Have you ever found yourself lost in a whirlwind of memories, feeling grateful for the journey that led you to where you are today? Well, pull up a seat and get ready to reminisce, because we’re about to take a deep dive into the transformative power of the Heller Awards for Young Artists with Dave Hawks, one of our very own HAYA photographers and a proud alum of the program (fun fact: he was actually in the very first one!).

Hi! I’m Dave Hawks!!

Reflecting on my journey with the Heller Awards brings forth a rush of memories and gratitude for the impact it has had on my life and those around me. Growing up in Austin, my involvement in Cedar Park High School’s musical theater and UIL competitions laid the groundwork for my passion for the arts. But it was during my senior year that I truly found my place.

Dave Hawks
This is Dave! 📸

Though I wasn’t much of a singer, my decision to step up as a dancer for the Heller Awards’ Select Ensemble proved to be one of the best choices I’ve made, shaping not only my high school experience, but also my career trajectory. Today, as a brand manager, co-owner of a digital marketing firm, and a photographer, I owe much of my success to the relationships and skills nurtured during my time in the theatre. Not because I’m now performing on Broadway or anything, but because the relationships I developed during that time have proven to be some of the most impactful, and have opened doors for me I could have never imagined possible.

The arts have a way of bringing together the right people at the right time, and provide a means of connection with others that is hard to find anywhere else.

I keep coming back to be involved in the Heller Awards because I know how much the arts have done for me, and I want to be a part of giving that back to the generations coming next. You can’t escape the arts. They will always draw you back. The arts are really just life happening on stage under spotlights.

The theatre doesn’t just teach you how to act, and sing, and dance. It shows you how to contend with yourself, it holds up a mirror so you can learn about who you are. Scripts can give words to emotions you feel but could never articulate. The theatre teaches you how to listen, how to communicate on purpose, and how to speak without using your words. It mandates that you learn how to combine your mind, body, and heart to work together as one. It teaches you how to have empathy for those around you, even the ones playing the role of the villain. Taking on a role of any size requires a genuine attempt to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, which may be the most important skill you could ever learn.

Behind the scenes of the Heller Awards red carpet // Photo by Dave

The skills I learned in theatre are the skills most fundamental to my success in life today. Certainly more than anything I learned from my textbooks. I learned the value of words, which ones to use and when. I learned how loud silence can be. I learned that compelling communication only comes when I truly believe what I’m saying. I learned that being louder doesn’t necessarily mean being more effective. I learned that just because you have the most to say doesn’t mean your character means the most to the story. I learned that more often than not, it’s those behind the scenes that have the most important roles, and deserve the most praise.

To those just starting their arts or musical theatre journeys, I advise you to make sure the people around you are more important to you than the characters you play. When people talk about why they loved their theatre experience, it’s rarely because of the specific characters they were cast as. It’s because of those they got to play alongside. The relationships, the friendships, and the community that come from the stage is a bond like no other. Learn to love those around you, and you’ll love whatever it is you do.

As we wrap up Dave Hawks‘ inspiring journey through the transformative world of theater, get ready to spot him behind the lens on this year’s Heller Awards red carpet on April 17, capturing all the glitz, glamour, and his infectious energy! It’s going to be a night to remember.


At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

Who doesn’t love it when things just ✨ line up? ✨ Like running into a long lost friend, or a song you just talked about comes on the radio, or even… the cosmos aligning perfectly for a total solar eclipse right where you are. In this Mid-Week Intermission, we linked up with Annie Saunders and Andrew Schneider, the two artists of Point A who have created a one-of-a-kind, site-specific soundwalk for Austin to celebrate exactly this, when the heres and nows meet. Read on to learn more about ECLIPSING.

This is Annie & Andrew, on location

Long Center: First off, since we’re here to talk about your upcoming soundwalk (more on that later) — could you suggest some music or ambient sounds people should put on while they read this interview, just for fun?

Annie Saunders (ANNIE) & Andrew Schneider (AJS): We’ll make it simple! Here’s a playlist we’ve made just for them.

LC: How did you find each other and what’s the story behind Point A?

AJS: I was building an interactive typewriter to control a lighting sculpture for a theater show in LA. Annie was acting in the show. I flew to LA to show the cast how to use the typewriter and Annie and I collaborated on the best way to use the typewriter as an instrument. Later I actually ended up being in that show.

Years passed. Annie hired me as a lighting designer on a show that she made in the Oculus in NYC, which was a full-sized house in the middle of this massive transit hub. Annie made this incredible show illuminating domestic abuse through financial control complete with interviews of survivors. You’d go through the house one at a time and hear all these stories and see snippets from their lives. Afterwards there were therapists and abuse support folks you could talk to. I did the interactive lighting design for it. It was really the first time I thought, “oh, interactive/immersive theater has really an incredible power.” 

I invited Annie to come speak at a class I was teaching in NYC at this techno-centric grad school called The Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. It was all about paying closer attention to your own reality — really listening to the world around you — in order to be better at storytelling when making art, especially new media. I realized we shared a lot of the same ideas about theater-making — basically, that it’s not something that happens “over there.” It’s something that can be all around you if you frame it in a certain way.

Then Annie got a commission to make a soundwalk in NYC during the pandemic. She called me up and I said yes, we decided to start making place-reactive media and performance together in addition to our own other work. We premiered that piece (CURRENT) in 2021, then premiered KORMOS in Athens, Greece, in 2022, and now we’re here in Austin!

LC: Speaking of being in Austin, tell us about ECLIPSING — what’s the inspiration behind this work?

ANNIE: The work is inspired by the total solar eclipse, which will be visible from Austin in April 2024 — the moon will cover the sun resulting in about 2 minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. It makes us think about alignment, simultaneity, synchronicity, connectedness, the cosmos, and how invisible forces are at work in our world all the time, literally and figuratively.

AJS: Eclipses are all about being in the right place at the right time. And all of Austin is going to be in the right place at the right time. The whole community will have access to this incredible celestial event. But we can also scale this down and see how it is at play in our daily lives. The cosmic timings of our trips to the grocery store — how we met the people we fell in love with — and the things that almost happened but never did — every decision or non-decision contributes to our now and our collective now — which I think is cool.

Annie & Andrew recording for the soundwalk

LC:  What drew you to soundwalks as an artform?

ANNIE: These projects for me tap into the essential qualities of liveness — being in the right place at the right time for something magical to occur for just that audience in that moment, never exactly the same way twice. I also hope that it brings people into relationship with the city in a new, personal, physical, imaginative, and memorable way.

AJS: I was really skeptical at first. I really don’t like the audience having to put anything artificial on, especially in the theater. But so many people wear headphones outside all the time — soundtrack their own lives in a way — that I thought, “oh, this is perfect actually. Let’s tap into what those folks are already doing and amp it up a little.”

LC: What’s been the most exciting part about creating this site-specific work for Austin?

ANNIE: The community here in Austin has been amazing and this area is so special to so many people. It’s been an honor to create work in response to it.

AJS: Any time I describe the project to anyone, it’s met with genuine curiosity and usually an interest to know more. The collaborators we are able to work with on the ground here are the most genuine, generous, and talented team we’ve worked with on these projects. The scene here in Austin to me is like NYC but way more welcoming and way less ego-driven. Also, Slacker.

LC: What makes Austin different than some of your other soundwalk locations?

ANNIE: There’s nowhere on earth quite like Austin 🙂 

AJS: Each place is completely unique. We spend months in these places to try to get a sense of what it’s like to be a human being in a public place. We don’t come with a story we already want to tell, we come with listening as the highest priority.

LC: Any advice on how folks can best enjoy ECLIPSING?

ANNIE: Bring your phone (charged) and your best headphones. Pack light, wear comfortable shoes, bring water.

AJS: Other than that, there’s no wrong way. I’d try to be open — to listen to what’s around me — to try to see things as if I don’t already know what they are.

LC: How can folks follow you and keep up with your other projects?

Andrew is over at andrewjs.com and @helloandrewjs on socials (be on the lookout for another show headed to Austin in 2025!).

Annie is at anniesaunders.work or @annie.saunders_ on Instagram. Next up is ‘Our Country’ at On the Boards in Seattle later in March.

ECLIPSING  //  MAR 9 – 12

Learn more about this free site-specific soundwalk, where it starts, how to acces, and more. Check our FAQ for details.

If RSVPs are full, check back often as more time slots get added or open up.

ECLIPSING was recorded both on location and at Preacher Studios, and produced in collaboration with Squeak E. Clean Studios.

Interested in other eclipse-related programming?

This project was made possbile by the Simons Foundation and is part of its ‘In the Path of Totality’ initiative.

As part of that initiative, Austin is celebrating with 3 days of events including a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party right here at the Long Center and more events happening with Waterloo Greenway and Fusebox. Can’t wait to party like it’s 1397!

If you’ve been to the Long Center lately (and we hope you have), chances are you’ve seen the team from Dulce Vida Tequila out and about! When we have the pleasure of partnering with a local business as passionate and excited about Austin as we are, we like to celebrate it. So in celebration of National Margarita Day, coming up on February 22, get to know our sponsor Dulce Vida Tequila in this interview to find out why Dulce Vida + Long Center = the perfect pairing.


Forget about National Margarita Day — at the Long Center this February, we’re celebrating National Margarita Week! When you attend a Long Center Presents show on February 19 – 24, submit your secret margarita ingredient in the lobby for a chance to shape a signature Dulce Vida Tequila cocktail for The Drop-In this summer! It could be weird, wacky, a traditional favorite, or off the wall. Our winner will also receive a Dulce Vida Tequila giveaway and other goodies.

WHAT’S ON at the LC

FEB 19 @ 7:30pm // Black Violin Experience Tour, with special guest Abraham Alexander
FEB 20 @ 7:30pm // Renée Fleming
FEB 21 @ 7:30pm // An Evening with Bill Nye
FEB 24 @ 8:00pm // Cassette Roulette, starring John Cameron Mitchell

Dulce Vida Tequila
Dulce Vida Tequila's Core 4
Get to know Dulce Vida Tequila

Long Center: Something we just like to do for fun — what music should folks put on while they read this interview?

Dulce Vida Tequila: Dulce Vida is all about being approachable, adventurous, and FUN! We’re also based here in Austin! So a fun music playlist that brings this to life with uptempo, high energy, dance, pop, rock, and vibey tunes, with a heavy dose of local Austin bands/musicians sprinkled throughout would be perfect.

LC: How did Dulce Vida Tequila come to call Austin home? What’s your story?

Dulce Vida: Dulce Vida Tequila’s founders knew that Austin is a cool, weird, eclectic city with a history of successful startup brands. It’s also one that shares our values, such as being organic and sustainably produced, so what better place to launch an organic, additive-free, sustainable tequila than Austin, TX, baby!

LC: We know (and love) that sustainability is a big deal to Dulce Vida. Can you tell us more about that? What about Austin inspires you to keep sustainability a priority?

Dulce Vida: The concept of sustainability was very strategic in the selection of our tequila production facility. The facility not only had to be capable of making an award-winning product, but also had to meet requirements for organic production and overall sustainability measures — being a kind partner to the environment and local community.

A complete recapture of all production waste is performed and yields a nutrient-rich soil supplement to the local farming community. Furthermore, as a by-product of waste collection & processing, methane gas is captured, creating an energy source utilized to power the facility.

Austin has always been a city that prioritizes the environment, holistic, natural approaches to wellness, and clean living (like Whole Foods), so taking that shared ethos of sustainable practices and better-for-you products, it only made sense for our founders in their development and creation of Dulce Vida Tequila to create a tequila brand that did the same. For example, Dulce Vida Tequilas are all organic and additive free. Our infused Tequilas are also made with real fruit and are low calorie/low carb. For more information on our process, please visit DulceVidaSpirits.com!

Dulce Vida Tequila at The Drop-In, photo by Sophia Lawson
LC: How does Dulce Vida stay connected to the local community?

Dulce Vida:  Dulce Vida Tequila is very involved in the Austin scene — from our revered partnerships with historic entities such as the Long Center and Texas Longhorns Athletics, to the Austin Chronicle’s ‘Austin Music Awards’ that highlight the important local music scene, and to strong local art collectives like Almost Real things, The Cathedral, and more.

Dulce Vida is truly part of the Austin fabric as a supporter of charitable and philanthropic organizations like the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), events such as the Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run which benefits The Trail Conservancy, as well as other giving organizations like Soccer Assist, the Junior League of Austin, and the American Cancer Society.

Dulce Vida Tequila is also proud to support organizations that champion inclusivity such as the ATX Gay Flag Football League, the Human Rights Campaign, and Out Youth, to name a few. It’s such an honor and privilege to showcase our 100% pure agave, USDA Organic, and certified Additive Free tequila to the Austin community. Stay connected with us with a follow on Instagram @DulceVidaTequila to learn more.

Dulce Vida Tequila at The Drop-In, photo by Sophia Lawson
LC: Why is it important for the Dulce Vida team to partner with venues like the Long Center?

Dulce Vida: The Long Center has been an iconic venue in Austin for many years, helping support, highlight, and showcase the best there is to offer in the performing arts universe (locally and globally). The Long Center does a great job of bringing world-renowned acts to our city for locals to enjoy while also championing established local acts and giving up-and-coming artists opportunities to highlight themselves.

The Long Center also offers incredible (and free!) experiential opportunities (The Drop-In, for example) for locals to enjoy our city, smack dab in the heart of Austin with the greatest view of the city, our beautiful downtown Austin skyline as the backdrop. Dulce Vida is proud to partner with the Long Center for doing such a great job of giving Austinites a place we are proud to call our own. Plus, we hear you can get a great Dulce Vida cocktail there!

Dulce Vida Tequila at The Drop-In, photo by Brynn Osborn
LC: Can you leave us with a margarita recipe for folks to try at home as a treat for reading?

Dulce Vida: Absolutely. This is one of our favorites:

The Dulce Vida “Sweet Heat” Margarita

  • 1.5 oz Dulce Vida Pineapple Jalapeño Tequila
  • .5 oz Naranja Orange Liqueur
  • .5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • .25 oz Pineapple Juice

Pour ingredients into a shaker over ice. Shake vigorously. Pour contents into a glass with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and pineapple wedge. Optional: add 1-2 jalapeño rings for more heat. Enjoy!


Don’t forget! When you’re at the Long Center for Black Violin, Renée Fleming, Bill Nye, or Cassette Roulette, submit an ingredient for your chance to win a Dulce Vida Tequila giveaway + shape a signature cocktail for The Drop-In. See you in the lobby!


At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

Time to take a look behind the curtain, uhh… actually, behind the audio console! It’s a busy month at the Long Center, and that means our production staff are doing what they do best — making magic happen on stage. So catch up with Riley Burgess, our House AV Technician (that’s audio-visual), in today’s Mid-Week Intermission to get a glimpse of the work it takes to make a show unforgettable.

This is Riley ☝️ on top of the Ring Beam 🤩
Hi y’all, I am Riley Burgess
I’m a house AV Technician here at the Long Center and I’m excited to be here!
I live in Elgin, TX, with my lovely fiancé Kristen, our dog Lucy, and our cat Josephine. I really love being around nature and also cooking good food.

Growing up here in Austin, TX, I’ve been around music my entire life. My younger sister’s been a very successful cello player from a young age, my dad is in a local band, and my mom is in the Audio Archiving industry. I played upright bass in orchestra throughout middle-high school, picked up drums as well, and still play in my free time.

After graduating high school, I took classes at Austin Community College to learn the audio engineering trade, and soon after I got a passion for live sound. I started mixing bands at a variety of music venues around Austin and mixed a few regional festivals, too. I did some work at the Scottish Rite Theatre working comedy shows, album release shows, and children’s theatre. Later on, I started touring with a few bands as well as a puppet show! I did a lot of AV (that’s audio-visual) work for conferences at hotels and the convention center. I also learned video and rigging.

When the pandemic hit, all in-person stagehand and entertainment work stopped. I did work as an electrical apprentice and learned much more than I expected in such a short period of time. It was an amazing learning experience for me, and I now have a deeper understanding of mechanical things. When live events picked back up I was able to continue working AV again. The opportunity to work for the Long Center came up in 2022 and I was glad I took it! Very glad to be here!

Riley in the sound booth during a screening of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan with William Shatner

Every work day is a little different. Some days are longer than others and may require coming in at a different time of the day than others. Typically, I come in and check for any updates on equipment needs. Depending on the day, I’ll gather equipment on carts to set up in Dell Hall or sometimes Kodosky. We are very fortunate to have time to perform maintenance and to have the tools to make necessary repairs as needed. 

Once a week the production department will meet to discuss our shows and events coming up. I’m looking forward to the Concert Club shows as well as what’s coming up in Dell Hall. We are preparing for future upgrades in our AV system and looking forward to that, too.

My creativity comes out the most when I’m mixing a music group no matter the genre. Microphone selection is both a creative process and a mathematic process. Placement of microphones and on-stage speakers require some creativity to make sure instruments and the talent have enough coverage. If appropriate, I’ll use reverb and delay effects to emphasize certain passages in the lyrics. Other creativity comes out when new gear is installed and mounting hardware needs to be custom made.

Okay, speed round!

Favorite behind-the-scenes part of the LC?

I really love our patchbays! They allow us to route audio and video signals to specific parts of Dell Hall and the other spaces in the building. I also find sanctuary at the workbench to make audio and video cables.

Any advice for audio up-and-comers?

Never be afraid to ask questions! Follow audio-video manufacturers on social media and learn the theories involved. Learning to repair your gear is important and it will help you become more conscious of the way the electricity flows to create that picture or that sound.

Also, advocate for yourself and others to make the live event production industry even better to work in. 

If touring with bands is something you wanna do, you gotta get out there and network. Mixing a band’s set at a venue could land you a tour.

Lastly, always be punctual and mix with intention. Be yourself, people will like you for you.

Just for fun — what are you listening to right now?

I listen to a wide variety of music. From Paganini to Ringo Deathstarr, and Black Sabbath to Sharon Jones. Lately, I’ve been listening to Robert Glasper’s album Black Radio as well as Duster’s album Stratosphere.

Thanks, Riley! 

If you want more behind-the-scenes ins-and-outs of audio-visional goings on at the Long Center (and we know you do), give Riley a follow on Instagram or TikTok. Keep your eyes peeled — you never know when you might see Riley at the audio console for a show in Dell Hall!


At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

Year-End Gift 2023 | Long Center
Your Support Today, Transforms Tomorrow

We’ve made it our mission to support creativity in all its forms, and we hope this season you’ll join us and do the same. Your donation doesn’t just support our work, it’s a declaration that creativity belongs to everyone


Become a LC member today and and get first dibs on RSVP before the public, early entrance into the venue for you and your guests, members-only bars, and other surprises!

Amplify Austin is here – and we need your help to provide free arts experiences for K-12 students through our Long Reach for the Arts program.  Because the kids need art!