Austin Theatre: That was the year that was

Three of Austin's finest theatre folk - director/actress Lorella Loftus, director Sonnet Blanton, and lighting designer Jason Amato - describe how 2006 was for them and the local stage scene

If artists have anything, they have something to say. The Chronicle sat down with six of Austin's fine theatre folk to talk about the year that was and the year that will be. We don't have enough space in print to do justice to all of their remarkable responses, but here's a sampling of comments from director Sonnet Blanton (Refraction Arts), director/actress Lorella Loftus (Renaissance Austin Theatre Company), and lighting designer Jason Amato (Zachary Scott Theatre Center/Blue Lapis Light).

Austin Chronicle: How would you define yourself within the context of Austin theatre?

Sonnet Blanton: The loudest? I don't go anywhere without my bullhorn. Literally.

Lorella Loftus: I suppose you could say that I bring European classics to Austin and interpret them with a Celtic sensibility. By classics, I mean period, modern, contemporary, or avant-garde authors who are leaders in their particular genre.

Jason Amato: Lighting designer and artist and hopefully not as poor tomorrow as I am today.

AC: What was your greatest accomplishment of 2006?

Blanton: Getting to work with the actors, designers, and production staff of The Assumption. I was consistently astonished by the creativity, discipline, and heart that they brought to the process from start to finish. I think we all fell a little bit in love with one another.

Loftus: 4:48 Psychosis, by Sarah Kane, co-produced with the Vortex. I was overjoyed to have Bonnie Cullum as a collaborator. It took me the best part of two years before the Kane estate would grant me the rights to this closely guarded piece. Kane was an absolute master of text.

Amato: I got engaged [to Michelle Fowler], and she didn't have a clue. As we paddled up to the Lamar Street pedestrian bridge in a canoe, a crew of my closest friends dropped 200 red tulips into the water around us and then lowered a basket of champagne and strawberries into the boat while I popped the question.

AC: What was the most exciting thing you saw/heard on an Austin stage in 2006?

Blanton: I thought Thrush was beautiful, so beautiful. Doug Taylor made me swoon in Have You Ever Been Assassinated? But I have to go with two performances in The Assumption: Ron Berry and Travis Hale. They gave two of the most oddly riveting performances I've ever seen.

Loftus: The most exciting thing I saw in 2006 was St. Nicholas at Hyde Park Theatre. This was a low-budget, low-production-values piece that nonetheless totally created another world and immersed the audience in it. This was a brave undertaking by Ken Webster.

Amato: Blue Lapis Light's Requiem at the soon-to-be-dead Intel building. The show was unlike anything we've seen before. Sally Jacques takes a dream of beauty and opens it up to all of us. I also have to talk about Urinetown at Zachary Scott Theatre. It was such a wonderfully absurd, ludicrous mirror of American attitudes today. Dave Steakley and Robin Lewis did a fantastic job. Apparently, if you combine 100,000 watts of the most hideous yellow and green light, you can make a lot of people laugh really hard.

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Sonnet Blanton, Lorella Loftus, Jason Amato, Zachary Scott Theatre Center, Blue Lapis Light, Renaissance Austin Theatre Company, Refraction Arts

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