More to follow but here are a few early returns.
Right now, all you can think about is the heat.
It’s summer in Portland. The off season. And man is it hot. The Dock is filled to capacity. Citizens are lying on blankets strewn across desiccated fields of dirt at the Blues Festival. Which I don’t think actually helps fight the heat a whole lot. And anyone with sense has fled for the coast or hills or northern Canada.
But some day soon (in theory), the heat will come off. The people will come back to town. And the performing arts scene will fire back up.
And you know what that means: the #PICAvan will be coming out of storage.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is only 68 days until this year’s incarnation of TBA kicks off at PICA. Last year was off the charts. So you know this year will be even better. There are a million ways to participate. You can volunteer, you can see one show or all shows. You can join in #CriticalMascara. You can stay up all night at after hours dance parties.
Whatever you do, be there. Because it is far and away the best live performance moment of the entire year in Portland. And it’s coming at you for 10 days starting September 10.
So get the glitter and glam ready. Because you’ll need it.
It’s here and then – just like that. It’s gone.
Holy frijoles. Did anyone get the number on that truck? Or was it a van?
You know – the one that just rampaged all over Portland, Ore-gone, blowing the minds of thousands nightly and daily for a week and a half straight.
I got a few letters off the license plate – something like “TBA…”?
Ladies and gentlemen, blow your trumpets, ignite your rockets, dash your champagne glasses in the fireplace and pop your vast, glitter-filled balloons tied together by satin ribbons while ye crowd surf o’er delirious, beauty-besotted, glam-burned revelers. At 2 AM.
For she is gone – GONE I TELL YOU!!! – and we will not see her like again.
For at least another 349 days.
sound effect: **KABOOM**
That’s a wrap.
And THEN that’s a wrap.
Et voila. TBA brings them – THOSE PEOPLE – out of the woodwork. The audience. TBA causes citizens to stand in line (sometimes for seemingly half the performance but no matter) like they’re hoping to score a WHO ticket in the late 1970’s. TBA fills every single fixed seat in Lincoln Hall as well as every discretely placed, fire code-challenging folding chair. WHAT?? And then there are people sitting on steps and standing in the back. TBA causes perfectly reasonable Portlanders to settle for way too little sleep night after night after night. Because the schedule doesn’t let up.
Every September, Portland awakens to the on season with a super-charged display of what’s current and exciting – and of what is possible with vision. For ten days, PDX is ablaze with the vital energy of performance that spills out of sanctioned spaces and infects the city.
TBA, you (in the words of an Annie Baker character) are a triple dimensional superstar.
Bravo, PICA. Keep on keepin’ on…
But don’t answer yet. You also get…
It was a packed house for the final night of Mammalian Diving Reflex’s ALL THE SEX I’VE EVER HAD in the Shattuck Hall space at PSU.
As accounts of the life sexual histories of the five participants on stage scrolled on from around 1940 to the present, several interesting themes emerged: death, an endless trail of partners and experiences, broken relationships, drugs, identity changes, and the search that never ends.
For those too young to remember the 70’s – all the wreckage and decadence was laid out in living color.
Who? What? Why? Where?
The kind of wild creativity that makes you realize you have only been using about 3% of your brain’s power. Taking a significant lead from contemporary culture and digital paradigms, which visibly connected with audience, this joyful French import rebuilds from ground zero what a new theatre might look like.
A major TBA:14 highlight.
One more night!
More photos in full TBA gallery.
Cynthia Hopkins, it is time to shelve your self doubt behind some of those musty old plays by an elder statesman American playwright who shall remain nameless.
Because there can be no doubt – none – that you belong up there on the big stage. Where you already are. BIG TIME.
In her new show, A LIVING DOCUMENTARY, Hopkins gives a bravura performance of the multiple characters (including herself) swirling around her own personal and conflicted path in the theatuh. And oh my my my is it funny.
This is not a casual improvised experience. The writing is tight, the pace is light speed. And Hopkins mows down sacred theatre cows like she’s in some Rambo movie musical.
Nothing throws cold water on the happy go lucky entertainment biz like peering into its wildly dysfunctional economics and power dynamics. In a world where cities still find millions of dollars to plow into white elephant theatre real estate boondoggles while artists at the top of their game get paid almost nothing, there are plenty of big obvious satirical targets to lock on. And lock on them Hopkins does, one after another.
Hopkins has some truth to speak to power here, and she doesn’t just speak it – she veritably screams it out in four letter words at 11-level volume. And she hits the target over and over.
Of course the irony that her rebel message was delivered in one of the most dysfunctional performance spaces in Portland, a public venue built by the city where no small artist could ever hope to self produce because of the high overhead costs – we’ll just assume she didn’t know about that.
Hopkins is a theatre entrepreneur and stands for everything we need more of if the art form is to survive: risk-taking, authenticity, ownership, originality, control of your own destiny. On the other end of the spectrum from her is the dull gray world of the old guard status quo as embodied by the PCPA: high fixed costs, unions, special interest concessionaires, exorbitant online ticket fees, etc. The contrast between the “how do I create something new to share with the audience” and “how do I extract my pound of flesh” mindsets could not be more extreme.
But even though Hopkins’ fire-breathing piece would be more at home at an authentic Portland venue like Disjecta, The Headwaters, or even The Works, such is the force and pure joy of her delivery that it worked just fine in the Winningstad.
Cynthia, thank you for reminding us what something real looks like, and for sharing the backbreaking physical and emotional pain it takes to be an independent voice in the theatre today.
DON’T GIVE UP!!!
There was some interesting stuff going on inside Tim Hecker’s sound at PSU tonight, but the performance was so loud I had a hard time hearing it.
Not that putting fingers or ear plugs in your ears was much help. This was the kind of loud where your clothing moves and you can feel the bass vibrating through your chest. Like that low note that blows out the window in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. High volume is a health hazard plain and simple, and I’m not sure why people would subject themselves to the experience voluntarily.
Also, the fact that the performance contains extremely loud and potentially damaging volume should be prominently featured in PICA’s materials about the show – same sort of warning to the audience that a show with extreme violence might call for. It’s dangerous, and it could make for a very adverse experience if you did not know what you were in for. If you were trapped in the middle of one of PSU’s long rows and wanted to exit but could not – the experience could be unpleasant.
When the audience is holding hands over ears and leaving during the performance – which a number of us did – that’s a good indication that it’s simply too loud.
If the essence of a performance somehow depends on the volume, that may be a sign that what’s being transmitted is not very notable. In Hecker’s music, I don’t think that’s the case, as there was some quite lovely stuff going on underneath.
But the stress of feeling completely under siege by a powerful, verging on the painful, manmade force made it hard to relax and enjoy much. There is absolutely no need for the volume to be that high, and deciding to perform and produce this work shows a disregard for the health of the audience – many of whom were young people.
In a world where so many formerly hazardous activities and substances are now known to be dangerous, noise pollution is a notable holdout. It is likely that loads of kids in that hall were vegetarians, non smokers, etc. And yet there’s a blind spot when it comes to loud noise and how bad for you it can be.
Extreme manmade noise is essentially the sound of lots of energy being consumed. It should remind us that most of the time when we hear some horrendously loud noise, not only is it a threat to the human body, it indicates some wasteful activity that could probably be done at much less cost.
Perhaps if Hecker had a visual readout above the stage of the wattage and thus pounds of coal being burned to power his performance, that would provide more context to ask how necessary the extreme volume is.
Presumably there is some sort of public safety standard regulating how loud sounds can be in a setting like a university hall. It would be interesting to know how close we were to any legal limits.
If was an all star evening jam packed with plenty of non-ISIS approved activities at TBA’s second annual Critical Mascara in SE Portland tonight.
The Works was knee deep in glitter dust, chest hair, and platform kicks.
Let’s just say if you lived under the caliphate of whatever the heck – they definitely wouldn’t let you do this on any given Saturday night.
Here’s an unedited stream of all photos.