With the Arts on Real, Blake Yelavich delivers a miracle to Austin theatre
Blake Yelavich has been around Austin theatre for more than a few years. He's probably best known as the "creative director" of Naughty Austin, a local company that made its reputation doing musical parodies of the local theatre scene ô la Forbidden Broadway and, more recently, has expanded into doing more traditional comedies and dramas, many of them penned and directed by Yelavich. Successful? Sure. But nothing special, right? Wrong! Yelavich may be an unassuming graphic designer by day and an aspiring theatrical entertainer by night, but he's much more. He is, in fact, a theatre miracle-worker and is almost single-handedly responsible for the most exciting, most incredible, most downright stupendous theatre miracle that's hit Austin in many a year.
That may sound like overstatement, but consider: The economy is at a standstill; arts funding, locally and nationally, is being cut across the board; arts groups are disbanding all over the map; and attendance is down at theatres everywhere. Yet Yelavich has managed, in a few short weeks, to take an abandoned warehouse just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in East Austin and turn it into a finished, 120-seat, convertible thrust/proscenium theatre with a 22-foot-by-24-foot stage and a DMX lighting system; a rehearsal room the same size as the stage; a small dance studio; a small scene shop with accompanying loading dock; a 20-foot bar serving beer and wine; two dressing rooms; an ample backstage area; a welcoming exterior and lobby; a suite of three offices; and much, much more. In short, Yelavich has managed to do what many other theatre-arts groups in the city have been attempting to do, some for years upon years: create from scratch the premier alternative theatre facility in Austin.
For that's just what it is -- or will be when it opens June 12 with its premiere production, Tricks, a "sexual thriller" written and directed by Yelavich. How did he do it? He contributed the renovation funds himself (he isn't independently wealthy -- he just got lucky and won much of it) and formed a nonprofit corporation, Arts Entertainment Group Inc., that will manage the building and provide a welcoming home for the arts. It's already proving to be a popular venue; in less than three hours time, Yelavich booked 42 of 52 weeks. And it's a great deal for renters, not just fair, but generous; if an organization rents the theatre for three weeks or more, the rehearsal room comes with it. "Last year, Naughty Austin paid $30,000 in rent to various theatres in the city," says Yelavich. "We could have renovated this space for not much more than that. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this -- to provide an economical space for Austin theatre organizations. More than anything else, this theatre is my gift to the arts community and the city of Austin."
If you're a cynic, you're probably scoffing right about now. It all sounds too good to be true -- but it isn't. It's called Arts on Real (pronounced ray-ALL), and it is an Austin theatre miracle. If you don't believe me, then go see it. Seeing is, after all, believing.
Naughty Austin's production of Tricks runs June 12-July 12 at the Arts on Real, 2826 Real St. For information, call 472-2787.