The Texas Commission for the Arts gives Austinites a chance to see the state's best artists for free, and praise from the out-of-town press for local playwrights Cyndi Williams and Joe Sears and Jaston Williams
As if making a case for "the best things in life" being free, the Texas Commission on the Arts is hosting a pair of performances this week that will showcase some of the Lone Star State's finest artists and yet cost you absolutely nothing to see. The performances, which take place at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 8, and Friday, Aug. 9, at 8pm, are presented in conjunction with TCA's biannual Touring Arts Conference being held in the capital city, August 7-10. Take in Thursday's show, and you'll get to enjoy music by our own Tish Hinojosa and Mariachi MECA of Houston, theatre by Teatro Humanidad Cansada, hip-hop dance from the FLY Dance Company of Houston, cowboy poetry, flamenco, and much, much more. Catch Friday's show and you'll be treated to everything from Sara Hickman's music to Filipino dance by Dallas' Maharlika Dancers, theatre by Austin performer Joy Cunningham to classical guitar by Susan Grisanti of Lubbock, plus Pueblo Indian dance, jazz, and comedy. The shows are free, but you will need a ticket to get in; of course, all you have to do to get one is go by the Austin Children's Museum, the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau Visitor Center, Ballet Austin, Cafe Dance, the Center for Women and Their Work, Mexic-Arte Museum, Tapestry Dance Company, the Texas Fine Arts Association, or the Writers' League of Texas. For more info, call TCA at 936-6562.
Playwright Cyndi Williams (named "Best Theatre Den Mother" in the "Best of Austin" 2000) had her one-act drama Fish produced in Dallas in July as part of the fourth Festival of Independent Theatres, a monthlong buffet of work from nine area companies. The production earned praise from Dallas Morning News critic Lawson Taitte: "Core Performance Manufactory, heretofore the most experimental (and sometimes most pretentious) of the groups, came down from its tower of abstraction to produce the gut-wrenching Fish. Austin playwright Cyndi Williams has packed a novel's worth of psychological action into a tight hour in this tale of two haunted people interacting fatefully."
When Joe Sears and Jaston Williams took their 20th anniversary tour of Greater Tuna to San Francisco, one of their homes away from home, San Francisco Chronicle critic Steven Winn penned a fine essay on the show's enduring appeal: "In the map of the American imagination, Tuna shares its borders with such familiar hamlets as the Grovers Corners of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Mark Twain's Hannibal, the River City of Meredith Willson's The Music Man, television's Mayberry, and radio land's Lake Wobegon." Noting how "Williams, Sears, and [co-creator Ed] Howard partake freely from both traditions "of portraying small-town life -- satirizing its small-mindedness, as Sinclair Lewis does in Main Street, and affirming its sense of community, as Wilder does in Our Town Winn says that the Tuna authors "create a small town that is larger than the sum of its parts, a blend of satire and sentiment, cynicism and affection."