2010 NWNW FEST 1st Weekend Jun 9, 2010

by Joe von Appen

Blogin. In most festival situations I find that after a certain density of work seen the pieces begin to speak to one another, they start to answer each other’s questions and echo each other’s sentiments. After the first weekend at the 2010 NWNW festival between the studio and the mainstage I saw three different solos of vastly different disciplines each have moments where the performer brandished a weapon. Now maybe I just like swords, knives and guns but it was a visual reminder of an effect I really appreciate, when art begins to overlap and expose a universality and connecting thread that bonds it all together. I don’t always like festivals but I like this effect and I fucking love the NWNW fest.

Studio Showcase. The sold-out studio showcase started with the Mint Collective’s Daughter of Air a multi-media meditation on mermaids. Sharp gasps in the dark cued the start of the show but may as well have been a reminder to the audience to breathe because what followed was hypnotic and immersive. Electronic music that was somehow both soothing and dread inducing coupled with incredibly effective lighting created a visceral effect that was a perfect show-opener. Halfway through the piece a guitar solo disturbed the ambience and elicited some uncomfortable laughter from the audience. I thought this was a testament to how strong the world created by the set design, music and commitment of the performers was. It was so trance inducing that anything that it interrupted it (like an acoustic guitar solo) was jarring enough to make the audience laugh. Next up was a solo show written and performed by Paul Budraitis’ Not. Stable. (At All). It’s lean set design and smart lighting allowed all focus to be on Budraitis’ whose energy bordered on volcanic. His delivery comfortably fluctuating between frenzied and conversational carried the piece through it’s exploration of contemporary despair. Sean Ryan’s continued deft direction with solo performance really made moments pop and though the conclusion of the piece felt abrupt in it’s confrontational nature I’m excited to see all the ideas play out in the longer version slated to be performed next year at On The Boards. After a brief intermission another solo show Mike Pham’s I love you, I hate you dealt with despair using entirely different methods. With no text, Mike used tableaux, video music and movement to create a bipolar mult-media overload that was somehow hilarious, shocking, sad and beautiful not just within the same performance but within each moment of the performance. Mike’s work with the deliriously out-of-pocket performance ensemble Helsinki Syndrome has conditioned him into a performer that can carry a dead-serious show that is breathlessly hysterical. Finally The Cherdonna and Lou Show It’s a Salon brought a campy upswing to the darkness of the rest of the showcase. Ricki Mason and Jody Kuehner bring solid character work to the wordless roles they play. Jody brings kabuki-level extremity to her role as a desperate hostess and is perfectly matched by Ricki’s underplaying her bearded and placid counterpart. On to the Mainstage. Out the gate was Danny Herter and Invasic Species with Couloir (trek) a multi-media ensemble piece that used movement and variety-show style humor to create something charming and uncynical. AMYO/TINYRAGE’s In The Fray from it’s striking blindfolded opening to it’s dizzying flashlight finale was a stunner throughout. Amy O’Neal’s solo portrays wounds and strength with equal ferocity. She makes the transition from slow-motion opening to frenetic krump-style outbursts not just fluid but completely transfixing. It made me swear. After the intermission was Josephine’s Echopraxia’s stifle. An ensemble movement piece set to a discordant and gritty score. It had a music-video sheen that never diminished the drama of the piece. Mark Haim’s This Land is Your Land concluded the evening with a group-dance piece set to an entirely country music score. For me twenty minutes of country music is a Clockwork Orange level bombardment of unpleasantness but it’s blast of color and hypnotic use of repetition produced something that was gleeful and packed with constant awe and surprise. I saw a lot this weekend. Each piece was unquestionably able to stand on it’s own but was bolstered and complimented by al the other work around it. I saw nudity, both physical and emotional, I saw pieces speak to each other in imagery and ideas and I saw another outstanding installment of the NWNW fest. It made me swear. Damnit. Thanks. Blogout.