More than 500 guests gathered at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre Tuesday night for perhaps the largest PechaKucha San Antonio event in the organization’s history. The evening of short, passionate presentations from artists to cheese lovers also marked the beginning of the local PechaKucha chapter’s partnership with the Las Casas Foundation.
“Thier mission is about stimulating the performing arts and San Antonio, so it’s a good fit,” said Vicki Yuan of the PeckaKucha San Antonio Committee. “We are still traveling around, but I think we’ll be here every November – or maybe the Majestic. It’s a great idea to have a home base.”
The theater will continue to sponsor PechaKucha throughout 2015, possibly beyond that. After Tuesday’s success – lines for libations and food were both long (even longer for the former), poles and benches were crowded with bikes locked up outside, and thunderous laughter filled the theater on several occasions – it’s hard not to approve.
“It’s amazing to get a turnout like this on a Tuesday night,” Yuan said.
PechaKucha partnered with the San Antonio Area Foundation last year, participating in the SA4Good pilot program, which allowed organizers to move to an annual sponsorship model. Sponsors include Zurich International Properties, St. Mary’s University, Lake/Flato Architects, Bicycle Heaven, Centro Properties, Insite Architects, and more.
The next PechaKucha is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the McNay Art Museum.
In case you missed it, here’s a quick overview of PechaKucha San Antonio Vol. 16, which was emceed by WOAI News Anchor Randy Beamer:
Rick Frederick: Theater is Dead
First up was Rick Frederick who led the audience through the evolution of his career in theater arts. From mimicking Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky,” lip-syncing Jesus Christ Superstar to performing in and designing sets for productions around the world to managing director of AtticRep, the resident theater at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
“Theater is dead,” he began. And it’s a good thing no one told him that. Coming from a strict Catholic family, at first he shied away from theater arts an dove into photography and pottery/sculpture. In college he mastered many mediums but “wasn’t sure what I wanted to create or what I wanted to say. I wasn’t finding a connection or a way to connect.”
The turning point for Frederick came in the unlikely venue of a Renaissance Festival where he admired the “real-time performer-audience exchange” and was forced out of his shell.
His philosophical relationship with theater has also evolved over the years. During his first formal theater classes he found that “the medium I was now adapting was myself … I didn’t just want to entertain.” After his experiences in the U.S. and Europe, after feeling burnt out and calling it quits, he has found that “the early years were about me … (20 years later) I came to accept my abilities as the foundation of the craft, not the end … Theater is an art that does not need to exist only in New York or Chicago to be good but wherever two or more people are gathered.”
Marilyn Lanfear: Telling Stories with Buttons
Marilyn Lanfear is a native Texan who grew up in Corpus Christi and has lived in San Antonio since the ’60s, except for five-year stints in New York City and in Oregon where she taught at Lewis & Clark College and at the University of Oregon. She has taught at UTSA, the Art Institute, and San Antonio College.
Lanfear draws from her own family history to create art that tells stories – not just of her own family, but of our collective past. She works most often with wood, but also draws, solders, makes paper, paints, uses ceramics, and blends in other mixed media.
She showcased many of her pieces Tuesday night, but some of the most intricate were portraits of “Uncle Clarence’s Three Wives” which she depicted with mother of pearl, plastic, and bone buttons sewn onto large sheets of linen – a skill she learned in order to complete the pieces of work. “I didn’t know how to sew until I needed to know,” she said.
The result is a pointillism effect; these pieces need to be viewed from far away to make sense of the patterns. The stories of these three women – Billie Paterson Moore, Laurelis Bessie Nix Moore, and Gerry Moore – weave through a natural gas explosion, oil boom, WWII, and the origins of Exxon.
“Now that my father has died, the mantle has fallen on me,” she said. “One day I overheard my two daughters talking about who is going to be the storyteller after I’m gone. Someone has to keep the story … married to (my visual art) is the history of my Texas family.” All the details have been inherited, they all must be passed down, and “they must be true.”
Shokare Nakpodia: Nigerian Menudo
Shokare (Sho) Nakpodia shared details from his life in Nigeria and of the transition to life in San Antonio.
He and his peers grew up reading Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” which taught them “how to think about the future because the past was essentially lost,” through the British colonization.
When he moved to London to go to Leeds College, he was amazed at the simplicity and order of the city – this was one of the most peaceful places he had been. “At the same time I was really begging for chaos in my life, this was too peaceful – nothing was going on here.”
He moved back to Nigeria to be an arts dealer, lost everything in Paris at Moulin Rouge, drove a cab in New York to subsidize his dream of becoming a writer – where he found chaos again in the Bronx. He and his wife then moved to San Antonio. He now has two children and he’s a founding Partner and Creative Director of The MightyGroup — a full service communications agency established in 2002, located just east of downtown San Antonio.
His work in the community led him start DreamWeek in 2013; a city-wide summit promoting the exchange of ideas on universal issues facing multi-cultural communities.
“As long as we have menudo that tastes like my grandmothers cooking (in Nigeria),” he said. “I will always consider San Antonio home.”
Brent “Bones” Barry: Most Valuable Parent (MVP)
“We Grew up in a very competitive household, my brothers and I were always measuring ourselves,” said NBA Analyst Brent Barry, a former San Antonio Spur who spent 14 years in the league and was part of two NBA championships in San Antonio.
“My father Rick played in the NBA for 14 years,” he said listing off his father’s many awards, recognitions, and induction in the Hall of Fame. “It was cool but not cool that he wasn’t around during my childhood. The MVP at home was my mom. She was the Most Valuable Parent.”
His mom raised five kids on her own, worked, drove carpool, got he and his siblings to practices, sleepovers, and was late all the time. “She wasn’t perfect, but it worked.”
He felt enormous pressure to “live up to” his father’s legacy when he started playing basketball. “In the beginning it was simple. I was just a boy, standing in front of a hoop, asking it to just come down a little bit.”
The odds of having a career in athletics is extremely low, “so I’m sorry to al the white kids here tonight.” Most kid’s careers are from ages 6-12.
Barry advised parents to step back be supervisors, consultant, and supporter of this short “career.” Find a good coach and simply be there when they do something great, he said.
“If you’re a parent here tonight, or hope to be at some point, remember that your child is not their athletic performance,” he said. “(My mother and coach) could have looked at me as a prospect, instead they looked at me as kid. And I can’t wait to watch my two guys (sons) do the same thing.”
Molly Cox: Not a ‘Change Agent’
Molly Cox packed many thoughts and observations into her presentation. Most were hilarious, which – If you know Cox – is a given. Joking aside, she also touched on more serious issues like rescuing pets, homophobia, and equal access to health care and educational opportunities – also a given. She’s the chief of engagement at SA2020, but she was not at the Empire on Tuesday night in that capacity. At all.
“(That there is a debate about if) being gay is a choice is so ridiculous,” Cox said. “Whether you’re born gay or choose to be gay doesn’t interest me so much as being born as or choosing to be and asshole.”
Cox loves women. She also loves cheese. And she’s very, very annoyed by men whistling at women in the street. “Just ask them out, don’t be a creeper about it.”
Cox also commented on the “culture of buzz words” – in quotations because that might not be accurate, but it’s hard to define. I’ll let Cox:
“P.S. When you describe yourself to me using the phrase ‘change agent’ or talk to me about your ‘tribe’ or ‘filling your bucket,’ I’m immediately suspicious of you,” she said. “In my life I’ve had the fortune of meeting amazing human beings, people who spend their days getting people insured, talking about accessibility, talking about equal rights – I know a person who paid for a stranger’s kid’s college tuition just cause he saw something in him. You’re never going to hear about these people, you know why? They don’t introduce themselves as change agents they just create change.”
This led into why she’s so good at getting on a stage, emceeing events, theater.
“It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, it’s that I have absolutely no desire to participate in idle chit chat. Let’s talk about getting shit done.”
Rick Casey: Protecting Baha King William
Rick Casey, host and managing editor of KLRN’s “Texas Week with Rick Casey,” came to Baha King William circa 1980 in the same way many have: he rented a place from Mike Casey (a.k.a. the King of Southtown). Since then he has lived in Seattle and New York, but soon realized that San Antonio was, he put simply, home. He purchased a home, moved in with his wife, fixed it up, and had children.
“We spent 10 happy years there. It was hard to leave,” he said. “At 56 it looked like one last major challenge for my career: learning and reporting on a vibrant city that I knew mainly as what San Antonio was proud of not being.”
In 2003, Casey became a columnist for the Houston Chronicle. Moving back to San Antonio again, they found a two bedroom loft across from Rosario’s.
“This is a neighborhood with family values. It had housing for every phase of the life cycle,” he said. “I say is, but I meant ‘was’ because clearly King William has changed.”
It’s a thriving urban neighborhood with hip, “monosyllabic restaurants,” apartments are still available but prices of even small houses have skyrocketed. The home he bought for $85,000, sold to Sandra Cisneros for $140,000, is now on the market for $995,000.
This desirable neighborhood was been created by mixed income neighbors and preserving historical homes and character. The former, however, is being lost in Southtown due to economic segregation, he said.
“I would like to see City officials cooperate with Southtown leaders in addressing ways to keep housing affordable,” he said. “We can do better.”
Ray Chavez: The Origins of Cornyation
Ray Chavez, a native San Antonian, is an artist, owner of a T-shirt screenprinting company, and coordinating director of Cornyation, Fiesta’s most comedic and unique celebrations. Next year, Cornyation and its King Anchovy will celebrate its 50th year. Chavez recalled when admission to the show, then at Arneson Theatre, was only 75 cents and people would come for a spot to sit NIOSA couldn’t provide.
“NIOSA was a crazy, crazy, thing,” he said. “(But even) they drove us out cause we were getting too ‘modern.’”
It was getting too risqué, too politically incorrect – so they moved to the Bonham Exchange. Then they moved to Beethoven Hall (now Magik Theatre). Then to the Empire, where they discovered that the tortilla throwing tradition needed to be halted for safety and … other reasons.
“The tortillas were getting stuck in the lights and cooking,” he said.
He ran through several photos of crews and casts over the years, sharing memories and thanking them all.
“It takes a 150 people to do this show,” he said of the raucous crowd. “I’m supposed to be the director but I can’t make anyone do anything.
“Anybody that wants to be in Cornyation, just give me a call,” he added.
Andrew Weissman: Living Well in 20 Steps
“I felt did not have much say,” Weissman said of previously declining to speak at PechaKucha. “I want my breath to count so here I am tonight.”
Chef Andrew Weissman’s local restaurants include The Sandbar Fish House & Market, Osteria Il Sogno, The Luxury, Sip Coffee & Espresso Bar, and Big’z Burger Joint.
He regaled the crowd with lessons he has learned throughout his career “for a more fulfilling and memorable existence.”
1. We’re all going to die eventually.
2. The only relationships that matter are those we create with the ones we love.
3. Family is a blessing.
4. Lead a life that matters, be memorable.
5. Live in the moment, be present.
6. Very little of life is as energizing as Forgiveness.
7. Reserve judgement of people based only on rumor or innuendo.
8. Life is like philosophical web theory – you can’t touch one part without effecting the rest.
9. Negative thoughts only exist if you let them.
10. Don’t underestimate the power of exercise.
11. There’s always more to the picture than meets the eye.
12. Spend on quality.
13. Take time for the small things in life.
14. Nothing is more beautiful than flawed beauty.
15. The necessity of balance exists everywhere.
16. Acknowledge when you’re wrong.
17. Learn to listen – really listen.
18. Don’t be quick to anger.
19. Do things with people that are better than you at those things.
20. Admit you don’t have all the answers.