butt-clenching art

John Jasperse Company
Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking & Flat-out Lies
PSU, Lincoln Hall
posted by: dirtybombpdx
Let’s have, like, an offensive rap song (but we’ll use it ironically) blast the audience while the dancers…well, who cares what they do, because I’ll be doing this really funny comedy bit in the middle of it all. Then there will be this butt-clench spotlight dance with the women in sequined shorty dresses. Yeah, I like it. And the rest of the choreography will be derivative to the point of banality. Yeah, I’m smelling a fellowship here. Then some more comedy…wait, is anything really that funny anymore, I mean, with the economy and the war and global warming and everything? Oh right, yeah, the butt-clench dance…30 seconds of funny (or mildly funny…I heard a chuckle, or was that the AC kicking on). And since, like, the butt-clenching is so genius and everything, I’ll have them butt clench in the pink/red blossom, matching swim-wear and umbrella beach scene – the scene with the muscle-stud cabana boy delivering pink cocktails. Now that’s comedy. Somebody will laugh. Right? Now for the art part. Hmm, hold on, it’s coming to me. Okay, I’ve got it, I’ve got it: titties and sweaty ass-holes, oh and men in body-stockings smelling girl’s crotches. Deep. The money’s gonna pour in. And the smoke machine, Jesus, I’ve never seen such good smoke. Maybe it could be a metaphor for something. Yeah, that’s what it is, a metaphor, a really good, thought-provoking metaphor followed by a lot of silence – a whole lot of silence. Then some more cheesy jokey stuff, or whatever, and then we’ll make everyone leave the theater for intermission*. They won’t know what the fuck is going on. We’ll get a standing O for sure. Should there be more smoke?
*some of us didn’t come back.

WHY ISN’T THERE A MATINEE OF THIS?

John Jasperse Company, Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, & Flat Out Lies
Posted by: Forrest Martin
The total virtue and variable of art is that it doesn’t have to make sense, and that’s why it clears a special place for freedom. Not shit patriotic freedom, but the abstract, untethered practices of reframing and reorganizing culture and medically cleansing your eyes. So why am I so irritated when something doesn’t make any sense? I enjoy abstraction, and leaving things unexplained; but inside of anything I’ve ever enjoyed that had a dense or random exterior, a chord of excitement – that certain conventions were being freshly distorted or even ignored – was touched, which makes it’s own kind of sense. And the problem with aiming to do something fresh and unexpected is that it actually needs to be unexpected, and a lot of crap happens all the time, so newness fatigue, or over-it-ness, or, you know, Haters, come in and feed on the injured deer. That’s a different kind of shame, because while in nature that deer just needs to die, in art it may just need better funding, a good director, or more practice. Still, I’m playing the role of the lion tonight.

No offense to T:BA, but this is the show I was expecting to find myself at at some point this week. And being that I’m dumb when it comes to dance, it makes sense that this would be the genre. Still, you can’t have an arts festival without experimentation and risks, and experimental risks often turn out flat, or terrible. The title (Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, & Flat Out Lies) is pretty indistinct, and well suited for the piece, as both represent a three or four pronged road that could still use heavy construction in order to lead to any destination I’d be interested in visiting.
If you like children’s parties, and clowns, and the whole concept of “clowning” (like Clown School), you should see this show this weekend. It will warm your feelings to see four – sometimes five – people self-consciously reveal their humanity and lack of intimidating technique. You will also be exposed to a grab bag of idea fragments as well as fun, silly dancing and free-form experimentation sort of like the first and last ten minutes of most improv dance classes. But if you’d rather watch that then do that, you can. Here. For $25.
On the other hand, no one in their right mind could contest the fact that the opening number dresses were mesmerizing. Especially during the spot-lit butt dance, when they cast a subtle disco-ball effect on the whole auditorium. If you have to, go for the dresses, and the riveting slow-motion fight scene (which is after the intermission, unfortunately – otherwise you could leave early and still make it to the Fox Tower or the Broadway Metroplex right down the street). That was the single stretch where I wasn’t aware of my body in it’s seat, or the time, or my dismay. Also, the lighting and minimal set design were great (that huge, white, back wall with a full thirty-foot bar of light slowly scanning down, then up, just like a Xerox machine – with the same dry/white/bleak quality to the light).

I’m not really sure where this show fits; if it thinks of itself as experimentally trodding new territory, or as a simple exaltation of somber-faced insincerity, punctuated by furtive stabs at actual sincerity. It’s wacky and zany, and the players clearly relish taking liberties with dance and doing it imperfectly. This is spelled out for us – still, I craved seeing more synchronization, because there were times when it was intended, just not delivered. They also enjoy physical comedy, and I don’t. But a lot of people do, and 70% of those people are between 4 and 13, and I think they would really get a kick out of this show. Even though there was partial nudity and full jock-strap thrusting, it was pretty medical…I think that scene could be passed off as an anatomy lesson. But 8:30-10:30 is way too late for that demographic.

Poetic Films Get Poetic Blogging

HARD EDGE/ HARD WORK Short films by Kate Gilmore and Maya Deren
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
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PROLOGUE: It’s 12:07am on Friday, September 17th. Tall Matt Haynes doesn’t think he has any use for the short films of Kate Gilmore and Maya Deren (screened muuuuuuuch earlier between 6:30 and 7:30pm). Nonetheless, Tall Matt Haynes knows that he’s responsible for reporting on these films. After 10 false starts,Tall Matt Haynes finally comes up with a strategy: Just report the content of the films and use poetic forms to have some fun with it. Here we go:
Kate Gilmore: “Walk This Way”
(Limerick)

A wall is confining Miss Kate,
Unaware of its now-certain fate.
She bashes right through
With her gloves and her shoes:
Such is modern womanhood’s state?
Maya Deren: “Witches Cradle”
(Haiku)

Strings slither and wind.
A doe-eyed witch looks stressed out.
The strings bind Duchamp.

Kate Gilmore: “Standing Here”
(Blank Verse)

Kate’s climbing up the walls, quite literally.
She pounds out holes to give her grips and steps.
The goal is not to bash full-though as in
The last short film, but to climb up and out.
Maya Deren: Ritual In Transfigured Time
(Couplets)

This is a story of a nervous young sweet
Who at a socialite dance party meets
A lean muscled man who follows her, leaping
As the nervous young sweet takes flight, nearly weeping.
She throws here self into a lake, she’s so frightened.
She floats down and opens her eyes (now enlightened?)

Kate Gilmore: Between A Hard Place
(Six Word Story)

She finally breaks through to yellow.

WHAM

Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre: In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
Posted by: Robert Tyree

A few days ago, I saw this video of a Jay-Z concert with crazy amazing effects and it’s been in the back of my mind throughout the festival; like where are those overwhelming intensities?
I’ve been doing at least four hours of performance every day for a week now, so… you know, my art callus is beginning to grow a bit as I come across novelties that aren’t so novel the second piece around. Can’t help but marvel at how trends/streams-in-the-zeitgeist manifest themselves across continents of contemporary artists (last year it was overhead projectors). My patience for mediocrity is exhausted. Each piece is bound to have a few magnificent moments. At this point, I’m honing in on how skillfully (or not) time is being orchestrated to carry the length of the piece.
Dog-gawn, you’d think I was a’livin’ in one of them grand, honkin’ CI-TAY-S.
Yeah, I imagine many of us are starting to raise our bars a bit and calibrate the criteria for what qualifies a work’s success. Often we see time-based pieces where slow, soft, meditative content massages our sensitivities open, like art oral sex, building up an elasticity so that a truly moving POP might emerge in sharp distinction.
We get the opposite with Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre. THIS IS LOUD AND INTENSE MOST OF THE TIME AND WE GET THE pop in a few, mercifully soft moments bEfOrE WE’RE BACK IN THE BARRAGE! As an audience member I found this refreshing and whole-bodied. The piece plowed down my distracting, egotistical, intellectual tendencies and washed me in some carnal pleasures: screams, syncopated movements, and locked-down techno jams.

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Boy or Girl?

Shirin Neshat Women Without Men
Stephanie Snyder Hard Edge/Hard Work: Women and Abstraction
Films at the NW Film Center
Posted by: Ariana Jacob
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I’ve found that it is generally a bad idea to bring up feminism in public because most people just instinctively stop listening and mentally or physically walk away. I can feel that impulse in myself at times, but something about how potentially annoying and difficult it is to think about gender makes me want to do it more.
During this TBA season the NW Film Festival’s Whitsell Auditorium has hosted several films made by women about the condition of being women. Shirin Neshat’s
Women Without Men is a visually gorgeous, deeply saturated film about women in Iran during the 1950′s. Stephanie Snyder’s curated series, Hard Edge/Hard Work: Women and Abstraction, is a satisfyingly tight collection of historic films by Maya Deren brought into direct contact with video work by Kate Gilmore made in the last couple of years – one of which was shown at this year’s Whitney Biennial.
I appreciate these films as experiential tools for thinking about the legacy of feminism and what it means that we are gendered people in gendered cultures. Both viewings present women wrestling for and holding power and agency, yet they represent that strength as existing within unresolved, confining and confusing horizons.

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Drug Deal Gone Trippy

Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre: IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
PROLOGUE: It’s 10:10 on the Wednesday night, September 15th. For the fifth and final time, Tall Matt Haynes frantically turns the key in his battery-dead car before yielding to the given circumstances. After he makes the embarrassed phone call and before the roadside repair does in 30 seconds what he probably couldn’t have figured out in 30 hours, Tall Matt Haynes sits back and reflects: Perhaps this car trouble was really divine post-show intervention? Did Tall Matt Haynes need a cold splash of domestic slog to put his system back into neutral? ‘Cause moments after experiencing IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS at the Winningstad,Tall Matt Haynes had indeed floated back to his car in a state that may have made him dangerous behind the wheel…

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Adventures in Hyperspace

Tunnels & Woolly Mammoth Comes to Dinner
posted by: Seth Nehil
photo by: C. Lang
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There’s a new blossoming of absurdist psychedelic performance in Portland, a thing I hesitate to name. I like the hyper-collaboration of interconnected collectives – The Slaves, OPS, Tunnels, Woolly Mammoth, White Rainbow, Miracles Club, etc. These are lessons on hybridity and mutation, a recombining of parts in both aesthetic and functional terms. These performances feel like a hologram unearthed – a message via time-space wormhole. They’re strongly cinematic and display a fascination with the striking images of nightmares. I can’t decide if the mood is nostalgic or futuristic – perhaps a “retro-futurist space-age nostalgia”. They’re not afraid to use special-FX and heavy affectation, to highlight the artificial, to be so-bad-it’s-good or just blatantly weird. Fog machines and strobing images are obvious but effective. It feels right to me.

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Women Without Men (in Tehran, 1953)

Shirin Neshat
Women Without Men
NW Film Center/Whitsell Auditorium @PAM
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

The final showing (of five) of Women Without Men, and the house was packed. Word certainly must have got out. The powerful opening images in this extraordinary film resonate days later, and vividly at that. Stark rooftops in Tehran. The back of a woman’s head, each strand of her hair in sharp focus. A pale blue sky. Variegated gray tones of a cobbled sidewalk, patio, portico.
The beautiful imagery throughout Neshat’s film never ends. From city scenes to intimate views of homes, gardens, verandas to countryside orchards, forests, roads, and streams, the vibrant colors and lush detail of this part of the world magically appear before us.
And, so do rich, full characters whose lives intersect with a heavily contextualized social/political backdrop. The snapshot views presented of the women offer glimpse enough into their lives and their experiences. The nearly fantastical way these characters cross paths flows, too, with not much care to logic. This storyline works.
The coup in this story is not solely relegated to that of the British and American forces of this chaotic time in history and place. The personal/psychological coup that each woman experiences on her own, and in some cases with witnesses, is deeply charged, transformative not only to her, but to the audience as well.

SoloShow = Subtle Study in Fantastic Form, Magical Movement

Maria Hassabi
SoloShow
Imago Theatre
Monday, September 13, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

Just the kinda performance I typically don’t enjoy–one in which nothing (much) happens. While my counterpart was bored out of her mind right from the get-go (a place I could have gone, too), very early on in Maria Hassabi’s fascinating study, a switch flipped for me and I remained riveted to my seat for the duration. This experience totally snuck up on me.
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Minute, controlled movements, city-subway soundtrack, and anxiety-provoking facial expressions all added to the palpable tension of this piece. Hassabi’s disciplined actions seemed like nothing and then quite suddenly like something as they flowed into one another, allowing her to move carefully, painfully across the stage. At the start of SoloShow, the soundtrack was city-inspired noise, a perfect accompaniment to Hassabi’s pained look and twitching muscles. Yet as the piece progressed, the noise quieted, as did her movements. Less twitching. Less holding. More fluidity. More calm.
At one point, perhaps due to her monochromatic (beige) clothing, I imagined watching an animate sculptor’s model–you know, the wooden human frame whose legs, arms, torso all move on small hinges. Hassabi was that wooden model, moving carefully, poised and cautious about the outcome her movements might inspire or incite.
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Maybe I’m a slow learn, but I didn’t quite pick up on references Hassabi intended in this particular study–the female form through the lens of pop culture and art history. The limits of self control, pushing beyond tension and boundaries, experiencing anxiety (Hey, wait! I got it!) via movement was what resonated most for me. As mentioned above, my counterpart was not in the least bit amused, finding this sort of work the most ridiculous, narcissistic display. A SoloSpectacle. At the end of the performance, Hassabi’s pained looked was transformed. She appeared pleased with herself, and relieved. I was pleased with her, too, though not quite relieved that it was over. I’m not sure when I’ll ever experience such a transformation fueled by movement again.
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Love, Lust and Desire

Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Romeo & Juliet
Radosław Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields
Posted By: Julie Hammond
Rio5784
I really wanted to like the Nature Theater of Oklahoma show, if only because everyone around me seemed to be having such a good time. Which is to say, they were laughing. Three quarters of the way through even the heartiest laughs clamped down a bit: the production was tiresome, the funny bits flagging, the overwrought enunciation of the “act-ors” more tedious than wall breaking. The idea for the production is a clever one, the script was generated by telephone interviews where friends and family were asked to recount the story of Romeo & Juliet. Anne Gridley and Robert M. Johanson, dressed in a combination of foppy and trashy “Shakespearean” costuming, play sort-of versions of the title characters as they weave through variations on the theme of the play. Scenes are invented and left out, the name of cities confused for the name of families, and all is done in ridiculous accents (balcony becomes bahl-koh-nee, etc etc).

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Romeo, er, and, so Juliet, but…

Nature Theater of Oklahoma
THE WORKS at Washington High School.
posted by: dirtybombpdx
God, I really wanted to like Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Romeo and Juliet, and for much of the time I did. The two performers were odd and engaging and very funny and then a chicken danced. What’s not to love? The set was old school minimal: a painted backdrop and tin cans for footlights. The actors took turns out front, first Juliet then Romeo, then back and forth, as each tried to retell the story of R&J though neither could quite remember the tale. Nature Theater asked scores of people to relate the tale of Romeo and Juliet and this show is a product of those mis-remembered story-lines. It’s a funny conceit and the actors are hilarious (though once again, expletives provide many of the punch lines), but it goes on for an hour and a half (a good 30 minutes too long) and degenerates into the actor’s (now together on stage) tired plea for love. BORING! But the capper that sent me fleeing from the theater was the hack interpretation of Shakespeare’s gorgeous balcony scene from R&J (done in the dark, with maximum pretension, after the curtain call). Holy crap, a serious lack of judgement that completely erased any love I was feelin’ for ya.

there’s still time…

The Wooster Group
thru Saturday, Sept. 18, 4:30-8:30pm
Burnish Hall, Portland Center for the Performing Arts
posted by: dirtybombpdx
Billed as an interactive 360 degree war film, the Wooster Group brings to Portland’s TBA fest an exhilarating distillation of their unique theatrical imperative. Digitally video’d by 12 cameras and projected in-the-round by 6, the narrative is controlled by whoever sits in the center seat. As the “driver” spins in the “control chair”, the narrative (such as it is) plays out wherever he/she chooses to face. A grouping, around the center chair, of stools that also spin 360, allows the audience to follow the action (or not – several muted narratives and blurred images play on the rest of the 360 degree screen even as the “driver’s” vision is highlighted). There’s something for everyone, from porn to melodrama to Monty Python-esque comedy. It’s all ostensibly about or against war, but it doesn’t really matter what it’s about. It’s so odd and fun and uniquely engaging that the subject matter is almost beside the point. And, as a bonus, you get a lesson in social psychology. Watching what the “driver” chooses to view is at once irritating and fascinating (especially the speed at which the porn gets passed over). On more than one occasion I wanted to knock the “driver” from his perch and spin in the chair as fast as possible…but I didn’t (hmm).

A single pointed finger

Noelle Stiles + Danielle Kelly, Blanket
Maria Hasabi, SoloShow
Posted By: Julie Hammond
Danielle Kelly + Noelle Stiles, Blanket
Space + Place.
The first impressions could not have been more different. Walk into Blanket Space: a clean light room filled with brightly colored soft sculptures hanging from the ceiling, the sounds of traffic outside, the evening light fading slowly; this is walking into a dream world where things are strange but cozy, unusual but inviting. Walk into Imago Theater for SoloShow: the blackness of the theater is broken by clusters of lights gathered in a line shine down on the stage-on-a-stage, a large black rectangle floating in a deep sea of black marley, punctuated by a single figure in white, her head turned away from the audience, the sound score rumble sending vibrations through my center; this is walking into a nightmare where everything is known and terrifying, which is not to say I ever wanted to look away.
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FLOODING WITH MIXED FEELINGS FOR THE KID

FLOODING WITH LOVE FOR THE KID: Zachary Oberzan
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
Flooding with Love for the Kid
PROLOGUE:
Determined not to re-live his cramped seat squrims from FIRST LOVE, Tall Matt Haynes now stretches out on the floor of an otherwise unoccupied front row. It is Tuesday, 9/14, 8:55pm and FLOODING FOR THE LOVE OF THE KID has just begun. The film is a solo video adaptation of the novel FIRST BLOOD, shot for 96 bucks in a small studio appartment. At the end of the screening, Tall Matt Haynes realizes that he’s probably going to have to give this one a negative-sounding review. This makes Tall Matt Haynes very sad because he’s glad the film was made and is charmed as hell by both the project’s proposals. Thing is…

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Words words words

Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, The Beckett Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies & The Unnameable
Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, First Love
Posted By: Julie Hammond
In the last section of Conor Lovett’s remarkable performance of The Beckett Trilogy, I thought of their countryman, the great W.B. Yeats, and the second stanza of his poem Lapis Lazuli.
All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That’s Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stage,
It cannot grow by and inch or an ounce.

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Dayna Hanson

Rio4717
Gloria’s Cause.
submitted by Emily Katz
It’s the year 1784 and a handsome well spoken black man introduces us to the story, invites us into a party.
The curtain rises and a live band plays intricate atmospheric music that progresses into rock.
the actors are dressed in semi period attire but they are taking photos of eachother with their cell phones, one man is wearing a tshirt with a coca cola logo on it.
they aren’t taking themselves very seriously, the scene is casual.

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But wait! there’s more

mikedaisey.jpg
My appreciation of Mike Daisey’s work (yeah, I’m a fan, what about it?) goes back to when Portland Center Stage produced 21 Dog Years six or seven years ago. Mike enjoyed a lengthy, extended run with packed houses every almost every night. Yet this was due more to his narrative skills and sheer strength of personality than the “play” itself, because already at that time his anti-Amazon rant had a shopworn feel. Though I saw and enjoyed the show many times, I couldn’t help but hope Mike would find material worthy of his immense talent.
And man, has he ever. In the interim he’s made friends and enemies galore with pieces such as How Theater Failed America and If You See Something Say Something. But the punch of the piece he and director Jean-Michele Gregory have brought to TBA:10, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, has a visceral power I haven’t seen before. Sure, I laughed out loud many, many times in the course of this show. But its emotional punch grabbed me just as often.
So much has been said already about the content of this two-hour tour de force that I’ll spare you another recap except to mention how Mike bookends the evening. He starts with a jocular reference to how we thought in the future we’d all constantly be “jacked in” to cyberspace by means of electrodes wired into our bodies. Laughable, right? But as he puts it: “The future never looks like what we thought it would; that’s why it’s called ‘the future.’” We may not be physically tethered to our portable electronics, but we’re jacked in all the same. And Mike’s wish, he says at the evening’s end, is to become a virus that infiltrates our code and changes the way we think.
Hence The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is ultimately a calls to arms. He points out that Apple went from Greenpeace’s “worst” list of environmental scoundrels to the top of its green list, all because the company perceived that its constituents — “people who go to the theater,” he says, looking around the auditorium — wanted to support a green company. So he asks us to do the same thing for working conditions, for the Chinese people “who make all our stuff.”
An earlier blog post expressed that opinion that Mike’s critique lacked rigor, but for me his demand that his audiences take action at least in regard to Apple (which he acknowledges is hardly the only American company turning a blind eye to monstrous working conditions) is what saves the evening from being a mere rant. “Our silence is our consent,” he says. To say nothing is to condone.
Alas, this monologue, which I wish everyone in Portland could see, closed last night. But you have one more chance to see Mike Daisey in action and in progress as he slouches toward the manically astounding goal of creating a live, 24-hour monologue entitled All the Hours in the Day. By attending you become part of the piece’s evolution, so check it out: this Saturday, September 18, 2:30pm at THE WORKS.

Le Chaim! to Ten Tiny Dances

Ten Tiny Dances
posted by Seth Needler
Ten Tiny Dances, a TBA institution, took place on Saturday night at the Works to an overflowing, enthusiastic audience. In ways great and small, Ten Tiny Dances both encapsulates and reflects the essence of what TBA is. Unfortunately, the first three dances were all a bit lackluster, giving many who had waited a long time to get in pause to wonder whether it was going to be worth it.
As anyone could have predicted, it was – and then some.
Dayna Hanson, who I had had the pleasure of seeing perform earlier the same evening, kicked things up about 12 notches with a high-energy reprise performance of one of the sharpest, funniest vignettes from their show, Gloria’s Cause. A tall, bearded, bespectacled man stood center stage, wearing a wig and dressed in a Revolutionary War uniform, delivering a “Colonial Rap” in the guise of our favorite President, and then proceeded to break dance, as the rest of the troupe danced around him and Hanson’s talented musicians played from behind the rows of seats.

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No Need for Concern

Beth Morrison, “The New Classical”
Posted By: Emily Stevens
Whenever I go to hear a classical music concert (which is pretty often) I’m usually the youngest person alone in the room by at least forty years and the oldest person in the room is always the composer, who has been dead for at least fifty years. This worries me immensely. Because of these particular worries, I was especially looking forward to opera producer Beth Morrison‘s chat on, “The New Classical,” which–according to my handy TBA catalog– promised to unveil a ” creative renaissance rooted in classical music.” Morrison is a champion for new operas, and has presented successful projects all over the world, featuring composers who are living, breathing and under the age of fifty. After hearing her presentation it was clear why she is so incredibly successful. She isn’t simply producing works, she’s part of a musical revolution!

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Worth a touch of criticism

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Mike Daisey, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS
Posted by: Robert Tyree
Mike Daisy’s history of ideas and innovations across the history of Apple is wicked good. This makes up about half of his monologue. The other half consists of tales from his visit to the mega corporate Chinese sub province Shenzhen…
At around the 3/4 mark, he had the audience rapt on what had developed into a compellingly bifurcated monologue that expresses two vastly different sides of global capitalism. Unfortunately, he bet his thunderous finale on a call to arms based on the weaker half of his piece, in the process obliterating any space for audience consideration he had opened over the course of the first hour.
Daisey admits that he knows “fuck all” about Chinese culture, and it seems that most of his material about Shenzhen was based on the time he spent there investigating the production sites of Apple products. What cracks the core of Daisey’s material on the subject is his presumption that Chinese people approach their lives just just like Daisey does. He doesn’t seem to consider the fundamental difference in cultural values that orient how a person relates their sense of self to their society and life more broadly. In the end, his piece struck me as resting on an ethnocentric projection that is dangerous and unacceptable in the 21st century. At this point in globalism, disavowal of the historical specificity of one’s own native cultural perspective may be a more troubling oversight than disavowal of capitalism’s ruthless consequences.
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For how richly detailed and engrossing his history of Apple is, there is nary a balancing expression of the historical circumstances that created the present economic relationship with China. Hardly a mention that millions of people, like his translator, “Kathy”, have been pulled from poverty and into a once undreamed of middle class by China’s embrace of state-controled capitalism.
His embodiment of the intricacies, contradictions, and passions of his own “normal American” perspective as an Apple fan boy carry a brilliant portrait of the ugly, yet admittedly efficient, mechanisms of corporate innovation. I really admired his performance of the schizophrenic nature of contemporary consumers who are faced with the task of reconciling a desire for products with the awareness of what we are buying into when we take them off the shelf.
Daisey is surely a brilliant guy, and he must have devoted a lot of thought and compassion to his Shenzen material, but the actual monologue felt so ridden with unexpressed dimensions that it came off as opportunistic simplification, manipulating a complex and important topic into an effective dramatic tool. The fact that he’s yelling at us to accept his conclusions just didn’t sit well with me. It felt like a betrayal of his form to employ quasi-totalitarian rhetorical devices to bludgeon us into his way of thinking.
I’m critical with good intentions. I wouldn’t want to let such a promising piece slide through without challenging what I saw as its weaknesses because its a laudable topic to tackle.
I couldn’t help but compare Daisey to Slavoj Žižek, a similarly charismatic speaker, who addresses the exact same topic of such a willed ignorance of global capitalism’s inhumane costs with a rigor suited to the topic.

Dirty Creature

Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland – First Love
posted by: Seth Nehil
The sole character in First Love is deeply misanthropic, often scatological, and very, very funny. In his base quest for silence and inactivity, he reaches hallucinatory levels of separation from humankind. Beckett isolates the most animalistic tendencies of a selfish existence – food, sleep, shit – and elevates them to a level of abstraction through repetition, rhythm and persistence. In doing so, he creates a character that is somehow both familiar and grotesque. This character readily admits things we would struggle to hide. He can be at turns charming, irritating, even hideous.

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“An experience of movement without judgment.”

Jérôme Bel
Cédric Andrieux
Winningstad Theatre
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4142/4981099892_108018bc66.jpg"
"It feels super good."
Everything about Cédric Andrieux feels “super good,” even days later. A meditative study, a solo narrative of the life of a dancer might not seem so interesting at first glance, but Bel was beyond captivating. His direct approach with his audience felt uncomfortable at first, but his soft voice transported his honest account of early self observations with subtle humor to present a raw naiveté that quickly drew us in.
“Pauses in between breaths.”
The slow pace of Bel’s narrative allowed us to embrace Cédric, to engage in his trials with becoming a dancer in Paris first, and moving on to his young professional life with celebrated companies in New York. The breaths in between each sentence added to the intimacy of his story. His audible breaths during the dances he chose to show us connected us to his craft and life even more.
“I dance and I see what happens.”
One of the most fascinating aspects of this performance is that we were able to observe and compare the different styles of dance – the techniques, the movements, the deeply rooted philosophies of each of the masters. From Cunningham to Brown to Tréhet to Bel, even an amateur could pick out the differences in the snapshot views Bel’s performance offered. It was quite cool.
“Assessing the audience.”
The ending segment (Bel’s own) offered a role reversal and with it, more obvious humor to serve as social lubricant. As performer observed the audience, we, too, were assessed, put on the spot, forced to feel what many performers do. Shifting the perspective shifted the energy and focus, and it was this heat that truly resonated, and felt surprisingly “super good.”

Ten Tiny Dances Delivers

Ten Tiny Dances
THE WORKS/Washington High School
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

There’s always something for everyone during a Ten Tiny Dances performance, and this 22nd talent round-up presented by Mike Barber went far beyond the usual mark. Each and every piece was amazing, offering something for everyone, anyone, us all. Serious studies in movement and form. Explorations in shock and humor. From the highly stylized to the deconstructed, raucous to subtle, Ten Tiny Dances outdid all expectations of solid gold performance.
Anne Furfey’s deliberate movements in SINK both chopped and flowed in a mesmerizing opening piece. Barber and Cydney Wilkes provided slightly off antics in A VERSION as they managed the tiny space with dozens of trophies in a comical view flirting with 50s/60s dance hall culture.
tba10_TTD22_A Version by Mike Barber and Cydney Wilkes (4)
In CITY, Katherine Longstreth showcased intensity in her athletic movements with Copland and Coleman providing an as equally intense musical backdrop. Dayna Hanson’s punk/goth/American revolutionary crew got things pumping with their hip hop meets creepy Disneyland installations piece.
TBA10 Ten Tiny Dances 22
Linda Austin’s NIGH offered up monochromatic visuals and severe movements with a compelling soundtrack (Seth Nehil strikes again). The Woolly Mammoth crew (in my fave costumes thus far) pushed buttons with an edgy, sexualized performance that included groans, moans, and laughs.
<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4083/4983514566_c1839d3dbb.jpg"
Eric Skinner (BodyVox) immediately grounded us with an impeccably beautiful study in controlled, classic movement in CLEARLY ANOTHER WORLD.
<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4132/4982989351_daf5db9689.jpg"
"To make the world a beautiful place!" is what Michael Rioux and Monica Gilliam inspired, nay, insisted upon from direct audience participation in DANCE #1, a fun piece for the ironic hipster pretentiously trapped within us all. Tahni Holt's CULTURE MACHINE pushed all sorts of limits, the least of which being hot Barbie doll bods spandexed in primary colors. And, finally MIKE DAISEY played the rube who ends up enjoying much more than he bargained for in an art gallery visit. We did, too.
TBA10 Ten Tiny Dances 22
The energy Saturday night was palpably electric, an exchange between and among artists and audience. ALL performances sparkled, inspired, intrigued, entertained. The performers each seemed to be showcasing their very, very best, connected to their goals, their art, their audience. I’m still buzzing from it all.

witchcraft and high heels

ON SCREEN: HARD EDGE, HARD WORK
Sunday, Sept 12, 2010 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Curated by Stephanie Snyder
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
As part of the larger ABSTRACTexhibition at Reed College’s Cooley Gallery, Stephanie Snyder curated film and video work by Maya Deren and Kate Gilmore into a series of three screenings at Whitsell Auditorium. The first showing included three Gilmore works made within the last few years (including work from the Whitney Biennial), interspersed with Deren works created in the 1940′s. Deren, known for her expertise in Haitian voodoo studies, examines mystical, transcendent, and darkly psychedelic experiences through swirling montages and witchcraft references. Gilmore, on the other hand, shoots images of herself clad in ladylike attire, breaking through sheetrock with only her hands and the spikes of her high heels.

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Think different.

Mike Daisey, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory
Posted By: Jimmy Radosta
Photo By: Gordon Wilson
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As I sit here typing these words on my 6-year-old iBook G4, I’m haunted by the information that Mike Daisey shared with a packed auditorium last night at Washington High School.
An admitted Apple junkie, Daisey traveled to Shenzhen, China, for a firsthand look at the people who assemble the sleek toys that have become essential to most Americans. There, he posed as a businessman to infiltrate immense factories and interviewed employees who shared harrowing accounts of abuse: a man fired because his hand was smashed on the assembly line; a whistleblower who was blacklisted from finding a job elsewhere; and a stream of people forced to work up to 105 hours a week. (Allow me to do the math: That’s like doing a double shift for every day of your life.)
To keep the show from collapsing under the weight of this heavy material, Daisey toggles back and forth between China and a fascinating history of Apple Inc. In both cases, he manages to find the humanity behind the machinery.
This isn’t the first time that Daisey has railed against the dark side of technology. I became familiar with his work thanks to 21 Dog Years: Doing Time at Amazon.com, a hilarious account of dot-com excess, and he last wowed TBA with Monopoly, in which he managed to weave threads linking the Parker Brothers board game to Wal-Mart as well as the rivalry between inventors Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
What sets apart The Agony and the Ecstasy is that it hovers somewhere between solo theater and gonzo journalism. After all, Daisey risked arrest to report information that Apple simply doesn’t want us to know. (My inner cynic wonders whether his exposé will lead to much-needed government oversight or tighter restrictions on workers who reveal corporate secrets.) He also harnesses the audience’s outrage by providing action steps that can be taken as soon as they reach for the iPhone. (For starters, email Steve Jobs here.)
Toward the end, Daisey teeters on the brink of sanctimony by hammering home a point that has already been made clear. Regardless, he continues to master an approachable storytelling zeal that combines the gearhead geekdom of a fanboy with the analytical wisdom of a global citizen.

Living an ethical life inside a “framework of shit”

NOONTIME CHAT: Telling Stories: Art and Commerce
Sunday, Sept 12, 2010 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photo by: Gordon Wilson
tba10_MikeDaisey_091010 (184)
Mike Daisey joined PICA’s guest artistic director Cathy Edwards at Pacific Northwest College of Art’s (PNCA) Swigert Commons for a discussion about making art in a capitalistic society.The talk was originally planned to include a local (unnamed) technologist who apparently backed out at the last minute. According to Daisey, the cancellation was due to the invited guest’s hesitations about Daisey’s current show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which addresses the US role in supporting substandard human rights during technology production offshore.

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I’m amazed that I was amazed that there was no talking in a dance piece

Rio2064
Maria Hassabi, SoloShow
Posted By: Robert Tyree
When I heard Cathy Edwards got slack for “exhausting” us last year and read the Mercury’s repeated, brutal, and unintelligible flogging of Meg Stuart’s Maybe Forever (a piece I revered), I was afraid that there might be no meat with our gravy in this year’s festival. Fear assuaged. Maria Hassabi gives us something to chew on. SoloShow is challenging, expansive, and rewarding.
I’m amazed that I was amazed that there was no talking in a dance piece. Instead, we get bodies, dozens of them. We get bodies that shake out of the muscular impossibility of stillness, as if in protest at some unnatural fixation. We get a body that suddenly transforms into a completely new one with lone addition of a face looking at the audience. Some bodies make themselves felt, remarkable tactile and supple, impacting space and generating vastly different powers from one stillness to the next. And then a sudden flatness as I see her face and body in a way that refers my mind to vaguely similar images that I might have seen in magazines, fashion, porn, advertisement, dance promotion, sculpture. Who knows, but this is not the same body. It does not have the same flesh, dimensions, or qualities.
DSCF9122
Has the body died once I code it as representative? What happens when that body slams loudly onto the floor, suddenly announcing a previously unknown weight? Is it the same body?
This is dance employing its formal elements to mine some core themes. It was spiritual for me, that’s the kind of terrain I found it inhabiting. I’m certainly grateful for the fine composition of space and time, the clarity of the costume, lighting, and sound design, and the opportunity for a focused engagement with the timeless powers inherent to bodies that forever infect us with wonder despite our many deaths in meaning.
At the end of the performance, someone next to me said, “That was the most boring performance I have ever seen.” Well, as they say, ‘Only boring people get bored.’ I fear for any culture that has lost it’s ability to sense what a body creates. There’s no reason why such a culture would survive.
Not the most relevant, but good enough for a shameless re-blog (from: newshelton.com/wet/dry/)
“The body can by the sole laws of its nature do many things which the mind wonders at.
Again, no one knows how or by what means the mind moves the body, nor how many various degrees of motion it can impart to the body, nor how quickly it can move it. Thus, when men say that  this or that physical action has its origin in the mind, which latter has dominion over the body, they are using words without meaning, or are confessing in specious phraseology that they are ignorant of the cause of the said action, and do not wonder at it.”
Spinoza, The Ethics, 1673

TBA dim sum: less is more

Ten Tiny Dances
Saturday, September 11, 2010 10:30 pm -12:30 am
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photo by: Rio
Rio5262
The auditorium at THE WORKS at Washington High School is transformed into a theater in the round for Ten Tiny Dances. A four foot square space surrounded by the audience, with overhead video projected on a nearby screen, allows intimate engagement with the performers in an already intimately-sized area. Ten separate performances on the small stage feed the sound-bite satisfaction of popular entertainment culture, but also allow a a Whitman sampler of artists who can be further explored in additional festival events.
A wonderful array of styles and subject matter in bite-sized chunks is a microcosm of the festival itself: Mike Daisey shattering the object/viewer wall by ravaging an orange, Dayna Hanson’s group breakdancing in colonial get-ups, and Mike Barber and Cydney Wilkes ballroom dancing with trophies. Is the short format less challenging for the viewer? Maybe, but it feels good to change directions so quickly. Like TBA channel-surfing or TBA dim sum, less really is more.

The Agony & Ecstasy of Mike Daisey

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Mike Daisey, “The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”
Posted by Michael Evans

Much ballyhooed monologist Mike Daisey more than lived up to his advanced billing in this terrific show that is as much a call to arms as it is a fetishistic mash note to technology.
Coming off a lot like a cerebral, less spastic version of Chris Farley, Daisey’s ruminates resoundingly on his favorite Apple products, the demigod behind their design, and the sweatshop laborers who assemble them.

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American History + ADHD = Valuable Lesson

Dayna Hanson: Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Ariel Frager
The appeal of Schoolhouse Rock never fades for those of us who grew up in the 70′s. I still sing, “a noun is a person, place or thing,” at those important moments when I need to know the elements of English grammar. Suffice to say Dayna Hanson and company’s new work in progress, Gloria’s Cause reminded me of Schoolhouse Rock, a new approach to the telling and retelling of American history with a dancing Bald Eagle, incongruous narration, random dance interludes all tied up in a fun-loving package with a bevy of punk rock cords. Hanson dares to bring us a multi-sensory experience of the American story and it left me with a hankering to refill my Ritalin prescription.
I went to this show on September 11 and somehow it felt like a perfect way to honor that day. Hanson looks at America, our new America with all our backward thinking about what freedom is and how we got here. At one point a performer wearing a strangely cartoonish and realistic and scary Bald Eagle mask declared, “I like to think of myself as an empathic bird with an ironic nature.” The monologue by this philosophical symbol of ours reminded me of all those post 9/11 freedom lovin’, flag waiving compatriots only this bird seemed to be reaching some sort of truth. What did our forefathers fight for? What is this freedom of ours? Is it worth holding on to or are we going to give it away, little by little. Dayna Hanson pushes the boundaries of history telling and that is part of our freedom, the freedom to be as silly as possible and still have something valuable to say.

The Grass Is Always Greener On the Beckett Side

Gare St. Lazare Players: FIRST LOVE
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
FIRST-LOVE.jpg
PROLOGUE: Tall Matt Haynes sits in his study, fighting off sleepiness, pushing himself to finish this blog entry so he can take tomorrow completely off. He needs to write about a Beckett piece he just saw. He doesn’t like Beckett. He didn’t really have a good time. Yet he can’t in good conscience say that Beckett is baloney nor that this was an ineffective production. If he’s going to finish this blog at a reasonable hour, Tall Matt Haynes is going to need some help. He thus turns to a master for council on his experience watching FIRST LOVE by Samuel Beckett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett and starring Connor Lovett.

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Don’t you know it’s gonna be/ All right?

Rio4717
Dayna Hanson/Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Jim Withington
The news section on Hanson’s website describes Gloria’s cause as “a dance-driven rock musical,” and I suppose it was that. It was also hilarious and spot-on at parts, utterly confusing at others, definitely more a “TBA thing” than a rock musical, and ultimately a work with a sometimes obscured message.

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Cédric Andrieux: The Genius of Doing Nothing

Jerôme Bel’s Cédric Andrieux
Posted by: John Wilmot
It’s so much more difficult to discuss something good. Train wrecks are easy and fun to describe. But trying to effectively communicate what makes something great is fraught with pitfalls and frustration. Oh, the temptation to use lots of exclamation points!!!
That is precisely my dilemma after watching Cédric Andrieux. Nothing much happened. There was no set design to speak of. During most of the one-man show, the eponymous Cédric Andrieux stood stock still in one spot and did little more than speak quietly in a French-accented monotone. Yet I will certainly remember his performance as one of my very favorites.
But why?

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Bring Us Beckett

Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland
First Love
Bodyvox Dance Center
Friday, September 10, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

A Beckett fan since Waiting For Godot popped my pre-adolescent brain into a different gear, I was eager to view Conor Lovett’s acclaimed interpretation of First Love, a heavy, heady piece indeed. Walking a quite treacherous line preposterously balanced over a river of dark humor, complete emotional emptiness, and the usual pain and suffering caused only by love (and/or the inability to love), Beckett’s story tugs and pulls in haunted directions. Given that hoping-to-forget set up, it’s actually quite remarkable how long this particular story lingers inside the head and the heart.
Lovett’s performance Friday night was remarkable, too. His facial expressions and postures perplexed our audience exactly as he was perplexed by what he was actually saying out loud, thoughts finally outside his brain, as he pieced together a few significant events of a perhaps insignificant life for both audience and orator to mull over. Lovett’s narrative was paced and profound, his delivery poised yet raw. The methodical way in which critical elements of his lonely tale unfolded before us was careful and intriguing. What fascinated me most is that Lovett appeared to be just as surprised about his declarations as he guessed we might be, as well.
Beckett considered his “important work” stories such as First Love, not the “trivial” plays like Godot. I left First Love feeling real despair about a life (the one just shared with us–mine’s not there quite yet)–but also primed to see more from Lovett and Beckett, both contagious forces compelled to serve up intense slices of humanity.

Three Rooms and A Surprise Ending

Ronnie Bass, Charles Atlas and the “Fabric Room”
Posted By: Tall Matt Haynes
lounge fringe
PROLOGUE: Tall Matt Haynes is back at The Works on Sunday, 9/12 10:20pm. The atmosphere is subdued; energy and attendance are down from Thursday night. Tall Matt Haynes is fairly certain that this will be a short night in which he’ll blog about a few more exhibits and go home bored but in bed and sleeping by midnight. He has no idea what revelations await him, especially (EXHIBIT) 3. He won’t end up going to bed until 2:00am and will spend most of the following morning talking any innocent bystander’s ears off about the night.
_________________
EXHIBIT 1:
RONNIE BASS: “2012″ and “The Astronomer Part 1: Departure From Shed.”

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4126/4975725973_c2f7ec754e.jpg"
I settle into the room and enjoy the soothing music and steady editing of Ronnie Bass's two conceptual music videos (wait, is it redundant to call a music video "conceptual?"). Both videos juxtapose home science projects with Ronnie Bass chanting call-&-response lullabies about how it's okay to step into the new age of somethingorother.
Spectators drifted into the gallery room, many soon to start snickering and leave… I think it's something to do with the robotic rhythms and Bass's poker-faced delivery juxtaposed with the melodrama of his lyrics and chord progressions. Well, Funny, intentional or not, is better than Boring and that music is real purdy.
A restless thought is planted: This exhibit is another video loop but has no accompanying video loops nearby and no sculptures in the room or visible alterations to the space. What makes this any more of an exhibit than looking it up on youtube? I mean, yeah it's theoretically smaller on youtube but hang on there, nuh-uh, cause like, yeah, you never know, I could have a big ol' monitor projector at home, right, right? I mean I don't, and I don't know for sure this is on Youtube (next day note: most of it is) but stiiiiiiiiillll.
This restless thought will take happy root with EXHIBIT 2 and sprout into a whole new beast on (EXHIBIT) 3.
_________________
EXHIBIT 2:
CHARLES ATLAS: “Tornado Warning”

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4089/4984498349_24d0637a08.jpg"
I like this one a lot. Two rooms… the back room has three walls: A wall/floor projection of a rotating black spiral on white, a wall/scrim projection of different household items spinning lazily in midair, and a wall projection of radiating ripples over images of pop-culture junk. Two or so maverick spirals dart around various points in the room. I'm not super crazy about the back room but it IS unpredictable, immersive and invites play.
The front room, though, ah man, what a beautiful piece of work. On a wall/floor projection we see a single white line cell-dividing into a rising panic of boxes, numbers, 2/D, 3/D, containment and chaos. My description probably makes this sound as about as exciting as… (Tall Matt Haynes pauses for 3 minutes trying think of something clever and fails) well, something not very exciting. But give this one a try, anyway: It's tense, easy to follow, hard to nail down and makes great use of space and time. This be the stuff, I thought. But the night wasn't over…
_________
(EXHIBIT) 3:
“The Fabric Room”

lounge fringe
Get this: One of the most celebrated installations at the Highschool isn’t even in the TBA catalog.
In the “Fabric Room,” there are four walls curtained by a color progression of long thin fabric strips. The floor is wall to wall cream colored fabric with foam rubber stuffed fabrics lined with shreds (basically mutant pillows). I’ve visited this room three times on two different nights now and each time there are people sculpting the pillows, hiding themselves in color-matching wall shreds, flopping and cuddling on floor, taking pictures and finally trying to find out what the hell this installation is officially called so they can get more info on it.
But as I said, it’s not in the catalog. There isn’t even a sign on the door (at least not that I’ve ever seen). After asking several people what this was (the answer was usually to the tune of “I don’t know, but it’s AWESOME”) I finally found a knowledgeable source who disclosed: It’s not an installation or an exhibit…
“It’s the Under-21 Lounge.” She tells me.
Oh.
Okay.
Wait.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
You’re telling me that this isn’t an “explorationofcontradictoryetc” but just an idea for a nicely decorated room for the kids?
“Yep.”
But it’s a hit! Everyone’s talking about it.
“Oh that’s so wonderful. The volunteers will be delighted to hear that.”
My mind races.
I immediately re-seek the room, dive into a cushy corner and blog.
Well, Tall Matt Haynes, what’s on your mind? This: In the world of Art, there are so many potential stalemates between the sophisticated insider and the bewildered outsider. I’ve read a few of the artist interviews in the catalogue and the interviewer always seems to ask questions about the artist’s relationship with his/her ideas rather than about the art’s relationship with its audiences.
I wish they’d start off with these questions: If I were an outsider to your work and to the genre, why should this still engage me? And why, once it engages, should it not be easily let go of or forgotten?
‘Cause, dig: With the simple but dynamic decoration combo that is the “Fabric Room” we have something that surprises, provokes play and offers new perspectives on color, texture, size and contrast. Most people (at least Portlanders from what I can tell) haven’t been to a room like this and are talking about it once they leave. My praise isn’t intended to discount the (presumably) deeper levels of thought, prep, work and experience that go into all the other exhibits. But, but…
Alright, your turn, readers. If you’ve visited the “Fabric Room”, tell me:
-Were you able to recognize, on your own, what made this separate from the Real Exhibits?
-What were the key differences to you?

From symphony to skate punk, T:BA:10 makes a grand entrance

Oregon Symphony + Rufus + Japanther + Shadow Puppets = My Kinda Night
Opening Night Antics
Schnitzer Auditorium and THE WORKS
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Posted by Eve Connell

The power and joy that is PICA’s T:BA festival partially rests in the range of its offerings-and opening night antics last Thursday proved no different. For this festival reveler, it doesn’t get much better than seeing Carlos Kalmar in action (from a prime vantage point at the Schnitz) leading the Oregon Symphony through a program of opera, Gershwin, and McGarrigle (courtesy of Rufus W, and with support from a few of our local celebrity darlings) and then hightailing it to THE WORKS for a pulsating/pounding Japanther show complete with shadow puppetry and a small mosh pit. A few of my favorite things indeed.
The Oregon Symphony presented excerpts from Rufus Wainwright’s first opera Prima Donna, an inspired love and loss drama featuring soprano Janis Kelly (though it was the unknown maid who sang Act II, Scene 1/ Dans mon pays de Picardie who really got me going). The opera rolled along pleasantly with emotional dips, spins, and turns. Rufus does it again, and with Kalmar and his crew, Prima Donna was indeed a delight.
The eclectic mix found in the second portion of this show offered up usual Rufus gems like my Judy G. fave Do It Again. (Please. Do.) and Cohen’s Hallelujah. Classical surprises included two Berlioz pieces. Including local luminaries Thomas Lauderdale and Storm Large for a couple of ending numbers forced the event to gala status, which felt a bit goofy for a moment, but proved to be exactly the right thing to do.
And, then, merely minutes later across the river at THE WORKS, the crowd queuing up to get into the free Japanther show created a totally different energy. This buzz, quite different from the downtown scene at the Schnitz, was revving up to a higher pitch. A packed house. Lots of teens. Many west side stragglers. An edgier vibe. All waiting for some action. On the stage. Now. When it finally began, people moved, jumped, wiggled. We just couldn’t help ourselves. This high-energy band offered its best-a best that included great beats, a special blend of humor/aggro, and whimsical shadow puppets traversing the paper ‘screen’ in front of the band. While we caught glimpses of the actual musicians, to me they felt removed from the performance in a strange way. I would have liked the screen and projections to happen behind the band so we could see them pounding away, too. I surely would have danced more with that kind of arrangement.
Oh, what a night! The diversity of performers and pieces set the tone, and certainly bodes well for the rest of the festival. T:BA:10, bring it.
Rufus Wainwright and Oregon Symphony

obsolete interactivity

THE WOOSTER GROUP: THERE IS STILL TIME…BROTHER
posted by laura becker
A co-worker very recently asked me a question they admitted was potentially embarrassing: Is the Iraq War over? The purpose for the question was simply semantics; they wanted to know if it was now proper to say we were in two wars in the Middle East, or just one. We tried to parse out an all-encompassing wording, something like “security presence in the region” that was just vague enough for any reader, regardless of how up on their end-of-combat-operations news they were.
I find it tremendously fitting that it is at this moment in time, when Americans are officially allowed to turn the page on the war that we were already unofficially ignoring, that the Wooster Group and EMPAC bring us There Is Still Time…Brother, to shake our memories loose of earlier days of more passionate anti-war sentiment and frustrations.

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Assuming Strangers

John Smith – The Girl Chewing Gum
Posted by: Seth Nehil
Like Michael Snow’s Wavelength or Hollis Frampton’s Nostalgia, this 1970′s structuralist film uses a simple framework to create humor, perceptual shifts, and a commentary on the filmic medium itself. We’re in a topsy-turvy world where everything is reversed, as seemingly casual movements of pedestrians are predicted or controlled by an off-screen director. This action creates an atmosphere of literalism – only actions can be named, not motivations.
As a gesture, this is already strange and funny. There’s something hilarious about the way a stranger follows instruction, turning to the right, putting on glasses, or hurrying across the street. Even though we know that Smith’s directorial power is a trick, due only to his review of the footage and previous preparation, we’re still somehow drawn into this demonstration of filmic illusion.
But then, in the midst of a seemingly straightforward system, Smith allows a small imaginative exuberance. The drift from simple directorial power to bizarre omnipotence shows that literalism isn’t always accurate. Buildings are commanded to “move to the right” while characters “stay in the center.” While this statement is obviously absurd, do we not refer to the sun as “rising” and “setting”?
As with Snow and Frampton, the drift is all the more noticeable because of strict parameters which have been previously established. In the midst of structuralist cinema, there is often a wink – a sneaky bit of drama such as Wavelength‘s “murder mystery” or Nostalgia‘s Lovecraftian ending. In The Girl Chewing Gum, we suddenly enter the internal world of an unassuming stranger, in a manner that both creates and solves a mystery.
How many stories surround us in the anonymous streets?

“There Are No Bad Directors”

The Wooster Group, THERE IS STILL TIME…BROTHER
Lecture, Elizabeth LeCompte of the Wooster Group
Posted By: Julie Hammond
The Wooster Group/ THERE IS STILL TIME..BROTHER
So claimed The Wooster Group’s Liz LeCompte in her Sunday afternoon discussion with Geoff Abbas and Kathleen Forde. This was immediately clarified and limited to pertain to the role of the director/viewer in THERE IS STILL TIME…BROTHER, The Wooster Group’s 360 degree interactive war/anti-war film. I understood what she was saying: the company created the film, a 20 minute loop with a beginning, middle and ending of sorts, that can be watched over and over in a choose-your-own (or experience-someone-else’s) perspective adventure. There are no right or wrong answers, no better part to watch, no uninteresting moments; indeed the tiny connections and actions, setting trees and wind-up babies in place, were some of my favorite moments.

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History Lesson Part 3

TBA10-DAYNA HANSON07
Dayna Hanson, Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Michael Evans

As Dayna Hanson’s presentation at TBA of her new dance theater piece “Gloria’s Cause” is billed as a “work in progress” it doesn’t seem fair to do a full-on critical review of what is essentially an um, glorified rehearsal.

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Acts of Recognition

Jerome Bel – Cedric Andrieux
posted by: Seth Nehil
A man stands alone on a well-lit stage and talks quietly and slowly about his history with dance. In doing so, he gives us both his own story and a small history of modern dance ideas. This is a continuation of Bel’s conception of dance as a demonstration, a lecture, a story, and a bare act of communication. Humanness is primary in this work – a person before us, rather than a dancer. The microphone amplifies every breath, gasp and swallow, and does a lot to create a kind of intimacy with saliva. It stays on during the moments of dance, connecting us with the effort rather than hiding it behind music and elegance. Unhurriedly, Andrieux waits to regain his breath after dancing. Things take as long as they take.
Jerome Bel/ Cedric Andrieux

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Daisy St. Gare

Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Washington High School
Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland: First Love
BodyVox Dance Center
posted by: dirtybombpdx
How to reconcile the divergent worlds of Steve Jobs and Samuel Beckett in a single night of theater? It sounded like a good idea when I set out to see Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs then raced across town for Conor Lovett’s performance of Beckett’s First Love. Though there were bits and pieces in both that fleetingly held my interest, in retrospect, sipping on a martini in my backyard would have been preferable to either experience.
First up was Daisey’s Steve Jobs obsession. I’ve seen Daisy a few times now, and although I always laugh out loud at his big rubbery facial expressions and booming voice, I also always find myself irritated by his faux-profundity and lack of editorial zeal. Two hours is too long for material that, if you have any interest in the news of the world, will be far too familiar. The story of Jobs and Apple is not obscure. Other than using my computer for its most basic functionality, I have little interest in the world of computing, yet I still know the story of Steve Jobs and the impact of technology on our society (as I’m sure most people in the audience Saturday night did too). And while I couldn’t have named the city in China, Shenzhen, that produces 50 percent of the electronics the world uses, I was familiar with the scale of production there and had read of the suicides associated with the prison-like conditions of its massive factories. Daisey wants us to be shocked at this information and scolds us for consuming the product yet ignoring the conditions. How is this any different from any sweat-shop produced product that we Americans have been for consuming for 50 odd years now? Daisey even travels to China to interview the workers, yet all we really get from it is that he’s a big fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt who sticks out in a crowd, oh and that some of the workers are as young as 10 years old. Really? Shocking. Isn’t this the same story we’ve heard about Walmart and Nike and on and on going all the way back to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle? So what’s new? What little insight Daisey does give us isn’t terribly original, but his stand-up schtick is funny in the typical stand-up way: most of the laughs are generated, not by wit, but by Chris Farley extremes or tired expletives. Were it an hour-long, I might say it was entertaining, but at 2 hours, it’s a trial.
Next up was Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, in a theatrical interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s short story, First Love. I couldn’t wait to see this production. I love Beckett, but was unfamiliar with this piece. Walking into the BodyVox space and seeing the elegant, haunting set (a large rectangle of blue light and two up-ended wood benches, like spectral witnesses to the proceedings), I felt sure I was in for an amazing night of theater. Lovett walks onstage with no fanfare and begins. His wee frame is accentuated by his Duckie Brown suit and large sturdy shoes that make him appear even more elfin. His bald head glows in the light and his eyes dart furtively around the space. I hold my breath. He speaks – it’s halting and labored. He looks at us and smiles. What do you think? I’m not sure what to think. I wait. He is masterfully controlled. He smiles again. Why is he smiling? Another long pause. More halting, labored explication. I start to lose track of the story. His delivery is so premeditated I can’t tell if it’s a choice or an affectation. The audience is restless, people keep shifting in their seats. The theater is too warm. The woman in front of me has fallen asleep. I try to focus. It’s a bleak story without light and little humanity – none, actually. Lovett pulls one of the benches down, sits on it for a few seconds then stands it back on end – the only time the benches are touched (I liked that). The story isn’t inherently theatrical and was unpublished until 1971. Since Beckett is one of our most gifted and celebrated playwrights, you’d think if he’d intended this as a theater piece, he’d have said as much. Actually, I loved the script, and would have loved much more to sit and read it than to suffer through the tedious hour and a half I spent watching Lovett’s self-love fest. He’s obviously a talented guy and I’m sure when he first started performing this piece it was wonderful. But his current performance is so mannered and knowing that I can imagine it not altering one iota with or without an audience. There is nothing spontaneous or “live” about it. In fact, it seemed as though he was even a little pissed that we, the audience, weren’t all that taken with his “celebrated” performance. I never saw a character on stage, just an actor quite full of himself and completely unwilling to invite us in.

Steve Jobs: The Man, The Mystery, The Legend

Mike Daisy: “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”
Posted By: Emily Stevens
In the “Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Mike Daisy recounts the myth of the most secretive and innovative tech company through the legend of its notorious creator. Don’t worry! Daisy isn’t there to condemn you for your iPhone obsession, he loves the sleek design and elegant functions of Apple products just as much as you do. His love so deep, in fact, that it sent him on a worldwide search for his iPad’s origins. This show made me laugh out loud and feel like throwing up from First World guilt, don’t miss it if you own any Apple products (which you do). Tonight’s your last chance!

“Your silence is your consent”

Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Posted by Ariel Frager
I didn’t initially want to see the latest Mike Daisey monologue after seeing him last year. I don’t really even remember what it was I objected to but somewhere between the interminable length, (I actually left the theatre before it was finished) and the seemingly circular rant, I wasn’t predisposed to be a fan.
I am, however, an unabashed fan of Apple Computers, just like none other than Mike Daisey who referred to himself as an Apple “fan boy.” I thought I owed it to myself to hear Daisey out. I love the sleek elegant casings, the supreme functionality and yes, even the hipness factor. I am from Silicon Valley and in fact attended the same high school as both Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in Cupertino, so perhaps being an Apple enthusiast is part of my DNA. For this reason alone, I questioned seeing a performance that might shatter my love for the laptop I am typing on at this very moment.

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HOT MAN IN COMFORTABLE CLOTHES HAS ALMOST NO EGO

Jerome Bel, Cedric Andrieux
Posted by: Forrest Martin
Photo by: Rio
The lights dimmed, a man walked onstage to no fanfare, and I knew I would be at least decently satisfied because the stage direction was fantastic. Nothing but a fair, exceedingly handsome man with a soft, even voice and a faint French accent, in loose electric blue gym pants tucked in to brilliantly white socks, topped with a time-worn, loose-but-still-form-fitting vintage red t-shirt and a slouchy grey hoodie. I suddenly felt that comfortable in my own white t-shirt and hoodie, and was especially happy that I’d only just showered fifteen minutes before.
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He introduced himself as Cedric Andrieux, 33 years old, born the same year as myself. “Am I perceived as this much of an adult man?” I wondered. If so, how strange. But I began to reorganize my self-image thusly.
He spoke to the audience with such measured consideration that you began to feel a very quick, very false intimacy quite effortlessly. Apparently, he was going to be still and sincere with us, which can be a disaster if there’s any indication of hesitation. Fortunately for our nervous, fidgety selves, he carried it off. We still coughed, and dropped heavy objects (twice?), and forgot to silence our cell phones before making musical spectacles out of turing them off (dee-dee-dee-dee, di-de-da-da, doo-doo-doo-dee-dum), but we learned to trust him and lean into the story he told of his life of awkward starts and desires; all the while very aware of how quiet it was between phrases. Until we weren’t.
As he told us about half-heartedly auditioning for dance school in France, and eventually making his way – almost effortlessly, as if a spectator to his own life – to becoming a dancer in Merce Cunningham’s legendary dance troupe, he would outline some of the complicated dance steps he had relationships with by demonstrating them to us, also without music. Sometimes these bouts were long. Just the sound of his breath in the mic, or, in the instance of demonstrating a tedious pose he struck for art students to supplement his income in NY, the involuntary closed-throat belches that would rise and normally be inaudible if there were not a microphone right there, strapped to the right side of his head. Andrieux confided that music was entirely inconsequential to him in Merce’s troupe, as it was secondary to the dance. They always practiced in silence, and only ever heard the piece they were to perform to on the day of the show. The longer and less narrated the example that he re-performed was, the more likely I was to forget where I was and what in god’s name he was doing.
Things were laid even more bare when he pulled out a sad, limp, pink and white tie-dyed unitard and told us, without irony, that this is what he was directed to wear. Following this presentation was that of the dancer’s belt; essentially a camel colored thonged jock strap with padding in the front. When Cedric announced that he would now change into these, I fully expected him to do this in front of us. The bar for self-revealingness had already been set, but instead he retired to the wings to change suit. I could not help but feel, now, that there was something neutering about being put into a unitard. As he observes, it hides absolutely nothing (not a problem here; see title), and it made me respond to him much differently than I had before the change. I suddenly felt that he must be very uncomfortable and/or self-conscious (he confirmed the latter), and I found myself sucking in my own stomach as I heard (again, uncomfortably) the sounds of his body thudding against the floor, and exertion escaping his mouth into the nearly soundless room we had learned to seat ourselves in.

The last outfit change was even stranger; the same red shirt as before, but now paired with dark jeans and nike high tops. Street clothes, representing the last chapter, now that he had left the Cunningham troupe and began experimenting with the styles of other choreographers. It opened up his world, he told us, to be much looser, and generally in less pain, and he recreated a performance choreographed by Jerome Bel that only required thirty dancers on stage to subtly emulate whatever pop song was playing with no special “dance” movements. The song he chose to re-perform for us was by the Police, “I’ll Be Watching You.” The song began – loudly, and in actuality, over the real house speakers – and after thirty seconds he walked out from the wings to the front of the stage and just looked at the audience (the theater was quite small and no one was very far from him, and we hadn’t heard any artificial sound the ENTIRE TIME. And it was Sting singing.). Next, a rack of overhead lights snapped on behind Andrieux and bathed us all in bright amber light. He continued to regard us innocently and intently, but now, for the first time, warmly as well. A smile would grow on his lips and he would not edit it, instead he let it grow all the way, and this seemed almost pornographic to me. Sometimes he would even laugh, still staring at whomever was inspiring the feeling, and I became jealous of that person (see title). Really, it was all too much. The song, the sincerity, the intimacy, the lights and fanfare and glory. My mind was turning inside out. He had introduced us to a certain world with certain rules and now, at the end, was telling us something entirely different. That it was okay to embellish for the sake of championing a feeling.
The finale, you could say, followed shortly thereafter as he describes later happening across Jerome Bel in person on a train (who is very curious about his experiences with Merce Cunningham), and, at Jerome’s behest, beginning an email correspondence with him as backstory for a piece that Bel would be directing. The piece, of course, is this piece, and my mind folded in half once again at the vulnerability of it all.

PICA TBA 10 Maria Hassabi-SoloShow @ Imago Theatre 09-12-10

I have heard stories that every so often Heaven sends angels to the earth in human form to help bring joy, healing, beauty, grace, etc. to humanity, well if I could ever imagine one of these angels in human form it would probably be something close to Maria Hassabi, because on seeing her dance SoloShow I felt like I was as close to seeing God in human form as possible, the first word that comes to mind on seeing Maria Hassabi dance is: divine. I’ve never seen so much grace and beauty emanate from a human being before, I’m not sure how she does it, must be some sort of magic powers she has, but all I can say is I’ll remember this dance for the rest of my life. Check out Maria Hassabi in SoloShow if you get a chance, its well worth your while, peace.
gordon wilson 09-12-10

The Eagle’s Progress

Dayna Hanson: Gloria’s Cause
Posted by Seth Needler
Exuberant, enigmatic, energetic, effervescent, enthralling, enticing, and at times eye-rollingly silly – all this and much, much more was Dayna Hanson’s “work-in-progress” Gloria’s Cause, a music/dance/theater performance piece nominally about the unique moment in history of the American Revolution, with thought-provoking references to the meaning of that historical moment in today’s violent, Puritanical, hypocritical, still-trying-to-define-itself America.
The superbly talented troupe effortlessly played instruments, danced, and acted out scenes, all of which were beautifully choreographed and timed, in a multi-faceted projection of the fervent foment with which the founding fathers and their wealthy colleagues may have collaborated to produce the founding documents of the union’s young democracy, tottering on the foundation of slavery while simultaneously declaring freedom for all its constituents.

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Glorious Oz

Dayna Hanson: Goria’s Cause
Winningstad Theater

posted by: dirtybombpdx
I don’t know that the American Revolution is a subject I need to see explored…again, but with a break dancing animatronic George Washington, real cherry pie, smokin’ hot dancers, and a bald eagle with serious self-esteem issues, I’ll go along for the ride.
Billed as a preview performance (meaning they’re still working it all out), Dayna Hanson and her collaborators have fashioned our nation’s march toward independence into an art house explosion. It’s a bit like Oz: sort of recognizable, but then again… There’s a rockin’ onstage band, funky costumes, some terrific choreography, crazy sight gags, childhood remembrances, the aforementioned pie, and a loose, organic feeling to most everything that happens. The actor/singer/dancer/musicians – cause everyone on stage sings, dances, acts and plays – are miked and for much of the show they talk over or around each other, sub-title what’s happening, disagree, elaborate or just make crazy noise. It’s a great effect and keeps everything feeling very spontaneous (though, obviously a tremendous amount of work and rehearsal supports that spontaneity).
The piece is essentially danced based. There are several significant passages of pure dance and most, if not all, of the transitions are choreographed and danced in some fashion or other. About three-quarters of the way into the show, a gorgeous trio takes place: two soldiers harass a woman in a white bonnet and long blue dress. It’s unsettling, sometimes frightening, yet mesmerizing and conceptually, quite resonant. The show could use more moments of similar depth and coherence.
There are also several songs throughout the show (and nearly continuous underscoring by the terrific band), but one song in particular stands out. A rock and roll number about the significance of what’s going down Betsy, we need a new flag, that again, brings the show into focus.
The final tableau, sung a capella, is achingly beautiful.
As this show finds its deeper truths and hones its political perspective I can see it becoming a stunning piece of theater.
I think tomorrow, Monday the 13th at 6:30, may be its last showing. Don’t miss it. Go.

First Love/Last Love

posted by Mead Hunter
FIRST-LOVE.jpgIf you love Samuel Beckett — and what’s not to love, right? — TBA:10 gives you two opportunities to see some of his non-dramatic work performed by a company that really knows what it’s doing: the Gare St. Lazare Players, here from Ireland, a country that can truly say it understands its native (albeit expatriate) son.
Currently running is First Love, an 80-minute monologue performed by the masterful Conor Lovett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett. His rendition of one of Beckett’s most unwholesome creations is deftly drawn; he portrays his nameless antihero with a musculature so tense that you dare not relax in his presence.
Like many Beckett characters, this one is awash in contradiction — literally so, being a product of his polyglot creator: contra/diction. At times this character seems simple, yet at other times exhibits a linguistic formality that hints at autodidacticism (referring to a burial as an inhumation, for example). He starts out as a pathetic figure — a misanthropic one, to be sure, who believes that the living stink worse than the dead, but a pitiable guy nevertheless. Gradually, however, he becomes more and more monstrous until you’re glad to be shed of his company.
As such, the performance isn’t what you’d call fun. The profound sense of human suffering giving way to ennoblement that won Beckett the Nobel Prize (in 1969) takes a holiday here; the speaker himself seems to be worse of, at the end of his monologue, for sharing his story with us.
Still, Mr. Lovett’s performance is virtuosic, and you won’t see the like of it again soon. First Love continues through Monday evening, and on Tuesday, for that night only, Gare St. Lazare performs its famed Beckett Trilogy.

PICA TBA 10 Day 3- Ten Tiny Dances @ The Works Washington High School 09-11-10

I love a good deal and Ten Tiny Dances is a great deal, for the price of one you get to see ten, although tiny still interesting, dances. When I first saw the Ten Tiny Dances I got this feeling that I had a couple of times before; like when I was a young drifter and somehow ended up on this farm out in the country where all these poets and artists were having a big shindig, and as I was sitting on a bale of hay I had this feeling overcome me like, these are my people, this is where I belong and fit in, this is what I have been looking for. The incredible creativity, freedom, discipline and hard work of the poets and artists somehow transferred a liberating feeling into my soul, and I felt like I had friends in the world with similar interests and aspirations, and this is how I feel when I see the Ten Tiny Dances, and actually how PICA TBA makes me feel also, I love this stuff.
Anyhow Ten Tiny Dances 22 was as good as ever, I could go in and try to review and critique every tiny dance, but since I really don’t know anything about dance except that I like it, my critique would probably be pretty boring and tiresome, so all I have to say is that last night was pretty darn good, and if you haven’t seen the Ten Tiny Dances before, give it a try, it’s much better than TV and as I said it’s a great deal for your money, peace, see you at the show.
gordon wilson 09-12-10

To Dance or Not to Dance?

Cedric Andrieux, choreographed by Jerome Bel
Posted by Seth Needler
Andriex’s performance of this piece by Jerome Bel chronicled, through a combination of soft-spoken, deliberative narration and exhibitive dance movements, his career as a dancer, initially for Merce Cunningham, later for Bel and still later other choreographers.
There were some fascinating revelations: Andrieux’s chronicling of the way that Merce Cunningham broke movement into highly prescribed individual motions, almost like an engineer constructing a machine, for example, gave me an entirely new perspective on the training of a dancer. And his description of the emotional landscape that he walked in the process of developing as a dancer surprised me also, with his frank admission of shame about his body image. That these and other disarmingly honest reflections were revealed almost monotonically and in a completely silent, music-less atmosphere, only increased the intensity of their effect.

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Often the thinking behind an artwork is more interesting than the work itself.

Jerome Bel
Cedric Andrieux
posted by: Ariana Jacob
Cedric.jpg
Often, but in the case of this piece though, the work shows almost only that back story: the thinking, feeling and breathing that an artist puts into their work. For this dance Cedric Andrieux performs himself as a dancer in a work named after him created by choreographer Jerome Bel. (How strange to be performing yourself as conceived and directed by someone else.)
This art work is called a dance but it breaks all the expectations of what Dance performance means, and it breaks them in such satisfyingly plain ways. When this performance so sharply broke my expectations I noticed how strong dance’s conventions still seem compared with most other visual art mediums. Watching this medium implode itself skillfully felt both archaic and amazing. There has to be rules to break to feel any power in breaking them and at times contemporary art feels saggy from lack of structural tension. This work is taut with undoing the structure of dance.
This show won me over both because it emphasized the ideas and aspirations behind making dance; and because it honed in on a place in culture where we can still palpably feel the power of breaking conventions. This is a dance that is mostly a well told dead-pan life story with very little movement in it at all.
At one point in the performance Cedric describes what it was like for him to first watch a Merce Cunningham dance live. (Shortly after seeing that performance he was hired by the company and performed with them for years.) He told how at the beginning of the dance he looked at the dancers and then away at the branches on the trees around the outdoor stage where they were performing, and then after that at other people in the audience. He didn’t feel that by looking around he was missing anything, his whole experience felt included. In his very french version of english he said this show gave him a feeling of freedom that was “super-good.” I’d like to repeat that but this time taking it to be a self-reflective, self aware statement about performance and the experience of freedom: “super-good.”

The Wooster Group + the Delirium of Narration

posted by Mead Hunter
wooster group panel from There Is Still Time Brother.jpgRight up front, let me acknowledge that I believe The Wooster Group is one of the best things that ever happened to live performance. And not to be too phatic about it, let me add that while long-time followers of the Group’s work will recognize certain tropes and modalities in its new piece, in other ways it represents an explosion of previous concerns.
There Is Still Time…Brother is a wholly immersive experience. This afternoon we entered Brunish Hall in the dark, made our way carefully alongside a circular wall, and entered a round space studded with white swivel stools of different heights. Wherever we sat, we were in the center; the piece was already in progress on the seamless screen that ringed the space.
In this way, as in most Group pieces, the audience must relinquish narrative expectations and submit itself to a delirious cascading of various story fragments. At the same time, however, we entered this prepared space knowing that one member of the audience was somehow controlling how much of the presentation the rest of the spectators was seeing. I wish I knew more about this; I saw no one in the act of messing with the piece, nor do I know how s/he would have done it. In theory, though, as one controller replaces another, you would never see quite the same presentation twice.
What you do see are fleeting seconds from a series of different narratologies. The “character” who has the most authorial power devotes his time to explaining the technology behind the piece — so much so that, disappointingly, too much of the version I saw devolved around a fascination with its own process. While this is indeed absorbing (the “spherecam” that shot the various segments is pictured below), I hoped the technology would give way to finding its own content.
spherecam.jpgEventually it did, although (in vintage Wooster Group form) it was up to the audience to assemble meaning from the hurlyburly of visual and literary information coming literally from everywhere. There’s a war story represented by a model of a blasted terrain populated by toy soldiers; scenes from a (seemingly) vintage film showing desolate streets; a woman working on a video project who eventually moves into the movie along with the show’s narrative authority. There’s also reading in progress of a war story; I thought I recognized The Red Badge of Courage, but it turned out to be On the Beach!
The signal that we’d reached the end of our version of the piece was a scratchy, black and white still image that read “THEND” — a perfect glyph for the synaesthetic experience we’d just undergone. To me, this experience was a welcome relief from the traditional notion of “good” writing being that which controls the reader’s mind the most. In There Is Still Time…Brother, we have the illusion of artistic anarchy, at the very least, and at the most, we have the power to construe our own meaning.
This is a piece I plan to revisit as many times as I can while TBA:10 continues.

How YouTube Killed the Video Star

Charles Atlas / William Basinski
Extreme Animals: The Extreme Animals Sit Down
Posted by: John Wilmot
It was a pretty young crowd on Friday night at The Works, but then Portland is a pretty young town. So the evening’s performances, both of them visually arresting video projections set to live music, seemed especially suited to the festival and to the audience, as well as to the legendary short attention spans of “kids today.” That might suggest a predictable evening, however talented the artists may be. Luckily, the pairing of two very different performances drawing from widely divergent cultural influences made for a livelier time.

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Rufus + Symphony = Hallelujah

Rufus Wainwright, Classical Rufus, in Concert with the Oregon Symphony Conducted by Carlos Kalmar
Posted By: Jimmy Radosta
Photo By: Leah Nash
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“I’d love to write a really crazy opera that is performed for another 500 years,” Rufus Wainwright told me in a 2003 interview. “And I’m just saying that a lot because it’ll force me to do it.”
Seven years later, I finally experienced a sample of this long-awaited labor of love when Wainwright performed excerpts from Prima Donna with the Oregon Symphony. In the spirit of Portland composer Thomas Lauderdale, who was instrumental in plotting the collaboration, Wainwright excels at using his status as a mainstream musician to bridge modern and vintage works. In 2007 I attended his Hollywood Bowl tribute to Judy Garland’s iconic 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall, and in 2001 he released “Grey Gardens,” a haunting song inspired by the 1975 documentary about Jackie O’s wacky cousin and aunt.
So who better than to introduce a new generation to the intimidating world of opera? Prima Donna takes place on Bastille Day 1970 — the same day Lauderdale was born, coincidentally — as an aging diva considers whether to retire. Scottish soprano Janis Kelly blew the roof off Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with the opera’s climactic finale, after which Wainwright joined the symphony to perform selections from Garland, his aunt Anna McGarrigle (“Kitty Come Home,” dedicated to his late mother, Kate McGarrigle), fellow Canadian musician Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah,” with Kelly and local rocker Storm Large), French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz and his own pop catalog. Unfortunately, the latter repertoire was woefully underrepresented; his songs “Beautiful Child” and “Between My Legs” seem especially suited for stirring orchestral arrangements. But that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise magical evening that only could’ve happened in Portland.

A Dancer’s Story

Jérôme Bel, Céderic Andrieux
Posted by Ariel Frager
A simple concept, really; Jérôme Bel’s piece, Céderic Andrieux is a portrait of a dancer. The story told by the eponymous dancer through a soft-spoken monotone French accented narration, punctuated with movement. It was the dance equivalent to a graphic novel with more words than pictures and a strangely funny balance of straightforward story telling and self-aware insight.
Watching Céderic Andrieux telling his life in dance story felt like what it might be like to watch someone’s inner most thoughts, the story we tell ourselves about who we are and how we got here. That story that sometimes keeps us up at night when we are too anxious to fall asleep and we lay there, practicing, rehearsing our story again and again hoping the familiarity of the milestones of our lives will help us drift off to sleep. His revelations about the everydayness of being a dancer and funny asides were enough to keep those of us in the audience always feeling slightly uncomfortable.

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SIT-DOWN VIDEO ART, AND DOILIES

Charles Atlas/William Basinski & Extreme Animals @ THE WORKS
Posted by: Forrest Martin
Strangely, we’re at a point in time where I can say that there is something old-fashioned about video art. I like that there is still a place, albeit a rare one, for low-fi, specially-effected, sometimes painful video collages viewed on a big screen, in front of an audience of more than one, without the ability to read user comments or skip through the slow parts. Or to navigate away entirely.
The Atlas/Basinski performance began with an advantage, namely Charles Atlas and the fact that his Tornado Warning installation was my favorite space in the entire school. It was simple (the main space housed just white geometric graphics, projected into a large, custom built housing, that for a time appears to recede into space before stopping and building it’s way out into the room, nearly enveloping the audience), and it had a certain abstract coherence. So, too, did tonight’s performance. I was concerned this might become an annoying ode to randomness, or a fucked up ambush, but at some point within the first ten minutes it registered that I could trust the experience and zone out to it – that they weren’t going to senselessly soothe and then batter me, like the most recent comparable experience I had earlier this year seeing Animal Collective’s “Oddsac” film, or years ago with Michael Snow’s “Wavelength” – and that the segues and concepts had some intuitive relationship to one another, however indescribable that may be.
Atlas retains a clear sense of balance amidst an erratic shower of looped movements and overlayed textures. There was nearly always, literally, a central focus to identify with. Black and white footage of a man’s head struggling to rise, a stand of fire, a flexing bodybuilder, an ecstatically mischievous Mariah Carey. The result was trancelike. Everything dissolved or cut into whatever severe, beautiful or bizarre thing was around it, and still he never left you entirely without a ledge. Basinski’s sound design went from Philip Glass to Pink Floyd to Something New Age in feel with a timing that was perfectly considered for the footage; the two played off one another in a manner of practiced familiarity.

It is through repetition that we absorb; is this is why I find it so satisfying? I’m often guaranteed to forget something minutes after seeing it if I don’t A) discuss the thing immediately or B) see it repeatedly. So these chapters of short consecutive cycles pleased me. This gradual spell was first broken twenty minutes into the program when some unspoken critical mass yawned across the auditorium and proceeded to intermittently eject people, in groups of two or five, for the remainder of the show – hastily heading for exits in a fashion that was deeply grating, and something of an auxiliary soundtrack. KLAKK-CKX. It seems to me that if it had been an obtuse dance performance – as I’m sure to see sometime this week? – the exodus would have been subtler and more polite, but somehow [KLAKK-CKX] people feel more betrayed [KLAKK-CKX] by something that should read as movie entertainment (it’s on a screen, in a theater) but isn’t. KLAKK-CKX.
My favorite part was towards the end, when we were tripping on two tabs of LSD and hurtling through space to the tinkling of a spartan electronic melody. Even though pins of psychedelic light streamed out to all sides, the center point was invitingly unwavering: the stillness of the future, and everything else.
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The following Extreme Animals performance could have been the perfect antidote for the leavers, if they weren’t ruined on sit-down video art. It was explicitly MC-ed by the Dude (I’m not sure if it was Jacob or David), with a detailed synopsis of how many sets they were presenting, replete with run times. The take on video montaging was much more casual and sarcastic, pulling in pop culture (Miley Cyrus is saving the earth on YouTube, yo) and a thoroughly entertaining sardonic hyper-optimism. The audience was suddenly a barnyard of activity.

Call Apple, Inc., and Request the Truth. (TBA On Stage: Mike Daisey)

TBA On Stage: Mike Daisey
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (@ Washington High), TBA day 2 (runs thru day 5)
posted by: Sara Regan, TBA blogger
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For about twenty years, I have known that Mike Daisey is a fantastic actor. For about ten years, I’ve known that he’s an absolutely brilliant writer and monologist. He’s hilarious, scathing when due, but sensitive as well. I have cried, and cried laughing during his former works, trying not to laugh out loud too long, so as not to miss a word. I knew I would both crack up and be moved by his show tonight about Apple, Inc. and its co-founder, Steve Jobs. I knew all these things. What I did not know is that it would be one of the most empowering and eye-opening pieces of theater I’ve ever seen.

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Where’s Reverse in this Lunar Module? (TBA On Sight: Anissa Mack: My Heart Wants More)

TBA On Sight: Anissa Mack, visual artist
My Heart Wants More, TBA Day 2 (ongoing)
posted by: Sara Regan, TBA blogger
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As was sung last night at the venerable Schnitz in three-part harmony, with the Symphony for a band: Hallelujah. Hallelujah for TBA and the joy it has commenced to bring us yet again! Now campers, if you’re ready to really dig into this festival, and you’re ready to get small (sort of like Alice, but more like Grover when he goes waaay across the room) flip to the “On Sight” portion of your TBA guidebooks and venture forth into Anissa Mack’s perspective. Today I returned from a transformative odyssey of the mind at The Lumber Room (415 NW 9th Ave), thanks to the exhibit curated and crafted by Mack, entitled, “My Heart Wants More.”

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we are TBA:10

NOONTIME CHAT: TBA in a Nutshell
Friday, September 10, 2010 12:30 pm -1:30 pm
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photo by: Wayne Bund
You can feel it in the air; something is different. It’s in the way Washington High School wraps itself around you, smelling like junior year. It’s in the relaxed but sincere way Cathy Edwards gestures, hand over heart, talking about the artists who work to create the experiences we are about to have. This year, it’s about you, me, and we; join hands and feel the love.
TBA10_day2-2

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surf punk vs. puppets

Japanther vs. Night Shade
Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:30 pm -11:30 pm
Posted by: Nicole Leaper
Photo by: Gordon Wilson
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Hello, Japanther. You are a little gritty, but a little pretty too. You are psycho-surfer-post-punk, and that’s got to be hard. I mean, so many shoes to fill and all. I like your friend; puppets are hot. Still, my favorite part was when the screen was torn down. It was inevitable, but anticipation is really the best part of a thrill. Thanks for coming to party with us. Your friend, Portland

RUFUS SAYS HE LOVES PORTLAND (and we believe him)

posted by Mead Hunter
rufus_wainwright.jpgFrom what Rufus Wainwright told us at TBA:10′s opening event, we have Thomas Lauderdale to thank for conceiving of last night’s wutheringly popular festival kick-off event. Whatever its provenance, the evening was virtually a success before any spectators were even admitted to the cavernous Schnitzer Concert Hall. What’s not to like about an evening with charming pop icon Rufus hanging out with local performance royalty such as Storm Large, Carlos Kalamar and Mr. Lauderdale himself? The audience was happy just to be there. And I was doubly happy to be seated in the orchestra section for the first time (thank you, PICA), instead of bumping my head on the rafters.
When Rufus appeared in a velvet coat of many colors, the roar from the crowd made it evident that they’d come to have a good time. Nevertheless, things got off to an academic start, as the composer explained what we were about to hear for the evening’s first half: scenes from his opera Prima Donna, a work the Met commissioned but declined to produce. First we heard both overtures. The Act I overture began with limpid, muted strains that soon gave way to darker, Mahleresque tones, ultimately moving on to flights of lyricism. Act II’s overture was…..similar.
This was okay. The audience was polite, but you could feel it was biding its time. In due course we got to the vocal sections, including the closing scene performed impressively by Scottish diva Janis Kelly. Here the music became an internalized soliloquy (notwithstanding the implied presence of another character, referred to by Rufus as “the evil journalist”). It was a powerful, affecting moment, probably the point of the entire opera for the composer. That aria alone made me hope that Portland Opera will take a chance and produce the full work, building on the success of last season’s modernist hit, Philip Glass’s Orphée.
Returning to my seat after intermission, the woman next to me said: “Now comes the fun part.” Rufus seemed to agree; he returned to the stage fully prepared to take the house by storm, opening with “Oh, What a World” accompanied by the full Oregon Symphony Orchestra. “What a world my parents gave me,” Rufus crooned, the lyrics taking on a purple tinge in the wake of his well-publicized problems with his famous forebears (Loudon Wainwright III and the late great Kate McGarrigle). But the orchestra overpowered both his voice and his delivery, and it was a relief when he sat down at the piano for the next number.
There were times when his pairing with the Symphony made gorgeous sense — as when “Oh, What a World” weaved its way through Ravel’s Bolero – but let’s face it, the best parts of the evening where when we got Rufus himself, raw and emotional. My concerns going into Leonard Cohen’s shopworn “Hallelujah” was instantly dispelled by the depth of feeling provided first by Rufus and then, in turn, by Janis Kelly and Storm Large. Storm in particular provided a sumptuous counterweight to the song, singing in low, honeyed tones I hadn’t heard from her previously.
The program ended with a sweetly somber song written by Anna McCarrigle, originally intended her sister, entitled “Kitty, Come Home.” Tears streamed down her nephew’s face as sang — his mother died less than nine months ago. But of course following deafening applause and a standing ovation, Rufus returned to the stage with Storm to belt out a tasty mash-up of “Get Happy” and “Happy Days are Here Again.”
It was a fantastic start to TBA:10, looking backward and forward musically, combining the international with outstanding local talent — not a challenging evening, as much of the Festival will be (with any luck), but a fun crazy quilt of past, present, and what Thomas Lauderdale declared as “what I hope for opera.”

Tearing Down The Big Top

Tearing Down the Big Top
TBA Opening Night at The Works
Becca Biggs
There is always a going-to-the-circus quality to the opening night of TBA. This year once again the Big Top was the time-warp known as the old Washington High School, circa 1924. Inside the vast, sprawling building pulsed with energy as the decidedly young crowd out for the all age performance crowded into the Theatre. I did hear someone behind me say that “there are a lot of older people here complaining about not having dinner and being hungry.” I might have fit the profile, but I hit the taco truck later in the Beer Garden and didn’t utter a word about being hungry or how tired I would be the next day.
Inside the theatre a strange tension began with the opening beat of what had been billed a Japanther and Nightshade battle. The spare driving intensity of the art punk meets girl group harmonies band was intensified by the huge scrim that both shielded them from the audience and provided the screen for Nightshade’s puppet antics. The battle ensued with giant silhouettes of ice cream cones, snapping heads, girls licking lollipops flipping between silhouettes of the hard rocking gang. We stayed through the pop goth classic Surfin’ Coffins:
To all the corpses
in metal coffins
along the freeway
and in the office:
To all the corporate
spillin their coffee:
we do not copy
The human spirit’s still alive
Down by the ocean
It was so awesome
Out of the city
We all went surfin…
Later in the Beer Garden I noticed the projection on a large canvas screen. It looked like black and white footage from the toppling of some dictatorship–wild crowd surge ripping down the wall. That’s when I realized it was a live feed and the audience inside was, in mass, pulling down the scrim–tearing down the Big Top.

Here We Go

Noontime Chat: TBA in a Nutshell
posted by Kirsten Collins

The TBA in a Nutshell chat is one of my favorite festival traditions each year. In this “pre-game” show, the festival curators predict over-arching themes, point to artists that should not be missed, and share a little about the curatorial process–providing a decoder ring of sorts to unlock the festival.
Artistic Director Cathy Edwards kicked things off by remembering this beginning moment of last year’s festival. For her, the theme of TBA:09 was the “pervasive anxiety and uncertainty” created by our consumer culture, 24-hour news cycle, economic crash, and unending war (she also remembered her own personal anxiety as her first TBA festival was finally set in motion).
This year, though the global climate has not changed, the TBA:10 line-up is responding with less anxiety and instead with authentic, intimate spaces for the self. Rufus Wainwright’s festival opener last night set this tone beautifully, and Cathy was struck by the “intimacy and sincerity” of his performance. Kristan Kennedy echoed this by pointing to artists that are “go internal” but also speak to humanity’s common and current questions and concerns. Across the festival, look for tensions of “inner lives and private desires in the public arena.”

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prima donna

Opening Night Of TBA 10: with Rufus Wainwright and the Oregon Symphony
posted by: DIRTYBOMBPDX

The first time I saw Rufus Wainwright he was just a boy with his piano singing his heart out and charming the pants off his audience (I think literally so for a couple of his smitten fans). That was in 1998. Twelve years on and he’s still charming, singing and playing, but inevitably, there’s some taint on the dazzle. No doubt he’s still a very engaging presence and a gifted composer/lyricist, but to judge by last night’s dirge, sorry, I meant TBA Festival opening night extravaganza at the Schnitz, Mr. Wainwright’s celebrity is starting to impinge on his talent.
The first half of the evening was dedicated to Wainwright’s opera PRIMA DONNA which had its debut at the Manchester International Festival back in July of 2009. The opera had a decidedly mixed reception (I’ve yet to find a truly positive review) and would certainly never have been produced if not for Wainwright’s celebrity. Most critics acknowledged Wainwright’s pop gifts and occasional successful flourish, but on the whole dismissed it as slight and unoriginal. Last night the Oregon Symphony led by Carlos Kalmar, with the soprano Janis Kelly and Megan someone (whose name Wainwright couldn’t quite remember nor did she merit a program mention) performed excerpts from the opera to a somewhat tepid reception. In the snippets performed (an overture or two and a handful of scenes) the opera seems to be something of a pastiche, a little Ravel, a pinch of Puccini, some Massenet, some Strauss, and fleetingly Wainwright himself. Admittedly we only heard excerpts, but even so, it lacked momentum, dramatic urgency, a cohesive style. Most disappointing though was the libretto. I’ve always been a huge fan of Wainwright’s lyrics, at once witty and ironic yet filled with longing and romance. Sadly, none of those qualities are evident in the libretto for PRIMA DONNA (co-written with Wainwright by Bernadette Colomine). The Met famously pulled out of producing PRIMA DONNA when Wainwright refused to write the lyrics in English. Reading the banal super-titles last night, I’d say Wainwright made the right decision. On the plus side, Janis Kelly sang beautifully as the prima donna though much of the part was too low in her register (she also looked appropriately fetching in her black diva dress). Megan whatshername, as the maid, was fine, though a little harsh in her approach (and in her dress – bad prom reject). And while I realize that this is just a staged presentation and not the real deal, it was bit hard to believe in La Kelly’s divahood when she sat during an orchestral passage and swigged from a bottle Poland Springs. Was a pitcher and glass too much to ask for? The intermission could not have come soon enough.
Back from a bathroom break and Rufus was ready to entertain, or maybe just to be adored. Opening with one of my favorites, Oh, What a World, a song that wends its way into a mash-up with Ravel’s Bolero, Rufus looked a little bored and Kalmar didn’t help matters with his sluggish accompaniment. Finally, oh finally, Rufus sat down at the piano and sang the gorgeously simple Vibrate, a song filled with wit and longing and romance. Perfection. Really. Gorgeous. But then came Little Sister from WANT TWO, and, not perfection (Rufus, Kalmar and the symphony again not quite in sync). Then Rufus struggled through two songs from the Berlioz song cycle Nuit d’ete – heart-felt, but under-prepared. Rufus talked some nonsense about this being an open rehearsal and that we were all part of the process. Really? a hundred and twenty bucks to watch you rehearse? bullshit. I couldn’t help but think of Susan Graham’s amazing performance of these same songs with The Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall in 2003. Then things really got irritating.
Rufus has been peddling his lame Judy Garland show for a while now, and it’s got to stop. If you want to challenge yourself and push your artistic boundaries by exploring this legendary concert and performance, by all means, do so. But I don’t see any evidence of exploration. Singing the same arrangements in the same keys shows that you can read music and have an admirable vocal range, but it doesn’t show any emotional connection to this music or, truth be told, any real affinity for the performance of it. Judy Garland rarely closed her eyes when she sang. Her connection to the music and to her audience was heart-breaking and profound; an emotional honesty that is rare to nonexistent in these days of ironic commentary. Rufus closes his eyes a lot. He doesn’t ever really let us in. He’s funny and charming, yes, but we never see inside; he’s never heart-breaking, he’s too busy commenting on his performance, winking at us, letting us in on the joke. It’s all irony all the time. One gay icon aping another. Basically it’s one long, really long, ironic joke. Look, I’m a gay man singing Judy Garland’s songs. Isn’t it ironic? ha ha ha ha. Yeah, it’s ironic, and also a huge bore. You don’t even care enough to learn the words. And asking the audience to sing along, really? Most of that audience only knows your fucked up versions of those songs, if they know them at all. When Garland sang her so slow rendition of You Made Me Love You she looked directly into her audience, sometimes sitting on the edge of the stage and singing to a single individual – incredibly intimate and open. Rufus didn’t look at us once. And The Man That Got Away (next to Over the Rainbow, Garland’s signature song), a jazz infused heart-breaking opera when delivered by Garland, is just another ironic joke to Rufus (and none too funny with Kalmar’s dirge-like accompaniment.) I beg you, rent A STAR IS BORN and fast forward to Judy singing this number in an after-hours jazz club with a 5 piece combo and you’ll understand what a genius performer she truly was. I think Rufus Wainwright is a profoundly gifted individual, but his celebrity is starting to get the best of him (now there’s an ironic Garland parallel worth pursuing). There was some more to the show, but nothing really of note. And then of course, this being Portland, a standing ovation ended the night. Whatever. I guess if your “cutting edge” arts festival wants to open with a night of drag karaoke you’ll probably consider this a success. I just wish there’d been an open bar.

Rufus Rufus Rufus Does The Symphony Symphony Symphony

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright in Concert with the Oregon Symphony
Posted by Michael Evans

If any pop music figure seemed destined to front a symphony orchestra it’s Rufus Wainwright.
Despite being the scion of one of folk music’s great families, Wainwright has brazenly blazed his own stylistic trail over the course of his decade-plus career. Though respectful of the foundation set by his parents, noted singer/songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, Rufus has strived to rise above his musical raising. Never your everyday modern pop troubadour, his inspirations and ambitions have always leaned more towards the classical side of the music spectrum.

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The Journey Begins: At the first WORKS and covering YEMENWED by Tall Matt Haynes

PROLOGUE… THE MIDDLE OF THE FIRST WORKS: This first draft of this entry was composed in Tall Matt Haynes’s car outside the Washington high school. It was 10:15 on Thursday night and the The Works had been temporarily evacuated so the over-21s could be sifted back in for the more grownup festivities. This being a high school, the procedure fittingly felt like a fire drill. For Tall Matt Haynes, it was a great chance to blog, hopefully returning to the party without the nagging feeling that he should get something down before his accuracy blurs.
YEMENWED: Okay, so Blog Assignment #1 has been to cover Yemenwed, an ongoing exhibit at the Washington High site. I really had no idea what Yemenwed was upon seeking it out in room 107. My heart sank as I saw it was a video loop. Fudge! I’ve just arrived at The Works and instead of romping around fleetingly looking at multiple stuff while socializing and mooching free snacks, I gotta lean against a wall in a bare room and watch a damn movie. One that probably doesn’t have a plot either. Fudge, fudge!
Well, good news is that “Yemenwed: Episode 3″ is quite watchable. Yemenwed is an art collaborative based out of New York whose video, sculptural and movement work explores the relationships between seemingly separate worlds. What you’ve got in Episode 3 is a computer animated landscape of waving grass with a pathway that leads you to a narrow white pyramid. Inside are all sorts of cool computer animated internal-body/interior-design forms that slide through walls, expand, retract, transform, all to neat, neat sound design. Composited into all this are live-action humans some of whom have made pilgrimages to the pyramid and some of whom are inside the pyramid doing ritual mime business. This is what the characters of TRON dream about if and when they nap. Fun. A bit busy, but fun.
The other video in the loop is “Bedroom w TV” and while it’s much simpler and easier to track than “Episode 3,” I didn’t have nearly as much fun with it. Firstly, it’s a video recorded live performance so my grump logic told me that I was only getting the experience second hand. Secondly it has the look of the dreaded Unfun But Important Performance Art Piece (alienated-looking people in a loft space doing alienated-looking repetitive motions occasionally emitting alienated-sounding music). So my mind put up a wall to that one, mostly. Still, good stage pictures, nice progression of focus, nice tight work from the ensemble. Maybe if I had seen it live.
Oh, and there’s a sculpture in the room as well, down front near the wall projection. From where I was standing it looked like the love child of a kayak and the Spock coffin. It doesn’t do anything during the show but I have to admit that after “Episode 3″ I felt that to approach the sculpture was to invite it to jump me and send me to dark, pretty places.
EPILOGUE… BACK TO THE END OF THE FIRST WORKS: Tall Matt Haynes returned to The Works at 11:15 pm. To his dismay, there was no more free corn-flavored ice cream being dished out on level 2. Tall Matt Haynes did, however have an excellent time greeting professional friends and checking out other exhibits and sights. Random highlights include: “The Works” projected onto an old outdoor smokestack (brilliant!), space-transforming golden shiny shreds hanging from all hallway lights (clever!), unisex bathrooms (golly!), and an outdoor giant white sheet upon which was being projected the image of a giant white indoor sheet being ripped apart (funky!)
Hope you all enjoyed yourselves. I’ll see you in the lobby.

PICA TBA 10 Opening Night @ The Works

It’s once again that time of year when artists and art lovers from around the world coalesce here in the cloud covered rain swept dramatic rose city of Portland Oregon for the PICA TBA Festival.  That means I get to take off my work gloves for a few days, dust off my cameras and head out and expose myself to art.  PICA TBA 10 headquarters is again at the old condemned yet wonderfully reclaimed Washington High School on SE Stark street.  This year’s opening night seemed a bit more subdued than last year, it appeared that there were a few less people for the free show, and I missed the giant colored video projections that they had on the front of the building last year.  Anyhow I was excited to get out of the house and check things out.  I didn’t have much time to check out the visual art galleries out before they did a sweep to start the music puppet performance, but I did get a chance to see a few things.

The first visual art gallery (converted classrooms) that I walked into was a video projection piece by Christopher Miner titled ” The Safest Place”.  This video was simple and relaxing consisting of what appears to be someone doing somersaults over and over in zero-g, like on the space shuttle or MIR space station or something with a meditative singing or chanting going on for a soundtrack.  I usually have no idea what these performance art pieces mean, but I generally like them and just try to surrender myself and senses to them and see what it feels like.  Although simplistic I liked Christopher Miner’s “The Safest Place”.  The next visual art gallery that I made it to was another video projection piece called: “Episode 3 and Bedroom w/ TV and Woman Lays W/ Aide” by Yemenwed.  This was probably the most impressive video art piece I have ever seen, the computer animation in this video makes Sci-Fi Hollywood Blockbusters look like children’s crayon drawings; the amount of detail and sheer beauty of this video is amazing.  It consists of computer animation and green screen techniques that blew me away, I wonder how they made this this. The central character is a type of dancer/dreamer/invalid wandering through these incredible dreamscapes all the while dressed in weird harnesses and braces doing all these cool modern dance movements, to a funky primordial soundtrack, occasionally there are three similarly attired male figures moving along also, I’d definitely recommend this one to my friends.  I cant wait to see the other episodes.  The third visual art gallery that I stepped into had another video projection piece by John Smith called “The Girl Chewing Gum” done in 1976.  This piece was more interesting historically than artistically just because I felt like I had seen it before, and also I think the projector could have been slightly out of focus so it was hard to watch and concentrate on, especially after having just seen Yemenwed’s video.  I like these high contrast situations, Portland itself is a place of high contrasts, a land of constantly intermingling light and shadows.  Anyhow the last visual art gallery I made it to before they kicked people out of the building had another video projection piece by Ronnie Bass, “2012 and The Astronomer, Part 1: Departure from Shed.”  I didn’t get to see much of this one but from what I saw it was kind of like “The Safest Place” video in that it had a fellow singing a mellow tune/chant, floating in space petting a blanket, it sounds strange, but I kind of liked it.   Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and check out these galleries more in the future. 

Part two of the evening, Japanther and the Shadow Puppet show was running a bit late, but one of my favorite things about the PICA TBA Festival is just people watching and that’s what I did while waiting for Japanther and the puppet show.  The artists and art lovers in Portland are a beautiful people, the are very individualistic and creative yet not snooty but kind hearted and that’s what gives them their real beauty.  I’d would have loved to photo all the outfits the ladies wore this evening, that ranged from vintage to homemade, yet they all looked great, comfortable, colorful, creative, unique and sexy.  Soon we were let back in for Japanther and the shadow puppet show and for me the music PICA programs is always a mixed bag.  I’d like the bands as just bands, or the visual art as just visual art, but in trying to mix the two inorganically I feel that the music and visual art are both hampered a tad.  Such was  the case with the Japanther puppet show last night.  I’m not familiar with Japanther  but I did like their songs and could tell they rocked, especially the drumming, but I could not completely focus on them because they were behind this shadow puppet screen, which was cool yet was hard to tie into the music, at least for me, mainly because someone forgot to dim the house lights so that you really couldn’t see the shadow puppet show that well.   This lighting glitch began to frustrate the audience and I imagine the performers also.  Then when a few radicals began screaming for them to turn down the house lights, security came in and threw these poor art lovers out, that were just trying to improve the show for everyone, which was also kind of a bummer.  By the end of the set they finally tore down the shadow puppet screen and Japanther played a few songs just as a band, which was good although the house lights were still on, creating an undercurrent not of a rock concert, but more of a church social.  Anyhow the puppet masters did their best and you could tell they have talent, it’s to bad a technical difficulty messed up the show, se la vie.  The second band rocked, although not my favorite type of music, I like hippy jazz funk surf space rock, the remaining audience seemed to enjoy it immensely.  Well art is supposed to challenge you and make you question yourself and your expectations and as far as that goes I’d say the PICA TBA 10 Opening Night was a success, I’ll be back.

gordon wilson 9-10-2010    

“Pleased to meet you…”

mattphoto.jpg
Hey Gang,
Tall Matt Haynes here.
Being a new to blog-formatting I wanted to do a test-entry before TBA starts proper. Good chance to introduce myself:
My name is Matt Haynes. I’m a Maine native happily transported to Portland OR as of 6 years ago. I thrive off performing arts networking thus, for easier in-person spotting, I have branded myself with the thoroughly un-clever nickname: Tall Matt Haynes (yes I am tall… 6’9″… no, there is no “Short Matt Haynes” in town with whom I’m confused… I told you my nickname wasn’t clever).
I’m a Skidmore and Dell’arte trained actor with ambitions to write/produce/direct. I’m thrilled to get to not only go to these TBA events but also to process them with this blog, advancing my journey in the world of live art.
Good to meet y’all. See you in the lobby!