Wayne Alan Brenner's Top 10 Arts-Related Things I Enjoyed in 2017
Bold takes on history and art that moved around the city spoke to a growing, changing Austin this year
1) PANCHO VILLA FROM A SAFE DISTANCE (Ballroom Marfa/Golden Hornet Project/Fusebox Festival) Órale, amigos! The multimedia sum of this bilingual bio-opera created by composer Graham Reynolds and director Shawn Sides with Mexico City's Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol (and poet Carrie Fountain, singers Paul Sanchez and Liz Cass, and a band of musical brilliants) was profound and glorious and ... y'know, damned educational, too.
2) THE NEW CENTRAL LIBRARY I can't even check things out of the place for free – I live in Pflugerville, OK? – but I've been to this soaring new bibliopalazzo and seen hundreds of citizens making use of its welcoming and smoothly flowing public spaces, its tech-based tools, its vast stores of data, its book-filled, architectural grandeur – all on a golden Saturday. City done good, tell you what.
3) BLOODY POETRY (Invulnerable Nothings) Sorry, these guys aren't from 'round here: They're straight outta Brooklyn, yo. But they matched the best theatre I've ever seen in this town, bringing Lord Byron and Mary & Percy Bysshe Shelley and their literary gang to fully blooded life, with note-perfect staging in the antique greenhouse of Sekrit Theatre.
4) 11:11 (Jennifer Sherburn and Natalie George Productions) Talk about fulfilling a promise. Sherburn, George, and their community of dancers and choreographers revved up the orchestrated kinetics month after month, going site-specific all over the city and ending big and joyous with a spectacular hoedown in the fields of Carson Creek.
5) DIMENSION GALLERY As if last year's debut wasn't enough, Colin McIntyre added his Resonant Lung instrument/music-chamber to the site for concerts, Moya McIntyre revamped nearby Springdale Station for art and events, the gallery hosted astonishing exhibitions (OMG, Alejandra Almuelle and Colby Brinkman), and the outside Paved Garden of massive works grew even larger.
6) "WILLIAM GEISLER + JOHN PERALTA" (Wally Workman Gallery) Because Peralta's precisely deconstructed machines and Geisler's hypnotic encaustic abstractions turned painstaking toil into unforgettable patterns of beauty.
7) WEIRD HOMES TOUR Weird is in one's heart, of course – and home is where the heart is. You really should see what gorgeous oddities some of your neighbors are living in, citizen; it'll blow your heart's mind.
8) HENRY IV (Hidden Room Theatre) Beth Burns and her hardworking company turned Shakespeare's drama of political and military maneuverings into a glam-costumed spectacle that especially showcased the talents of Robert Matney as that delightfully dissembling goofball Falstaff.
9) GENTRIFUCKED (Latino Comedy Project) It's what everyone in this city is getting, in one way or another, but especially if we're not 1) white and/or 2) dripping with money. Which is why we give a big thumbs-up to the LCP for showing us what's what and helping us laugh through the treachery.
10) EAST AUSTIN STUDIO TOUR Gobsmacking impressive from just an operational standpoint ... but what those Big Medium movers and shakers provide with this annual apotheosis of cultural promotion is a vibrant, neighborhood-bridging, exercise-promoting platform of opportunities for people who make art, who enjoy seeing art, who love getting to know their city up-close and personal.