The announcement of Ballet Austin's new artistic director; the release of facility specifications for the Long Center.

Mills to Lead Ballet Austin

Well, as announcements of new artistic directors go, the one last Thursday, February 17, at Ballet Austin didn't offer much in the way of suspense. Even if you'd missed Michael Barnes' scoop on the announcement in that morning's Austin American-Statesman, you could hardly avoid the black-and-white balloons lining the stairway up to the studio where the press conference was being held. Each one trumpeted the new director's name in a phrase lifted from the "got milk?" ad campaign. Then, in the studio itself, there was the huge banner on one wall inside with a larger-than-life image of the man to clue you in. By the time Board President Cliff Ernst and Search Committee Chair Jare Smith finally introduced Stephen Mills as the new permanent AD for BA, there was precious little anticipation left in the room. But what the event lacked in tension, it made up for in goodwill. Mills was greeted with a standing ovation and enough applause to make him blush -- a sight to see: The color goes right to the top of his smooth-pated head. He called the moment "overwhelming" and "emotional," noting that "there's something about the family of Ballet Austin that has been major in the development of my career." Remarking on the long-standing local support for his work, he said, "I can't think of any place I'd rather be than this community." Looking forward, Mills leaked plans for BA's 2000-01 season: a modern-dress Hamlet, to music by Philip Glass; a program of dances by former company members Paul Vasterling (now artistic director of Nashville Ballet) and Septime Webre (now artistic director of Washington Ballet); and a Don Quixote, co-produced with Louisville Ballet. Mills' next work is the revival of his Cinderella, set for April 28-30. For info, call 476-2163.

Long Center Specs

The Showplace of the Shores took another step toward reality this week when the ARTS Center Stage board of trustees approved the program for the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts. The program lays out the facility specifications in every area, from the largest concert hall to the smallest closet. And the specs -- based on the development process led by Joshua Dachs of theatre planning and design firm Fisher Dachs Associates -- promise an impressive home for the arts on Town Lake. Totaling some 200,000 square feet, the Long Center will boast:

  • a 2,310-seat hall with full concert shell for symphony, opera, ballet, musicals, et. al;

  • the 720-seat Topfer Theater for drama, dance, music, and children's theatre;

  • the 250-seat Rollins Hall with flexible seating for drama, dance, chamber music, and children's theatre;

    plus donor's lounge, green room, gift shop, administrative offices, box office, and lobby.

    Naturally, this all comes with a price -- and it's up a bit from the $45-50 million estimates of of a few years ago. It's doubled to $89 million, the increase credited to a mix of hot-market construction cost inflation and ambitious additions to the facility plans, such as expansion of the Topfer Theater from 500 seats to 720 and improving the quality of the acoustics. Now, the Long Center ball is passed off to the project's design architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago, to develop the center's schematic design. That process is estimated to take about six months. For more information on the center, go to

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