‘Henry V’ benefit, Leo Ramirez Jr., Austin freedmen communities and more
ARTS: Jill Blackwood sang. Robert Faires declaimed. What more could you want? A benefit at the Bouldin-area home of Robert and Barbara Faires raised several thousand dollars to restage his solo version of Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” Part of the entertainment was slice from a lecture that Mr. Faires gave about his own creative process. Blackwood was given the challenge of choosing one song about England and one about France. She lent her luminous vocal styling to a slow, but hopeful version of the Gershwins’ “A Foggy Day,” then danced through the tricky lyrics of Sondheim’s “Ah, Paree,” from “Follies.” The mix of guests included the Austin Shakespeare set, other theater zealots and a sprinkling of friendly philanthropists.
CHARITY: Leo Ramirez, Jr. wants to turn small change into big changes. From my story in the Statesman: “Leo Ramirez Jr. grew up in a South Texas mobile home park. College at Stanford University in California, therefore, shook up his social universe. “I didn’t grow up around black people,” the Austin strategist admits. “I was afraid of them based solely on what I saw in the media. I had similarly backward views on Jews, gays, Muslims — Muslims were all terrorists. My best friend in college, Chris Connell, set me straight once and for all. He screamed: ‘Leo, you are smarter than that!’ Over pizza at the student union, Connell gave Ramirez a history lesson on the Middle East conflict. “He set me on a path of realizing how wrong I was in many ways,” he says. “That’s when I started recalibrating my attitudes toward people.” That recalibration stuck. After years of working for high-tech companies such as Apple, Trilogy and Sun Microsystems, Ramirez, 39, serves as director of strategic initiatives at Southwest Key, a nonprofit that provides education, shelter and alternatives to incarceration for thousands of youth.” http://shar.es/MCHFp
HISTORY: This article on Austin’s freedmen communities took on a life of its own through social media. From my story in the Statesman: “Even Austin newcomers will recognize the name Wheatville, if only because of Wheatsville, the food market that bears the ever-so-proximate name. Others can quickly tell you, too, that Clarksville is a mostly residential area west of downtown, although long-timers often argue about its exact boundaries. Some locals can explain that Wheatville and Clarksville were once freedmen’s communities, established by former slaves after the Civil War. How many, though, can name and locate the 13 other freedmen’s communities now within Austin’s city limits? Or know which of them faded away after a 1928 city plan encouraged blacks to move to a single section of town? To understand these settlements — some rural, some urban — the essential text is archivist Michelle Mears’ impeccable 2009 book, “And Grace Will Lead Me Home: African American Freedmen Communities of Austin, Texas, 1865-1928.”” http://shar.es/MCot1
MOVIES: It was Joe Gross Day in the Austin360 section today. From his review of “Snowpiercer”: “You have to hand it to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho; he knows where to give credit where credit is due. If you’re going to make the most Terry Gilliam-esque movie ever made by someone other than Terry Gilliam (director of “Brazil” and “Twelve Monkeys”), you might as well name a character Gilliam. And Gilliam might as well be played by John Hurt, who starred in the similarly dank film version of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” a primal dystopia that also feeds into “Snowpiercer.” Well played, Bong Joon-ho. But there’s much to enjoy about Bong’s English-language debut, the weird, engaging “Snowpiercer,” even if you don’t know Terry Gilliam from Teri Garr. Based on the French comic book “Le Transperceneige,” “Snowpiercer” takes place 17 years after an environmental misfire. In an attempt to reverse global warming, chemicals were released into the air that instead caused a nuclear winter. Snow covers the earth, most life on earth is dead. Oops.” http://shar.es/MCWaO