There’s a mysterious circus tent at Barton Creek Square, and screams are drifting across the pavement. A chainsaw roars inside. The black-and-white-striped peaks are topped with red lights and a sign that reads, “Paranormal Cirque.”

This latest effort by Cirque Italia leans into the haunted vibes, suggesting freak show — especially thanks to the rated-R warnings plastered all over the website — but delivering dramatic set design and theatrical camp. It’ll be in Austin until January 16 before moving to four other Texas cities.

A chipper description by the show’s general manager, Benjamin Holland, encapsulates the tone of the show: “I'm also the contortionist with the show so, you know; I take all my bones out of place and then all the people scream and say, ‘Oh my God, no!’ And then I try and put them back, and everybody has a great time about it.”

The Cirque nails the look; it’s unbelievable that not just a circus, but an entire haunted house hits the road for just a couple of weeks or even a few days — and it looks stunning. It’s hard to tell if the floorboards creak on purpose, but that’s one reason a haunted circus is a perfectly natural thing. It’s also freezing inside (remember: it’s just a tent), and the show starts with a sinking siren that sounds like some countries’ emergency alert systems.

In order to get to the main seating, attendees are ushered through a maze densely populated by actors (presumably the circus performers in more concealing costumes), who love a chance to reach out and creepily stroke an arm or tickle a neck. Still, the most suspenseful part of my night was when I showed a staff member my seat number and they disappeared, sending someone with a folding chair.

I was the only person outside of regular seating — forming my own row on the circular runway the performers strutted on between acts — despite swathes of empty seats (not an empty house, by any means, but enough that I could have fit many other places). I waited, at first apprehensively, to be singled out for some embarrassing crowd work, which never happened. Maybe it was a prank. Maybe it was a welcoming, if ambiguous gesture to make sure the press invite had a clear view. In any case, I preferred just to watch, and the real audience participants seemed to have a good time.

Once the alarms sounded, the show itself was straightforward circus fare; just a little ruder, and in gothy, bloody costumes that felt better suited to an Austin audience than the more traditional aesthetic. Holland’s act was perhaps the best suited to the theme, beginning with a vaguely perverse walk around the audience on a leash, and containing some of the more unusual physical feats. The show’s impressive aerialists gave beautiful performances in menacing tones, and the show moved on to a slapstick clown gag, and a super-campy magic show.

For those who took the content warnings very seriously, there may have been a distinct lack of freak show elements; fire eating and sword swallowing, target practice, body suspension, etc. (Some videos of past performances do show different acts than the one in Austin so far, including a bow-and-arrow stunt.) Perhaps some viewers have proven especially fragile, but it seems more likely that the marketing is all just part of the theater.

“We actually put a motorcycle on a tightrope…and that's something people sometimes turn away [from], because that's pretty exhilarating,” says Holland. “We also have a lady who ties her hair, and then she is hanging just by her hair. She gets suspended all above the ring of the circus, swinging around in the air doing tricks. That one, if anything, is hard for me to watch, because I know her; she's a very nice lady.”

The show does deliver some wholesome if horror-based entertainment (with a fair amount of dry humping), good for casual dates and fans of the circus in all its forms. For those who frequent local comedy nights, this could be a fun way to shake up the routine.

“All the people are just normal people; nobody's actually scary,” says Holland. “The show ends and people leave. We just wait around and … get everything ready for the next people. But you know, people aren't really like that. I paint myself all with blood, and then I go around and I scream at people. [Then] the show's over and I go home, and I make dinner with my wife.”

After the Cirque leaves Austin for the rest of Texas, it is scheduled in Katy (January 19-29), Robstown (February 2-5), Mercedes (February 9-12), and Midland (February 23-March 5). Tickets ($10-50) are available at cirqueitalia.com.

Photo by Maja Prgomet

Cirque Du Soleil's touching show Corteo makes Austin debut at Moody Center

The Tears of a Clown

Mauro’s funeral has lasted years. Corteo by Cirque Du Soleil, the elegiac circus show celebrating the life of a fictional clown upon his passing, is returning to North America for the first time since 2019. Originally in Italian but beloved around the world, this piece of theater will both entertain and move Austinites as it transforms the Moody Center for five shows, February 2-5, 2023.

Although Corteo has been in North America, this is its Ausin debut. It comes on the heels of Ovo almost exactly one year prior. Where the insect-themed Ovo dealt with birth via a mysterious egg, Corteo runs through a clown’s memories and relationships as he’s on his deathbed. The tone is nostalgic, but according to artistic director Alison Crawford, it’s not a sad show.

“It's very touching because we get to know his character and the people that he loved during his life. He was a clown, so he had … some funny moments, and there's happy moments,” says Crawford. “Sad moments? I mean, at the end, we feel he's leaving us. Some people, it can remind them of somebody that was dear to them. But it's a very happy look at life.”

Set in the 18th century — if not in earthly Italy, then at least in a very Italian space full of chandeliers and velvet — this quasi-play is narrated by Mauro, and set to music by a seven-piece band spanning several styles from the folk music of the Romani people and Ashkenazi Jews, to more romantic and lyrical tunes. The multicultural aesthetic draws wonder from all audiences, but Crawford says Americans seem most drawn to humor across the circus repertoire.

“I love every moment of it. I've watched the show hundreds of times and I still don't get bored of it,” says Crawford. “The music really pulls you into the story, too.”

Corteo premiered in 2005 in Montreal, under a Big Top tent, meaning things will look a little different here, in Austin. This show in particular is unique for its dual view of the circular stage, causing half of the audience to face the other. Despite the opulent stage design and safety considerations — with aerialists literally swinging from the chandeliers — loading the show in takes 12 hours, and loading out takes less than four.

Like Crawford, audiences who have been to many Cirque Du Soleil shows know that the shine remains, even when they’ve seen the troupe or the story before. Austin is the only Texas city hosting this circus, but audiences have five chances to see it. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster.

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Austin earned top 10 rank for highest number of build-to-rent homes last year


With the increasing demand for housing and rising popularity of constructing homes for rent, Austin has earned a top 10 position in a new analysis of American metro areas with the highest number of single-family rentals built for all of 2022.

A total of 324 build-to-rent homes were completed in Austin in 2022, which is a 10-year high, according to the study by RentCafe. The newest findings put the Texas Capital three places higher than in 2021, when the city ranked No. 13 in the nation.

"Austin was named the second fastest growing city in the U.S. by the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise," the study's author wrote. "That came after the city recorded a 4.3 percent rise in its GDP in 2022 to $216 billion, following the Bay Area."

The study analyzed build-to-rent data from RentCafe's sister site, Yardi Matrix, for communities that had at least 50 single-family rental units.

Dallas nailed the rankings this year by earning the top spot with nearly 2,800 single-family rental units completed last year. Phoenix (which outpaced Dallas last year) ranked No. 2 with only 1,527 units completed. After Phoenix, single-family rentals in other American metro areas only went into the triple digits, with Atlanta, Georgia (No. 3) at 808, Greenville, South Carolina (No. 4) at 584, and Charlotte, North Carolina rounding out the top five with 475 units completed.

The metro areas that complete the top 10 for the most build-to-rent homes in 2022 include:

  • No. 6 – Detroit, Michigan
  • No. 7 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • No. 8 – Panama City, Florida
  • No. 9 – Charleston, South Carolina
  • No. 10 – Austin, Texas

Austin had the seventh highest number of single-family rentals completed in the country within the last five years, totaling 1,096 units. The Texas cities that ranked higher were Dallas (No. 2) and Houston (No. 4). San Antonio ranked below Austin at No. 8. Phoenix took the No. 1 spot with over 6,000 build-to-rent homes completed in the same time period.

The study's findings support a growing demand for flexibility among renters who may not want the high cost and maintenance associated with home ownership, RentCafe says.

“More and more people are deciding they want the best of both worlds: the flexible lifestyle of the renter, with no maintenance commitments and costs, and the comfort and privacy offered by living in a house,” the study’s author wrote. “In this case, build-to-rent homes check all of the boxes, while high home prices and rising interest rates make them even more appealing.”

The number of single-family rentals is expected to continue rising dramatically in 2023. Currently, 945 units are under construction in Austin. Overall, there are 44,700 build-to-rent homes being built this year throughout the nation; three times more than the number of completed homes in all of 2022, the study says.

Shuttered Salvation Army shelter in downtown Austin will get new life

Salvation Army

When the Salvation Army shelter on East Eighth Street shut its doors back in April, Austin City Council member Zohaib "Zo" Qadri (District 9) said it was unfortunate to see as an Austin resident and leader.

"The Salvation Army kind of abruptly stated that they were pulling out without much of a notice to the residents of the shelter in the district – a shelter that largely houses or housed women and children," Qadri said. "So, you know, that was a huge disappointment for us."

Now the City of Austin has reached a compromise and solution that Qadri believes will help those experiencing homelessness. The Austin City Council on Thursday, June 8, approved a 12-month lease agreement for the former Salvation Army shelter that will cost more than $1 million.

The site will be operated by California-based nonprofit Urban Alchemy, which also provides services at the ARCH, or the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The council also approved a contract for Urban Alchemy to add more funding, extend the ARCH program and run the former Salvation Army shelter, providing 150 beds.

Urban Alchemy will get more than $4 million.

Later this summer, City leaders will also consider a temporary emergency shelter that will provide around 300 more beds for people experiencing homelessness.

ECHO, or the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, estimates there are thousands of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. Since the city's camping ban was reinstated in May 2021, many of these individuals have spread out throughout the city or gone into hiding, making it harder to connect them with services.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Tenacious D will play the best song in the world in Austin this fall

Spicy Meatball

America's favorite (only?) comedy rock duo is back on tour, and lucky for Austinites, they've announced the addition of three Texas dates this fall. Of course, we're talking about none other than Tenacious D, comprised of Jack Black and Kyle Glass.

The duo's Spicy Meatball Tour is currently underway this month in Europe, with newly extended dates including Houston (September 13), Grand Prairie (September 14), and Austin (September 15).

Supporting acts are yet to be announced, but tickets are on sale as of Friday, June 9, at 10 am. Fans can purchase tickets HERE.

According to a release, the tour dates come on the heels of the recently-released recorded version of Tenacious D’s viral, fan-favorite live cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” The single is accompanied by a video directed by longtime D collaborator Taylor Stephens, and features our dynamic duo in a glorious, romantic romp by the sea. Last month, they released their first new song in five years, “Video Games,” which has been streamed over 18 million times across all platforms in less than a month. The animated music video, created by Oney Plays, brings video game-ified versions of Black and Glass to life in classic and hilarious ways.

In addition to the single releases, Tenacious D will be the special guest at this year’s Video Game Awards, happening on June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, where they will perform their new single.

But of course the burning question remains: Will Black perform his equally viral "Peaches" from the recent Super Mario Bros. movie? There's only one way to find out.

Full Tour Dates are below (new dates in bold font):
6/7/23 Berlin, Germany @ Zitadelle
6/8/23 Nickelsdorf, Austria @ Nova Rock Festival
6/10/23 Milan, Italy @ Carroponte
6/12/23 Zurich, Switzerland @ The Hall
6/13/23 Brussels, Belgium @ Forest National
6/14/23 Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Ahoy
6/16/23 London, England @ O2 Arena
6/18/23 Clisson, France @ Hellfest Open Air Festival
6/25/23 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl (Video Game Awards)
9/6/23 Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
9/7/23 Franklin, TN @ Firstbank Amphitheater
9/9/23 Indianapolis, IN @ All IN Music Festival
9/11/23 Rogers, AR @ Walmart AMP
9/13/23 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
9/14/23 Grand Prairie, TX @ Texas Trust CU Theatre
9/15/23 Austin, TX @ Germania Insurance Amphitheater