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Best Performing Arts in Austin

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One part vaudeville and one part stinging political/social satire, this place has been amusing and delighting its guests, as well as the pedestrians who pass by its front-stage windows and observe its goings-on, since the late 1970s. A troupe of multi-talented performers write, act, sing and dance their way across a broad and constantly updated comedic map that pokes fun at our elected officials, celebrity icons, and regular citizens. It is not all for laughs, though; a magical act comes on a couple of times per show to startle and captivate your senses. This is a true downtown institution.

Austin has long been a serious hotbed for film & TV production, and, with many talented artists living here, there is great competition for this industry's attention. Thus, in addition to a rotating lineup of shows, it is nice to see that The Institution Theater dedicates itself to providing intimate, affordable acting & sketch writing classes. As if all of that were not enough, the instructors of this company offer "Corporate Training" packages. The idea of this package is to help young business people effectively and efficiently communicate within the workplace through improv.

Bored of the regular entertainment options like nightclubs or bars? Then book a ticket for a show at ColdTowne Theater. Each season, the group brings forth better, improved and novel comedy shows. What started out as a mere training center has now blossomed into a full-fledged comedy theater that runs house-full shows. The performers dabble in varied forms of comedy like stand-up, improv, sketch and so on. On off-days, you can also rent the premises for private events and functions. Check website for season schedule and other details.

This venue, south of the river, is a throwback to the 1950s. Roots rock and country reign supreme in this bar, where one can often find men in leather jackets and classic Cadillacs out front. With live music nightly, tributes to Elvis, and celebrations of Hank William's birthday, this place is great for dancing, drinking and kicking back on the high stools. Happy hours feature some of Austin's favorite songwriters. The venue has broadened its range of live music to include occasional indie rock.

This company knows how to push the limits and still keep the traditional form. The traditional Christmas production of The Nutcracker always brings a smile to patrons' faces. Each year an innovative twist or take on this classic ballet provides a new perspective on this timeless work. Ballet Austin is very familiar with the eclectic nature of the Austin arts scene, and keeps that in mind when developing the seasonal productions.

Serving as the home for Austin's arts community, the multi-functional Long Center showcases a variety of performances throughout the year. With three performance stations, the Michael and Susan Dell Hall, the Debra and Kevin Rollins Studio Theater and City Terrace, audiences and performers are provided with ample space to share their passion for the Arts. Dell Hall is a massive 2,400 seat auditorium which features parterre, mezzanine and balcony seating. A variety of large-scale performances have performed here. The Rollins studio space, facilitates independent and community projects, as well as movie screenings and conferences. The City Terrace is there to provide space for any kind of performance imaginable, and the center invites all to take advantage of it. Check the website for information on tickets and performance schedules.

Part of what makes this theater company so appealing is its versatility. The company produces four to eight shows a year in various Austin theater spaces (they have even produced in a circus tent), expertly adapting to new environments and consistently winning the acclaim of local newspaper critics. Their venue near Chestwood makes for a space that is suitable for different kinds of theater events, with shows such as Church of the Friendly Ghost, Cinema41, Lucky Chaos Theater Projects having been held here, in addition to yoga lessons and workshops.

This auditorium has a 300-seat capacity and fills a gap in the local arts scene for a smaller, elegant venue for music, dance and theater performances. State-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, a mezzanine and a raised stage mean that every seat in the house is a good one. It's part of the Barton Creek Arts Center, an entire complex dedicated to the arts, environment and education. Located on a hillside overlooking picturesque tree canopies and streams, it's about ten minutes from downtown. The theater is the brainchild of One World, a local non-profit arts organization.

A little bit of the Great White Way can be found deep in the heart of Texas. Like the movie studio which shares its name, this theater is grandiose and ambitious with 1250 seats available to host an estimated 160,000 people a year. The calendar features both visiting and local stage productions of musicals and dramatic plays, one-person acts, orchestral performances, children's shows, revivals of great old movies and (because this is Austin) the occasional visiting live-music act. A horn of plenty for theater, music and entertainment fans.

Constructed using sustainable technology, ACL Live at The Moody Theater is a state of the art facility hosts a variety of musical acts throughout the year. With a capacity to hold more than 2,700 guests among three levels of seating, this venue has drawn musicians such as Willie Nelson, Robyn, the Gipsy Kings and more. If you've ever watched Austin City Limits Live on television, you'll no doubt recognize this Austin staple.

Seating nearly 3,000 people, the largest auditorium on the University of Texas campus is host to a myriad of performances. Opera, symphony, ballet and even traveling Broadway shows use this venue. A computerized lighting board and orchestra pit that can be raised or lowered provides a wealth of options for performing organizations. Perfect for an aria or a symphony, Bass Concert Hall is likely to have a show to fit everyone's taste.

Right next door to Esther's Follies, its sibling act is a venue for local and visiting comics. Featuring all the elements of the stand-up comic's typical venue; dimly lit, crowded audience, bar, central stage; it has sustained the careers of many a local comedian for ages. In the past, it has showcased people such as the late, great comics Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks, both of whom began their careers in Texas. Beer and other drinks are cheap and the comedy is pretty constant. A stable of regular performers keeps the place friendly do not be surprised if the Esther's Follies gang turns up a lot.

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