Powerhouse partnership

Do the Art Shuffle: Houston groups offer special threesome tickets

Do the Art Shuffle: Houston groups offer special threesome tickets

Could Hope Stone, Stages Repertory Theatre and Mercury Baroque be dating?

The threesome just announced an innovative idea, the Art Shuffle, where for $60 you get a ticket to Jane Weiner's Village of Waltz, Mercury Baroque's performance of Vivaldi's lost masterpiece, Montezuma, and Will Eno's Oh, the Humanity and other exclamations at Stages.

Eno's play is on my top five pics of the season, Village of Waltz made my top ten of the decade and Mercury Baroque is touring in Paris right now, so there's some heavy hitters here. The Art Shuffle kicks off at a party at Archway Gallery on Monday from 6-8 p.m.

Hope Stone artistic director Weiner caught the collaborative bug while attending the 2009 national Dance /USA conference held in Houston. Hope Stone director of development Bonnie Collins suggested Weiner look beyond the dance field in finding partners. Weiner headed off to Stages director Kenn McLaughlin to test out the idea.

"It's brilliant," McLaughlin told Weiner. Weiner and McLaughlin collaborated on Panto Cinderella.

The thought of Weiner and McLaughlin in the same room is mind boggling; that's a lot of zaniness under one roof. Weiner once served pizza to her entire audience. McLaughlin recently rode the L in Chicago for hours hunting down a super street musician, Martin Saville, who is now wandering in and out their outrageously good production of Auntie Mame.

Wait a minute, Mercury Baroque artistic director Antoine Plante had a truck drive on the Wortham stage during Lilly's Armide, he will fit right in. Sure enough, Plante was down with the plan and Houston's newest subscription sharing idea was born. 

“Collaborations are great for arts organizations to expand their reach beyond their usual crowds," Plante writes, via email from Paris. "The Art Shuffle is the perfect way for someone to sample three great Houston organizations and the variety of their programming.”

McLaughlin enjoys the company.

"Mercury Baroque and Hope Stone are perfect partners for Stages," he says. "We all are dedicated to intimate connections with our audiences and we all have a reputation for powerful and meaningful work that is accessible for people of all walks of life. I am so excited that we can share our resources and in doing so, reach new folks who may not have seen the connective tissue between these three organizations before."

Weiner, known for her mixmastering between arts groups, feels the Shuffle addresses something deeper than sustainability.

"This is a time when people need art more than ever. We thought by starting with just three terrific events would be an ideal way to share our audiences," says Weiner. "With the performances spanning over several months, audiences members get to savor each performance. Plus, for $60, it's the deal of the century."

So what do you get for your money?

Weiner's Village of Waltz  (October 22 and 23 at Wortham) mixes live music and nonstop dancing with a nostalgic twist. With music by Peter Jones, vocalist  Ana Trevino-Godfrey (of Mercury Baroque), Bessie Award- winning lighting designer Roma Flowers and a cast of the city's best dancers, Village of Waltz is considered Weiner's most fully realized work of her career.

Vivaldi's 1773 Montezuma, rediscovered in 2002, is based on the story of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. Mercury Baroque will be presenting a  long-awaited concert version of this long-lost masterwork on November 20 at Wortham Center.

Will Eno has been heralded as the Samuel Beckett of the Jon Stewart generation. His plays swerve down word paths you can't imagine until you are on the edge of your seat listening to them. He's this century's next big thing in theater. Oh, the Humanity, opening on January 26, is a collection of five short pieces examining the profound questions of existence, combining hope and despair, quite possibly in the same sentence. If it's anything like Eno's other extraordinary plays, expect a feast for the ears and heart.

And, if you are lucky, you will get to meet three of the most fun people on Houston's art scene.

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Antoine Plante of Mercury Baroque Photo by George Hixson
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A scene from "Village of Waltz" by Hope Stone Dance Photo by Simon Gentry
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Artistic directors Jane Weiner of Hope Stone Dance, from left, Kenn McLaughlin of Stages Repertory Theatre and Antoine Plante of Mercury Baroque Photo by Simon Gentry