Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Tigers Be Still at Hyde Park Theatre: AWESOME!!

I hate to plead busy and pressed for time, but sometimes life really is like that. Today is one of those days. On the other hand, if I wait until I “have time” to write a proper review of Tigers Be Still, now playing at Hyde Park Theatre, then you’re going to miss it. And so, don’t think of the length of this review as brief, think of is as soulfully witty! In fact, let me challenge myself here to write the entire review as a haiku, my favorite form. Ready?

See Tigers Be Still
at Hyde Park Theatre now!
You’ll be glad you did!

Alright, alright, let me give you a little bit more. Tigers Be Still, written by Kim Rosenstock and directed by Ken Webster is FREAKING OUTSTANDING. I mean, I love it, I love it, I love it! In fact, I saw it as part of a party of five and we all loved it.

The show is much like a kooky summer cocktail concocted almost purely for your comic pleasure. Oh, sure, there’s a splash of bitters as part of the backstory that causes Zack (Jon Cook) to be so angry that he needs the help of newbie art therapist Sherry (Molly Karrasch) to deal, but overwhelmingly this piece is a comedy. It’s got a dash of Gilbert Grape, a twist (ever so tiny) of Cinderella, a pinch of Buckaroo Bonzai and a helluva a lot of Jack Daniels. These latter two components are delivered/consumed by Grace (Kelsey Kling), Sherry’s recently jilted, booze-saturated, hilariously depressed sister. Their mom exists offstage, represented by the telephone the sisters use to communicate with her, despite the fact they live in the same house.

Rounding out the cast, Joseph (Jay Michael Fraley) who is Zack’s dad and Sherry's boos and the very long ago prom date of Sherry and Grace’s mom. Plot and subplot are on the light side here, but that’s just fine by me. It’s the language that’s delicious, and the detailed observations of this chronic heart condition aka life. The funny parts are so funny and the tender parts are not one bit schlocky-- they are genuinely moving.

The entire cast is sublime—individually and dynamically. I was so excited to see Jon Cook again, after taking in his wonderful HPT debut recently in The Aliens. I cannot wait to watch him take on more roles, the sooner the better. Cook is super young but has the chops of a seasoned pro. Molly Karrasch as Sherry is the perfect balance of oh-my-gosh and hopeful-in-a-sort-of-not-exactly-cynical-but-not-precisely-yippee kind of way. Kelsey Kling, is gut-bustingly brilliant and I wish I was into spoilers because I want to tell you all about this one scene that just about steals the show. Here’s a hint—it involves an extremely well-placed use of the word asshole. Jay Michael Fraley is new to the Austin theatre scene, having arrived recently from California. His arms might be tired but DAMN we are SO GLAD to have him—welcome Jay! Jay’s turn as a grieving, befuddled principal/boss/dad is terrifically believable.

A closing aside here—it has sometimes been lamented that in Austin EVERYONE gets a standing ovation, even when it is not merited, and that some of us are peer pressured into getting to our feet. I've totally been in that situation. For Tigers Be Still, I’m bummed that we failed to leap up and offer a Standing O. I wish I’d started the motion. I think maybe we were just so taken with what we’d seen, still so very much in process mode that we were stunned into stuck-in-chair mode. But for the record, I’m standing up as I write this, and might go again just so I can enjoy this wonderful work again and so I can stand up and clap throughout the entire show.

Tigers Be Still at Hyde Park Theatre through August 11, 2012
479-PLAY for reservations

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Workshop Coming in September

I'm finally launching a workshop series in response to the ongoing questions I get about how I manage to do what I do. That sounds vague, right? But it refers to the fact that I don't work a desk monkey job, I don't answer to a boss, I do make a decent living, and I do get plenty of time off. It also refers-- and I think this is more important-- to the fact that, after many years of not being happy, or of having inconsistent happiness marbled with big fatty bouts of depression and uncertainty, these days things are, relatively speaking, exotically calm and pretty darn cheerful most of the time. 

You could chalk some of this up to luck-- I certainly do. But I also have put in some hard work, made some exquisite mistakes, metaphorically and repeatedly banged my knees and stubbed my toes on furniture in the dark, and through all of these methods and more (sometimes known as my patented Error & Error technique) I've acquired knowledge, connections and-- uh, could we maybe say wisdom? Wisdom's a rather big word for it. Let's say, rather, that I collected some great ideas along the way.

So now it's time to share. You can get all the details over at my Spike Your Energy website. I'm happy to say I've had great turnout for my writing workshops, to the point of turning folks away. So if you want to be part of this new series, please let me know asap, before it fills up. You can email me at 


Monday, July 16, 2012

Moving Toward the Big Announcement

This is Ceci-- she started out as a writing student of mine when she was itty-bitty. Now she is a rocking member of Schmillion and she also has helped me out lots with my camps. Yay Ceci!
I think it was way back in May when I said a big announcement was imminent regarding my Next Exciting Project. Well, okay, as with other things in Austin, imminence is a little less immediate than elsewhere. But I really am planning to unveil, soonish, this idea I have that has been picking up steam in my mind and-- I see from news and radio stories-- in the collective consciousness. 

Seriously priceless.
A couple of hints at what I'm alluding to can be found in last week's Fashion Camp, which was my last week ever of summer camps for kids. I've done camps of various focus-- writing, fashion, craft -- for more years than I can remember. Some years were packed, some years lagged, always fun was had and, let's be real, some frustration, too. For example last week, I had an unfortunate tangle with a parent who kind of crapped all over me. But she was absolutely an exception, swiftly dispensed with. In the big picture-- of last week, of all my camps-- we have had a stunning amount of fun in camps and parents have been overwhelmingly supportive of my not-exactly-conventional approaches.

I really believe when you give kids free rein and enough duct tape, anything is possible. (Maybe that should go on my gravestone.) 
Not to sound too corny about it, but I also learned a lot of unexpected lessons-- about business, human nature, and expectations. For example, when I first started out with Writing Camp, I had the hilarious false notion that the kids would LOVE to write for three solid hours. It was a theory I think I developed by imagining what I would most love to have-- uninterrupted hours to pen my thoughts. But no, the kids wanted to socialize and run around. And so I shaped the program to suit their desires, and this is how, very organically, we came to do skit-writing and magazine-making in addition to individual writing. 

Along the way, especially with Fashion Camp, I had the help of invaluable assistants. In fact, Fashion Camp got its start in large part because there were a couple of teenagers to whom I wished to demonstrate the power of the creative class (sorry if you hate that term, it is kind of annoying). I wanted them to see there were options beyond the usual crappy teen jobs. I paid them very well for their work, and I also gave them a lot of responsibility. Over the years my assistants changed but my goal to be a mentor did not. I'm happy to say that I've provided employment and a healthy wage (if only for a week or two at a time) to a number of young Austinites, all of whom rose to the occasion and worked hard and made camp successful.

This is my friend Sarah who a) writes an amazing blog and b) is such a good friend I can't even tell you. Every year for our big fashion show she brings snacks including her mother's award-winning pimento cheese.

My departure from camp comes for a couple of reasons. The main one is that I am fortunate enough now to have a wedding business that is bursting at the seams, with more requests than I can handle (toward that end I now have a team working with me). Another reason is that I just feel done with camp, that my time working with little kids in this manner has run its course (despite Warren's insistence that I really ought to have my own kindergarten). I really love kids, and I really love working with young people, but it's time for a new incarnation.

And that brings us back to my "imminent" big announcement. Though I'm walking away from camp, I'm not walking away from working with young Austinites. I'm super excited as I put together the details of my next plan, which, no really, I swear, I am going to share soon. In the meanwhile, feel free to take a guess.

Friday, July 13, 2012

I Never Saw Him Naked, But You Can See Him Dance!

Well I hope y'all enjoyed the evening I planned for you yesterday. And now that the weekend is here, I have still more plans for you. In particular, I'd like to call your attention to a VERY unique happening at the Rollins Studio Theater at the Long Center. Yes, it's another collaboration between Allison Orr and Graham Reynolds. This time they've enlisted Austin Symphony Orchestra Peter Bay to come out and play with them.

Okay, what do you want to hear first? How much I love Allison and her Forklift Danceworks or the story of the time I invited Peter Bay to show me his birthday suit? Decisions, decisions...

Let's start with Forklift... Allison Orr is an absolutely spectacular choreographer who often works with folks who are not trained dancers to create large scale, breathtaking performances. You might remember the Trash Project, featuring 26 City of Austin sanitation workers and their mighty trucks, which also danced (in a manner of speaking). And then there was the night at the capitol when, to help kick off a Fusebox Festival, Allison got two hundred folks two-stepping to Graham's score. At the end of that performance the entire audience joined in and danced. I mean it is impossible to see a Forklift show and not feel stirred to your very soul.

This time around, the show is called Solo Symphony. Peter Bay will be conducting thirteen musicians playing an original score by Graham. But he won't just be using his typical range of baton waving-- he'll be busting some badass moves. Allison says she was moved to create the piece by watching Bay's fluidity as a maestro, and how he becomes the music.

Will he mosh? Will he worm? Will he crowd surf? You'll have to go see for yourself. You only have a couple of chances to see the show-- tonight (Friday the 13th) and tomorrow. You can get tickets here.

Wait, what? You want to hear the other story now? Well, okay. For a few years in the mid-aughts I put NAKED calendars to raise money for uninsured kids. The calendars, as you might guess from the title, featured naked Austin musicians. One year Sara Hickman suggested I try to get the symphony to pose naked, which I thought was a cool idea. So I emailed Peter Bay and to my delight he said he'd consider it. I don't think he had to consider it too long before deciding he'd better not conduct himself that way, but still, I love the idea that he at least thought about taking it all off for the cause.

So go on, y'all-- go see him dance. And enjoy the wonders of Allison Orr. Damn we are lucky to live in Austin.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Planned a Perfect Thursday for You (You're Welcome)

DAMN I know a lot of talented people. Just another something I love, love, love about Austin, TX-- well somethings: that there are so many amazing creative folks here and also that there is so much support for the creative life. Tonight four of my friends have a total of three events happening and if you plan your evening just right you can actually hit all of them. If that feels too ambitious for a school night, then I encourage you to get to at least one or two. Here, in chronological order, is how your evening should unfold:

7 PM: Alyssa Harad at BookPeople reading from her brand spanking new book Coming to My Senses which is, on the one level, about developing a perfume habit and becoming a bride but which, on another level is really mostly about what happens when one finds oneself living a life that is half wild passion and half tentative baby steps. I, personally, can't stand perfume and will never marry again and I LOVE THIS BOOK. See? That's how freaking good it is. It's for anyone who ever lived or breathed. Trust me. And this event is going to be packed and boisterous and very much The Place to Be tonight.

8:30 PM: Hustle on over to the Cactus Cafe to catch Southpaw Jones and Brian Kremer play what promises to be an amazing evening of finely crafted songs and stunning string work. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish these fellas were polygamists so you could marry them on the spot. Southpaw doesn't play out as often as he used to so this is a rare opportunity to catch the man in the velvety velvety velvety velvety red Cactus. And Brian-- well he doesn't play out enough either, so this is some super rare occasion like all the planets lining up and unicorns raining from the sky or something.

9:30 PM til 1 AM: Paul Klemperer's Birthday Bash at the Elephant Room. Paul is an old friend of mine and he's about to get a little bit older. We'll ring in his personal new year until the wee hours. The Elephant is another one of Austin's truly smashing venues, tucked bunker style beneath Congress Ave, all comfy cozy jazzy and waiting for you. Paul's masterful sax-i-ness accompanied by musician friends of all stripes promises an evening of wall-to-wall wonderfulness.

One last thought-- start your faux-sniffling and coughing at work today so you can call in "sick" tomorrow. This is one of those nights worth staying out past bedtime.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Asshole Will See You Now...

Super pumped! 
My new biz cards are here. Let me be clear that this post is in no way sponsored by Moo Cards, though if they ever want to put me on salary by all means, I'm open to the idea. I probably order from Moo five, six, seven times a year. I LOVE how much fun you can have with such a small amount of money. They have super designs but you can also design-your-own. I've gone both routes and have been super duper happy every time. 

I believe some of the six of you knew that, for my latest Moo Fun, I was ordering cards that noted that I am not afraid to be an asshole, nor have I been afraid to be an asshole since 1964. And while I offered a sneak peek of the backside of these cards over at FB, I have waited until today for the Big Reveal of the front. As you can see in the image at the top, I picked multiple fronts. Another thing I love about Moo-- you can upload a bunch of different pics for your cards and they don't charge you extra. Yay Moo!

In other news, I also got those bumper stickers in with the Norman Lear quote. He was asked If you could put one bumper sticker on everyone's car, what would it be? Here's the answer:

If you want a bumper sticker and business card, shoot me a note at You can hit me with $10 on the evil, evil paypal or stuff an old filthy ten-spot in a recycled envelope and mail it to me. The $10 covers postage and handling and by handling I mean that, yes, if you ask nicely, I will have Rebound fart on and/or lick your envelope prior to mailing.