54th Annual Zilker Summer Musical: The Sound of Music!

The audience gathered on the rolling, green hillside, happy with anticipation. Photo by Margie

Click play to listen to “Preludium” sung by the Nuns as they come in from the hills for prayer.

The hillside around the Zilker Theatre was alive with chatting, eating, and playing on Thursday night as children and adults of all ages lounged on a patchwork quilt of blankets spread across the grass. Some groups had arrived as early as 6 p.m. – two and a half hours before the performance began – in order to claim a spot on the crowded lawn. Others, like myself, were returning to the hillside with fingers crossed, anxiously watching the sky for rain clouds after Sunday’s performance had been rained out.

Phoebe Johnson and other audience members braved the drizzling rain on Sunday to see The Sound of Music at the Zilker Hillside Theatre. Unfortunately the show was canceled due to the weather. Photo by Margie

Instead of rain, we had a glorious blushing pink sky with ethereal clouds and even a cool breeze running across our bare feet from time to time. The evening’s natural ambiance was a fitting backdrop to the beautiful stage set that transformed the open-air Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater into a picture of the mountains that surround Salzburg, Austria.

The Sound of Music by Zilker Theatre Productions on a lovely summer evening in Austin. Photo by Margie

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”  Photo by Margie

Undoubtedly, the film production of The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews is, and always will be, the most beloved version of the musical. However the production on Thursday, directed by M. Scott Tatum, would have made Rodgers and Hammerstein sing with joy and pride. With solid and enthusiastic performances by the entire cast, an incredibly beautiful and cleverly maneuvered set design, and an orchestra worthy of its own standing ovation, Zilker Theatre Production’s The Sound of Music is worth getting out of the house to see. All the treasured standards like “My Favorite Things” and “Do-Re-Me” are performed, but fun variations in the musical along with less familiar tunes like “No Way to Stop” allow ZTP’s production to step away from being constantly compared to the movie.

The von Trapp children answer to their father’s whistle. Photo by Margie

Uncle Max Detweiler (Neal Gibson), Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Leslie Hollingsworth), and Captain Georg von Trapp (Joshua Denning) sing a lively version of “No Way to Stop” Photo by Margie

One song that you might miss is “Something Good” between Maria and Captain von Trapp. Similarly in the production though Michelle Hache makes a spunky Maria and the Captain, played by Joshua Denning, is as stern as always, there is some chemistry missing between the two. The Captain’s love interest, Baroness Schraeder (Leslie Hollingsworth), appears as less of an evil character than I remember as a child. The development of her relationship with the Captain is mature and sensible, making her likeable enough to where I almost wish she could have married the Captain after all.  The most entertaining love story, however, occurs between sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old Liesl (Alyssa Muir) and seventeen-going-on-eighteen year old Rolf (Jordan Barron).  Teens in the audience watching Liesl and Rolf’s “timid and shy” romance develop will gain some perspective on young love. Their parents will appreciate the messages relayed about being cautious and kind, and talking to your parents or mentors about your feelings.

Maria (Michelle Hache) frolics on the mountain. Photo by Margie

The most impressive message of the evening – perhaps because it is delivered by Coty Ross’s majestic voice – is that you cannot run away from your problems but must instead “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” to find what is right in life for you. As the von Trapp family ventures out into the Alps of Zilker Park the Mother Abbess (Ross), a kindred spirit of Maria’s who also grew up on the Austrian mountains, gives an inspiring solo bolstered by a pure and robust voice. Every member of the audience will leave happily humming a medley of show tunes and encouraged to follow their dreams as they also climb the hillside back to their cars.

The von Trapp family performs “Do-Re-Mi” before escaping the Third Reich’s Anschluss by fleeing through the mountains. Photo by Margie

The story has something for audiences of all ages. Whether you are attending with your family, on a date, or enjoying an evening with a group of friends, Zilker’s production certainly will not disappoint – unless it gets rained out. So be sure to catch The Sound of Music at the Zilker Hillside Theatre before it is too late!

The performance runs Thursdays – Sundays through August 11, 2012. The show starts at 8:30pm, but get their early (blankets are allowed on the lawn beginning at 6pm) to claim a spot with the best view.

Admission is free, parking is $5, donations are greatly appreciated and well-deserved.

Click here for more information

Follow ZTP’s Facebook for photographs and updates on inclement weather

-M

blog by Margie Eades

A Big Ass Canvas for Austin

by Margie Eades

If you have seen a group of excited people painting on giant 6 x 8.5 ft. canvases in various high-traffic locations around Austin, you have likely witnessed the magic of Big Ass Canvas (BAC) in action. BAC was founded earlier this year by two incredibly passionate and energetic young men, Travis Huse and Zach Horvath. Their idea is to build a large canvas, put it in a public place with some paint and brushes, encourage passers-by to paint, and see what happens. While it might seem simple in principle, BAC is implemented with a distinct purpose: “to encourage community access to the creative process” while promoting local community organizations and causes like the youth mentorship program, Explore Austin, and the Seton Healthcare Family’s pledge to upgrade Austin’s University Medical Center Brackenridge.

Goodies from the Big Ass Party fundraiser for Explore Austin. The event featured several canvases, free pizza, live music from Mars at Midnight, and more.

Zach, an Austin native, and Travis, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, met through CouchSurfing, a popular social network for backpackers and travelers all around the world. Sharing a penchant for helping people and making new friends, the two came up with the idea for BAC and set up their first blank canvas on The Drag (Guadalupe St. across from UT campus) in May of 2012.

I met the boys nearly ten color-filled canvases later at the 101X Summer Cinema Series at Central Market North Lamar, then caught up with them again at their “Big Ass Party” at Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street, a fundraiser for Explore Austin. Both Travis and Zach are outgoing and charismatic and, as evidenced by the defining characteristics of their artistic social experiment, love learning and sharing ideas with people.

Moviegoers settle down for Drop Dead Fred at the 101X Summer Cinema Series at Central Market N. Lamar. BAC will be in attendance all summer long.

Zach is an ambitious entrepreneur (ZCLOCO, Action Catalyst) who has chosen an unconventional educational and career path. Within a matter of days he will be departing on an open-ended trip to Europe with hopes of exploring both the world and himself. If you want to catch Zach before he leaves, you will probably find him wearing a dress shirt and shorts, a tie tucked into his shirt (so it doesn’t get paint on it, of course) and some red rubber boots or other funky accessory.

Lean and tall, Travis is just as hard to miss. He’ll be manning BAC for the rest of the summer so be on the lookout for his signature bowtie and thick-rimmed spectacles. Travis is an Austin transplant, but spend one minute talking with him and you will realize that his enthusiasm for inspiring and connecting the Austin community comes from the heart.

Zach and Travis of Big Ass Canvas. Photo taken from the Big Ass Canvas website

Their outlook on life and their determination – and ability – to make a difference in the world is refreshing.

Check out my short interview with the men of BAC as well as a video about their project below:

Do you have any events planned for selling the canvases?

Zach: We are still working on that. It would be great to have a gallery event where we could invite people to check out the artwork and bid on the canvases.

Travis: Currently we are marketing the canvases privately but haven’t sold any yet.  However, we recently obtained permission to display the canvases in the downtown 2nd Street District which will provide exposure to people who support the arts and local Austin organizations. (Please contact bigasscanvas@gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing a canvas).

Have you had any negative reactions to BAC’s name? I’ve seen children working on the canvases and wonder if their parents have any problem with the word “Ass”.

Z: We’ve had one or two negative responses, but for the most part our name and tagline are a hit.

You will be at Summer Cinema and Blues On the Green throughout the summer – then what?

T: BAC will continue to do events all summer and is continually gaining recognition, including press from KUT News [link] and Study Breaks Magazine. Many organizations have expressed an interest in having BAC at their events to cross-promote and raise awareness for different projects. We love meeting other people who want to pool resources to achieve something awesome in Austin and look forward to seeing where BAC takes us.

Why did you specifically choose to support Explore Austin and Seton’s Brackenridge?

Z: We chose Explore Austin because we are both adventurous people who want to encourage kids to experience their world in new ways. It just seemed to fit when we were looking for an organization to support. Brackenridge and Seton chose us after they saw what we were doing with BAC.

It is always great to see people pursuing their own projects rather than falling into the traditional school and work routine – but it is not always easy to take the unconventional road. What are your musings on entrepreneurial life?

T: We decided to implement BAC because it was something we could get excited about even though it is a struggle to make it financially sustainable in the short-term. These passion projects are a way to do what you love even when it doesn’t fit in the confines of the traditional 40 hour workweek formula.

Z: If you look around and see that you are walking in the same direction as a huge mob of people, run the other direction. Nothing good happens when the crowd is doing the same thing. It’s always good to be your own person, to take risks, to embrace the unknown, and to break a few rules in order to make a change in the world.

What are your personal aspirations for the future?

Z: I want to a life that allows me personal autonomy while creating a product or running a business that enables me to make a difference in the world. I want to do cool stuff with cool people and inspire others to do the same, to break out and explore and be themselves and not be boring “normal” people.

T: It’s important to me to be doing something I love. Austin is a place where people support homegrown efforts and it’s a great place to be creative and meet creative types. These attributes combine to make a recipe for a strong community. That is the kind of world I want to contribute to.

Big Ass Party

“This is not a Medium Ass Party”. Guests enjoy drinks, food, music, and painting at BAC’s party at Lustre Pearl.

-M

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UPCOMING EVENTS & LINKS:

101X Summer Cinema Series – Free Movies at Central Market N. Lamar!
Full Line-up:
Wednesday, June 6: Mean Girls
Wednesday, June 20: Drop Dead Fred
Tuesday, July 3: Captain America
Wednesday, July 18: Casino Royale
Wednesday, August 1: Wayne’s World

Remember your blankets, lawn chairs and an appetite. Summer Cinema will have $2.50 Blue Moons and great food from Central Market. Movies start at sun down. Thank you to our amazing sponsors who make this event possible!

93.3 KGSR Blues on the Green – Free Shows at Zilker Park!

KGSR’s Blues on the Green returns to Zilker Park for it’s 22nd season!

Every other Wednesday during the summer, Zilker Park will be filled with thousands of people, blankets and lawn chairs, families and music lovers.
As Austin’s largest FREE concert series KGSR’s Blues on the Green is consistently ranked as a top annual entertainment event and has become a staple of the Austin lifestyle and a very casual and comfortable experience. JOIN THE BLUES ON THE GREEN TEXT ALERT CLUB – text “BLUES” to 43981 to be the first to learn about this years show line-up!EVENT DATES:
May 30th – Charlie Mars w/ Max Gomez opening
June 13th – Rhett Miller w/ Wheeler Brothers opening
June 27th – Ben Kweller w/ Amy Cook opening
July 11th – BoDeans
July 25th – Marci Ball w/ Nakia opening
August 8th – TBA

BIG ASS CANVAS

Website: www.bigasscanvas.us

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigAssCanvas

Twitter: @BigAssCanvas

Follow Zach’s trip to Europe: http://www.zcloco.com/

Dividing the Estate: A Picture of the South

on stage at the ZACH Theatre for its last weekend!
by Margie Eades
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May 29, 2012 – July 1, 2012

Written by Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winner HORTON FOOTE
Directed bySTEVEN DIETZ (Doubt, Shooting Star and Becky’s New Car)
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Last weekend I visited the ZACH Theatre for the first time ever for the opening weekend of Fully Committed. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to return less than a week later for ZACH’s production of Dividing the Estate, written by the celebrated Texan playwright, Horton Foote (1916 – 2009).

The play follows the familiar dysfunctions of a Southern family, exaggerated by financial troubles and imperturbable greed. The Gordon children and grand-children constantly bicker about the future of their family’s historic – and valuable – estate, while Mamma Gordon (excellently portrayed by Marijane Vandivier) prefers to reminisce on days of a bygone era with her elderly servant, Doug (Eugene Lee).

Stella Gordon (Marijane Vandivier) and Doug (Eugene Lee) remember the “good old days” in Dividing the Estate. Photo by Kirk Tuck

If nothing else, Foote’s play serves as historical record of Texas in the 1980s: a Texas where big money and big hair ruled society and a strange sort of veiled racism still tinged the Southern mindset. I would even go as far as to say that this production of the play presents an opportunity for a brutally honest analysis of present-day Texan mentality towards issues such as race.  It was painful to see the characters of Mildred (Janis Stinson) and Cathleen (Sharayah Reed), the estate’s domestic workers, reduced to the stereotype of the large, overbearing Mammy figure. Historically, the Mammy archetype is one of the two roles (the other being the sensual Jezebel stereotype) that have been imposed upon Black actresses throughout the history of popular entertainment.

Mammy Stereotype (from Ethnic Notions by Marlon Riggs 1986)

However Foote must have been aware of the weight of the topic he was dealing with when writing the roles of the Black female domestic workers into the play, right? He did write the screenplay for To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) after all. My concern on Friday night was with how many of Foote’s fellow Texans actually caught on to the seriousness of these depictions. With the audience’s hearty laughter at every cliché “Mmmhmm” and cheeky comment made by the cook and her helper, I had to wonder how many others in the audience were having the same considerations I was about the historical and racial implications of these women’s roles in the script. Perhaps the fact that young Cathleen is attending a junior college while Emily and Sissy Gordon and their thick-headed mother Mary Jo can hardly do simple division presents a more accurate statement from Foote about the status of African-Americans in the South.

Mildred (Janis Stinson) and Cathleen (Sharayah Reed) in Dividing the Estate. Photo by Kirk Tuck

Mary Jo’s character, defined by relentless greed and a bad case of “youngest child syndrome”, is responsible for setting the tone of the entire drama. Unfortunately on Friday night, the lively actress Barbara Chisolm was unable to perform due to a death in the family and was temporarily replaced by Lauren Lane. While Lane played her new role bravely and whined and schemed very convincingly, her reading from a script inevitably took away from the play as a whole.

Marijane Vandivier’s portrayal of Stella “Mamma” Gordon hit straight to home, as I already mentioned. Her facetious quips about “overly educated women” divorce, living through the Great Depression, God’s wrath, reinstating plantation life, and Baptists versus Methodists are quintessentially “Southern grandma”. Whether it is her quirky and stubborn feminine ways or her pursed pink lips and permed white hair, there is something in her character that will remind every Texan of their grandmother. Her comments alone are revealing of the philosophy on life native to the South and make Foote’s play and ZACH’s production worth seeing.

Catch Dividing the Estate in its last weekend on the Kleberg Stage. A few more performances have been added due to popular demand. Get your tickets while you still can!

-M