Photo by Amitava Sarkar

ISHIDA Dance Company presents keepsake, featuring works choreographed by ISHIDA, French choreographer Jérémy Galdeano commissioned by Les Grands Ballets and Mannheim National Theater, and Swedish dancer and choreographer formerly with tanzmainz John Wannehag.

The program includes two world premieres of original ISHIDA poetic narratives: an arresting men’s duet referencing the Greek tragedy “Seven against Thebes” called warm my bones; and the feature work keepsake, which explores a dissociative fugue state and what might have provoked it.

The program also has works by two respected but rarely seen in the US, European choreographers: the critically acclaimed work "If the world was ending, would you hold me tight?" by Swedish choreographer John Wannehag and the world premiere "You look strange--you look happy" by French choreographer Jérémy Galdeano, whose work has been presented in Canada, Germany, Italy and Mexico.

Photo courtesy of Glass Half Full Theatre and Trouble Puppet Theater Company

Glass Half Full Theatre and Trouble Puppet Theater Company present The Austin Puppet Incident

The Austin Puppet Incident is an annual event of puppetry for adult audiences. Local artists work in collaboration to create short pieces for adult audiences using a variety of puppetry techniques including: shadow, hand and rod, tabletop, object and physical theater.

A showcase of naughty, heartbreaking, harrowing, hilarious and always original stories through the medium of animated objects, the Austin Puppet Incident is a joint creation of Glass Half Full Theatre and Trouble Puppet Theater Company, and is funded in part by the Puppet Slam Network and the City of Austin Cultural Arts Department.

Photo courtesy of Motion Media Arts Center

Motion Media Arts Center presents Narratives of a Migrant Body

Narratives of the Migrant Body is a dance storytelling event directed by interdisciplinary Brazilian-Amazonian dance artist Angelica Monteiro. The presentation will include a brief opening dance piece by emerging student choreographer Lauren Jershin, entitled It’s Starting Again.

Narratives of the Migrant Body is the first installment of a three-part performance series entitled In Between, created by Angelica Monteiro. The series reflects on the human experience of crossing borders - of territory, culture, and identity. Narratives of the Migrant Body explores the relationship between borders and bodies from a societal and individual level by challenging the myths underpinning the U.S. immigration system.

Angelica and cast members Valentina Reyes, Natalia DePaula, and Makenna Wallace, embody the knowledge they gathered from interviewing Elissa Steglich, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at UT School of Law, as well as their own individual and family migration histories. Blending movement styles of Waacking, traditional Amazonian dances, and improvisation with spoken word, the cast invites the audience to consider the fictions circulating in their consciousness about immigration in the United States. This production of Narratives of the Migrant Body is presented with support from Planet Texas 2050, the University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance, and ARCOS Dance.

Photo courtesy of Natasha Leggero

Cap City Comedy Club presents Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero is an actress, writer, and standup comedian who most recently starred in the CBS sitcom Broke and released The Honeymoon Standup Special on Netflix, which she shot along with her husband and fellow comedian Moshe Kasher. In the TV space, Natasha created, executive produced, and starred in the Comedy Central show Another Period, as well as Showtime’s Dice opposite Andrew Dice Clay. She is also the co-host of the comedy podcast The Endless Honeymoon Podcast, in which she and her husband give out relationship advice with a hilarious spin.

Photo courtesy of René Vaca

Cap City Comedy Club presents René Vaca

René Vaca is a stand-up comedian, writer, and actor who was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. After realizing he wanted to pursue comedy for a living, he dropped out of college and has not looked back since. Vaca has been pursuing his dream in stand-up comedy and won the 16th annual StandUp NBC competition.

Photo courtesy of Tim Meadows

Cap City Comedy Club presents Tim Meadows

Tim Meadows is an actor, comedian, and writer who was one of the longest-running cast members on Saturday Night Live, where he appeared for 10 seasons from 1991 to 2000.

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Get immersed in Hallmark Channel Christmas at this Texas hotel holiday suite

like a hallmark movie

It's that time of year again, when the airwaves are flooded with that holiday staple known as the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Legions of fans know the plots by heart. Big-city gal returns to her small town, finds love and saves Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten. Two colleagues who can't stand each other discover they have more in common than ever imagined and find love. And save Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten. Three generations of family at loggerheads re-connect after finding themselves stranded in a cozy cabin in the woods. And save Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten.

Hilton-Americas Houston

Photo by Christy Radecic

Stay inside a Hallmark holiday movie.

Now, fans who love the genre for its uplifting messages and smiles-through-tears can experience the movies in a whole new way. The Hilton Americas-Houston is offering a limited-time Hallmark Channel “Countdown to Christmas” Holiday Suite by Hilton, available starting November 1 and running through January 1, 2024. The hotel is one of only three Hilton properties across the country to offer this one-of-a-kind festive dreamscape.

In H-Town, guests can book the Hilton Americas-Houston's "Haul Out the Holly" suite, which offers a cascade of seasonal cheer, and is based on the all-new, original Hallmark holiday movie of the same name. Look for jaw-dropping holiday designs and light treatments throughout the suite, including enchanting light pillows, a light-up holiday village that will dazzle the world’s biggest Christmas enthusiasts, a custom holiday light decorating station, a gingerbread bar, and more.

Expect special surprise-and-delight moments like a festive oversized game, a custom Hallmark Channel light-up marquee, and even a twinkling Christmas light ceiling. This exceptional stay will allow guests to embrace the essence of the sequel film, starring beloved Hallmark star Lacey Chabert and centering on the iconic residents and ongoing HOA decorating competitions — and infamous citations — of the ever-festive Evergreen Lane.

"We're thrilled to partner with Hallmark for a collaboration that embodies the joy of the holiday season and brings to life the light and warmth of hospitality we show our guests every day,” said Matt Schuyler, chief brand officer, Hilton in a press release announcing the initiative. “This is a great representation of Hilton’s commitment to delivering immersive and unforgettable experiences during every stay. Our collaboration with Hallmark allows us to leverage timeless storytelling to bring an added level of excitement during the holidays.”

The "Haul Out the Holly" suite, like its counterparts the “Hallmark’s Holiday Sweetest Suite” at the Hilton New York Times Square and the “Santa Summit” at the Hilton Chicago, includes a custom-decorated Christmas tree and complimentary hot cocoa station.

To keep the holiday cheer going all season long, each of these special guest suites also include Hallmark Channel-branded takeaways that guests can enjoy with their loved ones during or after their holiday stay. Think Hallmark Channel Wine, Bissinger’s cocoa mix and hot cocoa bombs, Republic of Tea products, wine glasses, mugs, and more.

Rates start at $1,050 per night. Reservations can be made online.

Austin's Wildflower Center goes elemental for immersive holiday light walk

how the wildflowers glow

Most cities will not spend the holidays frolicking through wildflowers — actually, even for Austin that's a bit of a stretch. But the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has applied its conservationist and gardening sensibilities to another seasonal walk through nature this winter.

Luminations, a nearly two-mile stroll through the arboretum, has returned in an entirely new form, with all new light installations to bring some immersive magic to the darker nights.

Unlike most of the other light-led destinations this holiday season, this one doesn't rest on specific holiday themes, opting instead for more abstract explorations. This year's theme is the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. One installation illuminates falling water in interesting patterns, while others create larger-than life fluttering wings and faux bioluminescent plants.

Although the seasonal installations are new, visitors will likely recognize the oversized tire swing-like chairs that have been featured in many a nighttime selfie at other installations. (In fact, it looks like you can buy these popular LED seats online, but may just want to visit the Wildflower Center to save $500 and avoid a drop shipping nightmare.)

Other photos show a lantern-lit path that calls to mind the Mexican and Southwestern luminaria tradition, which highlights the unique masonry around the "Great Hall."

Although it is open to all ages, this glowing stroll will be one of the more adult activations thanks to the abstraction. A release touts "a rotating cast of local food trucks" including Craig-O’s, Asian Express and Ike-N-Aves. There will also be hot chocolate (that can be spiked) and a full bar with specialty cocktails.

Luminations opened November 24, 2023, and will run through January 6, 2024, with some blackout dates around Christmas and New Year's Eve. Tickets ($28 for adults, $18 for youth, plus member discounts) are available at wildflower.org.

National restaurant magazine meticulously chooses Austin's best rising chefs

Another week in Austin, another opportunity to celebrate chefs. But this time, it's insider praise, and there will be bites to try during a two-week celebration.

Restaurant industry magazine StarChefs has named its 2023 Austin-San Antonio Rising Stars, which will appear in a print issue coming out in December. It promises "recipes, industry trends, business intel, beverage knowledge, new techniques, and a fresh dose of culinary inspiration," and features a frame-worthy Texas-themed cover.

To celebrate, it is also hosting Rising Stars Restaurant Week from December 1-15. 23 food and beverage professionals are among this year's winners: the third class in Austin and San Antonio, and the 84th class nationally. Restaurant Weeks participants who order a featured dish and post on social media may win a $100 gift certificate.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps it's because CultureMap has a category of the same name in our annual Tastemaker Awards. CultureMap's Rising Star Chefs are usually sous and executive chefs who don't yet own their own restaurant but might soon; for StarChefs, it seems more like a blanket term for chefs who are very active in any stage of their careers. Kareem El-Ghayesh made both lists, but the rest are unique.

To ensure a careful choice, these awards are based less on StarChefs staff's memory of their cooking, but in a series of tastings and interviews with more than 100 professionals. The judges also take characteristics like food philosophy and leadership in the industry into account.

“In both Austin and San Antonio, we saw cities experiencing immense growth—with food and beverage professionals hustling to keep pace, matching the new energy with eagerness and innovation," said StarChefs managing partner Will Blunt in a press release. "And, more importantly, the Central Texas hospitality [industry] seems to be managing to ride the wave of rapid evolution while staying anchored in the community and true to the best version of itself.”

StarChefs coverThe print issue features cute grackles enjoying a plate of Texas barbecue.starchefs.com

The winners are divided into several categories. The primary category is "Chefs," dominated by Austin chefs: Kareem El-Ghayesh of KG BBQ, Geoff Ellis of Mum Foods Smokehouse and Delicatessen, Rich Reimbolt of Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, Keith Rzepecki of Hestia, and Amanda Turner of Olamaie. San Antonio was represented by a single winner: Emil Oliva of Leche de Tigre.

Arjav Ezekiel and Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel of Birdie’s (in Austin) are frequently included in best-of lists, and this time is no different. The couple was selected as "Game Changers," presented by S.Pellegrino, meaning that their efforts have an innovative twist. Here's what the click-through bio says on the official winners list:

"Their relaxed counter service model, along with the caliber of their wine program — and the execution and hyper-fixation on seasonality in the food program — serves as a bastion for a new way of thinking about elevated service. Tracy and Arjav are able to offer their employees [livable] wages, extensive paid time off, and a number of other benefits due to their commitment to their reimagined business model."

San Antonio turned the tides in the "Restaurateurs" category, presented by Jade Range. All three winners were from San Antonio: Nicola Blaque of The Jerk Shack and Mi Roti; and Andrew Ho and Sean Wen of Curry Boys BBQ, Pinch Boil House, and Wurst Behavior. Individual chefs can't be two places at once, but these powerful players have demonstrated that their ideas will keep contributing to the local scene as they build them out.

Both cities shared the spotlight in the "Community" category, presented by Resy. According to the release, it "Recognizes professionals who are deeply connected to the local hospitality community, dedicate their time to community outreach, and are ultimately catalysts for involving members of the culinary community in important initiatives." Dustin Baker of Roadmap Brewing Co., and Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria.

The rest of the categories contained only Austin professionals:

  • Concept: Brian Batch and Ryan McElroy of Bird Bird Biscuit
  • Pastry Chefs: Derrick Flynn of Este and Suerte; and Casandra Perez-Martinez of Comedor
  • Bartender: Erin Ashford of Holiday
  • Sommeliers: Alex Wheatley Bell of Aviary Wine & Kitchen; and Rania Zayyat of Bufalina
  • Artisans: Ben and Phoebe Hollander of Casper Fermentables; and Will Jaquiss of Meanwhile Brewing Co.

One more Austin chef received unique acclaim in the "Mentor" category. The other winners voted in this category to choose someone who supports young chefs and helps them grow their skills: Fiore Tedesco of L'Oca D'Oro.

As part of Rising Stars Restaurant Week, East Coast restaurant supply company Singer M.Tucker and Austin pastry chef Jules Stoddart of Little Ola’s Biscuits will be helping to raise funds for local youth and food equity nonprofit Urban Roots. StarChefs will donate $3 for every spiced apple kolache Little Ola’s sells during the festivities. There will also be a fan-voted plating competition between award winners.

Even if a restaurant is not on your list to visit, it's worth it to check out the interactive winners list for recipes. Find those and order the 2023 Austin-San Antonio print issue at starchefs.com.