Hyde Park Theatre’s ‘John’ shows love’s macabre side

Zac Thomas and Catherine Grady in "John" at Hyde Park Theatre through April 1. Contributed by Katherine Catmull
Zac Thomas and Catherine Grady in “John” at Hyde Park Theatre through April 1. Contributed by Katherine Catmull

If you want to see an Annie Baker play in Austin, Hyde Park Theatre is the place to go. Now, HPT has gone to work bringing to life Baker’s most recent play, the 2015 off-Broadway hit “John,” with the same energy and subtle verve as they put into previous productions.

“John,” playing through April 1, is the story of Jenny and Elias, a young couple staying at a bed-and-breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Mertis, the proprietress of the B&B, seems a little odd to the couple, but they are soon consumed with their own relationship woes and find themselves confiding in her — and her elderly, blind friend Genevieve — in different, unexpected ways.

What makes “John” unique among Baker’s work is that it is the first to take a step away from intense, realistic naturalism to bring in an element of the surreal and, potentially, supernatural. Mertis’ B&B is said to be haunted, and little hints dropped throughout the course of the play lead us to think that there are strange things at work in the old house. The subtle build-up of a tense, macabre feeling resonates throughout the production, mirroring the erosion of Jenny and Elias’ relationship, where bouts of intense anger and disappointment motion towards where the true horror lies.

Director Ken Webster has chosen to fully play into the more surreal aspects of the text, with every aspect of the production playing into either the eerie atmosphere or the painfully real sniping of the young couple. The exquisitely detailed set by designer Mark Pickell puts the audience right in the middle of the B&B’s living room, putting the intimacy of the relationship under the proverbial microscope, while Don Day’s subdued lighting evokes a sensibility that dances between cozy and claustrophobic.

Katherine Catmull, as Mertis, is the mistress of all these strange happenings. She proves to be just off-kilter enough to be simultaneously charming and disturbing, for both the audience and for Jenny and Elias. Lana Dieterich, as Genevieve, is just as strange and given several powerhouse moments to shine, elucidating some of the themes at the heart of the text while also contributing to the overall sense of the uncanny.

On the other hand, Zac Thomas, as Elias, and Catherine Grady, as Jenny, are called upon to be painfully realistic within this abnormal world. Thomas’ Elias is neurotic, awkward and self-conscious in a way that is heartbreaking, tinged with moments of forcefulness that prove more frightening than anything the supernatural might provide. Grady is much more subdued and quiet, with a natural charm that makes Jenny instantly likable, if perhaps not fully trustworthy. In many ways, Grady has the hardest roll to play, and the emotional weight of the play relies on her successfully pulling it off, which she does with great success.

“John” is intentionally not the flashiest of plays, but Hyde Park Theatre’s production brings out the text’s Gothic underpinnings to create a contemporary spooky story that slowly builds in intensity towards an ultimate revelation of what may be the scariest “ghosts” of all.

“JOHN”

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through April 1

Where: Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd St.

Cost: $20-$26

Information: 512-479-7529, hydeparktheatre.org

‘Death of a Salesman’ at Austin Playhouse puts topical spin on Miller’s classic

Marc Pouhé, Patrick Gathron, Billy Harden, Sean Christopher and Carla Nickerson in "Death of a Salesman." Contributed by Austin Playhouse
Marc Pouhé, Patrick Gathron, Billy Harden, Sean Christopher and Carla Nickerson in “Death of a Salesman.” Contributed by Austin Playhouse

For decades, Willy Loman — the titular protagonist from Arthur Miller’s acclaimed play “Death of a Salesman” — has been seen as the American everyman, the average working stiff whose tragic flaw was buying into the false presence of an American Dream that was never truly available to him.

What, though, are we to make of Loman in a world where the anger over the unfulfilled American Dream has radically overturned so many notions and promises of what America could and should be? Austin Playhouse, in a production of “Death of a Salesman” directed by Peter Sheridan (playing through March 12), makes pointed use of that question, even adding on an extra layer by casting the Loman family as African-American.

Marc Pouhé in "Death of a Salesman." Contributed by Austin Playhouse
Marc Pouhé in “Death of a Salesman.” Contributed by Austin Playhouse

As Willy Loman, the titular salesman, Austin theater heavyweight Marc Pouhé is at the top of his game. His version of Loman is angrier than some, and certainly more physically imposing. He plays to the contrast between Loman’s obsession with his own hardened masculinity and an increasingly fragmented psyche and softening mental capacity. Playing Willy’s eldest son, Biff, Patrick Gathron provides the perfect foil to this, with a version of Biff that is quick to recognize his own limitations and who longs for something different.

In Gathron’s hands, Biff becomes the character we root for in this production of “Salesman,” while Willy becomes somebody we are frightened of, even as he is enabled by his long-suffering wife, Linda (played with quiet depth by Carla Nickerson), and his glad-handing younger son, Happy (who Sean Christopher imbues with an almost sinister charm).

In his director’s notes, Sheridan explains that, “In making the Lomans an African-American family, the play taps into the struggles of the black community who did not buy into consumerism until much later. But when they did, the result was just as hollow as it had been for their white neighbors.”

The racial dynamics of this production are generally not as played up as they might be, but they work most strongly in the play’s final moments, when Biff and Charley, the Lomans’ white neighbor, argue over whether Willy ever truly knew himself. While Biff thinks Willy was a man who should have spent his life outdoors, working with his hands, Charley insists that Willy was a salesman through and through. In this moment, it’s impossible not to hear the echoes of countless African-American families who have been forced into misery and poverty by attempting to live up to the false expectations of white America.

In 1949, Arthur Miller showed the country that, for many, America was not great. It was, in fact, deadly. Austin Playhouse’s production of “Death of a Salesman” serves as a timely reminder that there is no perfect era to return to, but rather only a generational cycle of anger, resentment and violence that has been killing the American working man (whatever the color of his skin) for two-thirds of a century and which does not yet seem satiated by all that blood.

“Death of a Salesman”

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday through March 12

Where: Austin Playhouse, 6001 Airport Blvd.

Cost: $32-$36

Info: 512-476-0084, austinplayhouse.com

 

‘The Great Society’ speaks powerfully to today through the politics of yesterday

Cecil Washington Jr., left, and Steve Vinovich portray Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson in "The Great Society" at Zach Theatre. Contributed by Kirk Tuck
Cecil Washington Jr., left, and Steve Vinovich portray Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson in “The Great Society” at Zach Theatre. Contributed by Kirk Tuck

This review written by freelance arts critic Andrew J. Friedenthal

The current political climate in the United States is tense, perhaps the worst it’s been in recent memory, but Robert Schenkkan’s “The Great Society,” playing through March 5 at Zach Theatre, reminds us that our country’s political history has seen many periods of great regression.

“The Great Society” is the second play about President Lyndon Baines Johnson written by Schenkkan, following his earlier “All the Way,” which won the 2014 Tony Award for best play and was made even more famous by Bryan Cranston’s Tony-winning portrayal of LBJ in the show’s Broadway run (later adapted into an HBO original film). Zach Theatre produced the Texas premiere of “All the Way” in 2015 and now presents the Texas premiere of “The Great Society” with the same key creative team of director Dave Steakley and powerhouse actor Steve Vinovich as LBJ.

In “The Great Society,” Schenkkan covers a great deal of ground, from LBJ’s re-election in 1964 through his decision not to run for another term — and the subsequent victory of Richard Nixon — in 1968. As a result, the play is quite long and does tend to meander some, veering between a character study of Johnson, a taut political thriller about the confluence of Johnson’s progressive domestic politics and his increasingly hawkish stance on Vietnam, and a look at the split in the civil rights movement between the pacifism of Martin Luther King Jr. and the rise of the more militant Black Power movement.

Not all these threads come together in a satisfying conclusion, but “The Great Society” is less about story structure than about revealing the tragic downfall of LBJ’s policies and the movement from “All the way with LBJ!” to “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” It’s in the dramatic re-creation of these historical and political events where Schenkkan’s writing shines as he crafts potent drama out of the many compromises that LBJ makes and the lies he tells in order to get his policies through, slowly betraying many of his most fervent allies and becoming increasingly paranoid about whom he can trust.

The tension of these moments would be impossible without the tour de force performance given by Vinovich, whose LBJ charms as much as he dismays, drawing as much sympathy and approbation as he does criticism. A large, top-notch ensemble, in an assortment of roles, provides varying degrees of counterbalance to the larger-than-life Southernism of Vinovich’s LBJ.

Of special note here is Cecil Washington Jr., who portrays civil rights icon King with strength, dignity and lyricism while simultaneously portraying a vulnerability that lets us see into the far-from-flawless man at the heart of the icon.

It should come as no surprise that “The Great Society” has particular resonance to contemporary politics, and the final scene (which does feel a bit tacked on) directly tackles this issue, pulling the audience right into current day fears of corruption and autocracy following in the footsteps of a noble attempt at progressivism. This is not an uplifting play, but it is a necessary one, and it is a vital study for all those who wish to learn from the past in order to gain some idea of what we might do in the present.

“The Great Society”

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through March 5

Where: Topfer Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd.

Cost: $29-$94

Info: 512-476-0541, zachtheatre.org

 

Tenderness and brutality war on stage in “Let the Right One In”

Cristian Ortega and Lucy Mangan star in "Let the Right One In." Contributed by Lawrence Peart
Cristian Ortega and Lucy Mangan star in “Let the Right One In.” Contributed by Lawrence Peart

This review written by freelance arts critic Andrew J. Friedenthal

The National Theatre of Scotland’s production of “Let The Right One In” (playing through Jan. 29 at the McCullough Theatre at the University of Texas, as part of the Texas Performing Arts Essential Series) packs quite a bit of weight behind a vampire love story. This is no small feat for a Scottish adaptation of a popular Swedish book and movie, now touring the United States.

“Let the Right One In” succeeds in so many different forms because of the headiness and humanity underneath the surface-level horror narrative. Indeed, to call it horror is to do it a disservice, as it is also equal parts romance, Bildungsroman and complex exploration of gender and sexuality. This carefully balanced narrative can be found in the original Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist as well as the film of the same name written by Lindqvist and directed by Tomas Alfredson. (There’s also an Americanized remake, “Let Me In.”)

RELATED: National Theatre of Scotland brings blood-soaked love story to Austin

In adapting “Let the Right One In” to the stage, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany emphasize the essential humanity at the core of its two protagonists — shy, bullied 12-year-old Oskar and the ageless vampire Eli, who physically appears to be a young girl of about Oskar’s age. The two form an unlikely pair and soon develop feelings for one another, which are complicated by the people in Oskar’s life (separated, dysfunctional parents and a set of merciless bullies) and the older man, Hakan, who kills for Eli in order to obtain blood for her.

As this might suggest, there are moments of gory violence and a few scares in “Let the Right One In,” from which Tiffany does not shy away. The extreme brutality of both bullies and vampires is staged through equal parts bloody special effects and heavily stylized movement. These moments of dance-like presentation are also used to portray the intimacies of the characters, providing a level of emotional insight that might otherwise be lost in moving from the pages of a novel to the stage. It’s no wonder, with this level of theatrical magic, clever staging and simple solutions to complex visuals that Thorne and Tiffany have gone on to pair with J.K. Rowling in creating “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Here, as with “Harry Potter,” children are at the heart of the narrative. Cristian Ortega, as Oskar, gets to the core of the boy’s inherent innocence, as well as its slow erosion, with a good dash of both sadness and sweetness. Lucy Mangan, as Eli, is much bolder in her performance, befitting the character, and proves to be deliberately, and delightfully, off-putting in both style and delivery throughout the show. Also of note is Ewan Stewart, as Hakan, whose disturbing love for Eli manages to be endearing at the same time as it is frightening.

In addition to the strong performances, the play boasts a top-notch design team. Composer Ólafur Arnald’s energetic, classical-meets-rock-and-electronic score, along with Gareth Fry’s sound design, create a cinematic scope to the entire production. That sonic-scape is interestingly counterpoised to the bare, minimalist set and costume design of Christine Jones and atmospheric lighting of Chahine Yavroyan.

The overall sparseness of the production allows the moments of special effects (designed by Jeremy Chernick) to shine through all the more, every bit as stunning as they are terrifying. That mixture of awe with terror, of the heart-breaking and the pulse-quickening, is what gives “Let the Right One In” its fierce, unique energy.

This dark, moody, moving meditation about young love, complex sexuality and self-identity, beautifully staged and acted, is not to be missed while it is still in Austin.

“Let the Right One In”

When: 8 p.m. Jan 18-21, 24-28 and 2 p.m. Jan 21-22, 29

Where: McCullough Theatre, 2375 Robert Dedman Drive

Cost: $10-$40

Information: 512-477-6060, texasperformingarts.org

Theater review: “A Wolverine Walks Into a Bar” offers character sketches of aging misfits

Jaston Williams in "A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar."
Jaston Williams in “A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar.”

By Wes Eichenwald

Special to the American-Statesman

How you’ll likely feel about “A Wolverine Walks Into a Bar,” the latest show from playwright/actor Jaston Williams, co-creator of the “Tuna” plays, depends on how much affinity you have for his unique mix of cowboy poetry, throwaway one-liners, social satire and plenty of local flavor (especially with regard to West Texas, Oklahoma and San Antonio). The play, which runs 90 minutes with no intermission, is a series of six character sketches set in an unnamed bar. Though the set doesn’t change, it’s unclear whether it’s supposed to be the same bar from one sketch to the other. Three of the on-stage tables are occupied by audience members, who paid a handsome premium to be an arm’s length from the action.

Aside from the bar, the vignettes’ connecting thread is what happens to misfits and square pegs as they age into the country of the elderly. Williams switches off with Lauren Lane, a veteran Texas-bred actress (known for a featured role on “The Nanny,” among other things) and long-time Austinite. Trademark Williams zingers fly frequently, such as “We’re polite here in Texas, but it doesn’t come natural.” Although three directors are credited in the show, one sketch flows seamlessly into the next.

From the first vignette, with Lane as an aged, bent hippie reflecting on her life as she cadges a glass of water from the invisible bartender, to Williams’ drag turn as a red-hatted diva spinning tales of gadding about in Venice, to Lane’s paranoid flight attendant turned wedding planner, the monologues meander until they hit – not always a bullseye, but a decent enough percentage.

When Williams manifests in fringed buckskin jacket as an alcoholic Anglo drawn to Mexican culture and cursing in Spanish (he’s married to a Latina who turns her back on her heritage and insists on being called Mary instead of Maria), railing against Ayn Rand, the show finally fires on all cylinders as he taps into sentiments he may not have anticipated as being quite so relevant as now. Ditto for the final playlet, in which Williams and Lane finally interact onstage as an aging gay man who meets up with a lesbian he knew decades ago. They reminisce about the good old bad old days of repression and illegality. Again, more topical than he might have expected, and hugely entertaining. 

The duo’s talents and styles mesh well. Some of the sketches could use some tightening and focus – less attention on the throwaway one-liners, more on character study and social commentary, since the motley bunch of outsiders in “Wolverine” provide fertile ground for both – but as it stands, Williams, Lane and company have come up with a diverting evening that should delight and engage old fans and curious newcomers alike.

“A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar” continues Fridays through Sundays through Nov. 20 at Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress Ave.; shows Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.; 512-472-5470; austintheatre.org

East Austin Studio Tour: Get going, get out there

“El Capacitor” is a public installation by Michael Anthony García, a commissioned project by TEMPO, the city’s temporary public art initiative.

“El Capacitor” is in East Austin’s Metz Park and thus an official stop on this year’s East Austin Studio Tour. It is one of five TEMPO projects on the tour.

READ: A guide to the ever-expanding East Austin Studio Tour

A bright red podium forms the center of García’s installation. The podium is surrounded by flagpoles bearing flags that are stitched together from neighborhood residents’ clothing.

García is an astute and thoughtful artist whose creative and curatoral practice is rooted in timely social issues.

READ: Los Outsiders curate exhibit to spark conversation about gentrification.

The title “El Capacitor” refers to the nearby decommissioned Holly Street Power Plant, which for half a century belched toxic fumes, leaked chemicals into Lady Bird Lake and was the site of numerous oil spills and fires.

Only after considerable community and citizen action did the Holly Street Power Plant close in 2007.

However, by the mid-aughts, the surrounding neighborhood of modest houses, for generations a predominantly Latino enclave, was already witnessing significant changes as gentrification drew a new demographic — yes, including artists to the downtown-adjacent neighborhood.

For García, “El Capacitor” is symbol of the community’s potential energy — a symbolic space created to inspire the neighborhood’s longtime residents to amplify their voice.

“El Capacitor” can also be read as a summons for everyone to get out there and talk to each other in a civic space. Its bright podium offers a dignified platform for all voices. And its circle of flags frames a demand for all of us to listen to each other.

el-capacitor
“El Capacitor” by Michael Anthony García. Photo courtesy of the artist.

 

What to see at EAST: These artist warehouses and co-working spaces are home to many

What to see at EAST: A map to the artist hives

Oh, we know.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start on the East Austin Studio Tour.

This year’s tour catalog lists 534 sights and events, the most in EAST’s 15 editions.

The East Austin Studio Tour group exhibition is on view in shipping containers at Canopy, 916 Springdale Road.

The East Austin Studio Tour group exhibition is on view in shipping containers at Canopy, 916 Springdale Road. Photo courtesy Big Medium.

READ: A guide to the ever-expanding East Austin Studio Tour

READ: What to see at EAST: 13 women artists

If the sheer number of tour stops overwhelms you, one strategy is to start with the warehouses or other co-working spaces that have multiple studios and galleries.

And we’ve got a map for that:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Creek Show’ rising: Temporary installations taking shape at Waller Creek

Update: Take a look: ‘Creek Show’ opens, artfully illuminating Waller Creek

 

Over the weekend several of the artists and architects making illuminated wonders for this year’s “Creek Show” began installing their creations.

Read our preview coverage: ‘Creek Show’ brings five illuminated art installations to Waller Creek

Jules Buck Jones and Tim Derrington posted images of their work-in-progress, and working-in-waders, to Facebook.

Jones’ 40-foot mosasaur sculpture took up residence under the Eighth Street bridge. A predatory ancestors of snakes and lizards, the mosasaur swam the shallow sea that once covered much of the North American continent before going extinct 65 million years ago.

Jules Buck Jones and his team install Jones' mosasaur sculpture over Waller Creek. Photo courtesy Jules Buck Jones.
Jules Buck Jones and his team install Jones’ mosasaur sculpture over Waller Creek. Photo courtesy Jules Buck Jones.

 

Derrington and his team waded into the murky section of Waller Creek below Easy Tiger to install “Deep Curiousity,” a 50-foot-diameter arch.

Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.
Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.

With five site-specific installations illuminated nightly for just 10 ten evenings “Creek Show” starts Thursday.  There’s a slew of programs accompanying “Creek Show”  so check our listings.

I will be moderating the free panel discussion with this year’s “Creek Show” creators 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 15. Please join us!

“Creek Show”
When:
6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 10-19
Where: Waller Creek between Fifth and Eighth streets
Tickets: Free. Pick up a free wristband at the creekside information table between Sixth and Seventh streets. The wristband can be used for a free series of events.

creekshow.com

 

 

Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.
Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.

What Houdini ate: An Austin archive reveals foodie facts about the magician

Eric Colleary, curator of the theater and performing arts collection at the Ransom Center, has a side interest: The history of foodways, how eating habits and culinary practices change through the eras.

Colleary maintains a blog, The American Table, in which he documents his experiences trying historic recipes for dishes such as Election Cake  and delves into topics such as the story of butchering in America.

“Food hits all the senses,” says Colleary. “Tasting foods made from historic recipes gives you a sense of the labor, the skill, the economy, the geographic and historical influences, and the palate of a person.”

And so when he set out to organize an exhibit in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death, Colleary culled the Ransom Center’s collection of the magician’s papers and books for any information on what the famous illusionist liked to eat.

Says Colleary: “For a figure like Houdini, (understanding what he ate) cuts through the legend directly to the person, who, like everyone else, has to eat.”

The Houdini exhibit, on view through Nov. 6, dovetails with “Houdini Speaks to the Living,” a new play devised from the Ransom Center’s Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle collections to imagine the two men in a debate about the true nature of magic.

Sherlock Holmes author Doyle was adamant in his belief in the supernatural, while Houdini spent considerable efforts debunking fraudulent psychics. Produced by Hidden Room Theater, the play opens Oct. 21. Read our story about the show here.

For the Houdini exhibit, Colleary tracked down two celebrity cookbooks — “Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries” (1916) and “The Stag Cook Book: Written for Men by Men” (1922) — in which he found three recipes attributed to the performer.

Yes, celebrity cookbooks were a thing a century ago.

“Celebrity cookbooks had been popular for some time before the early 20th century,” says Colleary. “But a new generation of home economics made home cooks more skilled and comfortable at what they were doing.”

“And the rise of the theater and vaudeville circuits as well as the advent of radio and film also greatly expanded the number of celebrities.”

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Houdini’s recipe in “Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries: A Collection of the Favorite Foods of Famous Players,” 1916. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

There’s scant evidence that the renowned illusionist had much interest in actually conjuring things up in the kitchen himself, though. His wife, Bess, did most of the cooking.

Says Colleary: “One biography said that Houdini’s idea of comfort was to sit in his armchair in his library and wait for Bess to call up, ‘Young man, your lunch is ready!’”

Born in Budapest to a Jewish family, Houdini immigrated as a child with his family to the United States in 1878. Not surprisingly, the food he found most dear throughout his life reflected his Hungarian and Jewish background — dishes his mother would have made at home, Collary notes.

Bess mentioned that her husband’s favorite foods included Hungarian chicken (otherwise known as chicken paprikash), spatzel (egg noodles) and custard bread pudding with bing cherries. That Houdini also enjoyed Hungarian goulash is noted by several biographers.

Houdini’s published recipes, however, don’t specifically reflect his family’s ancestral foodways but rather represent more quotidian American fare of his era.

bk_tx_652_s5_1922_002_300dpi
Houdini’s recipes in “The Stag Cook Book: Written for Men by Men.,” Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Houdini met his wife while both worked as vaudeville performers on Coney Island. They married on June 22, 1894, and, Colleary says, the couple spent many of their anniversaries at Coney Island eating hot dogs and strolling the boardwalk.

For their 25th anniversary, however, the couple invited 200 guests to the Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles for a ten-course banquet that included Crab Supreme, Breast of Chicken Virginienne, strawberry parfait and champagne — a menu Colleary found reported in a newspaper of the time.

 

bk_tx_652_s5_1922_001_300dpi
“The Stag Cook Book: Written for Men by Men,” collected and edited by C. Mac Sheridan, 1922. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

 

Houdini died Oct. 31, 1926, of complications resulting from a ruptured appendix. He was 52.

And the magician’s last meal?

Colleary discovered that Houdini ate something rather familial — Farmer’s Chop Suey, a chopped salad with yogurt or sour cream that was popular with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

A recipe typical of the period is here: http://www.antiquerecipes.net/farmers-chop-suey/

 

bk_tx_715_r86_1916_001_300dpi
“Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries: A Collection of the Favorite Foods of Famous Players,” compiled by Mabel Rowland, 1916. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Creek Show preview: First peek at illuminated installations coming to Waller Creek

The Waller Creek Conservancy’s popular “Creek Show” is coming to downtown Austin in just a few weeks.

And today, the organizers have released renderings of the five illuminated site-specific temporary installations that will light up four blocks of Waller Creek from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 10-19.

The free happening is a means for the conservancy — a nonprofit partner helping the city shape the transformation of 1.5 miles of downtown creekside —  to bring the public’s attention to the overlooked subterranean stretch of Waller Creek.

The opening night party starts at 6 p.m. Nov. 10; there will be a DJ creekside and drink specials available at creek-adjacent bars including Easy Tiger, the Gatsby, Waller Creek Pub House and more.

And on Nov. 15, I will be moderating an artists’ talk at 6:30 p.m. at the Palm Door on Sabine during which I’ll get the Creek Show designers to open up about their creative process, the challenge of working with an ephemeral artistic medium such as light and the uniqueness of designing something for a singular spot in the urban landscape.

In the meantime, here’s a quick look at renderings of the five temporary projects:

Jules Buck Jones is making a 40-foot sculpture of an extinct sea lizard called a Mosasaur that 65 million years ago swam through the shallow sea that covered Central Texas. UT geology students found an almost complete skeleton of a Mosasaur in Onion Creek in 1935, and it’s now on exhibit at the Texas Memorial Museum. Jones’ sculpture will be under the East Eighth Street bridge.

E 8th Street Bridge over Waller Creek
Jules Buck Jones illuminated sculpture of a Mosasaur,

 

• “Nimbus Cloud,” by Dharmesh Patel and Autumn Ewalt, is a raincloud-shaped sculpture with programmable LEDs that will change in pattern and light, the water below reflecting the ephemeral display.

160823_wallercreek_night_021

 

• The team of East Side Collective and Drophouse Design (Tim Derrington, Wilson Hanks and Christian Klein) conceived of “Deep Curiosity,” a partially submerged enormous illuminated circular form dipped into the murky nighttime creek water just on the south side of the East Sixth Street bridge near the Easy Tiger terrace.

crek_03_upabove
“Deep Curiosity” is near Easy Tiger.

 

Kory Bieg’s “The Creek Zipper” is an undulating stretch of milled aluminum forms — some stretched over the water — that will extend the length of the creek between the East Sixth Street bridge ending near the Seventh Street bridge.

"The Creek Zipper"
“The Creek Zipper”

“Phantom Diversion,” by Alisa West and Travis Cook, will draw attention to the stretch of large, above-grade diversion pipes that will someday be replaced when the intake station (part of the Waller Creek flood control project) is up and functional. In the meantime, West and Cook will give us a double helix of lovely light.

"Phanton Diversion"
“Phanton Diversion”