The Beat of the Drum at Ruta Maya

Organic coffee served by day and fresh lime margaritas by night.  Count me in. The Ruta Maya Coffee Company on South Congress first opened in Austin in 1993 with the mission to create great coffee that returns a fair portion of the profit to the Latin American generators.  It has since expanded from a coffee shop to a live music venue and yoga studio; offering salsa lessons, wellness classes, and Tai-Chi and Yoga classes.

While I appreciate the downward dog and the ancient art of yoga, in devotion to my Latin roots, I had to opt for the margaritas and dancing.  Every Wednesday night at 9:00, the café transforms into a salsa club with live music from La Moña Loca, an eleven piece salsa orchestra with a traditional Cuban style.  This last Wednesday, I decided to strap on my dancing shoes, leave my insecurities behind, and go check it out for myself.

One of two bars at Ruta Maya

The parking lot was packed when I pulled up to the Pennfield location café, and at only a quarter past nine!  I was pleasantly surprised to find a large venue with two bars and an outdoor patio.  Art that is available for sale covered the colorful walls and the pungent smell of good quality coffee filled the air.  I navigated through the swinging dancers and ordered a margarita for a little liquid courage before hitting the dance floor.  The music, however, ended up to be enough.  You cannot help but want to dance to the exotic sounds of La Moña Loca. Once nicknamed “Congo Katie” by a childhood music teacher, I was immediately drawn to the sounds of the drums.   Even my boyfriend, who adamantly proclaimed before we left the house that he was NOT going to dance, was tapping his foot and nodding his head to the beat.

Not the professional dancer, I appreciated the presence of salsa instructor Esther Weekes, founder of Austin Casino Salsa, who teaches regularly at Ruta Maya as well as at her home studio.  While I did not make it early enough to attend her free lesson right before the live show at 8:00, she could still be seen on the dance floor throughout the night.

Esther Weekes and I during a quick dance break

I could tell by the many couples moving with ease that Ruta Maya had some devout regulars.  With the great venue, people, music and drinks, I could see why one would want to return each week.  I left that evening with slightly sore feet and a little bit of a sweat, but with a great attitude and a knowledge that I would most definitely be back.

Check out Ruta Maya’s upcoming events!

6/28 Thursday at 9:00 pm, Zydeco Blanco

6/29 Friday at 7:30 pm, Explosions of Euphony Concert

6/30 Saturday at 4:00 pm, Austin BabyGlow Disco

7/4 and every Wednesday at 5:00 pm ASL Happy Hour

7/4 and every Wednesday at 9:00 pm Live Salsa Dancing with La Mona Loca
and FREE (with café purchase) group salsa class with Esther at 8:00pm

7/6 Friday at 9:00 pm Fever in the Funkhouse

Blog by Katie

The Music Bus ROCKS! Local musicians share their talent with kids and the nation

With funding in the arts being continuously cut from school programs we are losing touch with the benefits music has on our lives. That is why The Music Bus ROCKS! has created a mobile environment where the arts can flourish right outside your door. With raising gas prices everyone is taking a hit in their wallets, they save you fuel and time by coming to you!

The Music Bus ROCKS! is a fully interactive music technology classroom that provides a hands-on learning environment for each and every student. Students are able to take advantage of on board computers and music technology software. The Bus is outfitted with a full digital piano and acoustic drum set. They teach every instrument family on the bus and have a high regard for cross training and being able to see, touch, and hear other instruments.

This year, The Music Bus ROCKS! has been invited to Wakarusa Music Festival, a grassroots festival nestled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where the beauty of nature synchronizes with the euphoric sounds of live music. They have programming for the festival that will include a junkyard orchestra ensemble with instruments that will be made from re-purposed hardware materials and supplies. In addition, every day of the festival The Music Bus ROCKS! will hold drum circles, jam sessions (in which audience members are strongly encouraged to participate) and music education workshops.

Their ability to be able to share this creatively educational experience with patrons of Wakarusa will give them the ability to spread the word about their work and eventually build a potential donor base that will help partially fund our aspirations of beginning a Non-Profit sponsored project version of The Music Bus ROCKS! that covers a broader spectrum of the arts (visual art, music, dance, theatre, physics of movement, etc.).

The Impact

The Music Bus ROCKS!  wants to be able to share the gift of music with as many people as possible and believe that Wakarusa will give them the visibility that they will need in order to boost donor funds for our sponsored project version of The MBR! They’ve expressed the desire to go into the areas of Austin that are losing arts programs due to federal and state budget cuts and reinstate to children the profound value that the arts have on our personal well being.

blog by Nnedi Agbaroji

Women Creatives in Austin

Displaced 5 by Jennifer Balkan

According to the U.S. Library of Congress, “Although women now outnumber men in American colleges nationwide, the reversal of the gender gap is a very recent phenomenon. The fight to learn was a valiant struggle waged by many tenacious women—across years and across cultures—in our country.”

Woman’s History Month is celebrated every March.  This year’s theme was “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment”. Inspired by this, Austin Creative Alliance is highlighting four dynamic women in the arts as we continue to celebrate women’s achievements throughout the year. In reaching out to these women, we discovered
diverse perspectives about the creative culture that thrives in Austin.

I’ll begin by acknowledging the women at Austin Creative Alliance and Now Playing Austin who provide invaluable services to promote the greater arts community in Austin. To learn more about Austin Creative Alliance go to: www.austincreativealliance.org

In the following interviews, we hope to convey insights and achievements that will inspire other woman in the arts. I presented a list of questions that revolved around this theme.

  1. As a woman in the Arts, how do you see the future for Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment in the Arts?
  2. How can we empower and educate woman to be leaders in the Arts?
  3. Can you describe some obstacles or hurtles you have confronted in your own career as a woman in the Arts?
  4. What insights or suggestions would you have for aspiring woman in the Arts?

I spoke with Catarina Sigerfoos, Chairwoman and Fundraiser of Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAMM) Benefit Day 2012.

Catarina Sigerfoos: These are two organizations I like and respect in Austin who focus on empowerment for women. They are heavily supported and active. Women and Their Work Gallery, is a fantastic gallery that is run and supported by the community, but only features work by female artist members.

There is also an organization called WIMPS, Women In Music Professional Society, www.facebook.com/wimpsaustin. I belong to this group of women who work in all facets of the music industry. We network monthly and meet working musicians, graphic artists who design cd covers, attorneys and accountants who practice music law and accounting, composers, band managers, music supervisors, and many more. We each get a minute to stand up and tell our story and recruit, inform, and educate about classes, gigs, workshops, auditions and opportunities.

We can support existing agencies whose agenda is in place. The way to do this is by joining and helping with outreach and donations in some cases.

The music industry has been male-dominated as a whole, but since I grew up in the music world (I am related to approximately 20 working musicians), I have been lucky to know the jargon, trials, and successes of working musicians. Occasionally I have heard of certain music genres not being open to female leads, and sometimes, age is an issue for more seasoned artists, especially females.

I think young aspirants should find a mentor, either in the literal sense, or seek someone on the internet who’s style they respect, and try to learn from them. Try to narrow the search so it is very specific to their goals and resonates with your their personal beliefs and approach. Find a strong woman who has succeeded in the field and read about her accomplishments and methods. Imitate and practice until it becomes your own style. For more about  Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, (HAMM) go to: www.myhaam.org

Sherry Mills, formally of “Reel Woman”, who is now retired from her position after serving as the Executive Director for ten years. Since June of 2011 the organization is no longer in operation. Sherry now hosts a radio program, “Ready for My Closeup, Ms. Mills” on KOOP.

Sherry Mills: I think it will continue to grow as an integral component of all arts education. There will always be many programs that are not gender specific, but I don’t believe there is any disadvantage or stigma to having female-focused opportunities.  Women think, feel, act and learn differently from men; and because of personal history and/or cultural history, they will often taken a subordinate role in a classroom or work situation.  As women continue to become clearer about their personal capabilities and aspirations, they will insist on the highest levels of instruction and experience, which means that they will seek out successful, respected teachers and mentors but will not limit themselves to programs that are not inclusive or that don’t offer them the opportunities they need. In working with women of all ages, at all levels of experience in trans-media, many of them performed and learned much better in the all-female environment. They profited immensely from being around the professional female filmmakers, writers, producers, directors, makeup artists, casting directors, agents, etc. who became role models and inspirations to them.

We can support woman in the arts by nurturing, mentoring and giving them opportunities to perform, learn and participate.

Looking back, I believe I created many of them for myself! In a group of men I would generally take on stereotypical female tasks such as being the coffee/food getter/provider, the note-taker, the clean up crew, the one who might not say my opinion because of either the fear of being judged or because I might hurt someone’s feelings. I still do those things sometimes, but it’s certainly with a different attitude because I want to lead by example. I do think that there were situations where I wasn’t paid as much as the guys.

I find that many young women take the attitude of “I want to do/be … (fill in the blank)” without doing necessary research, without being honest with themselves about their personal limitations, without putting in the training/learning time.  For example, I knew a young girl with minimal experience that spent time and money on head shots but was doing very little to develop her acting skills. There is the person that “wants to be a writer,” but they’ve never written anything.  Same for some aspiring directors. I studied theatre in school, and I thought I would be an actress; a little time invested in that direction proved to myself, that I was too sensitive to handle so much rejection. I wasn’t outgoing enough to promote myself properly and I realized in that process, that I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes much more than performing. The defining fact is that I recognized I wasn’t a very good actress!  I say to everyone: Invest the time. Do the research. Study. Practice. Learn. Volunteer. Seek out professionals, mentors, role models. Challenge yourself. Pick your battles; know when to back down.

After I left Reel Women I felt like I was in recovery from a divorce or breakup or serious illness or life tragedy. I knew it was the right thing to do, but it was still very painful.  Luckily, I was able to have the time and opportunity to get involved in radio and to use the knowledge and resources I’d gained in a new way.  Learning the FCC regulations, how to operate all the dials, boards, audio equipment, microphones, etc. Being the “new kid on the block” and having to prove myself all over again was a challenge, to say the least; but it challenged me and gave me validation as well as exercised my brain.

I have an intern now — her name is Paloma.  She is not a KOOP intern — she works (unpaid) just with me.  She had wanted to be a Reel Women intern and very diligently, but unsuccessfully, tried to contact the organization. Somehow she tracked ME down and left a voice message, which I didn’t respond to. She called me two more times, so I finally called her back and explained the RW situation.  She was very disappointed and then asked me what I was doing now, which she found very interesting. To finish the story, she has been working with me now for 8 months, getting involved in everything I do. She’s meeting so many people, going to special events and getting involved in projects.  Smart girl!
Listen to Sherry on the radio: “Ready for My Closeup, Ms. Mills!” Mondays, 1:00-1:30pm, on KOOP, 91.7, streaming LIVE at www.koop.org

Salvage Vanguard Theater is hub for Austin artists, audiences, and arts organizations. SVT creates and presents transformative, high-quality artistic experiences that foster experimentation and conversation.

Jenny Larson: I think it is a “one step forward, two steps back” situation. Certainly more and more women arts leaders are emerging but on a whole, more men are in charge and more male playwrights are being produced on a national level, heck, on an international level. Roles for women are slim and POSITIVE roles for women in theater storytelling are few and far between. I do think that with each generation women find more and more empowerment and voice in leadership but its a slow and steady growth, slow and steady change. The current political climate certainly makes me stop and re-evaluate exactly how much progress we have made…

That is a giant task, and as the single mother of an 11 year old girl I can tell you that the task starts when they are young. It takes no small amount of vigilance to ensure that our daughters and our next generation of women arts leaders do not fall into the “traps” of femininity. I am currently reading the book Reviving Ophelia so my thoughts are in a place right now of really trying to help my daughter hold on to her true self. I think the more our daughters learn to hold on to themselves the better chance we have of growing more women arts leaders.

You create the life the job the career the path that you want to have. Do not let fear stop you and do not get stuck in thinking that you can’t or thinking that the obstacles are too large. I have never been a goal oriented person or much of a planner, so for me, my stumbling into a position of leadership was just an opportunity offered that I decided to take. When I look at my life in general, that is what it has been, a series of opportunities taken. So keep your eyes peeled for the opportunities. Volunteer for artists that you admire, get close to them and let them know you are passionate. Be dependable. See other peoples work. Read. Read a lot. Read other peoples work. Travel and see work outside of your community. It is easy to fall into ideas of the way you must live your life, and in the arts its very important to be creative about how you live your life and creative about how you make a career for yourself. Austin does not have a wealthy arts community so most of us are working 3- 5 jobs to make ends meet. We are also living very humble lives in order to stay in the arts. This re-examining your needs and your consumption as a human in the world is also integral to a career in the arts. Be humble and need little. For more info go to: www.salvagevanguard.org

Women & Their Work is a visual and performing art organization located in Central Austin that serves as a catalyst for contemporary art created by women living and working in Texas and beyond.  For over 30 years, W&TW has brought groundbreaking art to Austin, with exhibitions,performances, literary readings and educational workshops.

Chris Cowden: More women are majoring in studio art and are going on to earn Masters of Fine Arts than ever before. While women have achieved near parity with men in their educational accomplishments, they still lag behind after they graduate. Today, women earn 81 cents for every dollar a man earns in the same position. (It has improved in the last 20 years–women used to earn 75 cents for every dollar a man earned.)  However, the pay ratio is even worse in the arts. This is the biggest challenge for women seeking careers in the arts in the future–to  achieve equal opportunities for employment, for exhibitions of their work, and for pay.  Also, their work historically sells for much less than male artists.

Young women can learn to be leaders by seeking mentors whose leadership style they admire.  Often becoming an intern can provide excellent opportunities to work with, observe, and emulate women who have succeeded in their field.  There are a number of women who direct galleries and museums who can serve as powerful role models for women who seek to follow their career path.

Women & Their Work was founded in 1978 when there were very few opportunities for women in any artistic discipline. Organizations such as W&TW created their own possibilities outside the established hierarchy. I was not involved in the founding of the organization so I didn’t have  to do any of the really heavy lifting that had to take place to make this a successful art organization. I spent my early career working in academia and then in a large corporation on Wall Street. The biggest difficulty was being taken seriously. I think the best thing to realize is that you have to take yourself seriously–but not too seriously.

I always remember Meryl Streep’s advice to the graduating class of Vassar, her alma mater.  She said  to integrate  what you believe into every area of your life. To take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else. And preserve your own special character in the world. That seems great advice for any field –maybe especially the arts. For more info go to: www.womenandtheirwork.org

Blog by Lucas

A-Team Hits Austin Fashion Week!

A-Team Member Mona Lisa attends the Fashion Week Kick-Off Party!

On first arriving at the Austin Fashion Week Kickoff I tossed my keys to the nearest valet and made a beeline for the Fashion Festivities at GSD&M. I got there right at 6pm, with plenty of time to figure out where the food, beverages, bathroom and runway and the best routes to get to and from each without missing too much of the action. It wasn’t long before the crowds began to form. Swarms of long legs, glitter, lipstick, fake eyelashes, big colorful hair, lots of hair accessories, very tall heels and gorgeous tattoos slowly began to fill the white chairs along the runway.

There was just so much to see and do. So I dabbled here and there sampling the food. Sushi, cupcakes, brownies and popcorn. Those all made me very thirsty so I headed for the beverage booth and had my pick of Smartwater, green tea, champagne, and Titos Vodka drinks. Feeling full and refreshed I wondered over to the silent auction to check out the fancy merchandise but became totally distracted by New Lotus, now that’s luxury sports car that anyone would feel fashionable in.
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Top Weekly Events!

Top 10 Current/Upcoming Events

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1. “Bash: Three Plays”

The Vestige Group

May 6-May 22, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (4.1 Stars): 4 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 13

Event Name: “Bash: Three Plays”
4 out of 5 stars rating “Mesmerizing Misanthropy”
Review posted by: SilverStageSiren from Austin, TX, May 10, 2010

The vestige group has succeeded in achieving what all theatre companies aspire to do: leave the audience profoundly affected by what they have witnessed. The directors know the unsettling and disturbing power that the plays they are working with provoke, and they use that power to heightened advantage, from the uncomfortably intimate staging to the unwavering eye contact made by the actors with select audience members. Neil LaBute’s work is polarizing–each of the three plays sets up a cliched scenario reminiscent of a Lifetime special, and then just as the audience begins to lose interest, the character begins a descent down a twisted path that leaves the spectator unable to do anything but wait in breathless anticipation for what the actor will say next. Directorial and acting choices that seemed inappropriate at first suddenly make perfect sense. This is a production theater lovers will relish–honest, nuanced acting, strong direction, and emotionally charged audience reaction.
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2. The Taming of the Shrew- Original Practices

The Hidden Room Theatre

April 30-May 23, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (4.5 Stars): 4.5 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 5

Contessa from Austin, TX said:
“Fantastic!”

This was an AWESOME performance. The setting, the costumes, the music, and the actors were outstanding! This is not a performance to miss! Regardless of your feelings about Taming of the Shrew, GO SEE THIS PRODUCTION!!! You won’t be sorry! 

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3. Agnes of God

The City Theatre Company

April 29-May 23, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (4.6 Stars): 4.5 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 8

Jo Ann Farrell from Austin said:
“Agnes of God”

Agnes of God is an outstanding production. The acting, direction, lighting, and stage design are all excellent. We are regular Austin theater-goers and this is one of the most impressive productions we have seen. It is surprisingly objective and painfully sensitive. Don’t miss the opportunity to see

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4. Our Body: The Universe Within

H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture & Sports

April 24, 2010 – Ongoing

Avg. Event Rating (4.1 Stars): 4 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 4

from said:
“Our Body”

Our Body,The Universe Within is an extraordinary exhibit in an promising new Austin museum. I left in deeper reverence and gratitude for the miracle of the human body, and for the generous souls whose bodies will forever grace humanity’s understanding of itself. This exhibit inspired me to become increasingly mindful of what I eat, as well as how and when I eat, breathe, move and exercise. Children seemed equally entranced and inspired. I heard several good questions from them, and not a trace of fear or disgust. I also left feeling even more convinced, that anything organized to work together in such an intricate awe inspiring way, has to be for some higher purpose.Hopefully, the more we understand how to do that, the better off our souls and humanity will eventually be. 

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5. Our Town

ZACH Theatre

April 15-May 23, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (3.8 Stars): 4 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 5

Steven Fearing from Austin, Texas said:
“Our Town’s Message”

Director Dave Steakley has brought Wilder’s Our Town to Austin with a contemporary yet timeless feel. This is commentary on our town anywhere, anytime – on human life transitions and our short time on Earth. It could easily be the small town of Grover Corners, Texas. No matter, Our Town says: pay attention to what life brings and accept the inevitable seasons of change. Jaston Williams is a perfect Stage Manager to share the story of Grover Corners and invite us to learn Wilder’s universal lessons. Jordan McRae as Emily Webb is radiant and convincing but the entire cast is great, too many to mention. The audience moved into the rehearsal studio for Act II’s wedding. We were a community together, enjoying fantastic soloist, Laura Benedict. Staging in two places worked remarkably well. Performances aside, Our Town is about the opportunity (taken or missed) of human connection during “Life”, “Love”, and “Death.” I recommend seeing this play and hearing this message again.

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6. Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Georgetown Palace Theatre, Inc.

May 7-June 6, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (5.0 Stars): 5 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 1

Larry G. from Austin, TX said:
“Great family entertainment!”

I took my family to Joseph last Saturday night and it was well worth the drive to Georgetown. The show rocked from start to finish, even better than the Donny Osmond movie. The leads were wonderful, especially Joseph and the Narrator, and everyone in the place is having a great time. You know how much we enjoyed it? We’ve bought the CD and we’re going back next weekend!


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6. Out of Ink

Austin Script Works

May 13-May 22, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (5.0 Stars): 5 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 1

Charla Hathaway from Austin said:
“Theatre of the Heart”

I can just imagine the camaraderie and flurry of creativity shared by these eight play-writers as they are given three arbitrary events to include in their 10 minute story and 2 days to write it in. And the eight stories come out so different, it’s fun to sleuth out the common ingredients. Enjoy a night at grassroots theatre, not your expected polish, but so well enacted and written. Experience theatre that percolates up from the soul and spills out into an intimate theatre of friends. What would you write…something sold, something traded, something given and refused? You leave the theatre experiencing the bravery of the playwrights and then, how would you put it together?


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7. The DREAM: A Midsummer Night’s Dream with A Rock ‘N Roll edge

Austin Shakespeare

April 29-May 30, 2010

Avg. Event Rating (4.5 Stars): 4.5 out of 5 stars rating Reviews: 1

Ruby Sinclair from Austin, TX said:
“Bottoms Up!”

There is such a wonderful feeling about seeing Shakespeare in the park. Austin Shakes is back with another wonderful and free performance at Zilker Park! The Dream is just that as fairies and wonderment come alive to lights, colors, and a live rock band! And Bottom’s performance is AWESOME! This really is a must see! And with it being free…you can see it again, and again (well…until May 30th!) 

Keep Austin Artsy Podcast: Dance With the One

In the few months that the Keep Austin Artsy Podcast has been working its magic with local austin arts events, we have mixed and mingled with visual art, theatre, special events, festivals, screen printing and many other mediums. However, we had yet to tackle a film. With SXSW upon us like a freight train, we were ready to delve into the world of movie making. What better way then getting inside the heads of local screenwriters- Smith Henderson and John Marc Smith, and Director Mike Dolan. All are gearing up for the premiere of their film, Dance With the One- shot locally, and born here in Austin. Continue reading

Keep Austin Artsy Podcast: [There is]..”really really filthy..uh…romance.”

Keep Austin Artsy Podcast was produced by Beth Cortez-Neavel and Susie Gidseg. Keep Austin Artsy Podcast is a project of the Greater Austin Creative Alliance and NowPlayingAustin.com.

Some quotes from this Keep Austin Artsy Podcast addition that we thought were especially memorable.

1. “Somebody getting hit in the face with a shovel is funny, and we do have somebody getting hit in the face with a shovel.”

2. [There is]..”really really filthy..uh…romance.”

3. One of the skits involves “Innocent Sister Big Ass …”

What really goes into the making of the basest show ever to hit the Curtain theatre? Director Casey Weed sounds off about the highs, and the very very very lows of putting on this show in Austin. Continue reading

News 8 Arts Minute Online for Viewing~!

We are thrilled to report that the Now Playing Austin Arts Minute, featuring Austin Arts Advocate, Carla McDonald, through News8 Austin, is available online for viewing! Have you or your company been featured in an arts minute recently? Now you too can view the minutes online and share the link with your friends or family.The last minute is linked to above, and we are told that more will be added. Interested in being included in the arts minute? Instructions for how to be considered are below. Continue reading

Upcoming Featured Events: Jan 7-10


by Ross Scarano

Upcoming Featured events are back after winter break! Want to see if your favorite event made the cut? See some things and review them on Now Playing Austin! Get your event noticed in 2010!

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