As unlikely as it sounds, Portlanders have many more opportunities to see the world's great contemporary performers than one would normally expect in a city our size. Thanks largely to the efforts of White Bird Dance and the TBA Festival, we get performances from distinguished artists like Laurie Anderson, Martha Graham Dance and the Wooster Group. You can't say as much for Phoenix or Fresno. What we don't often have a chance to see, though, are the distinguished artists of the future, the brilliant young companies who have not yet been recognized by the artistic establishment but one day very well might be. The road from San Francisco obscurity to Manhattan fame does not pass through Portland. But it might.
This weekend, Hand2Mouth Theatre, a local company that could well travel that road itself one day, presents the fourth edition of Risk/Reward, a two-day showcase of new works by artists you probably haven't heard of from Portland and Seattle. The festival has grown this year, and matured: The venue has moved from Someday Lounge to Artists Rep, and instead of just calling up a few people he knew would bring in interesting work, organizer Jerry Tischleder put out a call for applications and enlisted a curatorial panel (on which I participated) to review them. The result is enticing, though I can't guarantee any of it will be successful. The performers, each of whom will present short versions of new and in-progress works, are: the theatrical dance company Bobbevy (formerly Hot Little Hands) in a new show with music by Ash Black Bufflo; Seattle dance choreographers Jessica Jobaris, with some messy spectacle, and Allie Hankins, with some disconcertingly mechanical movement; Portland performance duo Joe Von Appen and Angela Fair, who are better known as solo performers of late, with some very funny theater-about-theater; Seattle actor, writer and puppeteer Kyle Loven, whose work with shadows and projected video are like nothing you'll see in Portland's puppetry scene; a nutty-sounding sound experiment/cooking show by local musicians Zac Nelson and Stephanie Simek; and, most promising of all, the premiere of Portland Experimental Theatre Lab—members of which have done innovative work in other cities—which will send audience members one at a time on a walking tour, guided by headphones.