Cassie Gholston

UT is looking to perform “And Then Came Tango” for private and charter schools after they reached a decision with Austin Independent School Districts to stop performing the play for the district’s elementary schools.

After UT’s first performance earlier this month, AISD stopped a 10-performance tour so administrators could review whether the play was appropiate for second graders. “And Then Came Tango” is about two male penguins who adopt an abandoned egg, which a young girl steals to make the penguins happy. The original play is based on the real-life events at Central Park in New York, where a zookeeper gave two male penguins an egg to care for.

When AISD first decided to discontinue the tour for further review earlier in October, Brant Pope, head of the theatre and dance department, said it was not made clear to him what AISD’s specific concerns were. After the first play was performed Oct. 16, theatre and dance professor Coleman Jennings emailed Gregory Goodman, AISD’s fine arts director.

“The principal ... was very upset by the content,” Jennings said in his email, obtained by an open records request. “She was heard to say if she had known what the play was about she would not have allowed it be at Lee [Elementary School].”

In his response, Goodman said the schools needed more time to prepare for the content of the play.

“Elementary schools typically, most especially in the primary grades, do not delve into human sexuality, religion or other politically hot topics,” Goodman said in his email.

In an interview earlier this month, Pope said UT provided AISD with materials relating to “And Then Came Tango” and was explicit about the play’s content before the first performance. However, in a letter sent from Goodman to Jennings Tuesday, Goodman said UT was not clear enough.

“The underlying message and content delivery was not clearly presented to our school’s principals,” Goodman said.

Cassie Gholston, marketing director for UT’s department of theatre and dance, said because students were performing the play for class credit, UT still wants to give the students a chance to perform the play.

“AISD wanted more time to look at the play,” Gholston said. “For us to be able to move forward for the class, it was best to go ahead and agree jointly with AISD that we wanted to stop the tour.”

Gholston said the decision to discontinue the tour will not cause problems for UT’s relationship with AISD in the future.

“We will continue performing for AISD without any interruption,” Gholston said. “Our expectation is that we will continue putting on tours in the upcoming semesters.”

She said while no performances at private and charter schools have been scheduled yet, UT expects to be performing “And Then Came Tango” soon.

“Several are very interested. Right now it is just a matter of booking and coordinating schedules,” Gholston said. “There is a lot of interest in this play.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 as: AISD says play is unfit for elementary students 

Most UT students studying fine arts and film aren’t millionaires, but their field of interest brings millions of dollars to Austin.

According to economic studies from 2001 to 2006 released by the city, the entertainment industry in Austin boasts 44,000 permanent jobs with $827.7 million in compensation as of 2004, bringing in more than $2.25 million to the local economy. The studies reported data collected from film, music, entertainment and digital media organizations throughout Austin. City council members plan to update and review the analysis based on results from yesterday’s regular meeting.

Council member Mike Martinez said in a press release that the council gained a better understanding of the industry through the reports and called the creative industry a target for economic growth.

Despite the national economic recession, students pursuing jobs in the creative industry can take inspiration from the community’s support of their work, said UT Theatre and Dance spokeswoman Cassie Gholston.

“It’s not a great economy for it, but it’s not a great economy for anything,” Gholston said. “They’re carving out their own niche in a way, and the great thing is how Austin is really supportive of what they do. They can see the arts in the community and see that there is an audience for it.”

Gholston said several Austin-area artists have established their own studios, production companies and theatrical agencies, and the Department of Theatre and Dance connects students with faculty involved in these organizations. She said opportunities for students looking to showcase their work are also made possible through the department because of the community.

Stephen Jannise, program director for Austin Film Festival, said film festivals in the city offer opportunities for students to gain exposure with filmmakers.

“Film festivals play a role in bringing more filmmakers to town,” Jannise said. “Hollywood has always been the center for filmmaking, but people are considering moving operations here and that will give back to the local economy.”

He said several film festivals partner with hotels to house producers and film scouts, who also visit city coffee shops and bars during their stay.

Jannise said the Austin Film Festival accepts student submissions each year and also holds a separate student-only film contest.

Communication Career Services director Matt Berndt said participating in these opportunities is imperative for students planning to pursue film careers.

“If you have been bitten by the entertainment bug, you know you will have to try,” Berndt said. “People flock to Los Angeles and New York to begin their careers in film because that’s where most of the decisions get made, but students who do that have worked their way into those opportunities.”

Berndt said while film opportunities are available in Austin, they are more prominent in California, and UT advisers are willing to connect students with alumni already working in the industry.

“I think if you have the drive, there’s a lot of opportunity to make it in the film industry,” said Joshua Riehl, a radio-television-film senior who has produced short films on his own. “The community supports it, but you have to do a lot to make it on your own. You have to be dedicated, and it has to become your life.” 

Printed on Friday, August 26, 2011 as: Entertainment industry offers careers, student opportunities.