Stone-carver Stuart Simpson, who lives in Cedar Park and works from a studio in Southeast Austin, can estimate how much it would cost to add President Donald J. Trump to Mount Rushmore, something the president has discussed in public with a mocking tone that ends up sounding serious.
New York-based Washington Post reporter Philip Bump contacted Stu, a neat guy and a member of the Stone Carvers Guild whom we’ve always intended to profile, to find out what it would take.
“His estimate — which was obviously very rough given the infrequency of projects of this scale — was that it would take a team of about 180 people about four years to complete the job. (The work is “not like making a pizza,” he said.) That team would consist of about 25 designers, 30 trained stone workers and some 125 laborers to do the bulk of the chipping away at the mountain to create a 60-foot-tall head.
“At estimated hourly rates of $100 (designers), $50 (trained stone workers) and $30 (the rest of the crew), that’s about $64 million alone — just for labor.
“The way the work would proceed would be by “taking away the parts that you know don’t need to be there,” working from the top down, Simpson said. He likened it to terracing the side of a mountain, which, in a sense, it is. While the original sculptures were carved using tools such as jackhammers, Simpson noted that building this in 2017 would offer some advantages.
“Technology these days is way more advanced,” he said. “I think a lot of it will still have to be sculpted and removed off the mountain in the same manner that it was in the past, but with the new computer abilities and 3-D scanning, I would think there’s much more equipment that could be used to make it a more accurate and easier process.” Laser locating could allow for much more precise carving, for example, allowing a carver to hit a very particular depth on a section of Trump’s face.”
Guitarist Isaac Bustos brings an irreducible point of view to “I/We,” a multifaceted concert on the theme of refugees coming July 28-29 to the Blanton Museum of Art.
“I know what it’s like to have your entire life in limbo,” Bustos says. “As a child, being treated differently because of my refugee status was difficult. Sometimes I fear that we lose sight of the human aspect of being a refugee, but a project like (this) gives a voice to people with diverse and often traumatic life experiences, and shines a light on what they went through.”
Multimedia producer Yuliya Lanina, part of an international group of artists assembled for this project by Austin Classical Guitar, comes to it with a potent personal connection as well.
“I came as a refugee from Russia in 1990, fleeing anti-Semitism and constant threats,” she says. “The U.S. welcomed me and my family, and we were given the freedom to build our lives without being punished for who we are. I want others who are now in a similar situation, or worse, to have that same opportunity.”
During the past season, the stories of refugees have repeatedly gripped Austin artists. …
Two barnlike stone structures once stood abandoned in South Austin. One rested on a hill with a view of the city; the other, located farther south, spread out on lush flats near a creek and railroad tracks.
Separately in the 1950s, these old buildings were transformed into residences and studios by important Austin artists who were friends — until they were not.
Miraculously, both these partially modernist but stubbornly rustic retreats have been preserved, one in private hands, the other in public. While their separate histories have been told, their connections are still being made.
The onetime friends were sculptor Charles Umlauf and muralist Seymour Fogel.
Umlauf, who died in 1994, was a longtime University of Texas teacher and a prolific maker of flowing figures, many of which can be spotted all over town. He is best known these days as the namesake of and chief artistic contributor to the city-owned Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, just east of Zilker Park. Others remember him as the artistic mentor of late actress Farrah Fawcett while she studied at UT.
Fogel, who left Austin in 1959 and died in 1984, is less well remembered locally, despite his cultlike status among fans of midcentury modern Texas art. Perhaps his most visible legacy in Austin is the gorgeously preserved large mural inside the Starr Building, originally home to the American National Bank, now smartly occupied by the McGarrah Jesse marketing agency at 121 W. Sixth St. …
The Texas State Preservation Board has chosen museum veteran Catherine Taylor to lead the giant Bullock State History Museum.
Most recently director of museum resources at the Nantucket Historical Association, the native Texan also served as a district superintendent for California State Parks, overseeing nine museums and state historic parks. She also played multiple roles at the California State Railroad museum.
She earned he BA in history from California State University-Sacramento and she graduated from the Museum Management Institute at the University of California-Berkeley.
“We expect her wealth of experience in all facets of museum operations to take the Bullock to new levels of excellence,” said Rod Welsh, State Preservation Board executive director. The board oversees the State Capitol, Capitol Extension, Capitol Visitors Center, Governor’s Mansion, Texas State Cemetery and their grounds, as well as the history museum. “The museum is at a pivotal point. It will be the centerpiece of an exciting project to redevelop the Texas Capitol Complex into a thriving cultural district that connects the north and south sides of Congress Avenue around the State Capitol.”
The museum attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year and collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original artifacts and host exhibitions. It does not collect artifacts.
Jen Silverman’s “The Moors” is a play that unfolds new layers with almost every scene. What seemingly begins as a morosely tinged Victorian drawing-room comedy of manners quickly becomes a Gothic horror, and then a darkly comedic farce, a charming-yet-existential love story, and, ultimately, a surrealist nightmare.
Hyde Park Theatre’s new production of “The Moors,” running through Aug. 5, employs a phenomenally talented cast to hit all of the varying notes of Silverman’s play. Director Ken Webster, in recognition of this talent, opts for a very simple presentation that keeps the flourishes with the actresses, rather than imparting any extra bells and whistles upon the text.
The plot of “The Moors” begins as a pastiche of Jane Eyre (and indeed there are other intentional nods to the Brontë sisters and their work along the way, mashing together bits of their novels’ plots), with spinster sisters Agatha and Huldey hiring a new governess, Emilie, to come work at their isolated home on the English moors. Emilie soon discovers that things at this house are not as she expected with the sisters, their absent brother who supposedly wrote to her, and their ambiguous servant who may be named Marjory or Mallory.
As older sister and mistress of the house Agatha, Catherine Grady is blunt and biting, with an acerbic stoicism that belies her darker ambitions. Jess Hughes is captivatingly unhinged as Huldey, whose desire for fame and to reveal her deepest secrets grows more and more disturbing as the story unfolds. Crystal Bird Caviel, as Marjory, moves deftly between the exterior trope of a put-upon servant and a secretive, behind-the-scenes schemer. Katie Kohler’s Emilie begins as a perplexed audience stand-in, slowly discovering the macabre secrets teeming throughout the house and gradually becomes a player in some of the grimmest enigmas.
All of the comical and surrealist maneuvering among the human beings is set against the unlikely love story between a mastiff and a moor-hen. In their existential discussions of life, love and philosophy, the animals are something of a deadly serious take on Snoopy and Woodstock from the Peanuts comic strips. David Yakubik’s soulful voice and longing eyes bring deep resonance to the mastiff’s depression (though note that Yakubik will be replaced after July 22 by Patrick Gathron), with Lindsay Hearn Brustein’s sweet-but-flighty moor-hen (pun intended) as a perfect foil. Their relationship is full of charm, romanticism and, like the rest of the play, an undercurrent of ebon darkness.
The Moors is ultimately much more concerned with evoking a feeling of surreal, existential unease than it is with making a specific political point. Hyde Park Theatre’s production, with one of the best ensembles on the Austin stage, delights in that sensibility, creating a dark, bizarre, yet still hilarious night of theater.
(This post has been updated to correct the final performance date of David Yakubik.)
It’s hard to think of a movie musical more classic or family-friendly than 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie, based on writer L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” has proven so popular over the decades that it was adapted into a stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987.
The resulting show, with a book by John Kane (adapted from Baum as well as the screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf), music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and background music by Herbert Stothart, has since become a standard across the UK and the United States.
Zilker Theatre Productions’ latest free summer musical, running through Aug. 12 at the Zilker Hillside Theater, is a new production of this version of “The Wizard of Oz.” This is the 59th annual Zilker Summer Musical, and the most expensive show to date, with a great deal of that money clearly going toward creating the magic of Oz as experienced by naïve young Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm girl transported to the other-dimensional realm via a convenient tornado. Through liberal doses of both theatrical innovation and beautiful carpentry and design, director J. Robert Moore and scenic designer Paul Davis effectively evoke both the plainness of Kansas (pun intended) and the splendor of Oz.
Much like the movie it is based on, Bilker’s “The Wizard of Oz” is long on broad, entertaining character types and short on actual character development. However, the zany antics of Dorothy and her companions (the “brainless” Scarecrow, “heartless” Tin Man, and “courageless” Cowardly Lion) play well in the open-air atmosphere of the Zilker Hillside Theater, with its huge, all-ages audience.
The main cast of the show all give big, broad performances that would be over-the-top in a small theater, but work nicely in this context. Andrew Cannata, Jordan Barron and Kirk Kelso, as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, respectively, are vaudevillian in their physical comedy and banter, while Emily Perzan’s Wicked Witch delights more in being comedic than overtly scary.
The production’s Dorothy, Hannah Roberts, is a star on the rise. She embodies the character’s youth and naivety in a charming, guileless manner, a complete turn-around from her delightfully dour portrayal of Wednesday Addams in last year’s Summer Stock Austin production of “The Addams Family.” She only manages to get upstaged by the exuberant full-cast numbers, which inventively feature children as the Munchkins of Oz performing the whimsical choreography of Adam Roberts (who is also the show’s musical director).
Zilker’s production of “The Wizard of Oz goes” beyond the show, itself, in order to create a full night of family entertainment. There are booths and amusements for kids to enjoy before the show, as well as refreshments that can be purchased both ahead of time and at intermission. Remember to bring a blanket and pillows along with some bug spray, and be sure to arrive early to pick out a good spot on the hillside.
The latest trend in chamber music — storytelling — might also be the most ancient cultural practice in human history.
Yet as Michelle Schumann, artistic director of the Austin Chamber Music Center, sees it, a new-fashioned style of storytelling is the perfect complement to an intense, intimate and often misunderstood form of music.
“Audiences often crave more from a concert,” Schumann says about the narrative impulse as she expects it to play out during the upcoming Austin Chamber Music Festival. “They want to take away a deep understanding of the music, rather than just a sonic-emotional experience. They desire a personal connection with the artists and the art they are creating, a narrative that ties together different composers, eras, countries and styles. It gives audiences a context that they can relate to and therefore feel closer to.”
When it first debuted in 1985, Larry Kramer’s play “The Normal Heart,” about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in New York, was described by New York Times reviewer Frank Rich as “the most outspoken play around,” with “a subject that justifies its author’s unflagging, at times even hysterical, sense of urgency.”
Over two decades later, “The Normal Heart” has lost none of its fierceness, its power, nor, sadly, its urgency, as the City Theatre’s current production shows. Though we now live in an age where an HIV diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence, as it was in the early 1980s, the play is less about the virus itself than it is about the political action it spurred in New York’s LGBTQ+ community. As such, City Theatre’s production feels as timely as ever, given that we live in an era of renewed interest in political activism.
Directors Carl Gonzales and Lacey Cannon Gonzales certainly don’t shy away from the text’s anger. The story follows the lives of several AIDS activists, and as they go ignored by the government and see the epidemic only grow worse, their righteous fury grows from scene to scene. The ensemble cast does not pull back from these outbursts, most notably McArthur Moore as Mickey Marcus (whose slow-burn joviality early in the play lends true ferocity to his later anger), and Laura Ray as Emma Brookner, who is given the show’s most overtly political monologue.
What lends “The Normal Heart” much of its power, 20 years on, is that it isn’t merely an easy narrative of us-against-them activism. Rather, it explores the different shades of response to the AIDS crisis by different members of New York’s gay male community. In the debates between sex positivity and absolute abstinence (to prevent transmission), between compromising with government officials and excoriating them in the public, and between being in or out of the closet, each of Kramer’s characters is right, even when they are diametrically opposed. Activism is no easy feat, even in the face of biological annihilation, and today’s crop of young activists could learn much from the story told in “The Normal Heart.”
City Theatre’s production of the play is both timely (coming on the heels of Pride celebrations across the world and in terms of our current national political climate) and simple, with an elegant, multi-purpose set that keeps the focus on the characters and the politics rather than the specific setting of each scene. By the end of the play, the detritus of props from previous scenes bleeds into the following ones, creating a literal representation of the way the ghosts of the departed haunt those who remain alive.
With a powerful message that still sadly resonates today, “The Normal Heart” remains a crucial piece of American drama, and the City Theatre is to be applauded for bringing it back to the stage.
“The Normal Heart” When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday through July 16 Where: 3823 Airport Blvd. Cost: $10-$25 Information: 512-524-2870, citytheatreaustin.org
With some exceptions, arts and other cultural groups — we include major literary and historical outlets — don’t return to full form until September.
Yet now’s the time for all arts groups to confirm their seasonal slates and for all readers to consider purchasing season tickets.
In fact, for some high-demand groups, if you haven’t secured your 2017-2018 subscriptions already, you’re stuck with angling for single slots.
For instance, galvanized by the chance to secure tickets for the matchless musical, “Hamilton,” in the 2018-2019 season, more than 3,000 new subscribers have signed on for Broadway in Austin’s 2017-2018 offerings.
Now, some groups don’t operate on the traditional season system, rolling out one show at a time. Others split up their seasons. For instance, the Long Center for the Performing Arts won’t announce its Winter/Spring slate until September.
We respect that. What will follow soon in these pages is a list of shows that we could discover with relative ease in July. We’ll add others to digital extensions on the Austin Arts blog when they arrive.