hunter, centers around Charlie, who has been steadily eating himself into an early grave since the death of his boyfriend years earlier. Now close to 600 pounds and unwilling to seek medical help, Charlie looks for reconciliation with his long-lost daughter Ellie and understanding from his only friend, Liz.

It's a departure of sorts for  A Chick and A Dude, who are known for heavily-male casts, often featuring hitmen or other testosterone-heavy character types. This time out, director Melissa Livingston-Weaver actually has a cast with more women than men, which she admits makes a nice change of pace.

The British farce Charley’s Aunt is currently onstage at Wimberley Playhouse. Originally performed in Suffolk, England in 1892, the play is a classic comedy, with mistaken identities, men in drag, and the sort of fast-paced action you expect from a good farce. 

By far the most enduring work by playwright Brandon Thomas, Charley's Aunt quickly became a classic, enjoying countless productions worldwide in the 122 since its birth. 

The Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists is kind of a big deal. It's been called "the Olympics of violin," which is apt, as it's a worldwide competition that brings together the best young talent in its field.

The biennial event was founded by famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1983, and in the three decades since,  it’s been held all over the world but never before in America. That changes this week, however, as the 2014 Menuhin Competition gets underway right here in Austin, hosted by UT’s Butler School of Music.

Believe it or not, musicians Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Jo Carol Pierce, and Kimmie Rhodes are all from the same Texas town, Lubbock. And actor and storyteller Jaston Williams, while not born in Lubbock, spent much of his formative years there, and still visits often. As he says, "I've got Lubbock in the blood. We've tried to do something about it, but once you've got it, you've got it."

That shared connection is the basis of the new show "Is There Life After Lubbock?", a free-form, loosely structured evening of humor, stories, and music taking the stage of the Stateside at the Paramount Theater this weekend. 

L.A.W. Lewd Asian Women, a new play from Lucky Chaos Theater Projects, opens on Febuary 28 at Salvage Vangaurd Theater. It's written and performed by Christine Hoang, Alice Liu Cook, Lilan Ren, and Leng Wong, who, with the exception of Wong, are all working lawyers in our community.

It’s based in part on the lives of Wong, Cook, and Hoang, three Asian women living in Austin today (Ren portrays the Voice of the Law), and inspired by an 1875 court case involving 22 Chinese immigrants. That case, Chy Lung v Freeman, began when 22 Chinese women were barred from entering San Francisco harbor after being declared "lewd and debauched" by the California commissioner of immigration. The evidence for their lewdness included the fact that they traveled without husbands or children and their flowery garments.

Little Red Chunari is a new play from Scottish Rite Community and Children’s Theater. It’s a family friendly Bollywood-style adaptation of the classic tale “Little Red Riding Hood,” written by Prentice Riddle and Susan Gayle Todd.

The story originated years ago, when Riddle was in the habit of telling his children (who are of Indian descent) stories to pass the time on car trips. He'd usually pick an existing story and change it up a little to give it more of an Indian flavor; that's why Little Red wears a chunari (a multi-purpose scarf worn in much of South Asia) rather than a riding hood.

Othello is the latest production by Austin Shakespeare. This version of the classic play is directed by artistic director Ann Ciccolella and stars veteran actor Marc Pouhé in the title role.

It's Pouhé's second time playing Othello in an Austin Shakespeare production. He first played the role in 2005; since then, he's gone through some life changes, not the least of which was a battle with kidney failure. He's healthy now, but the illness kept him off the stage for a few years. Now ready to continue his acting career, Pouhé is playing Othello again, a little older and with a different outlook on life.

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