By JASMINA WELLINGHOFF
By November, the performing arts season is in full swing and itching to get into the holiday mood sooner rather than later.
A great event to get us all in the spirit of celebration is Luminaria, coming up Nov. 9-12. The annual showcase of regional and national artists, dreamed up by then-Mayor Phil Hardberger in 2008, has grown from a single night of outdoor light shows and performances to a four-day festival involving 50 different art groups. All art forms are represented and then some: dance, music, performance art, poetry, photography and other visual disciplines, film and video, and all sorts of cutting-edge multi-genre fusion/experimental art.
The fest changes location every year, and this time it will take place on the near East Side, in two parks — Dignowity and Lockwood, at the Carver Community Cultural Center, and on and around the Hays Street bridge. New this year is the unveiling of several “legacy” murals that will continue to adorn the neighborhood long after the fest fades into memory. It’s all free except for a few workshops and brunches with artists on the final day, all reasonably priced (www.luminariasa.org).
You may not be able to see it all, but this feast for the senses and the mind should not be missed. “Come to be inspired and see the level of art that San Antonio has to offer,” says executive director Kathy Armstrong. “Come to see something new and enjoy yourself.” I second that.
As we get closer to Thanksgiving and beyond, San Antonio stages will explode with dance, music, plays and musicals. To begin with, there are three professional Nutcrackers, starting with Ballet San Antonio’s new version choreographed by new artistic director Willy Shives (Nov. 25-Dec. 4; www.balletsanantonio.org). It will be followed by the Mejia Ballet International production, presented by ARTS San Antonio (Dec. 16-18, www.artssa.org), and the traveling Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Majestic Theatre (Dec. 26-27, www.majesticempire.com). The latter is an American-based company that features Russian dancers and presents a fairly different interpretation of the iconic ballet. I loved the Paul Mejia production when I saw it two years ago, but I am now the most curious about Shives’ original vision for BSA. From what I’ve seen so far, Shives is definitely leading the company to new heights.
Fun shows abound at the Tobin Center as well, including Irish Christmas (Dec. 10), another gem brought to town by ARTS San Antonio in partnership with the Tobin. It’s a family-friendly music-dance-narration spectacle featuring authentic Irish songs played on traditional instruments and dancers “who dance over brooms, on half-doors, around butter churns, into the world of mythology and out again.” Don’t you want to see that? Other interesting offerings include The Other Mozart, which tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus’ talented but forgotten sister (Nov.17); and a concert by a contemporary Mozart-like prodigy, 14-year-old Ethan Bortnick, the world’s youngest solo musician to headline his own concert tour (Dec. 2). A pianist, singer and composer, he started creating his own music at age 5. You may have seen him on TV. Now you can see him perform live (www.tobincenter.org).
And don’t forget the eclectic offerings by San Antonio theaters. There are too many to mention here, but I would like to draw your attention to two companies — the Classic Theater of San Antonio and the Woodlawn Theatre — which share the same building in the Art Deco District and produce very different but always well-received shows. The former will entertain you with the delicious 18th century comedy of manners, The School for Scandal (www.classictheatre.org), while the latter is likely to please you musically and thematically with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, based on the Biblical story of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, and his 11 jealous brothers (www.woodlawntheatre.org).