Miller Blueprint, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Camino Real de los Tejas, Marriage Equality and more

Miller Blueprint building on East 10th Street in 1944.
Miller Blueprint building on East 10th Street in 1944.

BUSINESS + HISTORY = 140 Years of reimagining for Miller Blueprint family. Taken from my story in the American-Statesman: ” Luci Miller fans out the photographs, postcards, maps, yearbooks, directories and other printed material on a broad table. Each time she gently lifts an item, the president of Miller Imaging and Digital Solutions — formerly Miller Blueprint — relates a fresh story. When your family has been in business in downtown Austin since 1876 — Miller Blueprint goes back to 1920 — you have plenty of stories to tell. “When we were on Congress Avenue, they hung the blueprints out of windows over Congress to dry,” Miller says of the company’s first location. “It was a wet process. My grandfather also had Southwestern Aerial Surveys Inc. In World War II, their plane was requisitioned. That was the end of the flying business.” In the late 19th century, Miller’s great-grandfather R.C. Lambie and a business partner, Francis Fischer, ran a general contracting company that built several of Austin’s most recognizable structures. It was based at 116-120 W. Fifth St., and following family tradition, Luci and her sister, Ida Miller, still own that building, now used as a nightclub.”

Collene Sweeney designed the botanical images for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center speciality license plates.
Collene Sweeney designed the botanical images for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center speciality license plates.

NATURE + CHARITY = Creating the botanical art for wildflower license plate. Taken from my story in the American-Statesman: “A few years ago, botanist Flo Oxley was teaching plant taxonomy at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center’s director of plant conservation and education was frustrated by the inadequacy of the scientific drawings used to explain each plant’s parts. Collene Sweeney to the rescue. Recommended by a fellow master gardener in Georgetown, Sweeney had enjoyed a long career as an industrial designer at IBM, helping explain technology to users. Now, each Thursday, she makes the 84-mile round trip to volunteer at the center as a plant artist. She’s executed some 200 mostly black-and-white drawings, which can be viewed at wildflower.org.“I show up and say, ‘What do you want me to draw today?’ ” a sun-mellowed Sweeney says with a soft smile. “They say, ‘Follow me.’ We’d go out and pick something. ‘We need to work on these.’ I draw them freehand.””

Steven Gonzales, director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, points out direction Spanish would have anticipated the invading French would have taken.
Steven Gonzales, director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, points out direction Spanish would have anticipated the invading French would have taken.

HISTORY + TRAVEL = Poking around the likely site for 1730 Spanish missions. Taken from my story in the American-Statesman: “Steven Gonzales picks up a shard from the clearing. “This is what you’d expect to find,” he says about the roughly triangular piece of enameled pottery. “Except that this is obviously modern.” Gonzales, director of the Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, casually surveys a site on the Montopolis bluffs that has been leveled for new construction. He points over the treetops to the east. “The Spanish usually established their settlements on hills and bluffs on the south and west sides of rivers and streams in Texas,” he says about the three missions established on the Colorado River in 1730. “Because their main concern was a potential French threat coming from Natchitoches, Louisiana, at the eastern end of the Camino Real.”

Photo by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg.
Photo by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg.

LAW + HISTORY = Court ruling affirms deepest principles. Taken from an editorial in the American-Statesman: “The U.S. Supreme Court put an end to state-endorsed marriage discrimination on Friday, following the legal logic it laid out two years ago when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act for violating the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Same-sex marriage is now a constitutionally protected right. Marriage equality is a reality. Texas was one of 14 states affected by Friday’s historic 5-4 ruling — one of 14 laggards that can no longer enforce their bans on same-sex marriage. Shortly after the Supreme Court released its decision, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir began issuing same-sex marriage licenses, calling Friday “a joyous day.”“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote poignantly for the court’s majority, which also included Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.”

Amazing Sunday Statesman: Abbott vs Perry, Gary Cartwright, Central Texas Food, Larry Monroe Forever Bridge

Great day in the morning for the Austin American-Statesman, a sampling.

Details artwork from the mosaic of the Larry Monroe Forever Bridge in the Travis Heights neighborhood of Austin, Texas, on Thursday, June 18, 2015.  The bridge mosaic was dedicated in remembrance of local DJ Larry Monroe, who died last year.  Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez.
Details artwork from the mosaic of the Larry Monroe Forever Bridge in the Travis Heights neighborhood of Austin, Texas, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. The bridge mosaic was dedicated in remembrance of local DJ Larry Monroe, who died last year. Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez.

MUSIC + ARTS: Travis Heights mosaic bridge installation honors late DJ Larry Monroe. Taken from Peter Blackstock‘s story in the American-Statesman: “Gathering around the small pavilion stage at Little Stacy Park in Travis Heights on Saturday morning, a few hundred friends and fans of the late radio host Larry Monroe celebrated the dedication of a new mosaic-decorated bridge named in his honor. The Larry Monroe Forever Bridge, on East Side Drive at the park’s southwest edge, features hundreds of finely detailed tiles. Most of them relate to the music Monroe played on the radio for more than 30 years as a DJ with Sun Radio and KUT before his death in January 2014 at age 71. Monroe’s partner, Ave Bonar, was the driving force in the bridge’s creation, with artist Stefanie Distefano directing the months-long process of tilemaking with about 100 volunteers. More than 300 donors contributed nearly $25,000 through a crowdfunding effort to cover costs, which included paying to have the small neighborhood bridge closed for the past two weeks while the tiles were installed.” https://shar.es/1qm69o

Frozen lasagna packaged in Central Texas, part of a fast-growing industry.
Frozen lasagna packaged in Central Texas, part of a fast-growing industry.

FOOD + BUSINESS: How Central Texas became a hotbed for packaged food business. Taken from Addie Broyle‘s story in the American-Statesman. “The Austin packaged food economy is as hot as the restaurant scene, and its reach extends far beyond the boundaries of Central Texas and into the shopping carts, refrigerators and pantries of grocery shoppers from coast to coast. Hundreds of companies call Austin home, from established homegrown brands like Stubb’s, Primizie, Beanitos and Vital Farms to booming transplants such as Skinny Pop, one of the biggest ready-to-eat popcorn companies in the country, which recently moved its headquarters from Chicago to Austin for warmer weather and livability for its top executives. On a national scale, small to midsize consumer packaged goods companies have taken $18 billion from the pockets of the largest food companies in the past five years, and a healthy portion of that money is flowing through Central Texas. Other parts of the country, especially the Upper Midwest, where mega food companies such as Kraft, General Mills and Kellogg have long been based, have far more institutional knowledge to launch and manufacture products. Austin’s history is shorter.” https://shar.es/1qm648

Gov. Greg Abbott last month signed into law House Bill 4, which will direct $130 million to pre-K, one of the governor's top priorities in the legislative session.
Gov. Greg Abbott last month signed into law House Bill 4, which will direct $130 million to pre-K, one of the governor’s top priorities in the legislative session.

POLITICS: Greg Abbott: The Calm after the Rick Perry Storm. Taken from Jonathan Tilove‘s story in the American-Statesman: “It was the “Father’s Day Massacre,” as Rick Perry ended his first legislative session as governor in 2001 with a bloody Sunday flourish, vetoing 79 bills in a single day, and 83 bills altogether, an all-time record. But this Father’s Day, Gov. Greg Abbott is home with his family before heading up to Dallas to address the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. He finished poring over the last of the more than 1,406 bills and resolutions sent to his desk by the 84th session of the Texas Legislature at 2 a.m. Saturday. That’s 46 hours ahead of the midnight Sunday deadline after which anything he hasn’t acted on automatically becomes law. His veto tally of 42 bills — many strictly local in application or containing what the governor considered a legal flaw — put his last stamp on a session that was conservative in both outcome and temperament. Following 14 years of Rick Perry, Greg Abbott is the calm after the storm.” https://shar.es/1qmGMH

Gary Cartwright reading one of his books, “Galveston,” at his home in Austin in 1999. Photo: Taylor Johnson.
Gary Cartwright reading one of his books, “Galveston,” at his home in Austin in 1999. Photo: Taylor Johnson.

MEDIA + BOOKS: A legendary Texas writer details his work and his failings. Taken from Charles Ealy‘s story in the American-Statesman: “Gary Cartwright takes a traditional, chronological approach to writing his memoir, “The Best I Recall,” starting with his early life in West Texas and his teen years in Arlington, then discussing his military service, his education and his rise through journalism — during which he crafted some of the most interesting stories to ever come from the state. The memoir also includes a sizable amount of rather frank information about his rough-and-tumble private life. But most of the book focuses on his exploits while at Texas Monthly, starting in the 1970s, when he wrote about the Fort Worth case of millionaire oilman Cullen Davis, who was charged with shooting his estranged wife, Priscilla, and murdering her lover, Stan Farr, and her teenage daughter, Andrea. Cartwright’s coverage eventually evolved into a book, “Blood Will Tell,” and a four-part TV movie.” https://shar.es/1qm6gu

Holley Kitchen’s metastatic breast cancer video embraced by tens of millions

Holley Kitchen of Cedar Park is a self-described “cancer lifer.”

At age 39, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Kitchen underwent a double mastectomy and months of chemo, radiation and hormonal therapy. The cancer returned in 2013 to her spine and bones. To educate others about Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, she posted a simple video on her Facebook page. To a recording of Rachel Platten‘s “Fight Song,” the mother of two rhythmically raises notecards with short facts and opinions about her own fight and those of others like her. Her unaffected facial expressions — she doesn’t speak — bring home each point.

At this writing, the video has attracted more than 48 million views on Facebook — and more elsewhere through YouTube and other media. (I’ve linked to the YouTube version because it was easier to embed in Word Press.)

Holley Kitchen with her two sons.
Holley Kitchen with her two sons.

In the past few days, Kitchen has received thousands of personal messages. She has appeared on local and national television shows. How is the video awareness campaign progressing? “We are ready to blow statistics out of the water!” she says.

Her social media presence has since moved to a new Facebook page: “Holley Kitchen: and the Cancer Lifers.”

Holley Kitchen in her fierce Art Bra Austin costume, makeup and styling.
Holley Kitchen in her fierce Art Bra Austin costume, makeup and styling.

June 6, Kitchen had walked — or rather, stalked — the runway at Austin Music Hall as a survivor/model for Art Bra Austin, which benefits Breast Cancer Resource Center. Dressed as a sort of Amazonian warrior with breastplates, lace-up, high-heeled boots and a fur cape, she was almost unrecognizable. Yet like the other models, she radiated confidence, even fierceness.

“Art Bra was empowering,” she shares. “I was wearing a bra designed specifically by my local jewelry designer — and longtime friend — Kendra Scott. It was amazing!”

Kitchen doesn’t know if she’ll make another video. She also isn’t sure about any future TV appearances. Her army of admirers, however, have reached out to Ellen Degeneres.

Kitchen: “I would love for this metastatic message to be shared on her show.”

Read more about Art Bra Austin in our preview story from a few weeks ago.

Preview: Leander family seeks cure for sons’ debilitating disease: The Revells unite against Duchenne.

The Revell family. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman.
The Revell family. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman.

Here’s a short preview of a story that comes out in the American-Statesman on Saturday. It was a special honor to be able to report on Tim, Laura, Timothy and Andrew Revell. For the full story, go here — and spread the word on CureDuchenne.

Andrew and Timothy Revell. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman.
Andrew and Timothy Revell. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman.

Bursting with energy, Timothy and Andrew Revell are all over their Leander house. Their schoolwork is spread out on a counter near the kitchen, where their mother, Laura Revell, has been leading the boys through their lessons. When it is time to take a break and let a reporter ask questions of their salesman father, Tim Revell, the youngsters withdraw to a playroom where they have constructed an amazingly complicated track for mini-cars.

Laura Revell with her son Andrew. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman
Laura Revell with her son Andrew. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman

The sounds of their joyful curiosity and unforced companionship dance through the house. A single, unavoidable fact lingers over their lives: Timothy, 11, and Andrew, 8, grapple with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Almost no boys with the condition — and it’s virtually always boys who inherit the mutated gene that atrophies the body’s muscles — live past age 30.

Timothy Revell with his son Andrew. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman.
Timothy Revell with his son Andrew. Photo: Andy Sharp / American-Statesman.


“Our sons know they are different, that they are physically limited in things they can participate in,” father Tim says. “They don’t know the gory details. We chose to give them a normal life. Their daily routine is almost what every kid does.”

More Corpus Christi, More Flood Memories, 365 by Whole Foods Market

The only house left standing on North Beach after the 1919 hurricane.
The only house left standing on North Beach after the 1919 hurricane.

HISTORY 1: Already plenty of pro and con coming in on book about Corpus Christi. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “Lessoff is unswervingly fair. He doesn’t point fingers or assign guilt. Yet he makes it clear that Corpus has squandered opportunity after opportunity, especially in those years since an elite group of mostly Anglo businessmen ran the city from the 1920s to the 1960s. A necessary and salutary diffusion of power followed, but consensus has been fleeting. Preserve historic buildings in context, as Galveston and San Antonio did, or bulldoze them and start over? Run a major thoroughfare along the bayfront, or make it more amenable to tourists and pedestrians? Cluster civic buildings on the bay? Or maybe on the bluff? Or somewhere in between, as urban designers have urged? Corpus Christians can’t even agree on whether explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda named the bay because he arrived there on the Feast of Corpus Christi. (Lessoff finds no evidence to confirm the popular notion.)” https://shar.es/12wNCT

HISTORY 2: My column today contained this memory of dislocation during the Memorial Day 1981 floods: “Earlier this week, we shared in print one person’s vivid memories from the 1981 Memorial Day flood. We pointed readers to many more stories about that more distant cataclysm collected at society.blog.austin360.com. I thought the following note from Tina Jackson takes a point of view not represented by those who went through direct experiences with rising waters. Jackson’s brief story, however, represents the sense of dislocation many others recall from local disasters. “I feel rather guilty about my experience, to tell you the truth,” Jackson writes. “I was 27 years old, living in an old two-story frame house at 705 West 11th St., where I was paying a whopping $125 a month rent. I had entered my weekend with the simple joy of having three days off from work, and without television, radio or phone at the time, I was blissfully unaware of the chaos just down the hill on North Lamar Boulevard. …” https://shar.es/12wN7m

BUSINESS & FOOD: Whole Foods’ new value chain to be called “365 by Whole Foods Market.” Taken from Claudia Grisales story in the Statesman: “Austin-based Whole Foods Market unveiled the name of its value brand chain early Thursday, saying the new concept will called “365 by Whole Foods Market. The moniker draws from the company’s in-house brand, 365 Everyday, which will feature prominently in the new stores slated to be launched next year. Whole Foods also launched a new website for the effort, 365WFM.com, on Thursday. The organic foods giant also said it named their regional president for the company’s United Kingdom market, Jeff Turnas, as the new president of the new enterprise.” http://atxne.ws/1FVfR4o

Reader Memories of 1981 Memorial Day Flood in Austin: Part 3

A wall of rain chases a sailboat on Lake Travis during May 1981.
A wall of rain chases a sailboat on Lake Travis during May 1981.

More keep coming in …

“This framed picture hangs in our cabin in Milam County. A reminder of the flood. In the 70’s and 80’s we had a cabin on Comanche Trail, that had 3 levels of decks overlooking the Main Basin of Lake Travis. On the day the rains came I was sitting on the top deck when it began to rain. The top picture was taken from the top deck, and as the rain increased I went to the second deck,and on my way down I took the bottom photo. The photo shows the wall of rain, and a sailboat trying desperately to return to Marshal Ford Marina. The next day we returned to our home in Austin, and discovered we were victims of flooding. When I read your article this morning, I couldn’t help but realize this was the scene described. You may use the photo as needed.” — Bob Mann

This is a long but good story …

“My name is Michael Guess and I had just received my Masters degree from UT earlier that afternoon. It had been raining for days and I wasn’t certain if we would have commencement outdoors as planned. My folks had driven up from San Antonio, my hometown, for my graduation. UT has figured in my life a couple of times over the years at significant events in Austin history.

The first time was my first day of class in 1966 when Whitman was in the tower. I got locked up in Kinsolving dormitory while he was wreaking havoc below. The second time UT figured in my life was my graduation and later that night, spending it on the roof of my house as it started to drift down Shoal Creek.

After sending my folks back home after my graduation, I headed back to my old wooden frame house located on the banks of Shoal Creek, a few hundred yards off W. 6th Street from Hut’s Hamburgers on a street called Wood. I laid back on the couch with my headphones on listening to some very moving music when I thought I detected something more than the soundtrack.

I took off my headphones and it sounded like a freight train was going through the house. When I ran to the window I could see my car floating away down Shoal Creek. The creek had jumped its banks and was now a raging torrent, quickly climbing up past my back steps to the windows of my house.

No time to think. No cell phone or 911. I had to go to the phone book and look up the nearest fire department on the other side of Lamar. If I was going to be rescued they were the only ones that could do it. I called and called again. And again. I lost count and kept dialing until finally somebody on the other end yelled back at me that they didn’t know when they could get to me because their boat was already out rescuing people. He took the information and hung up. There was nothing else to do.

It’s funny what you do when you’re on automatic. I grabbed my wallet and my car keys even though my car was probably in Town Lake (Lady Bird) by now. I went out the back screen door and the water was already up to the top step. The only place to go was up, so I began climbing on top of the railing and reaching for the eve of the roof. Right then the other back door opened to a one room apartment that was also part of the house. The girl who lived there and her boyfriend stumbled out after too many margaritas from Jorge’s. They were in no shape for this event. Not sure I was either.

After swinging myself up on the roof I reached down and pulled them up after me, as well as her little cocker spaniel. We sat on the crest of the roof, straddling it in the driving rain trying to see if anyone was coming to rescue us. Every time the lightning flashed, the dog howled. I was nervous because we were all clustered around the TV antenna which was like a lightning rod.

It was spooky down below because the floodwaters were vacuuming out the entire house as we sat on the roof looking down at the light splintering through the Venetian blinds. We had a morbid sense of humor laughing at our possessions as they were being sucked out of our home. There goes my stereo! Yeah, there goes my waterbed. The next day, what was left that didn’t go down to the lake was scattered and caked in mud surrounding the foundation of what once was our house.

A garage with a guy hanging on for dear life floated past us down Shoal Creek and then shattered when it hit the 6th Street bridge. I prayed for that guy ‘cause I know he probably didn’t make it. We kept squinting in the driving sheets of rain, looking for our rescue boat. But all we saw was a weird parade of cars floating nose to tail in a strange conga line out of the service bay of McMorris Ford. It’s no longer there.

Off in the distance we kept hearing this rising and falling sound that turned out to be the boat’s motor trying to fight the flood’s whitewater rapids. It would nose forward and then slide back several times before it finally got close enough to our house for the fireman to reach out with this pike pole and hook onto the roof’s edge. We couldn’t hear anything they were saying because it was so loud from the flood, but we understood what they wanted.

It meant sliding down the top of the roof, blind, and hoping we would land in the boat instead of the water. I grabbed the dog, positioned it and slid it down the roof in the direction of the boat. Direct hit. Next went the girl and then the boyfriend. I closed my eyes and was hoping the boat hadn’t swung away as I let myself slide into the darkness. Wham! I landed on my back on the prow of the boat and got the wind knocked out of me.

I didn’t care because I knew we’d been saved. It seemed to take forever for the boat to make it the hundred yards or so to the edge of the torrent where the news crew and fire truck were waiting. A microphone was shoved in my face and I was asked what had happened. I blurted out the facts as quickly as I could but the news guy quickly realized that the story was in the girl and her dog. Everything after that finally faded into a blur because I didn’t have to pay attention anymore. Like they say, you’re never more alive when you might die.

For days afterwards, it was a series of couches that I got to sleep on, thanks to all my friends. Someone offered me an apartment downtown (when it was affordable) off 8th and Neches, and I began to settle into semi-normal. I will never forget the generosity of everyone who reached out to help afterwards. I got somebody’s 1950s melmac dishes for my kitchen, the Red Cross helped with toiletries and other basics, and a local men’s clothing store gave me a wardrobe absolutely free!

Austin reached out and helped me get back on my feet. That’s what made Austin great in those days. We were all neighbors even if we didn’t live in the same neighborhood. Some of those people are still around and still care for Austin. I’ll never be able to repay that debt.” — Michael Guess

Preview of Corpus Christi Book, Taming Notifications, No Special Session on Marriage Equality and More

91xE8YkEx+L._SL1500_HISTORY: How many observers would have predicted that the finest urban history to date about a Texas city would take as its subject Corpus Christi? Taken from my upcoming story in the Statesman: “Permanently perched on the state’s periphery, Corpus, a city of 316,000 — 442,000 in the metro area — seems always consigned to secondary status. In “Where Texas Meets the Sea” (University of Texas Press), Alan Lessoff explains how a place with such sterling advantages — gorgeous beaches, a striking bayfront under a natural bluff, a man-made deepwater port, proximity to Mexico and to the ranching, oil and gas empires of South Texas — has been stuck in virtual neutral for the past 50 years. Despite the current fracking boom, young people still leave in droves, as they did when the glamour spotlight followed other cities in the state: Houston during the space race, Dallas during the run of “Dallas,” and Austin pretty much ever since.” Look for links to the full story soon.

Don Tate illustration in the Statesman.
Don Tate illustration for the American-Statesman.

TECH: How stop the madness of notifications: Taken from Omar Gallaga‘s story in the Statesman: “As this sentence was being written, about a dozen notifications just happened. It used to take some effort to get machines to tell us stuff. A digital alarm clock wouldn’t wake you until you told it what time, down to the minute. If a phone automatically started telling you what appointments to expect that day and how the weather would be, you called an exorcist (from another phone). But we’ve come to take for granted that our ever-smarter tools (phones, computers, email) and even those with modern brain transplants (TVs, refrigerators, cars) are telling us stuff all the time. Honestly, you can’t shut them up. They feel you must know how many emails have arrived since the last time you checked, whether it’s time to change the water filter, who’s replied to a Facebook post you commented on last week.” https://shar.es/12jR4Y

Photo by Jay Janner of the American-Statesman
Photo by Jay Janner of the American-Statesman

LAW: Abbott will not call special session on marriage equality. Taken from Ross Ramsey‘s story in the Texas Tribune: “Gov. Greg Abbott apparently really meant it when he said last week he will not call a special session of the Legislature. In an interview with San Antonio’s WOAI-AM on Monday, Abbott said calls for a session on same-sex marriage haven’t changed his mind about bringing back the lawmakers who left town last week. “I do not anticipate any special session,” he said. “They got their job done on time and don’t require any overtime.” http://trib.it/1KRdnZb

Art Bra Austin, Terrence McNally on Texas & Sexuality, Carry Me Back to Virginia

Claire Spera and Kiira Bivens at Art Bra Austin.
Claire Spera and Kiira Bivens at Art Bra Austin.

HEALTH & STYLE: How theatrical! It had been a couple of years since I’d checked in on Art Bra Austin, the festive fundraiser for Breast Cancer Resource Center. All I can say is: “Wow!” At the Austin Music Hall, delirious guests mingled on multiple levels over snack food and outrageous costumes. Quickly, though, we got to business: Dozens of artfully designed and constructed breastplates, corsets and other protective garments, were modeled on a high runway by breast cancer survivors. Here, auctioneer Gayle Stallings‘ gifts matched the theatrical scale of the event — her imposing personality has always reminded me of Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” And while the bras in the past were aptly fanciful, this time they tended to take on mythological themes, done up in operatic style. While dozens of the outfits were auctioned “silently”, a few amazing samples, including a mosaic corset, went on the live auction block. The models, too, had been coached to take heroic poses and interact with stage props. Well, props to everyone who put this memorable show together. See my snapshots of the models at my Instagram page.

Leigh Zimmerman and Stacy Sutton at Art Bra Austin.
Leigh Zimmerman and Stacy Sutton at Art Bra Austin.

ARTS: Tangling with Texas and sexuality. Taken from my article in the Statesman: “Playwright Terrence McNally, 76, left his native Corpus Christi in 1956. He has rarely looked back. Now very much a New Yorker, he has chronicled many aspects of American culture — including the evolution of gay life — for more than five decades. Winner of multiple major honors, including the Tony Award, he is, along with Wharton’s Horton Foote and Austin’s Robert Schenkkan, among the state’s most distinguished playwrights. Recently, his comic drama “Mothers and Sons” opened at Zach Theatre. It follows two characters, Katharine and Cal, introduced to television audiences in the Emmy Award-winning 1990 movie “Andre’s Mother.” In that show, both are devastated by the recent AIDS death of Andre, Katharine’s charismatic son and Cal’s partner. They struggle to connect. In the current show, Katharine has come to visit Cal, who is now married to Will, a writer, with whom he is raising a son, Bud.” https://shar.es/1261W2

Jamie Logsdon and Ashley Whitfield at Art Bra Austin.
Jamie Logsdon and Ashley Whitfield at Art Bra Austin.

TRAVEL: Carry me back to Virginia: Taken from my article in the Statesman: “A destination wedding took us back to Virginia. The ambrosial affair gave us permission to further explore the Richmond and Charlottesville regions. First, though, the wedding. Our gorgeous niece and goddaughter, Lauren Barnes, wed dashing Alex Bonetti — both University of Texas grads — at Keswick Vineyards outside of Charlottesville. The historic Edgewood Estate rises in an impossibly beautiful valley of horse farms and old country homes. The site played small roles in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. On a cool, clear May late afternoon, the ceremony took place against the background of rolling vineyards and the green hills beyond. Lauren and Alex wrote their own vows. Especially touching were their tributes to the rest of the wedding party. The tented reception — including jaunty toasts — added to the evening’s sweet trance. Knowing my family, I’m sure there was an after party following the after party.” https://shar.es/1261hE

Man and Woman of the Year, Austin Critics Table Awards and Hyde Park Theatre

Krystal Lucero and Lilly Flenoy at Man and Woman of the Year.
Krystal Lucero and Lilly Flenoy at Man and Woman of the Year.

CHARITY: It’s gotten more competitive. The Man and Woman of the Year contest to see who can raise the most money in a 10-month period for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has always encouraged friendly rivalries. Yet as the Austin edition of the national event has grown in size and stature, it has pitted energized teams of friends and colleagues to give ever more generously in the name of their standard bearers. At the AT&T Center, they filled the banquet hall with kinetic energy. What followed might have been the longest live auction on local record. The winners? Of course we were going to tell you: Shannon Wolfson and Rylan Reed. “He’s a survivor,” reports nonprofit ambassador Lisa O’Neill, “She did it for Dad.” Altogether, the 11 candidates (five women, four men) raised a respectable $622,172.

Thomas Hamilton Chandler, Jr. and Raquel Chandler.
Thomas Hamilton Chandler, Jr. and Raquel Chandler.

ARTS 1: For the 23rd time, the Austin Critics Table, an informal club of arts writers, bestowed armfuls of laurels on Austin’s creative class, the part associated theater, dance, visual art and classical music. At Capitol City Comedy Club, the three previously announced inductees into the Austin Arts Hall of fame — Heloise Gold, Fidencio Duran and Allen Robertson were warmly cheered. The critics, headed by Robert Faires and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin clearly explained the group’s consensus choices for, well, a lot of awards. (Which reminds me, the Tony Awards are this Sunday.) For a complete list of Critics Table winners, go here to the Statesman’s arts blog.

Ken Webster (left), Jason Phelps (seated) and Robert Pierson in  The Strangerer.
Ken Webster (left), Jason Phelps (seated) and Robert Pierson in The Strangerer.

ARTS 2: I realized while driving to the Hyde Park Theatre this week, that I always perked up for the work of its producers Vicky Boone and, later, Ken Webster. Then along came Mark Pickell to complement Webster’s in-house style, mostly with short, sometimes brutally dark comedies. For “The Strangerer,” an absurdist mashup of Jean-Paul Sartre and the 2004 presidential debate between Sen. John Kerry and President George Bush, Pickell picked three outstanding actors: Webster, Jason Phelps (one of Boone’s muses) and veteran Robert Pierson, making his debut with Pickell’s Capital T Theatre. Here’s Cate Blouke‘s sharp review, published in the Statesman.