Austin’s weekly vaudeville combines politics and magic

Video produced by Chelsea Hernandez.

Step into the writer’s room for Esther’s Follies, and you’ll likely find them singing around a table about the Supreme Court and the 2016 presidential election.

The weekly vaudeville variety show has performed in downtown Austin for 39 years, drawing on the week’s headlines for fresh performances filled with social satire and political parody, presented in a variety show format. The show is named for swimming and film star Esther Williams, whose movie posters adorn the wall.

When the show opened in 1977, it became a haven for artists to pursue their latest creative ideas, from comics to mimes to poets. Even today, there is “never a dull moment. [We’re] always creative, always thinking,” Ray Anderson, the show’s magician and choreographer, said.

Anderson said that performing magic was all he ever wanted to do — and he found a unique outlet at Esther’s Follies. “It’s such a specific field and there’s no blueprint whatsoever to being successful,” he said.

Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.