Tuesday, June 20
Monday, June 19
Weekend 2: Studio Showcase
This blog was orignially posted on SeattleActor.com.
Written and performed by Marya Sea Kaminsky
Directed by Jennifer Zeyl
Marya Sea Kaminsky is a remarkable theatre artist with a particular gift for solo performance, both as a writer and actor. As the audience enters, she is perched centerstage in a massive, elevated, poofy red ball dress, reading a "People" magazine, occasionally sneaking a chocolate cupcake from its capacious recesses. She cues the lights to go down and discloses that the occasion for this consideration is the eve of her thirtieth birthday. Not a particularly happy event, but an unavoidable call to consider her totals on the great scorecard of lifespan, and to reveal and share some of the secrets kept beneath that festive skirt. Not only is the dress a multi-media self-entertainment unit, but it is media in and of itself. The environment in which she occupies space in the world also contains media and personal messages about identity and sexuality and intimacy.
Ms. Kaminsky is a versatile and accomplished performer, but equally important is her craftsmanship and integrity as a writer. Nodding to all of the social standards and expectations of age and womanhood, she deftly moves to the entirely personal, using celebrity lives and achievements to carry us into an intimate memoir of one, only one, unexceptionally bad sexual encounter. It's touching and genuine and gave the piece a wonderful sense of completion. Jennifer Zeyl understands this distinctive performer and allows the piece to feel natural and spontaneous, while skillfully focusing and developing the dramatic arc of the story. This piece is entertaining, charming, sexy and moving.
Andy Noble and Dancers
This piece, called "Small Spaces", explores isolation and relationship using elegant and well-coordinated movement centered around five dancers and five wooden blocks. The choreography by Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble, is elegant and expressive, giving each of the dancers a gestural vocabulary to express both the desire to connect and the constraint of separation. The piece is graceful, touching and visually interesting, using the space and the bodies in ways that are editorial and intimate, sad and exuberant. I thought it was a fine piece of work, well-performed and admirably conceived.
Written and Created by Troy Miszklevitz and Rhonda J. Soikowski
Perfrmed by Troy Miszklevitz
Directed by Rhonda J. Soikowski
Mr. Miszklevitz is an inventive and highly skilled physical comedian who creates a sizeable population of characters in telling this fantastic and fanciful story. As for the narrative, suffice to say that it has something to do with an old cowpoke who hates technology and ventures into the big city in order to shut down the power grid and possibly take over a late-night talkshow. Or something like that.
Rhonda J. Soikowski has devised a fresh and amusing scenario that Mr.
Misklevitz embodies with energy and imagination, neatly delineating one wacky character from another and keeping the whole story moving slightly off-kilter and full speed ahead. This may have only been a shaggy-dog sketch, but it was fresh and amusing and excellently performed.
Devised, Built and Performed by Alex Martin
Ms. Martin is nearing the end of a year-long performance art experience called The Brown Dress Project, during which she has worn the same, plain brown dress every day during the past two hundred forty-some days. She has also kept a blog and done performances related to the project, of which this dance performance is a kind of report from the front lines. There was some very nice dancing, some casual conversation, a little explanation, and some genuinely funny improvisational movement that all combined into a surprisingly authentic and interesting kind of discourse and disclosure. Ms. Martin is doing something quite original and compelling, and the explanations and explorations she gave us by way of her body's movement seemed to me quite eloquent, and her state of being particularly well-dressed.
I regret that I was unable to see more of the festival, but I thoroughly enjoyed the four pieces I saw. On the Boards is to be commended for providing this vital outlet for genuinely new work by intriguing local performers.
Weekend 2: Studio Showcase & Merrill Mainstage Show
I think this week’s main stage show proved that Mr. Otb’s description of Seattle modern dance is wrong. On the big poster he says Seattle modern dance tends to be pull-pushy, look…jump…catch, and not so technical. Well, watch Alia Swersky and the Off Shore project, and you know how technical our dancers are, and how well they know how to use it.
Alia’s piece reminds me of river. The most amazing thing is that it maintains the quality of a good improvisation, where everyone is really listening and attentive to each other and the space. I know the piece is choreographed but still I love the quality of improvisation in this piece. Things and space shifts because the dancers feel the impulse to do so. In the beginning, all five dancers are doing individual solos, but they are connected in small ways. They are connected not in a heady “genius” way, but real simple choices that we could make as we are improvising. This makes the choreography feels effortless. Strong yet effortless. Maybe that’s way the piece reminds me of river. And the dancers are so good! They listen to each other and watch each other.
The Off Shore Project. Such a satisfying thing to see super technique and physicality. The prop is great. The little rhythm thing is so funny and I don’t know why. The theatrical part though, especially the revenge climax near the ending, feels unnecessary. I mean the climax is unmistakably the physicality.
Dancers also give other highlights to the shows. Maureen’s video has such a wonderful timing. Alex Martin dance is a strong piece too.
It is a great weekend. Both the Studio and Main Stage shows are great. I applied to the festival this year and was not selected. But I am certainly happy to “lose” to these talents. The shows make me feel proud to be in this community.
Sunday, June 18
Weekend 2: Beauty Sandwich at NWNW
The second weekend of the Northwest New Works Festival Mainstage Showcase served up a tasty sandwich of new performance from four talented northwest-based groups. Congratulations to OtB and Sean Ryan for curating a varied program that stretched your aesthetic palate while still maintaining a sense of consistency throughout the night.
The night sandwiched two moody, meaty, cool-toned, gender-specific dance pieces between two brightly-colored, musically-inventive pieces of performance art with video projection for a satisfying sandwich of new work.
First up was Slow Dance Recyttal (Christopher Doulgeris, Cassandra C. Jones, and Peter Burr) from Portland Oregon. The curtain opened to reveal a landscape of odd crystalline shapes which began to glow in rainbow colors as the sole performer onstage started playing clarinet. The magic stones seemed to sing along with his playing (don't quite know how, wish I did). The motion graphics (by Doulgeris and Burr) were interesting and playful, telling a loosely traceable story of a many-eyed creature on some sort of quest. The music and visual field made for an engaging combination, but I couldn't help feeling like the performance was a little far away—like the cool stuff had happened in the editing suite and the rehearsal hall, and now they were there, onstage, to show me what they had done.
In contrast, the dancers in Alia Swersky's "Circumscribe" felt immediately and unshakably present. From the piece's quiet beginning ("Here is nothing") I felt like these dancers were fearlessly encountering the audience at every turn. The piece moved between solo moments—in which choreographer Swersky shines—and group movement including a gloriously complicated weaving knot sequence where the real-life breathing sounds of the women morphed into a soundscape of heavy breathing that was at once sexy and moving. For me, this piece was more than just an exploration of "the richness and rigidity of identity,"as described in the brochure, but was also a visceral experience of how people, and women in particular, move toward and away from each other, how we both desire and fear the experience of being seen and touched and held. I actually cried towards the end as each of the dancers moved first towards, and away from the audience in simple, but brave, encounters.
Also at the meaty center of this sandwich was The Offshore Project's "Karyotype 46/XY." I love it when dance makes me laugh. Five men in sweatsuits with extreme mustaches flew through the air in seemingly impossible ways. How can they be so graceful and so raucous all at once? Starting out laughing at the moustaches and the amazing phallus masterpieces that arise majestically out of nowhere, I ended gasping, shocked at the grace in the seeming violence of their beautiful bodies. Congrats to choreographers Rainbow Fletcher and Ezra Dickinson and I hope to see more from the Offshore Project.
I have been a fan of Maureen Whiting for several years now, and her piece "Bear Dance with Bird" was no disappointment. Rife with color (Pink! Green! Yellow!), this character exploration of Whiting as Bear and experimental musician Gust Burns as Bird veered from funny to moving to, in my case, occasionally yawny. Video work by Ben Kasulke was sweet and personal, tempering the abstraction of the piece with an odd intimacy. I feel like this piece was an early taste of something bigger. I can't wait to see what that will be.
Weekend 2: Studio Showcase, Take 2
I’d concur with most of Brangien’s comments—Alex Martin was definitely the highlight, Troy Miszklevitz’s blaxploi-starsearch-ecoterrorist mini-saga was funny amd technically proficient and engrossing, Andy Noble’s autistic-kids-playing-lava-monster conceit was insipid (that’s what you mean, right, Brangien?), and Marya Sea Kaminski’s subject matter wasn’t too far off from the preoccupations of Bridget Jones and her army of fat-thighed sisters.
But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Since we’re bringing age into this analysis, I should state up front that I’m all of 25. But the anxiety of adulthood should only be the jumping-off point for Kaminski’s piece, and I think the full-length version could do that perfectly well. I had more issues with technical aspects of the performance: the piece suffered from projection problems (it’s a small space, but a big character and a huge friggin’ dress), transitions (could’ve been riper, snappier), and momentum. Momentum especially. I’m not sure what the format of the full-length version is going to be, but the vignette style (with its frequent blackouts) really nipped potential crescendos in the bud.
Alex Martin, meanwhile, totally floored me. I love the idea of drawing anthropomorphic associations, directions, emotions, tones, etc. from a garment, and the little brown dress Martin’s been wearing for almost a year now is uniquely suggestive. (No, not like that, you dirty people. You probably only liked this piece ’cause she duct taped her boobs, hunh.) I mean it. The A-line dopeyness of the cut, the pockets, the brownie-mix color… All of the dress’s forthright, impish economy seeped into the performance itself. The fourth-wall stuff wasn’t pro forma—you don’t go to a party in a dress like that and spend your time backed up against the wall refusing to interact with anybody. That dress was made for dancin’ and talkin’ and cartwheelin’. This dance, and the trigger spotlights Martin asked audience members to wield, made me think, also, of Khaela Maricich (of the Blow, and NWNW last year): that faux-naiveté that certainly (in Maricich’s case, at least) owes a debt to riot grrrl, but is drained of riot grrrl’s aggression and spiked with an fascinatingly alien earnestness. Anyway, loved it.
Friday, June 16
Weekend 2: Studio Showcase
Perhaps because I attended the show on the eve of my 38th birthday,
Marya Sea Kaminski's monologue about the trials of turning 30 felt a
little flimsy. Her oversized red dress was a very cool conceit, as was
the television (and other assorted items) hidden in her skirt, but the
actual words she spoke--lamentations about expanding thighs and asshole
guys--had the all too familiar ring of chick-lit. Which is to say that
while there were moments of humor, they came very much at the surface.
Her revelation about being "raised" on her parents porn collection came
close to bringing a foundation of real meaning to the piece, but no
cigar. Future iterations would benefit from more original insights, and
more heft to underscore the humor.
Regarding Andy Noble & Dancers: Cheers for the small, percussive
tapping motions. More tapping, please!
Troy Miszklevitz's one-man, multi-character, over-the-top tale had the
audience in stitches, though for me, eh, not so much. Toward the climax
of his epic, his characters lost their verbal distinction, which made
it difficult to fully grasp the already kooky plot. What I enjoyed far
more than the story itself was the way Miszklevitz moved. The thin
man's physicality was remarkable--in fact the times I enjoyed the piece
most were when I tuned out the talking and just watched him tell the
story with his body. Every flick of his wrist, every angle of his arms
was imbued with visual meaning--giving the impression that the stage
was littered with props, when in fact it was utterly bare. I guess what
I'm saying is a little hard to admit: I liked the mime parts best.
Hooray for Alex Martin, the standout performance of the evening, in her
homemade little brown dress and her adorably hopeful gaze. The
transparency she brought to her dance-slash-theater piece was fresh and
funny and completely endearing. Martin's levity and frankness had
audience members from the get-go, when she cued composer Mark Clem by
suggesting, "Let's try that fast thing." What made this casual approach
work, of course, was the fact that Martin can really, truly dance, and
in a way that shimmers with the confidence of remarkable talent.
Martin's fourth-wall-foiling comments were very funny ("I think this is
a good time to take a break"), especially balanced as they were with
her original, at times fascinatingly spastic, always compelling
choreography. While her attitude was very "this modern dance thing
isn't such a big deal," the skill and emotional depth apparent in her
movement was ever-present. Add to that the fact that she duct-taped her
breasts on stage and let audience members control the lighting of her
performance, and you've got one helluva show.
Wednesday, June 14
More blogs coming for Weekend 2!
Tuesday, June 13
Weekend 1: Merrill Mainstage Show
Day Helesic/MovEnt blew me away. Watching her move was like watching an entire rock concert packed tightly into one single dynamic body. The piece was as clean and precise as it was fierce and unpredictable. I can't wait to see what else she does.
Monday, June 12
Weekend 1: Studio Showcase and Merrill Mainstage Show
Read Brendan Kiley's SLOG review of the show's from this weekend- Upstairs, Downstairs
Sunday, June 11
Weekend 1: Merrill Mainstage Show
"Famous Potatoes" reads the the slogan on license plates from the state of Idaho. How fortunate for us that the NWNW curatorial staff looked beyond the state's agricultural offerings to bring us Melanie Kloetzel & Co. from Pocatello. Caper and Icarus Fried each incorporated Melanie's playful choreography with John Masserini's brilliant clarinet playing. Particularly impressive was his use of multiphonics, a technique used to create multiple notes on an otherwise monophonic instrument.
From the Canadian province "Beautiful British Columbia" came Day Helesic/MovEnt, and her stunning solo performance Now Hear This. Performing alone onstage with only a vintage microphone as a prop (RCA 44 series, I think), Day used her long hair to great advantage, swirling it through the air and allowing it to follow her strong, aggressive movments. The kinetic images she created with her body were driven by the punk-prog music of The Mars Volta.
"Let us Surprise You" is the slogan of the city of Bellingham, and while the the Cody Rivers show Baseball offered no real surprises, the easygoing sketch-comedy of Mike Mathieu and Andrew Connor gave us a change of pace from modern dance. The two actors played a variety of characters in a series of vignettes taking place at a baseball game. Slightly absurdist situations arose from the interactions between players, fans, and peanut vendors. Clever use of sound design and the physical agility of the actors created some of the funniest moments in the show.
"Passion - Discipline - Mastery" is the slogan on the website of Cornish College of the Arts, where most of the performers with Ideogram Dance seem to have studied. Borrowed music and text made for awkward transitions in the piece Because of All You Did, Because of All I Did Not. The group choreography was unintentionally funny at times, despite the somber tone it tried to maintain.
Weekend 1: Studio Showcase
In a solid program, the gem of the Studio show at NWNW weekend one is the piece of Gaelen Hanson. Gaelen's interest in fictionalized characters and bad wigs is realized in this mockumentary and performance of Betty Crump, an aging, hard drinking country singer. The performance is the strongest part of the piece, as Gaelen distills dance down to the holding of a microphone, the swig of a bottle and the shuffling of a cowgirl boot. More insightful than most modern dance, the piece showcases the beauty of every day movement. I can't wait to see what she does when the piece is translated into a film.
Weekend 1: Merrill Mainstage Show
Getting that much needed dose of intrigue, humor,
energy and something riveting is always a good offset
to our weekly routines and this year's NWNW Mainstage
performances do the trick--ahhhhhhh. The string of
acts maintain a refreshing balance between whimsy,
moodiness, out-and-out high intensity, and great
humor. The first piece by kloetzel&co charmed me like
watching two young polar bears playing and duking it
out, and it'll make you want a handful of giant
gumballs in the end. I sat at the edge of my seat
(leaning forward a bit) when Day Helesic--and her
ponytail that cuts the air--gave a top notch whoosh of
a dance performance that nearly blew the house down.
Good thing there's an intermission following. The
final act, the Cody Rivers Show, has a surprising
theme in the context of a "contemporary art space"
that is at once welcoming and totally fun, not to
mention, nicely choreographed baseball-style. Yes, I
said baseball. C'mon and git yer fresh Northwest New
Weekend 1: Studio Showcase & Merrill Mainstage Show
Well, if you're reading this on June 11 because you're trying to decide
whether to go to the studio show at 5 pm tonight, I have just five words for
you - go, go, go, go, go. The main reason? Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg's
'bANGER'. Now, granted, men and their stereotypical anger, pride, vanity
and violence are perhaps an easy target, but this is an absolute gem of
performance that took the audience hostage. You owe it to yourself to check
it out. Thank you, Canada!!
The rest of the studio show is a refreshingly rocky ride (as in, if you
aren't digging something, don't worry, the next piece will be completely
different!). Gaelen Hanson's 'Betty Crump' is a lighthearted mockumentary
about a sweet, sad, puppetlilke country singer. Beautifully under-performed
miniscule dances and charming songs, with entertaining little movies and
elegantly crafted transitions. As restrained and gentle as Hanson's
performance was, Mark Boeker blew out all the stops in the other direction,
with a strange, aggressively theatrical story about aliens, zombies, and a
corporate take on a pearly-gates interview. Donna Belmont Isobel's abstract
dance solo made her sometimes appear as a machine, at other times an insect
or alien creature. The absolute care & precision of this shape-oriented
work was delightful, alarming, hypnotic, and infinitely watchable.
After a dinner break (during which I wandered lower Queen Anne attempting to
cleanse my eyes & ears palate by gazing at blank walls), the audience
re-convened for the Mainstage show. I have to say, the On the Boards
mainstage is a big, cold space, and in my opinion the most successful
performances I have seen there are opulent productions with lots of bodies
and materials to fill the space and focus the eye. On a festival budget and
time constraints, this evening's spare works had the shared challenge of
commanding the entire room. Melanie Kloetzel's 'Caper' solved this
challenge by filling the space with massive video projection and washes of
extreme bubblegum color, and a strong physical performance by Kloetzel and
Chalie Livingston. Some amazing low, fluttering notes played live by
clarinetist John Masserini. Especially in a duet between Masserini and
Kloetzel later, the wry humor and interactions between musician and
dancer(s) were a nice diversion. Paige Phillips' group work was an abrupt
shift from Kloetzel's candy-sweet world - Phillips' technique-based
choreography was structurally satisfying, and the performance was the most
stark and humorless in the show. Some disturbing abusive images, echoes of
a vampire story perhaps. I have a deep soft spot for group dance partnering
that moves through space, and Phillips and her group delivered a lovely,
inventive, and well-rehearsed section that drew me back into her world
towards the end. Day Helesic delivered a fierce, fast, elegant, aggressive
solo to some incomprehensible thrashy music - a dark and lovely blur of
motion (and extra credit for best use of hair!!! Makes one wonder, how come
no dancers in Seattle have any hair? Again, thank you, Canada!) If I can
carry my meal metaphor a little further, at this point my eyes and ears were
absolutely full. Luckily the last piece was 'Baseball', a fast-moving,
tightly choreographed comedy piece by the Cody Rivers Show - like a
refreshingly light and airy sorbet at the end of a huge Thanksgiving dinner.
My only regret was that I don't know very much about baseball, so I was
probably only catching 1/2 of the humor.
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