It can be hard to narrow down Austin's entertainment options for a night on the town. Deciding between an improv sketch show or an aerial arts performance is just unbearable, but what if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could go to both in one night?
Now you can, thanks to the minds behind one of Austin’s newest attractions, The Greatness. A monthly entertainment extravaganza that switches from a variety show to a competitive game show halfway through, The Greatness is one of the best ways to see what Austin has to offer in terms of artists and entertainers in one fell swoop.
With the next installment set to premiere on March 28, show host and producer Phil West took some time to discuss the unique format of The Greatness and how it can connect local artists with the rest of the community.
CultureMap: Mixing an arts variety show with a game show is an interesting concept. What are the influences on that? How does that format draw in and involve an audience?
Phil West: The show’s concept came out of conversations that a group of us had: Derrick Brown from Write Bloody Publishing, Michael Graupmann from the Encyclopedia Show, Mike Henry (who co-owns and books the North Door), and I wanted to do a game show-styled show, wanted to feature artists from a number of different genres into one showcase, and wanted to involve the audience in the show in the way that slam poetry does.
So, from this, we came up with the concept of the show: two artists (or duos) going head-to-head in each of three genres, with the audience voting for a winner in each genre. We then have those three winners go into the game show round, have four members of the audience answer quiz questions, and the winner from the audience quiz gets to play in the game show against the three winners.
So, it’s two shows in one – Part One’s a variety show, and Part Two’s a game show where you get to learn a little more about the artists. And the fact that any of the audience members can find themselves on stage with a chance to best people they’ve just seen doing what they do best on stage? That makes it a little more fun and unpredictable.
CM: It seems that the show is completely open to artists of almost any talent. Do you see that as a great way to keep every show unique and to continue surprising the audience?
PW: I do. In our first two shows, we’ve had improv artists, comedians, poets and aerial artists. In this next show, we’re going to have tubas and punsters alongside poets. I like the idea of being able to see something different every ten minutes of the showcase.
Plus, with us mixing up game show categories from month-to-month, there’s even more variety to offer each month. Every single show is going to be different, and will have its hilarious, transcendent and unexpected moments.
CM: Does the show serve as a means for introducing attendees to the Austin arts community and meet local talents? And is there a way for local artists to become involved with the show?
PW: Absolutely – one of the main reasons I want to do the show is to allow artists the chance to preview what they’ve got coming up or to highlight the best of shows they’ve just done. I’ve been in Austin since 1994, and even though the city’s changed incredibly, it’s maintained a great support for a wide variety of performing arts. This is an eclectic show designed for a city that likes its arts eclectic. The best way to connect with us is to find us at our Facebook page.
CM: Any ideas on how The Greatness will grow and expand?
PW: We’re looking forward to seeing how many different art forms and artists we can showcase as the show continues to grow and develop. We might have dueling Angus Youngs in an upcoming show. We have the capability at the North Door to do video projection, so you might see photographers doing slide shows and filmmakers doing video shorts down the line.
We want to feature the best of what Austin has to offer, especially the up-and-coming artists working in burgeoning new art forms.