Friday, January 16, 2009

Article: "Setting Austin's Stage," Insite Magazine, January 2009

Austin's promotional give-away monthly Insite Magazine this month includes on pages 10-11 a feature titled "Setting Austin's Stage," with brief profiles of eight theatre companies.


Eight of Austin's Most Interesting Theatres
By Veronica Garcia

Salvage Vanguard Theatre

SVT saw some major changes in 2008. In addition to completing the renovation of its new venue, its founder and Artistic Director Jason Neulander stepped down n May. Since then, the company has been led by Interim Artistic Director Jenny Larson and Executive Director Brad Carlin, each of whom spent time early in their careers working for SVT on and off stage. [. . .]

Recently, SVT was named one of “eight theatres to watch” by the Drama League in New York City. Last year, the Dallas Morning News called Salvage Vanguard Theater “one of the most dynamic companies in Texas.”

Weird City Theatre Company

Established December 2007, WCT joined Austin Circle of Theatres in the spring of 2008.[. . .]

Weird City’s first year was successful. Year two could be a bit more of a challenge because of the economy, [Founder John] Carroll said. “Theatre’s are raising rents and we are not well-known enough yet to get many donations,” he added. “People want to see if we are going to stick around before they invest in us, so it is tough. But I can see our audience growing and we are getting great feedback. Audiences have fun at our shows. Our cast and crew have fun doing our shows. I feel that is what makes us successful and will continue to make us successful.”

Rude Mechanicals

Rude Mechs has been building new work in Austin since 1995. In 1999, Rude Mechs assumed the management of The Off Center, a performance warehouse in East Austin. The Off Center houses a flexible 100-seat theatre, the administrative offices of Rude Mechs, and studios for visual artists.[. . .]

Rude Mechs uses performance to explore collectivity, collaboration, and community. “The result is a mercurial slate of original theatrical productions ranging from Low-Fi, Agit-Prop, Lec- Dems to Multi-Media, Romantic-Era, Closet Dramas,” [artistic director Shawn] Sides said. “What they hold in common is bold physicality, intellectual savvy, a preference for the actor above the character, and an irreverent sense of humor.”

A feature in the New York Times identified them as one of three companies in the country “making theatre that matters.”

The City Theatre - Austin

A great place for new life on and off the stage. The theatre began operating in November 2006. Its first show, after just six weeks of putting the initial theater space into place, was the Austin B. Iden Payne-nominated drama, “Frozen.” City Theatre specializes in popular mainstream productions, including nationally recognized shows, regional, and new or classic Broadway.


Since its beginning in the fall of 2005, this theatre has produced shows at the venerable Paramount.

At TexARTS’ core is its educational component. TexARTS produces a musical each sum er as the culmination of its youth summer Musical Theater Intensive,where students learn from Broadway guests and are given original choreography from the shows by Broadway artists who performed in them. [. . .]

“TexARTS is different in its overall diversity of artistic programming - it’s more than just a theater producer - and at its forefront is commitment to the American Musical repertoire,” said Todd Dellinger, TexARTS cofounder.

Vestige Theatre

A young company, Vestige Theatre began in 2006 when two college friends from The University of Oklahoma found themselves in Austin with a desire to do theatre. Susie Gidseg and Jen Brown putout a call for other theatre artists looking for a home and formed a core group that has grown and changed in the past three years.[. . .]

Vestige holds “pay what you can” nights every week. “We are young and work for no money,” Gidseg said. “We want pieces to move and inspire people. We do plays in houses. We do plays in bars. We have an alternative audience. We pride ourselves on giving newbies a start in the Austin scene ... everyone needs someone to give them that first chance. We laugh a lot, joke a lot, try not to get too stressed out and play well with others.”

Next up for Vestige, a play about love and loss set in an outdoor venue coming Summer 2009.

Hyde Park Theatre

Among the long-standing groups that Austinites might regard as eclectic and well respected is Hyde Park Theatre.

Since 1992, Hyde Park has hosted FronteraFest, the largest Fringe Theatre Festival in the Southwest. This year will mark its 16th festival. “Between our main stage season, FronteraFest, and our rental shows, over 21,000 people visit Hyde Park Theatre annually, and over a thousand artists present their work,” said Ken Webster, artistic director. HPT is a member of Theatre Communications Group, and serves as the umbrella organization for Da! Theatre Collective, and the performance home to many of Austin’s best alternative artists and companies.

"We still believe that art is not a luxury
and commit to low ticket prices and a diverse and expanding audience base, as well as an affordable rental venue for emerging independent theatre companies and musicians,” Webster said.[. . .]

Artistic Director Ken Webster has won eight awards for Outstanding Director. He is the only director to have been honored with B. Iden Payne Awards for directing in each of the last three decades. Webster was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame on June 5, 2006.

In 2007-2008 Hyde Park Theatre received the highest artistic merit score of all the theatre companies in the state of Texas from The Texas Commission on the Arts. And five of its last six productions have been nominated for outstanding production by The Austin Critics’ Table.

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