The organized arts and humanities generally don’t save lives directly during emergency situations. Yet they save our culture — our shared memory — over the long run. Here are some ways the state and national communities are responding to Harvey and where the help will be most needed.
The National Endowment for the Arts is working with the Texas Commission on the Arts to assess the situation. NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu: “As the current situation stabilizes, the NEA is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”
The Texas Library Association and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working to coordinate a response for the affected library community.
While some smaller arts facilities have been devastated on the coast (see image from Rockport), the massive Houston Theatre District has sustained enormous damage, as it has in previous storms (much of it was built underground not far from Buffalo Bayou).
At the Alley Theatre, the small Neuhaus Theatre and its lobby were flooded. The same spaces were severely beat up during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
The Wortham Theatre Center, where Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet perform, took water on the Brown Theatre stage and out front of the house. The basement with its costume and prop storage, however, was totally flooded.
On the other hand, the Hobby Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, came off relatively unscathed, although the parking garages were inundated.
Kele Roberson, who studied at Austin’s Dance Institute and the Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts, deferred a $25,000 scholarship to the Juilliard School in order to join the Royal Ballet School in London. This program funnels some dancers into one of the top ballet companies in the world and is quite an opportunity for Roberson, who gave an interview on the subject to Jennifer Stahl for Dance Magazine.
“I only had to watch a deep plié before writing down a 10 out of 10 on his score sheet and scribbling a giant star next to his name,” Stahl says of Roberson’s audition for the New York City Dance Alliance‘s college scholarship program. “Before he even had a chance to show off his incredible lines, I was mesmerized by his nuanced grace in even the simplest of movements.”
Roberson, who started studying ballet at age 11 and completed a summer program with the Royal Ballet, still might attend Juilliard later.
“As of right now, that’s the plan. Juilliard’s always been a dream,” he told Stahl “I graduated a year ahead (I’m still 17) so I decided to take this year at The Royal to perfect what I can in terms of technique, and hope to audition for Juilliard next year…”
News of his coup spread quickly on social media.
“What a phenomenal artist already!” says dancer Andrea Williams. “I’m going to miss seeing him dance everyday but I’m so glad he’s going to the Royal Ballet!”
Forklift Danceworks, which recently finished the first round of its “My Park, My Pool, My City” performances at Bartholomew Pool, is hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 22, at Gather, 5540 N. Lamar Blvd., that is inspired by the famed NYC club, Studio 54. (Note, this event was postponed in August due to Harvey but now has a new date — Sept. 22.)
Studio 54klift dance party takes place from 8 p.m. to midnight, and it starts with a VIP hour with music by DJ Triple C, appetizers and signature cocktails by Steven Robbins of Half Step.
At 9 p.m., the general admission party starts with MC Tigre Liu, music by DJ Mahaelani, a silent auction and raffle and an open bar with late night snacks. VIP tickets cost $100, and general admission costs $75, and all the money goes to supporting Forklift’s programs, which are free and open to the public. You can buy tickets and find out more here.
Only two Austin theatrical performances this year have sent me into the streets singing, nay, shouting the praises of a performer. Both are relative newcomers to the scene, but if there’s any justice, they won’t ever become strangers.
The first was Chanel‘s profoundly inspired take on Billie Holiday in Zach Theatre‘s “Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill.” How many times I’ve turned over in my memory her point-on patter, unvarnished vulnerability, ravishing voice and total embrace of the audience.
The second was Trinity Adams as Annie Oakley in Summer Stuck Austin‘s “Annie Get Your Gun,” currently running at the Long Center. Just 17, Adams is an award-winning actor who recently graduated from Dripping Springs High School.
Hey, Dripping, do you know what ya got in this gal?
The minute Adams bounded onto the stage at the Rollins Studio Theatre, the room just expanded exponentially to take in her radiance. Not that everything she did in the Irving Berlin classic was big and grand, no, she electrified the audience with slightest grin or aside.
As my theater companion, Suzie Harriman, pointed out, she’s like Broadway star Sutton Foster. No matter where she is in director Scott Thompson‘s stage-filling production — you won’t believe how well these kids dance! — your eyes are drawn to Adams.
She was capably complemented by Max Corney and a host of other troupers. Almost all of them also appear in “Spamalot,” a wonderfully cute Summer Stock musical directed by Ginger Morris. In that show, I was particularly taken with Lydia Kam, Ben Roberts, Michael Morran, Coy Branscum and Matthew Kennedy.
But why kid? All the the Summer Stock players are talented. Adams, however, at this precious theatrical moment, shines like the brightest stars in the heavens.
With some exceptions, arts and other cultural groups — we include major literary and historical outlets — don’t return to full form until September.
Yet now’s the time for all arts groups to confirm their seasonal slates and for all readers to consider purchasing season tickets.
In fact, for some high-demand groups, if you haven’t secured your 2017-2018 subscriptions already, you’re stuck with angling for single slots.
For instance, galvanized by the chance to secure tickets for the matchless musical, “Hamilton,” in the 2018-2019 season, more than 3,000 new subscribers have signed on for Broadway in Austin’s 2017-2018 offerings.
Now, some groups don’t operate on the traditional season system, rolling out one show at a time. Others split up their seasons. For instance, the Long Center for the Performing Arts won’t announce its Winter/Spring slate until September.
We respect that. What will follow soon in these pages is a list of shows that we could discover with relative ease in July. We’ll add others to digital extensions on the Austin Arts blog when they arrive.
A picture of Austin’s fall arts season is falling into place. The latest booking news is from the Long Center for the Performing Aarts. We rearranged, condensed and edited for style their fine descriptions of the following.
Notice that the fall season begins in July. Why not? We only wish the weather would comply.
Also, there’s a lot of other offerings, including Summer Stock Austin, at the center that aren’t part of this season package, so stay alert.
Coinciding with the newly released “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and Nintendo’s new Switch, this returns to the Long Center stage on July 7 for one performance only. Now in its fourth season and featuring new music and video, the concert comes to life with a 66-piece orchestra, 24-person choir.
Austin native Carrie Rodriguez is a fiddle playing singer songwriter who approaches her country-blues sound with an “Ameri-Chicana” attitude. Her latest release, “Lola,” takes her back to her ranchera musical roots and was hailed as the “perfect bicultural album” by NPR’s Felix Contreras.
Hailed by Rolling Stone Magazine as “a genre unto herself,” composer, guitarist, and recording artist Kaki King performs her latest work — a simultaneous homage and deep exploration of her instrument of choice. In this bold new multi-media performance, Kaki deconstructs the guitar’s boundaries as projection mapping explores texture, nature, and creation.
Part coming-of-age story and part divine commentary, Terrence Malick’s star-studded and slow-burning art film, “The Tree of Life,” sparked a dialogue within the industry about memory, the meaning of life, and the role that film can play in representing those ideas. Screening with live score performed by Austin Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Austin.
John William’s legendary “Star Wars” score didn’t just enhance a great story, it gave life to an entire galaxy. From “Binary Sunset” to the “Imperial March,” the themes of “A New Hope” ushered in a renaissance of film music, the likes of which Hollywood had never seen before. A special screening with live score performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
This lights up the stage in this premiere live production packed with show-stopping performances featuring the Shoppies and Shopkins characters taking the stage with an all-new storyline, music, and videos. Join Jessicake, Bubbleisha, Peppa-Mint, Rainbow Kate, Cocolette, and Polli Polish as they perform the coolest dance moves, sing the latest pop songs, and prepare for Shopville’s annual “Funtastic Food and Fashion Fair.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, Maureen Dowd, and award-winning author and the Times’ Chief Washington Correspondent, Carl Hulse, will examine the state of the nation one year following the most divisive presidential election in American history. Join us for an evening of incisive dialogue as Dowd and Hulse discuss how we got here and what lies ahead.
Bring the family and join us on the City Terrace and take some time out of the busiest holiday of the year to celebrate the season. Bring the kids for a free photo with Santa and enjoy holiday treats, activities and entertainment, all overlooking the best view in Austin!
The favorite TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage in this beloved adaptation. Come see all of your favorite characters from the special including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, and of course, Rudolph brought to life.
Composer and bandleader, Graham Reynolds, along with some of Austin’s best musicians wreak musical havoc with an explosive set of holiday favorites. By playing most of them in a minor key, Reynolds and his band bring a new perspective to these season standards.
After a smash-hit Broadway run garnering three Tony-Award nominations including Best Musical, this Christmas classic returns for another year. Based on the perennial holiday movie favorite, the story takes place in 1940s Indiana, where a bespectacled boy named Ralphie wants only one thing for Christmas: an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot range Model Air Rifle.
The National Endowment for the Arts today announced almost $83 million in grants nationwide.
Of that, $2.5 million went to Texas. Almost $1 million of that was given to the Texas Commission on the Arts to pass along to artists and arts groups statewide. In fact, of the $83 million that the NEA handed out today, almost $51 million went to its state partners like the Commission.
Austin’s share of the NEA grants is distorted by the fact that the Texas Commission is located in the city but benefits artists statewide. Some of that will be spent here, but we don’t know yet how much.
Interestingly, the $100,000 that Austin’s Creative Action garnered was for a partnershiip with Six Square, a group that seeks to preserve and promote the historical and cultural legacy of African-American in East Austin. Six Square is a designated Texas Cultural Arts District, but the state legislature declined to fund $5 million for the more than 30 such districts statewide.
Unless I’m missing something, these are the Austin beneficiaries:
Forklift Danceworks: $40,000 (in two grants)
Austin Chamber Music Center: $20,000
Austin Classical Guitar: $55,000
Austin School District: $100,000
Big Medium: $20,000
Austin Cultural Arts Division: $50,000
Creative Action: $100,000
Texas Folklife: $35,000*
*UPDATE: Texas Folklife received an additional $38,000 grant for its statewide work.
The Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony was long. Very long. A record four hours at Cap City Comedy Club.
Yet the 25th anniversary celebration of all things arts might have been the best one ever. Because every minute was a warm, loving, slightly boozy embrace between artists and the writers who cover them.
I loved every tribute from the critics and (almost) every enthusiastic and authentic acceptance speech. (Why do some people choose a moment of honor to be mean?) Bonus: a witty proclamation from Austin Mayor Steve Adler for the occasion
Some people — well, a lot of people — left early. But then they missed the best acceptance speech of the evening, given by Christine Hoang, who shared the David Mark Cohen New Play Award with Lisa Thompson, and who talked about how each word from her reviews reduced her “imposter anxiety,” and whose bilingual play, “A Girl Named Sue,” represented a social and cultural leap for the descendants of Vietnamese refugees and their families.
The big news, however, was the expansion of the Critics Table to 20 members including web-based writers, a move I’ve strongly supported for years. The Table began with just five of us newspapermen, sole survivor Robert Faires reminded us — I no longer vote — and over the years has included more than 50 writers.
AUSTIN CRITCS TABLE AWARDS 2016-2017
W.H. “Deacon” Crain Award for Student Work: Madison Williams, Emily Ott
Lighting Design: Jason Amato (“Atlantis: A Puppet Opera”), Patrick Anthony (“A Perfect Robot,” “Old Times”)
Group Gallery Exhibition: “The First Horizons of Juno: Christina Coleman, Jane Hugentober, Candice Lin, Karen Lofgren, Christine Rebet, Alice Wang and Chantal Wnuk,” Mass Gallery
Museum Exhibition: “Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser,” Blanton Museum of Art
Singer: Donnie Ray Albert (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “I Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes”), Liz Cass (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance”), David Adam Moore (“The Manchurian Candidate”), Paul Sanchez (“Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” “A Christmas Carol”)
Chamber Performance: “I, Too: The Voices of Langston Hughes,” Living Paper Song Project
Original Composition/Score: “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance,” Graham Reynolds & Lagartijas Tirades al Sol
Scenic Design: Chris Conard (“Totalitarians,” “The Drowning Girls”), Desiderio Roybal (“Clybourn Park,” “The Price,” “The Herd”)
Short Work, Dance: “Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” Jennifer Hart
Solo Gallery Exhibition: “Tammie Rubin: Before I Knew You, I Missed You,” De Stijl Podium for Art
Artist: Deborah Roberts
Costume Design: Susan Branch Towne (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”)
Dancer: Alexa Caparedo (“Tikling(bird),” “Loose Gravel”), Amy Morrow (“Hiraeth,” “We’ve Been Here Before”)
Dance Concert: “Las Cuatro Estaciones: A Story of Human Trees,” Sharon Marroquin, produced by Latino Art Residency Project, Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center
Choreographer: Lisa Nicks, “Dear Johnny, in Response to Your Last Letter”
Digital Design: Greg Emetaz, “The Manchurian Candidate”
David Mark Cohen New Play Award: “A Girl Named Sue” (Christine Hoang), “Underground” (Lisa Thompson)
Ensemble, Theater: “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe,” Doctuh Mistah Productions
Actor: Liz Beckham (“Lungs,” Neva,” “Clybourne Park), Chase Brewer (“Hand to God”), Michael Joplin (“Lungs”), Amber Quick (“One Man, Two Guv’nors,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Herd”)
Production, Theater: Clybourne Park (Penfold Theatre), “The Drowning Girls” (Theatre en Bloc), “The Great Society (Zach Theatre)
Special Citations: Luis Armando Ortiz Gutierrez, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Andrea Ariel, Babs George, “Rambunctious,” Jennifer Sherburn for “11:11,” Theatre Synesthesia, Sandy Yamamoto, “Thr3e Zisters,” Amy Downing.
Austin Arts Hall of Fame: Katherine Brimberry and Mark L. Smith, Zell Miller III, Kate Warren
UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Faires for correcting some embarrassing typos in names banged out quickly this morning.
If you missed the short history of the Austin Critics Table Awards written by Monica Maldonado Williams of Giving City andpublished in Sunday’s American-Statesman, below find a snippet. The free awards ceremony returns 7 p.m. June 5 at Cap City Comedy Club.
“While almost all Austin arts organizations operate as nonprofits, the caliber of the art has become more professional and innovative, said co-founder Robert Faires. To reflect the range of art, this year’s Critics Table judges have adjusted the categories to make them less theater-heavy.
“There’s more diversity among the artists and the art forms in Austin, but this is not just a participation award,” said David Wyatt, a long-time volunteer for the event and the owner of a public relations agency that specializes in the art organizations. “Artists have to wait years to the point where they’ve developed their craft and matured as an artists to get recognized. It’s very meaningful.”
“In addition to adjusting the categories, Faires has had to adjust the roster of judges. As the last of the founders participating, he realized that the awards should include the new breed of art writers, especially those who publish primarily online. This year’s judges include writers from websites and blogs like Broadway World Austin, Austin Entertainment Weekly, Arts & Culture Texas, and Conflict of Interest TX.”