by Robert Tyree
photos: Tim Summers
Up on a ferry – in the sun – crossing the Puget Sound, but that’s not where terms like elated and exhilarated come from. Those terms are here presented as cold, hard reporting on language that I myself used in a bar, while drinking champagne, discussing the strongest performances from Seattle’s NW New Works Festival at On the Boards.
Of Part & Parcel‘s By Guess & By God, what I remember most was swooning. You know how a dancer hooks you, and you’re made to carry yourself a bit in your seat, leaning in concert with the performance? I found myself doing a lot of that while Allie Hankins hit some fiercely punctuated choreography. With each arrival, she seemed to nail a figure into space, leaving a wake of light bouncing from one held posture to another. The cumulative effect was of a solemn and weighty temporal structure cast of precisely engineering elements. The dance creating a marvelous knot through time while sound from Jherek Bischoff saturated every part of everything with bass.
Jessica Jobaris & general magic offer you’re the stuff that sets me free, a piece mad with scope that writhes and snaps with all the powers of live performance. If the previous work had me swooning in my seat, this project had me starting, marveling, welling-up. A large cast of deeply-invested performers gave of themselves so wholly that I felt embarrassed to have paid so little for my ticket. Brave, crazy, talented. Ideas ricocheted from moment to moment with a rambling drunk brilliance until some inevitably lodged themselves in the gut. Meaning swung both around props rife with political symbolism -my favorite being the kind of patriotic fleece blanket that you imagine people wrap around themselves while watching a NASA launch- and whip-smart utterances shot through until they failed to carry their familiar coherence. I had a sense of over-proximity throughout the work. Like I was inside the concept being worked to a froth, like this performance was inescapable and would still be going on outside the building if I tried to leave the theatre. Without being too didactic, you’re the stuff that sets me free packed a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and heart.
Kyle Loven played the suspension of our disbelief in a fun piece of understated composition. A minimal puppetry set up sings through a series of vignettes often syncopated to a crisp and satisfying sound design by Kevin Heard. Because it’s a solo performance with no small amount of creative vision, I had assumed that Mr. Loven designed his own movement. The program lists Gabrielle Schutz as the choreographer, which speaks to the amount of craft that went into the piece. It pays off.
The humor of When You Point at the Moon is dark and anxious, but since a puppet is the object of torment, empathy is somehow safe to admit and approach. BECAUSE CLEARLY I – AS A NON-PUPPET HUMAN-BEING — AM IMPERVIOUS TO ANXIETY OF ANY KIND.
Apparently, a similar appeal drove the popular spectacle of dance marathons during the Great Depression: assuming the role of audience offers momentary relief of one’s own overwhelming experience of exhaustion, anxiety, etc. and allows people to relate to the more repressible dimensions of everyday life via an object of spectacle. Not to say that I know what that puppet is going through or anything…
The NW New Works Festival at Seattle’s On the Boards “has been nurturing the creative forces in regional contemporary performance in the Pacific Northwest” for 28 years. Hand2Mouth’s Risk/Reward Festival is in it’s 4th year here in Portland. That’s no small accomplishment. And if support from PICA and OtB are any indication, H2M seem to be doing things right.
I saw 8 performances this past Sunday at OtB, many imbued with that refreshing-if-not-quite-ripe tartness of a work-in-progress. The NW New Works festival has an entirely new line-up this coming weekend. That’s a lot of opportunities to present new performance. A toast from an ebullient Sean Ryan, regional programming head at OtB, went something like this: Bravo to the makers. We’re so proud to see these works coming out of the Northwest and so excited to see where you take them! His words were better chosen than that -and he seemed to have been standing on a table of champagne glasses- but the sentiment warrants repeating, and a healthy audience turn out.
Hand2Mouth’s Risk/Reward Festival will take place June 25th & 26th, 7:30 PM.
On the Boards’ NW New Works Festival continues June 17th-19th.
Highly recommended. Great to carry ideas like the following into you’re the stuff that sets me free:
“From within this new scenario emerge the questions that are asked of all those who think/create – and especially artists – in the attempt to delineate a cartography of the present, so as to identify the points of asphyxiation of the vital process and to bring about, at exactly those points, the irruption of the power to create other worlds.”