The Austin theatre festival MoMFest goes away, the Austin Arts Commission welcomes Sue Graze to its membership, and a couple of Austin theatre types show up on TV.
So Long, MOM
For the past four years, Austin performers and artists had a few weeks in the fall when they could focus on their art and not the cost of presenting it; three guys did that for them, providing them with venues to perform in, a schedule of dates and times, and publicity for their efforts. Mind Over Money was the concept, and it worked. Emerging companies and artists on the local scene obtain greater exposure and eventually artists from around the country started coming to town to take part. But even a festival grounded in the idea of Mind Over Money isn't without its costs, and that became all too clear last week when the producers of the Mind Over Money Theatrical Festival -- better known as MoMFest -- announced that they were suspending operations for the foreseeable future. In a statement to the theatre community and the press, Daniel Lam, Jason Lehmberg, and Wade Williams said that "maintaining the infrastructure of MoMFest and the personal time it requires has become difficult" and that their "opportunities to learn and grow as artists lessen as the demands of producing the festival increase." With personal goals leading them in different directions, the three announced, "it would be too difficult to produce MoMFest from afar without stable funding and a dedicated full-time staff." The three go on to say that they believe "MoMFest has made an important contribution to the Austin theatre scene in four short years," a statement that I and many Austinites will echo, I'm sure. The three express their gratitude to all the participants and the hope that they may "someday bring MoMFest back -- in Austin or somewhere new."
Arts Commission Addition
Best wishes to Texas Fine Arts Association Executive Director Sue Graze, who has been appointed to the Austin Arts Commission. An appointee of Council Member Will Wynn, Graze's term began May 23 and runs through October 1, 2003. She joins Chair Andrea Bryant, Vice Chair Eduardo Benavides, Parliamentarian Maxine Bakan, Pamela Cunningham, Guadalupe Martinez, Bruce Willenzik, and Mel Ziegler. The ninth spot on the commission is vacant, awaiting appointment by Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman. Prior to joining TFAA, Graze was the assistant director for programs and senior curator at the Miami Art Museum. She has also worked for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Center for Research in Contemporary Art at UT-Arlington.
Theatre on the Tube
If you were watching the Tony Awards this past Sunday -- and chances are you weren't as the ratings for the broadcast set a new all-time low -- you may have seen a former Austinite among the winners. John Rando, who picked up a Tony for directing Urinetown: The Musical, was a UT-Austin student in the early 1980s and a participant in the prestigious Shakespeare at Winedale program, where he played Hamlet one summer. In the last few seasons, Rando has become one of the American theatre's busiest directors. He also directed last summer's revival of A Thousand Clowns and Neil Simon's The Dinner Party on Broadway, has staged two musical revivals for the City Center Encores! series, and has worked closely with playwright David Ives. Congratulations, John!
Closer to home is Naughty Austin's Blake Yelavich, who got a chance to Win Ben Stein's Money on Comedy Central a few days ago. The first cablecast was on June 11 at 5pm, but you'll likely be able to catch it again and again in repeats. According to Yelavich, he did "okay," though he would have done better if his mouth had said what his brain was thinking. (He meant to say San Antonio Spurs but what came out of his mouth was Stars. "But I did walk away with some money and some very nice departing gifts and had some fun conversations with Mr. Ben Stein," he says. Yelavich's latest theatrical effort is the Naughty Austin production of Making Porn, which he directed and which opens at Hyde Park Theatre on Friday, June 14. Call 407-8877 for info.