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Chris Mugica, Fixing King John, Don Carlo and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

CHARITY: Chris Mugica blessed by Sunshine Camps for life. My story in Monday’s Statesman. Early one summer morning in 1985, Christopher Mugica stood in front of Brooke Elementary School with a pillow and an H-E-B bag. He was 10 years old, waiting for a stranger to take him to the Sunshine Camp in Zilker Park. “It was the first time I stayed with anyone who wasn’t a family member,” the Austin lawyer recalls. “And my first time camping. We sang songs, marched, swam, made a log cabin out of Popsicle sticks and much more — all crammed into one week.” That one week — sweet in memory — was not the last time Mugica’s life was altered by summer camps run by the Young Men’s Business League of Austin. Leaders of the 100-year-old social service group later hired him as a counselor, made him assistant camp director, then director, persuaded him to stay in college, loaned him money for law school and paved the way for his legal career. http://shar.es/DXlLs(A positive story for this hopefully positive season.)

ARTS 1: What kind of folks went to “Fixing King John”? Show folks, that’s who. The Rude Mechs have always stripped theater down to its bones, then fleshed it out again. So show people like Richard Linklater, Tim Mateer, Bonnie Cullum, Dede Clark, Matthew Redden and Harvey Guion gathered Saturday for the second to last performance of the Kirk Lynn play that refines and synthesizes William Shakespeare’s flawed “King John,” a Jacobean bloodbath parading as a history. The audience laughed at the mockery and excess, giggled — at first — for the profanity, but got very, very quiet when the actors shared personal “I’d rather have died …” speeches. These words came from the actors, not the writer, I assume, but what an inspired notion. (Kirk gets way deep inside Shakespeare.)

ARTS 2: And who went to “Don Carlo”? Opera folks, that’s who. All around us in the theater and at intermission for Austin Lyric Opera’s take on the Verdi masterpiece were opera people from out of town and opera people who hadn’t been to the opera in a while. They were treated to a magnificent hearing from artistic director Richard Buckley, celebrating his 10th year with the once-again-rising company. Here’s the test to how serious this audience was for the closing Sunday matinee: They stayed the full four hours and they listened as if their lives depended on it. The big-boned if melodramatic when not static “Don Carlo” was last produced in Austin by the University of Texas more than 30 years ago. I’m sure that’s one reason true opera lovers turned out. (Ravishing music, ravishingly performed.)

CITY 1: Statesman investigates building code violations. Reported by Dave Harmon: “Every year, Austin’s code inspectors respond to hundreds of tenant complaints at rental properties and document hundreds of violations. In theory, owners who don’t fix the problems should face increasingly painful consequences: a citation, a trip before the city’s Building and Standards Commission, or a city lawsuit if nothing else convinces them to fix the problems. But, in practice, that almost never happens. Since 2007, the city’s Code Compliance Department has written nearly 1,700 violations at 126 rental properties considered repeat offenders because of multiple violations. Complaints more than doubled and violations more than tripled at those properties between 2010 and 2012 before falling this year. But the city has taken legal action against just 25 of those properties in seven years, with eight of them facing legal action multiple times, according to previously unreleased code compliance data obtained by the American-Statesman.” http://shar.es/DXyRk(Another reason to subscribe.)

CITY 2: Statesman investigates health code violations. Reported by Tony Plohetski: “Just before noon on a recent fall day, dozens of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employees lined up outside a food trailer sending plumes of barbecue smoke through the agency’s Southeast Austin parking lot. Inside, Brian Rauschuber, owner of Nutter Buster BBQ & Comfort, sliced a foil-wrapped brisket for sandwiches — his signature offering. “That’s as moist as it gets,” he said, sliding his knife through the steaming brisket. A week earlier, needing official approval to operate, Rauschuber had hitched his trailer to his pickup and driven it to the parking lot of the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department for an annual health and safety inspection.” http://shar.es/DXyhg(Yet another reason to subscribe.)