When did Portland musicians become such drama queens? The city's two biggest bands are both dabbling in stagecraft (the Decemberists with their rock opera, The Hazards of Love, and Pink Martini with a revival of Stan Freberg's musical comedy Oregon! Oregon!) and club acts from Deelay Ceelay to Mega*Church are pushing the always fuzzy border between pop music and performance art.
It would seem to be an excellent opportunity for groups like Hand2Mouth Theatre, which came to the same frenzied, raucous aesthetic from the other side of the spectrum through shows like Repeat After Me and Undine. But how do you get art-pop and pop-art fans to see the same shows? You start a festival.
"We want to build an audience and performance community that doesn't really exist in Portland at the moment," says Hand2Mouth member Jerry Tischleder. He's the chief organizer of Risk/Reward, a one-night, interdisciplinary performance festival, now in its second year, the company is producing this Saturday. "We have loyal audience members who never see the work of any other theater companies, and usually go out to concerts, and others who never see any concerts but love theater." Here, he hopes, both groups will discover other artists they'll enjoy.
Hand2Mouth isn't performing at this year's Risk/Reward, having just returned from a tour to San Francisco, but the lineup (consisting of 20-minute sets of new work) is strong: electropop duo Hooliganship, who dance madly against a backdrop of crude animations; Hot Little Hands, a dance company with a penchant for puppetry; Janet Pants, a dancer and director who sings while thrashing about to garage rock; Byron Au Yong, a Seattle composer who performs a solo opera piece about a Chinese-restaurant deliveryman stuck for three days in an elevator; Joe von Appen, a touring comedian of sorts who delivers bizarre, hilarious monologues; Rush-N-Disco, two children of former Rajneeshees who do very, very strange covers of pop songs; Angela Fair, an actress and singer who melds sex appeal with obscene satirical pop songs like "Let's Get Butt Naked and Fuck"; and longtime Portland choreographer Linda Austin.
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., hand2mouththeatre.org.
5 and 7:30 pm Saturday, June 27. $8 per set, $15 for both.