Sunday, August 29, 2010

Early Girl by Carolyn Kava, Paladin Theatre at Salvage Vanguard Theatre, July 29 - August 22

Charlie Stites is a big guy with a big heart whose most recent stage outings have been as braggarts and sexual boasters. He counters that image somewhat with his intent to right the acting balance between the sexes by staging this drama by actress Carolyn Kava, done to respectful New York reviews in the mid-1980s.

Stites writes in the program that he was struck "by the dearth of interesting parts available for [women]," making "the ladies of Austin theatre. . . an underused resource."

Without judging that declaration, I can confirm that he and his Paladin Theatre did recruit a houseful of sensitive and impressive female actors for Early Girl. Some I had seen before -- Wendy Zavaleta in striking roles in musical theatre, Molly Karrasch at the Austin Playhouse in several roles, including a superb turn as Rita in Educating Rita, and Karen Alvarado in well defined, deft portrayals with Teatro Vivo. Lindsley Howard is new to me but will become much more familiar to our Austin audiences next month when she plays Miranda, the romantic lead in Austin Shakespeare's The Tempest. Keylee Paige Koop, Ashley Rae Spillers (with that striking red flower in her hair) and Rose Fredson also absorbed their characters and interpreted them decisively. Maybe Charlie has a point; with wealth of femininity such as this, we may be missing something on the feminine side in Austin theatre.

Read more at . . . .

The Fantasticks, Trinity Street Players at First Baptist Church, August 12 - 22

The Trinity Street Players call the third-floor theatre space at the First Baptist Church "the black box theatre." Now that I've attended three performances in that space, it seems to me that the appellation is a bit too generic.

"Black box" suggests a void, perhaps one that's wrapped in mystery. A better reference for this long-running Theatre Ministry might be "jewel box."

When we were living in Geneva, Switzerland, in the opening years of this 21st century, I took my adolescent daughter N with me for some special Christmas shopping. We went to Gobelins, the discreet high-priced dealer in jewelry and horlogerie at the Rue de Rive. In addition to their displays of the newest and most sparkling, Gobelins maintains a binder describing "heritage jewelry" for sale. With an appointment and a few days of advance notice, one can view a chosen assortment of previously-owned pieces. In that seance in early December, with my daughter's approval, in a heart-stopping moment I picked out a beautiful, classic Christmas present for my wife K.

That, approximately, is what the Trinity Street Players are about. In their third-floor space at the First Baptist Church on Trinity Street, they have been preparing and performing with discernment, discretion and style a selection of some of the best, most solid, traditional, high-value items of English language theatre. Assistant director David McCullars enticed me to their Steel Magnolias last year; I reveled in their You Can't Take It With You earlier this year; they are holding auditions on August 28 for the November production of Shadowlands, the play by William Nicholson based on the marriage of C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. McCullars will direct.

The Fantasticks fits solidly into that tradition. The show written by UT alumni celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and it is the longest-running musical in New York. In fact, UT is holding a two-day conference on October 15-16 to celebrate the anniversary, as well as staging its own production of The Fantasticks from October 15 - 24. From an earlier conversation with Trinity Street player the Rev. Ann Pittman, I had the impression that the players hadn't been aware that UT was planning the bash.

Director Cathy Jones rose to the occasion in her pre-curtain remarks, marking the 50th anniversary. That was diplomatic but unnecessary, because Trinity Street's attractive, gripping and musically sophisticated production of the show will stand up to any other that may come along.

The Fantasticks David Hammond Joe Penrod Carl GalantePart of the appeal of The Fantasticks is the simplicity of its concept. Boy and girl fall in love; their fathers pretend to oppose the match and hire "El Gallo," a bandit and merchant of dreams to give the boy his chance to be a hero. Romance triumphs but gives way to unease. In the second act the boy ventures forth to explore the cruel world while the girl dallies with the mendacious El Gallo. An eventual happy ending is tinged with the melancholy feel that life is more earnest and more difficult that the dreams of romance. This action is wrapped in tunes that have become key in the musical theatre canon: Try to Remember, Soon It's Gonna Rain, and I Can See It, to name only the most evident.

Cathy Jones recruited experienced, charismatic players for this show. Joe Penrod, playing the cynical El Gallo, is one of my favorites on the Austin musical stage. Justin Langford, playing the earnest, naive young man, appeared with Penrod in Man of La Mancha at the Georgetown Palace, capturing our attention with his pure tenor.

Read more at . . . .

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Arts Reporting: Epoch Times Says Chinese Government Used Covert Pressure on Long Center for Presenting Shen Yun , August 5

Found on-line, a news account citing the proclamation by Austin Mayor "Lee Jeffingwell" welcoming Shen Yun Performing Arts, alleging that the Chinese government has sponsored a clumsy e-mail campaign against the the U.S.-based classical Chinese dance company:

Leffingwell Proclamation

Forged Emails Used Against Performing Arts Company Emails claiming to support Shen Yun seek to derail it; Chinese regime suspected

By Wen Yuqian
Epoch Times Staff, Aug 5, 2010

AUSTIN, Tex.—The theatre manager of a performing arts venue here recently received an email that made him pause and scratch his head.

Purporting to be from the organizers of a classical Chinese dance company soon to perform at his venue, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, the email made a series of claims bizarre enough to lead the theatre to contact the organizers directly.

The organizers didn’t send the email, but argue that it reflects the latest in the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to spread propaganda against its enemies overseas.

Shen Yun Performing Arts, the classical Chinese dance company that will put on two shows in Austin on Aug. 7 , has been targeted by the CCP since its inception. The company draws on ancient Chinese traditions that have been all but wiped out in China, and is supported internationally by Falun Gong, a group also relentlessly attacked and persecuted in China.

Initially, Chinese embassies tried the blunt approach of direct dissuasion; but theatre owners in the US did not respond favorably, and some even went public with their indignation. Beginning this year, the Chinese communists appear to have stepped up the sophistication of their approach by sending emails purporting to be from Falun Gong practitioners themselves, giving outlandish pronouncements that would make anyone’s eyebrows raise.

Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline consisting of moral principles and slow-motion physical exercises, has been persecuted in China since 1999.

Mr. Li, who is in charge of hosting Shen Yun Performing Arts in Austin, says that the email he was shown by the theatre looked a lot like other harassing emails received by other theatres hosting Shen Yun shows. Typically, the email initially appears to be written from a Falun Gong standpoint, but then includes out-of-context quotes from Falun Gong’s spiritual teacher, moral exhortations meant to confuse, and a good dose of nonsense.

In the recent email sent to the Long Center, the sender, who identified himself as Haichao Jian, referred at length to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Jian then asked the theater to appeal to the audience of Shen Yun to follow the teaching of Falun Gong, then somehow linked it back to an improvement in the oil spill.

Read full story at The Epoch Times . . . .

Arts Reporting: Brian Paul Scipione interviews Austin Drama Club's Casey Allen and Jessica McNerney, INSITE Magazine, August 2010

Found on-line; now available free around town in INSITE magazine's August 2010 edition:

Two Houses Both Alike…

By Brian Paul Scipione

INSITE magazine, August 2010

“This is, the first interview I’ve done for the theater,” says Casey Allen, “It’s like in the past we’ve been totally underground and nobody’s cared about what we do.” Allen is reprising his part as Romeo in Austin Drama Club’s second production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Yet far from a re-run the present performance has two major changes: there’s a whole new Juliet and a whole new theater space.

Austin Drama Club, originally formed as the Velvet Rut Theater in the Fall of 2006, is the passion project of Japhy and Ellen Fernandes, this group transformed a small three bedroom, one bathroom house on the East side of Austin into a bastion of environmental theater. By knocking down walls, doors, and other obstacles the Velvet Rut used a make shift space with home-made platform seating comprised of an eclectic array of chairs, stools, and benches (truly no two seats were alike) to bring a staggering thirty-plus productions to life. This group has tirelessly performed show after show, weekend after weekend with no regard to notoriety or notice. They have unabashedly embodied art for art’s sake. And now they have moved on to a more conventional (in the Austin sense of the word) theater-space and that is a warehouse on the outskirts of town. Much like the Blue Theater andthe Off Center, the Austin drama club had rented and renovated a large empty room at 12345 Pauls Valley Road, a short scenic drive down 290 past the Y.

So as the new space welcomes the troupe, the troupe welcomes a new player, Ashley McNerney, in the titular role of Juliet. McNerney was on a road trip across the South when a fateful few days in Austin landed her at the Austin Drama Club’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Taken by the show and the unique nature of Austin, she decided to move here to pursue her career in the arts after graduating East Carolina University in 2009.

Read full article or browse INSITE magazine's August 2010 issue. . . .

Images by Kimberley Mead: Early Girl, Paladin Theatre at Salvage Vanguard, July 29 - August 22

Images by Kimberley Mead for

Wendy Zavaleta, Early Girl

Early Girl

A drama by Caroline Kava

Paladin Theatre Company

directed by Charles P. Stites

July 29 to August 22, Thursdays through Sundays
8:00 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays
Tickets: $15.00 on Thursdays and $20.00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
Performances will be held at
Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.

Early Girl photo by Kimberley Mead

E-mail: info@paladintheatrecompany.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


For Tickets and Information: AusTIX at 474-TIXS (8497) or online at

Early Girl Paladin TheatreEarly Girl features the talents of WENDY ZAVALETA and KEYLEE PAIGE KOOP, as well as KAREN ALVARADO, ROSE FREDSON, ASHLEY SPILLERS, LINDSLEY HOWARD, with special guest MOLLY KARRASCH as "SALLY."

"Early Girl is a fascinating look behind the scenes at a brothel - the passions, the rivalries, the jealousies, and the frustrated ambitions. Each woman has a unique story to tell: one is looking for her future; one is burying her past; one woman is looking for love; another is seeking a home; one is searching for a revelation; and Lana, the madam and master manipulator, pulls the strings for each of the ladies in the house. Early Girl allows the audience to see how the prostitutes in Lana’s house interact with each other, and how each woman deals with the toll the profession takes on them. It’s a funny, sexy, honest, and powerful play."

(CAUTION: This play contains nudity.)

Click to view additional images by Kimberley Mead.