Interview: James White talks 54 years at the Broken Spoke

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Broken Spoke marquis. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

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 2018, over 54 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, CBS News, Texas Monthly, the Smithsonian and more; Broken Spoke is a historical landmark. The Spoke has showcased talent like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Garth Brooks, the Derailers, Dale Watson, Alvin Crow, Weldon Henson and the list keeps going for decades. Many artists, icons and celebrities from all over have entered the front doors including Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino. Hundreds of old and modern photographs catalog the years within Broken Spoke’s Hall of Fame.

The Broken Spoke is owned and operated by James and Annetta White (his wife). The two met at a dance hall in 1961 when she caught his eye and have been married 51 years. Annetta and her husband have worked together for decades to keep the 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. 

A lot of people ask me where I met my wife. Well, I met her at a honky tonk. There was an old dance hall in Oak Hill called the Sportsman Inn and I looked out on the dance floor and saw a pretty blonde lady dancing with a red dress on. It was a fast dance and she caught my attention. She caught me eye and I thought I’d ask that girl to dance. That’s where it all started right there.” – James White

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Photo collage of Broken Spoke photographs featuring Willie Nelson, James White, Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood, Garth Brooks and Annetta White.

Walking into the Broken Spoke is like stepping back in time. Once you enter this classic Texas dance hall and see all of the antique photos from decades past, an intense feeling of nostalgia rushes over and fills the air. It looks exactly as it did when the doors opened in 1964. There is so much eye candy to choose from: a horse saddle, photographs, flags, neon lights, posters, woodwork and of course the dance hall. A replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar Trigger can be found at the Broken Spoke, too. As a Texas girl that’s driven by the Broken Spoke since the 1990’s and enjoyed libations as an adult, I was really excited to finally learn more about this dance hall and the reputable James White.

In May 2018, James White consented to an interview with me. I met him at the Broken Spoke on a weekday around lunch. He and I sat at table B2, which I came to found out is the same table where Willie Nelson and his wife Annie would frequent when they were regular visitors at the Spoke. I went to Lake Travis High School with Willie Nelson’s nephew, Trevor, so it was even more thrilling to be sitting in country western history.

Wearing a UT button-up shirt, a red baseball cap, gold watch and horseshoe ring made of diamonds, James White took me back to the beginning and covered as much history about the Broken Spoke as we could in one hour. Unlike most interviews, White naturally guided the majority of the dialogue exchange. I was simply a listener to keep the story on course, interjecting with questions along the way if things got off track. Before the interview began, White asked me if he could start at the beginning and then jump around in time wherever I wanted to. By listening, I could tell he had told this Texas story many times and it never gets old to tell, or to hear. [He insisted that I record the interview and I posted the audio online in a two-part segment via YouTube.]

James White: 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. In my mind, I had a list of different names in my head. When I got to thinking about Broken Spoke I was thinking about wagon wheels and they were kind of rolling around in my brain. And then I remembered this old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Broken Arrow” and I said hell, I’ll just find me a couple wagon wheels, I’ll knock a spoke out and I put one on each side of the door coming in and I named it the Broken Spoke. And I never looked back.

Volunteers made the Spoke by hand. A lot of heavy drinkers pitched in to build the Broken Spoke and one drunk man even fell off the roof. White had to open the doors a little early after running out of money, hence the modest five cases of beer. People even told White the business wouldn’t last six months, but he proved them wrong. It was about 20 years of hard work before the Broken Spoke became famous. Mr. White said it was many years of 16 hour days tending bar, seven days a week. The Broken Spoke is his life’s work and there is a ton of heart and soul poured into this building. 

Music, dance and cold drinks are the focus of this honky tonk, but there is also a strong sense of community and love. The Spoke has been described as “the country western version of Cheers” and it’s become part of Texas history within the arts. Many local Austinites or younger generations don’t know the intricate history of the Broken Spoke. I certainly didn’t and I’ve been here off-and-on since the 1990’s. So, after White’s introduction as to what inspired him to build and create the Broken Spoke. I asked him to tell me more about table B2: Willie Nelson’s table. Willie is one of the most notorious artists to perform at the Broken Spoke and it all starts back in the 1960’s. 

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A replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar “Trigger” and Table B2. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

JW: I first booked Willie Nelson in 1967. I booked Willie Nelson and The Record Men for $800. He had short hair, he was clean shaven and wore either a turtle neck, a vest or a sports coat. But he’s still the Willie Nelson you see today. His people love to see the one picture of Willie hanging on the wall, and he’s got a copy in his office too: the photo of he and I on stage at Broken Spoke when I first booked him back in the 60’s. He and I have always been friends. Willie has friends all over the world but he always remembers the Broken Spoke. He always comes back every chance he gets… Anyway, when Willie had a tax problem in 1990 and owed $16.5 million: my wife and I were sitting around and we got mad because we heard the IRS took all his pictures and they took all of his awards off the wall and put them up for auction. I didn’t think it was right to take his pictures, gold records, platinum records—and so we thought we’d take a collection and give it to Willie because they’d taken everything he owned. So I got a gallon pickle jar and put it on the bar and put a sign on it “Where there’s a Willie there’s a way”. Willie heard about it and called me up from Hawaii and thanked me. Meanwhile we had a fundraiser for Willie and I sent the money over to Hawaii by way of his daughter, Lana Nelson. His family said Willie talked about the fundraiser all day long and was very excited about it. He called me again and said “thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m gonna come home for Christmas, and I’m going to bring my band, I’m going to eat some chicken fried steak, drink a cold beer, and I wanna do a little picking (at the Broken Spoke) and I’ll bring some friends with me”. And that’s when a lot of local country artists who knew Willie wanted to get involved. Some nights you never forget. He never asked for money, I did it from the heart. And he thanked me from the heart and he came out and played all night. That was in 1990… So we raised some money and I gave him every letter I received from Associated Press, they ran the story all over the world. We started getting money from Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Birmingham jail and Indian reservations… I never got one bad letter about Willie. All of them were complimentary and even if the donation was $1, Willie autographed every check as a thank you.

After he told me about the fundraiser, James White proceeded to share a song he wrote with Gary P. Nunn called “Where there’s a Willie, there’s a way”. Their song can be heard sung a cappella by Mr. White in Part One of the interview around the 18:00 minute mark. It’s rather clever and has a Willie Nelson-esque melody to it.

Suddenly, as I intended to shift gears from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton. Her music serendipitously came on the jukebox and you can Dolly’s voice in the background. A series of her songs played at that perfect moment like the classic “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You.” Echoing in the background, it was a most befitting and true country, western moment in Texas. Back in 1987, Dolly Parton came out to the Broken Spoke to film “Wild Texas Nights” and James White even got to utter a few lines in the filming. There is a charming photo of Dolly Parton on display at Broken Spoke that many people love to photograph.

Bouncing around in time, James White talked to me about the booking process, musicians, family and the architecture of the Broken Spoke. It’s an older building that has a lot of character and endearing oddities. However, White mentions that perhaps if he built it today there would’ve been some changes, like installing larger bathrooms. Nevertheless, there is something beautiful about keeping history locked in a time capsule. Especially in a city like Austin where it’s losing a lot of its originality with the modern times. Broken Spoke has withstood all the changes in Austin and still stands strong with many more memories of live music and dancing to come. 

Over the years, there is one character that all regulars know about and that would be Rowdy. He never leaves the Broken Spoke and has never performed on stage. He doesn’t speak either but Rowdy sits at one of the tables with his sunglasses, bandana, blue jeans and he’s quite the ladies man. Sometimes people like to dance with him, too. Wait, did I mention Rowdy is a dummy?

JW: Rowdy’s skull has a crack now because people keep dropping him on something, or some drunk wants to dance with him or move him around. His knuckles are broken off right here. One time I used to write a newsletter. I talk about Rowdy like he’s a real person, like a living thing. People ask me where I got him and I tell ’em I picked Rowdy up hitchhiking out on 620. So I gave him a ride to the Broken Spoke and now he don’t want to leave and is here at the bar 24/7. When I pulled up to stoplights back then people would look at him, and I’d never do nothing I’d just stare straight ahead, but I knew they was looking at him. Rowdy is a funny guy. When they stole my dad’s silver saddle—the only thing funny in the whole thing (was Rowdy). After it took 14 days to get the saddle back. The first cop on the scene crawled in the same window as the burglars did and he came in and he said, “I almost shot Rowdy!” And I said “I wish you would have because he’d look cool with some powder burns”. But yeah Rowdy just sat there and didn’t say nothing and let them steal the saddle. So anyway when Rowdy broke his knuckles off, we were going to glue them back on. I’m writing about it in this newsletter (for the Broken Spoke) like he’s a person. And I wrote “hell, Rowdy broke off a few of his fingers and they fell onto the floor and the waitress swept it up and thought it was a dill pickle and threw it in the dumpster. When I heard about it I had to send the waitress out to retrieve his fingers out of the dumpster so we could glue them back on”. Soon after this waitress’ sister in a different city said “What kind of place are you working where people are breaking fingers off and gluing them on?” She thought it was a real story. 

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Rowdy reading the newspaper at Broken Spoke. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

At the end of our interview, I asked James White if out of all the press coverage and all the years of memories, did anything stand out most? It was a tough question to answer and he drifted in time a bit, but eventually it all came back full circle to Texas Highways.

JW: 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.

To hear more about Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, the beer drinkers that built the Broken Spoke for free and much more, please check out the interviews in full on YouTubehttps://www.brokenspokeaustintx.net

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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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Greta Gerwig breaks speciality box office records with her Directorial debut ‘Lady Bird’

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Greta Gerwig. Imagery provided by Sunshine Sachs/Photography by Jack Plunkett.

Last month I was commissioned by an editor in Hollywood to interview Greta Gerwig on the red carpet prior to the screening of her film Lady Bird at the Austin Film Festival in Texas on October 26, 2017. The interview was published by The Hollywood Reporter. I loved the film and it was a pleasure to interview Greta Gerwig. She was a smart, kind & articulate artist to interview. Therefore I was not surprised when I read this week that Lady Bird broke box office records. 

“Lady Bird opened to limited audiences its first weekend, showing in four locations (making it a specialty box office release).” According to Jezebel “it blew past typical ticket sales for smaller box office openings of its kind, grossing $375,612 in fourtheaters, with a theater average of $93,903. That makes it the best speciality box office opening of 2017. For context, look at the numbers of comparable first weekend openings this year: Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled earned an average $64,160 per theater in four locations the first weekend and The Big Sick grossed roughly $82,800 per theater it’s opening weekend in five locations. And, as IndieWire points out, since Katheryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty grossed roughly $83,430 per theater in five locations back in 2012, that makes Lady Bird the best ever limited debut for a movie directed by a woman. Since Lady Bird has already exceeded box office expectations, it will be interesting to see how well it does when it opens in more theaters during the next few months. And considering the rave reviews and ticket sales, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film lands several nominations around Oscar time, including Gerwig for best director.” 

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Known to most as an actress, Greta Gerwig has been part of the film industry in a multitude of roles both on-camera and behind the scenes during the last 10 years: acting, writing, producing and directing. Within her recent film Lady Bird, Gerwig showcased her directorial debut as the exclusive writer and director.  When I asked her at the red carpet when she knew she was ready to direct a solo project Gerwig stated“It was a very long process of writing the script but once I finished writing. I felt like it was the moment I had been working toward for 10 years and I’d always wanted to direct. And I thought, this is the moment, this is when you do it. I don’t know that you ever quite feel ready, but I think I felt like, enough is enough. You’ve got enough training. Go for it.” 

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Gerwig’s movie has traveled to festivals all around the world, receiving accolades and high praises along the way. Lady Bird is a comedy about a young girl in Sacramento named Christine. She refers to herself as Lady Bird. It’s also a semi-autobiographical story about Greta Gerwig. The story revolves around Lady Bird’s senior year at a Catholic high school, figuring out how to leave home to pursue her life dreams in NYC because (she thinks) she hates California, only to realize how beautiful it is upon leaving. Lady Bird is a charming, evocative and beautifully stitched together film with hilariously clever dialogue. Gerwig really captures the melancholy, vibrant spirit of youth and the bond between mother and daughter. 

To read more about Lady Bird and to watch the trailers, please visit the official Facebook page of the film at https://www.facebook.com/ladybirdmovie/

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West Coast artist Raven Felix will perform at 2017 Euphoria Music Festival in Texas

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Raven Felix. Photography provided by 740 Project. 

Born in The Valley of Los Angeles, Raven Felix is an artist best known for her music and this year she will be performing at the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival held at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. A Latina from the West Coast, she began her exciting music career at a young age after being signed-on by Snoop Dogg at 18. Raven was discovered after posting music videos on World Star hip hop and that’s when Snoop Dogg took notice of her talent while he was in Amsterdam. Raven Felix is also a member of the entertainment company, Taylor Gang, as is Wiz Khalifa, and the two artists will both be performing (separately) at Euphoria Music Festival in Texas. Even more exciting for us all, even though this isn’t Raven’s first rodeo in the spotlight or on stage—it will be her first time to showcase her music in Texas. Ravens’s performance at Euphoria on Friday, April 7, 2017 marks Raven’s first ever show or festival held in Austin, Texas. 

Prior to my phone interview with Raven, I did not get to meet her in person. But through the photographs and music videos on social media: I noticed her strong voice, her dark brown hair that resembles silk, luminous skin, big brown eyes and how she always seems to have a chic manicure. Raven Felix is facing a successful future and a vivacious career in music, and she’s off to a great start. She is not only talented at rap and hip hop, modeling and music videos—Raven is also a writer and you can find some of her poetry online. Writing is something she has been doing since she was a child and holds very dear to her heart. 

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Photo of Raven Felix’s hands from her music video “6 in the Morning” feat. Snoog Dogg.

Nicolette Mallow: Here in Texas we have an area called The Valley near the border and it’s much different than LA. I heard on a radio interview with Power 106 that part of what motivates and inspires you to excel in your career is to pave the way and make a lane for younger girls, especially the young Latinas back home in The Valley… Giving back to the community is important and I am also a Latina. So I am curious to hear about The Valley and I was wondering if you’d tell me more about life in the valley for young girls?

Raven Felix: Everyone in The Valley is super close and it’s a tight-knit community. It also encompasses a large portion of the Hispanic/Latino population in LA. There is a lot of backyard parties and a lot of shows. It’s a really interesting place to be and I certainly grew up partying, too. A huge part of the culture in The Valley is community, art and entertainment. 

Nicolette: The music video for “Hit The Gas” with Snoop Dogg and Nef the Pharaoh looked like it was a lot of fun for the cast and crew to film… I also saw the video “6 In The Morning” … Will you tell me about how  you came to sign and work directly with Snoop Dogg after he found you on World Star at the age of 18?

Raven: It all happened fairly quick. I think I started putting out videos on World Star when I was 17. And when I was 18, he was in Amsterdam and saw me online and thought my tracks were dope and wanted to be involved. So, he found me and my people, and I feel very lucky. After that, all of a sudden we are making music a month or two later.

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Nicolette: What was it like touring with  with Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa during “The High Road” tour in 2016?

Raven: I think for me it’s just a blessing to even have these huge artists that are insanely talented as my friends and colleagues. They are monsters of artists with amazing careers and to be involved with me. It’s definitely cool. And we all bring different songs and styles to the mix. Tour was amazing in general. 

Nicolette: I read one of your poems on Instagram. And I liked your line in the track “Me” when you say “Tell ‘em kiss it like I was your Bible”… How long have you been writing?

Raven: Well I’ve been writing since I was a kid, really ever since I could write. I wrote. But I think middle school is when I really started being interested. I had notebooks in drawers and boxes of handwritten notes. I still really very much want to branch out into writing novels, poetry, screenplays and scripts. Poetry, for me, is something that is a completely different outlet than my music. I keep it separate and I think its something that relaxes me. If I am having a road block. I think poetry can be my outlet. Writing is important to me and I seek to become a multifaceted artist as I move forward in my career. I can do much more than rap and sing on stage, which is dope. Writing is just one of many things like modeling, acting and other art forms I would love to explore in the future. 

Nicolette: I read the interview with VIBE that stated your top female artists are Eve, Missy Elliot and Nicki Minaj.. I recall listening to “Love is Blind” a lot as a teenager, dancing to Missy Elliot in college and playing Nicki’s track “I Lied” a lot while I lived in Ireland… Will you share a little about how these artists inspired you and your musical craft?

Raven: Nicki Minaj is the biggest inspiration to me out of all three women. I am 21 and so when I was in high school. I think I was in 9th grade. I had a mixed tape of hers and it was so hard and so dope. I fell in love with her then because I had never really heard an artist like her during my era, growing up. I heard a lot of rock and alternative stuff as a child because of my mother. So when people turned me onto Nicki and opened up doors for me to discover others like Eve and Missy Elliot, it’s amazing to hear all these talented women.

Nicolette: I read Southern Comfort was your first drink. What’s your poison (choice of alcoholic beverage) these days?

Raven: I usually switch back and forth between Bombay and Hennessy. Wiz and them from Taylor gang really like gin. At first I hated gin, but like now I really enjoy it. 

Nicolette: So when you aren’t touring or traveling for work, which sounds like a lot of fun. What do you do for fun and leisure with such a lively schedule?

Raven: I love being able to travel and do all this stuff for work. But I was just in London for Christmas for leisure. Just for me. Just for fun. So yeah, I love to be on the road and being on tour, but when I get to be home. I spend a lot of time with my mom and it centers me and keeps me grounded. She is my best friend and spending time with her is important; being near my mother relaxes me. I also like to keep in touch and be around my west coast friends that I grew up with in The Valley. The ones that cared about me from the start. Because, often we got lost and lose track of time out on the road. Coming home, back to your roots, it’s important for my friends to know that I’m still the same person they always knew and loved—and they’re just as important to me as always. 

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To purchase tickets to the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival to hear Raven Felix and 70 other artists in Austin, Texas please visit www.euphoriafest.com

ill-ēsha: Canadian musician, producer, songwriter and vocalist will perform at 2017 Euphoria Music Festival in ATX

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Recently I had the pleasure to interview ill-ēsha. Music producer, vocalist, songwriter composer, DJ, musician and more; ill-ēsha radiates artistic talent and the more I read her artist’s bio. It was very clear what a vast range of art forms within various industries that her skills could be applied to. On April 9, 2017—ill-ēsha will be performing at the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. Euphoria Music Festival is showcasing over 70 artists this year and even though ill-ēsha has visited ATX many times for festivals like SXSW and feels at home in the capital of Texas. This will be her first show at Euphoria and Austinites are delighted. 

Formally known as Elysha Zaide and casually known as Elle, “Vancouver-born and Colorado-based music producer, artist and DJ ill-ēsha has crafted a long-standing soundscape of electronic bass music throughout her career, continuously evolving her musical stylings and bridging gaps between hip-hop, dubstep, R&B and future bass music. Ill-ēsha is recognized as an extremely rare and diverse, burgeoning artist in the EDM scene, as her live set showcases her incredible talent to sing, DJ, and simultaneously rock her keytar. She is one of few electronic artists to blossom throughout the progression of different musical trends while still focusing on her artistic vision and authenticity. Constantly evolving a dynamic stage show, ill-ēsha is a perfect example of electronic music’s transition towards live instrumentation and indie pop sensibility.”

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Nicolette Mallow: You have one of the most interesting music backgrounds out of all the composers I’ve interviewed. Your skills are so vast and you’re so musically gifted. A producer, DJ, vocalist, composer, songwriter and more. I loved reading your Bio… Did you always know you wanted to make music? Or did music and the arts choose you? 

ill-ēsha: I was always very drawn to many different forms of art. As much as I loved music. I was also into theater arts and that was a potential path for me. Even in high school when I was already DJ’ing, I also partook in a theater company and visual art. Performing arts was my artistic expression for a long time. But yes, I’ve had a tendency towards the arts since I was a kid. I was born into a  family with lots of artists. 

NM: I read you love classical, world jazz and cinematic music—and that you completed Royal Conservatory piano training. That program sounds so fancy and challenging. Is this where you began to learn music?

ill-ēsha: (she laughed) Well, it sounds fancier than it is. It’s just another method to learn music, like the Suziki method. Royal Conservatory is simply one of many systems similar to a competitive sport or grade levels. The more you learn and excel at each level you pass on to the next. My mother was passionate about piano and she always wanted to play. I began taking lessons at 4 years old. I continued to take piano classes until I was 12.

NM: You have a spectacular voice. I loved the demos, especially the animation video… How did all this begin? Can you tell me a little about Speech Level Singing?

ill-ēsha: Seth Riggs created Speech Level Singing (SLS) in the late 70’s. It was a school of thought to help train vocal muscles. Artists like Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin studied it. Since I am a self-taught vocalist after years and years of rigorous piano. In my 20’s I got into Speech Level Singing to learn how to control my breath better. SLS was sort of a style that purely worked out your vocal chords. It appealed to me because I am not jazz or an opera singer. I’m not an Ariana Grande or Celine Dion with a big, booming voice. I am a musician of all types, not just vocals. Once you have a voice: you go all directions developing it and SLS was a way of developing mine. 

NM: What did it feel like to place in the top 3 finalists for The John Lennon International Songwriting Contest?

ill-ēsha: That was a long time ago, but the coolest thing about that award is I was given a few hundred dollars and I used it to buy my first Serato. (A DJ program with turntables and a laptop.) Up until then everything was pure vinyl, so, thank you John Lennon Songwriting Contest for helping me buy my first Serato. But yeah, songwriting is something else that I do. My roots is songwriting. 

NM: What is the title of the lyrics you wrote and submitted for the contest?

ill-ēsha: “Broken Windows”. 

NM: Vancouver is your hometown and I hear it is beautiful. I hope to visit Canada next year. Now that you’re based in Colorado, do you feel like it reminds you of Canada in any way? I would imagine it’s easy to miss the seaport of Vancouver but the climate in CO perhaps reminds you of home?

ill-ēsha: It’s 50/50. I love the mountain life in Colorado. Before I moved here, I lived in San Francisco. Honestly I considered moving to Austin because I love it so much there, too, but I chose Colorado. 

NM: Speaking of Austin, how did you come to be involved with Euphoria Music Festival? And what can we expect to enjoy during your live set at the festival? 

ill-ēsha: ATX is one of those cities that’s been supporting me for a long time, all the way back to my tracks with Gravitas. Over time I’ve interacted with most of the promoters. I feel very lucky to have played at SXSW and so many other venues. Austin has become a home for me. Really I was torn between Denver and Austin. Ultimately, the weather in CO won me over. But I love Texas and I feel like its one of my strongest markets. It’s very cool to be involved with the music scene in Austin… Euphoria is one of the first festival types I’ve performed, and I will be sharing a lot of new content. Anyone who sees me, even old fans, will have something new to look forward to. Over the years I have evolved. Now that I make so much music in the last few years. What I’ve found is that I want to divide the sets I do and remain conscious of the environment. Live shows are compelling and people enjoy festivals. But for instance, nightclub people want the DJ energy. They want to dance and they want the drum and bass. The booth is tall and people can’t see me or my live set up, they just hear me and my music. However, festivals are more intimate with an open stage. There are more live elements, like my keytar. I’ve been taking a lot of time in the studio to write, collaborate and create new art to suit the time and place of each set. 

NM: Will you tell me about your transition from DJ to headlining performer and Producer? I liked your quote about wanting to participate in the music and not just the culture. 

ill-ēsha: I’m not much of a bystander. I enjoy art from being part of the process. I love film but I don’t actually sit around for long periods of time watching movies. I want to score and write for them. I wanted to be part of it. I started off with singing and DJ’ing. I wanted to control beats and make music. The deeper I got into it, the more deeply I realized I wanted to be part of production… About 10 years ago was sort of the turning point. All in all I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, since I was really young. The first ten years were very much passion projects and you could really tour and do live shows. I worked other jobs, too, and went to college. Touring and other jobs helped pay off student loans. Right around 2008 or 2009, I started feeling discontent. I was not feeling inspired. So I decided to go back to music as contractor and post-production for TV shows and editing. I regenerated and began making a new style of music. It was fun and different. It wasn’t simply drum and bass. At that point I just kind of discovered new people without the pressure. Re-inspired an online chat forum and people became receptive and started signing it. And that’s when I moved to SF and production became a full time priority… Ultimately my passion project and my true underlying goal is to give back and inspire young creative people. I was sort of an angsty teenager. Bummed out by life. Music saved me. Being a mentor, a guide and to give connections to the young artists and young creatives means a lot to me. 

NM: What was it like touring with Bassnectar? I adore his track “Butterfly” featuring Mimi Page and listen to it all the time. 

ill-ēsha: Touring with Bassnectar was pretty magical. I feel so lucky I got to experience that. It was only a few Southern tour dates and New Year’s Eve shows. I loved it though! Bassnectar is a big symbol of my music scene. Bassnectar created the west coast music sound within the DJ world. It was an honor to get to open for him. This is the guy who took it from A to Z.

NM: Last question, listening to your music on SoundCloud I heard a track called “Ghostwriter” with opening audio talking about computer hacking. Why did you choose to write about a computer hacker? 

ill-ēsha: In the 1990’s there was a children’s TV show called “Ghostwriter”. A lot of the samples in that track are from a single episode that I found to be cute. “Ghostwriter” was an educational kid’s show and that episode was about early internet. Teaching kids about hackers. At the time I was learning more about computers and I definitely enjoy digital nostalgia of different era’s because I’ve been through them all. As a child of cross generation analog and digital and I remember both… it’s always on my mind. 

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For more information about ill-ēsha:  please visit her website at www.ill-esha.com. To listen to samples of her music please visit ill-ēsha’s SoundCloud page at https://soundcloud.com/ill-esha

Euphoria Music Festival releases line-up for April 2017 featuring 70 artists

 

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Photography provided by Euphoria Music Festival.

Euphoria will be hosting its sixth annual music, camping and community festival at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas from Apr. 6-9, 2017. Founded by Mitch Morales, the 2017 festival includes headliners like Chromeo, Knife Party, Moby (DJ set), Oliver Heldens, Post Malone, The Disco Biscuits, Wiz Khalifa, Zeds Dead and much more. Bringing the sum total of the line-up to 70. Recently a public relations member of Euphoria contacted writer, Nicolette Mallow, to share the good news about the upcoming music festival. 

*** For Immediate Release ***

Austin, Texas –  Following two dynamic phases of artist announcements, Euphoria Music Festival has revealed the third and final phase and completed its lineup for the sixth annual event on April 6 – 9, 2017 and with it, the Official 2017 lineup movie. Already earning considerable buzz with its first two phases for 2017, Euphoria is closing out the year strong with what promises to be the best lineup yet, including new additions: Chromeo; Knife Party; Moby (DJ set); Oliver Heldens; Post Malone; Auto Body; Bakermat (Live); Lost Kings; Russ; Chet Porter; FKJ; Minnesota; Prince Fox; Turkuaz; Eric Dingus; Forgotten Space; Magna Carda; Melvv; Montu; Abe Masaryk; Resonant Frequency; Thoreau; and Whereisalex.

With this latest announcement, Euphoria now boasts a lineup of over 70 artists from around the globe and it’s own backyard, including headliners: Alesso, Pretty Lights Live, Wiz Khalifa, Young Thug, Zeds Dead, The Disco Biscuits and The Floozies. Additional artists announced include: Alan Walker; BadBadNotGood; 2017 GRAMMY nominated artist, Bob Moses; Chronixx & Zincfence Redemption; The Knocks (Live); Mija; Papadosio; Spag Heddy; Yotto; CID; Codeko; Dr. Fresch; The Funk Hunters; Ganja White Night; Grum; Ill-Esha; Manic Focus; Petit Biscuit; Poolside; Raven Felix; Slaptop; Tennyson; Unlike Pluto; Asadi; Blunt Force; Brede; Capyac; Carlyle; Craetion; Evanoff; Flamingosis; Henna Rosso; Lemurian; Jamiroqueen; Maddy O’Neal; Medasin; Psymbionic; Sip Sip; Slice Gang; The Widdler and Willgood.

“From top to bottom, this is Euphoria’s most amazing lineup to date,” says festival producer Mitch Morales. “We have major players, institutions, exciting up-and-comers and even a GRAMMY nominee – all of which cross a multitude of genres, yet still reside within our euphoric musical vibe. I cannot wait to host our festival family, both new and old, again this April.”

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As the region’s largest independent music festival, Euphoria attracts over 50,000 fans each year, all while maintaining the qualities that land it on many annual Top 10 lists. Conveniently located just minutes from Downtown Austin, the multi-stage music and camping festival will return to Carson Creek Ranch on the banks of the Colorado River and offer world-class visuals, unique stage designs, artist workshops, interactive experiential installations, enhanced camping options and much more. In addition to the previously announced camping enhancements, direct shuttle service and added greening initiatives deemed “Ecophoria” – the festival will also be offering wedding ceremonies. Tapping into the power of music and community to evoke emotions and forge connections, Euphoria is creating a beautiful space for couples to celebrate their union. Full details can be found at www.euphoriafest.com/weddings.

General Admission passes are available now for $149, plus fees for a 3-Day festival pass and $249 for a 3-day festival pass with camping. 3-Day “Fly Life” VIP packages with preferred viewing areas, private bars, VIP restrooms and showers, concierge service, luggage drop off, and express entrance are available starting at $269 (without camping) and $419 with camping. The Early Entry pass, which allows Wednesday access for up to 2,500 fans is available for $30. Price will remain frozen, until December 16th. Euphoria will be continuing its partnership with Affirm, offering clear, simple financing to split Eventbrite orders into 3 or 6 monthly payments. This offers patrons the most flexible option yet for affording festival passes. Tickets are available online at www.euphoriafest.com. Euphoria is an ages 18 and over event.

Euphoria Music Festival is produced by Vivid Sound Entertainment. Visit www.euphoriafest.com for the most up-to-date information. Stay connected on Twitter at www.twitter.com/EuphoriaFest and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EuphoriaFest.

Official Euphoria 2016 Recap Video

 

Příliš hlučná samota: Production crew raises funds for film about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novel “Too Loud A Solitude”

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“My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” – Bohumil Hrabal

An imaginative production crew seeks to fundraise resources to launch a full-length feature film about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novel, Too Loud a Solitude.  Directed by Genevieve Anderson and starring Paul Giamatti as the voice of Hanta, Too Loud A Solitude (Příliš hlučná samota) is a feature adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal’s beloved book made with live action puppets, animated sequences and visual effects.

This globally famous novel is about a book crusher, Hanta. Watching the trailer of Too Loud A Solitude is like entering a magic portal to another dimension where Bohumil Hrabal’s book takes place in a world of puppetry.  An intimate, sneak peek to Hanta’s daily life and his private love affair with the books and their stories. A mirror reflection of Hrabal’s writing voice and how each book he created almost seems to be a personal letter written to each individual reader as opposed to the masses. As the camera soars in over the skyline of the town and we see gears grinding, scraps of papers tossed about and a city that seems to be very cold and quiet. Characters bundled up in many layers, speaking to each other without speaking as they go about daily life. The music is hypnotic and dreamy with its romantic yet haunting tune of a melancholy violin. 

Too Loud a Solitude is the story of a waste compactor, Hanta, who was charged with destroying his country’s great literature in his humble press, and who fell so in love with the beautiful ideas contained within the books that he began secretly rescuing them – hiding them whole inside the bales, taking them home in his briefcase, and lining the walls of his basement with them. It became one of the defining books in Czechoslovakia’s history for its unsentimental, humorous, painfully relevant portrayal of humankind’s resilience. The story of Hanta’s quest to save the world of books and literature from destruction is often cited as the most beloved of Hrabal’s books. Too Loud a Solitude has a global fan base and an active community of support has emerged for our feature film project. The book has been translated into 37 languages and sold over 70,000 copies of Michael Henry Heim’s English translation alone. Bohumil Hrabal wrote the novella as an unsentimental account of what happened to him during the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia during the 40’s and 50’s. Many of Hrabal’s books were banned by the Russian regime and other great books by many authors were physically destroyed, an act Hrabal characterizes in Too Loud a Solitude as ‘crimes against humanity’… Our team has been committed to bringing Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s beloved novella Too Loud a Solitude to the screen since 2004. With the assistance of The Rockefeller Media Arts Foundation (now the Tribeca Film Institute), Heather Henson and Handmade Puppet Dreams, and The Jim Henson Foundation, we completed a 17 minute sample of the film in 2007. The film has been playing nationally and internationally in the Handmade Puppet Dreams program, and in 2009 was awarded an UNIMA-USA citation of excellence. We are currently working on financing the feature project, first through a Kickstarter start-up funds campaign and then through partnership with other financing and production entities. Our intention is to enlist the support of the book’s global fan base and expand its already impressive audience. We’re down to two weeks left in our Kickstarter fundraising campaign and are continuing to do outreach work to drum up more support for our project. We seek to raise $35,000 to cover the costs of puppet design, armature creation, motion exploration, character development, costume design, and visual effects.”

For more information about the film, please visit www.tooloudasolitude.com.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-16-58-pm “For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story…I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me.”screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-16-25-pm

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“I felt beautiful and holy for having the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I’d seen and had been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude.”

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Darren Fung is one of Canada’s most accomplished music composers

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Darren Fung. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

Based in Los Angeles, Darren Fung is a talented, award-winning music composer. Born in Canada with strong Chinese roots, Mr. Fung’s music is a medley of the East and the West. His love of music began at the age of three and lead him to become an accomplished composer. After a lifetime of living in Canada, Darren Fung moved to the United States to create music for film and TV in a new location. 

Fung has a colorful, diverse and nostalgic style of music that has a powerful, yet gentle affect on the viewer’s senses. “With over 100 composition credits to his name, Darren Fung is seminally gifted and a highly influential composer who is well-respected in the TV and Film scoring worlds. Fung is one of Canada’s most accomplished composers, thrice nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Most recently, he scored the The Great Human Odyssey, a mini-series that explores the roots of human kind. The project opened to widespread critical acclaim in Canada, winning the 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best Music and receiving a nomination from the International Film Music Critics Association. (The Great Human Odyssey premieres in the U.S. this fall on PBS.) Darren utilizes an epic, large-scale orchestra and choir to bring this special’s score to life, replete with memorable melodies and unique musical colors. His diverse credits also include a recreation of Canada’s second national anthem (the beloved Hockey Theme) for CTV and TSN and the theme music for CTV’s flagship morning news show Canada AM. Additionally, Darren scored Bell Canada’s Orchestra advertisement spot (for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics), which was voted as Canada’s top commercial by readers of The Globe and Mail. Darren’s feature and short film scores have been heard at prestigious film festivals around the world, including Toronto, Cannes, and Sundance. After Fung studied at McGill University and worked full-time as a composer in Montreal, he moved to Los Angeles and is represented by Maria Machado of Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency and CW3PR.”

In 2016,  Mr. Fung spoke with local Texas writer, Nicolette Mallow, to discuss the bird’s-eye view of his life lived in music and how he came to be in California with his wife and daughter after many years in Canada. 

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Darren Fung and orchestra. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you please tell me a little about when your love for music began and when you learned to play an instrument? 

Darren Fung: I started playing piano when I was 3. Music has always been part of my life. After piano I dabbled a little in violin and then the saxophone. I loved trying new instruments and playing the music in my head. 

NM: Yes; I read in other interviews that you tend create music with a large scale orchestra. That makes sense given you learned to play so many instruments… What number of instruments (musicians) entails a large scale orchestra? 

DF: A large scale orchestra can be 40, 50, 60 people. Even 90-100. For me that means anything over 40. Over 40 is a pretty big orchestra…Now, do I prefer to work with a recording group? I also like the challenge of not having a large scale orchestra and doing other things that are not orchestral.

NM: Your online biography states that you “caught the composing bug at age 15” when you wrote a piece for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composer Project … Did you always know that music was your life calling? 

DF: Yes and no. I always loved music, but at the age of 15 is when I knew I wanted to be a composer… But it was hard for my family at first to accept that I am good at this, good enough to make a career of it. My mother is a Chinese tiger mom, and she wanted the best for me growing up and had a preset idea of what my future looked like. She wanted me to pursue something more secure than music. Music or a creative career was too risky. So, when I first began music school instead of pursuing a life as a lawyer… it was hard for her. Culturally there were some conflicts and it would’ve been easier and more accepted had I chosen to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. My mother is very supportive now and she is very happy for me that I chose music. 

NM: I understand the family and cultural aspects of what you just said. My Latina mother was most displeased, if not furious, when I said I was going to Savannah College of Art & Design 12 years ago instead of Barnard or Stanford to be a psychologist or doctor. But she, too, is now very happy for me that I chased my artistic dreams.

DF: Yes it can be hard at first to choose your own path. 

NM: In regards to music composition, what are some of the most distinct differences between the Canada and US? 

DF:  The biggest diff between the two is that Canada is more comparable to the Indie film scenes—the budgets are not that big. The AFM call them low budget films because we are lucky if we got around $3 million budget. We are supposed to do more with less. However, since we are so close to the states we have a lot of similar musical influences.

NM: Reading about your career I saw the phrase “musical colors” mentioned in writing. Can you tell me a little about what musical colors means to you?

DF: Instruments or sounds are our palette. Composers (and musicians) can kind of make whatever we want out of it. Musical colors are why I think I love orchestra so much because there is so much available. So many colors and moods to portray. Not to say other genres of music don’t have that. But I am a classically trained musician, and to be able to take that stuff and play away. It’s endless and I never know what will happen and I love it. 

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Darren Fung and orchestra. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

NM: Were you nervous or excited to recreate the 2nd national anthem for Canada? 

DF: Both. When I recreated the 2nd national anthem for hockey night in Canada, we wanted to pay homage to the original, but with a whole bunch of orchestrations and differentiators. For the longest time it was a really iconic song in Canada. Everyone knows the song and it’s equivalent to Major League Baseball’s classic tune “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”…At the time I was working with CPC and they wanted to make it their own. I was 26 at the time and I didn’t want the country hating me as the guy who guy who f*cked up the hockey thing… However, I was thrilled to be part of the project. And at 26 I got to work with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and specific members who the company hired to play. So to be given that budget and content for a major broadcast was amazing. 

NM: The Great Human Odyssey sounds amazing. What was it like writing for this TV show?

DF: It was 85 minutes of music in 7.5 weeks. There was material to score but we didn’t start writing till 7.5 weeks before we recorded… Niobe Thompson (Producer and Director of The Great Human Odyssey) sort of talked about bringing me on board as he was shooting. Almost two years before he started editing, I saw some raw footage. And I have to admit that when I first met up with Naobi, there was not a lot of money and I was not really sure the resources were available to create what he wanted with an orchestra and choir. But then he showed me the first warrior of this man jumping across ice flows. Drone shots across ice flows, and the backdrop was spectacular. The costumes, everything was visually stunning. And I realized we needed to get the music to match the greatness of the film… Fast forward in time and he then needed trailers. Then suddenly later on I am going to Prague so I can record a couple of cues to cut… Fast forward to the final count down where we are talking frame by frame, intentions, character and motivations; figuring out the music for each character and each scene.  

NM: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy to keep you balanced outside work?

DF: Hockey and rowing are my two hobbies. Often I get up at stupid-o-clock in the morning around 5 A.M. to go rowing before work. What I love about hockey and rowing is that it’s two completely unrelated things to music. I meet people who aren’t in the business and it’s not a sedentary job. I get to move around and I get to blow off a lot of steam. I keep biz cards on me, just in case, but I like that it’s totally separate from work. Honestly I worry about the day where I might have to give one or both of them up… I find so much sanity and comic relief in hockey and rowing. Im horrible at both… but trying to get physical activity is necessary. And it’s fun to go have a beer with the guys sometimes. 

NM: Are there any genres in film or television that you would like to write for that you’ve yet to work on? 

DF: I’ve been lucky so far and enjoyed all my projects. But I would like to write for sci fi or opera. I haven’t yet had the chance to do either. Also, Animation is something else I am interested in. I like changing things up and I just finished up on an installation work for a gondola ride in Banff. So long as it’s a great project with great music: count me in! I am always looking for new projects and I came to LA to establish myself here.

For more information about Darren Fung please read his online bio. And to hear many songs or tracks from Fung’s music portfolio, please check out his SoundCloud page.