Boom Arts Is Bringing the Aquatic Visions of Ray Young to Portland

Yes, it’s true that one of its productions requires the audience to enter a swimming pool.

No matter the medium, art at its core seeks to evoke emotion through a fluid moment of human connection. That’s especially true of London artist Ray Young’s Bodies, an upcoming performance art piece that immerses participants in a dazzling show of light, sound and water, delivering a powerful sensory experience.

Sponsored by Unlimited, the world’s largest disability arts commissioning program, and produced by Portland’s Boom Arts, Bodies will be performed in April, making its United States debut. And Portland audiences can also buy tickets for Thirst Trap, Young’s ingenious at-home theater experience.

WW spoke with Tracy Cameron Francis, artistic director of Boom Arts, about Young’s creations and what audiences can expect from these two one-of-a-kind experiences.

WW: How did you first encounter Ray Young’s work? What’s the connection between the U.K. and Portland?

Tracy Cameron Francis: I was actually introduced to their work through another program in Vancouver, B.C. I’m really interested in things that play with form and go outside of normal theater conventions and also that are rooted in social justice and climate action work. So, I found this piece really intriguing and was really excited about it.

Bodies is described as “a swimming pool theatrical performance experience.” Is the event being held at an actual swimming pool?

Yes, so it’s indoors and heated just in case. The Portland weather in April can be iffy.

Will the artist attend the performance?

Young is not going to be physically here for the piece because it’s a piece about climate change and we didn’t feel it was appropriate to fly people here for the installation. But we are hoping that they will be able to Zoom for conversations for folks to learn more about their piece and about their work.

Can you talk more about Young’s other piece, Thirst Trap?

So there are two works that are in relationship to each other, and we encourage folks to do both. Thirst Trap was a piece that was created during the pandemic and that one is done at your own home in your own bathtub. You can decide which day you’d like your box delivered to your home and the box has links to sound recording, some props to use like a bath bomb, and tea to create that performance experience in your own home.

What can audiences expect going into this performance? What will they need to bring?

When you register for the event, you are asked what your swimming ability is, and based on that, it dictates where you enter the pool from, so either the shallow end or if you’re more comfortable swimming we might have you in the deeper end of the pool.

We do have a lifeguard available throughout all the performances, and there’s also flotation devices that were specifically designed for this show that are also available. But we asked folks to bring their swimsuits and bring your poolside sandals or your goggles if you like them.

What does the performance itself entail?

The whole experience in the water is about 50 minutes. It’s basically a guided audio and visual experience with closed captions and audio descriptions provided as well so it’s accessible. We’re very much making sure that the audience takes this as a personal experience and as a fully sensory and embodied experience.

Is there anything else potential audiences should know about either Bodies or Thirst Trap?

I will say that Thirst Trap is very, very limited because we’re shipping a certain amount of the boxes from the U.K., so people should get those tickets very soon.

SEE IT: Bodies plays at Swim 3 Diamonds, 971-303-8977, Multiple showtimes April 20-23. $35.

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