TBA in a Nutshell
Noontime chat, 9/6/07
The festival kicked off last night with Rinde Eckert and his flock of singers in Pioneer Square, but earlier that day, PICA’s Mark Russell, Kristan Kennedy, and Erin Boberg Doughton, and about 30 audience members gathered at PNCA for a noontime chat introducing TBA 07. Mark described the afternoon energy as nearing the very top of the big drop of the roller-coaster—the point where you’re inching towards the top. Slowly. Justs about to creep over the top and release all that build up. With a WHOOOSH! everyone in the audience threw their hands in the air.
Mark circulated some “nuts” for the audience to enjoy (“yeah, protein! I’ll need that to stay strong this week!”). But the “nuts” turned out to be sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds may or may not count as nuts, but nevertheless they are too obnoxious to eat, especially in a quiet group setting.
Mark, Kristan, and Erin each spoke briefly about a few of the artists, and told a few stories of how this year’s festival came together. The chat was informal, and driven by questions from the audience.
Mark spoke about Rinde Eckert, who was recently short-listed for the Pulitzer, and his interest in spirituality, Americana, and American voices. Eckert was charged with creating a piece to launch the festival, and has assembled a choir of vocalists from across the city to perform a piece about migration. There will be birds and accordions. Mark expects this to be a “soft, gentle beginning” to the festival this year, as opposed to the lively parade that launched TBA 06.
Kristan announced that, after a VERY long night, Corberry Press is now open! She spoke with affection about each of the visual artists, and called the group show, Space is a Place, “small and provocative.” Flipping through the catalog, I’m always a little less interested in the gallery stuff, assuming I’ll catch up with it after the week of performances is over. But after hearing Kristan talk I’ll definitely devote some time in the next few days to Sarah Greenberger Rafferty and Larry Bamberg. Kristan glowed about Bamberg’s piece. Being an otherwise vacant warehouse, Corberry Press has its challenges as a space, most notably a giant pit in the middle of the largest room. Last year, Matthew Day Jackson built a deck over it, so that audiences could walk over the pit as they viewed his pieces. This year, Larry Bamberg has tiled the whole thing over in white vinyl, while his delicate sculpture swirls above it.
When pressed, Mark pointed to Marc Bamuthi Joseph as the “must see” of the festival. An important tip? Or, example of blatant my-name-is-Mark-too bias? I’ll find out tonight.
He also lauded Scott Shepherd, the actor who stars in Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz, as a very “special” guy, who will fly back to New York on Monday to play Hamlet in the Wooster Group’s production at The Public Theater. Mark described Scott Shepherd as of the caliber of Spalding Gray or Willem Dafoe, if not greater. With Gatz clocking in at 6.5 hours plus, it will take some audience stamina to find out.
When questioned, Erin explained why the festival no longer has a “North by Northwest” line-up showcasing local artists. Erin said that curators and audiences from around the world come to TBA and are interested in what artists are doing in the Northwest. Local artists have a strong presence in the festival this year, and are indicated with a green NXNW in the catalog. PICA decided to fold these artists into the main line-up, rather than “ghettoizing” them as a smaller series off to the side.
This year’s opening chat was less heavy on the philosophy behind the festival (Why bother? Why Portland?) than in previous years. But, each of the PICA folks spoke so sincerely about their commitment to the development of artists and the creation of new work. You could really see how personally invested they are in each of the artists, and the relationships they have formed.
TBA offers a rare opportunity to see work in progress and world premieres. Erin and Kristan spoke of how easy it would be to only accept work that has already been vetted, is already in a frame or has achieved critical acclaim. Erin used Zoe Scofield as an example of an artist who, though young, has some amazing performances in her repertoire. It would be easy to say, “Hey Zoe, bring that piece to TBA—it’s a sure winner.” Instead, PICA says, “Wow, your work is incredible, we’re confident you’re ready for the next step—and we’ll invest in it, take it, show it, whatever ‘it’ may be.”
Dave Matthews is a Zoe Scofield fan, after all. She’s directed his new video, which you can watch on youtube or download for free on iTunes.
Go to the noontime chats if you can. They offer a different perspective on the personalities that make up the festival. Watching Suicide Kings, Reggie Watts, and Lifesavas last night, I noticed that, already, this little bit of background and curatorial insight has made my TBA experience much richer.
posted by Kirsten Collins