NW New Works Festival – June 13-15 Jun 16, 2014

by Joyce S.C. Liao

Deserving Art by Helena Theatre Company – During the piece I kept trying to pull myself back and not to be distracted by my own thoughts. “Funding is the beginning of magic” – I pondered on this phrase….. “or something else?” I thought of the image of empty audience seats in the opening night of independent-produced shows. Where were the people? When Alex, the Program Director of the NEA, approved the project proposal of his dear Uncle Mike, I thought of the way artists also would relate to each other. “It is just human nature,” I tried to tell myself, as anger did not seem to be something more than a nerve reaction through my spine.

Sass Manifesto by Feyonce/Wayne Bund – “They were so expressive! And so happy dancing!! They were dancing themselves!!” I got totally excited and thought I had caught the glimpse of light when I saw Wayne Bund swing their body on the stage. We all know that dancers love dance and dance make them happy and to dance is why dancers live. However, it has become less often since last time I saw happiness radiate out of a dancer’s moving body. Wayne Bund had no doubt blew my mind on that regard. The “gender fuck”, or “lazy drag” was awesome. We received a minute of lecture on the topic of lazy drag (versus “high drag”) as they jumped in between their memories of 9-year-old, 27-year-old, 5-year-old, 12-year-old, etc. The stories of their childhood all gave this hysterical lazy drag traces of human flesh and blood.

That’swhatschesaid by Erin Pike – Streams of words, endeavors to find words to describe herself, very high-pitched voices, running around in frenzy and tears, with fake eye lashes half hanging on her cheeks………… she said she was happy but she was not sure why. When she swallowed the bottle of pills I thought we had to call the ambulance. Then she vomited them out on the floor, and she said she needed to take a walk and to figure out the entirety of the craziness. The phone rang but it was not for her to answer. She put on her shirt but not her pants. I wonder who gave her the outfit to wear.

Something light, for the sake of the dark by Amy O’Neal – She moved slowly from stage left, emerged out of the lake in the night, slowly stretched out her body, in black costume as one whole piece. She might be a leech, or some mysterious dark water creature, with extreme care and precision; no she wasn’t after her preys. As it progressed, she stood up and broke into high energy hip-hop steps, or square walking patterns. “Who are you taking on tonight? You’re taking me on tonight.” She would not show her face covered in the black hood. Then the alarm sounded; in blinking red lights, she crouched and berried her head in her knees.

We Can All See Your Lips Move by David Schmader – Should he be defined as a writer or a innate story teller (so that other people could play their roles as story listener and pass on his stories)? Maybe he should be defined as a chair roller. I enjoyed tremendously seeing him roll on the chair from stage corner to stage center, and then from stage center to the other side of the stage. His story began with the help of a lady randomly picked from the audience, who drew a note from his pocket and handed to him as a prompt. ‘We (i.e. speakers) should be heard for what we wanted to say, and not for what we said wrong and got caught by the others.’ As David told his story of his school performance of Hitler and how an 8th grade had a crush on him after the show, Cherdonna came out on the stage to every audience’s surpirse to lip sync to David’s words. They became integrated into each other’s thoughts and presence; we became integrated into their thoughts and presence. David & Cherdonna – I’ve heard you!!

Three perspectives in one space by Coleman Pester/Tectonic Marrow Society – Consistent patterned long whips and spiral down of the three dancers’ bodies; one fell, the other two caught and lifted them up. One circle after the other, I was lost in the geometrical lines in the space and stunned by their beauty. The dancers’ bodies were perfect and nearly super natural, made of steel tendons and capable of executing any imaginable movements: to toss up one’s body with two wrists and to catch, to bear a person’s weight on her shoulder and turn with seamless ease and grace. I was left alone as I watched, not sure what made the perfection in front of my eyes.

PEP TALK by Hand2Mouth – “I wish they wouldn’t call on me!” I whispered as the “coaches” randomly picked on audience members to tell them about their most inspiring coaches growing up. Interestingly enough, a lot more female audience members shared their answers than male audience members did. Were males generally less influenced by their coaches than females, or males were less willing to share their personal experience in the public? As Hand2Mouth tried to bring the audience a renewed experience by recalling their own memories of inspiring coaches, they intentionally or unintentionally challenged the 4th wall that had shielded the audience. As an audience, I did not want to be put in the spotlight last night. I wasn’t sure I was ready to share. My friend sitting next to me, however, was very excited to share her answer with the performers. I’m sure the audience’s mindset and expectations for live theater will progress after this performance.

I Once Was My Father by Molly Sides – She lied so still under the star sky. She faced slightly away from the audience so I couldn’t even see the movement of her breath. For a moment I wasn’t sure if she was a person or a piece of object on the floor. Then she started to sing, with her deep, deep voice that seemed able to pierce through times. Was she a person transformed from a piece of golden, new-moon-shaped outer space object? She came to live and started to tell the stories of her memories and sensations with mystical hand gestures and full-body movements. Her face, eyes, and mouth were all involved in her story telling, with water, light purple pop, showers of ice and rain, bubbles and blood in the backdrop. When I woke up, I couldn’t tell you what happened to that woman or her father in that year, but I knew that we were there together, sharing some scrapes of the dusts from their battle ground, listening to the humming of the ancestry of their family tree, through the woman’s vocal. I could feel the twist of the muscles in her arm, when they pulled the baking pane out of the oven, and when she held it so tight to strike for ……….