The Austin Chronicle

Top 10 Creative Things I Lucked Into in 2013

By Wayne Alan Brenner, January 3, 2014, Arts

1) Joked with my editor that the first nine slots of this list would repeat 'THERE IS A HAPPINESS THAT MORNING IS' (Capital T Theatre). That brilliant Mickle Maher comedy, about the consequences of two William Blake-enamored professors engaging in glorious copulation on the campus lawn in view of their students, was by far the best thing I experienced in a year thick with superlative works of art. Directed by Mark Pickell, the script was embodied by three actors – Jason Phelps, Katherine Catmull, and Ken Webster, already among the best in town – working at the height of their knock-you-over abilities.

2) EAST AUSTIN STUDIO TOUR illuminated the usual diverse marvels, providing glimpses into the working environments of so many artists on the sunrise side of the city and revealing Big Medium's Canopy on Springdale as a complex hive of thriving studios.

3) FUSEBOX FESTIVAL's array of curated creation began with a drum-centered concert by line upon line percussion and an exaltation of song from Convergence in a brightly reupholstered alleyway Downtown and didn't let up until a couple of weeks of wonders had unfolded and the inspired hijinks of Lord Wensleydale's Last High Tea disintegrated in a jumble of baked delicates and laughter.

4) FRONTERAFEST is another multipartite perennial that keeps on giving, and one of the best Short Fringe things it gave was Kyle John Schmidt's "The Blissful Orphans," featuring Curtis Luciani, Bob Jones, and friends in a fractured fairy tale that surpassed anything Rocky & Bullwinkle ever attempted.

5) My visual-arts wanderings this year were improved by 'ECLOSION' (Art.Science.Gallery.), the show of bug-oriented artwork curated by Hayley Gillespie and Barrett Klein; the bright paper-cut creations of ASHLEY GIERKE (Hideout Coffeehouse), and the debuts of the multi-figurative "Girl Series" in 'JANE RADSTROM: MULTITUDES' and the mandala-based paintings in 'STELLA ALESI: SPECK' (Wally Workman Gallery). And did anybody in town not see Beili Liu's 'THIRST' (Women & Their Work), that stark white tree eerily illuminated and suspended slightly above the water between the Lamar Boulevard and Pfluger Pedestrian bridges?

6) Using Jason Liebrecht as a hinge to open a door between two theatre productions: Martin McDonagh's 'THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE' (Capital T Theatre), brought to Grand Guignol life with Liebrecht chewing the scenery as an Irish terrorist who's out to slaughter whoever killed his beloved pet cat Wee Thomas; and 'FIXING KING JOHN' (Rude Mechanicals), Kirk Lynn's Deadwood-esque upgrade of Shakespeare, in which that same Liebrecht played the brave, hotheaded, sometimes near-colicky, and relentlessly besieged monarch contending with a cast of (mostly doomed) characters equal to his fierce talents.

7) Speaking of stagework, can somebody raid a sports paradigm and confer MVP status on actor MOLLY KARRASCH? I mean, Jesus, Slowgirl, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Tragedy: a tragedy, Dulcey and Roxy at City Hall – the woman's got range and a half.

8) Steve Moore and 'ADAM SULTAN' (Physical Plant) gave the Austin theatre scene an intimate view of itself with this heartfelt hall of mirrors, casting community stalwart Adam Sultan in the title role as a man who spends the increasingly lonely decades of his life commemorating all his creative friends who die as the years go by.

9) 'THE HEAD' (Trouble Puppet Theatre) was the semi-autobiographical apotheosis of everything that Connor Hopkins' strange and splendid company has done before, with so many disparate parts effectively orchestrated to show how ineffectively orchestrated a human can be when desire confounds sense and recreational drugs complicate the situation we call being alive.

10) RAW PAW is "an Austin-based publisher, record label, and creative platform providing paper trails for at-risk artists" and the zine it issued in 2013 requires redefining what "zine" might mean. The compelling content, the elegant design work, the copious swaths of full color: all working to make it seem like something from a hidden literary division of DreamWorks, but with the underlying zine-y passion and moxie shining through page after page.

Honorable Mention: Must #humblebrag here, because I don't want to dis these artists although they were featured in exhibitions I curated: 'THE GRAYDUCK 5K' (grayDUCK Gallery), with the works of Kaci Beeler, Katy Horan, Katy O'Connor, Katie Rose Pipkin, and Kristin Hogan; the solo show of magical-realism oils in stunning Old Master style by ALONSO REY (SVT Gallery); and Tom White's first art show ever, his 'PROCESS PAINTINGS' (SVT Gallery) presenting the vivid intersection of abstraction and trompe l'oeil.

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