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the Long Center, from Inside the Ring

Category Archives: 2012-2013 Season

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.

cabezadevaca550_439The 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

For tickets and more information on Crank Collective’s Cabeza de Vaca: Shipwrecked in Texas, at the Long Center, Rollins Studio, April 3, 4 and 5.

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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 Journey-Sunday-041teachers. 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

For tickets and more information on Austin Dance India’s Bharata Natyam Solos and Duets at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, March 28-31. 

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Words of Wisdom from Charlie Ross, Creator of One-Man Star Wars Trilogy


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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:

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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.

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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. 

For Tickets and more information about One-Man Star Wars Trilogy at the Long Center. 

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Even those of us who are gleefully filled with holiday cheer can get burnt out from the oversaturation of Christmas music. When various radio stations and department stores switch over to all-holiday-music-all-the-time before Thanksgiving is even past, it’s sometimes hard not to feel some Scrooge-like sentiments bubbling up. Fortunately, there are some holiday albums that aren’t just the same smooth jazz and smarmy pop that inundate the airwaves. Here are a few that might help resuscitate your holiday cheer:

 

Sufjan Stevens – Silver and Gold (2012)

Indie rock darling Sufjan Stevens released Silver and Gold, a new collection of holiday tunes, this past November. With 58 tracks ranging from fresh takes on Christmas traditionals like “Silent Night,” “Good King Wenceslas,” and “Let it snow!” to new originals like “Lumberjack Christmas” and “Mr. Frosty Man,” there’s bound to be something for everyone in the almost five-dozen-song collection. Stevens’ characteristic folk instrumentations and mix of optimism and melancholia are sure to pull on the heartstrings and induce bittersweet nostalgia in even the most hardened of holiday hearts. Check out “The Midnight Clear” and “Auld Lang Syne” (also known as “that song they always sing at New Year’s”) and feel your heart be warmed with holiday cheer.

Click here for more of Sufjan Stevens’ Silver and Gold.

 

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)


If you’ve heard anything from jazzman Vince Guaraldi, it was probably the music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” He’s no one-hit-wonder – Guaraldi won a Grammy for “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and had 17 albums to his name before his untimely death – but this album has stood above the rest.

There’s a reason why “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is still a seasonal staple, and the soundtrack is as good as the TV special itself. The jazz piano solo tracks like “O Tannenbaum” and “Skating” are more than worthwhile on their own, but the songs that really shine are the endearing piano and children’s chorus songs “Christmastime Is Here” and “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.”

Click here to see Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas on Amazon.

The Sonics / The Wailers / The Galaxies – Merry Christmas (1965)


If you’re looking for something really non-traditional, look no further than Merry Christmas, a collaborative album from 1960s garage rock bands The Sonics, The Wailers, and The Galaxies. Etiquette Records brought these three groups from Tacoma, Washington together for this 1964 release, and it’s more than unfortunate that it isn’t more widely available. If your nostalgia for bygone holiday seasons is tinged with longing for the sounds of groups like The Kinks and Paul Revere & the Raiders, then this album should bring a smile to your face. And really, even if not, this is a great listen.

Unfortunately, this one seems to have never been reissued, so you’re pretty much limited to what’s on YouTube.

Sam Billen – Merry Christmas (2012) and A Light Goes On (2011)

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Sam Billen has been releasing an annual free Christmas album since 2008, and this year’s edition is no letdown. Family has always been a central feature of Billen’s music, and this mostly-acoustic album features his brother Dan and father Bill alongside Sam and his oftentimes collaborator Josh Atkinson. It’s understated and folksy, with a tinge of retro synth. It’s a pleasant 22 minutes of holiday classics, with “I Wonder as I Wander” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” particularly standing out

Click ‘play’ to take a listen to Sam Billen’s “A Light Went On,” from A Light Goes On (2011).

But while this year’s instrumental album is great, for me it can’t top last year’s Billen Christmas project, A Light Goes On. And while there are plenty of fantastic takes of holiday classics in this one (Katlyn Conroy and Austen Malone’s take of “Baby Its Cold Outside” and Timbre’s “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” are particularly charming), the original and unexpected inclusions are where this really shines. Beau Jennings’ rendition of Woodie Guthrie’s “1913 Massacre” – about the 1913 Italian Hall Disaster, where 73 people were trampled to death after someone shouted “fire” at a crowded miners’ Christmas party – is as hauntingly beautiful as it is tragic. Sam Billen’s title track, “A Light Went On,” is a story of nostalgia for the Christmastimes of childhood, all bundled up with endearing indie-pop trappings.

You can find more information or download Merry Christmas (2012) here, and you can click here for more of A Light Goes On (2011).

The Maccabeats – “Candlelight” (2010)


Okay, this one isn’t an album like our other selections, but it’s brilliant enough that we just couldn’t leave it out. The Maccabeats, an all-male a cappella group out of Yeshiva University, became an internet sensation for their hilarious parody of Taio Cruz’s party hit “Dynamite.” The new lyrics tell the Hanukkah-appropriate tale of the mighty Maccabees, and the impressive music video and top-notch a cappella work does not disappoint. Whether you’re one of the treasured people or you don’t know the difference between Seder and cedar, you’ll enjoy this wonderful remake.

Click here for more Maccabeats.

Guy Forsyth and Carolyn Wonderland – Fireside Songs for the Soul (2010)


This list wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of local flavor, and Guy Forsyth and Carolyn Wonderland both have plenty of that. These two regionally acclaimed Texans have been significant players in the Austin music scene (as well as throughout the rest of Texas) for years, and there’s a reason why. Their country twang is charming in this cover of the wintertime classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Even though it’s never actually that cold in Austin, Texas (although I’ve heard 55 degrees described as “frigid” by some of the locals), this iconic tune is always fitting for the holiday season.

You can check out Fireside Songs for the Soul on iTunes, or find it on Carolyn’s website.

– Nick Curry, Marketing and Development Intern
The Long Center

The Long Center hosts Guy Forsyth and Carolyn Wonderland’s Holiday Roast on December 20- 22. Click here for more information and tickets.

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There’s no way around it: the Blue Man Group is a strange bunch. Intentionally and delightfully so, but nonetheless, pretty odd. Their uniqueness is part of the appeal, but it makes it slightly tricky to explain what it is they actually do. The press kits they send us, allegedly to help us tell you what exactly it is the Blue Man Group is, aren’t too much help either: they like to drop phrases like “indescribable phenomenon” and “experiences that defy categorization.” Fortunately for us, we’ve seen Arrested Development (more on that in a later blog post) and we’ve scoured the interwebs for the best clips of the Blue Man Group in action, so we’re at least slightly more familiar with the Blue Men.

1. “Blue Thousand One”

This might be the classical music nerd part of me talking here, but I’m a sucker for just about anything that uses the opening to Richard Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” (or, as it’s more commonly known, the music from the monolith scene of Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey). Whether it’s the computer files scene in Zoolander or Blue Men tossing exploding balloons full of paint at each others’ faces, this music can make just about anything dramatic and epic. Maybe I should cue that tune up for the next time I’m washing dishes.

2. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”


Okay, I like Lady Gaga. I’ve spent the last five and a half years studying classical music theory, but there’s still just something about cheesy, superficial pop music that I enjoy so much. This last week, my listening was split (nearly 50/50) between Maurice Ravel’s La valse and Swedish pop star Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend,” and I’m okay with that. I can love them both.

In this clip, the Blue Man Group takes a crack at Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and, as you could expect, it’s wonderfully silly. While this isn’t my favorite Gaga cover ever (that distinction goes to the staff of National Public Radio for their amazing rendition of Gaga’s Telephone) it’s still pretty cool.

3. Rods and Cones


Part science lesson and part musical performance, this video from the Blue Man Group production “Tubes” features mesmerizing rhythms, grooving percussion, and an intriguing look at how our eyes work. I definitely have a soft spot for well-done educational entertainment (my childhood was spent with Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Bill Nye the Science Guy, after all) and this clip not only has some pretty great music but throws in a fascinating examination of the human eye.

– Nick Curry, Marketing and Development Intern
The Long Center

The Blue Man Group will be at the Long Center on December 31-January 2. Click here for more information and tickets.

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On a particularly sweltering Saturday this past August, I sat decompressing after a very successful event the Long Center had hosted that morning on the City Terrace. Bubblepalooza!, a brand-new free event, featured an environment of open play  combined with the sweet sounds of Kiddie Rock. Over 3000 men, women, and children dropped by in just three hours. We were all overwhelmed by the response.

For the purpose of this tale, the term “decompressing” means to sit elated with friends and their children who had attended the event, brainstorming additions to the immediately conceived second annual Bubblepalooza!, all the while trying to grasp the awesomeness of what had happened that morning. There were just so many smiling faces! At one point, while reiterating my disbelief of the sheer volume of little bubble blowers that came out to participate, my friend asked me why I was so surprised.

It had been just eight months since the Long Center presented a company from the United Kingdom named Architects of Air and their amazing Luminarium, an enormous inflated structure that at first glance looks like a futuristic bounce-house village. From the moment I saw it, I knew Austin had to have it. It was the first big project I ever stuck my neck out for as an arts programmer, but the gamble paid off in spades. In just seven days, more than 8500 Austinites young and old had experienced the Luminarium, many happily waiting multiple hours for the opportunity. The friends I was “decompressing” with that afternoon had all taken their children to experience the “Mirazozo,” as this particular Luminarium was named. One friend shared something that took me over the edge from elated to completely blown away: her son, who was just three-years-old back in January, still talks about his trip to the Mirazozo almost a whole year later.

Long Center Programming Manager Karen Jantsch stands in front of Architects of Air’s “Mirazozo”

For me, the satisfaction of being a programmer comes with bringing Austin not just the things they want to see and experience but also the things they don’t even know they want. The response to the Mirazozo solidified this notion for me, and for that I will always be grateful. It also reminded me just how powerful experiences can be as a young child. As they say, “with great power comes great responsibility,” so I’m making it my responsibility to ensure that a whole new host of Austinites get to experience the Luminarium first hand. It is my absolute pleasure to announce that this January the Long Center’s West Lawn will host this sensory experience of color and light once more. This time, we’ll be presenting the company’s 25th Anniversary structure “Exxopolis”. Like with all things Long Center, we’re working hard to make the experience even better than last year, so I hope you’ll make a note on your calendar to visit us January 19-27 for what I promise will be an unforgettable experience. Stay tuned for more details!

– Karen Jantsch, Programming Manager
The Long Center

For more photos and information about Architects of Air’s Luminaria, visit Architects-of-Air.com.

A photo from the inside of Architects of Air’s “Mirazozo.”

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Editor’s note: we are once again proud to feature the perspective of an organization that makes the Long Center its performance home. This time from Ann Ciccolella, Artistic Director at Austin Shakespeare, one of our new Resident Companies. Austin Shakespeare is staging Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice in our Rollins Studio Theatre November 7-25.

Bit by bit we are putting our new ‘Pride and Prejudice’ together. Actors, designers and crew love working on this new adaptation but it is challenging. Like a carousel, the show goes round every few minutes to a new situation and a new group of characters… including dances and music. Our chorographer Toni Bravo, who can be elegant even in her high-heeled boots, takes the actors step by elegant step.

I love the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, so I am hearing his song in my head “Bit by bit, putting it together.”

Actors know their lines but that is only the beginning of their work as they begin to work on the Rollins stage. I ask the perennial directorial question: “What do you want from him or her?” and “What if you wanted to tease him so he would smile?”

That “what if” is the key to most of our creative action. What if that wall were bluer? What if that hat had a feather? That is the nature of our work: to try. Jane Austen brings out the best in us. We stretch to do great writers justice, and they lift our work with their great imagination.

This week we added more music cues that we have acquired from the original production by Joe Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan. But our actors are from Austin – even if one came last year from Los Angeles and another came six months ago from NYC. This production is original to Austin. We are so fortunate to have our resident lighting designer, Jason Amato turn down other more lucrative projects to work on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with us. His light design will be as delightfully rhythmic as Austen’s language.

Also this week we shot a short trailer for You Tube with Michael Dalmon, and our Elizabeth and Darcy had their first media outing with KOOP Radio “Off Stage and On the Air,” plus we talked with John Aielli on KUT. KXAN-TV for Friday…. Money, time and people. The three elements of any project. In theater, we are always tight on all three. But the people are the best part. They give their all. Actors, designers, technicians and crew. We have a fabulous resident Equity stage manager, Shannon Richey who keeps me in check on not over taxing anyone and everyone.

All in all, we are lucky to have this amazing collection of talent and inspiration…YOU are the final element we need as we ‘put it all together!’

–Ann Ciccolella, Artistic Director
Austin Shakespeare

Austin Shakespeare’s “Pride & Prejudice’ is playing at the Long Center’s Riollins Studio Theatre November 7-25. Visit the Austin Shakespeare site for tickets.

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