Austin-based theater company Crank Collective presents Cabeza de Vaca: Shipwrecked in Texas April 3, 4, and 5 at the Long Center Rollins Studio Theatre.
The first in a series of two Texas History operettas, Cabeza de Vaca is a musical tribute to the extraordinary journey of the 16th century Spanish Explorer who shipwrecked on Galveston island in 1527 and struggled to survive in a Native American land. Director John Cecil recounts Crank Collective’s journey in bringing this exciting work to the stage:
Galveston, Texas. 1527: Four men wash ashore and are enslaved by a local group of Karankawas. Despite beatings, battles and a diet of cactus and deer dung, the four Spaniards survive to eventually become traders. A mysterious ability to heal and raise the dead elevates the men to shamans, and they begin a six-year escape on foot into Mexico, followed by thousands of devotees. Sounds like the perfect story for a Crank Collective show.
I first heard about Cabeza de Vaca when teaching Texas history to 7th graders (quickly scanning the margins of the teacher’s edition). I later read a translation of de Vaca’s narrative and got to see the amazing movie by Nicolás Echevarría. When Crank Collective decided to do a Texas History Operetta series, this story seemed too rich, and too strange, not to put on stage. But how to do it? How to transform a 2000-mile, six-year journey into a one-hour musical show at the Long Center?
We adapted the text into a play, keeping close to the quasi-anthropological of the original account. With the band, we developed music with Spanish elements, but including sound effects of the sea and wind, and inventing music for the now-extinct Karankawa tribe. For costumes, we naturally wanted to avoid the nude-but-for-12-inch-nipple-piercings that de Vaca describes so we came up with some formal, deliberately out-of-context costume styles.
In the original reading of the de Vaca text, the actors first sounded a bit stuffy, like they were doing fake Shakespeare or in a church play. It was funny, but not the way we wanted. In rehearsals, however, the actors managed to master and loosen up the script, interacting and improvising to create a believably exotic clash between two vanishing empires. Cabeza de Vaca: Shipwrecked in Texas is now an unusual, engrossing, and very entertaining show.
- John Cecil, Director of Cabeza de Vaca: Shipwrecked in Texas
Austin Dance India presents Bharata Natyam Solos and Duets at the Long Center Rollins Studio Theater, March 28-31. We asked Austin Dance India’s Artistic Director, Anuradha Naimpally to give us some insight on this classical style of Southern Indian dance.
Often I step back mentally during the busiest moments of the day and always
find myself amazed at what I am doing. At times it is in a studio teaching a class. Other times it is performing in a school cafeteria to 500 kids and teachers. On occasion it is under the bright lights of a proscenium stage. But wherever I am, I am doing what I love most in this world — dance. And specifically, bharata natyam dance, a classical style from southern India.
I’ve always loved to dance and studied the usual ballet, tap, and jazz while growing up in a remote northern Ontario city. But when I saw bharata natyam for the first time when I was 12 years old,
I instantly knew this was the dance for me. There was just something so familiar about it that I was drawn to it like nothing I have ever felt before. With two of the most supportive parents, I had the opportunity to eventually travel to India and live there to study professionally with incredible masters in Mumbai. I haven’t looked back since.
I have traveled far and wide teaching and performing bharata natyam. I have received many honors which are wonderful but always seem like icing on the cake because I don’t ever feel like this is work. It is hard to fathom that this dance just keeps getting more beautiful and richer in depth as time goes on. An ancient text on bharata natyam states that the performer is doubly blessed because they themselves obtain such joy from this art and they can also share it with their audience through performances. How true.
What is incredulous is that this form, that dates back to ancient times the likes of the 3rd century B.C.E., still finds relevance in today’s modern world. This is what amazes me! Bharata Natyam portrays universal values, aesthetics, human emotions, and situations to which any person can relate. A jilted lover, longing for one’s beloved, playful pranks of a child, young love, spiritual joy are just a few experiences that are portrayed and explored in bharata natyam dance.
I am excited to be presenting an evening of new works with my daughter, Purna, now a lovely young dancer. She was born, and has grown up in Austin and studied bharata natyam with me since she was very young. Our performance, Two Generations, One Tradition: Bharata Natyam Solos and Duet, is a culmination of all that amazes me during those moments of stepping back; I am performing bharata natyam in Austin, TX in 2013; I am performing with my daughter; I am performing at The Long Center; I am performing for all of you! What a blessing indeed!-Anuradha Naimpally, Austin Dance India
The Long Center is taking part in Amplify Austin, a community-wide 24-hour giving festival. The goal was to raise $1,000,000 in 24 hours, and as of press time, the total stood at over $1.7 million, with more than 4 hours left to go. The money raised will benefit over 300 Central Texas nonprofits.
We live in an incredible city. Very few places can boast of all that Austin offers its residents each day through culture, arts, entertainment, festivals, and that special brand of weird that can’t be found anywhere else. And yet, it wouldn’t be the place we love without the strong sense of community fostered in our city by the hundreds of non-profit organizations that call Austin home.
During this giving campaign, donations will be accepted through Amplify Austin’s secure website, AmplifyATX.org. Donors are allowed to choose whichever organization they wish to support, and may submit donations from $25 and up.
Who knew that the Long Center is a non-profit organization?
The Long Center is one of a handful of non-profit live entertainment venues in Austin. Contrary to popular belief, the Long Center is funded by private citizens and corporations in Austin and receives limited city funding. Community donations are the life-blood of our organization, illustrated by the $1 million in small donations the Long Center receives each year.
Thanks to the support received from the community, the Long Center has the opportunity to give back in many exciting ways. The Long Center not only sponsors community initiatives and educational programs to support local artists, local children, and charitable organizations, but also serves as a home for Austin community members to nurture and inspire creativity.
Donations received from Amplify Austin will allow the Long Center to go even further in sustaining and supporting our Austin community. A donation of only $25 makes it possible for another child to experience the wonder and magic of live performing arts in a state-of-the-art facility.
It is truly the community’s generosity and commitment to the arts that fuels the Long Center’s continued success. Check out the Amplify Austin website, and help us keep Central Texas the best place to live as we raise $1 million to support our community!
Words of Wisdom from Charlie Ross, Creator of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy
Charles Ross, star of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, is performing his one-man act of the entire original Star Wars Trilogy this weekend at the Long Center! We asked Charlie just how he came up with the idea for his original show, and this is what he told us:
This is me, at the age of eight years old. Not much of an achiever, as you can see by my total lack of merit badges.
Okay, I lie. I did receive one badge for house keeping- there’s a vacuum on it. It’s about as prestigious as the “Breathes Oxygen”, “Carbon Based Life Form”, and “Takes Up 3 Dimensional Space” badge.
Now, if you look very closely at my face you’ll notice the glazed look of a boy who knows too much about Star Wars. My head is somewhere off in space.
At this time, I lived on a farm, in a far, far away, remote-ish, part of Canada.The TV and radio reception at our farmhouse was even worse than my badge count. Our entertainment came from Winter sports, books, a record player and a VCR. The videos we had were the original Star Wars, the Blue Lagoon, and the eight part miniseries of James Clavell’s novel Shogun (except we were missing the last 20 minutes of the last episode).
Now- it doesn’t take Eagle Scout to figure out- that nine times out of ten, when I chose something to watch, it was Star Wars- sorry Brooke. After three years of watching the film an incredible amount of times, we moved away from the farm, to an artsy little mountain town called Nelson. It was there that I discovered Acting. Behavior that used to get me kicked out of class suddenly had some value- I wasn’t being a disruptive jerk- I was a budding Thespian.
Flash-forward fifteen years later, I was a University grad with a BFA in Acting. I was living the bohemian, poverty-line life of an actor, and I longed to gain some autonomy with my “career”. The question was how? The answer was a one-man show.
It’s all very involved, but in not so many words I put together my One Man Star Wars with my best friend and colleague, TJ Dawe. TJ had already written, performed and toured a couple autobiographical solo shows- he was the only person I trusted to work with. Plus, he knew Star Wars.
Once my show felt ready, I toured it on the North American Fringe Festival circuit. At the end of my tour, I was invited to perform in Chicago, at the Noble Fool Comedy Theatre.
Suddenly, stuff started to get pretty serious. The media liked my show’s concept: one hour, one man, three films, no props, no costumes, and no set. Then “POOF!” Lucasfilm contacts me: what’s going on? I respond: please don’t kill me?
They didn’t. Instead, they invite me to come perform at Star Wars convention. The little Boy Scout who couldn’t earn a merit badge for anything, suddenly found himself as an adult, performing for 4000 hardcore Star Wars fans per show.Once my show felt ready, I toured it on the North American Fringe Festival circuit.
At the end of my tour, I was invited to perform in Chicago, at the Noble Fool Comedy Theatre. Suddenly, stuff started to get pretty serious. The media liked my show’s concept: one hour, one man, three films, no props, no costumes, and no set. Then “POOF!” Lucasfilm contacts me: what’s going on? I respond: please don’t kill me?
To hell with your badges! I keep this picture to remind myself that while it may be worth a thousand words, none of them would describe who I am on the inside. I turned one person’s idea of a “waste of time” into “career research”.
I was a definitely terrible scout, but I’m a kick ass dreamer.-Charles Ross, Creator and Performer of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy now at the Long Center.
Long Center Marketing Intern Mari Stoner plays the character “Elisabeth” in the upcoming University of Texas opera production, LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES by Philip Glass.
Opera, like most things, has its stigmas in modern culture. Although some say opera is a dying art form, perhaps it is simply in the process of evolving to reflect the times. As opera continues to search for its place in our fast-paced, technology-based culture, it becomes necessary to make it accessible to future audiences. For me, a masters student in opera at the University of Texas Butler Opera Center, one of my goals is to promote opera through my performing.
I have received a fantastic opportunity to do this via my portrayal of the character “Elisabeth” in UT’s winter opera opening this Friday – Les enfants terribles by Philip Glass. This opera is in no way your traditional Mozart or Puccini opera. It is a bit more avant-garde, a bit more bizarre, and has incredible potential to attract a diverse audience.
Les enfants terribles or “The Terrible Children” is adapted from a novel written in 1929 by Jean Cocteau. The story centers on Paul and Elisabeth, a brother and sister living essentially unsupervised in Paris in the early 20th century. Abandoned by their alcoholic father and uncared for by their invalid mother, they spend their time living in their shared bedroom and engaging in a game of hypnotism to escape their mundane reality. Two other characters enter the picture as the show goes on: Gerard, Paul’s school friend, and Agathe, an orphan that Elisabeth meets when she secures a job with a seamstress. Before the children realize what is happening, desire and jealousy creep in among them, and suddenly the harmless game becomes a reality from which there is no escape. Consumed by hate in her struggle for power, Elisabeth must find a way to maintain control, even if that means she and her brother must die.
Both the music and staging for Les enfants terribles are unconventional with regard to standard opera. Composer Philip Glass conceived of the piece to be a dance-opera, in which a singer and a dancer portray the emotions of each character on stage simultaneously. Stage Director David Toro manages this hybrid art form by establishing the dancer characters as manifestations of the singers’ subconscious thoughts. From a musical perspective, the work presents challenges not found in standard opera repertoire. Glass’ music tends to incorporate repetition and a level of unpredictability that make it surprisingly complicated despite fairly simple musical textures. According to Maestro Kelly Kuo, each of the twenty scenes in the opera present a “tableau of emotion” musically and dramatically rather than driving forward an actual progression in time. This assessment seems to match Philip Glass’ own perspective on Les enfants terribles:
“Here, time stands still. There is only music, and the movement of children through space.”
Opera buff or not, expect the unexpected with the Butler School of Music production Les enfants terribles, playing this weekend at the University of Texas McCullough Theater on Friday, February 22nd and Sunday, February 24th at 7:30 pm.-Mari Stoner Long Center Marketing Intern FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION.
Noel Coward’s provocative comedy, DESIGN FOR LIVING Feb. 6-24 at the Rollins Theater from Austin Shakespeare, professional award-winning theater.
As Austin Shakespeare goes into its final week of production of Noel Coward’s witty comedy Design for Living, we thought it would be fun to take a second look at the characters from lead Helen Merino’s perspective. In her interview with Artistic Director Ann Ciccolella, Helen gives us her thoughts on the show.
What makes Noel Coward’s DESIGN FOR LIVING appealing?
Well, it’s an attractive world to start. It draws you into its serious ideas via sex, period clothing, enchanting music, and dazzling wordplay. It is a provocative, substantial, sometimes even painful journey but always in the close company of something sparkling, fun and beautiful. My only regret about being in it is that I can’t be in the audience to have that happen to me.
Why did you want to act in DESIGN FOR LIVING?
It was a combination of the script and knowing I would be working on it with Ann (Ciccolella, director). In general, I find it hard to turn Austin Shakespeare down. The experience is always the way I fantasize I’ll be treated as an actor in other companies but rarely ever am. There seems to be – not
just in Ann, but in the staff as well – a sincere, intelligent interest in what actors actually DO, so the odds of being able to DO it goes way up. I’m hired as a real colleague, employed and encouraged to do my best. They are the most satisfying company to work with because of it.
Also, I fell in love with Coward’s three main characters. He manages to be frankly critical of them without ever losing the thread of what makes them beautiful. In the end it’s their beauty, their shameless, authentic devotion that carries them to their final convictions. They all have smallness in them that they fight against or give into throughout the show, each of them following the wrong solutions to what they need to be. But I love that when they do the final math, they look simply to the truth. Coward lets real love and honor be the thing that carries them toward survival, not fear or whim. I think that’s what separates them from some of his more cynical, sexually addicted characters. I honestly don’t know how other people will take them, but I like them all very much.
What surprised you about Noel Coward’s DESIGN FOR LIVING?
Hands down, it’s the level of difficulty. It’s not just the language – which is some of the most difficult I’ve ever done, and absolutely the most difficult not written by Shakespeare. It’s the show’s hybrid style. Coward, sort of brilliantly, tells us the impossible story of helpless
love for two people by using two different styles of drama; it’s part “Private Lives,” part “Brief Encounter.” And he, like his characters, seems frankly, blindly in love with both methods of communication – it’s all hot and cold speech; each scene seems to exist simultaneously on two planets. The method of conveyance is sometimes a swift, cool, calculated bubble, then switches immediately into a savage, indecent, humiliating openness. It makes one feel a constant sense of, “what’s happening? is this right?” It’s very hard to modulate, alternate, and find the right place to be, but when you do, you feel like the best of bareback riders.
Power. Precision. Passion. Valentine’s Day weekend.
Music by Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Schubert.
Allegro Brillante - George Balanchine
Requiem for a Rose - Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
The Rite of Spring - Stephen Mills
Long Center Founding Resident Company Ballet Austin presents The Rite of Spring February 15-17 at the Long Center. Here are some beautiful photographs from a recent dress rehearsal. Photo Credit: Tony Spielberg.
As distinctive and dynamic as the city it calls home, Ballet Austin welcomes audiences near and far to participate in its “classically innovative” vision for the democratization of dance. With a rich history spanning five decades, acclaimed productions, a commitment to creating access to programs and one of the nation’s largest classical ballet academies, the organization is poised for an even greater future. From their home at the Butler Dance Education Center in downtown Austin, Ballet Austin and Artistic Director Stephen Mills actively engage the community, dancers, and audiences alike. The New York Times proclaims Ballet Austin “a company with big ambitions” originating work that is “absorbing.”