If you look-up festival in the dictionary, you will find variations of two definitions:
1. A day or time of religious or other celebration, marked by feasting, ceremonies, or other observances.
2. A period or program of festive activities, cultural events, or entertainment: a music festival.
Immediately I knew which definition the TBA Festival is more akin to for me. #1, without hesitation #1. I think I had this gut reaction because the experience of the TBA Festival definitely extends beyond the what option 2 has to offer. Art is, for lack of a better word, the closest thing to my religion. Art is where I’ve seen and experienced a great deal of transformation, intellect and true consideration of others throughout my life. So when I think of the T:BA Festival, the work it supports, the dialogue it sparks and what it observes in celebration, #1 it is. I heard this sentiment repeated in conversations throughout the opening night party. People exhilarated by a gathering of “their people”, with all that implies, combined with the potential of new inspirations and knowledge. The first few days of the festival have continued to prove this true. Here is a snap shot of the celebrations, feasts and observances I’ve experienced so far.
Vockah Redu and the Cru – Three statements from their opening night performance have stuck with me: “Find what you love and do it – Art loves art – You are all so beautiful”. On the surface these may seem saccharin but lived with conviction they actually have quite serious ramifications. Vockah Redu and the Cru didn’t just perform these full-bodied sweaty electric truths for the audience to absorb by osmosis. They shot them directly into our hearts with conviction and deft. Good medicine and perfect mantras for the festival kick-off.
Also on opening night, installed in a WHS classroom were John Niekrasz and Josh Berger effectively engaged in what, for me, felt like displays of commitment to the practice of making and investigation. Niekrasz played the drums for 12 hours straight and Berger with delicate rigor penciled tiny x’s on paper. Opening Night was a frenzy of heat, over stimulation and conversations that ricocheted from person to person. It was not an evening of quiet contemplation, so I didn’t take in any other information about the works, which I now think were part of the Occupation/Preoccupation project, but at first take in the context of the fervor of opening night and with Evidence of Bricks on the brain these two brought to mind ideas of dedication to craft, the repetition of practice, endurance, and the risk/beauty/tension of potential break down.
The Method Gun by Rude Mechs – The Method Gun’s premise, in short, tells the tale of Rude Mechs’ research into 60’s/70’s experimental acting guru Stella Burden and her theatre company’s long-time dedication to her “dangerous” process after Burden’s unexplained disappearance. The stage is set with an effective attention to detail that continues into the script with theatre references heavily but skillfully planted throughout. The beginning section of The Method Gun could have used more editing down, with exception of the tiger. I fell in love with the tiger and craved its regular dosing of ridiculousness mixed with universal truths. The beginning section had an element of what felt like over explaining to the audience combined with a sometimes too campy style that was distracting. It kept me from jumping in without question and fully enjoying the ride. That is until the end. The end got succinct, vulnerable, inventive, and “dangerous”. Toward the end they let the action speak for itself and let the foundation laid finally do its job to a stunning and joyful end.
Namasya by Shantala Shivalingappa – Namasya is a combination of Shivalingappa’s own choreography combined with other works by important figures in her life such as her mother, classical Indian dancer Savitry Nair, and Pina Bausch. Although my tastes desired more from Namasya’s relationship to its music, as well as much less of the literal, I was engaged by its stripped down dedication to vocabulary. I was also struck by her ability to transform her whole self in the act of performance. There were moments when I found it refreshing to see a blank stage with nothing else but her trust in the form and power as a performer. No theatrics, no irony, no sarcasm, no hiding behind chaos or hipness… just a reverence to the execution of vocabulary.