Pt 2. Interview: James White & the Broken Spoke

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George Strait. Photography by the Broken Spoke. 

On May 1, 2019 —For the second year in a row, I interviewed James White at the Broken Spoke sitting at table B2 next to a replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger. The same booth where Willie Nelson and his wife, Annie, used to dine in decades past. Coincidentally, one year ago I interviewed him on the exact same day. This was not planned and I just so happen to notice this coincidence whilst uploading the audio files post-interview. Last year, the story was published in a local rock-n-roll zine in ATX and I titled it “James White talks 54 years at the Broken Spoke“. The first interview was a bird’s eye view of the last 54 years. Audio from the interview in 2018 can be found online, too. Mr. White talked to me about his quest, the dream of opening a honky tonk and meeting his wife and falling in love with Annetta. He told me about the volunteers who made the building by hand, one of which was a man so drunk he fell off the roof. The first time they booked Willie Nelson back in 1967. Back when Willie wore short hair, clean shaven and wore either a turtle neck, a vest or a sports coat. White told me about the time Dolly Parton came to film “Wild Texas Nights” in the eighties. He told me about the film “Broken Arrow” featuring Jimmy Stewart and how it inspired him to name the Broken Spoke after it. The time Rowdy almost got shot by a police officer when someone stole his father’s silver saddle that is now kept in a glass case.

“A lot of people, you know, they ask me, why did you go into this kind of business? All the way down to my childhood, my parents would take me to different dance halls in this area, and that’s where I got the love of country music in my veins… When I was in the Army, I didn’t know what I was gonna do when I got out of the Army. So I thought it would be kind of neat to open up a place of my own, similar to the places when I was growing up in Austin. It just became like a quest of mine the day I left the Army. And when I came out under the big ole oak tree out front (on South Lamar), I just kind of visualized a place like no other and when I got it built: I named it the Broken Spoke. The reason I thought up that name, I wanted something original. I wanted something country, I wanted something western. Texas style”. – James White

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Over the decades, Mr. White has become friends with the likes of Willie Nelson, Alvin Crow, George Strait, Garth Brooks and the list goes on and on like a jukebox with endless vinyl’s to play. Thankfully, the Broken Spoke isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, their business is booming right now! This recent kaboom is due to a delightful visit from one of Texas’ most adored and esteemed country western musicians: George Strait.

Last winter, during a daytime walk I noticed an entourage outside of the Broken Spoke and became very curious. True, I see photo shoots and video crews outside the building all the time. People travel from all over to photograph and film this beloved Texas classic. However, this was a larger than usual crew of people. A few nights later, Steven Mark and I trailed in for a few libations. At which point, Mr. White informed my boyfriend and I that the infamous King of Country, the one and only, George Strait was at the Broken Spoke for his latest album Honky Tonk Time Machine.

Universal Records and Spotify came out to film and photograph George Strait at the Spoke, as well as interview Mr. White. On the one hand, I was stunned that George Strait came back to the Broken Spoke for a photoshoot — the sheer idea George Strait was in my hometown at a local bar right around the corner was mystifying. I’ve never seen him in person. Strait is a cowboy I’ve heard singing to me all my life through radios, stereos and televisions. All my life, his face has been all over Texas and the south, and yet, he has no bloody clue who I am. And yet, here Mr. White is just hanging out casually with a long time friend. So, on the other hand—I was not stunned or shocked—it’s just another sunny day in the colorful story of Mr. White, his family and life at the Broken Spoke.

“You can find a chisel, I can find a stone. Folks will be reading these words, long after we’re gone. Baby, write this down, take a little note, to remind you in case you didn’t know. Tell yourself I love you and I don’t want you to go, write this down. Take my words, read ’em every day, keep ’em close by, don’t you let ’em fade away. So you’ll remember what I forgot to say, write this down.” – George Strait

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, James White booked George Strait for seven years. At the time, Strait was a part of band near San Marcos called Ace in the Hole. Once he became more and more famous, the booking fees outgrew the Broken Spoke. Decades later, true to Texas form, Mr. Strait never forgot his roots and came back to the honky tonk dance hall in Austin. George Strait also brought his wife, Norma, and his driver, Leroy. Weeks later, Broken Spoke was featured on the front cover of George Strait’s latest album “Honky Tonk Time Machine”. The album was released on Feb. 11, 2019. Later on, when George Strait performed at the 2019 Academy of Country Music Awards in April. The backdrop featured a photo of the Broken Spoke and by the graphic effects, it almost looked as if they were playing outside the building. The bright colors of the Texas flag blowing in the wind against the woodwork, the wagon wheels and the honky tonk dance hall. This is outstanding publicity for the Broken Spoke! Ever since, more visitors, from all over are flocking to the Broken Spoke. Which is fantastic news because the city of Austin treasures the local hotspots and it’s comforting to know business is alive and well at the Spoke. I liked hearing James White tell the story about when he finally informed George Strait about the ladies bathroom Annetta adorned with his cowboy pictures. Apparently, Strait was very flattered and had a real good sense of humor about it. I was told he even gave Annetta a kiss on the cheek!

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With only five cases of beer to sell, James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. After he was released from the U.S. Army at the age of 25 – Mr. White decided to pursue the quest, his dream, of opening a honky tonk in Austin, Texas to feature live country music and a dance hall. In the beginning, Broken Spoke was a local roadhouse where beer cost .25 cents a bottle and customers could get ice and a soft drink for .30 cents to chase down their liquor. Back in those days, before the peak of craft cocktails, people could bring their own liquor bottles to the bar in Texas. Now in 2019, over 55 years later, Broken Spoke has become a worldwide famous dance hall with a full bar and restaurant. By the late 80’s the Broken Spoke started to gain more and more fame. Featured in Texas Highways magazine, The Food Network, The New York Times, Nat Geo Traveler, CBS News, Texas Monthly, The Smithsonian and more; Broken Spoke is a historical landmark. The Broken Spoke is owned and operated by James and Annetta White. The two met at a dance hall in 1961 when she caught his eye and have been married 52 years. Annetta and her husband have worked together for decades to keep the Broken Spoke running successfully. Amongst her many contributions to the Broken Spoke, I discovered that Annetta is the one responsible for the George Strait photographs covering the women’s bathroom, giving the ladies room some cowboy vibes. For which, I am grateful.

“I ain’t got a dime, but what I got is mine. I ain’t rich, but Lord I’m free. Amarillo by mornin’. Amarillo’s where I’ll be”. – George Strait

Days prior to meeting Mr. White for a second interview, I felt anxious. Over the last 14 years, I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews. But I still got intimidated before interviewing James White. Even though the first interview went very well and the story was appreciated – even though I had no reason to feel anxiety because Mr. White and his entire family have been so friendly to me. Secretly, I still felt intimidated like, “What in the world am I going to ask this man that another writer hasn’t already inquired about? Is my story going to be any good at all? Where do I even start the second interview? How do I condense so much history into a few pages?” Instead of delving into my self-doubt as a Texan, I chose to chase the story. And I am glad I did.

Mr. James White is one of the kindest and most down-to-earth individuals I’ve ever interviewed. Out of all the celebrities, artists and entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed over the last 14 years – the White family will always linger fondly in my memory for making me feel welcomed. Not everyone I interview is so kind or humble, and the kindness is forever permeated into my brain. In a way, the Broken Spoke now feels like it’s become part of my own Texas history, too. I can understand wholeheartedly why people have coined the Broken Spoke as “the country western version of Cheers“.

During the second interview, late that morning, there was some commotion in the background. People looking for a key to the walk-in freezer. Beer shipments had arrived and the freezer was locked. Throughout the interview, you can hear people coming and going, including one of his daughters, Terri White. She teaches dance lessons at the Broken Spoke. Terri was kind enough to bring me some fried okra she’d just cooked in the kitchen. Walking over to table B2, she asked me if I wanted a bite, I said yes and took only one piece, as to not feel greedy. I guess she read my mind, because she reached into the basket and placed a handful of okra onto the table and left me with a napkin. It made me smile and I thanked her, again. It was a very sweet moment and reminded me that one of the many reasons why I’m grateful to be a Texas girl: southern hospitality and the love of sharing food and drinks together.

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Artwork by Kevin Geil.

Mr. White has another daughter, Ginny White Peacock. There is a fundraiser for Ginny on May 17, 2019 starting at 8 P.M. CST. Last year, I met her at the previous interview, and she was also very lovely and polite to me. She talked to me about the buildings electrical oddities and asked about my artwork. Recently, after many serious, life-changing health concerns that caused Ginny to lose both her feet and legs, below the knee, and nine fingers—as well as undergo a lot of painful surgeries she’s still recovering from—the Broken Spoke is hosting a silent and live auction to raise money for Ginny to obtain prosthetic legs. A wife and mother to two young boys, the fundraiser is a chance “to celebrate and come together to raise money so Ginny can get back on her feet”. Two Tons of Steel, Derailers, The Wagoneers w/ Monte Warden and other special guests will play music for the benefit. The auction entails over 100 items and collectibles. Including an autographed Limited Edition George Strait guitar (and an autographed cowboy hat) donated by George Strait & Tom Foote. A round of golf foursome with celebrity Ray Benson at Barton Creek Country Club. Ginny’s artwork will also be featured at the benefit. Please come on out to support the White family! If unable to attend the event, there is also a GoFundMe campaign where donations can be made to help Ginny on her road to robot legs.

Music and drinks aren’t all the Broken Spoke has to offer. Their barbecue is quite delicious and they are notorious for their chicken fried steak. On occasion, Mr. White still chops wood for the kitchen. Out at his ranch, there are some gullies and ravines that he uses a tractor to find wood for the fire. Live oak, Spanish oak and Heritage oak are the kinds of firewood he and his crew brings to the Broken Spoke to smoke meats. “It helps zap the taste in there and it’s sort of a flame-kissed smoked process”, stated White. The Spoke has had a BBQ pit from day one and way back in the day, James White and Bobby Flay used to cook together.

It would take several books to document all the history of the Broken Spoke. There is simply no way to condense it all for a literary journalism piece for the web. I hope to compile all my recordings into a short story and get it published elsewhere. Meantime, if you’d like to hear James White talk about the time Garth Brooks played a surprise show at the Broken Spoke in 2017. Booking George Strait back in the 70’s and how White was contacted for the cover of his latest album. Please stay tuned for the interview to go live!

“It’s a heart thing you feel good about. At the end of the day, I take more pictures now than I ever took in my life before now. Hell, no one wanted my picture in 1964 but now everyone does and I’ll make up for lost time. There were fun times in the 1960’s and everything was new. I just had so much fun here at the Spoke. But I think the one (press) thing we did with Texas Highways stood out the most. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Now we’re on every roadside park in Texas at the rest stops. I mean you come in and there’s a picture of the Broken Spoke and the Cadillac outside. And then on the left there at the state Capitol, it’s right there you know. You got music, you got Texas and then you got the Broken Spoke. It’s a very good compliment to us. Since then we’ve been voted the Best Country Dance Hall in the nation, home of the best chicken fried steak in town, a lot of metropolitan awards. We’ve won a lot of awards. I’m in the Texas Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian. I’m in the Country Music Hall of Fame… I never expected it. All I really wanted was a honky tonk dance hall. So I got what I wanted, but then I got a lot more. Which is fine, it’s fun, a hell a lot more fun to have people brag about you than bitch about you. It’s always more fun to get compliments”. – James White

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Dale Watson sets the record straight

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

Rumors flew around Austin like a wildfire in high winds the last few weeks about Dale Watson leaving ATX for Memphis. And Watson is adamant to set the record straight after a recent interview gone askew. When I read his quote on social media to clarify the truth: I was relieved to read that Dale Watson will still be in Austin, Texas and Memphis, traveling the country, and the world, touring and playing music with His Lone Stars. So, rest easy, Texas, we haven’t lost one of most beloved musicians.

Dale Watson is a very well-known name in Texas, Tennessee and various parts of the world. Born in Alabama and raised in Pasadena, Texas — Watson moved to Austin in the early 1990’s and has made it his home ever since. Personally I’ve known of his name and heard about his music long before I ever saw him perform seeing as I’ve lived in ATX off-and-on since the 90’s. My Latina mother (and Texan) once told me that she had a crush on him back in the day and enjoys dancing to his country music. Even the legendary Willie Nelson spoke highly of Dale Watson and stated “I’m one of Dale’s biggest fans”.

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Watson has performed all over the world and is currently touring in Europe. However, in the near future he will be spending a little more time in Memphis and a little less time in Texas. Two homes, two cities he loves and still focused on sharing his music with his treasured fans around the world.

“O.K. friends , let me set the record straight, if you don’t mind. I love Austin. Austin is my home. I love Texas and will ALWAYS live in Texas. That said, I bought a house in Memphis as an investment and in the process fell in love with the town. It reminds me of Austin of the 80’s, the good and the bad. I play over 300 shows a year, meaning Austin and on the road world wide. To afford to live in Austin, I literally have to tour. As one guy posted I’m old and should retire, but I love what I do and quite honestly can’t afford retirement either. What musician can? These things are facts I’m volunteering now but I recently granted an interview locally. They had seen an article about my moving Ameripolitan Awards to Memphis and buying a house there. The interview was heavily edited. This happens often but the things left out were important to me. Things like, my love of Austin. My roots are in Texas and the fact that, at some point I will have to sell my house in Austin and move to the outskirts, but I will always have a house in Texas. I will hang on to being an Austinite as long as I can. Monday’s at the Continental Club, a Friday or Saturday at the Broken Spoke, and Chicken $#!+ Bingo at C’Boys on Sunday’s. As for the media, they suck. If any media repeats this post, then print the whole thing, because you suck at editing and paraphrasing. So, after all is said and done, I hope I see ya at my regular gigs in Austin friends. I hope you come to my AirBnb and recording studio in Memphis. And I hope you all vote when it comes to your mayor and city council. Peace.”    – Dale Watson

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Secretly when I read the media coverage Watson is referring to, it seemed to me that pieces were missing to the interview. To play thousands of shows in Texas, you must really love the city of Austin and The Lone Star State, therefore it struck me as odd to read a short story that Dale Watson was just going to up and leave TX without going into more details. True, the city is growing overcrowded and is becoming more expensive as the love for the almighty dollar bulldozes the love for local artists. But, thankfully the rumors weren’t true and we can look forward to many more Dale Watson shows. Also, I’ve visited Memphis a few times and I can definitely see the appeal. Memphis gives Texas a run for its money in regards to BBQ, live music and the beauty of the hill country.

Over the past 20 years, Austin has become attached to Dale Watson and His Lone Stars. I am certain many Texans all over the state will also be relieved to hear Watson is here for the long haul, even if we must share him with the city of Memphis, too. Stay tuned to his website and social media to find local shows in your area to support local artists and keep the art scene alive and well in ATX!

Screen-Shot-2018-03-11-at-7.59.45-PM-2 For more information please visit www.dalewatson.com.

Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, this Austin-based honky-tonker carries on in the tradition of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with his “Ameripolitan” brand of American roots music. Dubbed “the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin’, Lone Star beer drinkin’, honky-tonk hellraiser” by The Austin Chronicle, Watson sat in with Jimmy Kimmel’s house band as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) from SXSW 2015. He also emceed the first ever SXSW “Ameripolitan” showcase featuring the best of Honky-tonk, Outlaw Country, Rockabilly and Texas Swing music. Since the release of El Rancho Azul in 2013, Watson’s profile has risen considerably via appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), Austin City Limits and The Sun Sessions(PBS) and as a guest on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year. He also put his money where his heart is and took over ownership of two struggling Texas honky-tonks, the Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin (home of Chicken $#!+ Bingo) and The Big T Roadhouse in St. Hedwigs (outside San Antonio).  If not on the road, he and His Lone Stars perform at one of them each Sunday. Dale has flown the flag for classic honky-tonk for over two decades. He’s christened his brand of American roots “Ameripolitan” to differentiate it from current crop of Nashville-based pop country. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson may be the hardest working entertainer today and is rapidly approaching legendary status.  He is a country music maverick, a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters from the Lone Star State.”     http://www.dalewatson.com

Note: This story was originally published on Rank & Revue, SXSW 2018 issue

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

The Filigree Theatre presented Anna Ziegler’s play “A Delicate Ship” at The Santa Cruz Theater in ATX

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Photo of set from “A Delicate Ship” at The Santa Cruz Theater performed by The Filigree Theatre. Photography: Nicolette Mallow.

The Filigree Theatre premiered Anna Ziegler’s poetic play A Delicate Ship in Austin, Texas on Feb. 15, 2018. A theatrical performance that marked the second production of The Filigree’s inaugural season, their first play was Betrayal by Harold Pinter. A Delicate Ship and Betrayal were both hosted by The Santa Cruz Theater. Champagne and cookies were served after each performance. The cast of A Delicate Ship consisted of David Moxham (Sam), Laura Ray (Sarah) and Nicholaus Weindel (Nate). Directed by Elizabeth V. Newman (Artistic Director) and Produced by Stephanie Moore (Co-Managing Director) the play premiered until closing night on Feb. 25, 2018. 

What is the synopsis of A Delicate Ship and what does this story entail? “It’s Christmas Eve, and Sarah and Sam are celebrating like New Yorkers: flirting over wine and debating the nature of existential suffering. Then there is knock on the door, and Sarah’s childhood friend Nate stands at the threshold. And suddenly suffering becomes a whole lot less sexy. A kaleidoscopic look at one night in New York City that changes the lives of three people forever.” 

Weeks ago that was the exact synopsis I read on the Press Release sent to me by a publicist I’ve worked with many times, and immediately I was intrigued and knew I wanted to attend. Theatrical performances are like taking a mental and emotional journey in time whilst sitting still in the audience. It’s like pulling back the curtain to someone else’s life and being an invisible guest. As beautiful as film and cinema may be and as much as I adore all the arts: theatre arts and theatrical performances hold a beloved place in my heart, like music, because it feels as if I am experiencing a daydream that I can immerse myself into, like diving into an Olympic pool and imagining I am a mermaid out at sea. Like a daydream, theater arts lets me float away in imagination. I can watch the play and forget about my life and my characters for a few hours at a time. Generally I read a play in its entirety before attending a performance to know the exact story, dialogue and characters. But this time I read nothing but the Press Release and did not delve into the minute details. I wanted to walk into A Delicate Ship with an open mind.

Immediately upon entry into the theatre I saw blue windows, blue lights, a brown leather sofa, a guitar, a birdcage, The New York Times newspaper, other trinkets and home decor like books and a modest at-home bar. The stage was set in someone’s NYC apartment and it looked like a cold December night by the wool and flannel jackets hung by the door. The venue space at The Santa Cruz Theatre is very intimate in size and it makes for an evocative, memorable and vivid experience with the audience and the actors on stage so close in proximity the eye contact can feel magnetic. 

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A Delicate Ship was my second experience to see a performance by The Filigree Theatre. The first play was so delightful that I came back for more. This time I attended on the opening night as a member of the Press and I had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth V. Newman: Co-Founder, Artistic Director & Co-Managing Director of The Filigree Theatre and A Delicate Ship. 

Nicolette Mallow: The set on stage was beautiful! I loved the integration of music, spotlights, blue lights and windows… Does the theatre intend to keep expanding light and sound into plays? I feel like Betrayal was a lot more subtle in regards to sound and lighting effects. I adored the colors and sound effects in A Delicate Ship

Elizabeth V. Newman: Thank you! As a director, I really love working with my designers to build each distinct world for every show, which are totally dependent on what the needs of the particular show are; i.e. which elements are in the forefront and which underscore more subtly. Chris Conard is our set and lighting designer (also on the advisory committee of Filigree) and Eliot Fisher is sound. We all collaborated previously on the Austin Premiere (and the the Filigree pre-season Los Angeles Premiere) of Any Night by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn. The challenge of Any Night was to create a world that was evocative of a ‘fever dream’ so I worked with both designers to create a more wild, impressionistic, surreal/nightmarish. (Eliot was nominated for B Iden Payne for Sound, Chris for Lighting for the pre-LA premiere/Austin premiere of that show)… The next performance (Betrayal) for me was all about restraint and repression and about things simmering underneath a very polished, clean, hard surface. For Betrayal I wanted very straightforward, simple, white, almost clinical lighting. I wanted the production to be all about Pinter’s words and the silences between. The only sound was era specific music (English, 1960’s/70’s) between scenes to evoke the era and emotions bubbling up under the surface.  

Eliot and I discussed sound for A Delicate Ship and talked about how it was, in a way, the inverted universe of Any Night. For Any Night, each distinct location in the play had a sound-scape with amazing interstitials of a car crash and glass breaking – we hear the aftermath, in a dreamy/impressionistic way – of a major accident.  In A Delicate Ship, the sound sneaks up on you. Eliot used some sounds from some of the pre-show music and slowed them down beyond recognition and added other elements into the mix to create the design –  to ‘feel’ the nostalgia inherent in A Delicate Ship – familiar but unrecognizable. In terms of the set and lighting for A Delicate Ship – the environment of that Christmas Eve is intentionally naturalistic: cozy, warm and then, lighting-wise, we are pulled out of this Christmas Eve present moment and thrust into a memory space (blue light) as the characters need to reflect upon Christmas Eve. The goal was to provide a visual analog to the ‘woosh’ feeling that the character, Sarah, describes overcoming her at times.Our next show, Trio, by Sheila Cowley, which will be going up at the end of April, is set in an old garage that is inhabited by magical, child-like  beings so the tone and the ‘world of the play’ will be a universe unto itself and the set, lighting and sound design will come from bringing that kind of a world to life.

Mallow: How does The Filigree Theatre go about choosing their selected plays of performance? I’ve seen two performances now, both very different and delightful. They seem to revolve around love, sex, family, the human psyche and time/memory. And they require very few characters, three to four people at most. Thoughts? 

Newman: Thank you! Our Season structure is “Past (part of the theatre cannon) – Present (playwrights living and working today) – Future (new works/world premieres)” with each season revolving around a theme. For our inaugural season the official theme is: Trios/Triangles – but there are ‘secret’ hidden themes that have emerged for Season 1, namely memory, deception, passion/time. Trio will have six actors on stage: two ‘trios’ – one of characters who are actors trying to rehearse children theatre and one of the ‘trio beings’ who are akin to elves or sprits. Right now we are in the process of setting the season/choosing the theme for Season 2. I personally like to direct smaller casts a bit like chamber music: it is ’chamber theatre’. For me, when there are only two or three or four bodies on stage, each look, gesture, silence is meaningful and powerful. We have Stage One, our staged workshop reading series, to have an opportunity to get to know different writers (playwrights/screenwriters – help them develop their work – build a relationship – grow projects). In terms of selecting a play, I reach out to resources: NY based Playwright Eleanor Burgess, our Literary Advisor; Alex Timbers, our Artistic Advisor; New Play Exchange and of course actors, writers, or artists who have a sensibility that is simpatico with my own and with Filigree’s. 

Mallow: What is the auditions process and how many actors/actresses do you have on board right now?

Newman: We had double auditions for Betrayal and A Delicate Ship last May (because we knew we were going to Los Angeles with Any Night for the summer and had to set auditions before we went) it was a kind of big round robin casting two plays at once.  We saw such great talent – and I’ve subsequently worked with some of the actors who auditioned for us last May in our Stage One readings and other short plays I’ve directed in festivals. We recently had auditions for Trio. In May, we will have our Season Two auditions (why cast only two shows at once when you can cast three, right?) We are intentionally not a actors rep. company – there are some great companies who are doing that already. For us, the season structure/theme is the guide and for us, and our priority is it that casting be based role by role as required by the individual plays and that play selection not be based on what fits our standing acting company. That being said, I love revisiting collaboration with actors and designers as we develop a short-hand and common references and I get to see the wonderful range and talent of the folks I’m working with. 

Mallow: From a lot of reading and studying articles about depression, and losing friends to suicide and looking back on their behavior prior to their death… I could tell Nate’s character was suicidal from the get go. I have written stories about unstable characters and I was wondering… Was it difficult or cathartic for both directors and actors to portray such delicate signs of dark depression? Does repeating such intense words night after night ever become heavy on the heart?

Newman: A Delicate Ship definitely deals with some pretty serious topics. In the work that we did to prepare for the show, the cast and I delved into how the ramp up to, and ultimately the playing out of the tragic event affect not only the character of Nate but also Sarah and Sam. I’m very proud of my cast for giving it their all each run and not shying away from the difficult material. They are pros and have the courage and stamina to go there each and every time. In some ways, I would imagine it is tough for Sarah (Laura Ray) and Sam (David Moxham) as it is for Nate (Nicholaus Weindel) as they have to relive the discovery and the repercussions of what transpires night after night;  Nate is convinced that he is going to get his happy ending right up to the horrible moment that, he feels, it is yanked right out from under him. Up to that moment he is living what is, in his mind, a sort of big climax of a romantic comedy or a Nicholas Sparks story/plot. 

Mallow: Why do you think the characters were playing a battle of the wits and playing passive aggressive mind games, taking intellectual jabs at each other to hurt one another, as opposed to directly getting to the root of the matter right from the get go? Christmas Eve nostalgia? Fear? Pride? Inexperience to deal with uncomfortable situations since they are all fairly young? 

Newman: That is such a good question. I feel like Anna’s characters are so nuanced and complex and well-drawn that they function as fully formed humans who are sometimes making choices or using tactics that they are fully aware of and sometimes going at their goals sideways, and at times without any self-awareness. At times each of the characters are reacting from a primal place: self-preservation, fear, anger, lust, longing. Sometimes they act from their ‘best selves’ and sometimes from their ‘worst’. Our job as an ensemble of actors/director is to pick apart these different moments and tease out how aware each character is of their own actions/words and their effect on each other.

Mallow: Memory is a topic that comes up a lot because we all take walks down memory lane every day… but, why does Sarah’s character often block out good memories: sex with Nate, talking marriage with Sam… generally we block out only the bad but her character seems to disassociate a lot even from joy. Why is that?

Newman: One thing that Laura (playing Sarah) and I discussed quite a bit was the process of mourning and grief and how the loss of Sarah’s father (just weeks before sex with Nate) and not even a year before this Christmas Eve has become intertwined with her experience and history with Nate. We discussed how the sexual encounter may well have meant wildly different things to each of them and that the memory and association with it may have each taken on a different hue with time and distance from it.  We joked that really Nate may be ‘The One’ for Sarah if he weren’t such an ‘emotional vampire’ and how that contradiction and conflict might play out for and within Sarah. Similarly, I feel like Sarah’s time with Sam becomes pierced through with the loss of Nate which overshadows any of the happiness Sam and Sarah had.

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Artwork provided by The Filigree Theatre.

For more information about The Filigree Theatre please visit https://www.filigreetheatre.com. The Santa Cruz Theater is located at 1805 East 7th Street, Austin, TX 78702. 

About The Filigree Theatre: 

“Co-Founded by Elizabeth V. Newman (Artistic Director/Co-Managing Director) and Stephanie Moore (Co-Managing Director), The Filigree Theatre is committed to producing high-level, professional theatre in the city of Austin and to collaborating with local artists working across creative disciplines including fine arts, dance, film and music.

The company’s name, ‘Filigree’, meaning “the complex intertwining of delicate threats of gold and silver,” was derived from the Latin words for thread (filum) and seed (granum), which serves as the basis for the company’s dual mission: to serve both as a ‘thread’ by connecting Austin to theatre communities in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London, as well as a ‘seed’by incubating, supporting and celebrating emerging theatre makers in Austin.  The Filigree Theatre is likewise dedicated to forging connections with diverse audiences across the region.

Newman and Moore have structured each season of The Filigree Theatre to be comprised of three shows connecting the “Past” (honoring the theatre cannon) “Present” (playwrights living and working today) and “Future” (world-premieres and new works) that are tied together with a common theme that runs throughout.  For The Filigree Theatre’s 2017-18 inaugural season, the theme is “Trios” and the three productions are (Past) Betrayal by Harold Pinter (Sept. 28-Oct. 8); (Present) A Delicate Ship by Anna Ziegler (Austin Premiere; Feb. 15-25); and (Future) Trio by Sheila Cowley (World Premiere; Apr. 26-May 6).”

“The Long Road Home” military series by National Geographic Channel is showcased worldwide

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Recently in honor of Veteran’s Day I attended a screening in Texas for a National Geographic Channel military series on TV called The Long Road Home. Nat Geo and the Texas Film Commission delivered a sneak peek into this Texas-filmed series based on Martha Raddatz’s bestselling novel The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family. The first episode premiered on November 7, 2017 and the show is now featured worldwide in over 171 locations and 45 languages each week on Tuesday’s via National Geographic Channel. The Long Road Home is presently the largest active set in the U.S. built on Fort Hood Army Base. Creator and showrunner of this TV show is screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Mikko Alanne.  

“On April 4, 2004, the First Cavalry Division from Fort Hood was ferociously ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad—a day that later came to be known as Black Sunday. Based on Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book, The Long Road Home chronicles their heroic fight for survival, as well as their families’ agonizing wait on the home front back in Texas. The cast includes two-time Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kelly as Lt. Col. Gary Volesky; Emmy-nominated actor Jason Ritter as Capt. Troy Denomy; Kate Bosworth as Capt. Denomy’s wife, Gina; Sarah Wayne Callies as LeAnn Volesky, wife of Lt. Col. Volesky; Noel Fisher as Pfc. Tomas Young; and Jeremy Sisto as Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger.”

The Long Road Home tells a story of the ultimate sacrifice made at war. The series gives a voice and a proper acknowledgment to the Veterans that have served and their families that supported them. I absolutely loved the episode we were showcased and as I sat there watching the screening of The Long Road Home on a Sunday evening. I felt a wild and extensive mixture of emotions, light and dark. Mikko Alanne does a fantastic job of intertwining beauty and humor into a darker story. Right when you want to look away from Baghdad, the series keeps you hooked with light-hearted moments back in Texas. Alanne is also a master of flashbacks and retrospective storytelling. Viewers are watching the episodes with ease, without confusions as to the different times with different characters, past and present. I was also impressed by how the set is so accurate in detail that even the military personnel that helped advise Mikko Alanne on set described it to be almost a mirror reflection of Baghdad. One of the Veterans of the U.S. Army that helped Alanne in the production process, as well as attend the Q&A in Austin, is Eric Bourquin.

“While on the set he and other 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers endured in Iraq, Eric Bourquin managed to get the emotional healing he had sought for years. ‘There’s no way I could just take a stroll through memory lane [in Iraq] if i wanted to,” he said after a panel discussion about the show at the Defense Information School. “But I was so fortunate that I was able to do that and walk through it’. The Army assisted the film crew at Fort Hood, where producers claimed they built the largest working film set in North America on a 12-acre site. More than 80 buildings were erected at the Elijah urban training site at Fort Hood, Texas, where the division is headquartered, to resemble homes and streets in Sadr City. For Bourquin, who worked as a production consultant for the show, the fabricated town gave him tangible closure”. – U.S. Army

At the end of the screening I was able to ask Eric Bourquin a question and it was definitely an intense moment for me. I respected his honesty and bravery to retell this story and to heal from it. [A recording of the Q&A can be found on YouTube.] For me, even though I never served in the military, it was hard to ignore my personal feelings at a Press event like this being a military brat myself that grew up with nearly all Veterans and men of the military: Air Force, Army, Marines, Green Berets and so on. As a member of the military family, this was an intense but heartfelt episode for me because I’ve experienced and seen what the military and wartimes can do to a person, good and bad. I’ve seen the affects of PTSD and trauma. It hurts the Veterans and their families to see loved ones struggling. Even if the Veterans are most affected of all. Thus, any safe place of healing is highly commendable and needed. Ultimately I respect the vision of what The Long Road Home is hoping to accomplish because that is really what Veterans and their families really need: to be heard, seen and to heal so that they may readjust back to normal everyday life and recover from the past. 

I highly recommend this TV series for all Veterans and members of the military family. Even if you’re not a Veteran, active duty or part of the military family. This show can be appreciated by all civilians because it’s deeply important for those uninvolved or unrelated to the military to gain enlightenment and second-hand exposure as to what military personnel have to endure overseas at war whilst away from home. We all need to see and to empathize with the difficulty Veterans face (and their families) when returning back. We need to see their long road home to recovery and healing. I really valued this series as an artist and a member of the military family, because when a member of the military is deployed and goes to war, it affects the families, too. 

Stay tuned for tonights episode of The Long Road Home titled  “In The Valley of Death” at 10/9 PM Central on Nov. 21. For more information please visit their website on National Geographic Channel at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/the-long-road-home/.

 

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Elvis Costello’s memoir: Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

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Autograph by Elvis Costello.

Elvis Costello was the featured guest for an interview with Evan Smith at Book People in Austin, Texas on October 20, 2015. Recently, Costello wrote a memoir titled Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. This exclusive interview was part of his book tour. Entering the room with a light-colored hat, dark suit and vest, black-framed glasses, one gold ring on each hand and slick, black leather shoes: Elvis Costello descended the stairwell from the third floor to discuss the book and his life lived in music thus far. The entire second floor of Book People was filled with attendees and so many people were present that quite a few were listening in the back without a view of Elvis Costello; only able to hear voices echoing over the microphones. Fortunately I was able to grab a front row seat and sit on the floor.

Music is clearly the anthem of his life and the focus of his career. He’s been part of the industry over 40 years. The book is a collection of memoirs entailing his entire life, with a emphasis on his career. During the interview Elvis Costello answered numerous questions and mentioned various musical stories regarding Paul McCartney, The Beatles, T Bone Burnett, Tony Byrne, Jimmie Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. Reluctantly, he even rehashed the old SNL incident back in December 1977 that got him banned from the show for nearly 12 years. Additionally, he spoke of his favorite gigs played in Austin and the time they performed at the Armadillo Festival in 1978.

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To much delight, Costello was also very open and willing to share the more personal stories of his past about family, his love and lust for women, or the curse of memory. Costello mentioned that memory, and the fear of losing memory, were two strong factors that compelled him to write the book. He discussed the long process of writing his autobiography and how the process was simplified with the patient support of his wife through her assistance to help organize old memories. Many of his relatives, he said, suffered dementia and Costello didn’t want any memories stolen away in the event that time or health altered his mind. Unafraid to go behind-the-scenes and express life offstage, it was interesting to listen to him speak about how he’s changed over several decades from when he began his musical career as a young man in his 20’s until now in his 60’s. I wanted my stories to be told by me, in accuracy. I didn’t want them retold in a way that didn’t hold true to my life,” he stated to Evan Smith.

In regards to Elvis Costello’s past, the topic of family and his memories of childhood were predominant, reoccurring themes throughout the interview. Many old photographs of times past were presented on a large screen, even a heartfelt video of his father performing live on television and dancing on stage whilst singing “If I Had A Hammer”. Elvis Costellospoke fondly about both his parents and there was great love and adoration in his voice when he shared old memories and his love for family. Nonetheless, there was a huge emphasis on his father, Ross McManus, a well-known musician and trumpet player. In fact, Costello made a point to inform the audience that October 20th, that very day, was indeed his father’s birthday. A particularly poignant memory of childhood included Costello telling the audience how he peeked around the back of the TV as a small boy to see if he might find his father behind the machine, only to realize that his dad was on stage in a studio. I found those sorts of memories to be the most endearing because only a child could think someone or something could transform into a miniature size and fit inside a TV. Costello’s honesty and his ability to tell old memories as if he were reliving it that very moment humanized his life story and made the interview all the more refreshing to hear.

Growing up in a house of music, all my life I’d heard the name ‘Elvis Costello’ and I knew he was a musician, singer-songwriter and record producer from England. I knew he’d been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I knew he’d been to Austin many times to perform. The city of Austin has always loved hosting Elvis Costello shows and over the past 20 years: I’d seen his name printed all over line-ups in the press. But to be quite frank, I really had no idea how in-depth his career was or how influential he was until this interview and until I began reading his memoir. Not only did I walk away that night learning and absorbing new insights about a famous musician born in Europe. That evening I became an Elvis Costello enthusiast. Just listening to the stories during the interview had me intrigued, eager to finish the rest of his book I’d only obtained one day prior to the event. However, the moment when he surprised us with live music and began to play “Everyday I Write the Book” and I heard those lyrics for the first time only a few feet away from Elvis Costello in the flesh and blood: I felt a strong connection to the music. I wanted to hear more. My heart was so deeply moved by the words in his lyrics that it almost made me want to cry, in a good way. Since then I’ve started to read many of his lyrics and it’s clear to me now why he’s become a global success for 40 years. Elvis Costello is an artist whom posses a distinct voice and an edge. An artist that followed his heart and writes from the heart. A one-of-a-kind artist with innate gifts of articulation, imagination and passion. Gifts that cannot be taught nor bought.

Furthermore, Costello read a few chapters from his newly released memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. Ending the evening on a high note, that’s when he played a bit of live music for the audience. We even got a little history lesson about his guitar in-between songs. A short video of his performance that I recorded from my seat can be found here on YouTube: Elvis Costello playing music at Book People.

Elvis Costello’s memoir was released in October 2015. The nearly 700 page story hasn’t been on the bookshelves that long but it’s already receiving quite a bit of positive feedback and attention from the media. Posted verbatim on his official website, “Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis Costello was raised in London and Liverpool, grandson of a trumpet player on the White Star Line and son of a jazz musician who became a successful radio dance-band vocalist. Costello went into the family business and before he was twenty-four took the popular music world by storm. Costello continues to add to one of the most intriguing and extensive songbooks of our day. His performances have taken him from strumming a cardboard guitar in his parents’ front room to fronting a rock and roll band on our television screens and performing in the world’s greatest concert halls in a wild variety of company. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink describes how Costello’s career has endured for almost four decades through a combination of dumb luck and animal cunning, even managing the occasional absurd episode of pop stardom. This memoir, written entirely by Costello, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best-known songs and the hits of tomorrow. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame.”

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink can be purchased online or at your local bookstore. For more information regarding Elvis Costello, his book tour, list of albums or other miscellany: please visit the website at www.elviscostello.com.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know what love is. When you’re old enough to know better. When you find strange hands in your sweater. When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote. I’m a man with a mission in two or three editions. And I’m giving you a longing look. Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book. Chapter One we didn’t really get along. Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you. You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three. But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six. The way you walk. The way you talk, and try to kiss me, and laugh. In four or five paragraphs. All your compliments and your cutting remarks. Are captured here in my quotation marks. Don’t tell me you don’t know the difference. Between a lover and a fighter. With my pen and my electric typewriter. Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal. I’d still own the film rights and be working on the sequel… Everyday I write the book.” – Elvis Costello

Note: This story is originally published on Rank & Revue in July 2015.

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Tears of Diamonds & A Heart of Silver: The Legendary Bill Carter and The Blame

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Bill Carter. Photography by Pat Kondelis.

Walking into The High Road to see Bill Carter play music, I knew I would recognize him on stage but I was ambivalent whether or not he would recognize me in return. For six years at a distance, periodically on Wednesday nights I’ve seen and heard Bill Carter perform with other artists in the annex at Z Tejas on West 6th street in Austin, Texas. Everyone always loves the nights they perform at the Z, even the staff. Sometimes you cannot even get a seat because it’s so full. From a distance I noticed Mr. Carter always wore glasses, a hat of some sort, and I detected that he possessed a lot of tattoos on his hands and forearms with heavy-looking, silver and metallic jewelry adorning his wrists, fingers and neck. He looked like a rock star, and I always thought he must’ve been a cool cat to talk to. Come to think on it, I never actually had a direct conversation with Mr. Carter, or the band, even if polite hellos and friendly smiles were exchanged. Until today.

Stepping back in time a moment, there was one particular night at the Z when I was sitting at the edge of the bar, people watching. Musicians were on stage, silently setting up shop with their guitars, amps and other miscellany. Pretending to listen to my headphones and iPod so no one would bother me, when in actuality no music was playing at all. I heard a group of older men complimenting the musicians. Pointing out who Bill Carter was amongst the group, I also heard the men say that Johnny Depp once joined Carter on stage to play music at The Continental Club, which I found most interesting and exciting.

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 Finally, after six years of watching from the crowd, I set forth to interview Mr. Carter, and he was kind enough to oblige after the show at The High Road on March 14, 2015. Walking into the room for an early daytime show, behind the stage were giant glass windows that opened up to a swimming pool and a lovely view of downtown Austin. The sky was so blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Palm trees blowing in the wind. I was sitting and listening to Bill Carter’s first song – “Richest Man” – which almost made me cry, in a good way, and I had to fight the urge to show intense emotions of sadness and bittersweet nostalgia at the table before it’s even dusk. Something about the lyrics and the mood of this track reminded me of my favorite song by Bob Dylan titled “Boots of Spanish Leather”.

“If teardrops were diamonds from the African mines. If heartaches were silver.

My whole life would shine. And I’d be the richest man.

I’d be the richest man. In the world.” – Bill Carter

Right at that moment, I looked up the lyrics of Bill Carter’s song. I was reading the words as he was singing them at The High Road, something I had never done before at the Z. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had yet to do my research on his background – or even read his website – which I had intended to do later on in the day. Regardless, as I was reading his website off my iPhone and other various articles about him on the web while he music echoed in my heart and ears. Suddenly I realized just how gifted and innovative Bill Carter is within the world of songwriting and music. Suddenly I felt stupid for never having personally introduced myself to him before to show respect, artist to artist. Until then, I was unaware that I was in the presence of a legend, a keystone to the songwriting and music industry the past few decades. Even if I had known I was in the present of a talented musician.

According to his website, Bill Carter and The Blame has been a pillar of the Austin music scene for nearly three decades, helping shape the city’s rich musical history along with songwriting partner Ruth Ellsworth. Over 200 artists have found gold in the songwriting genius of this Texas Troubadour, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Palmer,The Counting Crows, Storyville, Omar and The Howlers, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Ruth Brown, John Anderson, and Waylon Jennings. Bill Carter and The Blame’s evolving lineup has hosted some of the world’s greatest musicians, including guitarists Charlie Sexton and Denny Freeman (Bob Dylan Band), Chris Layton (SRV Double Trouble), Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer), Mike Thompson (The Eagles), Johnny Depp, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer and many others. Carter is also a founding member of the famed Hollywood band “P” with Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers, Johnny Depp, and Sal Jenco. They released the eponymous album ‘P’ in 1995 on Capitol Records, featuring Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Flea, and Ruth Ellsworth.”

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Bill Carter and Johnny Depp on The Late Show with David Letterman.

As the show at The High Road came to an end, I was almost too timid to walk up to the stage to introduce myself and kindly ask for an interview once he broke down his equipment on stage. Though I am glad I mustered up the courage to make a proper introduction and ultimately write a story about this great artist. Secretly I was also relieved that he recognized me from Z Tejas, which made the introduction less intimidating.

Nicolette Mallow: From the perspective of a songwriter and musician performing in the official SXSW showcase, do you enjoy the festival and how have you seen it change over time?

Bill Carter: Yes. I think it’s great and I think it’s come full circle from how it all began. SXSW has evolved so much over the years. I’ve been in Austin since 1976 and when the first festival took place in 1987: it was predominantly local musicians and it was very small in comparison to what it’s become today, a million times bigger than the start. As time went by, more and more big names came into town, which was nice because it built the festival into something much more powerful. As time went by, however, it seemed to become more about mainstreams artists and less about the local music scene. Now it seems to be an infusion of both, and I am certainly happy to see more local artists performing this year. My wife (and songwriting partner, Ruth Ellsworth) and I first got involved with SXSW through our mutual love for songwriting. She and I have written hundreds of songs together. Honestly I identify most with being a songwriter and I prefer to be recognized as a songwriter more so than I like to be described as a musician or performer.

NM: Regarding the upcoming SXSW show at The Continental Club, which other musicians will be performing with you?

BC: Accompanying me that night will include artists like Will Sexton, Dony Wynn and Charlie Sexton.

NM: Is the Continental Club your favorite venue in Austin to perform at?

BC: (He smiles.) Yes. It is my favorite venue. Many of the venues I grew to love are now long gone. The original Antone’s on West 5th was another place I loved to play music but then it was relocated and it wasn’t the same. They are going to reopen a new Antone’s downtown and I am anxious to see what it is like and if it will have the same vibes as the original location.

My next question was more a question of curiosity. Even though I worried it might seem counterproductive to ask Carter about another artist in the few minutes I had to interview him. I couldn’t help but wonder about the Johnny Depp rumor. I formed a silly, girlish crush on Johnny Depp decades ago after the film “Cry Baby” came out in the 90’s when I was a kid and was saddened when suddenly every girl in the world had a crush on him, too.

NM: I remember hearing at Z Tejas that Johnny Depp once accompanied you on stage at The Continental Club for a musical performance. Is this true?

BC: Yes. I’ve been playing music with Johnny for decades. I’m the godfather of his children and he’s a great friend of mine. We once formed a band in the spur of the moment in the 1990’s called “P”. We were the headlining band for the Austin Music Awards for SXSW. Johnny was in Texas, nearby Austin, filming “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and he came into town for the gig. The band included Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers, Johnny Depp, Sal Jenco and I.

NM: You’ve won many awards and have obtained many prestigious recognitions, your career is remarkably full. I’m very impressed by all I’ve read and heard. Therefore I am curious, what aspect of your artistry and your career are the most rewarding and fulfilling?

There was a brief pause before he answered.

BC: Well, my wife and I have written so many songs together. Many of those songs we wrote have later on been covered by artists I respect and admire. Stevie Ray Vaughan covered our song “Crossfire” and Robert Palmer covered “Why Get Up”. To be acknowledged, appreciated and respected by great artists like these whom I esteem, value and respect has been the most rewarding and fulfilling aspect of my career. There was also one night on David Letterman I particularly enjoyed. Johnny Depp and I played “Anything Made Of Paper” together, which is a song my wife and I wrote. It’s about the West Memphis Three case. A case that involved three teenage boys who were accused of murder and placed in jail for life before they even hit adulthood. It’s a powerful story, check it out.

NM: Austin has changed so much in the 20 years I’ve lived here, off and on. Since you’ve been here so much longer than I, and have seen a lot more growth. Do you think you and your wife will stay in Austin with all the vast changes in the city?

BC: That’s a good question. The growth in Austin has been difficult for me over the decades. The venues changed. The music scene changed. The people changed. It used to be a funky, intermingled town that was quiet and serene with a booming music scene. It was cheap and easy to get around. It was so beautiful then. Around the late 80’s, maybe 1988 or 1989, that city died out and something else began to evolve. I’m sure you’ve seen the changes since the 1990’s. Even people who’ve only been here five years can see changes. Now there are 30 story buildings and it’s crowded, expensive and it’s just not the city that I came to know decades ago. I don’t know…I only come in town for shows. I am from Seattle and sometimes I think I would like to keep a place here, and have one there. But I really don’t know.

NM: My last question is a bit random, but is there a reason you’re only wearing two rings on the same fingers of each hand?

BC: (He laughed) Only because I didn’t feel like wearing the others. I own a lot of rings, cuffs and metalwork that I like to wear. It depends on the day or the mood I am in what I will wear. But there is one ring that I almost always wear, aside from my wedding ring. (He says as he extends his right hand). Johnny Depp gave me this ring when the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” was being filmed. It was the first ring made for the movie, and he told me that he wanted a new one made for him with a gold bandana and a pair of eyes made of rubies. So I got this one and I wear it everyday.

Be sure to catch Bill Carter at his upcoming SXSW performance at The Continental Club on South Congress from 11:00 PM to 11:40 PM on March 21, 2015. The official SXSW artist statement for Bill Carter entails the following: Legendary songwriter and Austin Music Hall of Fame inductee Bill Carter has been a pillar of the Austin music community for over three decades. His songs have been covered by over 200 artists from Waylon Jennings to Robert Palmer. Winner of an Austin Music Award for “Best Song of the Decade” and BMI’s Million-airs Award for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s only #1 hit “Crossfire” Carter and his world class band, The Blame, serve up a wicked stew of slyly crafted Americana. Look for a new album slated for release in 2015.”

For more information regarding Bill Carter, future shows and bookings – please visit his website at www.billcarterandtheblame.com.

Note: This story is originally published on Rank & Revue in July 2015.

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Viva la Vida: Mexic-Arte Museum honors Día de los Muertos festival for 32 years in Tejas

nicolette mallow

La Catrina drawn by unknown artist at The Mexic-Arte Museum. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

Since the doors first opened in 1984, the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin has celebrated thirty-two years of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities. This October the museum presents two seasonal exhibitions alongside its annual Viva la Vida festival featuring a grand procession, artist vendors, live music, and a grand sugar skull piñata float by local piñata artisans Monica and Sergio Lejarazu. The museum will also host a black-tie masquerade event known as the Catrina Ball that will debut at The Four Seasons Hotel.

The highlighted Día de los Muertos exhibition at the Mexic-Arte Museum, Community Altars: Ofrendas Inspired from the States of Mexico, is located within the main gallery and contains nearly a dozen altars to honor the lives of loved ones who are deceased. Adorning the altars are flowers, crosses, candles, angels, framed photographs, flags, hand-cut paper, skulls and catrinas. Echoes of a film directed by Jim Hill, Llamar a los Muertos a Casa (Calling Home The Dead), are heard as guests walk about the rooms. In the very back of the exhibition there is a bench to sit and watch the movie about the villagers of Lake Pátzcuaro. And viewers can learn why it’s believed this land is a doorway to heaven.

nicolette mallow

Nicolette Mallow in La Catrina face paint at the Viva la Vida festival in October 2015.

Each altar represents the regional and cultural differences within diverse areas of Mexico, including the following states: Guanajuato, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Mexico D.F. and Coahuila. Admiring the similarities and dissimilarities between the altars is part of the appeal. Not a single altar is identical to another, and yet the holiday spirit Día de los Muertos is strong within every altar, unifying the exhibition at the Mexic-Arte museum.

In 2003, the 78th Legislature of the State of Texas awarded the Mexic-Arte Museum as the Official Mexican and Mexican American Art Museum of Texas. Also according to their website, “Día de los Muertos is an ancient, Mexican and Mexican American religious holiday with a historically rich tradition that integrates both pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is often celebrated in connection with the Catholic Holy Days of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (dates and length of the celebration vary by state or region). In the celebrants’ minds, the holiday is a time to honor and greet their deceased relatives and friends, who make the journey back from Mictlan (the underworld in Aztec culture) to be with the living each year. These days are a time for families and friends to gather in celebration of life and death, embracing the circle of life rather than loss and sorrow.

Standing in a room of altars that pay homage and respect to the dead, it might not seem like a place of love and light to those unfamiliar with Día de los Muertos. However, there is an undeniable force of love and life flowing throughout the rooms. An intense and evocative kind of love that can be seen and felt like standing next to a bonfire on a frigid moonless night. Looking at the altars one-by-one, imagining the time it took to make it all by hand. Thinking about the fact that massive quantities of people from all over the country designate the time and energy each year to create memorials. Memorials that signify and represent their memories towards family members or loved ones no longer living is indicative of their selflessness, loyalty and respect. It’s indicative of their devout love. It’s very moving to the heart and mind as guests walk from altar-to-altar; absorbing a sense of each person, or persons, revered at every altar by those still living. Unlike a tombstone that only states a name and dates of life, these large altars are unique to each family member and give viewers are stronger sense of personality. Books, jewelry, baskets of black beans, blankets, pottery, Marlboro cigarettes, bottles of tequila, and guitars; various items are placed throughout the altars, humanizing and personalizing the interests and pleasures of each person’s life.

Additionally, bright lights and vivacious colors illuminate the altars. Color and light are key elements in this exhibition at the Mexic-Arte Museum. Blue, red, pink, yellow, green and violet are prominent colors seen throughout the altars in the main gallery. Marigold flowers are one particular item of deeper significance seen at every altar. “Marigolds guide the spirits to their altars using their vibrant colors and scent. It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit the living during the celebration. Marigolds, or flowers in general, also represent the fragility of life. The marigold most commonly used in Día de los Muertos celebrations is the Targetes erecta or African Marigold, otherwise known as cempasúchil or flower of the dead.”

To view the history of thirty-one prior Día de los Muertos celebrations at the Mexic-Arte Museum, please venture to the annex gallery. Exhibitions will be on display through most of the autumnal season until mid-November. Please note the Viva la Vida festival is a daylong, eight-hour event open to the public on October 31, 2015. Tickets to the Catrina Ball on October 17, 2015 can be purchased online. For more information regarding upcoming events, exhibitions, admission, memberships and hours of operation, please visit www.mexic-artemuseum.org or call 512-480-9373.

¡Viva Mexico & Tejas!

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in October 2015. 

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1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats are mascots of the night in ATX

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Amethyst Bridge Bat pendant by Franzetti Jewelers.

Overlooking Lady Bird Lake within Austin, Texas (ATX); Congress Bridge is a home for      1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. For decades bats have established themselves as one of the local and beloved mascots in ATX. And it was discovered in the 1980’s that these Mexican free-tailed bats eat millions of pounds of insects a night, including agricultural pests, ultimately providing many benefits to the city, its residents and the ecosystem.   Plus our bats are terribly endearing to the eyes and it’s kind of nice to know these nocturnal creatures are embarking on hunting flights in masses to run their little errands of the night as a great deal of the city is sound asleep.  

These bats have now become a major tourist attraction from the months of March to November. From afar they are safe and harmless with no interest in humans. But do not touch or handle one, and certainly do not trap or hunt any. The bats are only to be admired and adored from a safe distance by land or water. Visitors may even want to bring a red light past dusk. Mexican free-tailed bats are small enough to fit in your hand, but large enough to easily be seen flying aloft in the sky in mass quantities. These bats fly differently than any bird, and sometimes it looks like they are flying in circles, so pay attention to their wings and shape to know when you’re in the presence of a bat.

Despite their nocturnal nature and dark coloring, bats aren’t always quiet or stealthy. Especially when they are leaving Congress bridge in millions. Sometimes they make a lot of cute and squeaky noises as they wake up and soar away from the bridge. The bats fly similarly to big butterflies and yet their wingspan looks nothing alike and they are less graceful. Fuzzy and soft with fur that is dark brown, large ears for its size and wings similar to Marvel Comics Batman logosthese migratory bats are born with “built-in GPS and night vision”.

Reflections of water cascading from Lady Bird Lake and the bright lights of downtownmany vivid photographs can be found online to see these bats hover, play and glide through the night sky in Austin. Every night during bat season, as time passes from sunset, to dusk, to twilight: people gather around Lady Bird Lake to see the atmosphere become consumed with gusts of bats pouring out of Congress Bridge. Departing in millions after sunset beneath Congress Bridge before the bats return back around dawn. Some people like to hang out on the bridge, but a boat is another fun option.

Fortunately there are many local boat tours and city-wide destinations to discover and experience the best viewings of these beauties. Capital Cruises Internationally Famous Bat Watching Tour is a good choice and I have attended once, even thought I am a local Austinite of 20+ years. The tour only cost $10 and they take out a infrared light that glows colors of reds into the sky. Making it quite easy for the human eye to capture the live visuals of millions of bats pouring out together in droves. For locals and visitors alike, it’s a remarkable sight to see! Sitting on an electronic boat, watching the bats can be rather hypnotizing and exhilarating to watch. As if the bats are putting on a show for us all, without any of the cruelty of a standard zoo or a traveling animal circus. However I do recommend choosing the covered boat as these bats are just waking from a deep sleep.

According to Bat Conservation International, “When engineers reconstructed the Congress Avenue Bridge in 1980 they had no idea that new crevices beneath the bridge would make an ideal bat roost. Although bats had lived there for years, it was headline news when they suddenly began moving in by the thousands. Reacting in fear and ignorance, many people petitioned to have the bat colony eradicated. About that time, Merlin Tuttle brought BCI to Austin and told the city the surprising truth: that bats are gentle and incredibly sophisticated animals; that bat-watchers have nothing to fear if they don’t try to handle bats; and that on the nightly flights out from under the bridge, the Austin bats eat from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests. As the city came to appreciate its bats, the population under the Congress Avenue Bridge grew to be the largest urban bat colony in North America. With up to 1.5 million bats spiraling into the summer skies, Austin now has one of the most unusual and fascinating tourist attractions anywhere.”

In 2007, the city of Austin changed the name of the reservoir running beneath Ann W. Richards Congress Bridge from Town Lake to Lady Bird Lake. The name change was a controversy in-and-of itself as the Former First Lady of the United States, nicknamed Lady Bird Johnson, was against the idea of naming this lake after her and wished for it to remain as is. However, when she passed away the city opted to change the reservoirs name in honor of all the hard work, dedication and endless support that Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson bestowed upon the state of Texas. Particularly her involvement with the Town Lake Beautification Project in Austin: the state capital of The Lone Star State.

Thankfully these special and unique Mexican bats living on Lady Bird Lake beneath Congress Bridge are forever protected by the city, solely because of individuals like Lady Bird Johnson and Merlin Tuttle. However, Austin’s love for bats exceeds far beyond Congress Bridge. Bat-related art and merchandise can be found all over the city at many local gift shops. Franzetti Jewelers is a perfect example of a local company that has taken a mascot of the city and turned it into beautiful jewelry. Designing necklaces, rings and pendants; Franzetti Jewelers offers silver and gold, bat-inspired jewelry with stones of garnet, blue topaz, citrine, peridot, onyx, amethyst, smoky quartz and white quartz.

For more information regarding the Mexican free-tail bats of Austin and the best times to find them this summer and fall under Congress Bridge, please consult www.batcon.org.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in July 2015.

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Art by Eya: Dreamscape artist and local Texan beautifies the city of Austin

Nicolette Mallow

“Tiger Lady” by Eya Floyd.

Born and raised in Austin, TexasEya Claire Floyd is an artist and local Texan whose work is found at many local artisans fairs and retail boutiques around town. Creating whimsical,  introspective and playful pieces that illuminate the room with their vibrant colors. There is something magical about Eya’s work, too. Intertwining nature, animals and people in a mystical way that could only happen in our dreamssuch as a bird with a woman’s head or a fierce tiger with giant wings like an Egyptian deity it seems as if her characters are shape shifting at times. Transforming into creatures that appear in fantasies or myths and not reality. Many of the characters within Floyd’s art pieces also seem to be floating in time and space – adding to the allure of the dreamscape theme.

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Floyd’s ability to integrate a plethora of fanciful creatures, nature and scenery into her pieces is endless, just like her imagination. Would you like dinosaurs digging in the sand? She’s got it. A monkey riding the back of a dragon? She’s got that, too. Or maybe you need a bird girl carrying a red heart in her claws. There is something for everybody’s taste.

The paintings and illustrations she designs are so beautifully simplistic and yet so intricately detailed – it leaves the eyes with an equal sense of peace and excitement. Another positive trait about her art is that it’s beloved by audiences of all ages: children and adults. A lot of her artwork is reminiscent of childhood with its light-hearted spirit, and yet other pieces are adult-oriented. The universal aesthetics withn her work evokes endearing emotions of love, humor and happiness whilst admiring Eya’s artwork.

Nicolette Mallow: Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with the Austin art scene and the local community?

Eya Floyd: My first exhibition as an adult was in the 1990’s and since then I have been creating and showcasing my art, mostly paintings. I find painting to be the most challenging and I think that’s why I like it so much. But I also like to create ceramic sculptures. Regardless, last year I assisted the group SprATX in an outdoor mural at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. The mural was then featured in a full-spread on the inside, back cover of a book, “Hope Outdoor Gallery: Lost and Found Volume I”. Recently I also became involved with Little Artist Big Artist and that has been very rewarding to me, too.

NM: Your booth displays at art fairs always showcase a ton of items to purchase far beyond paintings. What are your best-selling pieces?

EF: Yes, in addition to a mass amounts of prints and paintings in various sizes that I do sell. A lot of my art I’ve turned into various forms of merchandise: pendants for necklaces, coin purses, bags, matchboxes, magnets, postcards and temporary tattoos. My best sellers are certainly my necklaces, the temporary tattoos and the miniature prints that I’ve framed. People love miniature art.

NM: You are well known and appreciated by the locals for participating in so many artisan fairs and art shows around town. Will you be partaking in any upcoming art-related events?

EF: Yes. On August 8, 2015 I will be at the Austin Flea, hosted by The Highball adjacent to Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. And on August 16th, next month I will have a booth set-up at East Side Pop Up, a traveling art showcase that primarily supports local artists in Austin.

For more information regarding Eya Floyd’s artwork, please refer to EyaClaire on Etsy or Art by Eya on Facebook. Floyd’s artwork can be also found in various shops in Austin, Texas such as A-Town on Burnet Road, or Prima Dora on South Congress. SprATX Street Art Collective also carries her art in their east side gallery.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in July 2015. 

Examiner.com shut down its website

nicolette mallow, examiner.com

Nicolette Mallow’s Writer’s Bio from Examiner.com.

Examiner.com has closed their media platform after several years. I worked for Examiner as a contract writer from July 2015 to July 2016, and my area of assignment was to cover Arts & Entertainment. Since Examiner.com’s website no longer exists and has faded into the dark abyss of the internet, all of my stories are gone. That is the bad news. However, the good news is that since I own the rights to all my stories and interviews: I will be reposting each story here on my website, one-by-one. Hooray! To begin, I wanted to trail back to the beginning. And this first post is an accumulation of screen shots from the original website of my Writer’s Bio that contained a list of my publications. I will begin reposting the stories from last year to present day, the order in which they were written as posted on Examiner.com.

I will miss writing for Examiner.com and was very saddened that it came to an abrupt end, but I look forward to a new literary adventure and many more wonderful stories.

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