Teatro Vivo starts new chapter


After leading one of the state’s top bilingual theater companies for more than 15 years, Teatro Vivo co-founders Rupert Reyes and JoAnn Carreón Reyesofficially stepped down last week from their artistic and executive director roles, paving the way for new era in Austin’s Latino theater scene.

Rupert Reyes and JoAnn Carreón Reyes will now serve as advisers for Teatro Vivo.

“It’s been a real labor of love and we’re happy to see the work continue (under new leadership),” Carreón Reyes, 62, said.

In a transition celebration last week, the couple, who have been married for more than 40 years, officially handed the reins to longtime Teatro Vivo actor and board member Mario A. Ramírez.

“It’s a scary but welcome challenge,” Ramírez, 36, said. “We want to keep that feeling of community and familia that JoAnn and Rupert have built for the past 17 years, and I feel confident about moving forward and upward.”

The co-founders will continue to serve as advisers and ambassadors for the award-winning company, which produces culturally relevant theater exploring everything from Latino identity to contemporary social issues.

Rupert Reyes and Carreón Reyes have been involved in theater since the mid-1970s as University of Texas students. In 2000, they founded Teatro Vivo to “build bridges of understanding,” Carreón Reyes said. “We wanted to tell stories about the human condition that happen to be set in Latino families or Tejano situations but translate across cultures.” …

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This is a part of  Nancy Flores’ story about the departure of the founders from Teatro Vivo.

How Zach Theatre tackled LBJ and ‘The Great Society’



Steve Vinovich as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan’s “All the Way” at Zach Theatre. Vinovich also plays the late president in the second outing, “The Great Society.” Contributed by Kirk Tuck

It is clear that no couple has made a greater impact on Central Texas over the long run than Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.

From his role in taming in the Colorado River to his scores of national triumphs and tragedies — that reverberated back home — LBJ looms large in local memory. From her environmentalism to her wide-ranging philanthropy, Lady Bird also helped shape this city and its ways of thinking.

With that in mind, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, who grew up in LBJ’s long Austin shadow, wrote a two-part stage epic about the president. The first installment, “All the Way,” won Tony Awards on Broadway for Schenkkan and for star Bryan Cranston before receiving lauded treatment on HBO.

In 2015, Zach Theatre produced a critically acclaimed version of “All the Way” with actor Steve Vinovich, Cranston’s Broadway understudy, in the lead role. He returns under the direction of Dave Steakley in the second part, “The Great Society,” which begins previews on Jan. 25.

We sat down with Steakley at a South Austin coffee shop to discuss the great, flawed man and his permanent influence on Austin. …

We’re starting to bring the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This is part of  story about Zach Theatre’s rendition of “The Great Society.”

RELATED REVIEW: “The Great Society” speaks powerfully to today through the politics of yesterday.

Austin Opera unrolls next season

First out of the performing arts gate for the 2017-2018 season is Austin Opera.

While its current show, “Daughter of the Regiment,” gears up for a second weekend, we can look forward to three treats next go round.

RELATED: Austin Opera’s general director turns to Big Data to engage audiences.

We’re not promising that Austin Opera’s “Carmen” will look anything like this Australian outing. Contributed.

Next in January and February is a much rarer gem, Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos,” appearing for the first time in Austin as far as I can determine.

Finally, Austin Opera returns to the best-loved list with Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” in fact, the most popular  opera, accredited in Operabase from the same reporting period (2009-2015).

Mexic-Arte murals aim to boost Latino presence, patrons


She’s Wonder Woman like you’ve never seen her before, with the words “peace,” “justice” and “respect” tattooed in Spanish on her forearm, chest and arm.

The latest Fifth Street wall mural at Mexic-Arte features a Latina Wonder Woman with an environmental edge who gives passers-by tips on how to use less oil. Street artist Eleanor Herasimchuk, also known as Niz, is among the local artists who are part of the Mexic-Arte Museum’s El Mero Muro mural project. (Contributed by Sixto Juan Zavala)

The reimagined superhero, brought to life by stencil artist Eleanor Herasimchuk (better known as Niz), fiercely watches over downtown Austin from the Fifth Street and Congress Avenue wall on which she’s been painted.

Herasimchuk’s take on Wonder Woman is part of a new round of innovative, bilingual murals featured on Mexic-Arte Museum’s Fifth Street wall project called El Mero Muro. Museum officials expect to unveil at least seven new murals throughout the year aimed at boosting the Latino presence downtown and attracting new patrons after a 2015 report by market research firm Contemporanea found that many Latinos felt that museums across the country felt unfriendly, uninviting and expensive.

“While museums are broadly acknowledged as educational institutions, the personal relevance and importance of these institutions has not been established for many Latinos surveyed,” according to the report.

With a prominent Fifth Street wall that, according to Mexic-Arte, catches the eye of more than 35,000 drivers each day, the cultural arts museum knew it had a unique opportunity to address some of the report’s findings in a highly visible way.

“People say that downtowns are the living room of a community,” said Sylvia Orozco, the museum’s executive director. “We all need to feel welcome when we’re in the living room. People need to know that this is a place for them, and if they come in they’ll see and connect even more.” …

We’re starting to bring the Austin Arts blog up to date with recent and still relevant arts stories.

This is part of Nancy Flores’ article on graffiti at Mexic-Arte Museum.

Katherine Catmull story plays out on your phone


Although some people grouse that text messaging is an impersonal way of talking to others, esteemed local playwright Steve Moore thinks the truth is a little more nuanced.

The new text-message-based story from Physical Plant Theater features surreal photographs from photographer Annie Gunn.

“Oddly, I think we talk less but communicate more — more frequently but also more complexly,” he tells me via text. “I think most people get to be funnier, smarter and more sincere over text than they can typically be in person.”

Case in point as we swap messages back and forth: I feel at ease chatting through a medium that lets me think through a response before sending it. It doesn’t feel strange to send a near-complete stranger an emoji, either, which expresses my point more succinctly than words ever can.

The peculiar dichotomy of text message as simultaneously intimate and impartial is again at the center of one of Moore’s projects. His curiosity about the distinctly 21st-century mode of communication inspired him to create a play in 2014 that unfolded entirely over text messages. Called “Computer Simulation of the Ocean,” the six-month-long endeavor was a big departure from the usual theater pieces he’s done for the past couple of decades. It didn’t need a set, a stage or actors.

Moore is at it once more, but with “Sister of Shattering Glass” he’s hoping to attract a younger audience — exactly the sort of people who might not find it strange to receive a story incrementally on their phones. To pull in that age group, he reached out to young adult novelist and local actress Katherine Catmull, who’s written a couple of fantasy books grounded in magical realism. She created the story based on young characters from one of her novels. …

Starting to bring Austin Arts blog up to date with recent and still relevant arts stories.

This is a sample from Arianna Auber’s story about a play sent through text messages.

Ballet Austin explores love, death and sex


The studio lights gleam brightly, yet an aura of darkness pervades.

Edward Carr (Beast) and Michelle Thompson (Belle) in “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast.” Contributed by Tony Spielberg

Pairs of dancers in rehearsal togs curl, loop and tangle around each other. They mirror each other’s movements, often in distorted, unsettlingly beautiful ways. Everywhere in the music, in the action, in the faces of the performers, one registers a sense of foreboding.

Stephen Mills is never far from the essential flesh and blood of a ballet.

“Dance, to me, is about life,” says Ballet Austin’s artistic director. “And life is about love and death and sex. These are the things that are interesting in life. How you come into the world; how you live in the world; and how you leave the world.”

All these elements are abundantly on display during a practice for the second iteration of “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast,” to be revived Friday through Sunday at the Long Center.

Although Mills has ushered more than 50 new dances into the world — and many of those have taken on lives of their own in subsequent stagings — he finds “Belle Redux” among the most haunting.

Starting to bring Austin Arts blog up to date with recent and still relevant arts stories.

Here’s a peek at piece on Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux.”

A new museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton

Here’s a taste of Sunday’s story about the seismic shifts at the Blanton Museum of Art.

This large piece by Nigerian artist El Anatsui is two-sided. Viewers will now be treated to the previously unshown side. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art

Stop. Look.

Now look closer.

That is what the Blanton Museum of Art urges you do after five years spent reimagining, planning and executing a complete rehang of the permanent collection at the 10-year-old University of Texas spot, beloved by locals, tourists and students alike.

Walking around the museum’s second floor in preparation for the official unveiling on Feb. 11 (gala) and Feb. 12 (general public), one notices that there is more art (almost twice as many pieces), a new emphasis on the collection’s strengths (works on paper, etc.), better routing (fewer pass-through corridors), a few rarely exhibited pieces (discovered in the vaults), more coherent groupings and explanations (in English and Spanish), completely new galleries (including ones dedicated to video, plus Pre-Columbian and Colonial Latin American), strikingly colorful wall tinting (to set off the Old Master paintings), more art in public spaces (jazzing them up) and a new focus on engaging each work of art.

“We have a new museum in Austin,” proclaims Director Simone Wicha. “I wanted the Blanton’s experience to represent the personality we embody at the museum — energetic, smart, fun, friendly, curious, sophisticated and collaborative. My challenge to the team was for us to reconsider the museum in a way that was more visually arresting, more thought-provoking and nationally innovative.”