Dramatic reading to debut for first time at ArtWorks Festival

Published 2:01 pm Saturday, August 17, 2019

Adding more variety into the Austin ArtWorks Festival, two theatrical performances will be taking the stage next week.

On Thursday, Aug. 22, the first dramatic reading for the week leading up to the Austin ArtWorks Festival called “Good Morning, Miss America” will be performed at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, hosted by Summerset Theatre and Austin Area Arts. The story centers around a woman “Jane” who encounters the challenges of caring for her aging parents “Lou” and “Doris.”

Lia Culbert, Susan V. Hansen, Craig Johnson and Penny Kinney are the four actors who will be enacting the dramatic reading for audiences, while John Deyo will serve as the director. The playwright, Phyllis Yes, grew up in Austin and was the featured artist in 2013.

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Deyo, who was named as last year’s Austin Area Arts Artist of the Year alongside his wife, Lisa Deyo, owner of Sweet Reads, expressed his enthusiasm for the dramatic reading being added to the week leading up to the festival.

“It’s a fairly autobiographical story, regarding this woman helping her parents navigate the perils of growing older, dealing with aging parents and trying to work with them and the pitfalls that come upon our generation as they get into their 80s,” Deyo said. “Their resistance from wanting to change or ask for help with anything has really changed.”

Yes and her sister experienced this when caring for her own parents in Austin, who were suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“People will see things they can really relate to,” Deyo said. “Dealing with a friend or family member and those issues with dementia or Alzheimer’s, as well as assisted living, selling the house, breaking a hip from a fall and getting more frail, while meeting resistance surrounds aging parents.”

Tickets are $5 and are available for purchase through the Paramount.

Though the play performance will be pretty typical, Deyo stated that the actors will be reading from their scripts in full costume while in front of backdrops and sets. He wanted the audience to see the tiny snippets from Yes’ real life from one scene to the next, while focusing on the little interactions the main character has with her mother and stepfather. The performance is about an hour long. Deyo also stated that this performance is family friendly, but gave discretion that the material being discussed may be “heavy” for children.

The newest incorporation of the theatrical arts into the festival lineup was something that was discussed for a year, according to Laura Helle, executive director of Austin Area Arts. It was decided that the festival should encompass more variety in the types of creative arts.

“Literally a year ago, we knew the festival covered the visual arts, literary arts and the performing arts in terms of music,” Helle said. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have dramatic arts?’”

The results led to the addition of two plays being performed during the week leading up to the Austin ArtWorks Festival. One will be performed by the Commonweal Theatre Company from Lanesboro called “Stones in His Pockets” on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

According to Bonnie Rietz, co-chair of the Austin ArtWorks Festival, the playwright herself will be making an appearance during the performance, along with a doctor from Mayo Clinic, to participate in the panel after the show.

“Phyllis was our featured artist in 2013, and this year she returns with her play that has been put on in Portland, Iowa and then heads to New York in October,” Rietz said. “She will be attending and participating in a panel discussion afterward on healthy aging.”

This all became part of an inclusive effort by the festival to bring different art mediums into the spotlight for the eighth annual Austin ArtWorks Festival, which takes place next weekend. Deyo stated that while other types of art have been featured before, such as music and creative arts, the theatrical arts wasn’t included.

“I think it’s a wonderful addition,” he said. “Austin Area Arts has always embraced many arts like the literary arts, painting, sculpting, physical art and music. But, there are other art forms such as theatre and dance. I think that could find a place to be included in the festival. We’re really excited to partner with Summerset Theater and bring other art forms to the festival, and we hope to see it continue in the future and expand in other ways.”

Helle shared that this conscientious effort to bring more variety of performances and artistic works to be highlighted was something that the Austin Area Arts wanted to bring to the forefront.

“I think it certainly was our goal to be as inclusive as possible and that includes all different kinds of art,” Helle said. “We are aware we are an umbrella for the community, and we have resources including physical sites. It is definitely supporting all types of arts, and we are seeing those things expand…it is exciting to see new genres being represented.”

Now seeing more arts being added to the lineup, Deyo was excited to see how the arts can be reflected in a variety of ways. Theatrics being one of them.

“We are excited to bring theater to the Austin ArtWorks Festival,” he said. “The chance to produce something with local ties…the best way to say that it’s very exciting. We really appreciate the content matter and the performances these actors will bring forward.”