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A coffee with: Director expands boundaires of BAM

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
ProArts Collective's artistic director Lisa Byrd says she is 'taking a broader look at how and where African American and African diaspora culture takes place,' for this year's fest.

When Lisa Byrd began conceiving of how to present "BAM: Black Arts Movement Festival" this year, she started thinking outside the box.

Or really, she started thinking about presenting African American performing arts outside of traditional theaters.

"I started thinking about expanding the notion of how black culture can be presented and what exactly includes black culture," said Byrd, artistic director of ProArts Collective, the Austin nonprofit cultural organization. "I also thought about taking a broader look at how and where African American and African diaspora culture takes place."

So, though this year's BAM Festival features theater and dance performances in a traditional theater as it has in the past, it also offers a host of events in not-so-typical arts venues.

A barbershop and beauty salon will be the site of a late-night live music and spoken poetry event. Food traditions get a starring role in "Culinary One Acts," a live cooking demonstration featuring three local cooks whipping up their secret fried chicken recipes.

"Food — the act of cooking and serving — is performance," says Byrd.

The longtime Austin cultural leader — she's held management positions at Ballet Austin, among other organizations, and served on the board of the city's African American Quality of Life Initiative — has just a short time between meetings to talk about the BAM Festival at the Blue Dahlia Bistro. The eatery is right across East Eleventh Street from where, on June 18, Byrd plans a free street festival along the 1000 block, a celebration of that area's recent designation as Austin's African American Cultural Heritage District by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Then on June 19, the same 1000 E. Eleventh St. site will feature new gospel fusion music by Soul Fruit, George Powell & Friends and Chris Spivey & Nu Destiny.

The BAM Festival kicks off Friday with a free party in front of Carver Museum & Cultural Center. Then for the next three weeks it's a line-up that features, among others, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Brooklyn's Creative Outlet Dance Theater, Austin's Ballet Afrique and playwright and performer Nadine Mozon, who will bring a new version of her one-woman show "Delta Rhapsody." There's a stage reading of "The Rest of Us," a new play by Eugene Lee, a veteran Broadway actor and now Texas State University Theatre Artist in Resident. A comedy showcase, storytelling and puppet-shows for children's and several theater productions round out the schedule.

African American culture takes place in a lot of unexpected places, Byrd points out. Beauty parlors, barbershops, in a kitchen: "They're all places where black culture exists and is made," she says.

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699

BAM: Black Arts Movement Festival

When: Friday through June 19

Where: Various locations including the Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

Cost: Festival passes $65; Individual events $5-$15. Some events are free.

Information: 236-0644, www.bamaustin.org

This weekend

FRIDAY

• 'BAM Café.' The festival opens with a free outside party featuring music by opening with Big Chief Kevin & the Flaming Arrows, Tje Austin, spoken word artists, Afro-Brazilian capoeira dance performance and an exhibit by painter Amir Lyles. 6 to 10 p.m. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

SATURDAY

• 'African Safari.' Using her upbringing in Kenya as inspiration, storyteller Elizabeth Kahura weaves stories, poems, music and dance to illuminate the culture of the African continent. 1 p.m. Saturday. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. $5.

• Comedy Night. A showcase of stand-up comedy featuring Kelvin Girdy, Shondee Lester, In House Freestyle and the Black Prince. 8 p.m. Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo St. $15.

• Late Night Poetry. with Lenelle Moïse. 10:30 p.m. Legendary Cuts and Jae'undre's Barbershop, 4700 Loyola Lane. $10,

SUNDAY

• 'Obamanation.' Staged reading of the award-winning play by Lou-Lou Igbokwe, 2 p.m. Boyd Vance Theatre, Carver Museum. $10.