Austin native Starla Benford brings The Vagina Monologues to town, Kerthy Fix takes Heaving Shadows at the Skin Show to Chicago, and where does rm 120 theatre go?
Most of the time, this column reports on local artists touring hot projects out of town. This week, we finally have an item about a local artist touring a hot project into town. Though it's been a decade since Starla Benford has trod the boards in Austin, the fact that she's a native and that her work here in the Eighties was so memorable -- starring in Sonnata Blue, a 1990 solo work by Sharon Bridgforth, Blanche in the 1986 production of A Streetcar Named Desire at Capitol City Playhouse, Rose in Fences, among many others -- means she'll always be a local. Well, she left to study acting at Harvard, graduated from its Advanced Theater Training program in 1993, and has spent the time since acting professionally in such regional theatres as the Guthrie, the Shakespeare Theatre, and Long Wharf Theatre, Off-Broadway in Theater for a New Audience's Macbeth and Stonewall Jackson's House, and on Broadway in last summer's ill-fated Macbeth starring Kelsey Grammer. But she's back in town this week, starring in the national tour of that very hot show, The Vagina Monologues, a series of short solo pieces written by Eve Ensler after the playwright conducted hundreds of interviews with women about their vaginas. The show is structured in such a way that it's very easy for actresses to rotate in and out of the show, and at just about every stop on the tour a different celebrity is being plugged into the three-woman cast (in Austin, it's Linda Ellerbee). But it's Starla and Alley Theatre company member Sherri Parker Lee (Not About Nightingales) who are the anchors of this tour, appearing at every stop from Atlanta to Winnipeg. And their work has been well-received so far, with Dominic Papatola, theatre critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, praising Benford for her "sense of fun and fearlessness. She's the pacesetter for the evening."
Road Trip for a Road Trip
File this one under "Life Imitates Art." Last year, Kerthy Fix premiered Heaving Shadows at the Skin Show, a performance piece about a gay hustler, a hitchhiker, and a trucker on a cross-country odyssey. Now, this show about a road trip is taking a road trip. Fix and the company of the Vortex production are heading to Chicago next month to perform the show at Links Hall as part of that performance space's "Power Play" performance art series. The show will be performed February 2-10 at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, second floor. Call 773/281-0824 for more information.
New Kids in Town
Reading the piece on dramaturgy in the new issue of American Theatre magazine, I was thrown momentarily to see one of the featured dramaturgs, Greg Romero, listed as being from Austin. Now, I don't claim to know everybody who works in theatre in town, but I do make an effort to stay familiar with at least all the theatre companies in town, and I not only couldn't place Romero, I couldn't place the rm 120 theatre with which he's affiliated that is said to be based here. While I was puzzling over who these folks are and what shows they might have done, an e-mail arrived from Romero himself, introducing him and the company. I hadn't missed anything, it turns out; rm 120 is one of Austin's "newest theatre outfits," he writes, and its "collective of artists dedicated to developing new, imaginative works for the theatre" just "moved here from Dallas specifically to begin our theatre endeavor." He adds that the company is presenting four pieces in the FronteraFest 2001 Short Fringe. Welcome and best wishes, rm 120.