Monday, April 11
|Northwest New Works Festival
April 2,3 & 9,10
16 totally risky and artful new performances in dance, theater, music and multimedia. 2 weekends, 2 stages
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Northwest New Works, Second Weekend, 2005
The second weekend of Northwest New Works began with the jangling of spurs as a guitarist crossed thes tage in the dark and plucked the opening notes of a rousing cowgirl anthem, belted out by a Greek chorus of wild women of the West on hobby horses. Macha Monkey's _The Cowgirl Play_ wasn't new or experimental---devices like shadow puppets and choral narration have been around for centuries---but that doesn't make it any less delightful.
Writer Desiree Prewitt, writer/director Kristina Sutherland, songwriter Rick Miller, and the superb cast only presented the first twenty minutes of a much longer work, but they whetted an appetite for the full thing.
Joe von Appen writes and plays interesting characters, but what I found most compelling was his sheer immediacy; the feeling that he was fully in his body, that his movement and speech came from some very right-here-right-now place. The monologues didn't necessarily accumulate into anything---most of them built up energy, then shifted into a different monologue before they had to manifest anything definite---but his fluid expressiveness was, in and of itself, enjoyable and satisfying.
Kristin Tsiatsios/glassbones' _Uncle Ugly_ is a sort of installation/performance piece that, by its hybrid nature, makes it hard to find satisfying in any of the conventional ways. There's sort of a narrative, but it's more about the building of atmosphere than the telling of a story or the presentation of an event. Sort of a Samuel Beckett atmosphere, but with a lithe young woman instead of a decrepit old man. I liked the motes of flour floating in the dim light. If it were more of an installation or more of a performance, it might be more satisfying, but that not-quite-either space seems to be part of the point of the piece, so---one must accept one's dissatisfaction as part of the piece as well, if one is going to engage with it at all.
It was fun watching David Eckard set up his podium for _Podium: Seattle_; it was fun watching him stand at the giant megaphone and hearing his voice reverberate off the buildings across the street; but the texts themselves (or at least the ones I heard)---from found sources, evidently---weren't as strong as image and sound.
Like _Uncle Ugly_, SOM Performance's _...and to a cycle_ was more about atmosphere than action or narrative. The live soundscape built from samples (one of the trends of the evening), the video of falling leaves (and a falling dancer), and the simple, repetitive movement did accumulate into something I personally found hypnotic---particularly the very slow movement of the video image of the falling dancer, which was inexplicably creepy. Ironically, though there wasn't much you could call content, I wanted it to be longer; the sort of trance it inspired becomes more potent, more of a form of meditation, the longer it goes on. I would have gone with it.
Paige Barnes' _Molt_ also featured a live soundscape built from samples, and also featured projected video and some sculptural set-pieces, but the bulk of it was very much dance. While the choreography---though good---didn't have a strong personal stamp, both Paige and Beth Graczyk held the space as dancers. One tends to think of dancers as vessels for a choreographer's vision, but some manifest themselves, presenting not so much a personality (as an actor might) but as an individual body, with its own way of learning and expressing the moves, its own nuances, textures, and habits (good and bad). Graczyk in particular, who was also in a piece last week, has developed a real authority as a dancer.
wilkes.barber/Proximity danced with a fence, and it was refreshing to see an object so wholly integrated into a dance. Also refreshing: Humor, an actual story (not necessarily a plot, but a clear sense of characters that interacted, that those interactions changed how they treated each other), and dancers who didn't just graduate from college. (Nothing against smooth-skinned twenty-somethings, but a little wear on the face offers a flavor of life you don't see much of in dance.) Refreshing, buoyant, fun, and substantial to boot. And again, the sampled sounscape creating by an on-stage musician, this time with a barbecue grill for a desk---again, a nice bit of wit from the creators.
Zoe Scofield's _I am nothing without you_ suggested to me an alien folk dance from classic _Star Trek_---and I mean that in the best possible way.
The red stripes that started on the dancers' foreheads and ran down their backs were part of it, but also the projected video that showed the same dance, but not the exact same version we were seeing, so the dancers went in and out of synch with their video counterparts. This emphasized the patterns and the pre-determinedness of the dance, qualities that one associates more with a ritualized group activity than an individual's choreography. All of which I liked, I hasten to add; I'm not dismissing it for its faux-folkiness, I was amused and engaged by it.
Sunday, April 10
So I am not a big theatre fan, I think it’s embarrassing when people walk around pretending to be other people and over articulate and talk really loud. But I admit that I enjoyed the theatre pieces in the 2nd week of the festival. "The Cowgirl Play" by Macha Monkey was cute, it seemed like pieces of a work in progress or the opening scene to an evening-length performance. The performers were charming, the shadows and lights were lovely; Rick Miller’s songs were super catchy ("bad-ass school-marm"—my favorite) and he ought to be in a Mott the Hoople cover band. Joe Von Appen was a compelling and dedicated performer who hooked me immediately. I really liked the low-tech production and staging. His stories were entertaining with an underlying uneasiness and foreboding. A great performance by a talented storyteller who looks like a double-jointed indierocker.
Kristen Tsiatios' "Uncle Ugly" was my favorite piece of the evening. At first I thought I was going to hate it, as the piece opened with the dancer standing in a pile of flour...I find so much "performance art" to be embarrassing and silly and I thought this would be more of the same. I was wrong; I became completely involved in the piece right away. The dancer, Melinda Mata Gilliam, was totally fearless as she went on an intense, frightening, and occasionally delightful journey. The sound score by Christopher Overstreet fit perfectly with the piece. I was ashamed of my knee-jerk judgement and am still thinking about this piece.
I was in the box office during David Eckard's performance and couldn't hear what he was saying, but it was cool to see all the people standing in the street, craning their necks to look up at OTB. People walking/driving by were slowing down to look as well...he looked like a Southern preacher all dressed in white with his giant megaphone.
My enjoyment of SOM's performance upstairs was somewhat sullied by 3 latecomers who talked loudly while coming up the stairs, sat down, whispered to each other, changed seats, whispered some more, and went out in the hall to answer a cell phone. Frankly, it is not that difficult to be on time, it's easy to turn off your phone, and it's extremely easy not to talk during a performance. I hope you read this so you know how obnoxious you were.
Anyway, I liked SOM's super modern feel. The dance, music, lighting, and video all seemed integral to the piece. I liked the shadowy lighting on the dancers and the slow build with the music and movement. The sound score was dope and it was a nice touch to put the speakers in the back of the hall.
I liked the costuming as well, the musicians, dancers, and Allison herself looked lovely.
Paige Barne's piece had a nervous energy which I liked. The "swingset" built by Steven Beradelli was interesting and I would have liked to see it integrated more. I liked the video at the end as well, it was a little confusing at first but I started to enjoy watching it while the dancers knelt silently alongside.
Cydney Wilkes and Mike Barber brought a completely different feel to the evening. Their piece pretty and playful, and the giant fence created tension between the two which lasted throughout the piece. I loved the pastel lighting and the costumes. It would've been nice to see the musician dressed in something cool as well.
Zoe Scofield's piece seemed sort of Japanese butoh inspired. I liked the music and wish it would've been cranked up a little more. The solos by Zoe and Yuki Enomoto were my favorite moments in the piece. Zoe's technique seems much more advanced than most of the other dancers and as a result I ended up watching her most of the time. It should be interesting to see what she comes up with in the future.
The second weekend of NWNW opened with a parade of crazies in the studio space. First up on the slate of insanity was the delightfully whacked Macha Monkey Productions, whose hilarious western antics in "The Cowgirl Play" were both performed and narrated, Greek chorus style, by a rein wranglin', gun totin' trio. These three horsewomen of the apocalypse, decked out in chaps and vests and mighty fine hats, ably sang funny (even catchy) tunes, well played by on-stage guitarist and sound effects dude Rick Miller. Also endearing were the *very* special effects, executed via shadow screens and transparency projectors. (At one point the bumbling train robber Gunn looked out the "window" and saw his co-bandits galloping off into the distance--funny, funny, funny.) The high jinks left the audience braying (apologies) to hear the complete tales of Rosie the Badass Schoolmarm.
Next came Joe Von Appen (a philosophical and physical cohort of Donnie Darko), whose one-man show "Ritalin Chic" progressed through several characters in deepening degrees of psychosis. It was hard not to fall a little in love with the young Von Appen, with his floppy black hair and his expressive eyes... his funny, blocky gestures, and those giant hands dangling at the cuffs of his slouchy blue zip-hoodie. (All right, so maybe I did fall in love with him.) His first character was perhaps the most lovable: a regular guy who senses something's "off" on a day that starts with a trip to McDonald's and ends with a truncated speech on the roof of a Hummer stuck in gridlock. Then suddenly we were transported to the mall, where a hooded, stoned dude and his pal ponder existential questions and try not to get caught. Lastly, we witnessed the ramblings of an asylum resident, whose love of the blurred out faces on television Von Appen made seem not only understandable, but sane.
Finally, Monica Mata Gilliam portrayed the spooky freak-out of a loon trapped in her own mind, in Kristen Tsiatsios/glassbones' "Uncle Ugly." While the panic-faced pacing at the beginning of the piece bordered on melodrama, things got more interesting once the woman started digging around in the big pile of flour with nesting boxes buried underneath. Her vamping once she discovered certain treasures inside the boxes was right on--funny, but in the way that sometimes crazy homeless people act on the bus... a funniness that is profoundly sad and disturbing at the same time.
I missed most of installation artist David Eckard's piece, but he sure had a nice megaphone.
The insanity theme was abandoned for the mainstage performances (which is probably best, lest we all started feeling a little cuckoo ourselves).
The first piece, SOM's "...and to a cycle," was more about atmosphere than dance, so if that was the objective it was achieved. The background video was lovely, with falling leaves and a falling dancer, both of which perfectly matched the autumnal sound score, singing, and costuming of the three dancers. For a long time the three women traced the circumference of three circles of light on the floor, then they slowly moved into a trio of sequenced arm movements that moved from flowy to more distinct to almost harsh. This repeated for a long, long time, which was sort of trancelike and lovely, but ultimately a little fidget-producing.
Next up was Paige Barnes' "Molt," performed by Barnes and Beth Graczyk. The set was rather captivating, an oversized red swingset with rectangular opaque panels instead of swings onto which video was sometimes projected. Unfortunately it wasn't integrated with the dancing much. This seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity, since the opening segment in which one of the dancers pressed into the panels was spooky and lovely. Also disjointed was a long video segment at the end, during which the dancers sat still, hands on knees. This was disappointing, since previously we'd witnessed their artful, athletic partnering--a tumbling together that was positively oceanic--liquid and still and rough all at the same time.
Third came wilkes.barber/PROXIMITY's "Fence," in my opinion the strongest and most lovely piece of the evening. The simple device of a wire fence worked wonders for physicalizing the concept of Boundary and Relationship and Together and Apart. The two dancers exhibited maturity and comfort and realism--adding heft to what could very well have been a much lighter piece. But there was genuine emotion here. And that pink dress! And those red pants! And Mike Barber's wonderfully expressive face! A buoyant, intoxicating, beautiful piece. Encore, please.
Fishing up the epic progression of performances was Zoe Scofield's "I am nothing without you," featuring an ensemble cast of semi-swans. (Note: Don't be surprised if the next time you see me I've painted a red-stripe down the center of my head. This genius bit of costuming was one of the many pleasures of this piece.) Five dancers (four women and one man), all dressed in chiffon skirts and white corsets, took the stage in funny little cluster of tip-toe movement. On the back wall a video of *almost* the same performance played... so that at times the dancers were exactly synched up with the video versions of themselves (giving the appearance of a huge company), and at others they were doing slightly different dances. The piece was so strong however, with it's excellent spastic ballet and entrancing solos, the video was more distracting than enhancing. How lovely the piece would be with simply a red background! Very promising work from a new, young choreographer.
The second weekend of the festival kicked off for me on Friday night in the studio space with Macha Monkey, Joe von Appen, and Kristen Tsiatsios / Glassbones. I continue to be amazed by the variety of material in the festival; the variety of approaches to the work, and the use of different theatrical languages. Friday was only a dress rehearsal and I presume that these performances only got better with a full audience Saturday night.
First up was the Cowgirl Girl play, a new musical work-in-progress from the Seattle troupe Macha Monkey. They were missing an actor for the dress rehearsal so it was hard to get a clear read on the piece, but highlights for me were the folksy songs of Rick Miller and the campy creativity in the design. I’m always impressed by the low-budget inventiveness of this company and I thought the theatrical devices of the piece could have been pushed further; more imaginative, stylized images on the overhead projectors, more thorough use of the shadow puppetry, and more music underscoring throughout. Most of this performance seemed to be the set-up for a larger story of Rosie’s blossoming from east coast schoolmarm to badass cowgirl. The straighter dialogue scenes didn’t play as well for me, not due to the actors performances so much as the conflicting dramatic and broad comic tones in the script and direction. I would have liked to see the dialogue serve more as a set-up for the musical numbers -- some of the longer straight scenes bogged down the momentum of the campy musical. It’s always a pleasure to Desiree Prewitt nimbly move from character to character and Kate Jaeger can really belt Miller’s rough rider songs. Melissa Brown did good work as the feisty, slightly repressed Rosie. I know this is a work in progress, and I’m looking forward to seeing the piece when all of the elements are more integrated and flushed out.
Joe von Appen. A haunted monologue that laces us through a traffic jam on the dawn of the apocalypse, a bad drug trip in a mall, an intimate encounter with the blurred faces of late-night television, and an inside perspective of a mental hospital, or is it rehab, or is it just jail. Joe’s performance is presentational and sincere – poetic images of a mundane life, pushed toward the surreal. Images, particularly in the first section seem to spring from the depths of his unconscious, and yet many are accompanied by a simple theatrical gesture -- sort of like a vaudeville performance of a Bright Eyes song. Joe is articulating an interesting facet of the lonely modern city dweller; a fractured individual that scoffs at our institutions and longs for a sincere emotional connection to others, but can never find one in a constantly fluctuating world saturated in frivolity. I enjoyed how Joe dappled his monologues with witty cultural commentary and the way he moved fluidly between characters; the internal world of one character seamlessly falling into the external world of the next—a toppling box of cardboard reality.
Also dealing with a shifting internal / external space was Kristen Tsiatsios / Glassbones. The beginning image of Monica Mata Gilliam standing on a mountain of flour opened the intimate studio space into a vista landscape. As if looking in a mirror or reflecting on a memory, Gilliam gently pulled on flecks of hair and letting them drift out into the air. The space became more claustrophobic as she moved in zigzag patterns across the floor tracking flour – I loved being able to hear the flour grit between her toes. The most effective part of the piece was Gilliam’s innocent discovery of each new environment in different combinations of light, sound, and movement. When the sound score became overly dark and oppressive, the simplicity Gilliam’s vocal call and response was a welcome breathe of lightness and expansion. I enjoyed shifts in the personality of the character from giddy innocence to solipsistic vanity and how it matched the shifts I saw in the surreal dreamscape, from open vista’s to tiny crawl space-- although sometimes it took to long to transition from one space to the next. There was a surprise prop at the end, but I don’t want to ruin it, since again I think the discovery of the mythical treasure was the best part of the last sequence. I admired the fact that Kristen Tsiatsios pushed the work and the character into the grotesque in uncovering Uncle Ugly.
Now onto the main stage Saturday night, which was primarily dance this weekend. Note: Unfortunately for me, I am not a dancer or choreographer, so please forgive my technical ignorance of the craft – I can only share visual and emotional impressions.
It’s perfect that I was just waking up from a nap in the apartment building across the street from OtB when I heard David Eckard’s booming voice, summoning me out of my groggy stupor. I went to the window and saw the giant daffodil-megaphone-head atop a white body, arms splayed out, people in black gathered on the street, cars slowing to gawk on Roy. I wish I could wake up like this more often. Eckard gives the gift of release to one of Seattle’s most shameful traits: our passive aggressive nature. He’s compiled the text based on all the things we want to say but never do – the ruminations, rants, and rally cries of Seattleites -- and through his Suessian contraption is blasting them out all over town this weekend.
SOM performance started the evening on stage with …and to a cycle. The piece began with the beautiful imagery of leaves falling on the projection screen upstage, the simple movement of the dancers walking around pools of light and the haunting sounds of Deanna Mustard atomically charged by Luke Allen at his computer. I had trouble latching into the section with the three dancers standing in the center repeating a series of arm movements, although when they began slight variations based on rhythmic changes in the sound design, I could see how, with more development, it could effectively create trancelike state in the audience. The video portion of the work also seems like it is still in the early stages of development, but there is plenty of potential there to layer more imagery into the piece. The transitions between sections felt somewhat clunky, but I really enjoyed the lighting effect of the last section, with the slits of light on the liquid dancers, leaching out another level of abstraction. Although not completely realized, I thought SOM took an interesting risk by working with simple repetitive movement and the trancelike nature of the piece began to shift my thought patterns and perspective in interesting ways.
Paige Barnes – Molt. Steven Beradelli’s set of Plexiglas (?) panels hung from a swing set like contraption was striking and effective for both shadow play and video projections. My favorite moments of this piece were when Paige and Beth used the set to build tension and distance in their relationship. Both dressed in white, I saw them as each other’s doppelganger; the shadow of one mimicking the movement of the other. The moments of disjointed sound gave me this wonderful sense of a splintering whole and the dancers attacked the frenetic movements of the piece with considerable aplomb. There was unity in movements that kept them close to the floor, although more variation within those confines would have been welcome. Towards the middle I lost a sense of connection to the unique space created with the set piece in the opening images and I missed it. The use of the set as scrim worked much more effectively for me when there was shadow play or some sort of relationship established, with, through, or around the set--- at the beginning, one of the dancers gently swung a panel forward, slightly distorting the image – loved that! And I was delighted by the plucky, gurgling section of uncontrollable hips and floating arms that momentarily changed the tone. The final video section didn’t land for me. I appreciated seeing those dilapidated industrial landscapes of Sodo – the images of broken windows, half-demolished buildings, and crubbling doorways framing the sky were gorgeous, but emotionally I wasn’t sure how the story of the lovely young actress fit with the emotional rhythms on stage – perhaps they weren’t supposed to, or perhaps I would have drawn connections if there was more overlap of the dance / video within the piece. The ominous music underscoring the video portion also confused me a little, it tickled my literal mind into a sense of foreboding and I wasn’t sure what it was trying to accent in the images. Lots of beautiful work throughout this piece though – the images lingered with me long after the show was over.
The most cohesive and inventive work of the night was Fence by wilkes.barber /PROXIMITY. The use of the bright red Webber Grill as the platform for Heather Perkins to execute her gorgeous sound design was ingenious. The grill, along with the 50’s style costumes, and the moveable fence established a pure iconic image of suburban life. Mike Barber and Cyndey Perkins beautifully rendered the treacherous relationship of the suburban couple. I’m sorry if this whole review is turning into a commentary on the use of props, but the dancers’ effectively used the fence and a pillow to reflect emotional shifts, balance of power, and destructive behaviors within the relationship; isolation, emotional manipulation, and repressed frustration – all the toxic by-products of a perfect suburban life were insightfully rendered with an imaginative sense of humor. Heather Perkins, pulled them along with a seamless sound score, dappled with subliminal sounds of a back yard b-b-q. The final sequence of dissolving poetic tableaus didn’t fit thematically with the rest of the piece for me, but the images were still fun.
Zoe Scofield topped off the night with I am nothing without you. Here’s one that I wish I had a larger dance vocabulary to articulate, because I know what was happening technically on stage was very good, but I really couldn’t tell you why. I felt many moments of classical beauty, complimented by the less formal solos – fairies, nymphs, devious furies abound in this piece. The use of video was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the sections where several layers of video, mixed with live action and shadow play -- it gave a sense of depth to the action and endowed it with a mythical sense of time. I didn’t care for the sections of only recorded video, projected on the back screen, slightly off time with the live action, mostly because the video was shot in the same location. In watching them both simultaneously, I kept trying to match them up and lost the imagination of the space – perhaps this is the point, but I felt like it squelched some of the beauty in the work and made it’s self-consciousness and the trick of the camera the dominate feature. It was a great experiment though and I felt Scofield has her finger on ways in which to really integrate the forms.
Thank you all for a wonderful second weekend – impressive work all around!
Saturday, April 9
A Mostly Delicious Dinner
By Alianna Jaqua
I am often a rather jaded viewer when it comes to watching dance. I always go craving inspiration, but many times leave unsatisfied. With that said, I was mostly completely intrigued with the Northwest New Works line up this weekend. I was also inspired. I felt inspired by my peers, by strangers, by the space, by artistic choices, and in general, the whole evening. First of all, I love that NWNW brings in artists from outside of the Seattle area. I thoroughly enjoyed all three works by the Portland artists. Joe von Appen had me from the start with all his talk of the birds in the sky and jogging through traffic. His stories and characters were compelling and his use of facial expressions and physicality were impressive. I loved how quickly he spoke at the beginning, every word clear and audible. His performance was strong and believable throughout, although I had a preference for the first scenario. David Eckard and his installation, Podium: Seattle, made me want to become an installation artist. I was captivated by the size, shape, and color of the piece and felt like he must have come from another time or space. He made the outside wall of OTB look timeless. On the mainstage, wilkes.barber/PROXIMITY performed their work, Fence. This piece took me on a journey. In dance, the journey is not always clear, but with clear intention from the artists and performers, it can take you somewhere before you know it. I wanted to know why the fence separated them. Why the man and woman were so dominant about their space. What they were saying to each other from opposite sides with all those gestures. And yet, the way in which the piece shifted and developed it was like all the answers were there, disguised in saturated teals, pinks, reds, and lavenders. She, in her rose-colored dress, and he, in his bright red pants and cute tie, struggling with a border, breaking each other’s hearts with a pillow, all the while being serenaded by a musician with her laptop sitting in a bright red bar-b-q.
The local artists were equally impressive. SOM created an environment that was stunningly beautiful. Leaves fell from the cyc, dancers were not human, and a voice was transformed. The music was hypnotic as well as the dance. I felt riveted and mesmerized by the suspense of so much repetition, like watching flowers bloom again and again, right before your eyes - the rhythms of the movement, song, and beats changing just enough to make it feel organic. And I felt privileged to watch the creators on stage with the performers as if you were viewing the process and not the product. The following piece, Molt, by Paige Barnes was also refreshing. The set was impressive as was the choreography. The movement was complicated, interesting, and virtuosic. Barnes and her partner, Beth Graczyk, executed the piece with grace, athleticism, precision, and effortlessness. The phrase work towards the top of the piece was particularly awesome. I loved seeing these two work in and out of unison, it seemed they pushed each other to become better dancers. Although, I was seriously impressed with the all the elements that came together to make this piece, I felt the video at the end to be a little anticlimactic or perhaps the performers could have overlapped with some of the video to make it a fuller stage.
Another performer I really enjoyed was Monica Mata Gilliam, performing Uncle Ugly by Kristen Tsiatsios/glassbones in the studio theater. I wasn’t particularly drawn to this piece as I am apt to shut down a little when insanity is being portrayed. With so many crazy happenings in the world already, I tend to shy away from people who have an unstable energy about them. Therefore, this piece which seemed to revolve around a crazy woman, and a crazy sound score, was not my cup of tea but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give Gilliam a straight A for being focused and present enough to portray crazy.
The first piece of the evening, The Cowgirl Play by Macha Monkey Productions, was a fun, playful romp into the old west. I liked the use of shadow puppets, live guitar, and movement. The three cowgirls with their color-coordinated ponies were full of expression and sang with great gusto and exuberance. And lastly, the final piece of the evening, I am nothing without you by Zoe Scofield, felt a little out of place as far as the level of work went. I was unimpressed with the video which felt unoriginal and unnecessary and didn’t feel that the choreography was particularly interesting especially following three works that were. I was drawn to particular performers and definitely interested in the music composition but felt confused by other elements, like the red stripes painted on their heads. I was very thankful when the unison was broken up and especially enjoyed a solo performed by Yuki Enomoto.
Wednesday, April 6
Allison Van Dyck
The first weekend of Northwest New Works has premiered with beautiful creativity and openness.
In sync with the spring season, this festival is well timed with emerging works from artists in these regions.
Through realistic text or warbling voice, most of the pieces struck me as relevant to this world, in its current climate.
In the studio I was immediately barraged with a cyber world of grids, symbols, mechanical motion, cool calculating gestures.
In the moment of the performance, I felt slightly annoyed at the rapid pace of the performers, videos, sound, the way that information based on the blogs was loudly hurled at the audience from a stone hard face.
The stripped emotions and rapid video distracted me just enough to not hear the details in the text.
Looking back on the show a few days later, I realize that this method of overwhelming tricks to distract is exactly how our government works, if they cannot intimidate, they confuse.
Or maybe its the other way around...
The second piece lightened into a sincere look at love relationships, Alianna Jaqua and Scott Davis transformed into several couples throughout the piece, casually chatting about the little things, easing into an intimate repor that made me longing to see more of their imaginary worlds. Jaqua has a natural knack for blending text and movement and I felt like the piece paced itself easily and lightly, like the journey of a relationship, no outward destination, but enjoying a stroll together. I think that movement is tricky in a more theatrical setting, and though I felt that the partnering duets were lovely and well performed, they felt slightly out of context with the rest of the piece. Cupid feather hat man was adorable, perhaps in a more developed version he is involved more. Thank you for bringing breath to an infinitely old story.
Khaela Malacich has an adorable awkward way of telling the audience the thoughts in her head, delicately probing at the questions of her being, revealing rich perspectives in an unassuming manner, Her color marker video shorts captivated me. I think her performance was extremely honest in a way that theatrical bravado can never show.
Thank you !
Monday, April 4
Last night’s NWNW festival traveled into my dreams and has stayed with me throughout the day. Frankly, I am filled with an overwhelming amount of emotion due to the fact that I am in the festival. With this filter and my aesthetic preference for seeing fire and passion on stage I watched both performances. I believe that the theater is a place where reality can transform and where I am given a second chance to see the world. I think artists are strange creatures working on an image and vision with an extraordinary amount of discipline and hunger (this is what i love). Often I feel knowing the individual artist and their process is more inspiring than the end result and at the end of the day when it is all said and done the process is where the time and work is spent. To judge work based off 1% of the artist’s proposal, the performance, is, well, a little difficult. With this said here are a few thoughts on the two shows:
The studio showing was intimate and diverse taking me through three completely different worlds: the overwhelming sensations of fear, responsibility and accountability associated with US international relations and influence, a charming and comical look at the idiosyncrasies of love and lastly (what I saw as ) an endearing schizophrenic detour to ‘the other side’. I felt the show, as a whole, was tight and well crafted with clear proposals and strong execution. My passion and fire meter was at a 7.
The main stage showing was also equally diverse taking me through: a large ambient voice and sound scape (wow, definitely peaked the fire meter to a high), a sprite and a refreshing dance piece (this felt like a lemonade on a hot day), a modern dark fairy tale of Oedipus (I thought of my mom saying, ‘the little bird told me,’ when you did something wrong and you think how does she know) and then a musical improvisation score to basketball (I was reminded of a family outing, drinking beers and playing basketball). My passion and fire meter was all over the place.
Each artist in the festival is doing their job, reaching a little deeper into their curiosity and taking a risk to show it to the world (it is quite a cynical one at that). In this process, people react, they love it or hate it or whatever, but that is what its all about, to provoke, to make you question and to create discussion. This creates cultural change. I am always more nervous when people stay quiet. So cheers to the festival and the artists for shaking things up.
Sunday, April 3
What a fantastic diverse weekend of performance! Here’s what I thought of the first weekend of Northwest New Works…..
In the Studio-
Charter 77’s piece InterCUT was a very well produced, tightly woven look at issues surrounding the war on terror. The three performers expertly and smoothly transitioned between multiple characters and video images followed the action seamlessly. I enjoyed this piece but I was mostly captivated by the performances and well made video than the content.
The second piece, The Temporal Waves of Love, was a mix between dance and some theatre created by Alianna Jaqua. It definitely appeared to be a work in progress with promise. This cute and quirky exploration of love and relationships worked best when the stories were told through dance. Alianna Jaqua and Scott Davis’ dancing mesmerized me but a third character appeared as a transitional device throughout the piece that I could have done completely without. The attempts at mixing “scenes” with the dance sometimes worked but often clunked. I would be excited to see this developed as a two person performance.
Khaela Maricich’s piece The Touch Me Feeling has to be one of the most unique pieces of performance I’ve seen in awhile. Singing, dancing and talking to herself, Khaela has a strangely compelling and nearly completely unassuming presence about her. I loved her pop songs and the funny way she danced throughout the piece. I’d have to say one of my favorite parts was when Maricich briefly interacted with a cardboard deer. Overall, the piece need more direction and focus but I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with Khaela by the end of it.
On the Mainstage -
Erin Jorgensen started off the mainstage shows with a bang. She was phenomenal. A master of her instrument with a lovely voice, Erin has taken traditional American songs and scored them with her marimba. The result was astounding. It left me wanting more marimba, MORE MARIMBA.
The second performance, a dance piece called Left-Handed Chopstick confused me. The two performers were obviously extremely talented and strong dancers and the choreography was fast-paced and expert. I could not, however, understand the choices within the piece. Mostly, I did not understand why the music the piece was set to was chosen or why the music jarringly changed from one genre to another. The hair and make-up of the dancers was very specific and clashed with the multiple musical genres. Ultimately, the piece did not come together for me as a whole.
The Possibilities’ Dirty Laundry was an exploration of the Oedipus mythology through song, story-telling and movement. I loved how this ensemble used the entire space and manipulated pieces of muslin to create props, costumes, and scenery. The piece worked best for me in its short dialogue scenes (especially the scene between Alycia Delmore and Ray Tagavilla) and less so when dared to delve into musical theatre.
The last piece created by Seattle School was a musical improv based on a live basketball game, a promising premise. I was excited to watch how this idea would unfold as the stage revealed two basketball hoops. Unfortunately, I found the execution a little disappointing. I must give Seattle School big props for the attempt and the several very funny moments within the piece. I just found twenty minutes of poorly played basketball tedious.
Love is as fleeting as the weather. Love is silly. Loss is sad. All of these are cliches, yet somehow watching Alianna Jacqua’s investigation of these ideas was in no way boring or played out. In fact, the humility brought forth in The Temporal Waves of Love was quite a refreshing gift of sweet, tender, funny and entertaining ponderings on love.
I found the rapport of Scott Davis and Jacqua lovely to watch. Their well-balanced skills and performance styles brought the audience on a twenty-minute journey full of honest, funny and graceful dancing. Ben Beres, as a Pan-like narrator, flirted with audience members asking them if they were in love, gently touching their legs, and then smelled them and everything as if trying to catch of whiff of a lost or new lover.
The beginning was engaging: Jacqua silently delivers her name, age, stats, and former lovers to the committee, as Davis, in falsetto, delivers her text into the microphone. After this clever start, however, I was a little disappointed. Suddenly, the character costumes come off and we are watching two modern dancers in their dance clothes do generic (yet beautifully executed) modern partnering or contact improvisation. Why? What happened to having an original voice?
True, some of the partnering reflected two lovers intertwined or holding one another (and further supported the subject matter being explored) but why not stick with the original language that they so clearly developed (and showed in later sections)?
Ultimately, this piece seems like a well-executed work in progress; I look forward to seeing developed.
Charter 77’s InterCUT was in progress as we entered the theatre. With three live-feed black and white Big Brotheresque video screens defining the upstage space of the theatre, three performers moved through a series of repetitive gestures and text. Two of the characters repeated gestural actions that reminded me of office filing and recited text about “improvised explosive devices” and the WAR. They had electrical nodes taped to their heads by a solo male who worked officiously, checking what appeared to be important information on his laptop. Once I understood the actions and imagery in this pre-show show, I wanted to go into the hall to escape the invasively loud looped soundtrack and wait until the “real piece” began.
This engaging piece layered high-energy military training movement with the true stories of two former government employees. (Both employees have been accused of threatening national security by writing personal weblogs.) The work was fast paced, dense, and full of beautiful and complex video imagery. Unlike most performance pieces that utilize video, I felt the visual imagery of InterCUT actually supported the story, and filled out the stage space with the horrific reality that our government has created.
In this apathetic time, I say kudos to you, fellow artists, for exercising our First Amendment and telling this important and timely story!
The Touch Me Feeling, by Portland’s Khaela Maricich, was a youthful, quiet, and monotonous (some might say subtle) look at… well, I don’t know what. God, existence, the voices in a woman’s head, the questions in said woman’s head? The performer, dressed in what looked like Star Wars pajamas and cotton socks, seemed to be lost in pre-teen bedroom play time singing little songs to herself and dancing with imaginary friends.
The props were confusing: a random metal gadget represented her boyfriend, and a hand-drawn cardboard cutout deer represented… I don’t know what.
I think Khaela comes from the pop music world; if this is true, it showed. This piece was a collection of songs and accompanying simple gestural dances that consisted of a lot of toe-heel swizzles back and forth, all interspersed with random poetic musings about “you” and “your relationship with HIM” (God?). There were existentialist ponderings, but without the slightest bit of angst, anxiety or panic. (In fact it was the calmest questioning of the self, the body and our place in the universe that I have ever witnessed.)
Ultimately, I questioned what I was doing there as an audience member. Were we the audience really necessary to this work?
Who ever heard of a rock star who plays the marimba? Not me, until I saw Erin Jorgensen’s intriguing American Songs. This collection of pieces (accompanied by Annette and Chris Lefebvre) ranged from the eloquent haunting harmonics of “In a Village Churchyard” -- that sounded like a British Isles siren’s dirge -- to the quirky, humorous waltz “Are You Afraid To Die”. The last piece turned Chopin into a rock ballad that reeked of nostalgia and longing. I heard influences from Lou Reed and Cowboy Junkies and pictured it as the soundtrack to a melancholy pop indy-movie scene about loneliness and despair.
Overall I was intrigued by the material, and found Jorgenson’s stage personae flirty and confident and the music entertaining.
I realize that NWNW is a festival intended to present new works, and some works are more polished than others. For those less polished, I am somehow more forgiving of their seeming flaws. Left-handed Chopstix (by Beth Graczyk, Amelia Reeber, and Gregg Bielemeier) felt polished and completed in its artistic inquiry, so I viewed it with less forgiving eyes.
What I saw was two skilled modern dancers and performers working really hard at performing movements that lacked soul. (And, before you go slamming me for being so harsh, calm down. I know we are in Seattle, but I am an East coaster passionate woman with Mediterranean roots who has a hard time keeping quiet and being polite.) Perhaps I didn’t see the soul of this movement because it was masked by the out-of-character 1980s big hairdos and harsh glam makeup. Or was it the schizophrenic sound score that included Bach fugue, country music, Astor Piazzola, and a 1950s romantic melody?
The whole time I kept wondering what I would see without the makeup and the poorly selected soundtrack.
These artistic choices didn’t leave enough room for the movement to exist and breathe its life of enigmatic and elusive imagery. I know some subtlety existed because, when I used my “selected sense” option, I saw intriguing movement sequencing and gestures. I saw intimate partnering, images of old friends moving through time fighting, assisting and be there for one another through the thick and thin. I especially loved the moment when they slowly laid down, Graczyk’s arm behind Reeber’s head, slowly slowly, and then seemed to fade away into a summer time nap in the park. Friend by friend, side by side for always. /fontfamily>
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