Director Don Toner announces a new theatre company for himself, David Stevens announces his departure from Chorus Austin, and UT's Department of Art & Art History announces a rare meeting of critical minds.
Toner's Next Step
When he was preparing to leave his post of producing artistic director of the State Theater Company, Don Toner made it clear that he wouldn't be headed for a life of long naps in the La-Z-Boy. In fact, he rather made it sound as if he wouldn't be taking so much as a vacation before he got back in the theatrical game. Well, here it is not 10 weeks since his exit from the State, and Toner is in the thick of a new theatrical enterprise. On Sunday, November 5, he and his wife Irlyn hosted a gathering of colleagues, patrons, and friends at their home to announce the formation of Austin Playhouse, a new company for which Toner will serve as artistic director. Showing just how easy he'd been taking it since the end of August, Toner announced not only the name of the company but the three plays which will constitute Austin Playhouse's first season -- Light Up the Sky, Moss Hart's durable comedy; Mahalia, Tom Holtz's dramatic account of the life of Mahalia Jackson; and The Fantasticks, the enormously popular musical by UT alums Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt -- and the location where the Playhouse's first efforts will be performed: Concordia University. Additional information on performance dates and the group itself are said to be forthcoming. Speaking after the party, Toner said that he was "quite inspired by the response" to the new company.
Stevens Leaves Chorus
As noted in the above item, the State Theater Company bid farewell to its longtime artistic director this year, but it looks like it won't be the only local arts group to do so. Chorus Austin, the umbrella organization for the Austin Civic Chorus, Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble, the Texas Bach Festival, the Orchestra of St. David's, and the Summer Musical for Children, announced this week that David Stevens will be leaving the organization at the end of the year. Stevens, who has served 16 years with the Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble and nine with Austin Civic Chorus, said in a released statement only that he "felt the need to devote more time to my family." Stevens departs Chorus Austin having presided over the merger of the Civic Chorus and Vocal Arts Ensemble last year and the launching of the Bach festival this spring. "I am proud of the growth we accomplished," he has said, and Chorus Austin board chair Reuben McDaniel notes that he "cannot overstate our appreciation of his efforts for the last 16 years."
Critical Minds En Masse
For 10 years, the UT Department of Art & Art History has fostered critical thinking about art with an annual program titled Viewpoints, in which prominent art critics, scholars, and curators on the national scene have been brought to Austin to discuss the art form -- where it's been, where it is, where it's going. This year, the department has managed an exceptional feat, bringing 17 participants from previous years -- Brook Adams, Dennis Adrian, Michael Brenson, Eleanor Heartney, Dave Hickey, Mary Ann Staniszewski, Kellie Jones, Lisa Liebmann, Laura Cottingham, Peter Schjeldahl, John Yau, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Michael Duncan, Arlene Raven, Lowery Stokes Sims, Robert Storr, and Steven Westfall -- together for a three-day symposium of dialogue on criticism and movements in the American art scene. Titled Critical Mass, the symposium runs November 9-11 and features two sessions each day, an open seminar at 10am and a panel discussion on a specific topic at 3pm. All sessions are free and open to the public. For more information, call 471-3379.