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ARTS AND CULTURE REVIEW: The Radiant Tarot in Austin, Texas (August 19, 2023)

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Austin, Texas is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, and our Central Texas mecca of music, spirituality and performance offers the ability to sample many national tours of all shapes and sizes.

This past Saturday, I attended Invaders of the Heart 2023: The Radiant Tarot at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin, Texas.

Described by the organizers as "dance meets art in this visually stunning production exploring the human search for meaning through the lens of the tarot," The Radiant Tarot met my expectations and much more.

The show is the brainchild of Santa Fe's Myra Krien, a dance artist, choreographer and performer who came up with the idea via her long-standing relationship to the artist Alexandra Eldridge.

According to Ms. Krien, when she received and opened the deck of tarot cards, it was like opening a box of light. She continues: "suddenly as I looked at the cards each one danced of the page - I could literally see the performance come to life in front of me."

After receiving a generous grant/charitable contribution of $25,000, Ms. Krien decided to produce a six-city national tour.

Prior performances in Boise, Idaho, Kona, Hawaii, and Santa Fe, New Mexico meant that Austin was the fourth stop on the tour, soon to be followed by stagings in New York City and in Mexico.

The Radiant Tarot's experience began in the event space's lobby with tarot card readings at 6:00pm (show time was 7.30pm), and my guests and I arrived by 6.45pm to make sure that we a) found free parking in front of the Dougherty Arts Center and b) got our names on the waiting list for the tarot card readings before the show.

Tickets for the performance ranged between $25-$35 in price, and the tarot readings cost an extra $20 but were well worth it.

At the tarot card reading, your spiritual guide would reveal four cards, one by one.

The first card stood for the past. The second, to the left, representing something you don't need to worry about. The third, to the right, representing something to focus on. And finally, the last card at the bottom is what will guide your future.

After the tarot card readings, we checked out the various art installations at the Dougherty Arts Center.

Since 1978, the city-owned and operated Dougherty Arts Center is an artistic gem located at 1110 Barton Springs Road, across from popular culinary stalwarts El Alma and Terry Black's BBQ.

As a reminder that the Dougherty Arts Center is a living and breathing creative space, there were artists at work on a Saturday evening in the clay studio.

Besides the working artists, several exhibitions were on display, including photography from Mary Day Long, and Ed Barr's new exhibit called Condo, described on the Dougherty Arts Center's website as:

Reflecting the rise of condos throughout the Austin downtown area, Ed Barr’s installations evoke a sense of luxury and presumed success. Upon closer inspection, the work elicits questions concerning hierarchy, and addresses issues of loneliness, conformity, and materialism while uttering recriminations about homelessness and wealth disparity.

Here are some photos from the exhibit, which runs through September 23rd, 2023 from 10am to 10pm.

At 7pm, attendees filed into the 150-person theater to get ready for the two act, two hour show with a 15-minute intermission.

Following an introductory speech by Ms. Krien, the creator of the show, and an interruption by the production's Fool (more on this important character later), the lights went down in the theater.

The beginning of each scene featured Ms. Krien's voice speaking zany lyrical prose such as “AS I GET OLD, MY BEST ADVICE IS NEVER FOLLOW MY ADVICE" and "JOKES AND INSTINCTS ARE FOR FOOLS. I RULE MY WORLD BY MAKING RULES."

Each segment of The Radiant Tarot was dedicated to a different tarot card, projected on the back screens of the stage and represented not only in costume but also in music and dance.

While I did not exactly understand the story connecting all of the different vignettes while watching the show, Ms. Krien reports that the narrative is the journey of The Fool through the Major Arcana.

The Fool represents every one of us as we move through life archetypes represented by the cards. In fact, The Fool, played by Tori King, goes through a transformation throughout the show as she moves through each of the cards.

The performance's highlights included minimalistic costumes such as a lion head mask, which was particularly terrifying and realistic, bird's heads and butterfly wings and finally a segment where a devilish master rhythmically tamed his chain gang harem.

Phones and video were not allowed, but Ms. Krien provided some professional photography, which can be found directly below.

In addition, there is a full video of the performance available via Vimeo for $25.

At the end of the production, the artists were available for photos and conversation in the lobby, and merchandise was on sale including a special Radiant Tarot book with quotes from the production.

The Radiant Tarot was phenomenal and despite my perceived lack of meaning throughout the narrative, I did find sublime beauty in fleeting moments of the performance.

When its artistic dance, modern Arabian music, striking visual effects and intricate costumes harmoniously interacted, The Radiant Tarot was a visceral experience which transported one from the the everyday mundane into its fanciful world.

The Radiant Tarot flirts with masterpiece status, and while it does not quite achieve this lofty goal, Ms. Krien's production authentically entices, titillates and inspires, and in this day and age, that is an accomplishment indeed.

For more information on the tour, click here.

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