Daily Arts
Bass Concert Hall: Park, Pee and Leave (or not)
No one likes to bitch - But no one likes to pay $10 for parking, either. I've been going to see musicals with my fabulous mother since I was five years old. If it has toured the country, chances are we've seen it. So both of us were excited when it was revealed that the Bass Concert Hall would finally be reopening with a wonderful 2009 season: Legally Blonde, Spamalot, Rent, Avenue Q and Wicked. Hot Damn! It was with great anticipation that we drove on Sunday to see Legally Blonde together. The musical? It was cute, energetic, and fine. Camp and class. But it was difficult to concentrate on the show, see, because everything else about the UTPAC experience was difficult and depressing.

6:15PM Fri. Feb. 20, 2009, Andy Campbell Read More | Comment »

It's a Privilege to Park
If you're headed to a show at the newly refurbished Bass Concert Hall &ndash or the not-refurbished McCullough Theatre or Bates Recital Hall, for that matter &ndash be sure to pack an extra Hamilton for stashing your car. All that free parking that you used to be able to score in the large, typically empty lots by the LBJ Library and the School of Public Affairs are a thing of the past. The lots are now manned by attendants, and if you don't have a UT permit, you have to pay $10 to park there. $10. Thanks, UT. You really know how to show a little sympathy for the little guy when economic times are tough. Granted, folks who are shelling out $50, $60, $75 a ticket for premium concerts and Broadway touring shows at Bass can probably cough up an extra 10 bucks without choking (though not always). But what about the student or classical music lover of limited means just trying to get to a recital at Bates? They may end up paying as much or more to park as they do for the ticket, and that $10 may be a lot harder to spare. (A ten-spot can buy two weeks' worth of ramen.)

5:01PM Fri. Feb. 20, 2009, Robert Faires Read More | Comment »

Business in the Front, Party in the Back
Heyd Fontenot's paintings are currently gracing the walls of Art Palace for a monographic show titled "Business in the Front, Party in the Back." Besides the clever title, a colloquialism for the common North-American mullet, the show is at once an adherence and a departure for Fontenot. The paintings on display are a continuation of the artist's charming, subversive, and breathtaking rendering of naked friends/family/acquaintances. They peer and pose, resolutely owning their mortal coil. The nudes are squat and compact, like a horde of exhibitionist gnomes, drafted with a few self-confident lines. This is especially true of Fontenot's works on paper, which are clean and precise. No fussy figuration here. I prefer cuddly. No one who poses for Fontenot looks bad, which I only assume means that the artist is sincerely and completely invested in each of his subjects at the moment of, perhaps, their greatest vulnerability.

1:00PM Fri. Feb. 20, 2009, Andy Campbell Read More | Comment »

Better Late Than Never
I can make it to rehearsal on time. I rarely miss the start of a show. But when it comes to technology, I am forever running behind. Last guy on his block to get a cell phone. Still not plugged in to Facebook, much less Myspace. Still using a hand crank to start the ol' flivver. Thus, Arts becomes the last section of the Chronicle to join the blogging masses. Ah well, for those few of you who haven't yet abandoned these shores for the zippier, punchier isles of Twitter, we hope to offer more timely updates on what's happening through the performing arts, visual arts, and comedy scenes, including news items, commentary, and reviews of shows and events that we wouldn't necessarily get to cover in the print edition. And with that, the flivver is cranked up and hitting the road.

10:54AM Fri. Feb. 20, 2009, Robert Faires Read More | Comment »

Ian McEwan Appears at UT (and in the Pages of 'The New Yorker')
As if we needed any more prodding to get frothing at the bit about Ian McEwan’s upcoming reading at UT in March, this week’s The New Yorker has a 14-page-long profile about the Booker Prize-winning author of Amsterdam, Atonement, and Saturday. Daniel Zalewski’s piece is perhaps too exhaustive for primer purposes, but it’s fascinating stuff for the McEwan junkie, linking real-life events to their fictional counterparts (like his own Black Dogs encounter and a gradual hardening against faith in favor of science). There’s also juicy bits about his friends in the Brit lit pantheon (smoking pot and talking poetry with Martin Amis in the Seventies; secreting Salman Rushdie away to a Cotswolds cottage shortly after the fatwa was issued). McEwan also speaks rather candidly – he’s rather shockingly forthcoming, actually – about his novel-in-progress, which was inspired by a recent hiking trip to the Arctic and has a climate scientist for a protagonist.

9:40PM Thu. Feb. 19, 2009, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

This Spring, It's All about 'Septembers'
Mayor Will Wynn announced today the selection for the eighth annual Mayor’s Book Club, the citywide reading program that aims to get Austinites reading and talking about the same book. Following the international bent of last year’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, this year’s selection – the last of Wynn's term – is Dalia Sofer’s debut novel The Septembers of Shiraz, which was inspired by her childhood in Iran. The book will be widely available at Austin Public Library branches and local bookstores. April will be devoted to book clubs and related lectures, culminating in an April 24 event at City Hall with Sofer. Named as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, The Septembers of Shiraz is described in an APL press release thusly: “It's a fascinating story of one family's unique struggles rooted within the context of a radically changing Iran. Their Judaism has marked them with imminent persecution during the Iranian Revolution. The story vascillates between the domestic struggles of the family members remaining in Iran and the immigrant experience of the family's son studying in New York. Sofer raises numerous universal questions: Do we flee or fight when faced with adversity? How do we adapt to foreign surroundings? How does a family stay together?” For more info, go here.

8:02PM Thu. Feb. 19, 2009, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

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Scott Blackwood Adapts to Chicago
Scott Blackwood gained acclaim for his story collection In the Shadow of Our House, and the Southwest Texas State MFA grad and Dobie Paisano fellow follows it all with the Austin-set novel We Agreed to Meet Just Here. But the bad news is Blackwood isn't set here anymore. He's now the director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he fittingly read from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award winning-book this past weekend. He brags about almost making it through his first Chicago winter (the snow was falling and the wind swirling as I flew out Friday night). But he also admits to a longing to return to Austin. His novel is set in the Deep Eddy neighborhood; he'll have an Austin book party on March 13 at Eiler Park (next to Deep Eddy Pool). You can check out the first chapter here.

2:47PM Mon. Feb. 16, 2009, Joe O'Connell Read More | Comment »

East Coast/West Coast Smackdown, Lit Edition
A writer certainly flexes different muscles when working on a novel versus script, so it makes sense that he'd have to tap different social skills to navigate the shark-infested waters of NY's publishing houses and L.A.'s movie biz. Three Austin writers will have something to say about that on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at a panel titled "Hollywood vs. New York: Three Writers' Perspectives," which is jointly presented by the LBJ Future Forum and the Texas Book Festival. Dishing on the panel will be screenwriter/novelists Stephen Harrigan (The Gates of the Alamo), Owen Egerton (Marshall Hollenzer Is Driving), and Shauna Cross (who adapted her own YA novel, Derby Girl into the film script Whip It! for Drew Barrymore). Sarah Bird moderates. The panel is open and free to the public, but registration is required. For more info on how to RSVP, go here.

4:51PM Thu. Feb. 12, 2009, Kimberley Jones Read More | Comment »

Intellectual Property Half Off
Bad news for bibliophiles around UT: Book store Follett's Intellectual Property Austin on Guadalupe has announced that it will be closing its doors on March 14. Every armchair store manager will have their theory as to why it failed (the argument seems to be splitting between high rents near UT, high prices, too much competition from other media and online outlets, and the general decline of Western Civilization.) It's hard to take even the smallest solace out of the fact that the store is having a 50% off closing sale, because this closure is a double-whammy in two deeply worrying trends. Firstly, the well-recorded series of store and restaurant closures along the Drag (an alarming number of stores are known as "The one where that other shop was"). IP suffered from that, as even freshman students knew the building as "The Old Tower Records." Equally worrying is that this is the third large bookstore to close in Austin in the last year. B Dalton Bookseller in Highland Mall was one of many anchor stores to close in the north Austin shopping complex, while the Bookstop on North Lamar closed at the end of 2008.

8:35PM Tue. Feb. 3, 2009, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

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