Think of the Risk/Reward Festival as speed dating for contemporary performance. In one night, you're introduced to six performers. Each has a different way of moving, of grooving, of talking, of acting—of trying to entice you. And each has only 20 minutes to do so.
Liked what you saw? Keep the artist on your radar. Wanted to crawl away? At least it was two minutes shorter than a sitcom episode.
Since the festival began six years ago, it's provided Portlanders a glimpse of some of the West Coast's most dynamic new work. Because all the artists perform each night, there's none of the picking and choosing that other festivals require. Still, it's never certain what exactly performers will present until the stage lights go up. "There have been some hot messes," concedes festival director Jerry Tischleder. This weekend, that seems unlikely. Here's a primer.
Josh Martin: The co-artistic director of the Vancouver, B.C., 605 Collective is "super hot shit right now in the dance scene," Tischleder says. Martin's solo piece imagines that each part of the body has a separate memory bank, which it doesn't readily share with the mind. That premise seems to fit Martin's phenomenal isolation skills—when reviewing submissions, Tischleder said several panelists thought the video had been manipulated, because Martin's movements were so uncanny.
Wayne Bund: Well-known on the Portland drag scene as his alter-ego Feyonce, Bund is venturing off the cabaret stage to explore the lineage of drag-pop divas, in particular drag's appropriation of '70s black culture. "I feel like he's having this existential crisis about being a drag queen," Tischleder says. "Is it art? Is it camp?"
Satori Group: The Seattle theater group, known for using technology to create rich onstage worlds, collaborates with San Francisco folk duo the Bengsons for a musically charged show. "They're starting with the idea that we're all refugees from a society of violence," Tischleder says.
Shannon Stewart: An athletic and precise dancer who's appeared locally with the now-defunct tEEth, Stewart is presenting a stripped-down work, which she calls an ensemble piece performed as a solo. "I'm not sure what that means," Tischleder says. The piece will tackle the challenge of balancing economic concerns and artistic ambitions.
LanceLife: Portlanders Wallace Fessler and Joshua David Fisher made a name for themselves with the talk-show parody The Famous Mysterious Actor Show, and their latest project spoofs motivational speeches and self-help seminars. "These guys are working on the edge of comedy and performance art," says Tischleder. "It's not all satire. They're really digging into our culture of winning and this idea that there are all these experts out there who can tell you how to live your life."
AJA: The first thing to know about this new Seattle group is that the A's in its name are silent. Roll your eyes, but then zero back in on these young, multidisciplinary performers for slugs do it real slow and pretty, an exploration of flirting, heavy petting, first kisses and one-night stands—including a vignette in which all eight cast members share the same piece of dental floss. âItâs an incredible scene,â Tischleder says.
SEE IT: Risk/Reward is at Artists Repertory, 1516 SW Alder St., 241-1278. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 5 pm Sunday, June 21-23. $14-$20.