Austin audiences crave a fully live, in-person fall arts season.
For the most part, they will not have one.
Some local arts groups have announced complex plans for a virtual fall season. Others are lying low, hoping to make it to the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.
To my knowledge, we have not yet lost a significant arts group permanently due to the pandemic. Yet every theater, dance, music, design, art and cultural group is stressed to the max.
Instead of publishing a traditional arts and cultural season guide, we’ve assembled short reports about fall activity from various groups, with details provided by leaders of those organizations.
If your favorite Austin arts group is not represented here, encourage its leaders to send 100 words to firstname.lastname@example.org about what they expect to do this fall.
We’ll continue to expand this list.
Updated, Aug. 3:
Esther’s Follies: Austin’s venerable sketch comedy theater is dark for the first time in its 43-year history of performances on Sixth Street. But the troupe has gone virtual in their comedy offerings by creating a Patreon subscription series, "Your Daily Dose of Esther’s." Patrons can join for a sliding scale of monthly fees from $5-$100. Two to three times a week, they’ll receive in their email inboxes new political satire, musical comedy, interviews and vintage Follies videos featuring old Esther’s stars from the past, such as Chi Chi LaBamba and the early Jalapeño Chorus. Go to patreon.com/esthersfollies to join the fun. (esthersfollies.com)
Georgetown Palace Theatre: The Williamson County troupe is offering outdoor movies, musical cabaret performances and, starting in October, an outdoor production of "Steel Magnolias." Upcoming movies include a "Mamma Mia" sing-along, a "Princess Bride" quote-along and "Dreamgirls." Musical acts include Grammy-nominated Laura Benedict and the always popular Roderick Sanford. Outdoor events are hosted in the Palace Courtyard, an area behind the theater between two buildings with lights hanging from the trees. "Steel Magnolias" runs Oct. 9-Nov. 8; tickets are on sale now. (georgetownpalace.com)
Salvage Vanguard Theater: This group recently concluded a two-venue run of Taji Senior’s "Amendment: The Making of an American Myth, Or the Slow Sipping of a Peacock Tea," in which the company explored pandemic playmaking via a drive-in at Rogge Ranch House and a livestream broadcast from Ground Floor Theatre. Salvage Vanguard will take some time moving into the fall to recalibrate, saying they will prioritize safety and experimentation. Look for more on their Instagram, and a community roundtable is on the horizon, too. (salvagevanguard.org)
Neill-Cochran House Museum: The museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. It offers self-guided tours, and the museum encourages visitors to purchase tickets ahead of your visit. Entry times are staggered to one group per 15 minutes. Neill-Cochran House Museum continues to present this year’s major exhibition, "If These Walls Could Talk," through Nov. 22. "Reckoning with the Past: Slavery, Segregation and Gentrification in Austin" will continue into 2021. Neill-Cochran also offers hybrid in-person and online programming. (nchmuseum.org)
Fusebox: This group is launching a new residency program with Texas Performing Arts that will begin with four local artists this fall — details coming later this month. It also will create a new commissioning fund. These initiatives are aimed at getting resources to artists during this precarious moment, while also looking toward the future and ensuring there are well-supported projects waiting for when everyone can gather again. Across all of this, Fusebox has been exploring how it can deepen its commitment to diversity, equity and anti-racism work across the organization and its programs. (fuseboxfestival.com)
Austin Classical Guitar: The Austin Classical Guitar season will be free to all, livestreamed from near and far. Its "UpClose Online" series puts everyone in the front row with extraordinary guitarists from all over the world. "Austin Now" includes local dancers and painters in unique spaces making art about this time. "ACG Originals" will present two film projects and a partnership with Mexic-Arte Museum surrounding ofrendas and Día de Muertos. (austinclassicalguitar.org)
» MORE ARTS: Lionizing late Austin painter Lu Ann Barrow
Texas Performing Arts: What to do with the biggest theater in Austin during a pandemic? Make sure it’s fully prepared to reopen when the time comes, for starters, but also forge connections. Texas Performing Arts is already streaming classes, producing virtual concerts and sharing what goes on behind the scenes through their TPA Backstage Pass online features. Texas Performing Arts also will be taking things outside "under the big tent" with outdoor, socially distanced events — stay tuned for more on that. (texasperformingarts.org)
Rude Mechs: This group is partnering on "The Breath Project" this fall. They say they are amplifying the project’s call to artists of color to write, record and submit their 8-minute-and-46-second theatrical response to the current moment to "The Breath Project Archive," which is a national project. This is meant to assist in education and advocacy and to exist as a living time capsule, and select entries will be featured in the "8:46 Virtual Festival" later this fall. Also, in October, the Rude Mechs are launching "Why We’re Here," its writing/performance workshop for recently arrived and/or displaced immigrants and asylum seekers. And the Rudes are developing an app that will allow people to make theater in their own homes with just the materials on hand and the people with whom they live. It could see a beta release by December. (rudemechs.com)
Blanton Museum of Art: The University of Texas museum opened to the public Aug. 15 with advance, timed tickets required for admission. The touring exhibition "The Avant-garde Networks of Amauta" is open through Aug. 30. Other exhibitions on view this fall: "Expanding Abstraction: Pushing the Boundaries of Painting in the Americas, 1958–1983" (opening Oct. 4), "Diedrick Brackens: Darling Divined" (opening Oct. 17) and "Off the Walls: Gifts from Professor John A. Robertson" (opening Nov. 7). All programming, including the new favorite "Curated Conversations" series, will continue to happen online. (blantonmuseum.org)
Austin Shakespeare: The key to surviving the shutdown, Austin Shakespeare believes, is the ability to reimagine theater when needed. Even though the fall season isn’t what was planned, the group will bring Shakespeare to Austin. Initially scheduled for spring, the Young Shakespeare production of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" will be staged at Zilker Hillside Theater in September. The young actors will be filmed without an audience and the production will be broadcast in early October. The heart of Austin Shakespeare’s season is free Shakespeare in the park — this year, that will happen in October via Zoom with actors cast for "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." (austinshakespeare.org)
Tapestry Dance Company: This troupe plans to present its canceled premiere of "Looking Back/Looking Forward" in an October livestream. Research and plans are ongoing for nontraditional productions and outreach efforts. On the horizon: new and classic dance work; collaboration with Austin artists, including "How Are You?" with Acia Gray and Zell Miller III; integration of Black tap dance history and the black and white connections with film viewings and town halls globally; online conversations between local and global artists; and an online behind-the-scenes "look and share" into full rehearsals with artists, starting Sept. 1, 2021. (tapestry.org)
Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company: This group is cautiously planning what it is calling the Caesura Series for the coming arts season. It envisions presenting live solo dance performances on portable stages in outdoor spaces — on both land and water — that can be viewed safely in person or on livestream platforms. It is also reimagining Austin Dance Festival 2021, in case it is unable to present performances for live audiences next spring. (kdhdance.com)
Ground Floor Theatre: The theater will be closed to audiences until January 2021. Currently, it has several online offerings — a Zoom reading series and "GFT Sings," and a soon-to-be-announced online project with the transgender community. The theater also is working with a diverse cohort of artists to create a large event in its parking lot for November or December; this also will serve as a fundraiser to aid in the group’s financial recovery. Ground Floor also is making its venue available to artists for videotaping and rehearsing. (groundfloortheatre.org)
Hyde Park Theatre: The group won’t be doing any live performances at Hyde Park Theatre at least through Dec. 31, and possibly beyond that. It will continue to show some archival recordings of past plays on its YouTube channel. Through Sept. 29, the troupe is doing an online version of its New Play Workshop, plus a series of readings from its playwrights group — more on that on its website. The group also is looking into doing some new plays online until it can produce live again. (hydeparktheatre.org)
» MORE ARTS: The Elisabet Ney Museum is Austin’s original home for art
Austin Film Society: AFS is focusing efforts toward the most important support for filmmakers, including grant funding. Recipients of the AFS Grant, a critical funding source for Texas filmmakers, will be announced in September, and AFS will open another round of applications at that time. Film productions will restart shortly at Austin Studios. The society plans to continue its virtual cinema offerings while the AFS Cinema is closed, featuring new and repertory films that it would normally screen at its theater, along with virtual introductions by programmers and Q&As with filmmakers. (austinfilm.org)
The Vortex: The company is kicking off its 2020-21 season this October with a big event that is both live and virtual — "The Vortex Odyssey." Patrons will visit performance sites scattered throughout the Vortex neighborhood in the safety and comfort of their cars, while physically distanced actors bring to life an anti-racist, post-apocalyptic performance. This is coupled with a virtual quest in "The Vortex Odyssey: Underworld," for those voyagers who are more comfortable exploring from home. This winter, the Vortex plans to bring a version of "The Mutt-Cracker (Sweet!)" to its outdoor stage. Patrons can purchase a table for their family and enjoy the show with hot chocolate and other treats in the safety of Vortex’s spacious yard. The troupe has some other irons in the fire, too, with ticketed virtual programming. (vortexrep.org)
Different Stages Theatre: "In the next six months, Different Stages is planning a once-a-month Zoom reading of public-domain one-act plays," according to reps for the theater. "If theater in person can happen next year, Different Stages will continue with Connor McPherson's ‘Shining City’ and Shaw's ‘Heartbreak House.’" (differentstagestheatre.org)
Ransom Center: The UT campus center remains closed, but staff members are providing modified services to support teaching and research, expanding online content and developing virtual programming for the fall. To further engage online visitors during the closure, the center has offered more content on its website related to its current exhibition, "Gabriel García Márquez: The Making of a Global Writer," which tells the story of the Colombian author’s journey to becoming a Nobel Prize winner. A new "Visit from Home" webpage launched last month that highlights online activities for virtual visitors, such as paging through the Gutenberg Bible, interacting with a 3-D exhibition, downloading custom video conferencing backgrounds and discovering digital offerings, from Shakespeare and Brontë to magazine articles and movie posters. (hrc.utexas.edu)
Zach Theatre: This fall and winter, Zach Theatre plans to produce a series of weekly concerts featuring Austin musical stars on its outdoor plaza. While the regional theater can’t hold large group gatherings, expect some outdoor experiences under the stars. If restrictions on gatherings lift in 2021, Zach plans to produce its season of plays and musicals back on the Topfer Stage. (zachtheatre.org)
Landmarks: With much of its collection sited outdoors, many of this UT program’s works of art can be safely and responsibly enjoyed. To enhance the visitor experience, Landmarks will soon launch an app with self-guided tours. Public programs will all be held online, including a panel discussion this October held in conjunction with the presentation of video works by artist Kara Walker. In addition to current online resources — like a meditation "inside" the James Turrell Skyspace, curated playlists by Austin music notables and "Learning at Home with Landmarks," an educational series with activities for all ages — the program will launch an online series of artist videos in September. Its newest commission, a digital installation by artist Jennifer Steinkamp, will be celebrated with an online artist Q&A on Sept. 10. (landmarks.utexas.edu)
Jarrott Productions: When Austin shut down in mid-March, Jarrott Productions was 10 days away from opening "Mother of the Maid." That production and three others that had been scheduled for the 2020-21 season are now on indefinite hold. The troupe has rights secured, plays cast and specific weeks reserved at Trinity Street Playhouse, but like other companies, Jarrott Productions says it is waiting until it is safe for audiences and artists alike to gather safely and experience those stories. (jarrottproductions.com)
Austin Playhouse: The company will open its 21st season with virtual content running from October through December. Content will include new performances, play readings, podcasts and workshops, as well as sneak peeks at works in progress and family-friendly interactive stories. Some events, including select play readings and artist happy hours, will be exclusive to Austin Playhouse subscribers. (austinplayhouse.com)
Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre: Upcoming works include a virtual recreation of selected works from a postponed 30-year anniversary performance featuring music composed by Graham Reynolds on Sept. 12; the six-part "Post-it Dance Experiment Series" created and recorded with dancers live on Zoom through Sept. 10; weekly livestreams of past performances including "The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting," "Rally" "Locked-in," "Lumen" and more, beginning Sept. 19; and virtual community soundpainting workshops that will lead to an outdoor, socially distanced performance with the Austin Soundpainting Collective and workshop participants. (arieldance.org)
Long Center for the Performing Arts: The center will present a season that aims to innovate. Expect to see classical performers paired with emerging Austin musicians; artists of color unveiling new works in unexpected corners; and opportunities to interact directly with artists and musicians. (thelongcenter.org)
» MORE ARTS: ‘Small moments of radiance’: UT alum tells Black stories in yearbook project
Austin Gay Men’s Chorus: They moved Season 32 online. After two successful proofs of concept these past few months, the chorus has plans for monthly virtual chorus releases from September of this year to May 2021. Choristers will learn their parts in Zoom-based rehearsals and with rehearsal tracks so they can successfully submit individual recordings for mixing in each release. Also, the chorus is still actively recruiting in August and January, as it continues toward its mission "to change minds, transform lives and build community." (austingaymenschorus.org)
Mary Moody Northen Theatre: The St. Edward’s theater had hoped to open with "Pippin" in September, but the pandemic complicated matters. They hope to still mount the show, but details are pending. The theater also plans to roll out virtual content early in the fall semester, like a festival exploring diverse voices, several readings, talkbacks and music. In November, it will present a drive-in 10 Minute Play Festival, which will run for two weeks. (stedwards.edu/mary-moody-northen-theatre)
Paramount and State theaters: Theater leaders hope to hold the 45th Paramount Classic Films Series in the fall with additional health protocols in place, including mandatory masks, temperature monitoring, social distancing and limited audience sizes. For live shows, the theaters are booking shows featuring singer-songwriters, comics and spoken word artists for early 2021. Their education programs went virtual and will stay that way through December. (austintheatre.org)
Austin Opera: The city’s big opera company will present five productions online and at Blue Starlite Drive-In locations this fall, in collaboration with Houston Grand Opera. Included are Schubert’s "Winter Journey" starring David Adam Moore, a recital of audience favorites performed by Lauren Snouffer and Mark Diamond, Poulenc’s "La Voix Humaine" starring Karen Slack, David T. Little’s "The Finch Opera," and a double bill of Mozart’s "The Impresario" and Hoiby’s "Bon Appetit!" starring Jamie Barton. The company returns to the Long Center in January 2021 with a socially distanced concert of operatic favorites led by conductor Timothy Myers. (austinopera.org)
Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance: The department created a fall schedule of 14 productions, an assortment of devised work, straight plays, dance and musicals. All productions will be virtual but with a lot of experimentation, leaders promise: Zoom, Instagram, filmed pieces, design installations in the Performing Arts Center windows and live talkbacks. All will be available for streaming following productions. (theatreanddance.txstate.edu)
Women & Their Work: In "Likes Charge," Melanie Clemmons transforms the gallery into a livestream temple dedicated to reimagining technology as a medium for spiritual rejuvenation. Surrounded by video art projections that "cast a magic circle," viewers are free from the internet’s more sinister elements and can connect to cloud-based bliss, through Oct. 8. Jade Walker’s large-scale sculptural installation, "Birdsong," has been postponed until 2022. (womenandtheirwork.org)
Austin Symphony: The orchestra will begin their 110th season through online performances, recorded and presented in a new way for symphony enthusiasts. Concerts from September to December will be shared with subscribers and ticket buyers. The symphony hopes to return to in-person concert experiences in late December with the music of Paul Simon. (austinsymphony.org)