Zilker Theatre Productions celebrates 60 years with 'All Shook Up'

[gallery ids="315584,315592,315586,315589"]

In 1959 the Austin Parks and Recreation Department started a summer musical program at Zilker Hillside Theatre with a free production of “Seventeen.”

Every summer since for 60 consecutive years, Austin residents have come to the Hillside to enjoy a free musical. But through those six decades, producing the show has not always been easy.

In 1987 the parks and rec department stopped funding the musical, and a nonprofit organization originally known as Friends of the Summer Musical – now called Zilker Theatre Productions – was born to support the show. In 2009, after another economic downturn, the buckets passed around the Hillside during the summer did not fill up as quickly as they usually did, and the funding from the Cultural Arts Fund through the city’s hotel occupancy tax dipped.

But this is musical theater: The show must go on—and supporters did whatever they had to do to make sure that the free summer musical came back every summer to the Hillside.

“It’s always free to see—never free to produce, but always free to see,” said Kate Hix, Zilker Theatre Productions executive director. “And they just make it work.”

This year, as ZTP celebrates its 60th birthday, the organization is in a much more stable place than it was in 1987 or 2009. ZTP is now 80 percent funded by donations from individuals, grants or businesses, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the Cultural Arts Fund. Last year ZTP hired J. Robert Moore as its artistic director, and the nonprofit organization hopes to expand with more shows year-round and educational program additions in the future.

Moore directed “The Wizard of Oz” last summer and returns as director for this year’s production of “All Shook Up,” the twist on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” featuring songs from Elvis Presley in a call-back to the 1950s era in which the summer musical began.

“I think people are going to stand up and want to start dancing in their seats. We’re trying to build that into the show as our 60th anniversary celebration so that it feels like we are really truly having a party on the Hillside. Every night should feel like a ZTP birthday party in my opinion,” Moore said.

The cast at each show features a broad mix of actors with various experience levels, from ZTP regulars and experienced cast members to students and pre-professionals. Past cast members include former University of Texas student J. Quinton Johnson, who went on to join the cast of Broadway’s “Hamilton” in 2017 as James Madison and Hercules Mulligan.

“We have people from all across the spectrum. There’s a lot of talent in Austin, and there are a lot of wonderful people that come together to put on this show every year,” Moore said.

“All Shook Up” opens July 6 and runs Thursdays through Sundays at 8:15 p.m. until Aug. 18. Admission on the Hillside is free.

Zilker Theatre Productions
2206 William Barton Drive, Austin
July 6- Aug. 18; Thu.-Sun. 8:15 p.m.


There have been 1,168 coronavirus recoveries in the county since mid-March, and active cases in Travis County are estimate at 2,011. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Weekend update: Austin metro coronavirus hospitalizations drop to lowest level since April 28

There have been 1,168 coronavirus recoveries in the county since mid-March, and active cases in Travis County are estimate at 2,011.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Texas Capitol on Sunday, May 31, to protest police brutality. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Concerns over violence from outside groups force organizers to cancel ‘Justice for them All’ protest at Texas Capitol; demonstrations persist downtown

Demonstrations occured across the nation to protest police brutality in the wake of the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community impact Newspaper)
Some on Austin City Council want more of its $272 million coronavirus relief package to go to residents in need

City Council will determine how much to put toward direct financial assistance at its June 4 meeting.

Tumble 22's original location on Burnet Road opened in 2018. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tumble 22 will take over former Magnolia Cafe location in July

This will be the third location for the Nashville-style hot chicken restaurant, which opened its first on Burnet Road in 2018.

Candidates in the Senate District 14 special election responded to Community Impact Newspaper's questions about their campaigns to fill the vacant seat in the Texas Senate. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Senate District 14 candidates discuss the issues ahead of July 14 election

There are six candidates running in the special election to fill the seat of former Sen. Kirk Watson through 2022.

Travis County judge pushes back against attorney general's reprimand of stay-at-home order

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe responded to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's warning that county coronavirus orders conflicted with the state's.

Volunteers load cars at a distribution event in South Austin on May 28. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Six food distribution events scheduled by Central Texas Food Bank in June

Residents who face food insecurities can drive up with their vehicles for no-contact pickup.

Cap Metro and its community partners have combined to delivery more than 300,000 meals to community members in need. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro, community partners deliver more than 300K meals to community

The public transportation agency is teaming up with businesses and nonprofits to provide meals for those in need.

The Austin Central Library will reopen after it was closed for more than two months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin libraries, in-person pet adoptions to begin reopening June 1

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department will begin opening amenities, but there is no date set to open Barton Springs Pool.

(Courtesy Fotolia)
New school schedules and a road opening: Latest news from Central Texas

Read the latest news from Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of the Central Texas area.

Verbena will be opening on West Sixth Street in July. (Rendering courtesy Lake Flato)
New restaurant from Juniper, Uncle Nicky's chef opening on West Sixth in July

Verbena will be located in the new Canopy by Hilton Hotel in downtown Austin.

A photo of the Travis County headquarters sign
Austin Public Health officials say they plan to increase support to Latino community, where coronavirus hospitalizations are up

As of May 26, 76 Hispanic individuals in Travis County were hospitalized with COVID-19, representing around 78% of all hospitalizations.