There are a number of Austin poets who have the gift of performance, and some who have made it into highbrow literary journals, but it's difficult for one poet to succeed in both areas. Blue Plate Poet Marlys West, who delivers immaculately crafted, wide-ranging poetry with a honey-stung voice, is the complete package. During her first year as a Michener Fellow in UT's Texas Center for Writers, she's developed from remarkable to phenomenal. The next inevitable level would have to be national.
That's Billboard as in greatest hits, and no matter how many times Jacob Schulze talks about the marriage of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, his ex-girlfriend taking a nail file to his tires, or bleeding on newscaster Neal Spelce's lettuce while fixing his sandwich at Thundercloud, it's impossible to grow tired of him. Schulze's manic energy and rapid-fire delivery make him a treat to watch, and with Salvage Vanguard Theater, he's shown as much aplomb on the theatre stage as he has on the poetry stage.
Sally Jacques' performances, tailor-made for such local sites as the Capitol, Laguna Gloria, and Town Lake, qualify her as a pioneer in the area of site-specific work here. A deeply committed political artist who thinks globally and acts locally, Jacques goes to great lengths to stage projects in which Austin's natural locales and buildings figure as set pieces and characters. This often entails hauling about equipment usually housed in a theatre, battling Mother Nature, and, as Jacques puts it, "feeding all of God's creatures." To those who have seen or taken part in her outdoor shows, she is hailed as the Queen of Mosquito Swatting.
The award - this year - goes to the University of Texas Huntington Art Gallery, which has begun to clear the necessary hurdles to begin planning a facility worthy of its current collections and those it could subsequently attract. Lagging behind in the turtle race has been the Austin Museum of Art, which, after presenting the city with payment for the new site last December, has not gotten so much as an RFQ issued by the city in return.
In 1995, the collaborative ironwork gate to the Zilker Garden Center proposed and constructed by Lars Stanley and Louis Herrera wins, hands-down, as the finest functional site-specific contribution to the Austin landscape.
A shoe string, a piece of wire, a tin can, a flashlight - Jason Amato can make very cool light effects with most anything. A versatile designer who's lit everything from the Zilker Musical to the avant garde BodyMind, Amato excels when working for alternative artists with tiny budgets. We were especially taken with his recent job illuminating Sally Jacques and Tina Marsh's multimedia piece at Laguna Gloria. It isn't easy to light an orchestra, dancers swinging from trees, and boats in the lagoon, but he did it. And beautifully.
The old logo for Rise was a lengthwise rectangle showing Charles Manson's eerie eyes. Upon famous artist guy Frank Kozik's departure from Rise Records, the label - in a blast of insane genius - redesigned the Kozik logo. Like some of Salvador Dali's more popular works, if you squint you can see something that's not there: No longer is the harrowing gaze of Manson leering back at you - although that's what it appears to be - now it's just a car being towed by a towtruck. Wonder what they see when they look at the clouds....
In Austin, actors and stage companies are like witches in Oz: They come and go so quickly. Which can leave veteran play-goers poring over a program with no clue as to what kind of dramatic journey awaits. But one name always signals a rich perform-ance ahead: Lana Dieterich. For over a decade, Dieterich has graced our stages with sharp, feeling, and often devastatingly funny portrayals, from ditzy seniors to sultry adulteresses to Dorothy Parker. As sure a thing as Austin theatre has.
One of the best-kept secrets in town, this young troupe offers Spanish dance with flair. Based on South Congress but doing much of its work on the road - via the Texas Commission on the Arts' touring program - Sylviana has quietly made a name around the state for its excellence in performance. During José Greco's recent visit, the eminent dancer tapped the troupe's Tony Cusimano for his company. Tony didn't go (though another Austinite, Ricardo Garcia, did), but it's proof that this company has talent to burn.
A year ago, Cafe Solaire wasn't even on the Austin poetry map, but thanks to Thom the World Poet's energetic PR and the Congress Avenue cafe's own cozy charm, Monday nights at Solaire have grown from sparsely attended events to the place where you're most likely to find representatives from all factions within the local scene.
It's not easy to sell photography as art. The world is full of Kodak moments and people who can't distinguish between Ansel Adams and their summer vacation slides from Yosemite. Pro-Jex perseveres where lesser spirits have faltered, continuing to promote both established and emerging photographers in their tiny, cluttered, but nonetheless effective space.
1710 S. Lamar Ste. C
This annual event sponsored by the Native American Parent's Committee expected a modest 200 attendees in its first year; they got 2,000. Last year's event, staged at the Berger Center, drew 15,000 attendees, and 20,000 are expected this November.
Their recently featured photos in Detour notwithstanding, Holy 8 Ball is a perfect example of the local art scene we could be creating in our town. Photographers Bruce Dye and Minh Carrico, graphic artist Lee Bolton, and multimedia genius-boy and former Chronicle art director Ben Davis set up shop in East Austin, blazing a trail for the hordes of creative genii to come. Staging exhibits and the occasional dada-danse events in the cavernous warehouse gets the public involved (and inspired?). Take a drive-by to see some of our vital art scene in action.
Holy 8 Ball Studios
2206 E. Seventh
With an attendance of 27,000, Austin Lyric Opera must be doing something right. Actually, ALO does a lot of things right. This professional arts company headed by director Joe McClain maintains a crack staff, stages traditional operas with incredible production values, and sells them with style. (Their "Brady Bunch" season campaign and "One Mad Clown" ads for Rigoletto were award winners.) And they do it all while staying debt-free. Next year will be their hottest yet: The number-one arts event in Central Texas will be ALO's high-tech Tannhauser.
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