For now, Austin Opera opts to go without an artistic director

After firing Artistic Director Richard Buckley for alleged misconduct, Austin Opera has opted to go without a leader in that position for the 2018-2019 season.

ALSO SEE: Richard Buckley fired from Austin Opera.

Instead, General Director and CEO Annie Burridge has appointed Tim Myers, most recently artistic and music director of North Carolina Opera, as the Austin outfit’s artistic advisor.

Myers, who has overseen world premieres at top spots such as Houston Grand Opera, will also conduct in Austin the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which reimagines the famous Christmas Eve truce during World War I. Hometown hero Kevin Puts wrote the music.

The European Premiere of Kevin Puts’ ‘Silent Night’ at the Wexford Opera Festival. Contributed

SEE THE SEASON: How Austin Opera got its groove back.

Austin Opera has drafted two other conductors to lead the more traditional operas. Steven White, whose credits span the North American continent, will take over the baton for “La Traviata,” which concludes this season, and “Otello” next season. Peter Bay, music director for the Austin Symphony, comes to the rescue next season for “La Bohème.”

A fifth opera, “Soldier Songs,” by David T. Little, will mix video, rock, opera and theater to tell the stories of veterans of five wars as part of the nontraditional Opera ATX efforts, first tried at the Paramount Theatre.

“We are honored to have Timothy, Steven, and Peter contribute their extraordinary talent to our company,” says Burridge. “In the coming months we will share our plans to select our next permanent artistic leader, and we look forward to engaging our audience and musicians in that process.”

Elgin’s Margo Sawyer wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Margo Sawyer, the Elgin-based artist whose art intersects sculpture and architecture, has won a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation recently announced 173 fellowships (including two joint fellowships) in arts and sciences for 2018. This honor comes with up to $45,000 to support one of the winners’ future projects.

“The Guggenheim Fellowship would allow me time and resources to cultivate designs of spaces transcendent,” Sawyer says. “Public places that foster contemplation.”

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Artist Margo Sawyer. Contributed

RELATED: Contemporary Austin collection to Blanton Museum.

Sawyer, 59, has been on the University of Texas art faculty for 30 years. For decades, she has transformed old brick structures in Elgin into multi-use arts spaces.

She is the niece of Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas and her father was one of the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps in the 1950s. He met her British mother in Accra, Ghana. Her grandfather founded the NAACP in Topeka, Kan. and helped initiate the legal action that became Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation.

Sawyer grew up the  U.S., U.K. and Cameroon. In 1973, her mother took her to Egypt during the Yom Kippur War.

“I was about 15 and it was an experience that made me the sculptor I am today,” Sawyer says. “We were the first and only 17 tourists allowed in the country. I spent 30 minutes alone in Tutankhamun’s tomb — an obsession as with many people ever since. The experience at Abu Simbel, where the monuments are carved into the living rock, a union of sculpture, architecture and painting united, has been my modus operandi all my life.”

Margo floor up
From Margo Sawyer’s recent solo show, ‘Reflect: Reflector,’ at the San Antonio Play House.

She is currently working on a glass colored spiral immersive sculpture for the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo.

“The viewer will be enveloped in a pool of color,” Sawyer says. “I just completed windows for a private chapel and also I’m working on a commission for the University of Houston all with hand-painted glass being made with Franz Mayer of Munich, who did the exquisite windows for Ellsworth Kelly‘s ‘Austin.”’

RELATED: Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ worships light.

Sawyer realizes this is a big turning point during a long career of many achievements, including many works placed in private homes, museum collections and public spaces, along with wide recognition in the Austin arts community, including the Austin Critics Table designation as 2015 Artist of the Year.

“This is an amazing moment for me,” she says. “I have been making sculpture since I was 14 years old, and am honored that I have been a sculptor throughout my life. This year feels transformative and the recognition is monumental, a testament to the personal commitment and belief in the vision I have created.”

 

Memorial concert planned for music school founder Margaret Perry

UPDATE: Admirers of Margaret Perry have announced “A Life in Music: The Margaret Perry Memorial Concert” for 11 a.m. May 25 at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church at 606 W. 15th Street.

MPerryTeachingEmail
Margaret Perry with students at the Armstrong Community Music School. Contributed

Perry died on April 5. She asked for a concert rather than another kind of memorial service; also no photos or speeches. The event, of course, is free and open to the public, and folks will gather for a light lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the concert.

Perry chose the music and the musicians, who include:

Participating Artists:

Shelley Auer

Brett Barnes

Liz Cass

Jessa Cohen

Phil Davidson

Matthew Hinsley

Nora Karakousoglou

Sonja Larson

Paul Matthews

Carla McElhaney

Rick Rowley

Julia Taylor

Participating Organizations:

Austin Chamber Music Center

Austin Classical Guitar

La Follia

Texas Early Music Project

We Are the Chorus

Tanner Walterman

Karen White

ORIGINAL OBIT: Margaret Perry, founder of Austin’s Armstrong Community Music School, died Thursday morning of pancreatic cancer at age 66.

“A phenomenal loss,” said Austin philanthropy leader Mary Herr Tally. “This one hurts.”

In October 2017, Perry stepped down as director of the school, formerly associated with Austin Opera and named for humanitarian James Armstrong, who died last year, after learning of her diagnosis.

RELATED: Benefactor James James Armstrong has died.

“Margaret was an amazing person who took the school to heights James and I never imagined,” said Larry Connelly, Armstrong’s surviving husband. “James was always so proud to have his name associated with such a great organization.”

“Her imprint will be forever on the Armstrong Community Music School, the staff that followed her vision wholeheartedly, and the faculty that shared her mission of service and excellence,” said Rachel McInturff, the director of the school’s finance and administration. “Her wisdom guided many. Her laughter uplifted all. She will be deeply missed.”

Perry originally trained as a harpsichordist and played with various baroque music groups. She served for several years as pianist for Houston Ballet. Although she taught piano privately for decades, she was know to the larger arts community as a lecturer and arts educator. Often when she led the education efforts at Austin Opera, she helped explain the shows before each performance.

Perry served on numerous boards of directors before and after the founding of the Armstrong School in 2000. At the time, it was the only American community music school established by an opera company. She won numerous honors and was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jeff and Gail Kodosky, Laura Walterman, Austin Gleeson and other benefactors have established the Margaret Perry Endowment Fund which has already attracted $200,000 and is managed by the Austin Community Foundation.

A memorial concert at a time to be determined will feature music only, no speeches or photos, followed by a reception.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

Zach Theatre’s next season blazes ahead with new and rekindled shows

Zach Theatre‘s next season includes three new musicals, one musical revival, two new plays and the return of two holiday favorites. Add to that some family options on the Kleberg Stage.

Andrew Rannells played Hedwig in Zach Theatre’s first production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in 2002. He went on to a red-hot Broadway career. Ha Lam/American-Statesman

The list includes:

“Once” (Sept. 19-Oct. 28, The Topfer). It was quite a leap from the screen to the Broadway stage for this intimate story about an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant. But it worked and the stage version won the Tony Award for Best Musical. This will be its first Austin-based staging.

“Notes from the Field” (Feb. 27-March 31, The Kleberg). There are many Anna Deveare Smiths. There’s the TV and movie actor (“Nurse Jackie,” “Blackish,” “Let Me Down Easy”), there’s the documentary playwright (“Fires in the Mirror,” “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992″) and the restless theater artist who has previously done research in Austin. She returns to Zach with a new piece about people caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline.”

“Matilda the Musical” (April 3-May 12, The Topfer). Roald Dahl charmed with his story about the spunky title character. The musical version took that heartwarmer a step further with a rousing cast of singers and dancers. Think “Annie” meets “Billy Elliot.”

“The Ballad of Klook and Vinette” (April 24-May 26, The Kleberg). This world premiere musical comes with an asterisk: Pending final approval. Not sure yet how it’s a world premiere, since it comes with rave reviews from the U.K., but we’ll report as soon as we find out.

“Fire and Air” (June 12-July 14, The Topfer). Terrence McNally is becoming something of a house playwright for Zach Theatre. Texas-born McNally has contributed quite a few plays and musicals to the company past seasons. This is his newest play, based on the history of the Ballets Russes.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (July 31-Sept. 8, The Topfer) Zach was way ahead of its time staging this punkish musical centered around a song stylist who is also the victim of a botched sex-change operation. And its previous staging starred Andrew Rannells, who went on to Broadway’s “Book of Mormon,” “Boys in the Band,” etc. (He also returned to Zach for the opening of the Topfer). Any chance of his return?

HOLIDAY

Zach Theatre’s unique retelling of ‘A Christmas Carol’ returns for the 2018-2019 season. Contributed by Kirk Tuck.

“A Christmas Carol” (Nov. 21-Dec. 20, The Topfer). A special Austin brand of good will suffuses this musical adaptation of the Dickens tale.

“The Santaland Diaries” (Dec. 5-30, The Whisenunt) Some writer at the Statesman called it: “Sardonic tonic for the holidays!”

MOODY FOUNDATION THEATER FOR FAMILIES

“Tortoise and Hare” (Sept 8-Feb. 27, The Kleberg) Allen Robertson and Damon Brown devised this musical version of the ancient fable. It runs for a long time.

“Holiday Heroes” (Nov. 29-Dec. 13) More stage love from Allen Robertson, this time in collaboration with Shuan Wainwright Branigan and Jerome Schoolar.

So how do you obtain season tickets? If you are a subscriber, the deadline to renew your seats is April 15. New subscriptions will go on sale in May. Call 512-476-0541 x1 or go to zachtheatre.org.

 

Austin Symphony posts decisive new season

As Austin Symphony reveals its new season, Music Director Peter Bay talks about a decisive change in direction.

Peter Bay reveals decisive new season for Austin Symphony

“We are just going to play the pieces we ought to play,” Bay said over soup at Zax restaurant. “We got pigeon-holed into season-long themes. Now we will tie each individual concert together by a theme with variations.”

At times in past, Symphony seasons have seemed a bit tentative while trying to please key backers. Not this time out. Among the themed concerts in 2018-2019 season is an evening devoted to rarely performed works by women composers.

“They all would have had great careers,” Bay says of Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger and Fanny Mendelsson,” if being a composer was considered a career for women back then.”

Also on that program is a piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon.

The Symphony will salute the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, perhaps America’s greatest composer, with music from three of his Broadway shows as well as Divertimento for Orchestra.

It will also bring back nonagenarian pianist Leon Fleisher, who for a time lost the use of his right hand, and served as a mentor for Bay as a conductor.

“I owe him a lot,” Bays says. “He helped get my career started.”

The 2017 Texas Young Composers winner by Paul Novak, “On Buoyancy,” will advance to the Masterworks series.

“This is a first,” Bay says. “It deserved to be on the subscription program.”

Given all the tragedies in the news, the Symphony will return to another somber Requiem, this one by Johannes Brahms. Also, protean Robert Faires will reprise part of his one-actor “Henry V” for a Shakespearean program.

A dozen or so of the Masterworks selections are new to the Symphony, which has been keeping records since 1911, although spottily during a couple of decades.

ALSO READ: Archive of programs shine light on Symphony — and city’s — history.

The Austin Symphony’s 2018-2019 season contains some surprises.

And now for the complete 2018-2019 season:

MASTERWORKS I: SEPTEMBER 14/15, 2018

“The Mighty Russians Part III” Season Opener

Lise de la Salle, piano

Glazunov: Carnaval Overture, op. 45

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1in F-sharp minor, Op. 1

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

MASTERWORKS II: OCTOBER 19/20, 2018

“Happy Birthday, Lenny!”

Bernstein/Harmon: Suite from Candide

Bernstein: Divertimento for Orchestra

Bernstein: Selections from On the Town

Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

MASTERWORKS III: NOVEMBER 30/DECEMBER 1, 2018

“Tale of Two Titans”

Orli Shaham, piano

Paul Novak: On Buoyancy (2017 Texas Young Composers winner)

Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

MASTERWORKS IV: JANUARY 11/12, 2019

“Variation Voyage”

Leon Fleisher, piano

Ives/Schuman: Variations on “America”

Dvořák: Symphonic Variations on the Theme “I am a fiddler” for orchestra, Op. 78

Franck: Symphonic Variations, FWV 46

Britten: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34

MASTERWORKS V: FEBRUARY 22/23, 2019

“Brahms’ Requiem”

Conspirare Symphonic Choir

Heather Phillips, soprano

Paul Tipton, baritone

Brahms: Variations on the St. Antoni Chorale, Op. 56a

(Craig Hella Johnson, conductor for Variations)

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

MASTERWORKS VI: MARCH 22/23, 2019

“Creative Expressions” Celebrating Women Composers

Time for Three (Nicolas Kendall, violin; Charles Yang, violin; Ranaan Meyer, double bass)

Michelle Schumann, piano

F. Mendelssohn: Overture in C Major

Boulanger: D’un matin de printemps

C.W. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7

Kaprálová: Suita rustica, Op. 19

Higdon: Concerto 4-3

MASTERWORKS VII: APRIL 12/13, 2019

“Champions of Austria”

William Hagen, violin

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor

MASTERWORKS VIII: MAY 17/18, 2019

“A Shakespearean Evening”

Robert Faires, actor

Chorus Austin

Berlioz: Excerpts from Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17

Walton: Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER POPS SERIES

POPS I: OCTOBER 27, 2018; Dell Hall

“Wizard of Oz” – Film with Orchestra

POPS II: DECEMBER 29/30, 2018; Palmer Events Center

Ella & Louis

With Byron Stripling & Carmen Bradford

POPS III: FEBRUARY 9, 2019; Dell Hall

“Singin’ in the Rain” – Film with Orchestra

POPS IV: MAY 31/JUNE 1, 2019; Palmer Events Center

The Broadway Soprano

Lisa Vroman

SPECIAL EVENTS

OCTOBER 28, 2018; AISD Performing Arts Center

Halloween Children’s Concert

DECEMBER 4, 2018; Hyde Baptist Church

Handel’s Messiah

TBD

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER TEXAS YOUNG COMPOSERS CONCERT

DECEMBER 2019; Austin area

Christmas in the Community

JUNE – AUGUST 2019; Hartman Concert Park

Hartman Concerts in the Park

JULY 4, 2019; Vic Mathias Shores

H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks

 

Your input needed for Texas Medal of Arts Awards

Since 2001, the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group, has been honoring our state’s luminaries through the Texas Medal of Arts. The laurels are bestowed every other year at one of the most glamorous galas in Texas. The most recent one in 2017 at Bass Concert Hall was a blow-out.

John Paul and Eloise DeJoria win a 2017 Texas Medal of Arts Award for their corporate philanthropy with Patron and Paul Mitchell. Contributed.

RELATED: What the arts mean to great Texas artists and patrons.

Now the Trust wants your input.

Send your nominations in by April 5, 2018 for the February 2019 edition of the honors. Categories include architecture, arts education, arts patron (corporate, foundation or individual), dance, design, film, lifetime achievement, literary arts, media/multimedia, music, television, theater and visual arts.

RELATED: Soaking up the glamour of Texas Medal of Arts.

For a complete list of past honorees, go here. The 2017 winners included Eloise and John Paul DeJoria with Paul Mitchell/Patron, Kris Kristofferson, Lynn Wyatt, Lauren Anderson, Yolanda Adams, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Tobin Endowmen, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Leo Villareal, Frank Welch, John Phillip Santos, Scott Pelley and Kenny Rogers.

A record 38 Austin area high school musicals up for awards

A record 38 area schools won nominations for the 2018 Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards, which return to the Long Center for the Performing Arts on April 18.

If you haven’t already heard, this is one of the most entertaining — if overlong — evenings of the season. Not only are songs from nominated shows performed, the nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress sing medleys, and the Long Center Select Ensemble adds its polished skills to still more show tunes. Can there be to many?

RELATED: All rise for Austin high school musicals!

The celebrity emcee this year will be Tyler Mount, who created Playbill’s “The Tyler Mount Vlog.” A graduate of St. Edward’s University and alumnus of Summer Stock Austin at the Long Center, Mount also has performed and produced on Broadway.

RELATED: Look who won the 2017 Austin high school musical awards.

More than 4,000 students participated in the 38 nominated shows.

2018 HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL AWARDS NOMINATIONS

Best Production

Akins High School—Hairspray

Cedar Ridge High School—Grease

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Jack C. Hays High School—The Mystery of Edwin Drood

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Best Direction

Akins High School—Hairspray

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Jack C. Hays High School—The Mystery of Edwin Drood

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Ensemble

Cedar Ridge High School—Grease

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

East View High School—Damn Yankees

Jack C. Hays High School—The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Leander High School—The Addams Family

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Jacob Hensey—Austin High School

Hunter Anderson—Bastrop High School

Evan Vines—Cedar Park High School

Justin Florie—Elgin High School

Brough Cosgrove & Ben Miller—Jack C. Hays High School

Keaton Brandt—McNeil High School

Keaton Pugh—Rouse High School

Nicholas Topfer—St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Stone Mountain—St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sydney LePage—Austin High School

Abigail Holtfort—Cedar Park High School

Katie Haberman—Dripping Springs High School

Erin Swearingen—Jack C. Hays High School

Maddy Sparkes—James Bowie High School

Helena Laing—McCallum Fine Arts Academy

Heidi Wilding—Round Rock High School

Brooke Silverstein—St. Stephen’s Episcopal School

Brittany Young—Vandegrift High School

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Jack White—Cedar Ridge High School

Preston Willis—Dripping Springs High School

Anthony Collins—Lanier High School

Jordan Williams—Leander High School

Zane Sanchez—Liberty Hill High School

Cooper Ward—Round Rock High School

Elliot Esquivel—Rouse High School

Andrew Yow—St. Stephen’s Episcopal School

Ryan Mills—Vista Ridge High School

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Quinn Skarnulis—Anderson High School

Jessica Marcano—Cedar Ridge High School

Emily Warkentin—Dripping Springs High School

Taylor Cooper—Jack C. Hays High School

Riley Sugrue—James Bowie High School

Zoe Gonzalez—Lake Travis High School

Caroline Holmes—Leander High School

Christine Ashbaugh—Marble Falls High School

Lexi Wood—Round Rock High School

Best Featured Performer

Sadie Seddon-Stettler—Anderson High School

Shawn Patterson—Cedar Creek High School

Emily Pesina—Del Valle High School

Cassie Martin—Dripping Springs High School

Noah Wood—East View High School

Krista Hollins—Lanier High School

Sean Hall—LBJ/LASA High School

Jared Brown—Lehman High School

Lucas Boyles—Rouse High School

Catherine Hipolito—Stony Point High School

Darrin Redford—Tom Glenn High School

William Sheriff—Vista Ridge High School

Best Orchestra

Akins High School—Hairspray

James Bowie High School—Mary Poppins

LBJ/LASA High School­—9 to 5 The Musical

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

McNeil High School—The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Scenic Design

Akins High School—Hairspray

Austin High School—Avenue Q School Edition

Del Valle High School—The Addams Family

Elgin High School—Seussical

Lanier High School—Avenue Q School Edition

Leander High School—The Addams Family

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

Best Musical Direction

Cedar Ridge High School—Grease

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

James Bowie High School—Mary Poppins

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Costume Design

Akins High School—Hairspray

David Crockett High School—Heathers (High School Edition)

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Lehman High School—Pippin

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Lighting Design

Akins High School—Hairspray

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Hendrickson High School—Heathers (High School Edition)

Lake Travis High School—The Wedding Singer

Lanier High School—Avenue Q School Edition

Marble Falls High School—Guys and Dolls

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

Best Technical Execution

Bastrop High School—Little Shop of Horrors

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

East View High School—Damn Yankees

James Bowie High School—Mary Poppins

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

 

 

 

 

Former Austinite Harvey Schmidt of ‘Fantasticks’ fame has died

We just read that Harvey Schmidt, co-creator of “The Fantasticks,” the longest running musical in history, has died at age 88.

The 2010 cast of ‘The Fantasticks” at the University of Texas. Contributed by Lauren Tarbel

The last time we chatted with Schmidt, a former Austinite who attended the University of Texas, he was in town in 2010 with his lyricist, Tom Jones, to toast the 50th anniversary of his hit, which ran for nearly 42 years at the 153-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village — 17,162 performances! — before closing in 2002. It returned in 2006 at the Theater Center and ran until its New York total since 1960 reached 21,552.

Word Baker, who directed the show, also attended UT.

In Austin during the 1950s, Schmidt and Jones were part of the Curtain Club, the extracurricular drama group started by critic and scholar Stark Young in 1907. Both “The Fantasticks” and their much less successful “Celebration” relied heavily on their theater historical training at UT.

Harvey Schmidt. Contributed by Photofest

Two more of their best remembered Broadway shows were “I Do! I Do!,” a two-actor musical about love and marriage that was mostly a showcase for Mary Martin and Robert Preston, and “110 in the Shade,” based on “The Rainmaker.” Their major musicals have been revived here periodically. More evidence hometown loyalty: The Paramount Theatre was one of the few in the country that ever exhibited the ill-fated 1995 movie adaptation of “The Fantasticks.”

Here’s a snip from something I wrote back in 2010 before the UT event: So just how did “The Fantasticks” get its start in Austin? The composing pair closely studied the source material, Edmund Rostand‘s “Les Romanesques,” with (UT professor and director) B. Iden Payne and witnessed multiple student versions of the story about parents who bring their children together by pretending to keep them apart. They collaborated on deliriously popular student revues at UT and creative projects in New York before “The Fantasticks” took off, boosting the careers of Jerry Orbach, Robert Goulet, Glenn Close, Rita Gardner, Richard Chamberlain, George Chakiris, John Davidson and others. (The book to read is “The Amazing Story of The Fantasticks: America’s Longest Running Play” by Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas.)

This is what I wrote afterwards: We witnessed history. Oct. 15, on the first night of the University Texas’ celebration of the 50th Anniversary of “The Fantasticks,” a perky set of undergraduates performed a sharply contoured revue of songs by Texas exes Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. The portfolio included fewer than two dozen from the composing team’s 1,000+ songs, written over the course of 60 years. Yet it polished up rare gems, like alternative versions of the “I Do! I Do!” title song and the duo’s work as UT students and cabaret composers during the 1950s.

At the end of the show, Schmidt and Jones, now in their eighties, met at the piano. They sang four short songs, but — oh! — it was well worth witnessing the composers of America’s longest running play jazzing it up for the crowd. Two instant hits were “Mr. Off-Broadway,” their self-descriptive salute to the movement they helped popularize, and “Freshman Song,” the first they ever wrote together, 60 years ago for a wildly popular UT student review. How many can say they have witnessed the crowning of such a career at one’s alma mater?

The song’s shy, hopeful lyrics set loose the waterworks for the assembled guests, mostly alumni who packed the weekend of performances, panels and parties. The subsequent reception outside the Brockett Theatre was like old home week for seven decades of theater and dance students.

The eldest member of the Curtain Club — which predated the drama department — spoke of joining in the early 1940s. She was the picture of grace and eloquence.

The next morning, UT playwright Steven Dietz delivered a philosophical keynote speech about theater preparing us “to be.” Texas Performing Arts director Kathy Panoff, with help from music director Lyn Koenning, interviewed Schmidt and Jones for a delightful hour of anecdotes and reminiscences. Both Texans retain a ready wit and literate array of references.

Playwright Kirk Lynn and arts editor Robert Faires then led a discussion of how new work changes theater, dance and training. The panel linked choreographer Kitty McNamee, playwrights Robert Schenkkan, Kim Peter Kovac and Carson Kreitzer. They made a convincing case for the act of making something from nothing.

Costume designer Susan Mickey helped me corral a raucous crew of talents: Bruce McGill (“Animal House,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance”); Todd Lowe (“Gilmore Girls,” “True Blood”); and Brian Danner (Los Angeles fight director). We discussed whether a university arts education was worth nothing – or everything. Other talks and demonstrations honeycombed the Winship Building before a performance of “The Fantasticks.”

 

New Austin subscribers must wait for ‘Hamilton’ season tickets

Broadway in Austin has paused its acceptance of new subscribers for the 2018-2019 season that includes the smash musical “Hamilton.” Current subscribers to the 2017-2018 season can still renew their seats through March 27.

New subscribers to the Texas Performing Arts series can sign up for the waiting list to be notified if additional season tickets become available.

Michael Luwoye and Isaiah Johnson in the ‘Hamilton’ national tour. Contributed by Joan Marcus

This pause is unprecedented in the history of touring shows at the University of Texas’ Bass Concert Hall. Demand must be incredibly high.

UPDATE 11:26 a.m. Feb. 28:

“We’ve heard no complaints or frustrations from customers so far,” says Broadway in Austin spokeswoman Amy Layton. “The numbers on the waiting list for new subscriptions, however, are on the rise.”

Layton said that this situation has happened in other markets where “Hamilton” was on the season list.

“Current season ticket holders’ seats are held,” she says about those with 2017-2018 season subscriptions. “We have not given any of them away. Current subscribers have until March 27 to renew.”

Layton also said that because the touring route is already locked in, it’s highly unlikely that any new performances would be added in Austin. That can happen in markets where hits such as “Hamilton” can “sit down” at one theater for a long time, places such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto.

Get your ‘Hamilton’ tickets for Austin right now

[cmg_anvato video=”3965915″]

UPDATE 8:57 a.m. Feb. 28: Broadway in Austin has paused its acceptance of new subscribers for the 2018-2019 season that includes the smash musical “Hamilton.” Current subscribers to the 2017-2018 season can still renew their seats through March 27.

New subscribers to the Texas Performing Arts series can sign up for the waiting list to be notified if additional season tickets become available.

This pause is quite unusual, perhaps unprecedented in the history of touring shows at the University of Texas’ Bass Concert Hall. Demand must be incredibly high.

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At last you have permission to order those “Hamilton” tickets for the once-in-a-generation musical that will stop in Austin at Bass Concert Hall for three weeks in 2019.

Michael Luwoye and Isaiah Johnson in the ‘Hamilton’ national tour. Contributed by Joan Marcus

The happy catch? To secure those tickets beginning at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 when the Broadway in Austin call center opens, you must subscribe to the whole 2018-2019 season, presented by Texas Performing Arts at Bass Concert Hall. That means six other shows, including one comedy, three relatively new musicals and two long-running Broadway standards. Single tickets to “Hamilton” and the other shows will go on sale at a later date.

Yet let’s start with “Hamilton,” which plays May 28-June 16, 2019, at the very end of the coming season.

RELATED: Broadway smash ‘Hamilton’ coming to Austin in 2018-2019 season

“We have been building up to this season since ‘Hamilton’ opened on Broadway,” says Kathy Panoff, Texas Performing Arts director and associate dean of the University of Texas School of Fine Arts. “We’re thrilled it’s finally coming to Austin.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda reinvented the musical theater form with this ferociously smart show about Alexander Hamilton, inspired by Ron Chernow’s best-selling biography. Using a range of musical styles in a sung- and rapped-through score — as well as mostly nonwhite actors, who give every old idea new meaning — the show opened on Broadway in 2015. It has been sold out ever since, and individual tickets can go for hundreds of dollars.

Yet season ticket prices for all seven Broadway in Austin selections, including “Hamilton,” start as low as $224.

While you are holding your breath for the Great Arrival, six other shows wait in the Bass Concert Hall queue.

Alex Mandell and Amelia McClain in the ‘The Play That Goes Wrong,’ the only nonmusical in the Broadway in Austin season. Contributed by Jeremy Daniel.

The one comedy — a rare nonmusical for Broadway in Austin — is “The Play That Goes Wrong,” a British product that has been compared to the backstage farce “Noises Off.” In this show, things go disastrously wrong during the opening night of a play called “The Murder at Havensham Manor,” proving that theatrical life is often the theater’s most effective subject. It lands Oct. 23-28, 2018.

Among the new musicals, “Love Never Dies” is an Andrew Lloyd Webber tuner billed as a sequel to his mega-hit, “The Phantom of the Opera.” Lloyd Webber, however, once said: “I don’t regard this as a sequel — it’s a stand-alone piece.” He later clarified his remarks, saying that of course it is a sequel, but you need not have seen “Phantom” to understand it. Fair enough. It stumbled during its original London run but was embraced in Australia. “Love” tarries Nov. 27-Dec. 2, 2018.

‘Waitress’ is based on a charming indie movie. The musical has run on Broadway for two years. Contributed

Another new musical, “Waitress,” was inspired by the charming 2007 independent movie by the same name and features an admired score by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, who currently stars in the New York cast. The musical version of “Waitress” opened on Broadway in 2016 and is still running, which is a feat for a relatively quiet, personal show. It tells of a cafe server stuck in an unhappy marriage who is pregnant and having an affair and who seeks redemption through a pie contest. It takes your orders Jan. 22-27, 2019.

Before becoming a Broadway musical, ‘Anastasia’ was a book, play, film and animated movie. Contributed

“Anastasia,” the third new musical, shares an Austin connection. Local arts backers Marc and Carolyn Seriff are among the credited producers. The 2017 musical is based on the 1997 animated film — itself inspired by plays and novels about the recovery of a possibly lost Russian princess — and many of its fans remain loyal from that experience. It received lukewarm notices in New York, but, based on its built-in appeal, the producers immediately announced a worldwide tour. It appears Feb. 12-17, 2019.

The older musicals need no introductions. “Fiddler on the Roof,” the 1964 Bock and Harnick classic based on shtetl life, brings back Jewish traditions and indelible songs April 2-7, 2019. The musical focuses on Tevye, a dairyman with five daughters who must deal with changing cultural norms as well as the expulsion of the Jews by the Czar’s forces.

The record-breaking show comes to Austin by way of a fresh production from director Bartlett Sher.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s indestructible “Cats,” which debuted on Broadway in 1982 and then ran 18 years, shows up on our collective doorsteps again May 7-12, 2019. You either hate or love this show based on T.S. Eliot poems about feline life and afterlife. There’s no denying that tunes such as “Memory” are hard to pry from your mind. Whether you cotton to the furry costumes, circus makeup and undulating choreography is a matter of personal preference.

How to land tickets to ‘Hamilton’ and more

The seven-show Lexus Broadway in Austin 2018-19 season subscriptions go on sale starting at 11 a.m. Feb. 20. Prices start as low as $224. Visit broadwayinaustin.com or call Broadway in Austin at 800-731-7469 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The deadline for current season subscribers to renew their seats is March 27. Groups of 10 or more may request reservations by calling 877-275-3804 or via email at Austin.Groups@BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com. Individual show ticket sales will be announced at a later date.