A walk can turn into art in Austin

signs near university of texas on Guadalupe

One of the things I’m enjoying here in Austin is the walk-ability.  And all the great shapes, colors, designs and fonts I find to look at and photograph along the way.

The images in this post came from a walk along Guadalupe across from the University of Texas campus.  Typical snapshots are of buildings or statues…but finding and photographing the small details of signs, fences, walls and sidewalks can turn an ordinary walk into an art experience.  Best of all, kids of all ages can get in on the experience.  Big kids like us have as much fun as little ones, and the little ones will love taking their own pictures.

And if you’re looking for a unique date night activity….two cameras, a connector and a tablet or laptop to look at your finds together over dinner or dessert.  Perfect!  Or head out by yourself for some quiet time really seeing your city, maybe for the first time.  It’s amazing how different things look when you’re looking for the details!

I know this isn’t the typical “A is For Austin” post, but once in awhile it’s nice to talk about something that’s free and fun and simple and easy to do no matter where in Austin you might be.

Television gets its own Festival in Austin

ATX Television Festival Austin Texas

Someday, when the ATX Television Festival is as big as the Sundance Film Festival, I will be able to say I was there for the very first year.

Come to think of it, I was there for Sundance’s early years, too, when their showings were screened in tiny Salt Lake City venues like the The Blue Mouse Movie Theatre in Salt Lake City and the Tower Theatre, and the audience was a mix of film makers, film buffs, and high school and college students.  From small beginnings….

This year’s first ever television festival was made up of a similar mix to those early Sundance crowds, with a few more families thrown in.  We didn’t make it to the first day’s events, including a screening of the newest episode of “Royal Pains”, but we did go to the screening of local favorite “Friday Night Lights”, held in the parking lot between Jo’s Coffee and the San Jose Hotel on South Congress.  About 300 people showed up with folding chairs and blankets to meet FNL cast members, snack on goodies from Sweet Leaf Iced Tea, Cornucopia Popcorn, and more, and then settle down to watch the show on the big screen. The crowd applauded as their favorite characters appeared on screen or local  spots appeared (yes, as Austin newcomers, we were lost!)

On Sunday, we attended screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse, and met more members of the festival staff.  The highlight for us was the screening of an episode of Firefly, and a chance to meet and talk with the writers Ben Edlund and Jose Molina. Geek heaven! There were also panels on Saturday and Sunday where industry pros and industry hopefuls could share information and ideas about televisions production, program development and scripting.

Festival creators Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland were on hand throughout the weekend.  Emily told me that the festival was created as a way to offer the television industry a way to showcase their art form…one that often takes second place to big screen productions.  It’s also planned as a way to allow fans a way to honor their favorite shows and performers.

Plans are already underway for next year’s event.  “We’ll review the results of this year’s festival, and then start planning,” said Emily.  “We plan to be back next year with even more.”

Shakespeare goes Bollywood with the Austin Shakespeare Company

Austin Shakespeare Twelfth Night in Zilker Park Austin Texas

For 28 years, Austin Shakespeare has been offering local drama fans a chance to relax on the hill in Zilker Park with picnics and spring breezes while they bring the best of the bard to life on stage.

If this year’s production, our first in Austin, was typical, we are in for an annual treat.  I have been to Shakespeare in the Park in places as diverse as Harrisburg, PA., Cedar City, Utah and New York City.  And I have to say this production rivals the very best I have seen in any of them.

This was no Ren Faire sideshow or community theatre production.  The acting was true to the characters with original touches that gave an old story a new richness.  The casting, costuming and blocking were spot on, and the lighting by Jason Amato was perfectly set to enhance both the story and the actors.

But I have to save my highest praise for the composer and the directors.

Setting a Shakespearean production to music and dance is no easy task, and is doubly difficult when you overlay another time or culture onto it.  Composer Naga Valli‘s original score conveyed the energy of Bollywood mixed with the (often ribald) humor of Shakespeare’s story. And she did it seamlessly.

Directors Ann Ciccolella and Alex Alford created a production that so successfully integrated Bollywood and the Bard that one could easily believe this was the intent of the playwright from the start.  As Lance said after the final scene, “Shakespeare would have approved.”

The company’s 29th season begins in late autumn, with Noel Coward’s Design for Living, followed by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Next year’s Shakespeare in the Park production will be The Winter’s Tale.

The group also offers a Shakespeare reading group, which meets weekly to read, discuss and act out all of the plays.

Pecan Street Festival brings together music, art, and Austin weirdness

Pecan Street Festival 2012  on A is 4 Austin

I should have known better.  It was over 90 degrees and extreme heat and I do NOT get along well.  But away we went to the Spring Pecan Day Festival in downtown Austin.

I expected t roast and melt.  And to be honest, it was even hotter than I thought it would be.  And melt I did. Big time.

But despite the heat, this festival, held annually on 6th Street/Pecan Street (and companion to the Autumn Pecan Street Festival) was also more than I thought it would be.

First of all, it was big.  REALLY big.  It went on and on with block after block of artists’ booths, food, music and just-for-the-heck-of-it stuff for sale. And most of it was truly good.  We saw everything from hand puppets to wall-sized collages in the art booths.  There was even a petting zoo! And the food was far beyond the usual funnel cakes and corn dogs (although both of those were there, too.)  Topping my list for weirdest fair food was the alligator stand, while the homemade ice cold fresh lemonade takes the prize for “Most in Demand and Gratefully Purchased”.

Music venues all along the fair area were open for business with amazing sounds at every turn, too.  We took shelter in the Stage on 6th for a bit to get out of the sun, and were treated to fantastic classic country sounds…amazingly, even our dog and our daughter were welcome there (we’re still not quite used to the rules in Austin, so that was a surprise — in Miami, kids and pets are verbotten in bars

The highlight of the Festival for us was the discovery of a new (well, new to us) band called Les Rav.  Their music was a wonderful mix of Celtic, rock, New Age, chamber, progressive and Indy, with something special on top of all of that.  They are definitely worth a follow.

The Pecan Street Festival is a family friendly event and dogs are welcome (on leash).  If you head out to the Spring or Autumn events, I would recommend taking a good supply of water for you and your pets.  It gets hot, and bottled water is pricy.  Bring cash for food and drink — very few took cards and ATM fees were high.

Inside the Texas State Capital

 

Texas State Capital Building

Whether you live in Austin, or are just visiting, do make time to visit the Texas State Capital buildings. It’s well worth the trip.

We have been to quite a few state capitals, and of course, the buildings in Washington, D.C.  In fact, I used to work in the Utah State Capital building.  So when I say that this is one of the most beautiful capitals, I have an excellent basis for comparison.

The view up into the dome alone is worth the visit.  And make sure you head upstairs to see the House and Senate chambers, too.  Not only is the architecture exceptional, but the murals and art work depicting Texas history are a great way to get to know just what went into the building of this state…er, um, Republic now known as Texas.

An online planning guide makes it easy to schedule your visit for days and times when its easy to see everything.  And parking information is also online…most days parking is free and only a few blocks from the Capital.  On-street metered parking is also an option on weekends.