Giving City toasts Austin Critics Table Awards

If you missed the short history of the Austin Critics Table Awards written by Monica Maldonado Williams of Giving City and published in Sunday’s American-Statesman, below find a snippet. The free awards ceremony returns 7 p.m. June 5 at Cap City Comedy Club.

The Austin Critics Table in in 1995. L-R: John Bustin, Barry Pineo, Michael Barnes, Jamie Smith Cantara, Belinda Acosta, David Mark Cohen, Jerry Conn and Robert Faires. (Bustin and Cohen are deceased.) Mark Fort/American-Statesman

FULL STORY:  At 25 years old, an arts awards event learns to adapt.

“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.”

RELATED: See this year’s nominees for the Austin Critics Table Awards.

“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.”

Monica Maldonado Williams. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

BACKGROUND: Monica Maldonado Williams cracks the charity code.

Curious about this summer’s Austin Chamber Music Festival?

Lots to linger over at the Austin Chamber Music Festival this summer. See you there!

Tickets now on sale: $20-$55. Special packages available. Student rush tickets: $12.

Game changer Chargaux appears July 9. Contributed


All concerts at Bates Recital Hall at University of Texas except July 9 and July 14, which will be held at the North Door, 501 Brushy St.

July 7, 7:30 p.m.: Festival Chamber Orchestra, Andreas Mitisek, conductor

July 8, 7:30 p.m.: St. Lawrence String Quartet

July 9, 7:30 p.m.: Chargaux

July 14, 7:30 p.m.: Animated Shorts with Raul Jaurena & Tosca String Quartet

July 15, 7:30 p.m.: Scenes from Romeo & Juliet with Austin Shakespeare and Festival Artists

July 16, 3:00 p.m.: Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz, The Lavuta Project

July 21, 7:30 p.m.: Daedalus Quartet

July 22, 7:30 p.m.: Cuban Finale – Crisantemi Quartet

July 23, 3:00 p.m.: Cuarteto Latinoamericano


I want to see virtually every show in Texas Performing Arts’ next season

Nine years ago, I told Kathy Panoff, then incoming director of Texas Performing Arts, that she was a “firecracker.” Well, she’s still lighting up the sky.

Tonight on the Bass Concert Hall stage at the University of Texas, she sent up blazing bottle rockets for her group’s 2017-2018 season, and I want to see virtually ever show on the bill.


Start off, as almost everybody does, with its Broadway in Austin partnership. I’ll sign up right now for “Rent,” “The King and I,” “Finding Neverland,” “School of Rock,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” “The Book of Mormon” and “An American in Paris.”

Yes, even “Rent,” which I’ve grown to love over the past 20 years, mostly because of a Texas State University version with — thank you! — age-appropriate actors. Hello!

And guess what? If you don’t sign up for the 2017-2018 season, forget getting tickets to “Hamilton” the next season. The Broadway series already has added 3,000 new subscribers in anticipation.

RELATED: Broadway smash “Hamilton” coming to Austin in 2018-2019 season.

At the top of my list from the non-Broadway season are three cabaret shows: Storm Large & Le Bonheur, Ute Lemper’s “Last Tango in Berlin” and Seth Rudetsky‘s “Deconstructing Broadway.” It’s like Broadway, too, but refined to the nth degree.


I was also very much attracted to the dance groups: Che Malambo (“Machismo in a jar”), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ezralow Dance’s “Open” and Abraham.In.Motion‘s “Live! The Realest MC.” Two I’ve seen before, the other two sizzled in projected videos.

Of the musical selections, I am jazzed to see the Philip Glass Ensemble play “Koyaanisqatsi” live — my first Glass back in 1982 — and Chanticleer doing “Soldier.”

Playing to my jazz affections are Kurt Elling with the SwinglesMonty Alexander Harlem-Kinston Express. 


Also on the bill are Spanish BrassDover Quartet, Sergei Babayan, Sergio & Odair, guitars and Avi Avital, mandolin, the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra and University of Texas Jazz Orchestra with Conrad Herwig — along some hybrid shows, such as Fifth House Ensemble performing music from the game “Journey” live as it is played and “Musical Thrones: A Parody.”

Straight theater has not been forgotten: “The Crucible” and “Sancho: An Act of Remembrance.”

How am I going to see all this? I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

‘My Big Fat Bahookie’ brings body positivity to the Vortex

Writer/director Lorella Loftus’ new show, “My Big Fat Bahookie,” is not afraid to ask audiences to practice what it preaches. Before entering the theater, attendees are requested to fill out two sticky notes, one listing a moment of positive self-esteem and another noting an element of personal body positivity. This sort of self-reflection on the part of the audience is encouraged throughout the production, grounding the production’s zany antics in a very personalized sense of loving one’s body and one’s whole self.

“My Big Fat Bahookie,” produced by Renaissance Austin and playing at the Vortex through May 6, takes the form of the first meeting of the fictional “No More Diets Club,” a kind of hybrid between a talk show, a self-help infomercial and a 12-step meeting. The club’s founder, Marianne McGonigle (played by Loftus), is also the evening’s hostess, ushering in a variety of skits, songs, scenes, strange personalities and pre-produced video segments.

What unites these various segments into an overall variety show-style presentation is a thematic focus on body positivity and a denial of the negative messages marketed to us by the health and beauty industries. A lot of righteous rage is aimed in the direction of these industries, but the show’s method of critique is humor more than anger, satirizing and spoofing societal notions of beauty.

In addition to Loftus, “My Big Fat Bahookie” features a large cast, most of whom portray multiple characters and personalities throughout the course of the evening. Melissa Vogt and Heidi Penix stand out as the most seemingly effortless satirists, embodying a wide range of wacky characters who poke fun at diet “experts.” Mindy Rast-Keenan and Jennifer Haston also delight as less directly satirical characters whose broad-strokes character arcs tie much of the show together.

As with most variety/comedy shows of this type, “My Big Fat Bahookie” is uneven, mixing smart satire, a few touching moments and some dull bits into a loose framework that never quite coheres. Although individual parts of the show soar (particularly a pre-filmed semi/pseudo-documentary quest for properly fitting jeans featuring stage manager Suzanne Smith), the whole is less than the sum of those parts.

Where “My Big Fat Bahookie” soars highest, though, is in its blatantly personal-as-political approach to issues of beauty, body and, yes, bahookies (a Scottish slang term for one’s behind). Loftus wants the audience to leave the show feeling better about their bodies, embracing themselves with the same sense of warmth, humor and acceptance that permeates the entire show.

Though not the most cohesive of theatrical productions, “My Big Fat Bahookie” wears its heart (and other parts of its anatomy) on its sleeve, with a positive message that everyone should get behind.

“My Big Fat Bahookie”
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through May 6
Where: The Vortex, 2307 Manor Road
Cost: $15-$35
Information: 512-478-5282,


Austin Symphony: Young composers rule!

The Austin Symphony has announced the nine young composers whose music will be performed on June 17 at the Long Center. This year, 24 pieces were submitted by composers 18 years or younger. Winners of the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition — resulting from a $1 million Butler endowment — also earn scholarships ranging from $500 to $3,000.

Two of the nine winners are from Austin and two from San Antonio. One each is from Dallas, Houston, Plano, Cedar Park and Kennedale (which I had to look up; it’s in southern Tarrant County). Their schools are suitably scattered as well: Seven go to college, one is in high school and the young man from Kennedale is home-schooled.


Paul Novak won First Prize in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition. Contributed by the Society of Composers.

FIRST PRIZE: Paul Novak. “On Buoyancy.” Houston. Rice University.

SECOND PRIZE: Isaac Villaroya. “Aegis.” San Antonio. Baylor University.

Maximilien Hein won Third Prize in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition. Contributed

THIRD PRIZE: Maximilien Hein. “Impressions of a Hero’s Journey.” Cedar Park. Texas State University.

FOURTH PRIZE: Amy Gravell. “Prelude to Eternity.” Austin. McNeil High School.

FIFTH PRIZE: Dara Li. “Gaia.” Plano. Harvard University.


Austin Ali. “Ostinato.” Dallas. University of Texas.

Zach Berry. “Reflection and March to War.” Kennedale. Home Schooled.

Sophie Mathieu’s “The Columbia River in June” will be performed by the Austin Symphony. Contributed

Sophie Mathieu. “The Columbia River in June.” Austin. University of Southern California.

Angelo Salgado. “Unity.” San Antonio. University of Texas San Antonio.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post listed the wrong date for the concert.

Austin Symphony earns raves and $1 million gift

It’s been quite a week for the Austin Symphony. It earned some its most glowing notices in years. It also secured a $1 million gift.

It came in the form of a bequest from patron Ronald C. Jernigan to kickstart the group’s Moto Perpetuo Society, a club established for those who plan gifts to the symphony’s endowment $100,000 or more.

Ronald C Jernigan
Ronald C. Jernigan announces $1 million bequest to the Austin Symphony. Contributed

“Ever since returning to Austin, I have been so taken with the Austin Symphony,” Jernigan says. He’s also a big fan of endowments, which conservatively allow groups to spend the earnings from interest, but keep the principal safe.

Joining Jernigan in the society are Araminta and Tom Sellers as well as Bruce and  Kathryn Grube.

According to the Weathminder website, Jernigan is a Spicewood-based investment advisor with the National Planning Corporation.


Austin names Rehab El Sadek artist in residence

A native of Egypt now based in Austin will spend nine months embedded within the city’s Watershed Protection Department.

Artist Rehab Al Sadek, the city of Austin’s new artist-in-residence. Contributed

A painter, photographer, printmaker and all-around creative sparkplug, Rehab El Sadek is also a social connector who has initiated workshops around women’s rights and children with disabilities among other causes. She has created art in Africa and Pakistan and has been exhibited in multiple European cities.

‘HomeNightTopography’ by Rehab El Sadek. Contributed

She will not be required to make art, but rather to help city staff “resolve problems, provide innovative or new improvements, and help engage residents around community issues in creative ways,” according to a statement.

The University of Texas College of Fine Arts has put together a somewhat similar program with the Design Institute for Health at the Dell Medical School.

RELATED: After 135 years, a medical school is about to open its doors at UT.

Also, artists have already been embedded successfully with city workers, as witnessed recently at the Lift a Fork benefit for Forklift Danceworks at Springdale Station. Allison Orr and her company have famously created unique dance projects for sanitation workers, firefighters, electrical linemen and technicians and urban foresters.

Lift a Fort for Forklife Danceworks. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Along the way, Danceworks has attracted international attention to Austin. They recently returned from Europe where they collaborated with sanitation workers and revisited gondoliers. The testimonials flowed as easily as the craft cocktails at the magical evening event and a half dozen of the diners engaged me in strikingly memorable conversations.

Leslie Briggs and Kassandra Hendrix at Lift a Fork for Forklift Danceworks. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: “Dance explores art of everyday movement.”

Coming up from Danceworks: “My Park, My Pool, My City.” The Parks and Recreation Department actually approached Danceworks to help find out more about what could be done with three East Austin pools.

Look who won the Austin high school musical awards

The Long Center was packed and loud. The show was long and cool. If anyone kept track of the shows tunes performed during the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards last night, they surely got dizzy by 11 p.m.

Select Ensemble performs at the Greater Austin High School Musical Awards. Contributed by Monica Peraza

Among the most charming elements of the ceremony was a video tribute from the Broadway cast of “Hamilton.” We’ll see if we can post it here.

RELATED: All rise for Austin high school musicalsAll rise for Austin high school musicals!

Without further ado, here are the winners. We might have missed one in the Twitter crush, but we’ll update.

RELATED: Here’s why Austin theater teens love the stage and their awards show.

(Note: The adult participants are not listed in the program or announced. Their students pick up the awards.)

Best Production: “In the Heights” – Hendrickson High School.

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Matthew Kennedy for “Pippin” – Leander High School.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sophie Niles for “Barnum” – McNeil High School.

Best Ensemble: “Oliver” – Vandegrift High School.

Best Direction: “Curtains” – Anderson High School.

Best Featured Performer: Halle Hill for “Oliver!” Vandergrift High School

Best Lighting Design: “In the Heights” – Hendrickson High School

Best Orchestration: “Cinderella” – Marble Falls High School

Best Technical Execution: “Me and My Girl” – McCallum Fine Arts Academy

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Kiara Thomas for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – Cedar Park High School

Best Actor in Supporting Role: Logan Caraway – Vista Ridge High School

Best Choreography: “Cats” – Cedar Ridge High School

Best Scenic Design: “In the Heights” – Rouse High School

Best Orchestra:  “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” – LBJ/LASA

Best Costume Design: “Cats” – Cedar Ridge High School

Best Student Design: Niko Bermea for choreography of “In the Heights” at Rouse High School,

Looking for something to do this weekend? Free Fusebox Festival starts today

Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol are part of two Fusebox Festival 2017 presentations. Contributed by MgV

The free Fusebox Festival — an eclectic celebration of art in its many forms — opens today and runs through Sunday at venues throughout Austin. As Michael Barnes explained in his preview, the festival isn’t just about artists showing off their creative endeavors; it also “urges them to engage with their audiences around the big ideas of the day,” such as the border and community health.

But new approaches to making art are at the heart of the festival as well — as evidenced by Line Upon Line’s “Potential,” a series of performances combining percussion, dance and lighting at the top of Mansfield Dam later this week.

PHOTOS: Hybrid Austin event Fusebox Festival tackles big ideas through art

Here are three top picks from among the Fusebox events from our preview story:

“Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance,” April 14-15, Stateside at the Paramount Theatre

This is one we have been anticipating for a long time. A chamber opera composed by Graham Reynolds, it was conceived and executed in collaboration with Rude Mechs director Shawn Sides and the Mexican theater collective Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol, which contributed the libretto. Using the biography of Pancho Villa, it plays with the culture and politics of West Texas through the eyes of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Bonus: Additional lyrics by poet and novelist Carrie Fountain.

“The score is part chamber suite, part rock opera and part cinematic soundscape,” Fusebox founder Ron Berry says. “The influences run from Chavela Vargas and Los Tigres del Norte to Shostakovich and Bartok to the Los Lobos offshoot the Latin Playboys.”

“Meeting,” April 12-16, Scottish Rite Theater

In this piece from Australians Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe, two performers interact with 64 robotic percussion instruments. Hamilton provides the irresistible movement, Macindoe the machine sounds.

Bonus: You have five chances to catch this 50-minute marvel.

“Technically, the dancers are ridiculously talented and rigorous,” Berry says. “The influences range from ballet to hip-hop and breakdancing, particularly popping. Conceptually, the piece is super tight. They take a particular idea and go very deep with it, which I really appreciate and enjoy.”

Al Volta’s Midnight Bar, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. April 12-16, Saengerrunde Halle

“Al Volta’s is especially exciting because it’s a super fun pop-up bar,” Berry says. “The food will be changing every night. It’s also an opportunity to meet other audience members, artists and arts professionals from all over the world. The artistic programming is some of the most fun and diverse in the festival.”

Why sit or stand around with the artists in an old German bowling alley?

“Let’s dissolve that barrier between audience, artist and art!” Berry says. “Let’s all hang out together and talk about the world. And then we combine this with our own love of bars. I spend a lot of time in bars, turns out. Occupational hazard. But I do love a good bar.”


Go see this Blanton Museum show!

We were dubious about the humor behind this conceptual art outing. But we walked away charmed and cheered.

FULL STORY: Laughter and magic fill this must-see Blanton Museum of Art exhibit.



“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). “Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!”

It is tempting to attribute the title of Nina Katchadourian’s delightfully off-kilter show “Curiouser” to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In fact, the ingenious Brooklyn-based artist says the name of her big Blanton Museum of Art show is a close fit to her profession.

Constantly in a state of wonder about the mundane world, Katchadourian feels like a “curious-er,” not unlike a “farm-er” or “build-er.”

Still, there’s an “Alice”-like appeal to this large exhibition spread out over several rooms downstairs at the Blanton.

Two wall-sized projects, constructed or reconstructed at the museum by the artist, look like oversize genealogical charts. One is made up of postcards from around the world, including Austin. Katchadourian has altered some of the familiar images with delicate red threads that appear to connect key elements.