How's TBA this year? TBA.

Sojourn Theatre's BUILT. Photo by Andy Batt.

Every year at about this stage in our autumnal trajectory, we in Portland become intrigued and inundated with the big city-wide contemporary performance festival that is Time Based Art. As I've mused on this blog before, contemporary art isn't always my cup of tea; I much prefer the complex structure and brilliant prose of a well-chosen classical play that speaks to our modern predicaments with alarming poignancy but still feels timeless and universal. Whereas modern performance tends to be about a singular artist and their own lens to the world around us, or something else very specific in the here and now. Eh.

But I can't help but be lured into TBA festival and its promise that on any given night, you might see something truly memorable and amazing. It used to be that I would scan the itinerary and identify a few things that sounded especially unusual, or came highly recommended by the local press and other "purveyors" of contemporary art. Time after time I was sorely disappointed, or even worse, unamused, and my favorite events have often been like hidden gems tucked in the nooks and crannies of the festival with, like, 12 people in the audience. Part of the fun of the TBA festival for me has been its randomness, so I am embracing that, and this somehow seems more appropriate anyway than a deliberate overplanning of events.

So now I do it like this: during these first few days, I stick my toes in the water and get a sense of the larger vibe. From there, I let my instinct and my mood carry me throughout the festival wherever I feel motivated to be. Never too much, mind you -- I do have a full time job to report to, and I do recall that one year, not long ago, my initial impression was all bad and I chose not to attend anything else whatsoever.

So tonight I start dabbling. Built at 8:30, followed by the Neal Medlyn Experience Live at 10:30. Something serious and local, and something silly from god knows where. Sounds perfect. But how does it make me feel? To be announced.


MightyToyCannon said...

Another year, another TBA, and another week or two of best intentions for venturing out to see some interesting work. Even when I had a free TBA pass (thanks to my participation in the Guitar Orchestra project a few years ago), I had a hard time dragging myself out of the house to TBA events. I'm getting too old for this stuff! Maybe this year. I swear I really want to.

If I do manage to find the energy, here are a few acts I'm considering:

1) Mary Oslund has choregraphed a piece for "Ten Tiny Dances" at The Works (tonight at around 10:30). I'm a big fan of hers.

2) I saw Reggie Watts perform at a Live Wire recording session. A fascinating performer mixing idioms. I won't be surprised if his performances at the Winningstad sell out quickly.

3) I'm interested in Mike Daisey's pieces, particularly the one about Edison and Tesla, which is a fascinating story already. I missed Daisey when PCS brought him here for "Dog Years." I was fortunate to see him perform his monologue "How Theater Ruined America" at the Theatre Communication Group's conference in Denver last June. With a standing room only audience comprised entirely of theater people, it was an incredible performance. I know lots of people hate Mike Daisey, and view that piece as an unfair rant against regional theater (including some thinly-veiled barbs directed at our own PCS). But, I thought it was a touching, mesmerizing and provocative piece. You may not agree with his perspective, but he gets you thinking.

There's a nice review of Sojourn's "Built" over at MrMead's site:

I'll be interested in hearing Culture Jock's take on it.

culturejock said...

Sounds like a good mix you've got there. You can include me in the group of people who AREN'T fans of Mike Daisey, and I agree with MrMead that BUILT was impressive and fun! Neal Medlyn not so much.

Mead said...
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MightyToyCannon said...

We ventured out on this beautiful sunny Sunday to drop in on TBA's visual arts at The Works. One motivation was to get inside the building at the base of N. Broadway just north of Memorial Coliseum -- now named "The Left Bank Project." It's one of those intriguing old buildings perched in the middle of a confusing intersection.

Frankly, I was disappointed and bored by it all. I know it's not fair to say that without giving my reasons and offering at least some description, but I don't have it in me tonight. I guess it all just felt stale, obvious and a little depressing. Maybe the RNC overexposed me to ugliness and darkness over the past week. I'm hungry for a little brightness and optimism...dare I say "hope."