Austin loses a longtime artist, Mickey Joe Mayfield, and Vortex Repertory Company gains a managing director, Barry Pineo.

In Memoriam: Mickey Joe Mayfield

The palm trees stopped swaying last week; they knew that Mickey Joe Mayfield was gone. The longtime Austin artist, well known for his paintings of the tropical trees, died Monday, May 20, from complications due to AIDS. He was 62. Mayfield traced the beginning of his artistic career to his father's body shop in Brownwood, Texas, where he started messing with paints when he was nine. That led to art lessons in his hometown and later at the Kimball Museum of Art in Ft. Worth. He arrived in Austin in 1965 with his friend Doug Dyer, the director who later co-founded Esther's Follies. In 1969, Mayfield provided set and lighting design for a protest musical Dyer directed at the University of Texas. Called Now the Revolution, the play was radical enough to get it kicked off campus -- this was the heyday of Frank Erwin, after all -- but it had caught the attention of Joseph Papp and enjoyed a run at the New York Public Theater as STOMP. The show was something of a sensation, being covered by The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Life, and Playboy, and later touring Europe. Afterward, Mayfield returned to Austin, and though he had other experiences in theatre -- working as a set and lighting designer in the theatre department at Harvard University when his partner Michael Cain was attending school there, painting sets for the Boston Opera Company -- most of his time after the STOMP years was devoted to painting and spent here. In 1993, Robert Leeper hired Mayfield to paint a mural for Romeo's restaurant and arranged a show of his work at Soma coffee shop, where his Palm Panels, inspired by a visit to Egypt taken with Cain, attracted notice. Mayfield's palms can still be seen in the main dining room at Jeffrey's, and the restaurant's private dining room features a portrait of Napoleon he was commissioned to paint. Mayfield also painted a ceiling mural of the Mayan Underworld for the "Mayan House" designed by architect Paul Lamb and interior designer Fern Smith. Still, as valued a painter as Mayfield was, he was prized more as a friend. On May 23, a memorial gathering at the Laguna Gloria home of the Austin Museum of Art drew some 60 friends and family members who shared memories of his easygoing nature, gentleness, and friendship. He shall be missed.

As the Vortex Turns

'Tis the season for adding managing directors. Just weeks after Austin Lyric Opera hired one to relieve Joe McLain of some administrative pressure, the Vortex Repertory Company has brought one on to do the same for Artistic Director Bonnie Cullum, who has held the position by default since 1992, when original Managing Director Steve Bacher left the company. Stepping into the Vortex to manage it with Cullum is local director, actor, and Chronicle theatre critic Barry Pineo. The two have known each other since their grad school days at UT-Austin in the mid-1980s, and Pineo has been a Vortex company member for more than 10 years, having directed numerous company productions, including Fur, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and the recent Critics Table Award-nominated Shopping and Fucking. His plays In Chains, Killers, and Future Mix were mounted by Vortex, and he currently teaches the weekly Vortex Acting Workshop. Pineo holds a BA in theatre from the University of Maine and an MFA in directing from the University of Texas. For more information call 512-478-LAVA or visit

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Mickey Joe Mayfield, Doug Dyer, Esther's Follies, Now the Revolution, Frank Erwin, Joseph Papp, New York Public Theater, STOMP, Michael Cain, Robert Leeper, Romeo's, Soma, Jeffrey's, Mayan House, Paul Lamb, Fern Smith, Laguna Gloria, Austin Museum of Art, Austin Lyric Oper

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