Category: Local Arts

Meet One of the Only Feminist Bookstores in the U.S.


BookWoman owner Susan Post looks through her cell phone behind the check out desk of the feminist bookstore. In 1975 Book Woman opened its doors in Dobie Mall, and 40 years later is one of just 13 feminist bookstores in the world.


By Sarah Jasmine Montgomery, Vedant Peris, Kris Seavers and Sunny Sone

 See the full story here.

The day after the presidential election, the first customer to walk into BookWoman recounted an emotional morning to owner Susan Post.

“She said, ‘We got up this morning and my daughter had been watching the election and she saw my expression and she said, ‘Mom, what happened?’ and she said, ‘We lost,’” Post said.

The woman got her daughter to school and then headed straight for the comforts of the quaint bookstore, which sits under a purple banner on North Lamar Boulevard.

“The first thing she wanted to do was come here because she knew she’d feel better,” Post said. “She ended up picking up a book for her daughter. She said, ‘I’m going bring her a book about a strong women. We didn’t lose. We’re just more aware now of what we are up against.’”



BookWoman is not limited to solely feminist texts – the store sells materials related to the LGBTQ rights movement and, above, t-shirts supporting a local author.



BookWoman is one of only 13 bookstores left in the United States that self-identifies as a feminist bookstore. It’s also one of 18 independent bookstores in the greater Austin area, where, like the rest of the country, there is an all time high number of bookstores. It seems that people are now interested more than ever in buying books locally, even with the successes of national chain retailers and declining numbers of book sales.

BookWoman in particular has situated itself from the beginning as a political and activist space, and Post said the community’s need for her books is just as important now as it was when the store opened in the 1970s. In the months since the presidential election, Post said she has seen an increase in her sales and an interest in activism — not only in rallies and protests, but within the space of her store.

“People are still continuing to gather and to work and to protest,” Post said. “Instead of just signing a petition, people are showing up and expressing how they feel about the political climate.”

One recent BookWoman event featured two black women poets, Sequoia Maner and Sheree Renée Thomas, as part of an ongoing series in partnership with Torch Literary Arts, a nonprofit with the mission to “support the work of black women and girls through creative writing.” More than 15 people crowded between the shelves to hear the open mic and feature poets, who touched on subjects including #BlackLivesMatter, sexual assault and LGBT issues.

Ray, a woman who attended the poetry event and preferred not to share her last name, said BookWoman serves an important need for a space that people can find representations of their beliefs — as well as opposing views.

“I think that’s really important, especially now with so many people not being sure how to become politicized,” Ray said.

A book published last year by Kristen Hogan, the education coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin’s Gender and Sexuality Center, features BookWoman and other surviving feminist bookstores to explore how the stores have historically countered racism and created networks of diverse feminists. The book, titled “The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism & Feminist Accountability,” explores the radical history of feminist bookstores, and how modern journalists seem to gloss over these histories.

“Feminist bookstores have been not simply spaces to gather but sites of complex conversations among staff and collectives and, in turn, with readers about feminist accountability,” Hogan writes in the book.


BookWoman itself began as a passion project of the Common Woman Collective, a group of Austin women who dedicated themselves to ordering books and finding a place to host a storefront. Post helped DeeDee Spontak, a carpenter, and other members of the collective fix up three donated rooms at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets. In 1975, the store opened its doors with a red and yellow hand sewn sign that said “Common Woman Bookstore.”

Post said business boomed from the early to mid ‘70s, when customers flocked to the store to buy books they literally couldn’t find elsewhere.

“There weren’t a lot of books published by women, or publishers were turning down more radical things because there might be nudity or their might be lesbianism or there might be activism,” Post said.










Texas Revue: Diversity Meets Worlds of Talent

By Isabella Bejar, Marina Chairez and JD Harris

Beat boxing, dancing, rapping, singing, and many more unique talents drew a full crowd at Hogg Memorial Auditorium on April 23, 2016. Nearly 1,ooo people attended the University’s largest talent show, Texas Revue.

The University of Texas at Austin began hosting their annual student-run talent shows in the 1960’s and then re-established in 1995. The Texas Revue is composed of individuals and various student organizations. Different talents continue to bring the UT community together for one night, while showcasing a variety of talented acts.

Over 55 acts auditioned, but only around 10-12 acts can be featured each year. Performers compete in a Texas tradition to win the “Best Overall” award and $1,500, while the titles of “Crowd Favorite” and “Technical Excellence” are also up for grabs.

Many may have different goals, but it is truly shown that all contestants give their heart out on the stage and hope for the best. Ray Villarreal is the first solo rapper to perform at the Texas Revue.

“I would like to get known here at UT because that would be really big for me and great exposure. I would feel on top of the world. Either way it’s been a fun ride. I’m having the time of my life and being able to do these things that not a lot of other people can say that they’ve done is great and it’s all because of music,” said Ray Villarreal.

With only five minutes on stage to showcase their talents to a panel of judges, the real work goes on months and maybe even years in advance. Each individual puts in hours of practice and sacrifice, but when doing something you’re passionate about, all that practice doesn’t feel so much like work.

“Entertaining a crowd is my favorite part of performing because I think I’m a good artist, but an even better performer. I think that’s what makes you stand out – engaging with people and getting them to sing along or even jump in the crowd and crowd surf. I think it’s fun,” Villarreal said.

The audience is really able to reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity, while being exposed to the many cultural performances. From Bollywood to mixes of hip-hop and traditional Bhangra, each performance is judged on things like creativity, technical achievements and skill.

“I was very engaged by the cultural dance and music groups who not only presented strong, well-rehearsed pieces, but also aimed to share cultural dance and music forms with a broad UT audience,” said Rebecca Rossen, judge and professional dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor in UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I was specifically looking for strong collaboration in group pieces, clarity and excellence in concept and execution, skill, uniqueness, and stage presence,” Rossen said.

That stage presence translated into social media using “#TexasRevue” which managed to reach over 60,000 people through personal tweets, media coverage and Instagram. Posts of friends and fellow students rooting on such a variety of artistic styles goes to show the diversity in the UT community.

Riju Humagain, logistics officer for Texas Revue, said “I think Texas Revue is unique because it honestly showcases such a diverse set of talents that is present in this University.”

All those components came together when Texas Nach Baliye, a traditional Indian dance team received the “Overall Winner” award at the end of the night.  

Austin Community Revamps “Free Art Friday”

Texas Tai Chi touts health benefits, balance

Keep Austin Bearded

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec


Music blared, drinks flowed freely and hair filled the Mohawk on Feb. 20.

Nearly 1,000 people packed the downtown Austin venue for the 10th annual Come and Shave It beard competition.

The Come and Shave It event, which is organized by the Austin Facial Hair Club, is one of largest beard competitions in the country. The 2016 event attracted more than 220 competitors from all around the United States and the world.

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Kevin Becker, from East Haven, Connecticut, finished in third place in the beard under a foot category and said he came to the event because of its magnitude in the beard community.

“I just started competing last year and I heard this was a very big competition so me and a couple other guys from Connecticut, we all came down,” Becker said. “It’s been great.”

Both the Austin Facial Hair Club and the Come and Shave It event have grown in their first 10 years. The club started with four members and now has 50 dedicated members. The original event was started by Misprint magazine, a now defunct publication, and was held at Club de Ville, which is now Cheer Up Charlies. The event quickly outgrew its old venue and moved to the larger Mohawk. 

Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin club and one of the original four founders, said the event originally began as a spoof but grew in popularity. He said the city quickly embraced the event.

“I think Austin has always been a beardy place,” Nelson said. “It’s always been a more of relaxed lifestyle in Austin. You can go into a restaurant and see them in a T-shirt and jeans or something like that. The beard culture itself is pretty strong. Normally guys get pretty proud of their beard. It’s kind of fun to celebrate them.”Beards (1)

Brett Strauss, commissioner of the Facial Hair League, which helps clubs organize beard competitions, said the key to the Come and Shave It event is its dedication to philanthropy. Strauss said most of the beard clubs are set up around raising money for non-profit causes. “If it was just about the beards, I don’t think there would so much commitment and so many people traveling the way they do,” Strauss said.

Nelson said that both the club and the Come and Shave It event have helped multiple charities over the past 10 years. He said they’ve helped with Wounded Warriors, SXSW Cares and the Austin Animal Center, among others.

“We just try to help out community where we can,” Nelson said. “We try to keep it real in Austin. We’re not registered as non-profit but we operate like a non-profit … We just try to have fun and ‘Keep Austin Beard.’”

The charity aspect of the event is important, but the fun keeps the event going. Strauss said he enjoys going to the Austin event because it’s one of the biggest competitions of the year. He also said the time he spends at beard competitions remind him of his college days.

“For me it’s like going back to college for the weekend,” Strauss said. “My mother-in-law watches my kids. I take my wife. We head out of town. And we go and hang out with some wonderful people and drink beer and have fun. It’s just like going back to college. I really enjoy spending time with these people.”

The Austin club and event has helped the beard community grow and “Kept Austin Beard” for the past 10 years and they’re being rewarded for it.  Austin will host the World Beard and Mustache Championships in 2017, which Nelson is excited about.

“It’s been years in the making,” Nelson said.



Graphic Maps by: Kaylee Nemec


How Beards are Judged: A Q&A with Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss

Understanding how a beard competition works is confusing. To help shave the nitty-gritty, Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss discussed how competitions work.

Strauss, a former beard competition judge, discussed a variety of beard competition topics to help get a better understanding of how judging works, what judges look for and much more.


Q: How does judging work?

A: “It’s kind of like Olympic style judging, where each competitor is given a score between seven and 10 on the half-point: 7.5, 8, 8.5. You’re picking the first, second and third out of your final group for each category and you submit it and everything is calculated.”


Q: How does fan-voting work?

A: “The fan-voting is something we call ‘fantasy facial hair,’ which is like fantasy football where instead of picking players that’ll play the best, you’ll pick competitors. You’re going to pick the ones that you think are going to win first, second and third in each category. The closer you are to matching the judges themselves, the more points you get.”


Q: How many beard categories are there?

A: “I would say there are probably around 24 standard categories and there a probably just as many unique categories. The standard categories can include mustache, natural mustache, freestyle mustache, chops, beards, many different categories. Then you have the unique categories, which are things like some clubs will do world’s worst beard. Some people will do Texas red beard, salt-and-pepper for the gray and white beards. So there are some fun ones out there.”


Q: Which categories have the most competitors?

A: “Most competitions, you’re going to get 50 percent of your competitors competing in two categories. It really depends on how the clubs set them up. Usually, it’s, if you’ve got an under-12 inch full beard natural – that’s a very large group of people that have 12-inch or shorter beards. That’s probably going to be your largest group. Then, I’d say the second largest would be the 12-inch or over 12-inch full beard.”


Q: What do judges look for when judging?

A: “It depends. If you’re going for a full-beard natural then basically what you’re saying is it’s someone that does not do any type of cutting, shaving, cleaning up. It’s kind of an unruly set of people. These are people that don’t shave the cheek. They don’t shave under their neck. They just kind of let it absolutely go. So in that case, you’re actually looking for people that are more unkempt. You’re looking for length. Obviously, you want the beard to healthy. Volume helps as well. If you’re looking at another category like styled, or best-groomed beard, then you’re doing the exact opposite. You’re actually looking for people that have perfect beard shapes and have cleaned the cheek up. They have perfect straight lines that are matching.”


Photos by: Kaylee Nemec

Moovly created By: Sara Eunice Martinez

Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez

ASL in American Theatre

By: Alejandra Martinez, Kristen Hubby, Jayelyn Jackson, and Taylor Villarreal



Tribes, a theatrical play by Nina Raine, is the story of Billy who is the only deaf member in his family. In the play Billy lives with his parents who believe that integrating him into the deaf community would only stunt his personal growth. Because his father did not want him to be defined by his deafness, Billy never learned sign language.

Stephen Drabicki, a hard of hearing actor, plays Billy in Tribes and has been wearing hearing aids in both ears since he was 4 years-old. Drabicki has been acting since 1998, and has acted in six tours of Tribes.

Drabicki worked as an actor taking roles mostly with mainstream, hearing theatres. According to him, most theatres are not always able to accommodate a deaf or hard of hearing person due to the fact that the theatres have not worked with very many deaf or hard of hearing people.

The Zach Theatre one hour before the Tribes performance.

The Zach Theatre one hour before the Tribes performance. 

“Often times [there are actors that] win an Oscar for portraying a disability when there’s actually actors with that same disability who are just as talented,” Drabicki said. “They get overlooked because they are not a big enough name or because able bodied directors are too scared to give them a chance.”

In 2013, hearing actors were cast as the role of Billy in the production of Tribes at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis and the Oregon Contemporary Theatre. At the time this evoked negative reactions from both hearing and deaf people alike, including the original Billy in Raine’s first performance of Tribes.

“This is interesting…. As the original Billy for the West End London, the play was a rave. It became one of the most watched plays of the year,” Jags Cassie commented on Facebook. “So why the sudden change of heart for a hearing actor to play a deaf character? I would even fly over [and] perform again, anytime!”

“One of the things that’s very important to me with [the business of visual interpretation] is making sure that I always have deaf people involved,” Visual Voice Interpreting, LLC owner Marianna Craig said. “I pay them first. I’ve done many shows where I pay the interpreters and I don’t pay myself because its most important to me know we are doing this with them and not for them and it’s for the both us.”

Stephen Drabicki gets mic’d before his performance in Tribes


Visual Voice Interpreting is a sign language interpreting agency in Austin, Texas focused on providing the community with interpreting services in the performance industries, particularly music and theatre. Marianna Craig, the Founder for Visual Voice Interpreting, LLC says she was inspired to create her company in 2012 when she saw a deaf interpreter perform.

According to Craig, deaf and hard of hearing people can reach the same capabilities as hearing people without being able to hear and without equal opportunities in the workforce.



Stage worker checking the lights and sounds during the TRIBES rehearsal. -Kristen Hubby


Austin, Texas is known amongst actors as a “deaf friendly” community, likely because over 20 percent of deaf or hard of hearing Texans live in Austin. Additionally, according to Texas School for the Deaf Foundation, over 20 of the 300 deaf-owned businesses in the U.S. are located in Austin.

“[The awareness of the deaf community] is definitely increasing,” Craig said, “I think [American Sign Language] is attractive and is growing in popularity. It’s becoming a [form of] pop culture now.”


As crowds line up to take their seats, the actors prepare for a night in the spotlight. -Kristen Hubby





Deaf and HH Statistics


Madding Hussing, University of Texas student, has been practicing American Sign Language for over six years. Hussing hopes to become a performing arts interpreter.

Madding Hussing, University of Texas student, has been practicing American Sign Language for over six years. Hussing hopes to become a performing arts interpreter. -Taylor Villarreal


The Wurst Festival in Texas

Scare for a Cure: Blood, Sweat and Fear

By: Estephanie Gomez, Estefania de Leon, Raylee Elder, and Karla Pulido

Blood, Sweat and Fear
By: Estephanie Gomez

The black night sky engulfs a run-down ghost town. Screams fill the October air. Guests laugh as they walk towards their cars, clothes stained with red. This isn’t your average charity event. This is Scare for a Cure.

Scare for a Cure is an Austin-based nonprofit that creates an interactive multimedia haunted adventure to raise money for local cancer-related charities and organizations. The program officially began operating as a 501-C3 charity recognized by the IRS in 2007, but the program began to ride the success of spooks and scares for charity years before.

Jarrett Crippen, co-founder and president of Scare for a Cure, began hosting haunted houses in his own home since the age of 16.

“I’ve always been crazy neighbor that did the over-the-top haunted house, Christmas decorations and any holiday, really,” Crippen said.

Crippen brought this spirit to his current neighborhood when he started his own family. He set up a haunted house every Halloween, and as it expanded, he began to ask for small donations, like a can of food, as the price for entry. According to Crippen, by 2005 the haunted house had grown so much that it had “taken over the neighborhood,” to the point where he had to find a new location for the haunted house. This growth led Crippen to create Scare for a Cure as a legitimate charity.

In the span of four years, Scare for a Cure moved from Crippen’s backyard to Elk’s Lodge to a ghost town in Manor, Texas where it currently remains and haunts today. With the expansion of the program, Crippen set his philanthropic sights higher than a can of food. Scare for a Cure partnered with the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas, raising $5,000 for the organization in 2007 during its first official year of operation. In 2010, Scare for a Cure donated $20,000, and this year, Crippen plans on raising $35,000.

The partnership with the Breast Cancer Resource Center came after weeks of scouring through local charities.

“Everyone I called was more than happy to give me an address to mail the check to, but there was no partnership element to it,” Crippen said. “It was disheartening.”

Minutes into his phone call with the BCRC, a coordinator asked to meet with Crippen to see what the center could do to help. According to Crippen, this was the kind of symbiotic relationship he was looking for.

Phyllis Rose, director of volunteer services at the BCRC, has worked with Scare for a Cure since 2008 and sees everyone at Scare as family.

“We’re a beneficiary of theirs, but we consider them much more than that. They’re involved in every step of the way in everything we do, “ Rose said.

Similarly, Rose coordinates groups of BCRC volunteers to help out at the haunted event wherever they can in the event’s long process.

This process includes coming up with a different theme each year, creating characters and their dialogue, making costumes, and designing and building up to 38 different sets and stages. According to Crippen, this begins in January. As a completely volunteer-based organization, most volunteers see the long process as a labor of love; they are there because they want to be.

Christina Wang, a volunteer in the costume department, said she went straight to a volunteer tent and asked to sign up after her first experience as a guest in 2011. According to Wang, the costuming process usually begins in April to be able to deal with problems down the line. However, she regards these challenges as “cool” and as an outlet for her sewing creativity.

Crippen estimated that he himself spent at least 2,500 hours working on Scare for a Cure outside of his day-job as a police detective for the Austin Police Department – a job he spends about 2,080 hours on. Although the event is time consuming, Crippen said he couldn’t imagine life without it.

“There are times I feel like Scare [for a Cure] is a fast-moving train that I can’t just jump off , because it’s so overwhelming, it takes up so much of our lives…but as soon as [it’s] over, I’m ready to dive back into it head-first.”

Photos by: Karla Pulido
Edited by: Estefania de Leon

Austin’s Got Moves: Local Clubs Preserve City’s Dance Culture

By: Shadan Larki, Marisa Martinez,  and Brianna Walker

From Palm-Heels to Pirouettes: How one man’s passion for dance transformed his life — and a local dance club.

The Ben Hur Shrine serves as the Austin headquarters for the Shriners Fraternity. A centuries-old brotherhood, The Shriners are known for their namesake Shriners Hospitals for Children and have called the locale home for the past decade.

However, the brown brick building on Rockwood Lane houses much more than just the Shriners. On Tuesday evenings, the Shriners office closes and the reception room next door becomes the Austin City Dance Club, a non-profit, social dancing organization that offers lessons in West Coast Swing, Country Two-Step, Cha Cha, Nightclub Two-Step, and Hustle.

“Austin City Dance Club follows a model that is different from some other clubs and studios: we pay our talent well. Our bottom line is non-profit, so we don’t worry about being wealthy,” said club ACDC instructor President and Co-Founder Mike Topel.

Austin City Dance Club doesn’t require a membership to get “in the swing,” but signing on does boast some perks. The ACDC offers membership discounts and a special rate for students.

“Our classes skew younger than some of the cities I visit. Its appeal is that younger people have lots of puppy-like exuberance. Older crowds tend to have more money, though…so we trade cash for energy sometimes,” Topel said.

The organization attracts high-level talent instructors to lead their group classes.

“All of our instructors are internationally recognized superstars. Believe it or not, that’s a big deal,” Topel said. “Our instructors visit the rest of the world on a nearly weekly basis; they’re constantly perfecting themselves for an international audience, and constantly experimenting on our local students with some of their freshest stuff.”

Topel is no stranger to life on the road either, so far his 2015 docket has included roughly 20 national competitions, and appearances.

But it hasn’t always been international stages and standing ovations for the Swing, Latin, Country, and American Social dance instructor.

“I danced for the first time at a high school sock hop. I was horrible,” said Topel. “But I got significantly better at a pre-college getaway in 1984 when Prince and Michael Jackson were big and I had a little more inspiration to draw from.”

Topel also counts James Brown and Bob Fosse among his influences. But not all the dancers he watched were pop stars.

“My earliest dance memory is the Lawrence Welk show, and watching my grandparents Foxtrot, Waltz & Polka to some happening bands,” Topel said. “I graduated to [watching]  American Bandstand in the 1970s, then eventually Soul Train.”

By the 90s, Topel found himself no longer just a bystander to dance, but practicing the craft as well.

By 1991, country line-dancing became the thing, and friends and I jumped on that,” Topel said. “Things went downhill from there. As in now I had an addiction I couldn’t control”.

Seven years later, Topel traded his cubicle for a studio and was dancing and teaching full time.

“The best part of teaching is directing the emotions and memories of the students in a class,” Topel said. “Everything learned is reinforced with humor and constructive positivity.”

Topel also holds a second-degree black belt in martial arts and brings that discipline to the dance floor.

“I learned movement control in the martial arts. Learning a routine, basically. That set me up for learning dance sequences,” Topel said. “Plus, a good amount of time was spent on flexibility, strength, stamina and balance.”

Martial arts training also gave Topel an unexpected dose of teaching experience.

“My head instructor insisted on having the black belts teach and trained us in teaching techniques. Also [it taught me] how to learn with an open mind and to take criticism well.”

While being able to take criticism is something Topel values, he says his best students are the ones who aren’t afraid to push back.

“No students stick out unless they heckle me,” Topel says. “And then it’s game on. Really, the only thing that sticks out to me is if the student is engaged or annoyed enough to see me as a punching bag and take a couple of pokes. That person will be somebody someday.”

On any given Tuesday night Topel can be seen greeting people at the front desk in the beginning of the evening, DJing the open dance at the end of the night and even out on the dance floor with the other dancers.

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Look & Listen: Texas Tricking Offers A Unique Way to Express Oneself

The Austin City Dance Club isn’t the only organization trying to get Austin moving.

Texas Tricking is a University of Texas at Austin organization with one mission: practice tricking in a welcoming environment. Founding member Justin Park describes what is tricking, and how people can get involved.

For more information, UT students can connect with their Hornslink page or anyone can join their public Facebook group.


Find out what style of dance you should try with our quiz here, and test out your moves at these Austin dance locations:

Use this chart to decipher your results:

Off the Stage: Life After “The Voice”