December 7, 2012

The Moth on The Road

Quick! Grab a seat! The Moth is returning!

After performing to an enthusiastic Austin crowd during last year's season, The Moth is back on the road and swooping into the theatre again this year for another round. For those of you who don't know, I'm not talking about bugs. You can put away that fly swatter and bag of moth balls; your wool sweater is safe at The Paramount.

So then, what exactly is The Moth?

In a nutshell, they are storytellers. The Moth is a non-profit group dedicated to the craft of the narrative. Since its creation fifteen years ago, the organization has developed many avenues for their brand of storytelling, including: open mic competitions, podcasts and a radio show. The flagship program, "The Moth Mainstage," is a pillar of the New York literary scene and tours around the country as "The Moth on The Road."

So what happens?

During a Moth show, a few different raconteurs will take the stage and tell stories revolving around a particular theme All are true stories told live to the audience with no notes, but the way they're crafted and shaped actually makes the tales become alive. As you listen, you find yourself becoming more immersed and you feel the connection to something greater the just the words. it's more than just oration on stage, it's a communal work of art that engages you like few other things can.

To me, it brings to mind Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales,"where a collection of stories can ultimately be about something greater than the sum of its parts. On stage, The Moth is, in essence, the very core of storytelling itself. It's just an anecdotalist and the audience. No notes, no teleprompter, just a voice and the power of the story.

But don't just take my word for it. If you have a moment, partake of these words...

According to The Moth's website, the evening's theme will be "Nine Lives." I'm certain it will not just be stories about cats. What I am uncertain about is how these stories will break down the barriers we have built around us. I'm intensely curious to see an audience engaged with the orator and then stripped down to a bare sense of humanity.

And afterwards, what anecdotes will it conjure in your own mind? How will you react? With shock? With awe? With reverence? Or all of the above?

And so it was that later
As the Miller told his tale,
That her face at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale.

Small shout out to Chaucer aside, these Procol Harem song lyrics (from 1967) always remind me that the power of a story can elicit strong reactions regardless of the audience and its preconceived notions. To some it may be non-sensical, but to others will comprehend, unlocking a trove of treasures within ourselves.

Inside each and every one of us is a storyteller. The Moth reminds us that we all have our tales, lessons and fables accumulated inside of us. As a society, we also are greater than the sum of our parts. One of the most basic of humanities is the art of storytelling, and one of the most precious gifts we can give is sharing those stories with one another. These narratives can make us laugh, cry, gasp or recoil, but every one has the ability to bind us all. You never know what story will have the ability to make you pause or even alter your world view.

Great stories also will always take on a life of their own. What tales from this night will you take into your possession? When you retell it to friends, colleagues and family, what stamp will you put upon it? Once the baton is passed orally, a story is like a ball of modeling clay; shaped by all hands that touch it and grasp onto it. And when they hear you, they may very well grasp onto it and share it as well. The stories are rich and organic from the people it touches and inspires. When a fascinating story begins we are apt to stop and pay attention. No matter the stories' content, we can all be captivated and drawn in. Dare I say it? You know, like... well, a moth to a flame.

The Moth flies into The Paramount Theatre on Friday, December 14th. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., and the stories start at 8:00.

November 30, 2012

An Evening with Glenn Close

"I love the chemistry that can be created onstage between the actors and the audience. It's molecular even, the energies that can go back and forth. I started in theater. and when I first went into movies I felt that my energy was going to blow out the camera."
-Glenn Close

More often than not, I hear thespians with theatre backgrounds always prefer the intimacy and electiricty that comes from on-stage performance. Based on her statement above, actress Glenn Close falls into that category as well. And you wanna know something? She is absolutely right in that observation. If you've ever seen a performer mesmerize an audience from the stage, you know why. When performing for a camera, your energies are merely captured by a lens. But when one is on stage it's more than your voice booming out into the auditorium, it's your very soul. It cascades over the audiences washes them in the current of a performance, and their own reactions can ripple back like the rise and fall of a tide.

While I couldn't tell you if Glenn Close has actually blown up any cameras of the years, the caliber of her work and the range of characters she's played over her career indicates it may well still be possible. Regardless of the medium, her talents are apparent to all: Glenn Close is one of our generation's most versatile actors.

Here's a quick rundown of accolades: She's a six-time Oscar nominated actress, a British Academy Film Award nominee and a multiple-time Grammy nominee. Oh, and she's also won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild award, an Off-Broadway award and three Tony awards.

Apropos of chemistry lingo, her roles are often combustible to behold on stage. And on film or television, like a strip of magnesium, she can set the screen ablaze. As a result, her performances have always breathed with a sense of vitality and electricity. Compared to most, she makes most everyone sharing the screen with her look like mere community theatre players. Yes, she is that damn good.

She began on the stage, and honed her craft early in her career. Glenn made her debut in 1974, and was nominated for her first Tony in 1980. Eventually, she went on to win Tonys for The Real Thing and Death and the Maiden and for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard. On stage, she has appeared in such works as Uncle Vanya, King Lear, Rules of the Game, The Real Thing, The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, The Crucifer of Blood, The Member of the Wedding and The Rose Tattoo. Ten years ago, she even appeared in a London Royal National Theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire as Blanche DuBois.

Luckily for us, Close ventured beyond the stage and brought her talent to all avenues of media. Her transition to film was seamless segue to more kudos. Not many receive an Academy Award nomination for their first movie, but Close did for 1982 for her supporting role in THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. In the next few years she followed that up with more supporting nominations in 1983's THE BIG CHILL and 1984's THE NATURAL. Quite the start, wouldn't you say? In the years since, she has also received Best Actress nominations for 1988's DANGEROUS LIASIONS and 2011's ALBERT NOBBS.

But I think perhaps her signature role is one that struck cold fear down the spines of married men everywhere in the 1980s. Her role of Alex Forrest in Adrian Lyne's FATAL ATTRACTION is so warped yet believably terrifying that it seared itself into the national consciousness. In this 1987 film, happily married Michael Douglas has a weekend fling with Glenn Close, but soon find that this liaison will not slip quietly into the closet to buried like other skeletons. She has other plans, and the consequences of his affair jeopardizes his life in ways he never could have imagined. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned (Just ask the family's pet rabbit). From that moment, the term "fatal attraction" itself has come to identify tales of infidelity gone awry, and this film likely kept an entire culture of men scared straight. Now that's what I call leaving an impression.

In fact, every role that Glenn has breathed life into has been indelible in its own way, no matter how large or small. Whether as the sharp but vulnerable lawyer in JAGGED EDGE, the Barbara Bushian First Lady in Tim Burton's MARS ATTACKS!, the Vice President to Harrison Ford's ass-kicking chief executive in AIR FORCE ONE, the diabolical live-action Cruella DeVil in 101 DALMATIANS  or her literally haunting performance in REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, Close always manages to stamp the role with a signature that only she is able to provide.

Recently, Close just concluded the final season of "Damages," a television legal thriller that ran for five seasons. As the brilliant and ruthless lead character Patty Hewes, Glenn led the charge of awards bestowed on the program by winning two Emmys (for the first two seasons), a Satellite award, a Gracie Allen award and a Golden Globe. Prior to "Damages," Glenn also won acclaim for appearing in series like "The Shield," "The West Wing," "Will & Grace,""The Simpsons," as well as programs like "South Pacific," "Sarah Plain and Tall," and "The Lion in Winter."

And now, on our own stage in downtown Austin, we will get to hear insight from the woman behind the masks. Sharing stories and insight on her career, Glenn will once again will be a part of the magic chemistry between the audience and those on stage, but now in a whole new way. Prepare to still be entranced by her charm, grace and a chemistry that goes far beyond anything having to do with Mentos candies and Diet Coke.

Glenn Close graces the stage and shares her thoughts on Thursday, December 6th.

November 16, 2012

Last Call at The Oasis

"Water is the driving force of all nature."
 -Leonardo DaVinci

This season, The Paramount begins a new series to their lineup. The Beautiful World Series is a four film series this year brought to you in conjunction with The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. These events are designed to celebrate, preserve and protect our delicate planet.

The first film in this series, LAST CALL AT THE OASIS, emphasizes how water truly is the life blood to our world's well being. Directed by Academy Ward-winning documentary director Jennifer Yu, the film brings to light the perils and misconceptions we have about water's long-term sustainability. Developed by the same team that brought us awareness-raising documentaries as AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN and FOOD, INC., this film is an alarm clock that we cannot afford to snooze.

While the centerpiece will be the presentation of this film, the entire evening will be informative and captivating. Before the screening, the lobby will host booths by the Texas Rainwater Catchment Association, Austin Eco Network information and local farmers. After the show, a post-film panel will convene on stage to discuss this urgent topic. The panelists will include author Robert Glennon, Andy Sansom from the Texas Water Institute, Laura Huffman from The Nature Conservancy of Texas, and Marilu Hastings of The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

Robert Glennon is a highly acclaimed author of environmental books such as Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters and Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It. He also has advocated on NPR, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, C-SPAN2’s Book TV, and many others.

Andy Sansom is a former executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a founder of The Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas. Sansom also is the executive director of the Texas Nature Conservancy. A distinguished award winner for his efforts, he has been the recipient of numerous accolades from the likes of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The National Park Foundation and also the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Laura Huffman, director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, leads and ordinated teams of scientists and conservation experts to help protect the Lone Star state. Locally, she has been instrumental in helping to secure the Edward’s Aquifer.

Marilu Hastings currently serves the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation as the Environment Program Director. She has focused efforts on climate change, water conservation, waste management, and development of recycled products.

Awareness and focus on such a pressing issue is the first step, and with the information provided at The Paramount perhaps we can all do our part to prevent the constant wasteful drip of our future's supply. Together, we can turn the thriftless faucet off, and save plenty of water for all of us on this precious oasis of life we know as our Earth.

The time to open our eyes is now. After all, it is not an issue of whether the glass is half empty or half full; it's a matter whether we're going to have any water in the glass to make such a judgment at all.

LAST CALL AT THE OASIS will quench your thirst for knowledge on Wednesday, November 28, 2012. Pre-show event at 6:30 p.m. with the screening at 7:30 p.m.

November 7, 2012

Richard Thomas Performs Tennessee Williams

"If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it."
-Tennessee Williams 

We've had lecturers, musical guests, comedians and speakers thus far during the season. Now, how about some acting? In the coming weeks, Emmy-winning actor Richard Thomas will be bringing to life some of the literary work of the legendary writer, Tennessee Williams.

As I'm sure you may know, Williams was one of the most highly acclaimed American playwrights in the 20th century. Widely acclaimed during the heyday of his career, he was a two-time Pulitzer prize winner for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on A  Hot Tin Roof, and also won a Tony award for The Rose Tattoo. Tennessee personally adapted many of his works into screenplays, but also penned essays, poetry, novels, prose and other short stories.

So, which of these selections is Thomas portraying? Well, Richard is not going to merely be interpreting selections from Williams' classics. Instead, Richard Thomas will be performing what is arguably Williams' most interesting and flawed role... which happens to be the author himself.

How is that, you ask?

You see, when Tennessee Williams passed away three decades ago, he left behind a treasure trove of personal letters. This, combined with a lifetime of memoirs helped paint a picture of the man behind the pen. Steve Lawson adapted these writings into a one-man play, a showcase that paints Tennessee with his own words. Not only is that a daunting task for an author, but for the thespian as well. After all, think about this for a moment. How much of you is embedded in your day to day writing? Decades from now, will someone be able to portray you based on your journal, your blogs, your emails, Facebook posts and Tweets?

It truly is a dream and a challenge to play such a distinguished yet complex and tortured persona, but Richard Thomas has a charm and sense of nuance to be able and pull it off.

Thomas is one of those actors you may recognize from his work, even if you may not remember his name. A veteran of stage and screen, chances are very good that you've seen him in several things over the years. To many, he will always be known as the aspiring writer John-Boy from the 1970s television show, "The Waltons." Richard won an Emmy for the role, and has received additional nominations over the years for Golden Globes and more Emmys.

It will definitely be interesting to see the portrayal of Williams as a young growing writer. Tennessee descended into an abyss of alcohol and drugs in later years, which likely effect his outlook on life and the human condition. Although I'm sure the portrayal will be subtle, I look forward to seeing this pay where we can see a transformation of the one man onstage from Richard Thomas to Tennessee Williams without any other actors to play off of. That, my friends, has the potential to be fascinating in this show that will be poignant and personal.

Tennessee Williams knew that the craft of writing was a never ending pursuit. Like life itself, it is where passions and emotions can intertwine with narrative to conjure weather that can effect even the sunniest disposition. At times a flamboyant and twisted genius, he embraced the darkness of the human condition, reflecting an inner turmoil that decades of self-abuse could not subside. I can't wait to see this evolution of the man and the artist in front of our eyes on the stage.

In the intimate quarters of the Stateside theater, it will be appropriate to see such a personal portrayal. This unique presentation is straight from the heart of Tennessee.

For one night, Richard Thomas brings Tennessee Williams back to life at Stateside. Wednesday, November 14th at 8:00 p.m. 

October 14, 2012

A Pre-Election Roast with The Onion

Who else is ready for campaign season to be over? I don't know about you, but I'm just about ready to graduate to the next thing that will irritate me. Luckily, The Paramount will be hosting guests that will make things a lot more tolerable for those of us with "election fatigue."

Don't get me wrong. I fully appreciate the political process, but the cycle of vitriol sure has sapped the joy out of a lot of us. This year, bringing up politics is a sure fire way to escalate a talk from civil discourse to a shouting match. And I can't begin to tell you how many people in my online social circles have been blocked or removed the past several months for being dogmatic blowhards. It's harder and harder to find middle ground these days, often because it seems anyone with a strong opinion has an agenda to make you agree with them. To those, it's a Michael Jackson kind of situation: either black or white.

Heck, you can't even watch the news anymore without a Costco-sized bottle of aspirin at the ready. CNN, Headline News, FOX News, Breitbart, Drudge Report... it's like journalism is secondary to sensationalism. It's a shouting contest where ultimately no one wins. What happened to journalistic objectivism? My inner Simon and Garfunkel croons, where have you gone, Walter Cronkite?

Now that intelligent and unbiased news has gone the way of the dodo, we might as well embrace the absurdity of the current situation. Since we can't depend on journalism to deliver intelligent analysis, a nation turns its lonely eyes to satire. Thank goodness we still have that degree of astute observation available to us, because at least they provide a degree of spice to our daily media consumption. Otherwise, our brain's media diet would only consist of the same old white bread and water usually reserved for prisoners.

So who sprinkles tasty morsels of mockery into our daily lives of mundane media bombardment? Why, it's The Onion, of course! For nearly 25 years, this satirical news organization serves all the parody that's fit to print, they have been presenting articles that lampoon not just news but often the structure of journalism itself. Their website is their most visible vessel, but they also publish a printed newspaper in select markets (including Austin, TX). I figure Austin was selected because anyone living close enough to the state capitol (not to mention some of our recent governors) must have a craving for some comic relief.

While The Onion excels at jabbing our own national news and the political processes, the staff takes aim at many aspects of our daily life. Regular features like those found in more conventional publications (Sports, Entertainment, Personal Interest Stories, etc) are present, all with the same candor and wit that makes all of their reading so devilishly entertaining. If you have the interwebs, feel free to follow them on Twitter to keep a finger on the sarcastic pulse of what's happening in the world. These are the guys whom you are happy to have blow up your twitter feed. Trust me, there's nothing they won't blast. Like the Eye of Sauron (or something less dorky, if that works for you), nothing avoids their sniper-like gaze.

And with the election in its final lap, The Onion brings their wit to The Paramount. On stage will be the members of the creative staff, offering insight into the writing and a behind-the-scenes peek at the production of the Onion News Network. Oh, and they're also going to provide coverage of the election like only they can. I'm sure they won't just jab at the Presidential candidates; they're more likely to hit them over the head with a lead pipe like Professor Plum in the Conservatory.

I look forward to it with eager anticipation. I've been dying to have someone deflate this political balloon of all its hot air. And as for their trademark acerbic touch, I must confess a deep gratitude. Their  version of the news often makes me want to keep up with the world instead of sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich. To The Onion, my own inner Simon and Garfunkel sing on:

So here's to you, Onion writing staff, 
People love you more than you will know. 
Whoa whoa whoa
Oh bless you, please, Onion writing staff. 
Laughter makes the doldrums go away, 

Hey hey hey 

Hey hey hey!

So koo koo kachoo, Mrs. Robinson Austin. The Onion is coming to bring tears of laughter to your eyes. Tears of laughter, that is. The crew will surely alleviate the stress of utter stupidity that all other networks heap upon us. After all, the process can be so ridiculous you have no choice but to giggle and guffaw. I mean, come on... take a look at this guy. Even he can't help but laugh.

Or maybe he's just been peeling away layer after layer of the political machine for so many years he has no choice but to laugh. After all, being enveloped in that environment has got to be so maddening that it's apt to make you cry. You know, just like peeling an onion.

The Onion lands on stage on Friday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m. Leave your own political convictions at the door, because nothing is sacred.

October 4, 2012

Jeff Garlin

"It used to be that people thought I was Norm from 'Cheers.' Ten years ago everyone would say that to me. Then, in the last year, I was at a newsstand in Studio City, and I saw George Wendt. He said he had just gone on an audition, and they said they were looking for a Jeff Garlin type."
 -Jeff Garlin 

Replacement refs! Presidential debates! Seasonal allergies! Christmas creep in retail stores! I don't know about you, but I could use a drink, a good laugh or both. Luckily for us, we can soon do both. Just in time to help stave off those pre-holiday crazies is a comedian we all know and love. Heck, even if you don't know him, you've heard of him. And no, it's not Norm from "Cheers."In October, The Stateside at The Paramount and Moontower Comedy present Jeff Garlin in his one-man show, "Built for Comfort."

Now don't you dare tell me you don't know who Garlin is. For the uninitiated: yes, he used to be a big guy (re made great strides in reducing his waistline a couple of years ago), but he's still kind of a big deal. Beginning his comedic career with Second City in Chicago, Jeff has been quietly popping up in television and movies everywhere over the past decade. Well, quiet except for the uproarious laughter he brings out of you.

In addition to being a comedian/writer/actor/producer/author/director/jack-of-all-trades-entertainer, Jeff also is a voice actor. If you have been in the company of little ones watching recent animated work, you may know him from the recent PARANORMAN. If not, chances are you recognize his voice from his work in recent Pixar movies such as CARS 2 or TOY STORY 3. Also, he had a very memorable turn as the captain who embodies both the weakness of the flesh yet the strength of the human heart in WALL-E.

Or perhaps you've seen him on television flexing his comedic muscle in "Mad About You," "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "Arrested Development" among many others.

I imagine most of you, however, know Jeff from his work in one of the best TV comedies of the past decade: HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The series chronicles the pedantic culture of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David and the pratfalls of his day to day life. Over the course of eight brilliant seasons, Garlin has produced the show and also starred as Larry's ever loyal but childish manager Jeff Greene. Together, Larry and Jeff are like the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of adult idiocy.

As Greene, Jeff constantly finds himself in tough situations (always of his own creation), and inevitably pays for it at the hands of his wife Susie (played by Susie Essman). She pulls no punches when admonishing both Jeff and Larry with a double-barrelled blast of obscenities. Heck, she lets F-Bombs fly aloft like an old-school arcade game of Missile Command.

Jeff has had too many golden moments here over the years to mention, and also has a variety of catch phrases that I must confess I have adopted myself over the years. My favorite? A euphemism Greene often speaks on the show deploring a particular action as "a big bowl of wrong."

I've been an avid watcher of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" since day one, and the antics of Larry and Jeff never cease to amuse me. For me, nothing has been better than the one time when Jeff is usurped as head of the household by the family dog because of pet allergens. It's hilarious and... well... take a look for yourself.

There's a certain devilish charm to watching Jeff clumsily carouse through his life as a overgrown child, and these men behaving badly only work because of the genius of their performance and the charm of their bone-headed scheming. After several seasons, the characters feel like old friends, and we always wait with baited breath to see exactly what kind of trouble these morons will get into next.

See? I told you you knew who Jeff Garlin was. We all know him, even if previously didn't know what his name was. In a world of ever-changing comedic talents, Garlin is no longer someone who flies under the radar. With the wide variety of projects he has tackled, Jeff is more than just an unknown supporting player. He is, if you pardon the pun, the new norm.

But not that one.

Who knows what kind of funny he'll bring to the Stateside stage? Well, actually you will. Isn't that right? Because missing this would be a big bowl of wrong.

Jeff Garlin takes the stage at The Stateside on Saturday, October 13, at 7:00 p.m. And thanks to people like you, he's gonna be where everybody knows his name...

September 14, 2012

Bill Engvall

"I just hate stupid people. They should have to wear signs that say 'I'm Stupid'. That way you wouldn't rely on them, and you wouldn't ask them for nothing."
-Bill Engvall 

About a month ago, I heard a story on NPR about an anthropologist who studies comedy. Yes, I'm serious; it's not a joke. He was trying to study humor from a scientific perspective to see what makes something funny. Needless to say, when it comes to something as subjective as comedy, the results were inconclusive. And to that guy, all I have to say is "good luck, brother." I think it's safe to say that any attempt to quantify the funny is foolish, if not outright stupid itself.

Of course, when it comes to identifying stupid, perhaps I need to defer to the best stand-up comic judge out there. That's because no one out there will nail you for being stupid quite like comedian Bill Engvall.

A native-born Texan who has gone from stand-up act to big time comic as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Engvall is more than a mere country-fried comedian. Originally from Galveston, Bill studied at Southwestern University in Central Texas and then resided in Dallas, where he was a disc jockey before trying his hand at stand-up. After making minor appearances on television, Engvall was named Best Male Standup at the 1992 American Comedy Awards. Things really took off when he began appearing on "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," which led to continued success with Blue Collar Comedy and now as a game show host. Oh, and along the way he's also a multi-platinum selling recording artist for his comedy albums. Yep, over the years he's made quite a living as a very busy entertainer.

So what's his secret? It's pretty simple. Bill is very good at all he does, and perhaps what he does best is describing identifiable situations that not only we can relate to, but can't help to laugh at.

Someone tell the anthropologist in the NPR report that it's no riddle that the key to making people laugh is forming a real connection with your audience. Just take a look back at nearly all successful comic acts. From the popular (Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen), to the controversial (George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks), to the unorthodox (Mitch Hedberg), all use audience connection as a gateway to laughter. Whether it's childhood experiences or something we take for granted on a day-to-day basis, comedy lies in whether the stand-up comic is relatable. And when the comedian connects with you, he/she isn't merely spouting one-liners... they're speaking the truth!

Now, if you're wondering why I referred to Engvall earlier as a judge of stupid, please don't think it's a derogatory term. I only say that because Bill is probably best known for placing his stamp on popular culture with a particular act. His signature bit is where he points out the inherent stupidity of others. As a warning to other people who may have to interact with such people, he mimes giving out a sign that reads, "I'm stupid!" That way, others in society can be warned and give a wide berth to avoid interaction with such maddening imbeciles.

Yes, it is a novel concept: to get the stupid to wear badges of shame (or honor if they are, in fact, that moronic). But it got me thinking... Maybe Engvall was on to something.

In a perfect world, wouldn't that be a great idea? And in that case, what individuals (whom have demonstrated questionable judgment) might have benefitted society by having their own "stupid" sign?
I wonder...

When one considers this small assembly of bone-headed decision makers, perhaps it has some merit.

I don't know if it's something to write our local congressman about, but it sure would be nice. I'm not saying we need to brand these simpletons with a scarlet letter (Hester Prynne style), but maybe a press conference while wearing a dunce cap would be in order. After all, let's admit it. We've all done some truly stupid things, and I don't think there would be enough signs to go around.

Speaking of dumb decisions, missing out on Bill's appearances at The Paramount Theatre would be a very foolish choice indeed. You don't have to be an anthropologist to come and laugh at Bill's antics and anecdotes. So get ready to welcome the return of a native Texan who has made it big. There's no reason to hesitate, but if per chance you're feeling reluctant and looking for a go ahead.... Well then, here's your sign.

Bill Engvall is sure to be handing out the laughs (and the signs) on Friday, September 21st at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m. at The Paramount Theatre.

September 7, 2012

In Conversation: Spike Lee

Another exciting kick off is on deck. And so this season starts in a new and unique way from years past. For those that may be unfamiliar, during the summer months between seasons The Paramount Theatre show numerous movies as part of its annual Summer Classic Film Series. It's a paradise for cinefiles in Austin, and an oasis amongst the Texas. Watching a classic film at Paramount is a great way to spend a few hours inside a historic theater on a balmy summer afternoon.

Typically, the summer series ends and then the season launches a few weeks later. But this year, there will be a brief overlap. You see, during the last week of this year's cinematic session, the first guest for the 2012-2013 season will grace the stage. And wouldn't you know it? He himself is a modern icon in modern cinema, so this hybrid event is apropos.

The 2012-2013 season begins with the iconic filmmaker Spike Lee. Come for an intimate interview with one of America's unique cinematic voices, and then stay for a screening of his 1999 film SUMMER OF SAM.

Spike is a dynamic filmmaker whose movies have established him as one of America's seminal cinematic artists. His debut film, SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, was set in Brooklyn, and since then Lee's filmography has helped establish his art with a uniquely New York attitude. Over the years, Spike has come to personify New York City itself, and his work embodies the diversity that this melting pot metropolis represents.

Although occasionally courting controversy, it is probably more apt to describe Spike Lee's work as provocative. With each film he makes, Lee reminds the audience that he is fearless when confronting that which we otherwise try to suppress. With films like DO THE RIGHT THING, JUNGLE FEVER,  MALCOM X, CLOCKERS, 4 LITTLE GIRLS, 25TH HOUR, INSIDE MAN, and this summer's RED HOOK SUMMER, Lee lets his characters breathe and live while resisting conventional attitudes. The films themselves have a tendency to scream aloud the things we dare not even whisper in our own minds.

More impressively, he's chosen to explore stories and characters that he wants to tell us about. Compromise has never been a signature of a "Spike Lee joint," and I can safely say that we never have to worry about Lee signing on to do an Avengers or Transformers sequel.

In fact, the closest he has ever come to becoming mainstream is in a series of Nike commercials he directed and co-starred in with basketball star Michael Jordan. Reprising his role as "Mars Blackmon" from SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, Lee was often the funny man to Jordan's straight man routine. These ads were influential in the 1980s and helped establish Air Jordan as a cultural phenomenon.

But make no mistake. Despite some of his films have light-hearted moments, Lee's films help define a clear vision of America that is an alternative (if not downright contrary) to the ideals of American life we are spoon fed everyday. Although it would be unfair to call his movies agents of activism, they definitely have a political slant in a way that shines a beacon through the prism of real people. Call it the "miseducation of contemporary American history," if you will... but to me Spike's films have but one agenda: to champion those who otherwise have no voice and open our eyes to new perspectives.

Take, for instance, SUMMER OF SAM. Set 25 years ago when the serial killer Son of Sam turned a desperate New York City into a district of fear, it aims to look beyond a chronological or forensic retelling of events. Instead, it tells a story of a group of friends in an Italian-American neighborhood terrorized by events and a changing world that some just cannot reconcile. Together, these friends and neighbors run the gauntlet out of necessity, and will emerge forever changed. SUMMER OF SAM is very much like a horror movie, but here the real danger lies not with the serial killer but within the tendencies of those living under his oppression. The 1977 depicting in the movie is a time of self-indulgence and of a society struggling with identity: What will happen to us next? Where are we going? Has the world gone out of control? It's a summer not unlike that found in 1989's DO THE RIGHT THING, where tensions, attitudes and heat combine to transform the city into a keg ready to explode.

What wrath has the SUMMER OF SAM wroth upon New York City? Is it righteous judgment for a city and society in the throes of hedonism? Is it divine retribution? Or... is it merely an excuse for some of us to find a reason? Is Sam an instrument for the judgmental among us to find scapegoats and embrace the darker side of human nature?

I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the coming evening where Spike shares what elements go into the forging of these stories.

Needless to say, this is a unique opportunity to meld the two kinds of events that the Paramount is known for. It's not the end of the world that the season starts earlier this year. In fact, it's a cause for celebration. It's not every day (or year) that the theatre presents an evening like this. Personally, I think of the crossover as a Venn diagram of awesome.
You see?

So what are you waiting for? I implore you to do the right thing, make the effort, and come hear the man. Spike Lee has a cinematic vision and a artistic voice like no other. As a director whose films have opened up audience's eyes again and again, one never knows what insight an evening with him might bring. Do you know what I'm saying? Do you know? Do you know? Do you know?

Spike Lee graces the stage for a conversation on Saturday, September 8th at 7:00 p.m.

April 22, 2012

Now On Sale: The 2012-2013 Season

Update: Subscription Packages Are Now On Sale HERE!
(My feelings will totally not be hurt is you click over before you finish reading)

Chin up, buddy! Sure the 2011-2012 season may be winding to an end, but there's no time for tears. Wait,let me clarify. There are reasons a plenty to cry, but let these be tears of joy. Not because one season ends, but because we now have our first tantalizing look at the future. That's right, The 2012-2013 has been unveiled, and this time The Paramount is sharing some season duties with its little sibling, The Stateside Theatre. Holy Double Venue! This dynamic duo will play host to the most diverse and impressie lineup yet assembled for next season. On April 18, The Stateside hosted the Wrap Party for 2011-12, but executive director Jim Ritts and general manager Lietza Brass took the stage to whet our appetites with a taste of what's to come. There are fresh acts, familiar faces, genuine legends and even some brand new series coming our way. Enough preamble, let's take a look, shall we?

 Headlining the The Marquee Series are:

Richard Thomas: A Distant Country Called Youth
A one-man play adapted from letters by Tennessee Williams, it stars the renown Richard Thomas. Nov. 14, 2012.

Wynton Marsalis
The Ambassador of Jazz takes over The Paramount on Feb. 6, 2013.

DanceBrazil A unique and dazzling Brazilian dance troupe with over three decades of experience. Be prepared to move to the rhythm on Mar. 6, 2013.

The Congress Avenue Series features:

A Pre-Election Roast with The Onion
Who says politics are boring? Well, although Mitt and Barack may often induce drowsiness, a whiff of The Onion will wake you up and leave you in stitches. Oct. 26, 2012.

The Flatlanders 40th Anniversary Tour
Giants, even in the land of Texas music where everything is bigger. Four decades celebrated on one historic stage. Jan. 19, 2013.

Leading Ladies Series, anyone? But of course.

Dr. Maya Angelou
An absolute honor. Nov. 2, 2012.

LA Theatre Works: Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen's acclaimed work was first published 200 years ago, and this production marks the occasion is stunning fashion. Feb. 28, 2013

An Evening with Amy Sedaris
The Stateside isn't the only little sibling stepping into the limelight in Austin this coming year. The wickedly funny younger sister of perennial season favorite David Sedaris step out with her own with a one-woman show. Mar. 22, 2013.

New for this upcoming season, the Silver Screen Speaker Series promises to engage cinephiles and aficionados alike.

In Conversation: Spike Lee
Do the right thing and join us for an interview with Lee followed by a screening of his 1999 film Summer of Sam. Sept. 8, 2012

In Conversation: Ben Mankiewicz
A host on Turner Classic Movies and a member of Hollywood Royalty, film critic Mankiewicz will engage the audience and bring a classic film to screen afterwards (as yet to be revealed). Dec. 1, 2012.

In Conversation: Oliver Stone
America's purest cinematic maverick. Call it a hunch, but Stone may speak his mind about a thing or two. HE also will brign a hand-picked film to screen afterwards. May 24, 2013.

The Stateside Theatre is fully restored and ready to host more intimate fair during the season. What better venue than this for the Stateside Jazz Series?

Jason Moran and the Bandwagon Nov. 1, 2012

Allen Toussaint Nov. 29, 2012

John Pizzarelli Quartet
Feb. 13, 2013.

Another new and intriguing entry is A Beautiful World Series, emphasizing the natural wonder of this existence. Brought to us by The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

 Last Call At The Oasis
A documentary focusing on the pressing issue of global water supply. A panel Q&A will be held afterwards. Nov. 28, 2012.

Bella Gaia (Beautiful Earth)
Featuring live performances by Kenji Williams and other world musicians, the show is an experience against a big-screen backdrop featuring varying views of Earth from space. Jan. 23, 2013.

Dr. Brian Greene: The Hidden Reality Physics! String Theory! Don't be scared. Dr. Greene breaks it down brilliantly and in entertaining fashion. Feel smarter without taking a single class or staying at a Holiday Inn Express. Feb. 26, 2013.

A documentary examining America's attitudes at energy and its industries. Apr. 3, 2013.

Extras a plenty for the remainder of the season. File all of these as "must see," just like the rest of the season.

 Bill Engvall
Country Fried Humor. Your signs will not be handed out at the door. Sept. 21, 2012.

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Plays Thick As A Brick 1 & 2
World musician and rock icon celebrates 49 years of recording on stage. Oct. 28, 2012.

An Evening with Glenn Close
She's not gonna be ignored. Nor can she be. Spend an evening with the acclaimed actress as she shares stories and selected pieces from her stellar career. Dec. 6, 2012.

The Moth On The Road
Back by popular demand, The Moth appears with a new cast, a new show, and the ever present treasure trove of stories. Dec. 14, 2012.

Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison Holiday Show
It just wouldn't be Christmas without this helping of holiday music from this Texas music royal family. Dec. 15, 2012.

An Evening with Cesar Millan: The Dog Whisperer
The star from the National Geographic Channel takes the stage at The Paramount! Please, leave you canines at home, though. Jan. 27, 2013.

The Second City
Features some of the classic skits, songs and improvs from the famous Chicago comedy troupe's 50 year history. Feb. 20-23, 2013.

Tomás Kubínek: Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to have your mind blown by the uniquely brilliant vaudevillian Dr. Professor  Tomás Kubínek! Guaranteed to help keep Austin weird. Mar. 28, 2013.

Leo Kottke
Back by popular demand, Leo celebrates over a quarter century of with a display of his unorthodox guitar picking style. Apr. 5, 2013.

David Sedaris
Admit it, the season wouldn't be complete without him. And he can't let his little sister upstage him now, can he? Apr. 24, 2013.

Oh, and there's still the Play-Time Series. This year there are four shows for those little (and bigger) theater fans age 3 and up.

 The True Story of The Three Little Pigs
Sep. 23, 2012
Guess How Much I Love You and I Love My Little Storybook Dec. 2, 2012
The Little Prince Feb. 24, 2013
Boats Apr. 13 & 14, 2013

The biggest and best lineup for The Paramount awaits. And it's only a few months away. Are you ready?

March 22, 2012

Coming Soon: David Sedaris

April brings showers, tax return deadlines, and also something decidedly more incredible. As the month winds to a close, The Paramount welcomes back an annual guest who is far more enjoyable than that yearly bout with cedar allergies. He is the incomparable humorist, the ever observant and ironic David Sedaris.

Last year I profiled him in depth, and for those curious (or merely the lazy), that write up could be found here. And this year, he's back for more. Armed with prose sharp as a scalpel, he carves through the absurdities and contradictions of our lives with the precision of a surgeon. His humor is simultaneously apparent yet subtle, often while making a statement about the human condition.

David has written numerous essays and short stories, and his collections have indulged readers with his funny observations. Nearly all based on his true life experiences, and these stories often have the distinction of being inconsequential yet profound. Even more astounding than reading Sedaris' works is to hear it, because listening to the author read his own pieces is a whole new level of entertainment.

Picking a favorite for me to share was no easy task. I combed through clips by the boatloads, and while many were hilarious ,there are very few that are free of objectionable language. Nevertheless, I returned to one that has stuck with me: part cartoon, part fable, it is also imbibed with a pinch of melancholy to give it a bittersweet flavor. In short, I find it to be a recipe for true brillance. While nearly all of David's writing leaves me in tears, this one does the same after I have laughed. No matter how many times I hear this story, it always brings a tear to my eye.

Such is the beauty of the sardonic.

There's something in that mild-mannered delivery to focus on the heft of the words. David's dry voice guides us as he shows us the funny aspects, but never pushes us towards any preconceived conclusions. Nevertheless, whenever the fable's lesson presents itself, it is apt and readily apparent.

As his popularity continues to grow by leaps and bounds, Sedaris continues to cement his place as America's favorite humorist. After seeing him in person last year, he's certainly mine. This year, it's your turn. Whether it's by way of laughter or forlorn sincerity, David is sure to leave you in tears.

But try and look at the bright side. At least it's not due to those damn cedar allergies.

David Sedaris brings his distinctive voice to the stage of The Long Center as part of The Paramount Season Series on April 23rd at 8:00 pm.

March 4, 2012

Coming Soon: Martin Short

I hate to lull the audience into letting them think that something is something. It's always fun to defy expectations."
-Martin Short

Regardless of how effortless it may appear, there is always an understated art to comedy. What is presented as guffaws often mask subtleties in the art of performance. The best comedians are astute in observing the human condition and must juggle many skills flawlessly. They have to be storytellers, have lightning fast wit and above all... be entertaining. Duh. But the difficulty lies in how subjective comedy inherently is. There is no universal standard as to what is funny. There is no comic that appeals to everyone. Yet, there are some funnymen who everyone simply loves. On the flip side, there are other comedians out there that make you wonder how the heck anyone could find them funny at all (I'm looking at you, guy with puppets).

Don't worry, here's a comedic talent you're going to love.

Yet when it comes to improvisational comedy, it's doubly hard to recognize genius levels of talent. Why? Because great improv should appear effortless; seen but unseen. Pity the poor performer who truly excels at this unscripted comedy, for most may never recognize his skill. Ah, but here comes a true legend of the craft. A diminutive comic who is one of the genuine world heavyweight champs in improvisation. Martin Short is more than just the master of improv, for he's created numerous characters and memorable roles along the path of his career.

Who was the first Martin Short fictional character you remember seeing?

For some, they may remember Short when he first began his ascent into the limelight, as a cast member of Second City Television (SCTV) in the early 80s. Amongst the midst of comedic talents such as John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty, Martin nevertheless carved out a distinct niche. When he took his talent to Saturday Night Live in 1984, he also brought his SCTV character of Ed Grimley.

So who the heck is Ed Grimley? Why it's one of Short's earliest pop culture icons, I must say. This annoying yet endearing character would best be described as a cross between The Little Rascals' Alfalfa, Pee Wee Herman and a precursor to Jerri Blank. He was delightfully weird and chipper, and Grimley became so popular that he even had a Saturday morning cartoon back in the day.

For others, Short is best known for his comedic film roles. I know legions of people who loved him in the 1991 remake of Father of The Bride as Franck Eggelhoffer, the ever-so-distinctive wedding planner. It's not easy to steal the show from Steve Martin, but that's exactly what Martin did. Over the years, Short placed his stamp on movies such as Innerspace, Captain Ron, Three Fugitives, The Santa Clause 3, and Mars Attacks! But to me, he'll always be Ned Nederlander from Three Amigos!

Over the past decade, Short has embodied an alter ego known as Jiminy Glick; certainly the biggest role Martin's ever undertaken. This character (a television interviewer who is, shall we say... less than skilled) has allowed Short to showcase his off-the-cuff style of humor. He often interviews real celebrities, and the improvisational antics that follow are outrageously funny. Take for instance, this clip where Jiminy Glick interviews rapper/actor Ice Cube.

Every now and then, Martin Short also surfaces in something I am watching, and every time I am captivated. He's appeared in fare such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Arrested Development," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Weeds." He's even dabbled in drama, receiving recognition (and an Emmy nomination) for his role in "Damages." And how about this?! He's also the voice of Dr. Suess' "The Cat in The Hat" on PBS.

For all his work on TV and film, it is on the stage where Martin got his start and still feels comfortable. Back in 1993, I was fortunate enough to have seen his performance in The Goodbye Girl with Bernadette Peters on Broadway, a role that earned him a Tony award nomination. I was more than impressed that night, and have diligently followed his career since. And why not? As you can see, Martin Short certainly shows a distinct brand of fearlessness. While other comedians may settle for scripted moments and a sheltered routine, he has never been afraid of challenging himself and pushing his talents beyond safe realms.

For that very reason, you can't allow yourself to miss his one-man performance. Spend an evening with Martin Short and see his genius gift of improv first hand. Of course, he is so deft at impromptu comedy that one may not even notice that it was unrehearsed. Whether you find him silly, charming, elfish, clever or annoyingly endearing, one thing is certain. When it comes to Martin, the laughs are never in Short supply.

Martin Short graces the stage on Friday, March 23rd at 8:00 p.m. Oh, and I hear Jiminy Glick is going to make an appearance as well. Be prepared to enjoy the unprepared.

February 21, 2012

Coming Soon: Laurie Berkner Band

The energy from the kids is so immediate and so sincere. Play a song for them, and if they're into it, they're jumping up and down. They're so happy they're screaming for the song. Playing in cover bands, it takes a couple hours for everyone to get drunk enough to get into it and respond.
-Laurie Berkner

We're hitting the home stretch for the 2011-12 season, and the performers keeps hitting the stage; consistently impressing the audience in exciting ways. Now, it may seem when presented with the task of maintaining the constant flow of talent to grace the historic stage at The Paramount, it would be fairly easy. While it seems like a no-brainer, I have been told that getting an act to appear onstage isn't necessarily child's play... yet in this case, I think this is precisely the case.

Perhaps The Laurie Berkner Band is not a familiar name to you. Then again, perhaps you are someone who has, you know, been around children in the past decade or so. If so, chances are that you've heard the music (and likely have caught yourself humming some of it to yourself). Since the late 1990s, they aren't just a popular children's musical act, they are THE musical act.

Te centerpiece of the group is Laurie Berkner, herself. She's carved a niche for herself in the subgenre of music known as "kinder rock." No, I'm not making that up. Heck, ask any parent, and they'll tell you that the genre runs deep. That's right, folks. Children's songs extend much further than "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (A Wimoweh, wimoweh...) Her popularity is so vast that People Magazine anointed her as "The Queen of Children's Music." Indeed. Compared to her, The Wiggles are but mere jesters. But it was not always the case for Ms. Berkner...

Although Laurie has been a professional musician for twenty years, but didn't find her true calling until after some stints with cover bands. She released her first children's album in 1997, and the nest year formed her own independent record company. That's a heck of a way to break onto the children's music scene, and her status has only steadily grown from there.

Imbibing her songs with an uptempo beat and earnest lyrics, Laurie brings her songs to life with band members Adam Bernstein, Bob Golden and Susie Lampert. Together, hey have an uncanny knack of bringing a smile to your face.

Any doubts should be erased by watching the following clip. A word of warning, though. This song will stay in your head long after you see this.

So... "what do you think of that!?" (kick!)
See? I told ya. You're now gonna be hearing this song in your head for the next few days. You're welcome.

In addition to her musical gifts, Berkner also has written two children's books, appeared on television, and sold hundreds of thousands of DVDs. She's more than just the queen of children's music; she's a one-woman media empress. So, to all you parents out there: If you haven't let your little ones partake of any other music than "Old MacDonald" or "Bingo," then you owe it to them to round them up and mosey on down to The Paramount. Laurie's sound is that unique blend of folk music and kinder rock that provides a sense of wonder for all ages.

The Laurie Berkner Band will teach your kid how to rock and roll on Sunday, March 4th at 1:00 p.m.

February 7, 2012

Coming Soon: Pilobolus

And now for something a little bit different.

Up next on stage is an exceptional group of rhythmic performers, yet they aren't a musical act. They are talented assembly of artists, but they carry neither a paint brush or pencil. They are the inimitable, the astonishing Pilobolus. If you've never heard of them, you may be lifting up that rock you're presenting living under and asking... Pill-lob-o-who?

Sure, it sounds bizarre. Don't judge a group by its name; judge them by what they do.

And oh my, what they can do!

Pilobolus is a modern dance company that simply defies belief in their fusion of choreography and athleticism. Founded four decades ago, they are a diverse troupe that have broken through and pioneered a form of dance engaging the body, heart and mind. Winners of numerous accolades around the world, the have showcased in front of countless global audiences, and were even featured a few years ago during the Oscars. Their blend of dance and fluidity must be seen to be believed. In addition, they also can put on a heck of a shadow puppet show. For instance, take a look at this sequence from an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Never one to rest on their laurels, Pilobolus continues to break ground. They recently teamed up with the musical act OK Go to make a unique and amazing music video. Shot looking up at the dancers through a glass floor, it makes for a surreal but beautifully choreographed experience. The kaleidoscopic exhibition is for OK Go's song "All Is Not Lost."

Pretty incredible, huh? The bottom of so many feet have never looked so friggin' awesome.

For their efforts, Pilobolus and OK Go have been nominated for a Grammy. Oh, but that's not all. There's a more intereactive experience to be had at, where they have collaborated with Google to create a customized and video/experience that will continue to amaze.

Pilobolus may have a funny name, but have established themselves as the crown jewel of modern dance artistry. Soon, this company with an emphasis on creativity and elegance will be grooving their way onto The Paramount for two days of breathtaking exhibition. Come for the joy, wonder at the display of innovation, and marvel at the human form.

Don't hesitate. Through clarity, what we may initially deem as odd can be revealed to possess immense beauty, much like life itself...

Pilobolus will be shape-shifting up on Paramount's stage February 17th and the 18th.

February 1, 2012

Coming Soon: Good vs. Evil

Cooking is a holistic process of planning, preparing, dining and sharing food. I place food at the center of our humanity, as it nourishes not only our physical bodies but also our emotional and spiritual lives. Food is truly a cultural phenomenon that informs our traditions and our relationship with the earth. I genuinely believe that food connects us all.
-Eric Ripert

Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
-Anthony Bourdain

There have been such delightful feasts thus far at The Paramount this season. In fact, it's been a veritable smörgåsbord of talent, each a memorable show that also whets our appetite for more. Well, fear not, my fellow Paramount subscribers and devotees; another course is about to be presented. It looks to be a unique experience served up onstage in the heart of Austin. The participants are two of the more prominent culinary voices in society today: Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, a yin and yang in foodie circles. Unconventional as the idea may seem, the prospect of this duo has me salivating. It certainly sounds like an interesting dish, does it not?

When one thinks of Texas (in the gastronomical sense), I imagine the initial thoughts are limited to merely steaks or barbecue. While I suppose profiling our state as a land of beef isn't completely without merit, we Texans are capable of cooking and eating more than red meat. For those that don't know, the size and history of our state has provided a diverse variety of cultures to cultivate our culinary tastes. At long last, we're beginning to break through the mold of briskets, rib eyes and fajitas. Heck, we in the Lone Star state are even hosting a season of Top Chef. Ok, wait... while that doesn't quite validate our credentials, it does expose a broader view of food in a land where everything's bigger.

So if you're a Texan whose palate is limited to Whataburger value meals, you may just be asking yourself... who the heck are these guys?

Well, when it comes to accolades, it's hard to think of anyone more honored in the food-mosphere than Eric Ripert. He's a chef, author, television personality, as well as the living embodiment of modern French cuisine. Author of four cookbooks, Ripert also is a recipient of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor. On television, he's a regular guest judge on "Top Chef” and hosts “Avec Eric,” an Emmy-winning PBS series.

Oh yeah, and he cooks too. Ripert is the chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City. The restaurant has earned the very highest ratings from The Michelin Guide, the Zagat Guide, and has held a four-star review from The New York Times for over two decades. A man with a reputation for some of the finest seafood in the world, it's safe to say you'll never catch him at your local neighborhood Long John Silver's.

Eric Ripert's accolades are without question and full of merit. Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand, is a whole other brand of awesome...

I'll be 100% honest. I'm not one to idolize anyone, but Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite people on Earth. Sure, he's acerbic, but beneath his outwardly cynical veneer is a worldliness and refreshingly rough and tumble approach to life itself. He is a chef, author and television personality (and nemesis of Rachel Ray and Paula Deen).

A graduate of the CIA (that's the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency), Bourdain was an executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City, where he specialized in classic French dishes. He wrote about his experiences at the restaurant in his professional memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. A visceral and eye-opening look behind the kitchen door, the book introduced us all to his sardonic wit and gift for prose.

After making his splash on the New York bestseller list with Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain appeared on The Food Network (don't hold that against him) with his show "A Cook's Tour." He then jumped ship to The Travel Channel where he has established himself as the host of "No Reservations," a program that allows Anthony to showcase different cultures and the foods that help define people across the globe. He has continued to author bestselling books and is now also a writer and consultant for the HBO series "Treme."

An outspoken author and food critic, Bourdain's most admirable trait is the sense that he plows through existence as a man with little to no fear. He possesses a lust for life that would make Iggy Pop proud. For Anthony, food is clearly one of the highest forms of artistry, imbibed with the spirit of whoever prepared it. The most important ingredient is the heart and soul of the cook; the end result isn't just the presentation of a dish, but a sharing of a story. When viewed in that light, Bourdain's voice is enlightening and occasionally a thing of beauty.

While these two may be a yin and yang of culinary points of view, the wealth of experience and observations they hold is mind-boggling to ponder. Think of the stories these two must have heard, think of the savory details they could share, not to mention the recipes they've encountered. Now, who wouldn't want to sit at a table with these two? I could happily eat, sit and listen to these guys talk for hours on end.

Now is our chance to do so, and without the hinderance of a full belly. After all, we Texans have a big appetite for storytelling also. Variety may well be the spice of life, and these two guys have a wealth in their pantries.

Hungry for more? Good vs. Evil with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert will give you something to digest on Wednesday, February 8th at 8:00 pm.

January 27, 2012

Coming Soon: Moulin Rouge

Ahhh, February. The days of St. Valentine are nearly upon us, and now we can turn to thoughts romantic. And what better way to celebrate the love than to embrace something French, no? More specifically, The Paramount presents a unique opportunity for the lovers out there. The next guests to the stage are a special ballet company from our neighbors to the North. Although technically Canadian, this Royal Winnipeg Ballet brings a Parisian flair to the stage, and invite you to visit the famous Moulin Rouge. Ooh la la!

Distinctive for its red windmill, this historical venue has an iconic status in Paris second only to the Eiffel Tower itself. It's not just a cabaret... it's the cabaret; a artistic mecca for bohemian principles. Over the years, its history has become the stuff of legend, and its story has been told and fictionalized in all manner of arts. Perhaps you know of it from books, or from myth, or from its numerous depictions on film. The Moulin Rouge has always remained in the public eye, but interest was renewed ten years ago thanks to Baz Luhrmann's frenzied romantic musical starring Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman.

On this side of the pond, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has a distinctive history of its own. First established in 1939, the company began touring in 1945, and received its official royal title in 1953. In the decades since they have established themselves as one of North America's most accomplished ballet companies as well as a premier performing arts organization. Today, they present the story of Moulin Rouge as a unique extravaganza for the stage.

Don't believe me? Take a look at this behind-the-scenes video about the production's set design. Attention to detail is top notch, and reflects the quality of this entire show.

See? Now that, my friends, looks like something special.

You see, this Moulin Rouge ballet is more than just another act. It's a celebration of what may well be the most important thing of all: l'amour. If your idea of French romance extends solely to the likes of Pepe Le Pew, then you owe it to yourself to see this. See it for the dancing, the costumes, the performances, and the very spectacle of love itself. Grab a seat and reaffirm that "the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet brings their spectacular spectacular to The Paramount Theatre on Thursday, February 2nd at 8:00 p.m. Come because you can can-can!