Amelia Gray and Stacy Muszynski are the cohosts of Austin’s Five Things. The Austin Chronicle describes the series as “a scrappy, freewheeling multimedia show.” Amelia and Stacy put it this way: “Five Things inspires five brave (or is that brazen?) and talented artist-people to concoct a new and intriguing five-minute piece (from prose to poem to performance, or a tantalizing mixture to each’s taste) using humor and a central theme.”
Today, Five Things will host the winners of its first writing contest in a show that includes music by Cartographers, Morris Orchids, and the Baker Family Band. The show begins at 7:30 pm at the U.S. Art Authority (510 West 29th Street). With music before the show by Bethany Bauman. Admission is $1.
ASF asked five questions of Five Things.
1. How (and when) did you get started? What inspired Five Things?
AG: Zach Dodson and Jonathan Messenger, my publishers at Featherproof Books, each have great shows in Chicago–The Show ‘n Tell Show and The Dollar Store, respectively. The Dollar Store show in particular grabbed my attention. The idea of getting writers to create something new and interesting to fit a theme made sense to me as a writer. The most interesting readings happen when the work is fresh. Also I had only been in Austin a year and I wanted to know more local writers.
SM: I got involved as soon as [Amelia’s] initial query for writers came through the email for that first show. I emailed back so fast.That first show happened in September 2008. Beyond the nerves and excitement it was true love for me. I was honored to be the inaugural performer. As soon as I got off “stage” (it was a slab of concrete parking lot in front of do512 offices, I told Amelia I was in it for the long haul if she was up for it. It’s been magic ever since.
2. Tell us about the concept of Five Things. How do you choose each show’s theme?
SM: Each show’s theme is a magical thing. There are potions and elixirs and thoughtful back-and-forth emails or middle-of-the night text messages when an idea strikes. Or, just discussion over dinner. There’s that, too. Good ol’ fashioned carb-fueled talk.
AG: We go back and forth, ask friends, send each other huge lists. The goal is to think up the most interesting or provocative or rich or funny concept that can be split into five different ideas. The contest was Stacy’s idea.
3. Five Things was listed in the Austin Chronicle‘s Best of Austin 2009 issue. They described you as “Literary Salon 2.0.” In addition to Five Things being a critics’ pick, it’s also enormously popular. Why do you think your series has struck such a chord? What do you think draws people in and keeps them coming back?
AG: I’m still figuring this stuff out, but the key to running a good show is in responding to the audience mood. Reading hosts in other cities are sometimes surprised that I book so many bands, but music is too good to ignore in Austin. Another part comes from my personal taste, which leans towards flash fiction, funny stuff, weird stuff. People tend to go along with that here in Austin, and I’m lucky for that.
SM: Austin is surprising, talented, eclectic, literary, musical, fun-loving and serious when it’s time to be, and just enough “weird” to help us feel comfortable in our own skin. So’s Five Things. We’re a little microcosm of Austin. Plus, a fabulous night out on a Friday night for as little as a buck! Dang!
Seriously, though: That’s how Five Things takes its responsibility to showcase emerging Austin artists. Amelia and I know how it is to emerge. We write. It can very lonely out there. So we make Five Things a great, safe place where it’s not lonely. It’s all kinds of things, but it’s not lonely. We’re passionate about that.
4. Y’all just ran your first writing contest on the theme of “A New Year.” The winners will be reading tonight. What’s in store for the audience?
SM: For our New Year celebration we’ll witness life! On an illegal dumping ground, in a garden with gnomes, under Congress Avenue Bridge, when your father wants you to believe he’s dead, and via the teachings of “I of the Tiger” about Chinese New Year!
AG: I think Stacy summed it up pretty well! I can’t wait to meet the people that wrote these stories.
5. What’s next for Five Things?
SM: You’ll definitely find out on March 5!
After that, we hope to keep the magic alive and even bring in some folk who know all about “emerging artists”–as they were there once.
AG: I’d love to get a little grant so I don’t need to worry about incidental costs and paying my sound guy and website and whatnot. Maybe we could get an intern on that? Maybe we could get an intern. Regardless, we’re going to drive this truck into the sun. Our next show is January 29 and the one after that is March 5.
If you’re interested in an internship with Five Things, get in touch with Amelia and Stacy at fivethingsaustin[at]gmail.com.