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Spring Awakening hailed as a “Broadway Landmark”

September 14th, 2011 No comments

One of the most exciting new musicals to hit stage this decade, Spring Awakening has been called “a groundbreaking jolt of genius” by The New York Post. Rock composer Duncan Sheik’s score is said by Entertainment Weekly to be “the most gorgeous Broadway score of this decade!”

The electrifying, folk-infused rock musical hits ZACH’s stage one week from today, and many performances are selling out quickly. If you loved Rent, you don’t want to miss this new production of the Tony-winning musical. ZACH’s production promises to be a mind-blowing experience with a fresh new cast in a never-seen-before intimate new setting. Check out this video from the 2007 Tony Awards:

If the video does not appear on this page, check it out directly on YouTube, and stay tuned over the upcoming weeks for photos, behind-the-scenes details and new video at http://www.zachtheatre.org/blog.

Congrats to ZACH Theatre Austin Critics Table Winners

June 7th, 2011 2 comments
Martin Burke in ZACH's THE DROWSY CHAPERONE

Martin Burke in ZACH's THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, photo by Kirk Tuck

The best and brightest in Austin arts critics presents the Austin Critics Table Awards each year. Now, in its 19th year, awards were presented last night by local arts critics to recognize the most exceptional achievements in dance, classical music, the visual arts and theatre — for a period covering May 2010 through April 2011.

This year’s committee was composed of the Austin American-Statesman‘s Michael Barnes (arts), Cate Blouke (theatre), Claire Canavan (theatre), Luke Quinton (classical music/visual arts), Claire Spera (dance), and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin (arts) and The Austin Chronicle‘s Elizabeth Cobbe (theatre), Jonelle Seitz (dance), Avimaan Syam (theatre) and the Chronicle’s Robert Faires (arts).

Barbara Chisholm as Molly Ivins in RED HOT PATRIOT: THE KICK-ASS WIT OF MOLLY IVINS

Barbara Chisholm as Molly Ivins in RED HOT PATRIOT: THE KICK-ASS WIT OF MOLLY IVINS, Photo by Kirk Tuck

ZACH Theatre and its actors were presented with several awards at the informal ceremony at Cap City Comedy Club last night, including:

  • BEST COMEDY PRODUCTION – Becky’s New Car starring Lauren Lane
  • BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION – The Drowsy Chaperone
  • BEST ACTING IN A LEADING ROLE –
    Martin Burke in The Drowsy Chaperone,
    Barbara Chisholm in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,
    Lauren Lane in Becky’s New Car and August: Osage County
  • BEST ACTING IN A SUPPORTING ROLE –
    Joshua Denning – Rent
    Meredith McCall – The Drowsy Chaperone
  • BEST CHOREOGRAPHY – Robin Lewis for The Drowsy Chaperone and Rent
  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Susan Branch Towne for The Drowsy Chaperone

Thanks to all the casts and crewmembers who worked with the theatre to make this such an exciting season! We look forward to continue bringing quality theatre to Austin in the 2011-12 Season — which we’ve just announced!

Another exciting tidbit: If you missed Barbara Chisholm’s award-winning performance in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, ZACH will be remounting the play late this summer in-the-round on the intimate Whisenhunt Stage.

For a full list of winners, please check out today’s blog at Austin360.com.

Congrats to all!

RENT Notice: The Future is Here!

November 12th, 2010 No comments
Speaking of Awards …

ZACH Theatre received six B. Iden Payne Awards this week for its hit musical THE DROWSY CHAPERONE. ZACH and the cast and creative team of DROWSY are deeply honored. A big thank you goes out to Austin’s theatre community for recognizing this truly effervescent show. NYC-based Guest Director (and now B. Iden Payne winner!) Nick Demos was astounded by the acting talent and design artistry he experienced here in Austin.

As the “Outstanding Cast” award attests that honored the entire DROWSY Ensemble, Austin is brimming with musical theatre artists of the highest artistic quality. A heartfelt thank you is extended to the members of the Austin Creative Alliance for their recognition of Susan Branch with the “Best Costume Design” award, Allen Robertson with the “Best Musical Direction” award and Robin Lewis with the “Best Choreography Award.” These Austin artists are delighted to receive this generous recognition from their peers.

Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley, who was in auditions with Guest Director Charles Otte for ZACH’s upcoming production of FICTION that evening, sent his appreciation to the B. Iden Payne Committee: “Recognition from our peers whom we admire is a cherished accolade. Thank you to the entire Austin theatre community. ZACH and the cast and creative team of THE DROWSY CHAPERONE are so appreciative of the multiple honors — we never dreamed it would be selected in so many categories. We are humbled and grateful.”

Thanks to the B. Iden Payne Awards committee for all they do to contribute to the vibrancy of the city, and for their part in helping to make Austin a place where creativity thrives and is recognized. And congrats to all of our colleagues for their outstanding work this season and to the Rude Mechanicals on their Outstanding Contribution to Austin Theatre recognition. We are inspired by our fellow theatre artists and thankful to create work and see the significant work of our colleagues contribute meaningfully to Austin’s creative capital.

In preparation for the RENT Sing-Along, we’ve revisited the origins of this rock opera sensation.

RENT had its first staged reading at the New York Theatre Workshop in March 1993, and three years later the show opened there, quickly gaining critical and word-of-mouth acclaim from New Yorkers – and the rest of the world. The show got so big it had to move to Broadway in the previously derelict Nederlander Theater on 41st Street three years later. Theatre critic for The New York Times Ben Brantley wrote one of the first national reviews saying it was “an exhilarating, landmark rock opera [with a] glittering, inventive score [that] shimmers with hope for the future of the American musical.”

Well, Austin, the future is here! The first version of RENT staged and produced entirely in Austin, with local Austin artists, ZACH Theatre’s current production has been buzzing with an eerie similarity to its debut at the New York Theatre Workshop. The Austin Chronicle has called it “A Broadway-quality staging of the popular rock musical with energy to spare!” (Read more.)

One of the biggest innovations of RENT when it first premiered was its appeal to young people. That appeal roped in a whole new generation of theatre goers, and for the first time in history $20 tickets were offered to young people to see a show.

We’re repeating that here at ZACH with $20 advance ticket sales for students through our box office, and we’re doing one better: as always, ZACH offers $15 walk-up tickets for students one hour before show time.

These offers are turning every night of RENT into a cross-generational “club-like environment” according to The Chronicle, but to us it’s just a heck of a good time with one heck of an important message. Family is what you make of it, says RENT Director Dave Steakley, who formed the season as ZACH’s Producing Artistic Director with the role of family in modern American life at its core.

The rock opera RENT is about “family of choice,” he says. For us, the Austin artists, musicians, technicians, students, actors, designers, writers, choreographers and more are a family that we’ve worked hard to create at ZACH. Everyone is welcome at the theatre, and kicking off the season with RENT drives this message home for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by ZACH Theatre productions and outreach each year.

In fact, Suzan-Lori Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, is returning to ZACH this season to direct her newest play THE BOOK OF GRACE, about a border-town family of a whole different sort.

And right after RENT closes, in just three short weeks, she’ll be coming to ZACH to host her innovative “Watch Me Work” series, which is a performance piece where she works for an hour writing on stage and asks the whole community – artists of many different persuasions – to join her in tandem.

At the end of the hour, a timer goes off and she invites the artists who worked in the studio with her to discuss their work. It’s an opportunity to experience performance art and become part of the performance, plus a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a Pulitzer Prize winner talk to you about your work for fifteen minutes at the end of the hour. This is true innovation, and when Dave Steakley talked to Suzan-Lori Parks about this opportunity, she was completely plussed that it would follow the close of RENT, though disappointed her teaching schedule at NYU prevented her from getting a chance to see ZACH’s production of RENT. Suzan-Lori lived in Alphabet City in New York for ten years during the era that RENT encapsulates.

Needless to say, RENT is captivating Austin audiences in parallel fashion to its original appeal in New York City at the turn of the millennium. At the New York Theatre Workshop, the rock opera was so popular that some even compared it to HAIR, saying it was “a HAIR for the 90s.”

ZACH’s RENT is “a powerhouse performance from a cast of local Austin artists” according to Michael Meigs at AustinLiveTheatre.com. (Read more.)

AustinOnStage.com agrees: “ZACH Theatre’s production can now be added to the list of what made the show so special in the first place!” (Read more.)

Join our community for this cross-generational rock opera phenomenon. Call or click: (512) 476-0541, x1 or www.zachtheatre.org.

RENT Notice: Around Town With RENT Musicians

October 29th, 2010 No comments
John Pointer

John Pointer, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com

Critics are raving about ZACH’s production of the rock opera RENT. What makes this production so extraordinary? If you ask director Dave Steakley, it’s the brilliant Austin musicians on stage, some of them for the first time, in a raw, hyper-energetic exhibition of what makes Austin unique in the first place: It’s the live music capital of the world!

Just ask Austin writer extraordinaire Spike Gillespie: RENT is further proof that this city is crawling with magnificent talent! (Read more.)

Magnificent indeed, there’s a lot going on with the musicians appearing in RENT when they’re not on the show.  Many of them front some of Austin’s most popular bands.

Take John Pointer, for instance, a multi-instrumentalist, actor, arranger, composer, producer and performer. He plays Roger in the show, but has been a full-time musician in Austin since 1991, when he moved here from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to attend the University of Texas.

Ginger Leigh

Ginger Leigh, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com

According to his parents, John could sing before he could speak, mimicking the melodies of the lullabies he heard. By the age of 5, he was studying piano, at age 6 he started cello, percussion at age 8, guitar at age 11, bass at age 13, and later banjo and mandolin. He studied cello performance and composition and graduated from the University of Texas in 1997 with a degree in music and lacking only two courses for a second degree in Italian.

In fact, he’ll be touring throughout Italy following ZACH’s run of RENT, which closes in just 4 short weeks! Between now and then you can not only catch him in RENT, but also in a one night only performance of his own music. He will be joined by Dave Madden, one of the most well-respected up-an-coming songwriters in Austin, and special guest Vicki Genfan, Guitar Player Magazine’s “Guitar Superstar of 2008″ live on RENT’s stage!  Click here for more info on that show.

Check out everything John’s ever recorded for free at http://patronism.com/JohnPointer.

Courtney Sanchez

Courtney Sanchez, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com

Hopping the pond with John to Italy are rock sensation Ginger Leigh, who fronts the Ginger Leigh Band here in Austin, and Courtney Sanchez, who’s starting a new musical journey with her original neosoul band, Sway.

Ginger, who currently stars as Maureen in RENT, tours the country as a singer-songwriter and recording artist, but calls Austin home. Her career has taken her around the globe, creating music fans everywhere. She’s released eight CDs to date, and as one of Austin’s hardest working musicians, she has grown and developed a revolutionary independent music career. You can pay whatever you feel and download everything she’s ever recorded at http://patronism/GingerLeigh. That’s the beauty of Austin …

Courtney Sanchez, the soloist in RENT’s “Seasons of Love”, has appeared in DREAMGIRLS, THE GOSPEL AT COLONNUS, PORGY & BESS and now RENT at ZACH Theatre, so she’s no stranger to our stage. Courtney has been in music, theatre and dance for thirty-three years and has performed alongside Brannen Temple, Guy Forsyth, Patrice Pike, Malford Milligan, Matt Wilson and more.

Roderick Sanford

Roderick Sanford, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com

RENT star Roderick Sanford, who’s been in scores of shows at ZACH since the early 90s, has a voice that comes straight from the toes. Singing with Courtney in the Atlantics, Roderick is both a well-known local actor (winner of the B. Iden Payne Award for “Outstanding Actor in a Musical.”)

“The soaring voices of Sanford and soloist Courtney Sanchez prove the restorative powers of soul music … the entire ensemble demonstrates the dexterity of the human voice to the delight of the audience.” (Read more.)

Normally you need to go to several local venues to catch these acts, and many of them are on the road making their livings as musicians for most of the year, but you can see them all on stage for a few more weeks in ZACH Theatre’s RENT. Catch ‘em now! Tickets start at just $15 for students and $25 for general public. Many shows are selling out, so call the box office to check availability: (512) 476-0541, x1. More show info is online.

Viva la vie boheme!

Special thanks for photography by Kirk R. Tuck.

RENT Notice: Verity Branco Joins the Cast of RENT as Mimi Márquez

October 22nd, 2010 No comments
Verity Branco plays Mimi Marquez in ZACH Theatre's RENT

Verity Branco plays Mimi Marquez in ZACH Theatre's RENT, Photo by Kirk R. Tuck www.kirktuck.com

A new Mimi Márquez moved into Alphabet City this week: Austin actress Verity Branco joins the cast of ZACH Theatre’s production of RENT as the sexy and street smart exotic dancer, whose 19-year-old wiles catch the attention of more than just her love interest Roger.

In fact, Spike Gillespie, author of the blog “Spike Speaks,” caught Verity in one of her first performances last weekend, and published a hilarious and insightful review of the show this week. Spike was floored: “She totally delivers!”

The whole cast “sang and danced their hearts out, the casting choices are excellent.”

This is Verity’s first show at ZACH, but she’s no stranger to Austin or the stage. A recent M.F.A. Acting graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, Verity’s been performing in theatres around the country – from local productions with Secondhand Theatre in Re: Psyche, TUTTO Theatre in Black Snow and An Ideal Husband at Austin Shakespeare to a regional production of Blasting Holes in the Night with The Bitter Truth Theatre in Los Angeles, Verity’s got a host of acting credits under her belt.

Seducing audiences for years with her intense concentration and striking good looks, Verity’s at home with her newest role as Mimi. Infamously a temptress, Mimi, an employee of the bondage bar The Cat Scratch Club, shows she’s as soft as she is tough over the course of the show. Mimi and Roger’s romance forms a core of the iconic rock musical.

From the second Verity takes the stage in this role, she brings a new dimension to her character. In the intimate, loft-like set (designed by Michael Raiford) the story unfolds in front, above, behind, and around the audience bringing immediacy and urgency to the story of New York bohemians.

Tickets to this rock opera phenom are selling quickly, and many performances are already sold out. Catch Verity and the rest of the incredible cast live Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2:30pm on ZACH’s intimate Kleberg Stage.

Tickets are available online and with our box office, open Mon.-Sat. from 12 noon to 7pm, at (512) 476-0541, x1. Walk-up tickets are also available one hour before curtain, and students (with a valid ID) can buy $15 student rush tickets at the door. Advance student tickets are available for $20, and general admission starts at $25.

Viva la Vie Boheme!

Special thanks to Kirk R. Tuck for production photography.

New Video: Watch ZACH’s RENT Cast Sing “La Vie Boheme”

October 15th, 2010 No comments

Viva La Vie Boheme Y’all!

If you can’t see the video above, please visit ZACH’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/zachtheatre

The show closes in a few short weeks, and we’re sold out for many of the remaining shows. Book your tickets online in advance or call ZACH’s box office at (512) 476-0541, x1.

Video Designer Colin Lowry with Behind-the-Scenes RENT footage

October 8th, 2010 No comments

ZACH Theatre’s production of the rock opera RENT includes footage at the end of the show from “Mark’s camera.” The clever Colin Lowry, live designer for the show, put together a mashup of footage Mark shot and set it to some pretty rockin’ music. Check it out.

If the video doesn’t display, please view it directly on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zBU1VnflYY

New Video of RENT at ZACH: Austin’s Theatre

October 1st, 2010 No comments

Check out the :30 tv spot we put out for RENT:

If you’re seeing this from a cross-post or to view the video on YouTube, please visit ZACH’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd6TgFNIYys

RENT at Austin’s Theatre

September 21st, 2010 1 comment

Some of the finest rock vocalist, musicians, designers and actors are now live on stage in an intimate Austin theatre production of the rock opera RENT. Photos below are by Kirk R. Tuck.

If you can’t see images above or to view this gallery on ZACH’s blog, please click here.

RENT Notice: Behind-the-Scenes of the Rock Opera RENT

September 17th, 2010 No comments

In 1993, Jonathan Larson made notes about an idea he had for a new musical:

“Love = art = disease = pain = life

Humanness:

‘otherness’

In our desensitized society,

the artists, the bohemians,

poor, discarded, “others”, recovering

addicts– all are more

in touch with their

human-ness then the

so called mainstream.

despite everything– humanness,

Love,

Life,

Art

survives.”

Back then, the musical RENT was just a dream Larson had, like the character Roger in the show, to write “one great song” that he could be remembered by. Less than three years later, that dream was a reality, but the night before RENT had its public debut on January 26, 1996, Jonathan Larson suddenly died from a brain aneurism.

Little did he know at that time, the rock opera RENT was more than one great song that would bring Larson’s struggle and unique view on humanity to vivid life at theatres around the world. A thoroughly tuned, revolutionary new musical that highlights the struggles of the 1980s AIDS crisis, Larson never foresaw the impact that his new masterpiece would come to have on turn-of-the-century society.

As ZACH launches a wholly revisited version, we’re obliged to remember the magnificence of this work and how, now almost 15 years after being written, RENT is marked as the greatest rock opera of Generation X – with an impact that transcends anything Larson could’ve possibly imagined.

Days before his death, Larson presented Jim Nicola, the artistic director at New York Theater Workshop where RENT was to make its debut, with a slip of paper about the show: “RENT is about a community celebrating life in the face of death and AIDS at the turn of the century.”

At ZACH, the struggle Larson wrote about has particular significance. Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley had this to say about staging RENT:

“When I first saw RENT 14 years ago, I knew we would one day be producing this rock opera that shares so many characteristics with Austin — a youthful bohemian culture populated with musicians, artists and creative types who are trying to hang onto their soul while growing up, and struggling to keep the gentrification out of the cool parts of the city.

But another aspect of RENT resonated with me in an ever deeper, more personal way. I will always associate this musical with John Whisenhunt, the man for whom ZACH’s arena stage is named, even though he never saw the show. By 1991 when I came to work at ZACH, John had been on the Board of Directors for a dozen years and his passion as an audience member, advocate and supporter was unparalleled. Like actor Martin Burke’s portrayal of the “Man in the Chair” in The Drowsy Chaperone, John had an enthusiasm for theatre that was contagious! We always joked back then that if there was a curtain going up in Texas, John could be found in the audience.

John died unexpectedly of AIDS to the shock of many of his colleagues and friends because he kept his illness private. A tragic end to a wonderful soul, for whom I found myself grieving shortly thereafter in the audience of a Broadway theatre throughout the performance of RENT. I made a vow that I would do what I could through ZACH to raise awareness and keep other beloved friends, audience members and ZACH artists from feeling the stigma, loneliness and hopelessness that John felt at the end. Since that time our actors have collected contributions after performances for our friends at AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) who respond to HIV by providing services that enhance the health and well-being of individuals and the community in the face of this evolving epidemic.

Since 1996 ZACH’s AUDIENCE has generously contributed over $150,000 to ASA. After this performance of RENT our cast will be collecting your contributions in the lobby for ASA’s Lee Manford Fund which provides the resources to ensure professional leadership retention and the longer term sustainability of the agency. Thanks to the Texas Commission on the Arts, there are HIV prevention educational materials available in our lobby and on the ZACH website, and we will be providing access to RENT performances for low-income individuals living with the disease. ZACH will also facilitate post-show discussions with our cast, and representatives from ASA, Project Transitions, ALLGO and Out Youth.

There are beloved HIV+ actors, musicians, designers and audience members at ZACH today, and like the characters sing in La Vie Boheme, we toast to those ‘LIVING with, not dying from disease.’ No Day But Today.”

RENT took stage at Austin’s Theatre this week, and we’ll be popping champagne tomorrow night in celebration of its Opening Night. We hope you’ll join us for the uplifting, bohemian experience that celebrates the lives of Austin’s finest rock vocalists, musicians, artists and designers for a unique theatrical experience like no other in the country.

Tickets are now available online and with our box office at (512) 476-0541, x1.