The Austin Chronicle


By Robert Faires, January 25, 2002, Arts

Quiz Kids, Round 2

Last Wednesday night at the KMFA studios, there was a terrific tutorial on the operatic works and careers of composers Richard Wagner, Guiseppe Verdi, and Giacomo Puccini, and it was given by a trio of students from Westwood High School. The three were actually there to compete in Round Two of the ChevronTexaco Quiz Kids program, a youth-oriented offshoot of the long-running quiz feature from the Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, and I was supposedly there to judge their expertise, but as they fielded questions about music drama, verismo, and the like, it was clear those teens already knew more about opera than I ever will. Listening to Mallory Burchfield weigh the relative merits of Wagner and Puccini as modern artists, John Pettengill expound on the similarities in Mimi and Madame Butterfly, and Juliana Tutt enthuse over Verdi's methods in creating a comic mood in Falstaff was enlightening and delightful. My fellow judges, Bryker Woods Elementary music teacher Melody Long, ALO board member Stephen Skaggs, and I wished we could have sent all three to the Finals Round. In the end, however, that honor went to just one contestant, Juliana Tutt, so on February 7 & 8, she'll be at the Four Seasons in Houston matching wits with high schoolers from 11 other cities across North America in an effort to be one of three contestants who get to play the quiz during the Met broadcast of Falstaff in April. (Mallory and John each received a $500 scholarship to the college of their choice.) Congratulations to all three, to their instructor Morris Stevens, and to Austin Lyric Opera and KMFA for making their first foray into the Quiz Kids program a success.

Further cause for celebration at KMFA: The station's program Mind Your Music, heard Saturdays at 9am and Sundays at 5pm, was awarded the 2001 crystal trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Classical Music Education. The 15-minute show, produced and hosted by David Ford and Russell Sarre, in cooperation with AISD and UIL, was graded in four areas -- music education communication, research, creativity/writing, and production values/technical execution -- and the four-judge panel rated it higher than educational programs from WCLV, Cleveland; WIII-FM, University of Illinois; KFUO-FM, St. Louis; and Public Radio International.

The Return of Tennon

One of the most powerful actors ever to grace an Austin stage will pay his old hometown a visit soon. Julius Tennon, whose leading performances in local productions of The Great White Hope, Streamers, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Othello made him one of the area's most honored and respected actors in the Eighties, is taking a break from his TV and film career for an intimate evening of conversation at Heritage House, 810 East 13th. Joining Tennon for the Friday, February 1, event, sponsored by DiverseArts Production Group and Pro Arts Collective, will be his partner, actress Viola Davis, who won the Best Featured Actress Tony Award last year for her performance in August Wilson's King Hedley II. The two will talk about their new play, Spirit North, which they plan to produce in Austin this year. For more information, call 477-9438 or 236-0644.

Austin Script Works Benefit Performance!

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, there will be a special benefit performance of The Dinosaur Within. Festivities get under way at 6:30pm with a buffet from Si Bon restaurant, a silent auction, a pre-show talk from the playwright, a chance to decorate the "Dinah" mobile (Dinosaur Art Car), and then the play at 8pm. Tickets for the dinner and discussion are $50. Tickets for the show only are on a pay-what-you-wish, sliding scale starting at $10. For reservations to the benefit e-mail, or call 692-0523. (For all other dates and times call 469-SHOW.) All proceeds benefit Austin Script Works.

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