Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Arts Reporting: American Theatre Profiles Austin's "Offbeat Ethos," October 2009

reproduced with the kind permission of American Theatre magazine:

Theatre Communications Group publishes in the October 2009 issue of American Theatre magazine an extensive profile of Austin theatre. Writer Justin Boyd opens the five-page spread by differentiating our theatre town from others:

"Most U.S. cities of a certain size have an experimental theatre scene -- one that's young, adventurous, low-budget and . . . small. That's because in most cities, 'experimental' is synonymous with alternative, alternative is usually the little brother of a much larger 'traditional' theatre scene.

Not so in Austin, Tex. In Austin, experimentation is the standard -- and if there's a tradition, it's an offbeat, do-it-yourself aproach to theatre making that dates back all of about 20 years."

Discussing the MFA Theatre program at the University of Texas and the playwriting program at the Michener Center, he writes,

"If one considers the work of the playwrights who've emerged from the center -- Lisa D'Amour, Kirk Lynn, Carson Kreitzer, Dan Dietz and Colin Denby Swanson among them -- it's easy to see that the center's writers aren't afraid to experiment.

"What are they afraid of? 'My first year here, I had a playwirght come into my office and sit down, and I said, "What's the matter?" Steven Dietz relates. 'This playwright said to me, "I don't know how to tell you this, but I think I'm writing a realistic play." There are probably a lot of other cities and departments that are working hard to break their writers out of a certain mode and expand their world. I'm the lucky recipient -- as are our students -- of an ethos of a scene that has experimentation not as a sidebar to the conversation. It just might be the conversation.' "

Boyd explores the ties between music and theatre, the role of financing from the City of Austin, loyalty to homegrown work, the audiences eager to experience eclectic, often whimsical theatricals, UT's increasing involvement in new works, and the challenge of re-invention as Austin grows. Among those he quotes are UT's Dan Dietz, Katie Pearl, Brad Carlin of the Salvage Vanguard, C. Denby Swanson, Kirk Lynn of the Rudes, Graham Reynolds, Christi Moore of Austin Scriptworks, Josh Meyer of Rubber Repertory, Jason neulander, UT's Susan Zeder, Steven Dietz, and Bonnie Cullum of the Vortex Repertory.

Click to read Justin Boyd's article "The Offbeat Ethos of Austin," © 2009 American Theatre magazine, reproduced by permission.

[Subscription information: American Theatre magazine is published monthly except for double issues in May/June and July/August and is available through membership in the Theatre Communications Group, $39.95 per year in the United States. Website:; subscription e-mail:]

1 comment:

  1. Big suprise...a playwrite talking up other playwrites. I was there @ the Electric Lounge in '96. David Hancock had place to stay in Austin becuase a broke ass actor (me) living below the poverty level for years found a way to put a roof over his head and get him to and from rehearsal. There was more talented sweet actors in Austin back in those days before playwrites and poker playing bean counters @ Salvage Vanguard and elsewhere pissed on all of them and drove them away. Austin might be doing more theatre these days but its not becuse of dickheads like you. Fuck you and the american theatre magazine. Stay on campus and stroke yourself some more, who knows you might even get a grant to finger your own bung hole if you try hard enough.

    Japhy Fernandes
    Artistic Director ....Austin Drama Club