NW New Works Weekend 1 Jun 8, 2014
by Brett Love
I know that my Google Calendar and the lengths of days would disagree, but for me summer officially begins when On The Boards kicks off NW New Works. There is just something so special about this huge pile of new works performed by a vast array of artists that gives the feeling of a shift. It's a cultural solstice of sorts. A renewing of the energies that sends us off on the next season's adventure. The 2014 NW New Works solstice got off to a great start.
I'll go out of order because the opening and closing performances (ilvs strauss's Manifesto and Sarah Rudinoff's Is This Real Life?) felt like two sides of the same coin. Both started as absurd comedies. ilvs is pregnant, and Sarah is putting her vagina on toast. And while both delivered on that comedic premise, what made them both specia is that they also told personal stories about both of these artists.
I've been lucky enough to see three different versions of Manifesto as ilvs has developed it over time. It has grown and changed each time, and I am more impressed with ilvs every time I see it. Being able to see that growth happen with a piece, or with an artist, is one of the thigns that makes On The Boards and NW New Works such a treasure.
The first weekend studio set also had Linda Austin with Hummingbird. We should all be so lucky as to age as gracefully as Linda Austin. Hummingbird is proof of the old adage that you are only as old as you feel.
Finally, Anna Connor + Co's Yours, BUt Don't Kiss Me. This was the most traditional piece of the night, but that's not a bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing. You couldn't really ask for anything more from it. Anna Connor's choreography is beautiful and she has put together a wonderful ensemble of dancers with Julia Cross, Kaitlyn Jane Dye, Brittani Karhoff, Lorraine Lau, and Italy Padilla. We should also add a tip of our caps to the lighting design by Nico Tower and Becca Blackwell. The shifting of the dancers into silhouette and back out was gorgeous.
The Week 1 Main Stage lineup called to mind one of the things I like most about NW New Works. In some cases, you are getting in on the ground floor here. It's a chance to see a work, or an artist, in it's early stages. There is something bigger coming, and this is the start of it. Of particular note in this cycle are THe Pendleton House and Rainbow Fletcher. I think both are poised to be part of the On The Boards season in the not too distant future.With From The Middle To The Edge, The Pendleton House has shown that their incredible debut last August with A Begging was no fluke. While it is still a very young company, they are wise beyond their artistic years and operating at a level that is remarkable to behold. Here we see another dark world, the likes of which you wouldn't want to live in. But when you visit, you can't take your eyes off it. The dance and choreography from Alexandra Maricich, Babette Pendleton McGeady, Colleen McNeary, Mariah Martens, Ariana Bird, and Baylee Drew Reynolds is simply stunning, and something of a testament to the power of working as a collective. This show also provided what I am sure will be the lasting image of the 2014 NWNW for me. All six dancers walking toward us in darkness with Meg Fox's lighting from the side flashing across their faces. It was beautiful and brilliant and I can't stop thinking about it.
Rainbow Fletcher has had her work performed at On The Boards before. My particular favorite of those was The Buffoon, with The Off Shore Project. This latest adventure stands apart in that it is a Rainbow Fletcher piece. It just solidifies what anyone that has seen her work with The Offshore Project, or the Castaways, or for any of the other companies she has worked with, already knew. Rainbow is extremely talented. When Jupiter Met Saturn feels like the next step in her evolution of as an artist. It's a huge company of dancers she has brought together to perform the piece, and she handles them all so well. As we see the story of the lovers unfold on video and in dance, it's never not fascinating. It's beautiful, powerful, and emotional, all building to a climax that will give you chills.
Kyle Loven, of course, has alreay been part of the OtB season, with Loss Machine (available at OtBTV!). Ham Sandwich is something of a departure in that it is much more straight theatre than most of what we have seen from him. The transition has been seemless. A story that seems to start simply enough soon takes a turn and descends into a dark pit of paranoia, with a side of Big Brother. His performance is great, and only enhanced by the crazed lighting and videography that supports the story. It's all capped off perfectly by the ominous presence of Amiya Brown and Hatlo as the shadowy powers that be that fload in and out of the darkness.
Crying. This is all just so strange I'm still not even sure what to make of it. THe building blocks are outstanding. There is great music from the live band, and the songs are intriguing and performed well. But there is this alien quality to it that I can't put my finger on. THe best way I can explain it is that it feels like you got in a time machine and went back in time to see a cabaret performance. But since you didn't actually read the manual for a time machine, you jacked it up and also managed to go to a parallel universe where society just developed differently. Crying is not of our world. That said, when Allie Hankins appears and they start that bizarre mic cord bdsm, you can't look away. It's fascinating for its originality and peculiarities. And that makes it a perfect NWNW show.