Picture this: a performance venue on the south shore of Town Lake with an auditorium larger than any that currently exists in that area, additional spaces for performance, educational events, and film screenings, plus abundant parking. Yet another rhapsody about the Long Center for the Performing Arts? Naaaahh, try the Bad Dog Comedy Theater. This new venture from some of the folks who brought you improv royalty Monks' Night Out and the Big Stinkin' International Improv & Sketch Comedy Festival are giving South Austin a new stage space with a seating capacity that trumps what's available at the Dougherty Arts Center, Austin Lyric Opera's new Mary Ann Heller Center, and either of the Zachary Scott Theatre Center theatres. The Bad Dog, located at 110 E. Riverside Dr. in one of those buildings that used to change nightclub names every 10 minutes, will feature a 300-seat auditorium, two bars, lounges, and more than 400 parking spaces. True, 300 seats isn't exactly the Paramount Theatre, and it'll be far outgunned by the Long Center's two largest auditoriums once they're developed, but it's still a valuable and welcome addition to the southern shore -- and to Austin's body of performing arts venues overall. And we're getting it for only about 1/100th of what we'll be getting Long Center for; supposedly something on the order of $1 million has been sunk into the renovation of the space to create the Bad Dog. The new theatre is headed up by Anna Bartkowski (owner/financial director), Marc Pruter (owner/artistic director), and Jon Wiley (owner/operations director), with Matt Bearden as marketing & public relations director. Given this gang's history with the Monks, the BS Fest, and other various comedy projects, it's no surprise to see them turn their attention to a space of their own. A permanent home for them to play in and be able to play with new ideas for making Austin even more of a hotbed of comedic activity is the next logical progression. And Team Bad Dog isn't hurting for ideas for the new space. They have plans to host sketch comedy performances, stand-up, improv, film screenings, solo shows, and plays. They'll draw from the fertile local scene, naturally, but they'll also be bringing in touring acts, pulling from some of the comics and troupes who have visited Austin for the Big Stinkin' festivals. In fact, they'll open the club with one such act: The Impromptones, a Los Angeles ensemble specializing in musical improv. Give 'em suggestions, they'll sing 'em. (And they're superb at it!) Oh yes, the opening -- well, you won't have to wait as long for it as for the Long; the Bad Dog is scheduled to debut in just two weeks, with July 14 the big opening. For more information, visit www.baddogcomedy.com.
Also from South Austin, I'm pleased to report that a group of Austin's youngest theatre artists did themselves proud last weekend. Students with the Austin Musical Theatre academy performed in an all-kid production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown at the Texas School for the Deaf, and they proved themselves capable of the same verve and panache that characterizes the work in AMT's full-scale shows. It was a delight. Kudos to all the performers and to talented director Kevin Archambault for so splendidly capturing the innocence and spirit of Charles Schulz's beloved characters. I left wishing I could come back and see it again.
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