The Year in Austin Culture
Top 10 for 2K (in no particular order)1. Is St. Edward's University Austin's Unsung Acting Program? Witness the amazing performance of Jeffery Mills as Alan Strang in the Mary Moody Northen Theatre production of Equus. Some roles you leap into, like you'd leap off a bridge; Mills not only leapt, he flew. Also noteworthy at St. Ed's this year was Matthew Cross, who was exceptional as irritable barfly Gaston in Picasso at the Lapin Agile and as Alan's hypocritical father, the morally repugnant Mr. Strang, in that same production of Equus.
2. Actors Who Look Like They're Having a Grand Old Time, Part I: Ron Berry and Carlos Trevino in Fatigue (Physical Plant Theater) Walking into The Off Center for a late-night performance of Fatigue, you'd notice Ron and Carlos, standing next to each other in their tuxes, looking at the audience with odd little smiles. Theirs were the smiles of actors who knew they were about to take you into an irregular and oddly beautiful world of love and friendship and loss. With a musical flourish or two, and a couple of puppets.
3. Au Revoir and Bon Voyage (i.e., No, No, We Have Roles for You, Don't Go!): Alan and Michele Waldock (Twelfth Night); Ehren Connor Christian (Lipstick Traces, Torch Song Trilogy). Argh! No sooner do I meet the Waldocks, who did star turns in that minimalist Twelfth Night by a certain editor around here, than they are off to Florida. And Ehren leaving for the Big Apple? Say it ain't so! Well, Austin's loss is New York's gain. Good luck to all.
4. Actors Who Look Like They're Having a Grand Old Time, Part II: The Cast of As You Like It (Austin Shakespeare Festival) Power to the (flower) people, right on! With some great tunes, costumes out of your hippie uncle's attic, and plenty of playful attitude, this ensemble made that frisky play as fresh as daisy in a National Guard rifle.
5. A Kind of Alaska (Subterranean Theatre Company) This remarkable and disturbing production, more than any other I saw this year, left an indelible mark on me. Katherine Catmull, pawing at her face in that bloody big bed, is an image never to be shaken off.
6. The "Fool the Critic/The Critic Is a Fool" Award: Helen Merino in My Children! My Africa! (First Stage Productions/Zachary Scott Theatre Center) I really thought she was this new find, fresh out of high school. Well, she was brilliant!
7. Actors Who Look Like They're Having a Grand Old Time III: Steve Shearer as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew (State Theater Company) Now, I hope Steve isn't really like that when he's at home. What a brash, mischievous, Machiavellian, playful, and physical performance.
8. The "All Growed Up" Award: Matthew Patterson in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (VORTEX Repertory Company) Patterson's mature and intense work in Kirk Smith's adaptation of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities was exceptional. How wonderful to see an actor come into his own on Austin's stages.
9. Dancers Who Look Like They're Having a Grand Old Time: Mark Morris (UT Performing Arts Center) The best evening of dance I've seen in Austin. Totally strong, beautiful, wistful, in-sync, and never ever taking itself too seriously. A true invitation to the dance.
10. The Opening of Flatbed Press World Headquarters That building just feels good. You can sense all these great ideas emanating from all sorts of artistic minds in the halls and offices, galleries, and studios of that arts warehouse. Congratulations to Katherine Brimberry and Mark Smith on its successful opening.
Production designs for Othello (Austin Shakespeare Festival) and The Threepenny Opera (UT Department of Theatre & Dance)
That fantastic tent on Fifth Street for Venus (Salvage Vanguard Theater)
The fucking brilliant actors in the productions of Pinter's A Kind of Alaska and The Collection (Subterranean Theatre Company) and Betrayal and Ashes to Ashes (The Public Domain) (aka Robi's Conflict of Interest Award): Katherine "Just Can't Get Enough" Catmull, "Dr." David Jones, Jim "No Forwarding Address" Elliot, Robert "Corvo Bianco" Fisher, David "Minimum Wage" Stahl, Michael "Wind Sprints" Miller, Joey "The" Hood, "Introducing" Vanessa Llach, and "The Real" Cyndi Williams;
The Best Moment of Theatre Award: Anne Hulsman walking through the window in Cyndi Williams' Woman at the Window, directed by David Jones. Unexpected and dreamy;
The Most Useful Space in Austin: The VORTEX, neé Planet Theatre. Creative uses by directors and designers, and the most helpful in-house staff you'll find in town;
The "Buttering Up Your Editor" Award: Twelfth Night (Sneck Up! Productions) Directed by Chronicle Arts editor Robert Faires -- hmmm, well, it was good, dammit!