Salvage Vanguard Theater
Words by Walker Lyle Photos Courtesy of Salvage Vanguard Theater
Fraught with growing audiences and rising cost for space, a theater forged in nomadic beginnings, one that rose to hold a decade long reign on the Manor strip, is now returning to those beginnings
renewed, re-envisioned, and re-birthed.
Circumstance is proving a solid, yet rocky ground for Jenny Larson, artistic director for the Salvage Vanguard Theater. Working with the theater since 2001 and leading in her current position since 2008, she was able to shed some light on her theater’s recent loss of their Manor location and the path ahead.
“It’s a mixed bag, because part of you wants these sort of opportunities in your neighborhood. But where’s the balance?” Larson asks.
“I don’t think it’s ‘old vs. new,’ and I don’t think it’s ‘us vs. them.’ I think it’s really about economics. It’s really about this balance between capitalist interests and our city government watching out for those who don’t have as much as the rest. Affordability is the key issue,” says Larson.
When faced with notice of eviction in the fall of 2015, the theater knew drastic changes would come, and hard choices of what it meant to do art their way would have to be made. Solely existing to exhibit and foster art as a non-profit, charging more to customers would have been both antithetical and uneconomical towards the very community it supports.
“[The Salvage Vangaurd Theater] is ‘homeless’ right now—‘officing’ from home. For the performances that we’re doing in the coming year, we actually have a piece we’ll be using the [Susanna Dickinson] Museum for in August. In October and November, we have a show at the Off Center. We have a piece we’re doing at Huston-Tillotson University in October, and then sporadic readings throughout the year which we haven’t found homes for yet,” Larson adds. They are still trying to figure out where it all will happen.
Highlights of the season include Adrienne Dawes and Consetta Rubel bringing Cuadros de Casta to the table, tackling race relations exemplified in visual representations from 18th century Nueva Espana. Resident producers / artists / mentees The Viceroys (Matt Frazier and Jarrett King) will host 3 reading series over the next year with works centered around the African American community, while leading the Austin branch of 28 Hours Festival, holding readings and conversations on race and discrimination in Austin.
Despite such a loss, the meaning is still there. Despite space or designated meeting place, the meaning behind our endless treks into the night for entertainment, our hopeful actions towards one another, our crying prayers to remember history and build anew, still pushes us forward. “Many have come forward articulating that they see a problem and want to help. But we haven’t found any clear pathways towards solutions or answers just yet,” Larson smiles.
“I see Austin on this cusp where it can go either way. Either the DIY energy that its music and creative scene was built on takes over, and the scene survives and changes and morphs—and that’s exciting, what will it bring? – or… artists will move. And the creative industry will collapse on itself,” says Larson.
For those of us who wish to be involved in the perseverance of this aesthetic, it appears we’re in for a multi-faceted endeavor, as are all inspirations that move us to action. We must keep going to shows and demand art be worth something. Awareness alone may be a good first step—awareness of the value and true wealth we stand to lose. “It feeds the city in the right way,” says Larson.
• Cuadros De Casta (working title) by Adrienne Dawes and Consetta Rubel August 27
• Every 28 Hours FestivalOct 22
• WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY ALICE SITS By Hannah Kenah Oct 27 – Nov 20
• THR3E ZISTERS By Lola Pierson and Yury Urnov Feb 2 – 18, 2017