Austin's own "Christmas Affair" is the largest Junior League market in the country. This annual bazaar features 300-plus vendors and helps raise money for local charities such as Austin Habitat for Humanity, Communities in Schools, Humane Society of Austin, and SafePlace, among many others. The bazaar also helps to fund the JL's other annual projects, like Coats for Kids, Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, and the Town Lake Park Project.
And it's not just a great art gallery. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting women's contributions to culture, to supporting women artists both technically and financially, and to creating spaces where women in our region are able to present their work. Women and Their Work presents more than 50 events every year, including not only visual art but dance, film, music, theatre, and literature. It's an amazing gallery and an amazing organization.
We haven't known Sarah Bird to versify, but she is one hell of a novelist. Her latest, The Yokota Officers Club, had one Seattle newspaper suggesting that she should get the Pulitzer, at the very least. In the meantime, the praise of her fellow Austinites is happily noted here.
Since he's taken the baton as music director of the Austin Symphony, Peter Bay has led a resurgent orchestra that shows signs of ever-improving morale and stellar artistic execution. Bay has managed to program a sparkling variety of works during a time when satisfying audiences often means resorting to gimmickry. Not so for Maestro Bay, who has a knack for mixing the tried and true with the experimental, to the great satisfaction of his knowledgeable Central Texas audience. Even the work of composer Gustav Mahler, long thought taboo, saw a welcome return last season. Bay has made his mark, not only on the podium, but throughout the Austin arts scene, taking an avid interest in the city's diverse arts life. A charming and modest man, Bay is well-suited to life in Austin, and, with a new contract recently inked, is here for at least a few more years. Bravo.
Ruh roh! Marc Pruter's scrappy Bad Dog club has fallen prey to the Curse of Financial Doom accompanying its venue near the northeast corner of Congress & Riverside. It's d-e-a-d, in other words, after little more than a year of bringing us such top-dog comedy acts as Margaret Cho, Richard Lewis, the Upright Citizens Brigade, and three swingin' weeks of The Penis Monologues. And judging from this year's poll results, the ol' Dog is gonna be sorely missed.
Bad Dog Comedy Theater
110 E. Riverside
Under the direction of Stephen Mills, Ballet Austin brings the dance to life as surely as Degas did. With exceptional vision and support, this pioneering dance company has flourished, providing beauty and culture to a hungry city.
This year's three-way tie just goes to show how blessed Austin is with outstanding dancers. All three are thoughtful, adventurous artists whose movements mesmerize. Ariel is the sprite, a modern dancer of exuberant physicality whose exhilarating leaps and spins create an opening into a spiritual dimension. Gray is the hoofer, a master of old-school tap whose marvelously rhythmic feet communicate an irresistible joy. Hay is the Buddha, the modern dance pioneer whose smiling serenity translates into playful and graceful explorations of the body in space.
With three floors of exhibits, a 400-seat Imax theatre, and a 60-foot timeline wall with interactive stations that guide visitors through the sights and sounds of Texas history, this new museum offers a different approach. As a noncollecting museum, they have more flexibility of changing the exhibits on a regular basis, allowing them to present an ever-changing panorama that tells the Story of Texas from the first encounters between the Native Americans and the European explorers to the future of our great state.
Mary Doerr was a member of the "Students Older Than Average" club at UT when she returned to get her bachelor's and master's degrees in Fine Art and follow a lifelong dream. Since turning pro as a full-time artist in 1985, she has managed to capture the heart and soul of Austin in her realistic watercolor paintings of the bats of Congress Avenue Bridge, Barton Springs Pool, the state Capitol, and other unique views of the city.
Her talent, looks, and well-honed skills shine as bright as a lone star, in roles from the sublime to the ridiculous: in Anton in Show Business, A Macbeth, and Women Who Steal, most recently. So it's little wonder that this stalwart of downtown's State Theater (who also passes on her experience as one of the main instructors at their School of Acting) is considered with such high regard by theatregoers throughout Austin.
Okay, so they're ridiculously talented. But do they create breathtaking, original productions? Okay, so they're ridiculously talented and they create breathtaking, original productions. But don't they stick with only small, easy-to-mount shows? Okay, so they're ridiculously talented, they create breathtaking, original productions, and they stage spectacles so elaborate you'd suspect some connection to the DreamWorks guys. Okay. But do they gladly offer their time and effort to the community, helping at-risk youth and others learn the joys and disciplines of theatre? Okay, yes, they do. And we love them.
When it comes to directing, here's a man who's equally at home with the light (Rockin' Christmas Party), the dark (Jelly's Last Jam), and the weirdly in-between (The Rocky Horror Show and the current Little Shop of Horrors). The irrepressibly hardworking Steakley, Zachary Scott Theatre Center's artistic director and all-around promoter of musicals beyond your ordinary stage fodder, is an unsurprising choice in this coveted category.
One of fewer than 25 remaining theatres in existence designed by John Eberson of Chicago, Austin's Majestic Theatre (the Paramount's original name) seated its first audience on October 11, 1915. Part Classical Revival (its original 1915 style), and part Baroque Revival (after its 1930s renovation), Austin's favorite theatre has audiences and performers agreeing that its style can bring the house down.
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