Austin Theatre, meet yourself.
Or, as Bogey said to Ingrid, "Here's looking at you, kid."
This is the 1000th post on AustinLiveTheatre since I established it in June, 2008 with a review of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Austin Playhouse. I wound up that 900-word article with the comment, "We had a great time. As Austin newcomers, we were attending our second Austin Playhouse production - - and at the intermission I went out to the foyer and purchased season tickets for 2008 – 2009 from Producing Artistic Director Toner himself, who was happy to talk theatre with me."
Commemorating the milestone, ALT offers readers background on its origins, a summary of Austin media coverage of theatre matters, and a brief portrait of the Austin theatre scene.
After a diplomatic career of assignments abroad and in Washington, we chose to relocate to the capital of Texas. We found some superlative local theatre -- starting with The Seagull, produced with very little fanfare by Breakin' String Theatre. We were intrigued by the apparent lack of information about theatre doings in Austin. Taking an example from the cooking blog established by my daughter and her guy, I set up on Google's freebie hosting service blogspot.com my own blog: "Austin Live Theatre." The stated aim for the blog was to serve as "a voyage to discover the underreported Austin theatre scene."
Ticket by ticket, trip by trip, ALT has done that. The following profiles emerge from some meticulous info-crunching of postings, links and information provided by ALT in calendar year 2009.
Media coverage of Austin's Theatre
Austin's free papers and free on-line press cover theatre much more extensively than the daily Austin Statesman and its on-line counterpart www.Austin360.com. The numbers tell the tale:
- Austin Chronicle, weekly free newspaper: 80 reviews, averaging about 1.5 per week
- Austin Statesman: 46 reviews, averaging almost 1 per week. A number of the reviews appearing on-line do not make it into the daily paper.
- Austinist.com: 43 reviews, averaging almost 1 per week\
- AustinOnStage.com: 24 reviews, about 1 every two weeks
- Examiner.com (Ryan E. Johnson, blogging as "Austin theatre examiner"): 26 reviews, averaging 1 every two weeks
- Daily Texan, University of Texas: 22, averaging one every 16.5 days
- Austin.com: 17 reviews, averaging one every three weeks. Postings on this site are often stale or outdated.
- KUT-FM: 17 reviews or features, averaging about one every third week. John Aielli discontinued at mid-year his occasional half-hour programs entitled "Aielli Unleashed." Most coverage is in the form of 2 minute spots done with Mike Lee for KUT's "Arts Eclectic."
- KOOP-FM: 18 programs featuring musical theatre productions covered by AustinLiveTheatre. Lisa Schepps hosts the weekly "Off Stage and On the Air" Mondays at 12:30. This program, begun in 30-minute format and extended to 60 minutes, is also posted on-line. Ms Schepps interviews artists and directors; they may perform music live or she will play recordings from Broadway shows or other versions of upcoming presentations.
- AustinTheatreReview (now defunct): Sean Fuentes' undertaking reviewed 9 local productions before going inactive in about September, 2009.
- INSITE, the free monthly entertainment magazine: 4, averaging one feature article per quarter.
- Television coverage is sparse. ALT does not monitor television programming but found and included links to short written or video features: two each from KEYE and News 8, one each from KXAN and KFOX.
- Miscellaneous coverage: 10, including 5 postings by San Antonio weekly and daily papers and one each from www.soulciti.com, www.outinamerica.com, a podcast by Stage Directions magazine, RepublicOfAustin.com, and the Blanco, Texas, newspaper.
Those reviews were not evenly spread. They ranged from nine reviews for Capital T's production of Killer Joe at the Hyde Park Theatre (which ALT reluctantly panned), to a more typical score for well attended shows of two non-ALT reviews (28 productions) or one non-ALT review (57 productions, although this includes some Short Finge elements of Hyde Park Theatre's 100-item Frontera Fest). More typical, however, was no review at all-- the case for 195 productions, or 59.5 percent of those staged in the greater Austin area.
Austin's Live Theatre
Austin is seething with theatre activity. The town deserves its reputation for original work but its theatre companies and groups are producing mainstream comedies, dramas, musicals and narrations as well. Quality is high, variety is striking, and ticket prices are low, often ranging from $10 to $25.
Read more at AustinLiveTheatre.com . . . .