With the different varieties and styles of live theaters in Austin, a night at the theater could be wild and rambunctious, or a beautiful and classy affair. On the east side of town, one can find small, arty theaters such as the Salvage Vanguard, while downtown patrons can take in the ballet, or a family-friendly show at the Zach Scott.
In 1932, the Zach Scott Theatre got its start as the Austin Civic Theatre, and is central Texas’s oldest resident theater. Zachary Thompson Scott Jr. was born in 1914, son of Zachary Thompson Scott, one of Austin’s premiere surgeons. Zach Scott was raised in Sweetbrush, the family estate off Windsor Road. Scott Jr. dashed his father’s hopes of following in his footsteps when he graduated UT as an actor, moved to Hollywood, and enjoyed a successful film career. In 1972, an 8,000-square-foot theater facility with a 200-seat thrust stage was built, and the Austin Civic Theatre officially changed its name to Zachary Scott Theatre, after the Scott family provided the final funding for the facility.
Today Zach Scott Theatre has roughly 10 productions every season, with shows such as Shear Madness, and David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries, coming back season after season due to their high popularity. Currently the theatre is running Speeding Motorcycle inspired by legendary off-the-wall Austin musician and artist, Daniel Johnston.
Zach Scott also appeals to Austin’s young crowd by offering the Project Discovery program which offers ticket prices under 5 dollars to school-aged children. Project Interact, Zach’s professional youth company, has run for over 2 decades performing original shows for central Texas schools.
For those looking for some edgier theater, Salvage Vanguard Theater has been providing new original material since 1994. The theater’s founder, Jason Neulander, has been very involved in the local theater scene, and began the �Independent Theatre Conspiracy� which brought together 8 small local theaters in hopes of cross promotion. Neulander is also a founding member of Austin’s Performing Arts Research Coalition group, which is part of a national initiative to study the performing arts’ impact on communities.
Several local writers came together to produce Salvage Vanguard’s runaway hit �Intergalactic Nemesis�, read in the style of an old radio play, including live sound effects. The buzz grew, and now the show tours nationally. When the theater isn’t putting on a local production, they are hosting music or film nights, and providing space as an art gallery during business hours.
Founded in 1956 as the Austin Ballet Society, Ballet Austin has since grown into a professional company and puts on 5 different productions every season. Stephen Mills has been with Ballet Austin for over 20 years, and is the company’s current artistic director. Mills draws inspiration from many contemporary music composers, and has even choreographed ballets to pieces created by local musicians, such as local pianist Glover Gill.
Recently, Ballet Austin relocated to the Butler Dance Education Center and Community School in downtown Austin. Ballet Austin Academy is the official ballet school of Ballet Austin, which steers its students into professional careers in dance. Also, the Butler Community School is open to the public offering a wide variety of classes from yoga and pilates to hula and (obviously) ballet.
Though Ballet Austin has put on their productions at UT’s Bass Hall for the past 20 years, all future productions will be performed at the newly finished Long Center for the Performing Arts, which will dazzle crowds with not only the fine production value of the performance, but also the beautiful new architectural surroundings.