arts eclectic

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.

Austin's Carnaval celebration began in the mid-70s as a relatively small event held at a Unitarian church. The party-goers that year must have had a good time, because Carnaval quickly became an annual ocurance; it's now in its 37th year and is the second-oldest ongoing annual event in Austin.

The party has moved to different and larger venues several times, and is now taking place at the Palmer Events Center. It's the largest indoor Brazilian Carnaval in the world, and this year will feature music, dancing, food, a parade float, and, as always, elaborate and often revealing costumes.

Pat Jarrett

The latest show from Hidden Room Theater is a version of Hamlet that's different from any version you've probably seen before. Rather than staging the play as it was originally written, the folks at Hidden Room are presenting (stay with me here) a puppet-show version of an English language translation of a 300 year-old, comedic, condensed German version of the play.

That German manuscript, called Der Bestrafte Brudermord, is dated 1710, and has for years been a mystery to Shakespeare scholars. It's definitely a version of Hamlet, but its brevity and rampant slapstick raised questions about how and why it was originally staged.

PrintAustin is a brand-new, month-long event designed to celebrate the art of printmaking and print collecting in Austin. For an inaugural event, PrintAustin is pretty ambitious; it lasts a full month and features dozens of partnering galleries, art spaces, and museums.

There will be exhibitions, demonstrations, artists talks, a print fair and much more over the next few weeks, in locations all over town. Two of the biggest events are The Contemporary Print, a juried exhibition of prints by local artists that will be on display through February 15, and the Flatbed Contemporary Print Fair, featuring local art and demonstrations of the printmaking process.

Twenty-one years ago, when Austin's FronteraFest was new, it was a small fringe theater festival consisting of a mere forty short-form performance pieces. Now, it features twice that many short pieces during its Short Fringe component, and nearly a dozen long-form shows during the Long Fringe.

The Short Fringe is a nightly occurence, with five short pieces every night, a weekly best-of-the-week show on Saturdays, and then a final best-of-the-fest series of shows.

That's close to a hundred performances by dozens of new and veteran artists just in the Short and Long Fringes alone, not counting the Bring Your Own Venue and Mi Casa Es Su Teatro parts of the festival.

The Long Fringe takes place at Salvage Vanguard Theater between January 20 and February 2; the Short Fringe is at Hyde Park Theatre now through February 15; BYOV and Mi Casa shows are at various locations throughout town over the next couple of weeks. For a complete schedule of events, head to the FronteraFest website.

It's been almost a decade since Coldtowne Theater relocated from New Orleans to Austin, and in the years they've been here, they've become one of our city's premiere sources for improvised entertainment. 

Their latest show is Beware of Female Spies, which takes its inspiration not just from the spy genre at large, but from a particular recurring trope within many spy shows and movies, that trope being the highly competent female spy who manages to save the day while her semi-clueless male partner stumbles through the case.

When it was published in 1870, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in Furs was pretty scandalous, but it has remained an enduring part of popular culture in the years since. There have been a handful of film adaptations, a stage play, a Velvet Underground song, and the recently Tony-nominated play Venus in Fur, which is not an adaptation but a new work inspired by the novel.

Written by David Ives, Venus in Fur is a two-actor play about a young writer/director searching for the lead for his play based on the 19th-century erotic novel. When a young actress arrives hours late and unprepared for her audition, he's initially dismissive. But as he gets to know her, she becomes more mysterious and their relationship starts to parallel the themes of the novel.

For the past several years, the people and animals of Circus Chickendog have presented our fair city with their own unique take on Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. In their version, the story is told not through ballet but through animal acts and circus performances. 

In addition to the six starring dogs performers (and a scarlet macaw in the title role), The Mutt-cracker (Sweet!) features a number of human performers, including jugglers, unicyclists, musicians and much more.

Like many people of his generation, actor Chris Gibson grew up with the film "A Christmas Story," and in his younger days, he identified with Ralphie, the BB gun coveting protagonist of the movie. Now, with a few decades of life lessons under his belt, he can see eye-to-eye with The Old Man (Ralphie's dad) a little better.

That works out well for Zach Theater's new stage production of "A Christmas Story," in which Gibson plays The Old Man, alongside veteran actress Meredith McCall as his wife and young Keaton Brandt as Ralphie. In preparing for the role, Gibson avoided any additional viewings of the movie version, in an effort to create an interpretation of The Old Man that's separate and distinct from Darren McGavin's performance.

At this point, the yearly Blue Genie Art Bazaar is an Austin holiday shopping tradition. But it hasn't always been this way. The first bazaar was held thirteen years ago, when an employee remarked that they should try a Christmas show. The folks at Blue Genie decided to give it a try, sold some stuff, and a tradition was born.

Now, the bazaar features works by well over 100 artists and lasts for nearly a month. Open from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm every day through Christmas Eve, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar aims to create an Austin-style holiday shopping experience. All merchandise is handmade by local artists, and in addition to the handmade arts and crafts for sale, there's a bar, occasional live music, and artist talks. 

Every year around this time, musicians, dancers, poets, actors, and more join together to stage Wassail Austin, a truly old-fashioned, family friendly celebration of Christmas and the Winter Solstice. Darrel Mayers is the founder of Wassail Austin, and he created the show to be the sort of thing he wished he'd had when growing up in England -- an all-ages holiday show that combined whimsy with spirituality.

The yearly wassail features medieval music, puppetry, poetry, and more types of entertainment, including a mummer's play, an artform that dates back to pre-Christian times, when the Winter Solstice was celebrated.

2013 is the inaugural season for Austin's Gale Theare Company, and in just a short time, they've already produced two full shows. One of those, Florence, is being staged this month as a site-specific work at Sparky Park.

The multi-media show is inspired by the life of Florence Lawrence, who's widely credited as the first real movie star. Before her, actors in movies usually went unbilled, but when the studio decided to create some publicity by inventing an unlikely and untrue story about Florence, that changed.

For the past several years, a rotating collection of local artists have been gathering together every weekend to sell their wares at the Gibson Street Artisan Market. Located at a South Congress lot just north of Gibson Street, the market features a wide variety of arts and crafts, all handmade locally and usually sold directly by the artists.

You'll find paintings, jewelry, functional art such as pottery and plenty more. Dogs are welcome and there are a couple of food carts on the premises as well, so it's a great place to do a little weekend holiday shopping.

The all-woman improv troupe Girls! Girls! Girls! has been performing improvised musical comedy shows for a decade or so. Typically, their shows will have a full plot, characters and Broadway-style musical numbers, all made up on the spot, but their holiday show this year will be a little different.

Rather than take on character roles, the ladies of Girls! Girls! Girls! will all play themselves (or heightened versions of themselves) in A Very Merry Musical Christmas Special. They'll start things off with some holiday memories, which will spur improvised comedy and songs in a Christmas vein, creating a one-of-a-kind comedic  holiday special.

The play "Steel Magnolias" has been enduringly popular since its Off-Broadway debut in 1987. The comedy-drama features a cast of six women, and one set, the Southern beauty parlor in which the women congregate, gossip, argue, and laugh over the course of several years.

Artistic director Andy Berkovsky chose "Steel Magnolias" as City Theatre's holiday production because of its themes of family and togetherness.

This weekend's Wizard World Austin Comic Con will be a three-day celebration of comic books, science fiction, and pop culture in general. There will be panel discussions, Q&As with artists, actors, and writers, and special appearances by myriad celebrities, including Stan Lee, William Shatner, cast members of Firefly and The Walking Dead, and many, many more.

The con will also feature several local artists, who will display and sell their artworks. Cartoonist Will Rodriguez, of the online and self-published comic Mangled Stare, will be there, pen in hand, sketching convention goers and displaying his wares.

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