Natalie Lerner has a gift for spotting patterns in the entertainment community. The Mosaic Hub – which she founded in 2010 – came about because she wanted to bring back the old-timey variety show style of entertainment – kind of a mix of The Ed Sullivan Show “meets America's Got Talent, except it's not a competition.
“I have an acting background myself,” says Lerner, who also is artistic director. Her acting portfolio includes four years with the A.D. Players, as well as stints with Radio Disney, the Comedysportz improv troupe, Stages Repertory Theatre, Project Row Houses, Unity Theatre and Main Street Theater.
Which means that she's also met all sorts of people in the entertainment industry, and she's become very good at finding the common threads among those who might not normally meet each other. The Mosaic Hub's monthly variety shows always carry a theme, which helps her select the lineup for each evening.
“We do that once a month, feature local talent, in various genres. In one night you might see a musician, an actor, a singer, a dancer, a band,” says Lerner. “And the next night, an aerial artist, a storyteller. It's a really neat way to bring artists from various genres into the same room together, and also open their network in that way. It's a fun show, there's a lot of audience interaction.”
Past themes included Rockin' it Retro; The Hearts of Men; and Eat, Drink & Be Merry. Coming up is Southern Twang – A Variety Show on January 23 at The MATCH, and on February 27 she's planned a Chocolate Soiree event at Ovations Night Club, “which will of course feature chocolate.”
Southern Twang will be the first variety show the group has held at The MATCH, though they held a fundraiser there last December, and found the venue conducive to their nightclub style of evening, with tables and chairs and a cash bar. “People like their drinks, don't they?
“We have Robert Berry, he's a magician, and he'll bring in the country aspect,” says Lerner. “The magic of country, how about that.”
They've also booked vocalist and “rising country artist” Erica Honore, a 2012 Junior Division Rodeo Rockstar winner.
“[We have] the improv duo Ophelia's rope, and they'll do some sort of country skit, I'm sure,” says Lerner, about the creative partnership of Autumn Clack and Ruth S McCleskey.
The evening also includes Tejano and show tune vocalist Cristina Amaro; “she'll do a country show tune,” and folklore entertainer Sheila Phillips.
“The evening will close out with the band, Quiet Morning & the Calamity,” featuring Sean Ramos, Shane Lauder and Ryan Mohrman.
“Through my own experience and being a native Houstonian, I really believe that Houston has this huge culture of art and talent right here in this city,” says Lerner. “I realized there wasn't any one place that we could go and see a handful of this various talent in one night. So, The Mosaic Hub concept got started. Our tagline is 'A Professional Arts Community, for the Community.' Our talent is onstage and doing what they do best.”
A portion of proceeds from her events benefit local charities; Southern Twang will benefit Plant-it-Forward, which helps local refugees grow their own urban farm businesses.
Lerner's group also has developed an “amazing relationship with the Washington Avenue Arts District.
“We're excited that we're on the books to be in the phase two build-out at the Silos on Sawyer. I'm so, so excited about it. The projected completion date is maybe May or June; that will eventually be a home base for our shows and these networking meetings.”
Lerner and Kim Kelley, the Houston market director for Diverse Talent Strategies, teamed up to co-create a networking group which they call Mosaic Mixers, with the goal of establishing a one-stop networking opportunity for business, performing and artistic professionals.
“The official unveiling [of Mosaic Mixers] will be at Silver Street Studios February 5, at lunch, and the Washington Avenue Arts District will give us a guided tour after that. It's basically a networking group,” says Lerner. “We're purchasing a golden microphone. At the networking meetings, we're calling it an open mic. Everybody gets their one- to two-minute open mic moment.”
She has other projects up her sleeve, as well. After observing her son's school and the memorization and drilling methods inherent in the education system, Lerner is launching a drama linguistics class called Let's Play It. “Kids can learn a foreign language while they're in a creative play environment,” says Lerner. It involves “learning about creating a scene, and taking on the foreign language, and it ends with putting on a play that's partially in English, part in Spanish; it's in launch phase.”
The secret to Lerner's prolific output? “Often, when you don't see what you're looking for, you go and create it yourself.
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Southern Twang – A Variety Show is at 7:30 p.m. January 23. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 281-300-9656 or visit mosaic-hub.com. $30.
Mosaic Mixers Official Unveiling and Washington Avenue Arts District tour, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. February 5. Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards. For information, visit mosaicmixers.com. $30.
Fresh Arts Cultured Cocktails, benefiting The Mosaic Hub, 5-7 p.m. February 11. Boheme, 307 Fairview. For information, visit fresharts.org/content/cultured-cocktails.
Chocolate Soiree is at 7:30 p.m. February 27. Ovations Night Club, 2536 Times. For information, call 281-300-9656 or visit mosaic-hub.com. $30.