Sunday, September 14, 2008

Good-bye Mark Russell

I went to Mark Russell's talk and I found myself wishing I knew him better or at all. I've been grateful for his involvement in the PICA: TBA Festival. He was my first guest artistic director of the festival and I appreciated his focus on theater and performance. See his talk on YouTube about the Under the Radar Festival at the Public in New York. He was also the Executive/Artistic Director of PS122 from 1983-2004. He seems to have an amazing sense of cutting edge work and emerging artists. I want to know how I get his career path. It would be amazing (and I'm sure exhausting) to go to different festivals and performances, both locally and internationally, scouting talent.
Thank you Mark for all you've done for Portland and the festival. Hope to meet you one day.

Vivarium Studio & Superamas

I think Philippe Quesene/Vivarium Studio was by far my favorite at TBA. I had seen them two years ago with La Demangeaison des Ailes (the Itching of the Wings) for TBA:06. I went with my boyfriend Kristan and I think that was the moment I realized he spoke French, which is probably when I fell in love with him; right there. I have always loved the French, which is how I ended up in England. Long story. And now I love both countries. Complicated I know. However, I did not let my love of the French color my judgment of the pieces. I swear.

Here is why I loved Vivarium Studio's new piece, L'Effet de Serge. It was beautiful and complex, but simple. It wasn't trying to be more than it was. It was a focused piece and super cleaver. I like to refer to it as reality theater.

The play starts with an introduction from a man in a space suit. It is explained to us that the beginning of each piece begins with the ending of the last one. This space suit guy (played by the same person who play Serge) takes us on a tour of Serge's apartment and tells us a little bit about him. Next Serge enters and we watch his life unfold. He is no one special, just a ordinary guy who lives by himself and every Sunday he invites a different friend over and performs a light show for them. They are timed to music. It's pretty impressive how well they go together, but his friends are so-so about the effects. Three weeks go by and he invites all his friends over to watch the "big" performance. They come the way they came before, walking, biking, by car. Yes, by car. It was pretty cool.

Then I raced by car from Imago to PSU Lincoln Hall. I made it with plenty of time. I didn't know much about Superamas, but their picture looked cool. Everyone was dancing and having a good time. And I think that is exactly what they are deconstructing. This idea of happiness. Their show was entitled Big 3rd Episode (happy/end), which now I want to see episode 1: Big 1 (reality show/artifical entertainment) and episode 2: Big 2 (show/businsess).

Through a series of repeated scenes, Superamas, a French Austrian performance group, (again with the French) cynically examines our obsession with sex and vanity. The actors are beautiful and sexy and dubed, but that's the point. The repetitious scenes, mostly one inspired by Sex and the City, cut back and forth between disco-inspired dance numbers, familiar video clips, a French/Austrian video of self expression with football players and cheerleaders, and a film about Superamas' own success. However, the most horrific and also the most beautiful part is when there is a video of a car crash. When the video fades from the screen, the sound and lights take over and create this wonderful ballet. You are at the accident and not just watching it. There is no time to dwell on this because we are back in the ladies locker room to watch them strip down one more time. Bad feelings gone and back to the sexy ladies. Hott.

Tim Crouch

I was looking forward to seeing Tim Crouch, for no other reason than to hear his accent. I've been missing England and a performance piece entitled "England" sounded like a good idea. Also, he's kinda a big deal.
This piece was breathtaking. It was a site specific work which took place in the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, but very much a theatrical piece which engaged the audience. It was simple and through this simplicity something really magically happened. There was no set, no special lighting, just a sound scape and two performers: Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham. (picture below)

The story is told by both performances from the point of view of this person who is dying and receives a heart transplant. We see the world through the character's eyes and are transported from hospital to hospital around England until we arrive in a hotel room in a foreign land. We are there to thank the wife of the husband whose heart now beats inside the protagonist. But things get confused, politics and translation get in the way and we end up questioning how did we get here.
It's not the story that made this evening so incredible, although it is a fascinating one, but the way in which the story was told. I think this could be the future of theater; this well told narrative, this intimacy with the audience, the simplicity of design. Getting back to basics.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lemon Andersen: The Beautiful Struggle

Last year I saw the Suicide Kings, who were amazing, and I learned that I liked slam poets. So this year I went to see Lemon Andersen. I didn't know anything about him except that he is an urban poet. He all caught our attention when he jumped out from the audience and started rapping. This story starts at the end. Lemon tells us about winning the Tony and then takes us back to his childhood growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. He has had quite a full life: he lost both his parent at a young age to A.I.D.S, ran in a gang, sold drugs, and ended up in jail twice. After his second time out of jail he went to get his hair done at the barber shop and while he was there, he heard about a poetry reading. So instead of spending the money on the haircut he went to see the poetry reading. He was so impressed with the poets that he got carried away and asked the lady to put him name down to read. She told him they were full but if he heard his name he could come up. It was then that he realized he didn't have anything prepared. "I didn't have a poem, but I had experience" he said. And by God does he. His performance tonight was captivating.

So I got to thinking about biography. I'm obsessed with it. I have had many discussions with my boyfriend about the importance of an artists biography. I think it informs their work. To know an artists biography gives you a deeper understanding of their work. Of course the work can be and should be appreciated separate from this knowledge. I just think it gives you a little something extra. An inside look. An intimacy with the text. And now in my cases we are seeing one's biography become their work. This season at PCS we will be producing Storm Large's one woman show about her life. I saw her performance during JAW and was also entranced by her and her amazing life. She monologues and sings beautifully; Lemon monologues and raps; Mark Bamuthi Joseph monologues and dances; playwrights dialogue, monologue, and create text. A successful playwright once told me that you write about what you know because if you do that the work will come from an honest place. What could be more honest than preforming your biography in your chosen artistic medium. I'm not sure what this all means about American Theater or public interest, but it's just something I've noticed.

Reggie Watts & Ten Tiny Dances

Today was my second day of the TBA festival. I met up with Rose to see Reggie Watt's TRANSITION. We saw his show DISINFORMATION at last year's festival. The performance was directed by the very lovely Tommy Smith, who is also a playwright and we had the pleasure of getting to know when he participated in our Commission! Commission! event for JAW 2007. Needless to say I was looking forward to seeing the show.
Reggie was awesome as always and I enjoyed the use of video. At one point Reggie conducted an interview with someone on the screen about social networking and the internet and the distance but also the intimacy this creates in relationships, which you didn't realize was live until the actress came out on stage with her video set up. However, the biggest payout was when they played a clip from "Teen Wolf", which they had mocked earlier in their performance. I didn't make the connection until they played this clip (jump to 3:40 to see the exact scene) after the show. They had copied it perfectly. Hilarious! The show was entertaining and Reggie is the ultimate "piss-taker" (if you know what I mean).
After the show I ran to my car and drove straight to the Leftbank to see Ten Tiny Dances. I was blown away by last year's performances and had encouraged our new Portlanders Kim and her boyfriend Chad to join me. "It's a Portland Must-See" I said. It's true. Luckily Kim and Chad had got there way before me and saved me a seat. As always the works was packed for this event. I wound up talking to a lady next to me about what she had already seen at the festival and what she was planning on seeing. And it turns out that we might bump into each other at a few events. On my drive home I kept thinking about how wonderful it was to engage in conversation with a complete stranger and how that is SO Portland and very much part of the festival spirit. There were only 8 tiny dances this time but they were very substantial and serious, so you felt like you were getting a full 10. Last year each piece was a mini production and usually involved scene changes or heavy clean up after each performance. They were beautiful, especially to a theater artist. This year it was more about the dancer and the dancing than the effects. I was able to see Mike Barbers face most of the time during the dancing and he looked full of inspiration and awe. It was charming. He's looking for suggestions for the 20th Ten Tiny Dances, so send him your suggestions.

All in all a good night. More to come tomorrow!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Today I went to Europe...

Yes. It's true. I took a walking tour of Tilburg, the sixth largest city in The Netherlands. Khris Soden was our guide. I was amazed at the similarities between Portland and Tilburg and also how easy it was for me to drift away and feel like I really was in this European province of Noord-Brabant. I have to say this is all thanks to Mr. Soden. I was so captivated by what he had to say that I didn't really need to look around (which I think helped, because then I was not reminded of the fact that yes I am really in Portland and NOT Europe). I was only shaken once, when this crazy lady came straight towards the crowd of people and yelled, "Move!" I found traveling to Europe exactly what I needed on this lovely fall day.

I found out that Tilburg has tree in this middle of a five point intersection that quite controversial because the city wants to remove it and the local businesses and people want to keep it there. I also found out that years ago Tilburg's main business was making fabric and that the people of the town used to bring their urine in a jar to the factories because it was an important ingredient in the fabric making process. I even saw the statue dedicated to this. Surrounding towns mock the residents of Tilburg for this fact, while the people of Tilburg see it as a source of pride. My favorite part was a monument dedicated to non-violent solutions. After six people were randomly murdered (Khris explained that you are five times more likely to be murdered in Portland than you were in ALL of Holland. This sort of thing doesn't happen there.) the city commissioned an artist to create a statue dedicated to this city's loss. The artist (and I'm so sorry I don't remember their name) made a cabinet where people could come and write down their solutions to violence and everyday someone from the city comes and picks up the messages and puts ones they deem fit in the top part on display.

Tilburg is so cool you can even get a degree in Rock n'Roll at one of the local art universities. I was lucky I got to see the city without even buying a plane ticket. Khris will go to Tilburg and conduct a Tilburg Tour of Portland during their city's arts festival. I can't wait to see what they think of us!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy New Year!

For me, the new year starts at the end of August and the beginning of September. I'm sure it has something to do with my August to August calendar (the best organizer ever!) and the fact that the school year starts, the season starts, and the weather starts to turn. There is nothing like the changing of season. I went to school in northern California for two years and didn't understand why it was 80 degrees in October. This is not how it's supposed to be. There need to be leaves in my Fall.
This year seems to be full of new adventures; I have a new apartment, I have a new puppy, and my boyfriend of two years is off to graduate school leaving me to fend for myself. I was pretty sad at first, like really sad, but now I've realized it's going to be o.k. and I have some work to do! I tend to be a HUGE nerd. And since he's been gone, I've taken an opportunity to read and relax and clean my apartment. Sounds pretty boring, but when you have lived at breakneck speed for two years, it's nice to go at a snails pace. I have this huge need to know more more more. So sitting a'top my tower reading is just fine by me.
Also, now is the time to start making the To-Do list...DUTCHMAN was a success so now what's next. I need to find money to produce my next project, I need to find money to travel. Basically my days now consist of hunting for buried treasure.

So in the end this year is all about me! ME ME ME!

But first off to the PICA TBA Festival. Yippeee!