Last weekend I made the trek back to Seattle from New York and managed to catch both the studio showcase and mainstage shows at the NW New Works Festival at On the Boards. As I’ve said before, this really is one of the best events in town all year, and it was a fairly humbling experience to watch artists whose work I helped select (I was on the panel last fall) bring the pieces to fruition, to say nothing of the fact that we’ve covered the development of some of these pieces over the last year.
At least five of the works killed. Paul Budraitis presented 20 more minutes of Not. Stable. (At all.), which helped flesh out the piece along with the presentation at SPF 4 this last winter, and shows the direction the show will go as it approaches its evening length debut at OtB this coming winter. Mike Pham’s I Love You, I Hate You was a deceptively funny performance that had the audience uncomfortably laughing at Pham’s evocation of the downward spiral of internalized anger, public humiliation, and the cruel process of building oneself back up.
On the mainstage, Amy O’Neal stripped down (literally and figuratively) with In the Fray, a new lo-fi solo work that saw her move away from the spectacles of Locust and explore something more personal; a woman wearing pasties has never looked more powerful and intimidating than O’Neal at the end, clutching a pink samurai sword. Mark Haim’s This Land Is Your Land probably takes the cake for most commented on and most controversial, in the sense that reactions are fierce and divided. I loved it: for 20 minutes, a crew of dancers and non-dancers simply strut forward and backwards across the stage, with subtle changes at each passing. Haim’s choreography is a bit like microscope slides: a relentlessly intent focus on a series of different details, inviting the audience to consider everything from the simple act of texting while walking to the ways in which different naked bodies move.
And finally, Marissa Rae Niederhauser delivered a fierce piece with stifle. The rawness of Spencer Moody & co.’s dirty guitars and rock drums, which greeted the audience coming back in after intermission, was paired with an athletic and occasionally brutal-looking dance work, in which the company, moving fluidly in and out of sync with one another, dramatically bore witness to strife and struggle with their bodies.
Unfortunately, if you weren’t there, you’ve missed all that. This weekend features a line-up of eight new shows, with the same promise to astound, move, frustrate, or irritate you. Tickets are $14 for one show or $20 for two.
The Studio Showcase (Friday 8 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 5 p.m.)
The Satori Group, The Making of a Monster. Satori, one of Seattle’s most ambitious young theatre companies, breaks new artistic ground for themselves with their first fully derived work. An exploration of youth sexuality inspired by Japanese manga, The Making of a Monster promises to follow in the company’s tradition of exploring video technology and experimental physical performance. (Click here for TSB’s previous coverage of the Satori Group.)
Erin Leddy, My Mind is Like an Open Meadow. A member of Portland’s excellent Hand2Mouth Theatre, Leddy is following in fellow company member Faith Helma’s footsteps in developing a solo work in the crucible of her company’s support. Based on more than 20 hours of recordings Leddy made with her grandmother in 2001, I can only imagine that the piece will bear witness to a deep emotional connection with family and the past. (Click here for TSB’s previous coverage of Hand2Mouth.)
Lily Verlaine, Magpie. A couple weeks ago, I was in a Lower East Side burlesque club and saw performers do something you’d never see in Seattle: go all the way. Burlesque in its current incarnation is an artful mixture of experimental performance and old-fashioned stripping, but in cabaret form it faces the same regulation in Seattle as any other strip show. Local burlesque star Lily Verlaine seeks to explore new territory in a different, and more artistically free, environment here with Magpie, which features the threat of audience interaction and Polaroids.
Charles Smith, Today I Am a Zionist. I saw an earlier incarnation of this work, and was deeply surprised by it. A bricollage of pop culture references, live music, and subtle critique of American politics, Smith’s Today I Am a Zionist promises to be one of the most compelling and funny pieces in the line-up.
The Mainstage (Sat. & Sun. 8 p.m.)
Lingo Dance, Embracing the Inevitable. Mere weeks after the closing of A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, choreographer KT Niehoff returns to the stage in a duet with dancer Alia Swersky. A choreographic meditation on how dancers age, the work focuses on Niehoff’s growing recognition of the way in which she uses her body as an instrument and, hopefully, the way in which it’s changed over her two-decade career. What fascinates me about this piece is that, unlike so much dance, it could explicitly focus on the body’s, and choreographer’s, limitations, but that remains to be seen. (Click here for TSB’s previous coverage of Lingo Dance/KT Niehoff.)
The Offshore Project, The Buffoon. The high-art co-project of dancer Ezra Dickinson and choreographer Rainbow Fletcher (also members of the CanCan Castaways), The Offshore Project’s The Buffoon is a surrealistic dance piece based on Edward Gorey’s The Doubtful Guest. The Buffoon promises an infusion of testosterone and masculine athleticism generally lacking from the rest of the festival. Led by Dickinson, who’s a remarkable dancer, the crew will perform on a stunning set of precariously balanced set pieces, courtesy of artist Sean M. Johnson.
Corrie Befort, Cut Chalk. Befort, part of Seattle’s dance/music project Salt Horse, has developed this work with a set of young dancers from Cornish over the year. Extremely physical, the work explores the body through percussion, supported by live musicians. (Click here for TSB’s previous coverage of Salt Horse/Corrie Befort.)
Laara Garcia/Pseudopod Interactive, Sakura Rising. Finally, closing out the festival, is Laara Garcia’s live-action videogame dance-theatre work Sakura Rising. A richly-costumed interactive multimedia spectacle, the piece features a number of dancers who have impressed me in the past, including Alice Gosti and Markeith Wiley.