Well, Tuesday's the big day for those looking for the next holiday to justify their over-indulgence and public indecency. For some of us, Mardi Gras means bright lights, beads and blacking out. For the rest of us, Mardi Gras means avoiding downtown and getting some good rest.
But can't we come to a compromise, y'all? Can't we have our King Cake and eat it too?
Of course, we can, true believers. Because there's plenty more creative expression happening in this town than just the shameful debauchery that goes on down on Sixth Street. So why not make the entire weekend your playground and still keep your day job on Wednesday?
For starters, it's time for the big reveal of the the new dance pieces from the three finalists in Ballet Austin's New American Talent/Dance competition. New Yorkers Bradley Shelver, Loni Landon and Gregory Dolbashian are debuting their latest works at the Long Center, vying for the chance to walk away with the NATD title (and a nice $24K cash prize). Audience members will get to cast their votes via text to help the panel of expert judges decide which of these phenomenally talented choreographers will be crowned the champ.
The Paramount Theatre meanwhile welcomes Pilobolus to their stage Friday and Saturday evening. You may have seen this mind-blowing dance company do their insanely awesome sillhouette creations at the Oscars or on a Hyundai "human car" commercial. Their work emphasizes sheer physical strength and the amazing human potential when dancers work as a team, and there will be plenty of amazing gymnastic and acrobatic feats to make you say "Whoa" and "Whaaaaaaaat."
Hyde Park Theatre is also wrapping up the Short Fringe portion of the 2012 FronteraFest. After four weeks of wacky, unexpected programming, the ten best acts have been chosen to perform at the culminating Best of Fest nights, which run Friday and Saturday evening. These shows are the best of the best of the rest of the fest, so they're two solid nights of impressive new work. Tickets are hard to come by if you haven't already reserved them, but standby tickets are occasionally a possibility a half hour prior to the show.
Down the street, the UT Department of Theatre and Dance is debuting new plays by their brilliant graduate student playwrights. UT New Theatre (UTNT) will feature four new works: River City by Diana Grisanti, The Chronicles of Bad Ass Women by Holli Gipson, Static by Tom Horan and Bacha Bazi (Boy Play) by Gabriel Jason Dean. Each of these plays will be wildly different from the others, but all of these promising young authors have consistently generated enjoyable work both for UT and the Austin community.
For those with a taste for improvisation, there's a party going on for one of the city's prominent improv houses. Gnap! Theatre Projects and Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation are celebrating their fourth Anniversary of joy-making at Salvage Vanguard Theater during their two-day Homecoming Weekend. On Friday night, long- and short-form improv performances will precede an honest to goodness homecoming dance; on Saturday, players from across the city are invited to perform with some of Gnap!'s key players. Clearly, fun and merriment will ensue.
Over at Cap City Comedy Club, the weekend's headlining comedian is the e*trade baby from those famous Super Bowl commercials. Actually, it's just the baby's voice, comedian Pete Holmes, who will be slinging the punchlines this time. Holmes has been on Conan and Jimmy Fallon, is a regular on VH1's I Love (insert thing to love), and done a half-hour special on Comedy Central. Plus, Bob Khosravi will be the local feature — he's one of our favorites —which means you're guaranteed a full night of laughs.
Oh, yeah, and for those of you who aren't exhausted or hung over, there's a little running event called the LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon and Half Marathon that will be occupying most of the roadways throughout downtown and beyond. Twenty thousand runners will be raising funds for the cancer research foundation and setting their own personal bests. The same day, the Paramount Break-a-Leg 5K will start from the same spot at 15th and Congress and follow the same path for a little over three miles. We'd wish them luck, but we don't know how to phrase it properly.
Finally, for those of you in town who admit to having a television AND use it to watch PBS, there's a special screening of Downton Abbey's Season 2 Finale at KLRU's old Austin City Limits stude 6A. Austin Eavesdropper's Tolly Moseley and Master Pancake's John Erler, Kerri Lendo and Martha Kelly will be providing the charm and wit you would hope from your closest friends who all love this turn-of-the-century period drama too much. No haters here, just self-reflexive giddiness.
What a weekend. And however you choose to spend it, make sure you do it safely. Stay hydrated, make good choices and wear good shoes, y'all. The last thing we need is anyone twisting an ankle taking off their tops for Mardi Gras beads.