TBA:14 we hardly knew ya | A banner year from PICA shows there is a significant audience in Portland for contemporary performance

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…”?

The world famous PICA Econoline van keeping it real at TBA:12.  When this thing shows up, prepare your paradigm to be subverted.
The world famous PICA Econoline van keeping it real at TBA:12. When this thing shows up, prepare your paradigm to be subverted.

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.

Wait – maybe if we could have the PICA plane fly around city center a few more times, trailing the “ART ACCOMPLISHED” banner…until Pepper Pepper and Oil Money parachute out of it.

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.

Truly.

Bravo, PICA. Keep on keepin’ on…

There they are.  "They" are always there when there's something interesting going on.  Because they've gotta have it.
There they are. “They” are always there when there’s something interesting going on. Because they’ve gotta have it.
Come out, come out wherever you are.  Full house for TBA, but when the festival disappears, so do many of them.  Why?
Come out, come out wherever you are. Full house for TBA, but when the festival disappears, so do many of them. Why?

But don’t answer yet. You also get…

TBA:14 | Mammalian Diving Reflex’s ALL THE SEX I’VE EVER HAD probes the weird and wonderful of modern sex life

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.

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TBA:14 | GERMINAL takes live theatre back to the future with latest technology and oldest questions

Who? What? Why? Where?

GERMINAL

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.

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TBA:14 | Cynthia Hopkins brings wigs, an accordion and killingly provocative A game to Portland in her new show A LIVING DOCUMENTARY

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!!!

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Edward Albee made a brief appearance.
Edward Albee made a brief appearance.
PICA AD Angela Mattox.
PICA AD Angela Mattox.

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Nothing but potential.
Nothing but potential.

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Fire and brimstone show biz self help.
Fire and brimstone show biz self help.

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At the end, no matter how long we clapped, she wouldn't come out.
At the end, no matter how long we clapped, she wouldn’t come out.

TBA:14 | Whatever else it is, Tim Hecker’s music is performed at a volume potentially damaging to the audience’s health

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.

A soon to be packed house at PSU getting ready to hang on to their seats beneath the sonic wash of Tim Heckler.
A soon to be packed house at PSU getting ready to hang on to their seats beneath the sonic wash of Tim Hecker.
This is not a good feeling. High volume is a public health hazard just like air pollution.
This is not a good feeling. High volume is a public health hazard just like air pollution.

TBA:14 | Critical Mascara keeps Portland safe from ISIS one more night

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.

Wow.

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.

Their loss.

Here’s an unedited stream of all photos.

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TBA:14 | Tonight, tonight, the world begins tonight | you + critical mascara = glamtastic

UPDATE 9.14.2014 See photos from Critical Mascara 2014 here

Though seemingly everything under the sun is happening in Portland this weekend (people, coordinate schedules next time!!!), tonight there is but one place to be.

And that is the street formerly known as SE 8th Avenue.

Which tonight becomes a runway to the stars.

Come witness this drag queen strewn, glitter dusted alley in all its splendifery.

The place is going to be packed like a Camaro on the way to your junior high prom.

Want to see what it was like last year? Check out Chelsea Petrakis.

2013 Critical Mascara.  Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.
2013 Critical Mascara. Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.
Chelsea Petrakis on Flickr.  Scroll down a bit.
Chelsea Petrakis on Flickr. Scroll down a bit.

TBA:14 | The art form is dead, long live the art form | The Knight Foundation’s Dennis Scholl shares deep insights about how the audience is changing and what successful arts groups of the future will look like

Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation.
Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation.

Dennis Scholl, art collector and VP of Arts at the Knight Foundation in Miami, gave a direct and engaging talk at this morning’s TBA Institute event about how the performance arts are changing, and what arts groups will need to do to keep up with the audience.

At the big flagship “SOB” groups (symphony, opera, ballet) as well as theatre, the larger trends show declining audiences. What used to work isn’t working anymore, and the one big change almost everyone needs to make in order to survive is shift from a “bring the audience to my space” mindset to “bring my art to where the people are.” Given that change in orientation, the big, creaky physical flagship venues of yesterday are vulnerable.

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And then there’s the digital aspect. A massive divide is opening between those who are plugged in and those who aren’t. As older folks move through the system, in the future everyone will be plugged in. But some groups may not survive the transition.

Smart groups have moved beyond trying to recreate what worked 50 years ago and are leading the way somewhere new – in both location and content. To do this what you need first and foremost is a vision for how to create new and exciting experiences for the audience. Simply continuing to do the same tired routine isn’t gonna cut it.

Scholl is big on surprises. We must find the audience in new ways and places. To put his money where his mouth is, he cleverly inserted some real art smack dab into the middle of his talk. After ending a point with “Because real art can happen anywhere,” Scholl paused and all of a sudden two Portland Opera singers suddenly materialized and took the room over. Stunning!!!!

And then there's art, so suddenly. Midway thru, an opera broke out.
And then there’s art, so suddenly. Midway thru, an opera broke out.
You're going to have a hard time finding something to spice up your presentation better than these two.
You’re going to have a hard time finding something to spice up your presentation better than these two.

Looking for some everyday beauty that engages with the audience? Here you go…

Bringing the art to the people.
Bringing the art to the people.
Full house for TBA Institute.
Full house for TBA Institute.
Sunk (and lost) costs.  What a dead arts space from yesterday's world looks like.  Over unionized, generically bland downtown spaces like Portland's PCPA make it almost institutionally impossible to create exciting new work there. None of the memorable performances of the future will be happening in arts malls like this.  Serious cobweb fest.
Sunk (and lost) costs. What a dead arts space from yesterday’s world looks like. Over unionized, generically bland downtown spaces like Portland’s PCPA make it almost institutionally impossible to create exciting new work there. None of the memorable performances of the future will be happening in arts malls like this. Serious cobweb fest.
Yesterday's vision - today.  Even if your city is willing to spend millions subsidizing the arts, investing in backward-looking white elephant brick and mortar citadels like the PCS Armory does not offer much return on investment.  All the exciting performance art of tomorrow has already left the building and will take place elsewhere.  Behind the times.
Yesterday’s vision – today. Even if your city is willing to spend millions subsidizing the arts, investing in backward-looking white elephant brick and mortar citadels like the PCS Armory does not offer much return on investment. All the exciting performance art of tomorrow has already left the building and will take place elsewhere. Behind the times.