When it comes to theater, it has indeed shape-shifted, like the rest of the world…due to the pandemic. The future is bright, though, according to the University of Texas’s Bass Hall and Texas Performing Arts’ Executive Director, Bob Bursey, who weighs in with his point of view on the performing arts…

By Lance Avery Morgan     Photography courtesy of Texas Performing Arts. Portrait photography by Lawerence Pert

Bob Bursey

LAM: Bob, thanks for your time to connect about theater. Why is Bass Concert Hall at UT such a special place for performances, in your opinion?  

BB: It’s the largest theater in Austin, and for 40 years has been the Austin home for top artists and productions from around the world. The scale of it is breathtaking, and that allows artists to go big.

LAM: The show must go on. That in mind, with the pandemic, how has TPA adapted and pivoted with its online presence and a new exhibit like Behind the Scenes: The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop?

Backdrop from Two Weeks In Another Town

BB: We’re staying true to our purpose of connecting people with creativity, especially in these times. We’ve been finding the opportunities in the pandemic through projects that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like using the Bass Concert Hall stage as an exhibition space for the Hollywood Backdrops show.

LAM: Why is an exhibition like this so important about telling a more complete story about the theatre?  

BB: Theater and filmmaking both rely on the work of many, many people behind the scenes.  These are extraordinary artists in their own right, though you never see them on-stage or screen, and sometimes they’re not even credited.  This exhibition celebrates some of those artisans and their work. 

LAM: What do you want a visitor to experience when they see this exhibit? 

BB: To be transported out of day-to-day life during these long months.  It’s an opportunity to take a trip to a Golden Age Hollywood backlot without leaving Austin.

LAM: How important is it for UT to have an organization like Texas Performing Arts?

BB: Having a leading performing art presenting and producing program is part of what makes the University of Texas at Austin a flagship school. The university’s commitments to excellence and to research extends to the arts.  Artists develop new projects here, and we provide UT students with hands-on, real-world experiences that further them toward becoming the next generation of creative leaders.

LAM: Texas Performing Arts will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary–congratulations on that. That’s a major milestone–what does that represent for the future of the venue? 

BB: We’re excited about the next forty years. We’re always improving the facility itself of course, and even more important than that are the opportunities to welcome new artists and audiences, as well as creating opportunities to connect with artists and performances beyond the walls of our building.

LAM: What can we expect to see with the next season (2021-2022) of performances? 

BB: That will be our 40th anniversary season, so you can expect the return of remarkable artists who have been favorites in Austin over the years. That will be balanced with new voices—the emerging generation of performing arts is extraordinary, and we want Austin to see them first.

Backdrop from National Velvet

LAM: How important are the “road” shows of Broadway hits that are brought to our culture–it seems that Hollywood has returned to The Great White Way for its creative inspiration–unprecedented since the 60s. 

BB: That’s exactly right—TV and film are drawing heavily on shows and talent from the theater world. Our silver linings of the pandemic is that the performing arts world is getting more comfortable with putting productions on screen, and is finding that it makes the live experience even more special. 

LAM: What are other types of performances on the horizon, beyond the Broadway Across America productions?

BB: Our next season will include some of America’s leading dance, theater, and music artists and ensembles. We’re putting more emphasis on big dance and theater projects—the sorts of ambitious productions that we’re uniquely positioned to take on because of our facility and the spirit of UT. Some of the most exciting music being made now is coming from unexpected collaborations between different artists, so that will be a focus as well.

LAM: Regarding your role, what are some of your key objectives with the future of TPA? 

BB: I want the artists and productions on our stages to reflect the broadest possible view of what Texas is in 2021—a big, diverse, forward-looking state. We’re planning to create more new projects here.  UT is about changing the world for the better through research and learning, and that’s the objective for Texas Performing Arts through our creative development programs and what we can do for students of every age.



By Jake Gaines                            Photography by Matthew Murphy

It’s one of the biggest hits in theatrical history. CATS will come to Austin on May 7–12 as part of a multi-season North American tour. How great is that? Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the record-breaking musical spectacular has captivated audiences in over 30 countries and 15 languages, is now on tour across North America! Featuring new sound design, direction and choreography for a new generation—experience CATS for the first time as it begins a new life, or let it thrill you all over again.

The original Broadway production opened in 1982 at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre, where it ran for 7,485 performances and 18 years. CATS was originally produced on Broadway by Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Company Limited, David Geffen, and The Shubert Organization. In fact, CATSreturned to Broadway in 2016 in a stunning revival at the Neil Simon Theatre.

Since its world premiere, CATS has been presented in over 30 countries, has been translated into 15 languages, and has been seen by more than 73 million people worldwide. Originally directed by Trevor Nunn with choreography and associate direction by Gillian Lynne,scenic and costume design by John Napier, lighting design by David Hersey, and sound design by Abe Jacob, CATS opened in the West End in 1981. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1982 where it won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album. CATS hit song “Memory” has been recorded by over 150 artists from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace and Barry Manilow.


WHO:               Lexus Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts

WHAT:             CATS

WHEN:             May 7 – 12, 2019                        Tuesday – Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m. & 7 p.m.

WHERE:           Bass Concert Hall | 2350 Robert Dedman Drive | Austin, TX 78712

TICKETS:         Tickets are available at and