An Evening with Shannon Sedwick
Date(s) - Tue, Oct 18, 2016
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Temple Beth Shalom
Shannon Sedwick’s got real Austin cred. Not only did she found one of the most iconic music venues in the history of the city, she is also responsible for Austin’s best known comedy venue. She’s played an instrumental role in some of the city’s most transformative initiatives, like the ever-popular Pecan Street Festival, which helped revitalize retail in the 6th Street district, and the Downtown Austin Alliance. And yes, she’s a Longhorn. On top of that, she’s funny. Really funny. Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening with her? Now’s your chance. The National Council of Jewish Women – Austin Section (NCJW) invites you to enjoy “An Evening with Shannon Sedwick” on October 18th at Temple Beth Shalom.
Shannon was born in LA (in the same hospital that Dr. Kildare was filmed, she points out). Her father, John Sedwick, was planning to be a cowboy movie star, and her mother worked as a secretary for MGM Studios. When the family moved back to Texas and settled in Ft. Worth, Shannon was bitten by the acting bug as she grew up in the Ft. Worth Community Theater, watching her mother and father perform in many community productions. She performed with her mother in “The Chalk Garden” when she was 12 years old.
Shannon went to UT to major in acting, but was unable to start her freshman year performing, so sought performance arenas elsewhere on campus and landed in a production called “Now the Revolution” being presented by The Curtain Club at the Student Union in 1969. She met her husband, Michael Shelton, at tryouts, as he performed a death act, going from stage to stage, dying dramatically. Her heart was won, and they have been together for 47 years. “Now the Revolution” was thrown off-campus due to nudity in the show, and moved on to other stages, including Houston’s Alley Theater, Atlanta’s Alliance Theater, and in NYC, Joe Papp’s Public Theater, changing the show’s name to “Stomp!” Michael went on to design the sets for the NYC production, but Shannon stayed in Austin, continuing her education, and co-founding a film series on campus with Michael called “The Museum of Light”, showing experimental short films.
In 1975, Shannon and Michael joined two friends to open Liberty Lunch on W. 2nd Street, where the City Council chambers now stand. It was a restaurant with an outdoor stage, which they opened with musical acts and theatrical “happenings”. They continued their entrepreneurial bent, opening restaurants and bars in the next years, with Esther’s Follies on 6th Street being their happiest accident. Esther’s Follies was an immediate overnight success, with the public walking down a dark, dank alley to the back entrance, the stage in the windows, and the show a musical comedy extravaganza featuring around 30 performers. In 1982, the theater burned down, and the show went up the street to a space Shannon and Michael had rented, the Ritz Theater, to share the stage with punk rock acts like The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Esther’s Follies has had 4 incarnations/spaces on 6th Street, winding up in its current location at the corner of 6th and Red River, where the couple own the building, and also houses The Velveeta Room, their standup comedy club.
Due to the fire and revitalization of the Follies, Lily Tomlin and her partner Jane Wagner came to Austin to do a weeklong series of performances, and Lily joined Ann Richards to do a benefit for the theater. Shannon became involved in many community activities after the amazing outflowing of help and love from the community, including becoming a member of the Arts Commission, Leadership Texas, a women’s organization, the Downtown Austin Alliance, the I-35 Coalition (working on the Corridor beautification between Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Street at I-35), the 6th Street Austin Owners Association, and is currently the President of the Old Pecan Street Association, which has produced the Pecan Street Spring and Fall Festivals for close to 40 years.
Shannon and Michael have recently expanded their businesses to include Patsy’s Cafe on Ben White Blvd., a music and roadhouse food restaurant. They are renovating and rebuilding several homes in Austin. Shannon has won awards from many organizations, including the B. Iden Payne Memorial Award in 2009, for which Austin Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires dubbed her the “Cal Ripken of Comedy.”
“An Evening with Shannon Sedwick” is being presented by NCJW on Tuesday, October 18 at Temple Beth Shalom, 7300 Hart Lane, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. Dessert and coffee will be served. The event is open to the community. Please rsvp by October 11th to firstname.lastname@example.org or by going to www.ncjwaustin.org and click the donate link. Admission is $10 per person and can be paid via a secure PayPal link on the website. Just write “Shannon” in the comment box. Guests may also pay at the door on the night of the event.