A Spruced-Up Nutcracker

The quest for a new, improved Nutcracker for Ballet Austin began in earnest this past Sunday, December 17, when the company held a reception at which new costume and set designs for BA's annual production of the Tchaikovsky ballet were unveiled and a campaign to pay for the new look was initiated. Following an introduction by Ballet Austin board member Karen Kuykendall, guest of honor Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls) unveiled the new designs commissioned from Richard Isackes, Head of Design at the UT Department of Theatre and Dance, and Tommy Bourgeois, who previously designed costumes for BA's production of Romeo and Juliet. Chronicle correspondent Marene Gustin attended the reception and reports the look of the new costumes and sets to be "opulent... very rich... similar in look to Romeo and Juliet: lots of velvet, lots of brocade, dark colors." The price tag for the new production elements is $225,000, which Ballet Austin hopes to have raised by next December. At press time, the campaign was up to $34,000, thanks to a gift from the Ballet Austin Guild and contributions from various individuals, including a $10,000 gift from an anonymous donor. For more information on the campaign, call Ballet Austin, 476-9051.


Hearing Is Seeing

Austin Access Arts, a local service that provides descriptions of live theatre and dance performances for visually impaired audience members, is adding some holiday cheer to a few seasonal productions. AAA is offering audio descriptions for two performances each of Ballet Austin's production of The Nutcracker (Thu, Dec 21, 7:30pm, and Sat, Dec 23, 2pm), Joe Sears and Jaston Williams' holiday comedy A Tuna Christmas (Sun, Jan 7, 2 & 7:30pm), and the Capitol City Playhouse revue Always... Patsy Cline (Tue & Wed, Jan 23 & 24, 8pm). AAA volunteers provide patrons with descriptions of key visual elements of the productions via a special headset working off an FM signal. The service originated at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and is still relatively new in the Austin area, but its popularity is growing quickly. For more information or to reserve a headset, call The Box Office at 499-8497.


Honors

Gabrielle Cranford, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded a Certificate of Artistic Merit in the fifth Gregory M. Moxley Commemorative Young Persons' Art Competition. The national competition, sponsored by Pat Moxley in memory of her son Greg, who was an artist, is for artists between the ages of 14 and 21. Moxley, a professional artist who owns the Pat Moxley Studio/Gallery in Janesville, WI, juried the competition with art educator Sandra Grawe. Cranford, 19, was honored for her 30"x40" acrylic painting "Spilling Guts."

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