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 Lance Avery Morgan       Photo courtesy of Texas Performing Arts

Christopher Jackson

We love that the Texas Performing Arts announced that it is one of a select group of nonprofit arts organizations participating in a livestream concert event, Christopher Jackson: Live from the West Side on Saturday, August 15 at 7 p.m. CST. Jackson is a Grammy and Emmy Award winning songwriter/composer and is the Tony Award- nominated actor best known for originating the role of George Washington in the cultural phenomenon Hamilton. “Nonprofit arts presenters are the lifeblood of the performing arts industry and a pipeline for young talent. Without them there is no Broadway,” said Jackson. “While everything is shutdown during this terrible pandemic, I am delighted to be able to help spread some joy and help raise some much needed support for these deserving organizations.”

Accompanied by a live band, Jackson will be performing songs from his favorite musicals, pop standards, and some of his original material, and will share stories from his time affiliated with two of the most important musicals of the last decade In The Heights and Hamilton. Audience members will also be invited to text in questions, some of which will be answered during the live event.

“We’re happy to bring Austin’s Broadway fans this unique opportunity to experience a great performer live on screen from New York” noted Texas Performing Arts Executive Director Bob Bursey. “While we can’t experience the power of performance together in person, an interactive live concert specifically for Austin and selected other communities around the country is the next best thing.”

The livestream, a co-production of Dallas Summer Musicals and Entertainment Benefits Group, is being shared by a number of nonprofit arts presenters around the country. The event will take place at New York’s New World Stages, the off-Broadway venue that has housed productions of Jersey Boys, Avenue Q and many others. Proceeds from the ticket sales for Christopher Jackson: Live from the West Side will support Texas Performing Arts’ reopening and recovery efforts. For tickets and more information, visit