Category Archives: Austin Theater

What You Touch Is Gold

This weekend I was asked to take part in a play reading at Hyde Park Theatre for a new work by local playwright Amory Casto.  What You Touch is Gold is the story of Charlotte (Erica Heidepriem),  a small town cashier at Craft Nation caught in the emotional tide of two men (Jimmy Gonzales and Joey Hood), one of them having a particularly dark undertow.  I played her very pregnant sister, Hope, who with her husband provides Charlotte’s touchstone and much of the levity in the story.  I really hope this deserving play gets a full production.  In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with my first experience being onstage at Hyde Park with Ken Webster (who directed and played supporting characters) and Joey Hood.  How did that feel?  Oh you know, AWESOME.


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69 Anxiety Dreams

This weekend I am going to a gorgeous South Carolina beach to watch my best friend get married.  I am going to enjoy that.  I am also going to enjoy laying around on a towel without any scripts of any kind to distract me from doing nothing.  69 Love Scenes is going into its third week.  Disc 3 – the show that I am not in.  And while its been so very very fun, I am deeply grateful to not be trying to learn lines for ten new sketches this week.   You see with 69 different sketches, and 10-15 performers, we were only able to rehearse each sketch one time before tech.  Sometimes your scene partner couldn’t make it to that rehearsal, so there was just tech.  And the first time that we run the show in its entirety without stopping is on Friday night, in front of an audience.


Not everyone shared my nervousness.  About 2/3 of the troupe are from Austin’s improv community.  And they were all very relaxed.  The traditional actors we less so.  I had a dream the week we opened that I was performing at the Long Center in a play directed by Michael McKelvey.  Every single person I respect was in the audience.  Obama. Dolly Parton.  The hot barista I get my coffee from every morning.  I not only didn’t know my lines, but didn’t know what the play was about or anything about my character.  There was a closet way upstage and I opened it and found a huge fur coat.  I put in on in the hopes that no one would recognize me.  The other actors, including Rue McClanahan, looked at me like I was an asshole.  It was unpleasant, but Michelle Obama shot me a sympathetic look which come to think of it, almost turned the whole dream around.

I tried to think of the show in a different way.  I decided I could think of it as under-rehearsed theatre or over-rehearsed improv.  I decided to go with the latter. Rue McClanahan stopped visiting my dreams a la Freddy Kruger.  Then we opened.  Disc One went so breezily Shannon Grounds and I wondered if we actually ever needed to rehearse any play more than once.  “Pffft! Shakespeare, we got this.”  Disc Two had a few wobbly moments, but the audience roared through it.  Even seemed to revel in it. So what the hell do I know?   There are so many funny people in this show.  Funny people that fully embrace the unexpected in a way I wish came more easily to me.  I’m learning a lot from them.  But come this weekend, I’m just going to be trying to learn how to be tan.  You however, should go see Disc Three.  There are about 12 people learning lines for it right now. x0

Also read the Chronicle‘s write-up. Good ol’ Wayne Alan Brenner was kind enough to drop by  rehearsal.


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69 Love Scenes

About ten years ago, a record came out by the Magnetic Fields.  A record called 69 Love Songs.  Some of you reading this, will have no idea who that band is, and it will mean nothing to you.  Some of you reading that, will instantly remember exactly the dorm room, or shitty apartment you were living in, when you listened to that record, or the first disc at least of that record, over and over and over again.  It was perfect if you were in love.  It was also perfect if you’d just been dumped.  The songs are short and clever, and sung in a variety of styles with a variety of singers.  Frontman Stephen Merritt says that the album is not about love, “It’s an album about love songs, which are very far away from anything to do with love.” In much the same way, 69 Love Scenes is not so much sketches about the songs, but about the themes of the songs.

“Gnap! Theater Projects presents 69 short plays very loosely based on the songs on the The Magnetic Fields’s triple album 69 Love Songs. This is a workshop production of a show we intend to mount in its final form in 2011.
Each weekend of the run, we do one album each, and then add a Thursday night show to accommodate album 1 during the fourth weekend. Confused?

I am performing in the Disc 1 and Disc 2 shows.  The rest of the cast is fairly evenly divided between traditional actors and improv performers.  And the band they are pulling together, fronted by the awesome Adam Hilton, is gonna be badass.  I think we are having a little party after the show next Friday.  So come on out.  And it doesn’t really matter if you know the music or not, since Merge Records isn’t letting us play any of it anyway.   Here is the link for more information and tickets, and a video promo that I couldn’t figure out how to embed.  If you like the promo, then you will like the show.  Trust.

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I bet everyone is tired of working on their grant applications.  I know because I’m sick of writing supporting letters for grant applications.  I think I’ve written so many that the City of Austin probably thinks I’m some letter of support writing whore, and my carefully considered recommendations are worthless.  So, if I wrote a letter for you, despite it being both impeccably written and strangely moving, it”ll probably not be worth that much cheddar.

But anyway, get those dolla’ billz ya’ll. Good luck.

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Frontera Fest Q and A with Ken Webster

Ken's IMDB picture > your IMDB picture

So this being my first Frontera Fest, I was never really sure about how the whole competition aspect of it went down.  I talked to Ken Webster last night before we went on and asked some questions. Imagine two people talking casually, then take it down about 18 more notches. I love talking to Ken.  It sort of feels like time is slowing down as you enter Coolville.

JMJ: So, is there an overall winner, or are we all winners at this point?

KW: I think you’re all pretty much winners.

JMJ: So we’re not being timed?

KW: Oh, you’re still being timed.

JMJ: So if we went over, we couldn’t come back on Friday?

KW: You’d probably come back.

JMJ: So they just bring the lights down to…. shame us?

KW: Yeah, pretty much to just to shame you.

I also asked him if there was a sort of Lombardi trophy-like moment, at the end of the festival. He said maybe one could be arranged.  Which would be awesome because I really want to pour a cooler of gaterade on Liz Lay.


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Frontera Fest Smackdown tonight

Last night we had a preview of Saint Matilde’s Malady in our rehearsal room at UT.   We did a run through right before people showed up.  27 minutes.  27!  This filled us with fear and panic.  One of the crucial elements of our crushing our competition and winning Best of Fest is not getting disqualified for being over the allotted 25 minutes.  We were fearful.  Our director was not.  Liz Lay, who could have been the Queen of Pirates herself in another lifetime, said, “We’re tired.  We’ve been rehearsing relentlessly since last Monday. I fully predicted this runthrough to be our longest.  But we are in a good place.  Our play is not a hot mess.  We know it is golden.  We have a challenge people, and our challenge is this.  Just keep the train moving at all times.  No nested responses between dialogue, no dead air, no holding for laughter. Just go, go, go.”  Our friends came in to watch and even with their not-infrequent laughter, we clocked in at 24 minutes.  Better, but still scary.  So, we had to shave off some of the stage business.  Some of the physical comedy, that added to the show, but also could tip us into the red zone on time.  That would just be devastating. Because this play is good, and all the talent attached to it is as well.  Cross your fingers for us tonight and say a little prayer that we make it all the way through with a minute or so to spare.

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St. Matilde’s Malady – Frontera Fest, short fringe Wed. Jan 13th

Hello lovers.  Hoping this long overdue post finds you happy and productive and warm.  In my own pursuit of these things, I’ve begun my new year with daily chores and salty whores.   But I now find myself two weeks into 2010, with no words at all for those that follow this little adventure I document here.   I have been busy.  I am always busy.  A Christmas Carol closed, the holidays came and went, and I began rehearsals for my first foray into Frontera Fest.  The play is an original work by Kyle John Schmidt and directed by Elizabeth C. Lay. “A swashbuckling new play about rage, love, and other sexually transmitted diseases.”  Its sort of a Tom Waits song come to life.  Whores! Sea Captains! Pirates! Mermaids! I play the brothel mistress, Connie, and I am having some fun with her.  Our team is comprised of UT graduate students and former Winedalers, and myself.   The only night of the Fest that has so far sold out.  If I were our competition, I would be scared.

January 13th only! A new short play with juggling and textiles!

Written by …Kyle John Schmidt

Directed by… Elizabeth C. Lay

Featuring the formidable talents of:
Talleri McRae …as Tammy the Juggling Prostitute
Chaille Stidham …as Molly Forge the Well-Regarded Prostitute
Jennymarie Jemison …as Connie the Madam
Bryan Gonzales …as Sampson the Young Sailor
Joel Osborne …as Captain Twister
Jenn Hartmann …as Dirty Vicki the Pirate

Get your tickets now for January 13:

(FronteraFest Short Fringe is a month long festival of short plays (max 25 minutes). Every week, one play from each night advances to the Best of Week showcase, and thence to Best of Fest, and thence to apotheosis. And a tickertape parade. So I’ve heard.)

On the 13th, there’s a great line up of other shorts, including: Packing Memories, by Allison Orr Block, directed by Wendy Bable; Whistle, by Meg Haley (ASW Commission); Things in Life, by Ben Prager, directed by Wynne West; We Are All Volunteers, by John M. Meyer. This is going to be a rock solid night of shows you won’t want to miss.


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