Arts A cool norther

No one wants to hear that Austin is hipper than SA, but in theater, it's definitely weirder

Even though spending your hard-won lucre on local arts offerings is always the noble thing to do, the performing-arts season in Austin is often just too tempting to resist. Here's a run-down on some highlights of Austin's 2005-6 season:

Ballet Austin offers the premiere of a choreographed version (!) of Carl Orff's popular oratorio Carmina Burana ,September 30-October 2, at Bass Concert Hall. (Current readers will recognize the opening "O Fortuna" as a staple of horror-film soundtracks everywhere.) In May, however, the company sticks to the tried-and-true with a remounting of its popular Romeo and Juliet.

In January, Austin's incredibly talented Tapestry Dance Company offers the strangely titled Jass: A Syncopated Journey Through Jazz; stop puzzling over the name and simply enjoy a company that always knocks San Antonio dead on its annual summer visits. Later that spring, the touring production of Diavolo comes to downtown Austin: It's billed as "the ultimate in artistic risk-taking," but that more-or-less describes anybody producing dance in Texas. Still, Diavolo's blend of choreography and athletics has wowed critics all over the U.S.

This year's theater season in Austin includes a few regional favorites unlikely to hit the Alamo City. In May, the Zach Scott Theater presents Doug Wright's I Am My Own Wife, last year's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a Berlin transvestite who managed to survive the Nazis, the Communists, and homophobia of every political stripe. In January, the Zach Scott offers the regional premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical Urinetown, a spoofy, clever show that chronicles the resistance of townsfolk to a greedy mega-corporation with a toilet monopoly.

Central Texas native son and Greater Tuna co-creator Jaston Williams treads the boards in February in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the State Theater. It'll be worth the trip just to see Williams star in a non-Tuna show. And Vortex Repertory Company is currently mounting Sarah Kane's Phaedra's Love, a play of incest and castration so vile and shocking it's worth seeing twice.

Though Austin Lyric Opera's season includes the popular stalwarts Il Trovatore and Don Giovanni, the real reason to subscribe is January's production of Shostakovich's Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, a rarely performed but splendid work. UT-Austin's faculty string quartet, the Miró Quartet, celebrates a slew of impressive awards with a series of recitals at the Bates Recital Hall. The programs are yet to be announced, but the Miró's latest CD features quartets of Mendelssohn and Schubert. In October, The Philip Glass ensemble gives a rare non-New York performance of Orion, a 90-minute piece composed for the Cultural Olympiad 2004 in Greece. Scored for a variety of exotic instruments - including those native to Australia, India, Brazil, and even Canada - Orion promises to be an eclectic evening of song, dance, and music. Those who only know Glass through his score for the film The Hours may want to experience the composer's more wide-ranging compositions.

As often, Austin's season is a bit less mainstream than San Antonio's, so if you need a fix to keep yourself "weird," Austin is just a quick cruise up I-35.

By Thomas Jenkins


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