Itai Erdal is a lighting designer, not an actor. He explains this to the audience right away during his one-man show How to Disappear Completely—he's just a good storyteller who's had an interesting life.
Born in Israel, Erdal moved to Canada as a young man. When his mother got lung cancer, he flew back to Israel to care for her. Because he was, at the time, an aspiring filmmaker, he filmed his mother's decline, with her permission, with the ultimate goal of making a documentary. That footage forms the basis of How to Disappear Completely. Providing live voiceover translation in lieu of subtitles, he screens interviews with his mom, a good-humored woman who is pragmatic about her fate, and with his sister, who disapproves of the documentary-making enterprise. Heartbreakingly, there's footage of his stepfather shaving his mother's head, pausing to kiss it. It is a son's homage to his dead mother, and it is moving.
Alongside this personal account, Erdal interjects lighthearted tutorials about lighting design, and how different lights can be used to convey different effects. He's got a little portable lightboard onstage so he can control some of his own lighting cues; he explains to the audience what each light on stage does and why he's using it, and jokes about how much control the lighting designer has over a production.
Erdal is a likable presence, and his crash course in stage lighting is fascinating. But the two elements of the show—the personal and the technical—don't fit together particularly well, and I'd argue that they actually work to blunt the show's emotional impact.
On the one hand, Erdal the storyteller is sharing anecdotes about his family and friends and particularly his mother, and those are revealing and funny and quite moving. On the other hand, there's Erdal the stage technician, explaining how lighting can be used to manipulate an audience's perception of an actor or a story. The stagecraft element is fascinating, and Erdal ably connects with the audience when he's joking around and sharing his expertise as a lighting designer, but those elements coexist uneasily with the show's intense footage of his mother's decline and death.
There are plenty of ways that lighting can function as a metaphor—from the notion that lighting is outside of an actor's control to the temporary, arbitrary nature of the spotlight to the fact that everybody fades to black in the end. And while I'm ordinarily not one to argue for making metaphors more obvious, in this case I don't think it's enough that all of that is implicit.
There's a moment in How to Disappear Completely where, if you're not completely on Erdal's side, he will lose you. He lost me, and I think part of the reason he lost me was that, though I found him quite a likable presence, his digressions about stage lighting actively encourage the audience to consider how the elements of the production have been selected and manipulated. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem. However, ordinarily, you're not asked to watch footage of someone's dead mother.
If Erdal wants to tell a story about his mother's death, fine, but he needs to make sure all of the show's elements serve that purpose. If he wants to tell a story about how he is telling the story of his dead mother, that's fine too, but he needs to make that intention more clear. Without that clarity of intention, the whole show runs the risk of seeming exploitative and self-serving. I'm in the critical minority on this one—I've heard nothing but raves—but I came away frustrated with the show's unrealized potential.
Also tonight, the first night of Chop Theatre's How to Disappear Completely, a one man multi-media show by acclaimed Canadian lighting designer Itai Erdal, about his mother's death from lung cancer. That's tonight through Saturday at Imago; details here.
And tonight at midnight is your last chance to see Third Angle's excellent In the Dark, a contemporary chamber piece performed by a string quartet in the pitch-black planetarium at OMSI. (I do hope they bring this show back, I'd like to see it again.)
I've got a pair of passes to the Works—TBA's late-night programming at Con-Way—email me by noon tomorrow, with "TBA passes" in the subject, if you want to win. Only catch is that you have to be able to stop by the Mercury office downtown tomorrow to grab 'em.
"I'm getting a little bit of ASMR," my husband leaned over to whisper to me about half an hour into last night's performance of Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People's And Lose the Name of Action, giving me a thumb's up. ASMR stands for "autonomous sensory meridian response," and is defined as "a recently described perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli." Although it's still the subject of some controversy in the scientific world—it's difficult to study, and not everyone experiences it—it seems like an ideal response to a show that makes its business the link between our physical selves and our perceptions, by way of neurology, philosophy, ghosts or "insubstantial bodies," and the experience of performing and watching dance itself.
Artists' statements are notoriously opaque, and while waiting for seating to begin I read Gutierrez's, whose work I've seen at several past TBAs, and have appreciated for its multimedia dynamism (film, monologue, and singing all appear prominently in his repertoire) and because he has a relieving knack for injecting small, perfect moments of humor into his work, often using it to clear the air after attaining dramatic climax. (Also, to thoroughly disclose: My tiny dancer brother-in-law sometimes collaborates with Gutierrez back in New York.) In the statement for this show, he discloses the fact that his father has suffered a number of neurological problems over the past half-decade, circumstances that led him to his interest in the body/mind connection, and how it's been studied.
How does one translate that into modern dance? Anyway you want, really—the medium pretty much demands liminality. But here's how Gutierrez chooses to proceed: an all-white set with projection screens that occasionally animate with a pacing professorial type who waxes philosophical; a cast that varies along lines of age, race, and body type; and neutral toned costuming that mutes to suggest Socratic philosophers and academia, as well as some light nudity.
The action itself, without giving too much away, involves a séance; a wonderful, talkative scene that devolves into the cast chasing each other around the room yelling "Fuck you!"; a lot of beautifully controlled chaotic movement that suggests the organic/chaotic complications of cells and neurons (and probably drugs) interacting both functionally and disfunctionally; contrastingly deliberate, directed motions that recall both ballet instruction and physical therapy; and spectral muttering and screams. (And yes, a little bit of well-timed comedy.)
Performances wherein you're given a little bit of information, followed by vague, interpretive action, always result in an inner turmoil for me where I'm both trying to assign narrative and meaning and trying to stop myself from doing so too literally, but I will say that the solos were when I felt most tapped into what Gutierrez meant when he said that dance "constantly disappears and haunts."
I was starving when I showed up to the venue for the 6:30/suppertime show, and somewhat crestfallen at the utter lack of refreshments available for purchase—a mood further darkened upon the realization that the show was nearly 90 minutes long. It says something that I was surprised when it ended; it didn't feel like that much time could have possibly elapsed. I wasn't even hungry anymore. There are two more shows this week for And Lose the Name of Action, on Friday and Saturday evening (details are here), and plenty more TBA action and reaction to talk about on the Mercury's lively TBA blog.
You know what's hard? Listening! Click on over to our TBA blog for reviews of Third Angle's incredible In the Dark, performed... in the dark, at OMSI's planetarium, and to find out which TBA show provides Lucky Charms and whiskey at intermission.
Oh, and if you haven't checked out photos from Saturday's drag ball—it was bananas!—do that too.
Tonight at OMSI, a string quartet from the Third Angle New Music Ensemble performs In the Dark, a piece by Georg Friedrich Haas meant to be played... well, in the dark.
There's a decent chance I'm going to fall asleep—these late nights at the Con-Way warehouse are taking their toll!—but I'm really looking forward to this one. For our TBA guide, Matt Stangel interviewed Third Angle's Ron Blessinger; the conversation is insightful:
BLESSINGER: [Performing in the darkness] places a lot of pressure on us because we have to play the piece from memory. Now, the good thing is, it's more like jazz than it is like classical music in that there's nothing literal that we have to memorize. We just have to understand the rules. And the rules are that the piece is in 18 sections, and each section has a gesture—it could be a sound, it could be a noise, or it could be a pluck, a pizzicato, something that is an invitation—and that invitation can be accepted by someone else in the quartet or not. If it's accepted, then that section is played. And if it's not accepted, then we kinda wander around in the darkness until someone makes another invitation gesture for another section, and then we accept that or not. So there's a lot of wandering around, and we find our way through the sections of the piece, and so the call-and-response aspect has a religious significance, too, that's very orthodox. And that's kinda loosely the structure.
We'll have a review of the show tomorrow on our TBA blog!
At last night's performance of We Put It Together So We Could Take It Apart, the collaboration between musician Khaela Maricich and visual artist Melissa Dyne (AKA the Blow), I was reminded of Reggie Watts' TBA performance at the Someday in 2008, where he collaborated with dancer Amy O'Neal and used a loop pedal to create dizzying, hilarious improvisations.
The Blow's show isn't as funny as Watts' was, or as showily virtuosic, but there's something similar underpinning the two productions: Both are heavily improvised, both explore the limits of collaboration, and both feature performers really trying to take risks in front of a live audience.
The setup for We Put It Together is simple: Maricich stands on a bare stage, a giant triangle projected onto the wall behind her. In the back of the room, Dyne stands at a table, controlling light and sound. Maricich sings songs, and dances to beats laid down by Dyne, and responds to nonverbal cues from Dyne about where to stand or what to do next. She banters a bit with the crowd, frequently returning to questions about authenticity: The idea that the person onstage is different than the person who, say, wrote the songs that she's singing. (She also shakes her butt a lot.) The whole time, she's focused on Dyne, who is helping to guide the show with light and sound cues. Dyne and Maricich are partners, which gives the setup an interesting dynamic, like some intimate communication is happening to which the audience is only sorta privy. The overall effect is of a sort of post-modern cabaret, with Maricich performing a live deconstruction of her role as performer. And if that sounds boring, the songs are actually really great, poppy and dancey while retaining that lyrical specificity that characterizes Maricich's work. Everyone in the "I stopped listening to the Blow after Jona Bechtolt left" camp should probably reconsider that position.
I imagine the show will be different tonight than it was last night, and I imagine it would be more different still in a different venue. I don't think the Winningstand is the best place for this one, in fact; the show's energy flagged toward the end, and I think the big formal theater setting didn't help. I thought this one was fun and engaging, though I talked to a few people after the show who were aggravated by the apparent lack of structure.
There's one more performance tonight at the Winningstad at 8:30 pm—tickets here
And, of course, there's a weekend's worth of reviews stacked up over on our TBA blog!
We're on day four of PICA's Time-Based Art Festival, and I gotta say: It's been a good one so far.
Last night's "post-realness drag ball," hosted by Kaj-Anne Peppper and Chanticleer Tru, was so goddamn much fun. It was also a super sharp programming decision: One of the festival artists, Trajal Harrell, is performing two pieces inspired in part by the voguing scene in Harlem, where gay men in drag held elaborate "balls" (as documented in Paris Is Burning, a fascinating film that's on Netflix Instant, if you haven't seen it). PICA's drag ball, then, was just one step away from Harrell's challenging performance work, but it's a step that brings with it a hugely engaged fanbase for drag and queer performance. So the show was thematically on-point and also incredibly fun, and absolutely packed with a young, queer, lively crowd. As one respected local arts administrator drunkenly hollered at me last night, "It's gay as shit in here!"
So probably nothing is going to top that, but tonight's late-night show actually sounds like a great bet, as composer Nick Hallett has rounded up a posse of local musicians including Holcomb Waller for what I think is going to be one of those art world rarities, a high-concept show that's also enjoyable:
As for the performances, I've only seen a couple so far, but I highly recommend catching the last showing of Lola Arias' The Year I Was Born, which explores life under Pinochet from the point of view of performers in their 20s and 30s. That's tonight at 6:30 pm.
The reviews are stacking up over on our TBA blog! And crazy pictures from the drag ball are on the way, never you fear.
Last night was TBA's free opening night show, featuring original riot grrrl Kathleen Hannah's new band The Julie Ruin and adorable openers from School of Rock and the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls.
First things first: God, it's good to get out of Washington High School. That venue was cool—especially the first year—but it was consistently strained beyond capacity by opening night crowds. Security posed challenges, there were endless lines, the unisex bathrooms were time-based experiments in total grossness... In comparison, the giant Con-Way warehouse feels goddamn luxurious, with plenty of room for last night's crowds. (Though it remains to be seen how ticketed shows with less of a draw will fare—it's an awfully big space.) The line to get in to the venue moved fast (once I found the grownup entrance), the lines for food and drink were long but manageable, and at no point did I get the refrain from "Hater's Anthem" stuck in my head, which... kinda usually happens on opening night at TBA.
Con-Way is a warehouse space slated to turn into a New Seasons soon. It's an adamant return to the days where TBA was a roving, pop-up operation in a different space every year, and PICA clearly poured a ton of work into transforming it into a venue suitable for multiple sizes and types of shows. In addition to the main stage, there's a small gallery and I *think* another small theater space, though I didn't have a chance to fully explore last night. It's a really cool space—the kind of thing you wish Portland had all the time—and I'd recommend checking it out before it starts selling organic fruit snacks and locally fermented miso.
I'll be curious to hear what other people thought of the show last night. I loved it, but it was an almost defiantly un-arty choice for a festival opener. (That's why I loved it. I like to see a few big, everyone-is-welcome events at TBA every year, in addition to the more specialized and less accessible stuff, and I particularly liked that this show tapped into the history of riot grrrl in the Pacific Northwest.)
I'm not sure I've ever been this excited for a TBA opening night show—yes, even including that year everyone dressed in all-white and paraded across the Broadway Bridge (TBA!). Tonight, the festival kicks off with a free show from the Julie Ruin, the new project from Kathleen Hanna, frontwoman of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre and arguably the most influential figure of the riot grrrl era.
When I was in high school back in ye olde 1990s, it seemed like there was a show in Portland every weekend from some great feminist/queercore band: Sleater-Kinney, The Need, the Gossip, the Bangs, the Butchies, Bratmobile, Cadallaca, and plenty more I'm forgetting either because I'm old or they weren't that good. And while these days it's much more common to see women onstage (unless you're at Warped Tour), I do sometimes miss that sense of a highly engaged community around supporting female artists.
WHICH IS WHY I'M SUPER EXCITED TO SEE KATHLEEN HANNA TONIGHT! According to early reviews, the band is playing a mix of new songs and tracks from Hanna's great 1997 solo album Julie Ruin, which inspired the current tour. Hanna pulled together a full band to tour with, featuring Kathi Wilcox, Kenny Mellman, Carmine Covelli, and Sara Landeau. And the event listing also says "Featuring Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls and School of Rock"! So maybe something cute will happen.
The show is tonight at 10:30 pm at the Con-Way Warehouse (2170 NW Raleigh), which is where TBA is hosting all of their late-night programming this year. (The Washington High days are over, and it's about time—the limitations of that venue were really starting to show, as cool as it is.) And it's free and all ages. Which means it will be packed.
$20 to any man who pushes his way to the front to take pictures :D JUST KIDDING
TBA—Portland's annual festival of contemporary visual and performing art—kicks off of this week, with a promising lineup that includes a free fest opener from The Julie Ruin and a "post-realness" drag ball featuring a former member of Sissyboy (remember them?), as well as plenty of heavy-hitting dance programming and the usual lineup of "this sounds weird but might be mind-blowing" performance art.
Starting today, over at our TBA blog you'll find the same thing we do every year, Pinky: Reviews, gossip, artist interviews, photos, giveaways, and more.
We're kicking off the blog with a giveaway: Click through to win tickets The Cat's Meow, an evening with Thomas Lauderdale and Australian cabaret sensation Meow Meow.
And when you're planning your TBA, our detailed event listings are here to help you navigate the crowded, occasionally inscrutable lineup.
PICA's annual Time-Based Art festival is just under a month away, which means it's time to start sifting through the festival's program. One thing that jumped out at me immediately is that this year's lineup features some of my favorite musicians, in familiar and unfamiliar guises:
The Julie Ruin
In 1997, Kathleen Hanna released a solo album under the moniker Julie Ruin. It was dancier and more accessible than what she'd been doing in Bikini Kill, but nowhere near as polished as her later work in Le Tigre—the album effectively bridges those two more prominent phases of her career. This year, TBA kicks off with a performance from The Julie Ruin, Hanna's new band with Kathi Wilcox, Kenny Mellman, Carmine Covelli, and Sara Landeau. A couple tracks from their forthcoming album have been released so far, and this one is the best:
The former Sonic Youth bassist/ongoing badass is performing with Bill Nace under the monicker Body/Head, which the internet says is a "noise guitar duo" with an album out from Matador this September.
Who doesn't like the Blow? WHAT KIND OF A PERSON DOESN'T LIKE THE BLOW?? For the TBA, Blow founder Khaela Maricich teams up with conceptual artist Melissa Dyne for We Put it Together So We Could Take It Apart, a show that promises to combine songs from the new Blow album, improvisation, and... art?
The tenth anniversary edition of the Time-Based Art festival wrapped up on Sunday. We've got final thoughts over on our TBA blog, including how new artistic director Angela Mattox's internationally focused programming fared, and why it's time to move on from Washington High.
This year, TBA closed out its ten-day run with a show by Laurie Anderson, a returning TBA artist who's just about as big as it gets in the contemporary art scene. I'm not sure why PICA decided to close the fest with their big event, rather than opening with it as they've done in years past—it may have just been a logistical decision—but I liked it. A fancy event at the Schnitz that might make a snoozy opener instead offers a gentle comedown from the fest.
Anderson performed Dirtday!, a mild-mannered rumination on natural selection, tent cities, death, sleep, and her piano-playing dog.
Dirtday is predominantly a storytelling show—music provides punctuation and atmosphere, but is rarely the focus. On a bare stage dotted with candles, Anderson's voice settled into a dangerously soothing rhythm, occasionally distorted by a voice modifier or broken up with a riff on the electric violin. Each story was more or less a few jokes wrapped around an aphorism ("if we didn't have regrets, we wouldn't have all that much music"), plus the aforementioned YouTubes of her dead dog, which were beautifully out of context on that stage and very endearing at the same time. A fire alarm went off onstage at one point, and Anderson's handling of that distracting was as gracious as could be. She was gracious in general, in fact, peppering the show with plenty of humor, but I nonetheless I struggled to connect the pieces of Dirtday. She opened with a reference to the name of the show, in suggesting that we rename earth "dirt," because it's "funkier, like we are," but all I can think to say about the rest of the subject matter covered is that it is all relevant to being a human. The evening's undeniable highlight was when she returned to stage for an encore to play an electric violin solo, a beautifully precarious number in which every tremor of her bow transmitted both fragility and control. I wish Dirtday! had offered a few more of those moments.
There are two performances left of Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had it So Good). Go see it.
Hilarious, technically ambitious, surprising, thoughtful—this show is wonderful. To explain it is to make it sound a lot more pretentious than it actually is, but: It's a contemporary reenactment of a handful of Andy Warhol's movies, filmed live by ridiculously gifted improvisers, with the most seamless integration of audience participation I've ever seen. (I was assured by a performer after the show that they seek out participants who seem open to being onstage—my strategy of staring intently at my hands whenever I hear the words "we need an audience member!" will work fine if you're allergic to the spotlight.)
The actors talk a lot about how their characters would be feeling and acting in 1965, when Warhol's Kitchen was filmed. In one of my favorite moments, a performer named Sharon (a pixie-haired Edie Sedgwick stand-in) is talking about feminism and oppression when another actor begins showering her with corn flakes. In any other contemporary art piece, this would be some sort of symbol, left to audience interpretation—in this show, Sharon said, "What are you doing that for?" It was a small moment, but it made me laugh, and it sums up the directness and humor that made the show work so well.
Gob Squad's Kitchen is a reminder that complexity and accessibility are not mutually exclusive. It's about nostalgia and influence and optimism and change; it's unabashedly entertaining. I might write a more in-depth review of this piece on Saturday, after it's ended, but at this point I don't want to spoil the experience for people who haven't seen it yet—it's an incredible pleasure to watch it unfold. Definitely a top-ever TBA show for me, up there with Elevator Repair Service's Gatz and Rude Mech's The Method Gun.
There are showings tonight and tomorrow at 8:30 pm at PSU's Lincoln Hall. Tickets are $30; buy 'em here.
Well, you missed last night's wonderful The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, a "live documentary" that saw filmmaker Sam Green narrating an introduction to Bucky's life and work, with a soundtrack provided by Yo La Tengo. (You shouldn't have missed it. We told you. You never listen.)
But there's still one weekend left of the Time-Based Art festival, and plenty to see.
Tim Etchells and Ant Hampton's intriguing tour of written and spoken language, The Quiet Volume, set in the library, runs through Sunday and is absolutely worth experience. Reservations are required. It's $10. You can afford it. Don't be a baby.
Andrew Dickson's Life Coach, in which a real-person "patient" receives a life-coaching session from Dickson in front of a live audience, has four more shows on Saturday and Sunday. As unassuming as this show is (it's in a tiny conference room in the basement of the Mark Spencer Hotel; there's really nothing high-concept about it), it's probably the most memorable thing I've seen so far. It's free. You can afford it. Don't be a baby.
Keith Hennessy's Turbulence runs for two more nights. Audience opinion has been divided on this one, including among our writers: Plenty of people have found the show's immersive freakiness thought-provoking and playful; some haven't.
There are also a handful of shows opening this weekend, including the anticipated Gob Squad's Kitchen (You Never Had it So Good), a mishmash of live theater and film riffing on Andy Warhol's films. Details!
For more, browse our TBA events here.
Over on the TBA blog, Jenna Lechner reviews Keith Hennessy's Turbulence, which bills itself as "a dance about the economy." This show's been divisive—the Portland Monthly loved it, as did a few of my friends, where Jenna and I both found it more aggravating than inspired. You should read Jenna's review, because it is well-written and I think it precisely articulates the problems with the show ("At a certain point, art stops being “difficult” and starts being an abusive and self-indulgent waste of an audience’s time"). Here are some quotes that pretty much some up her night:
“This is some hippie shit up in here.” — Noah Dunham. (The show hasn’t started.)
“Want a donut?” — Dude hanging from the railing. (The show has started?)
“Who wants a donut?” — Donut dude, now in the audience, handing out donuts.
“Aimless.” — Guy in the audience.
“Well, if the party is in option…I’m gonna take that option. And get out of here.” — Woman behind me.
“DICK. I wanna. See. More. Dick." — My friend, now desperate, and hoping they open the floor to audience suggestions.
“I am so over contemporary art. I am so sick of how self-indulgent this field is.” — My friend, the art professor.
“I just want to see something pretty :( ” — Me, five days into TBA.
Music fans should take note of tonight's TBA programming: First off, two showings of the Sam Green-directed documentary The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, which draws from Fuller's own papers and is accompanied by a live score from Yo La Tengo. Here's some footage, just waiting to be soundtracked:
There are only two showings of this one, tonight at 6:30 and 8:30 pm at Washington High, $25, more info here
Apparently last night's late-night show at the Works was pretty rocky (did you read Noah's writeup? "a two hour Google+ chat amongst five seemingly intoxicated friends made increasingly tedious with obscure inside jokes and failed audience participation"? Ouch). Tonight, though, things get back on track with a show from Portland's Parenthetical Girls, which promises to augment the band's already-theatrical stage show with plenty of guests and a dance piece. That's at Washington High, 10:30 pm, $7
It's press day at Mercury HQ, so I don't have much time to write about Perforations, but in a nutshell: I didn't like it.
The program of Balkan performance art was intermittently boring, irritating, and boring again. I left before the fourth and final piece in the show, after sitting through three segments of the type of performance art that are exactly why so many of my friends refuse to go to TBA, even if I wave free passes in their faces.
Segment 1: The crowd is waiting in the the hallway when a volunteer tells us that if we're claustrophobic and/or incapable of standing for a while, we should skip the first segment of the program. We don't skip it, and so we're ushered backstage, where for the next 20 minutes we stand uncomfortably in the dark, crowded room, listening to spooky music and wishing we could see what was happening. Since what was happening was that a performer was creating an intricate yarn-web over the doorway, we weren't wishing that hard—we were trapped! In art! Art that felt a lot like a Nine Inch Nails fan's basement! So that was boring and uncomfortable.
[Unexplained interlude lasting approximately 40 minutes.]
Segment 2: Back in the main auditorium. A woman moved squares around over a light board (projected on a screen above) while pretty music played, then she rolled around on it for a while. I found this part sort of relaxing, but I also sort of wanted to leave.
Segment 3: A woman in a white dress gave a "political speech" inspired by Pussy Riot, while a slide show of stock vagina photos played in the background. This segment had some potential, except it lasted for 600 years, long enough for the vagina slide show to cycle through four times. I wrote down a lot of quotes from this, mostly alliterative pussy sloganeering, but I'm not going to transcribe any of it because it's frankly not that interesting. Basically it was yelling about how we need a vagina-based political party, and then it was some spoken word poetry that involved reciting the names of past presidents while porn sounds played.
At this point PICA volunteers tried to usher us upstairs, for the evening's fourth and presumably final segment (it was 10:15; the show started at 8:30), but we ran free into the night.
There's one more showing of Perforations tonight, if you really want to challenge yourself. Or you could just watch this clip 120 times.
The worst thing about the whole Mike Daisey debacle wasn't that Daisey duped a lot of people (including me, at TBA, almost exactly two years ago). It's that as soon as Daisey was caught falsifying some elements of his monologue, the other elements of that monologue—the ones that, by all other accounts, were legit—were tarnished too, as if Daisey lying about some things somehow made the things he didn't lie about easier to dismiss. But hey, reminder: Like a lot of Chinese supply factories, Foxconn, which makes a lot of Apple stuff—including the iPhone 5 that we're all going to really, really want tomorrow—is still a horrible place. From the Times:
Last week Chinese state-run news media reported that several vocational schools in the city of Huai’an, in eastern China, required hundreds of students to work on assembly lines at a Foxconn plant to help ease worker shortages. According to one of the articles, Huai’an students were ordered to manufacture cables for Apple’s new iPhone 5, which is expected to be introduced on Wednesday.
“They said they are forced to work by the teachers,” Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, one of the advocacy organizations and a frequent critic of Foxconn’s labor policies, said in an interview on Monday. Mr. Li said his staff had spoken with multiple workers and students who, as recently as Sunday, said that 10 of 87 workers on an iPhone assembly line were students.
“They don’t want to work there—they want to learn,” said Mr. Li. “But if they don’t work, they are told they will not graduate, because it is a very busy time with the new iPhone coming, and Foxconn does not have enough workers without the students.” (Via.)
The whole thing's worth reading. And is something to keep in mind tomorrow. You're welcome!
One annoyance of TBA this year has been that cute little old-timey announcement board in the hallway where the night's show schedule is posted. At least three times now, I've shown up for a show that's listed in the program and online as starting at 10:30 pm, only to find that damn board telling me it won't be starting til 11 pm. A half an hour's not a huge deal, but it's indicative of a larger problem: there's a LOT of hurry-up-and-wait at Washington High. Last night's Perforations was scheduled to start at 8:30 pm, and it did, but the 20-minute segment from 8:30-8:50 pm was followed by a solid 40 minute of waiting around for the next part of the show to start. Not to mention the general pain in the ass of waiting in line outside of Washington High, only to get in and wait in another line inside of Washington High.
Per official channels, "Things get backed up around using Washington High as a venue for 8:30 mainstage shows (particularly last night and tonight). Set changeovers can delay performers, so 11 is generally a safer bet. But doors always open by 10."
With the disclaimer that I tried the "11 is a safer bet" approach two nights ago, and missed part of Miniature Dramas. SIGH.
(More complaning—plus review of two great shows running this week—at the Mercury's TBA blog!)
While the rest of you were all distracted with banal little events like MFNW and the (apparently awesome) Rose City Comic Con, your high-minded Mercury arts team has been steadfastly plugging away on our coverage of TBA, the city's annual showcase of world-class performance art.
Here's what we've got:
Amateur Life Coach Andrew Dickson spent a fascinating, Radiolab-worthy hour talking to an elderly gentleman who wanted to bring his dead friend's math breakthrough to a wider audience. Erik Henriksen wrote all about it.
Our writer was challenged by Nora Chipaumire's Miriam, a dance referencing gender, displacement, and African identity, and her thoughtful review grapples with why she found it difficult.
I loved Miguel Gutierrez's Heavens What Have I Done—it made the performance-about-a-performance concept feel fresh and thoughtful, with the help of intimate on-stage seating strategically deployed Marie Antoinette wig. (I'm surprised that I haven't yet heard from anyone who hated the show—certain audience members were palpably bored/irritated the night I saw it.)
Our writer struggled with Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol's wordy, Spanish-language El Rumor del Incendio—he echoes what I heard from a number of people over the weekend, which is that the show is appealing and the performers engaging, but the history-heavy script was difficult to take in via supertitle.
Ten Tiny Dances is an audience favorite because it's like a Whitman's sampler of TBA—5-10 minutes from a variety of festival artists, performing their work on a tiny stage, and if you hate any one performance, no big deal, it'll be over soon. This year saw a Spider-man, a baby goat, and Keith Hennessy saying "fuck it" and packing the stage with bodies.
I'd never heard of self-described "drag terrorist" Christeene before TBA this year, and I wasn't sure what to make of the videos I'd seen online, but last night's performance was oddly uplifting. "Oddly" because, well, the show did in fact feature lead singer Christeene (the nom de drag of performer Paul Soileu) licking what I think was pudding out of another man's butt; "uplifting" because underneath the incredibly graphic stage show and lyrics were genuinely catchy pop songs. Plus, backup dancers in gimp masks performing upbeat, goofily choreographed dance numbers... I don't know, it was just sort of delightful in a way that absolutely belied how on-the-surface offensive a lot of the material was. Plus, the crowd—lots and lots of youngish gay dudes, clearly already fans—was super into it. It was fun!
Tonight at The Works: The wildly popular and only intermittently offensive Ten Tiny Dances. (It's worth noting that this year, the beer garden and food offerings at Washington High are free and open to the drinking-age public. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by for a $4 Session, eat some food, and check out the scene.)
It's art, dudes.
Washington High School, 13th & Stark. 10:30 pm, $7
Tonight and tomorrow are also your last chances to see The People—Portland, a large-scale spectacle based on the Oresteia, snippets of which last night prompted me to loudly make the intellectually dubious argument that "updating" classic theater is a bullshit waste of time. (That is what happens when you give gin to a theater critic.) Our reviewer actually saw the whole show, and he didn't love it either.
Opening night of TBA is less about art and more about taking in the scene, so to that end: Fancy new signs! Delicious snacks! Pretty art school students! Cranky homeless people! Click over to the TBA blog to read all about it.
ALSO! Last night, Matt Stangel posted an in-depth and very candid interview with TBA's visual art coordinator Kristen Kennedy, about how her curatorial approach has changed to better suit a festival where it's easy for visual art to get lost in the hustle and bustle. It's worth a read.
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