arts eclectic

The classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace opens November 22 at the Vortex. The play, by Joseph Kesselring, centers around the Brewster family, which is eccentric to say the least. The clan includes Teddy, who believes he's Theodore Roosevelt and is digging the Panama Canal in the basement; Jonathan, who failed as a doctor but found success as a murderous mafioso; and Martha and Abby, the sweet, elderly aunts who have recently started murdering lonely old men. As the relatively calm center, third brother Mortimer tries keep things together.

The play was written in 1939 and is probably best remembered for its 1941 film version. The version which will open at the Vortex this week is produced by Different Stages, under the direction of Norman Blumensaadt. It stars Jennifer Underwood and Karen Jambon as the Brewster sisters, Tyler Jones at Mortimer, Michael Harlan as Teddy, and Steven Fay as Jonathan.

"Murder Ballad Murder Mystery" began its life several years ago, as a site specific work at the Vortex Theater.

Since then, its creative team decided to form their own production company. And the play's been condensed and made a little more travel-friendly.

The show (as the title implies), is a murder mystery inspired by murder ballads. It will soon hit the road, to be staged in several bars in Austin, as well as stopping at New Orleans and Marfa, Texas.

After listening to the White Stripes' recording of Robert Johnson's "Stop Breaking Down," playwright Kirk Lynn was inspired to try a cover version of his own.

He decided to take on a Shakespeare play. But, reluctant to tamper with one of the greats, he opted to create his own version of what he considered Shakespeare's worst play, "King John."

The Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this weekend. The festival specializes in "disabilty films," which festival coordinator William Greer defines as a film about, starring, or made by a person with a disabilty.

This year, the festival will be headlined by two feature documentaries, "The Crash Reel" and "Getting Up: The Temp One Story." "The Crash Reel" focuses on aspiring Olympic snowboarder Kevin Pearce and his attempts to return to competitive snowboarding after suffering a traumatic brain injury. "Getting Up: The Temp One" Story documents grafiti artist Tempt-One as he learns a new way to practice his art after being paralyzed by the degenerative nerve disorder ALS.

This November, Crank Collective will debut the second of three Texas history musicals. "Alamo Aftermath: A Texas Revolution Operetta" tells the story of Jose Antonio Menchaca in the time between the Alamo and the battle of San Jacinto.

Before people started mispronouncing his name when referring to a street in south Austin, Menchaca was a soldier in the Texas Revolution, a mayor pro tem of San Antonio, and a crusader for the rights of Tejano veterans.

Florian Holzherr

Over the past quarter century or so, renowned artist James Turrell has created dozens of experiential artworks known as Skyspaces around the world. They're rooms designed to give viewers an uncorrupted view of the sky -- just the sky, with no horizons, buildings, or trees visible to get between viewer and sky.

Innocent When You Dream is a one-man show featuring puppets, masks, physical comedy and song which tells the epic but intimate story of one man stuck in a place he never wanted to be. It was written by and stars Zeb West, who was inspired by the characters of Captain  Ahab and Don Quixote. 

He uses those two characters, both larger-than-life and delusional in their own ways, to explore the idea of self honesty and the overcoming of personal despair.

In 1993, artist Sam Coronado founded the non-profit Serie Project to teach and promote fine art serigraphy (or screenprinting) and to bring more attention to Latino artists in Central Texas. In the two decades since, Serie has fostered hundreds of artists, some of them veterans of serigraphy and many of them new to the art form.

For their twentieth anniversary this year, the Serie Project is presenting Serie XX, an exhibition of work by this year's group of artists along with material by project founder Sam Coronado.

This month, Theatre en Bloc is presenting Neil LaBute’s play “Fat Pig” at the Off Center. It’s a unique love story; one that takes a hard look at our cultural attitudes toward weight and beauty. The comedy centers around young professional Tom, who meets and falls in love with Helen, the rare ingenue role written for a plus-sized actress. As written by LaBute, the play makes the audience laugh and then forces them to question why they’re laughing; it’s a romantic comedy that asks its audience to think about the issue at hand.

JoAnna Johnson

In 1656, Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza was the subject of an intense interrogation in his family’s adopted hometown of Amsterdam. At the time, the Inquisition was at full power in Spain and Portugal; the Dutch considered themselves a more tolerant people, and allowed Jews to live in the city, albeit with certain constraints: they weren’t considered citizens but resident aliens, and they were allowed to practice their faith but not to discuss it with Christians.

This weekend, a new art installation will open that will be hard to miss. THIRST, from Women and Their Work, comprises two components: a series of 14,000 prayer flags which will form a 2.5 mile loop near Lady Bird Lake, and a 35-foot cedar elm tree that will hover above the lake itself.

The latest exhibition at Tiny Park Art Space features the work of two artists: painter Joseph Noderer and sculptor Jamie Panzer.

Forklift Danceworks

Over the past several years, Allison Orr's Forklift Danceworks has staged performances featuring, among others, roller skaters, Elvis impersonators, and sanitation workers. The Trash Project, the large-scale performance they produced with the City of Austin Sanitation Department, won multiple awards and was the subject of the documentary film Trash Dance.

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