Tag Archives: Things to do in Austin

My review of Jethro Tull posts to Elmore magazine

2 Jun

Performing hit songs that stretch back more than four decades, Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson delighted fans with a classic, progressive, folk and theatrical rock show for more than two hours plus—one encore—at Austin City Limits’ Moody Theater.

The band opened with 1969’s “Living in the Past,” the title track off their 1972 compilation album. Today the song’s lyrical meaning remains as mysterious as the commercial appeal of its uncommon 5/4 time signature. Anderson, a 69-year-old multitalented musician, danced across the stage while playing flute, guitar, Bouzouki, harmonica and singing lead vocals to his original 15 sophisticated and stylistic songs.

Vintage concert footage of Anderson intermittently projected onto a video backdrop together with a plethora of colorful iconic images poetically timed to his song lyrics. “Aqualung” brought an audience of mostly Baby Boomers to their feet before the percussive encore, “Locomotive Breath,” drew the memorable night to a raucous close.

Celebrating a lengthy musical career that spans 30 albums, Anderson led outstanding younger musicians: Florian Opahle on lead guitar, Scott Hammond on drums and percussion, John O’Hara on keyboards and accordion, and David Goodier on bass. Hardcore fans and those who missed the tour will enjoy Jethro Tull — Songs from the Wood, a 40th anniversary three CD and two DVD set released this May.

 

 

My review of the 2017 Ameripolitan Awards posts to Elmore

22 Feb

Lance Lipinsky, nearly stole the show before accepting the Rockabilly Male Award at the fourth annual Ameripolitan Awards, held February 15th at Austin’s Paramount Theater. Lipinsky had costarred in the Tony Award-winning musical, Million Dollar Quartet, and at the Grand Ole Opry. His band, The Lovers, released their debut album, Roll, last summer.

Jerry Lee Lewis’ prerecorded message from Nesbit, Mississippi appeared overhead on screen as Silvia and Brett Neal accepted the Master Award on his behalf. The Neals and singer/songwriter Dale Watson cofounded the Ameripolitan Awards in 2014 to honor artists who represent four roots branches of country music: western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly and outlaw styles. Between set changes, Watson and Asleep at the Wheel’s front man, Ray Benson, served as the night’s emcees, providing impromptu commercials for two of the show sponsors, Lone Star Beer and Tito’s Vodka. Presenters Rosie Flores and James Intveld also provided an outstanding duet performance. Other music awards went to Leona Williams, Jake Penrod, Gary P. Nunn and the Bunkhouse Band, Lara Hope, The Silver Shakers, Kristyn Harris, Pokey LaFarge, The Western Flyers, Darci Carlson, Hank3, the Dallas Moore Band, Chris Casello and James Riley.

American original singer/songwriter and musician Junior Brown received the Keeper of the Key Award. Brown’s unique song lyrics and hook phrases, such as “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” previously earned him a 1996 Country Music Association Award. Brown performed while playing his “guit-steel,” a double-necked invention that melds both guitar and steel guitar attributes. Lil’ Red’s Longhorn Saloon in Fort Worth received the Venue Award and the Festival Award went to Nashville Boogie. Absent from the night’s proceedings due to the flu was presenter James White, proprietor of the Broken Spoke. The house band included: Chris Crepps, bass; Mike Bernal, drums; Don Pawlak, pedal steel guitar; Jason Roberts, fiddle; Redd Volkaert, guitar; Joey Colarusso, saxophone; Rick White, trumpet; Ken Mills, trombone; and Danny Levin, piano. For more information about the awards and a full list of winners, head to the Ameripolitan Music Awards’ website at: http://www.ameripolitan.com/2017-winners.html

Please also see my article as it appears with my photos on Elmore magazine’s website at: http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2017/02/reviews/shows/2017-ameripolitan-music-awards

My book launch party April 22, 2017

10 Feb

Texas A&M Un3rdcoverrevisionmiller_jkt5-2iversity Press and I launched my book, The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk, Saturday April 22 at the Broken Spoke, 3201 South Lamar Blvd.  Book signings were provided by James and Annetta White and myself.

Ben Rogers played for tips in the dining room from 6 to 8 p.m. Terri White offered dance lessons in the dance hall at 8 p.m. for $8 per person. Afterwards, Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys performed in the dance hall  for an additional $12 per person cover charge. 

Order books at: http://www.tamupress.com/product/Broken-Spoke,8735.aspx

 

My review of Dolly Parton’s concert posted to Elmore

13 Dec

Dolly Parton – Elmore MagazineOn December 6th, Dolly Parton shared a special wish and a night of many colors with fans for more than three hours inside Austin’s sold out Frank Erwin Center, one of the last legs on her nationwide Pure & Simple tour. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could bottle up all the love and excitement in this room tonight and give everybody in the world a little bit of it?” Parton asked. The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumental musician, actress and business leader stepped out onto the stage dressed in white, sparkling in rhinestones and sequins beneath spotlights. Between songs, Parton delivered intimate stories about her childhood growing up one of 12 siblings in the Great Smokey Mountains of Appalachia, Tennessee. She made self-depreciating jokes and demonstrated an uncanny comedic ability to speak as fast as a Chipmunk at 78-RPM speed.

Alternating between playing guitar, banjo, dulcimer, piano, soprano saxophone and flute, Parton sang most of her top 10 hit songs from the more than 3,000 she has written, and either she or others have performed, over the past 50 years. Following a 20 minute intermission, Parton sang tunes off 1987’s Trio and 1999’s Trio II, albums released in a box set last September, featuring her collaborative recordings with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Best of all, Parton invited audience participation during a medley of songs from the 1960s and ’70s: “American Pie,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Dust in the Wind.” Her band and backup vocalists included pianist Richard Dennison, bassist Tom Rutledge and multi-instrumentalist Kent Wells– performers whose working friendships with Parton span 30 years. In the music business, that kind of longevity speaks volumes about the authenticity of the woman behind her 70-years-young voice.

Also please see my concert review posted to Elmore magazine’s website at:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/12/reviews/shows/dolly-parton

My James Taylor review posts to Elmore magazine

29 Jun

Elmore Magazine | James TaylorFive-time Grammy award-winner James Taylor showered the people of Austin with his music and lyrics for nearly three hours and two encores inside the Frank Erwin Center June 22. At 69 years old, Taylor entertained a full house with his ageless voice and unique phrasing by singing songs from his hit song catalog that stretches back more than half a century. Favorites included: “Fire and Rain,” “You’ve Got A Friend,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Your Smiling Face” and “Shower the People,” which he performed with his 15-year-old teenage son, Henry Taylor. His dad also sang the title track, “Sweet Baby James,” off his 1970 breakthrough album, complete with a moving artistic visual slideshow. For 20 minutes between his two sets, the singer and songwriting star signed all kinds of fan memorabilia, one of which was an authentic 1977 vinyl JT featuring Taylor’s boyish profile photo.

Throughout his set, he performed solo on his acoustic guitar and on an electric along with his All Star Band. The band included drummer Steve Gadd, bass player Jimmy Johnson, keyboardist Larry Goldings, saxophone player Lou Marini, percussionist Luis Conte, electric guitarist Michael Landau, fiddle player and vocalist Andrea Zonn and multi-instrumentalist Walt Fowler. Arnold McCuller, and Kate Markowitz provided background vocals.

Taylor closed the evening with a romantic tribute to his third wife Kim Smedvig, performing “You and I Again,” a song from his 17th full-length studio release titled Before This World, his first No. 1 album on Billboard’s 200 Chart. The die-hard Red Sox fan with a life-long love for Boston will end his 2016 tour at Fenway Park on August 3rd.

Please also see the review and my photos on Elmore’s website by following this link:

http://www.elmoremagazine.com/2016/06/reviews/shows/james-taylor-3

Two Beards Theatre Company presents ‘Mr. Marmalade’

15 Oct

http://youtu.be/SFDNR9Pz2bY

castsmall

While her babysitter has sex in another room with a boyfriend, a four-year old girl wearing a pink tutu plays “house” with a middle-aged man plagued by anger issues and addictions to pornography and cocaine.

A “pretend” world created by a child’s neglect and exposure, sets the plot for Mr. Marmalade, a play written by Noah Haidle in 2004. It has more edge to it than a straight razor, but it’s just the type of show that the co-founders of Austin’s newest theater company hope will launch their artistic success.

Andrew Robinson and Jacob Henry, met in middle school, remained high school buddies and then went to college together before they teamed up to create Two Beards Theatre  Company.  Their first show, Mr. Marmalade, opened Oct. 4-5 at the hip east side’s Salvage Vanguard Theatre, 2803 Manor Road. The show continues with 8 p.m. performances Oct. 11 and 12. The theatre seats about 50 people and tickets sold for $10 each online in advance from the website twobeards.org.

The story combines humor with shock appeal – a 20-year-old actress plays the character of an articulate four-year-old who dreams up an imaginary friend, an abusive businessman portrayed to be decades older, but less wise.

“I’ve always wanted to do it (Mr. Marmalade) and I enjoy Noah Haidle’s work. I always enjoy his plays. He has a very interesting writing style that is very fun and light-hearted, but then it touches on some serious issues at the same time,” Robinson said.

Haidle’s work addresses social issues such as child neglect, substance abuse, and divorce. Not everybody “gets” Haidle, but Robinson does; he enjoys Haidle’s perspective and likes to provide key insight.

“He has a very different outlook for sure. I think he is very specific in his writing in the way he presents things. For instance, Mr. Marmalade is a story told through the eyes of a four-year girl. And it is very interesting to get into the mind of a four-year old. It can be very fun to see these crazy kooky characters and just come into Mr. Marmalade and just enjoy and laugh,” Robinson said.

“Or, after watching it, if audiences dig a little deeper they’ll see the other layers and say ‘Wow, that girl was creating all of this in her mind.’ It’s very interesting to think of why a four-year-old girl would have an imaginary friend who is abusive. It takes a certain child to imagine that and it takes a certain child who has had a certain experience to be able to have imagined that. I think if you go to that second layer, the writing is very very interesting.”

The four-year-old character, Lucy, creates an imaginary friend, Mr. Marmalade, who both abuses her and neglects her; she also has “an affair” with a love interest character closer to her in age.

“It’s interesting that she (Lucy) has control over all of her characters and their direction. For her to have created someone who is mean to her, or abusive — once you start to think about that — brings up a lot of different issues, social issues like child neglect, child abuse, substance abuse and divorce. Haidle writes on multiple levels,” Robinson said.

Haidle successfully delves into a little girl’s haunted and nightmare-like surreal existence inside her own mind.

Haidle’s tale, like favorite childhood stories and fairytales, makes the audience  squirm a little bit with his characters’ choices as well as their resolved and unresolved conflicts. Haidle’s story seemingly balances the funny, the beautiful and the magical touchstones of a young girl’s dream with the darkest and most sinister undertones. The audience knows the story is not real, but so much of it feels real.

“It’s definitely a story that can’t exist in our reality, but the issues are very much real in our present day. So he brings forth this very story using imaginary friends – with adult actors and actresses to play these beautiful characters. In our world, you don’t have four year olds played by 20-year olds, but you do have those horrors that are present – child abuse, substance abuse and neglect,” Robinson said.

The imaginative story told through the eyes of beautiful and memorable characters, reveals issues that remain ugly and reclusive in the real world.

Robinson said he and Henry wanted their first show produced by their new theater company to leave an impression, to make a statement, and to leave their “stamp of style” on the local community. They vowed to “wow” their audiences.

“I think Mr. Marmalade feeds Jacob’s and my creative vein in a show that we both enjoy and we enjoy the style of writing and characters. It did what we thought we could do visually. It’s a show that we thought would bring a lot of our talent out,” Robinson said.

The costumes designed by Greensboro, North Carolina costume designer Kathleen Ludwig remain true to those used in other productions of Mr. Marmalade play currently showing nationwide. However, Lucy’s cotton candy-colored tutu appears neon. In his set design, Henry narrowed his color choices to just two from the Crayola 100-crayon box selection; the result creates a deeper and richer “out-of-this-world” appearance. Lighting designer Dylan Rocamora adds more profound hues to the stage’s ethereal scenes.

“We wanted the show to almost represent what Lucy saw as her reality, so some of the things we heightened a little bit – of what she perceived her world to be. There is this very vibrant red couch on stage and a very large embellished purple chair. The outside of the house is this beautiful white house with a beautiful bright red door – one that could almost represent what her false reality is, her imaginative reality,” he said. “That is the style that Jacob (Henry) was trying to achieve with the set design and with Dylan’s lighting design as well.”

Together Robinson and Henry created a surreal and ethereal perspective that suspended Mr. Marmalade for the one-hour and a half of each audience viewing. They hoped audiences would forget their environments only to experience the world inside the mind of a four-year old child.

“We did scenes from Mr. Marmalade in college for a class that was student-directed. It was a shorter version and it was a fun show to do. So when Andrew and I sat down to talk about what shows we wanted to do, we picked one that we thought people in Austin would enjoy,” Henry said.

“Since both Andrew and I were raised here, we knew that we wanted a show that was kind of edgy and weird. It’s a great script and a great story that fits Austin.”

Robinson and Henry contacted the publishing house, Dramatists Play Service, that owns the rights to the script and once they worked out the logistics of renting the space at Salvage Vanguard, they filled their September days with auditioning a cast and crew.

Two Beards Theatre Company directors and co-producers, Robinson and Henry, have worked together since attending Westview Middle School and John B. Connally High School in Northwest Austin.

Henry, who is a year older than Robinson, was enrolled in seventh grade when Robinson started sixth grade at Westview.

They starred in a Saturday Night Live television spoof, a variety show called “Tuesday Night Live,” in middle school.

“I actually had the lead role in that. I played Dunstan Darkstorm, a super villain guy,” Henry said.

And Robinson played one of the love interests, a young hillbilly character whose girlfriend’s parents didn’t like him.

“I went after your girlfriend in the play and I tied her to the train tracks,” Henry said. “That was our big break – that’s when we KNEW.”

In high school, their theater director inspired them. Patricia MacMullen started teaching theater during Robinson’s freshman year, also Henry’s sophomore year.

Their first production together at Connally was a play by Michael Frayn, Noises Off. Robinson served as an understudy and Henry worked as a stage technician for that show.

“We had a massive two-story set that actually had to spin at one point in the show; my job was to move that big thing around,” Henry said.

Robinson attended rehearsals and absorbed the role as understudy for one of the characters in the play.

“Then we did Grease together as well. That was the next show and we were both in that production,” Robinson said. “We were both singing and dancing. I played an unnamed student and he was ‘T-bird number two.’”

In that production of Grease, the two acknowledged the excitement they felt about being part of a theatre troupe.

“We had a moment when ‘Danny’ sang his song about summer love; he and I walked up together on stage. There’s videotape of it somewhere – hopefully not on the Internet,” Robinson said.

MacMullen currently serves as the theatre director for the upper school at Hill Country Christian School, and instructor of high school advanced theatre, theatre productions, and Masterworks of Theatre.  She also teaches middle school theatre arts and introduction to theatre.

MacMullen taught Henry and Robinson and three other former students who also serve as cast members. They include Audra Uresti, who plays the character “tuxedo woman,” David Nguyen, who plays “Mr. Marmalade,” and Johnny Bender, who plays “Larry,” Lucy’s love interest.

“As a high school theatre director, if you are really blessed, you come upon a group of remarkable young people that happen to all gravitate to your program at the same time.  This group exemplifies that blessing. Working with them was a dream.  They were highly motivated, intelligent, talented, hard working, and focused,” MacMullen said.

She said that the first year Connally did not have a technical director in its theatre department, so Henry quickly filled those shoes.

“He was my rock.  He focused and programed lights, worked sound, built sets, etc. And then, I asked him to act — and he could!  What an amazing young man,” MacMullen said.

She said that Robinson possesses a profound work ethic.

“Andrew is one of the hardest working actors I know.  He ‘got it’ when I gave him direction the first time.  I knew he would one day be an amazing director because it was instinctive.  He had an innate sense of composition, motivation, and concept,” she said.

While in high school together, Henry, Robinson, Uresti, Nguyen, and Bender competed in the one act category at the University Interscholastic League (UIL) state championships three years in a row, winning third in the state in 2007.

That same year, the five also performed on the main stage at both the Texas Thespian Festival and the International Thespian Festival.

“They were just an amazing group of students and now, they’re an amazing group of young artists.  I absolutely adore them and wish them much success. I’m so proud of them,” MacMullen said.

When Henry graduated Connally in 2007, MacMullen advised him to look at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. The following year, when Robinson graduated, both Henry and MacMullen influenced his college decision as well.

Today Jacob teaches technical theater to three level one classes and one advanced class at Connally. He also manages the performing arts center and manages the maintenance and finances for the building.  After school he provides technical instruction to students and helps them to find jobs in private sector theater productions.

He feels that he is paying forward MacMullen’s influence.

“Everyone should pay if forward. I believe in something that I am passionate about. I never forget where I come from and that’s why I’m here at Connally. I wanted to give these kids a good education and something that I’m passionate about. I find that very thrilling,” he said.

Henry did not receive a teaching degree at A&M, but chose an alternative path to pursuing a career in education. He received a bachelor of art degree in theater in 2011 with a focus on tech and design and then quickly moved to Florida to work at Disney World. He obtained his teaching certification in 2012 through an alternative program offered through Texas Education Agency (TEA) after MacMullen called him home.

“I got a job at Disney out in Florida. I was doing tech work for them – lighting and pyrotechnics – that sort of stuff. Then I got a call from Ms. MacMullen and she said ‘hey, do you want to teach?’ I said ‘well, wait – where?’ Then she said ‘Connally,’ and I said ‘All right.’ I came back and I haven’t regretted it since.”

Meanwhile, Robinson finished up his senior year at A&M in Corpus Christi in 2012.

“Once I graduated, I moved back to Austin with strong intentions to move to Los Angeles or Chicago,” Robinson said.

Nguyen spiked Robinson’s interest in searching for theater work with him on the West Coast.

“Slowly, it just wasn’t working. Doors were kind of closing on us. So my mom could tell that I wasn’t very happy, because I wasn’t auditioning, I was just kind of working,  trying to raise enough money so I could move. Then, I went to a mass audition call and got some good feedback there and that led me to start auditioning in Austin,” Robinson said.

He signed with a local talent agency, then started auditioning for film work, but soon realized theater is his passion.

He worked with “The Story Wranglers” — Paramount Theater’s non-profit educational outreach program. He also worked with Punchkin Repertory Theater and did a show at Salvage Vanguard Theatre called Gods and Idols for Frontera Fest.

Meanwhile, Robinson and Henry never stopped talking about creating their own projects and starting their own troupe.

The two widened their circle of friends to include local theater actors and crew members, as well as directors who put them in touch with still more peers with similar interests.

“While talking about starting our own troupe, we kept saying how many talented people we know. It’s just amazing. We know so many great actors, great technicians – we worked with some of the best in high school and in college and after college,” Robinson said.

Some of their connections spanned several states, including Ludwig who shipped Two Beards all of the costumes that she designed for the show.

They cast the show, built the props, furnished the set, and came up with the equipment needed to technically manage it – all within a span of 30 days.

They said the key to their success has been an underlying passion they share for theater.

“And we were trained very well. It comes from our education and directors who taught us how theatre should run and so we hold it now within ourselves to manage our time very wisely and to make sure that we are using these people’s time wisely as well,” Robinson said.

“I know how it is to be an actor and have to work three different jobs, then come to rehearsals and stay until 10:30 p.m. You get tired, so I wanted to make sure that this process was convenient for them and fun and rewarding.”

The Salvage Vanguard has more than a little history behind it. Salvage has gone through several different management changes and provides a variety of different types of performances — everything from standup shows to performance art in addition to theater.

The hip neighborhood in East Austin attracts people off the streets as well. The two had hoped to attract a bit of the Austin City Limits crowd and out-of-towners during the first two weekends in October.

Robinson supplements his income by working two day jobs. He works for Kids Acting, an Austin program that has been around for 30 years. He participated in the same program when he was a child. Now he teaches 12 children in “a triple threat” class – with singing, dancing and acting – giving them a taste of the three core elements of a Broadway musical — in a production of Peter Pan.  His youngest student is five and the oldest is ten years old; the class meets Mondays from 4:15 until 5:45 p.m.

“I was in that same program when I was six. We have videotape of it. I was in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dogs and I was the Unicorn Prince,” Robinson said. “All I remember about it was — I knew all my lines and everyone else’s.”

He continues to work for Paramount Theater ‘s non-profit organization, “Story Wranglers.” He helps third graders to learn creative writing skills. He teaches one class on Wednesdays and two on Thursday mornings; each class lasts about an hour and a half with about 20 students respectively.

Highland Park Elementary partners with the Paramount Theater. Some of the financial support comes from the local community itself and other funds are provided through state and federal grants. Robinson along and the other teachers bring with them all of the writing materials and any brainstorming items needed.

The teachers offer students a typical story spine and vocabulary that begins with “once upon a time” and the children then add a character and a setting. The children fill in the blanks: “what a character wanted” and also add a conflict statement such as “something happened…” and a resolution statement that begins “ever since that day…” Sometimes, the results of the workshops take on all of the interesting improv elements of an AT&T television commercial.

“There are lots of very different, very creative ideas – that’s for sure. Very ‘out there’ thinking, which is fun. The kids get very creative,” he said.

Admittedly, it’s exactly that type of thinking that may have instilled in Robinson at an early age and later led to his choice of Mr. Marmalade as the first Austin production for Two Beards Theatre Company.

Cast of Mr. Marmalade

Lucy – Cassadie Petersen
Mr. Marmalade – David Nguyen Larry – Johnny Bender Bradley – Ronnie Williams Emily – Kristi Brawner Sookie/Sunflower – Adriane Shown George/Cactus/Man – Tim Stiefler Tuxedo Woman – Audra Uresti Tuxedo Man – Gino Sandoval

Production Staff

Stage Manager: Chanel Kemp Assistant Stage Manager: Dani Stetka Production Assistant: Sam Levine Lighting Design: Dylan Rocamora Costume Design: Kathleen Ludwig Makeup Design: Shea Lollar Makeup Assistant: Micaela Ramacciotti Props Design: Andrew Robinson Set and Sound Design: Jacob Henry Publicity Design: Drew Johnson

Technical Director: Jacob Henry Director: Andrew Robinson

Published 10-16-2013 online by Austin Fusion magazine http://austinfusionmagazine.com/2013/10/16/two-beards-theatre-young-friends-to-co-producers/

AndrewandJacobsmall

%d bloggers like this: