Ten events, over ten months, in each of Austin’s ten districts.
That's how one of Austin’s most experimental and avant-garde theater companies, the Rude Mechanicals (more affectionately known as Rude Mechs), described their 21st season of new works, called crushAustin. After losing their home of almost two decades, the Off Center, due to property owner UT Austin pricing them out, the theater collective decided to turn tragedy into opportunity by exploring “every nook and cranny of Austin with the very best new independent cultural productions.”
April marks the tenth month of crushAustin, and thus its grand finale.
Or does it?
We spoke to co-producing artistic directors Lana Lesley and Kirk Lynn to find out more about the two performances that the Rude Mechs have in this month’s Fusebox Festival—a one-man show written and performed by Lynn called The Cold Record and a free, interactive event called Grageriart.
What makes these two pieces a fitting end to the crushAustin season?
Lesley: These two pieces aren't really the end of the crushAustin season. The end of the season will be marked by a piece called Lost Austin, which we can't talk about quite yet. But Grageriart and The Cold Record are notable because they're a part of our Perverse Results series, which is a long-form experiment in episodic collaboration that centers on us trying to find the creative opportunity in competing schedules, hidden talents and disparate personal interests by making smaller independent projects that may or may not come together later to form a new larger piece. We're always looking for a new way to collaborate, to make new work.
Lynn: Both pieces are hot like fire. Compact, loud, fierce, wild and couldn't be made by anyone else at any other time or place.
You're ending crushAustin with two pieces in the Fusebox Festival. Does the festival itself relate to any of the themes and ideas you've been exploring over the past ten months?Lesley: Before we lost the Off Center, it was home to Fusebox Festival performances and their festival offices; it was a rehearsal space for festival artists—it was even the hub one year. So they lost a lot, too, when it closed. I'm not sure if that relates to Rude Mechs running all over town trying to find a fucking venue to do stuff in, but hundreds of Austin artists felt that loss with us, and Fusebox Festival felt it, too. The land is still empty, by the way.
Lynn: The Off Center is no longer our home. One of the questions of crushAustin was: is Austin still our home? And one of the answers was, "Sure." We heard it from venues and patrons across the city, and he heard it very loud and clear from Fusebox. So while UT has no idea what it is doing with its new, precious empty lot, we know what we're doing. We're making art that matters to us, with people who matter to us, in a city that matters to us.
These pieces seem quite different in nature—a ticketed one-man show versus an open-invitation piece of performance art. Is this intentional, or more happenstance?
Lesley: It was happenstance. Grageriart didn't know Cold Record was a festival piece. Cold Record didn't know Grageriart had a late-night hub slot—until someone asked for Rude Mechs' logo for each of them. But also, they really are part of Perverse Results; they are independent pieces that are only Rude Mechs pieces because the artists that made them are Rude Mechs company members.
Lynn: It's worth noting that both focus on music: Grageriart as a musical reinterpretation of lifestyle design and Cold Record as the story of a 12-year-old learning to love punk rock. That connection through music probably says something about living in Austin and being part of the city.
The Cold Record plays April 18-22 at the Museum of Human Achievement. Grageriart plays April 19 at the Fusebox Festival Hub (1500 E 4th St). Both productions are a part of the Fusebox Festival.