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Arts and Entertainment

New Original Works Festival Comes to an End: A Review of the Final Performances

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photo of Meg Wolfe courtesy of the artist

photo of Meg Wolfe courtesy of the artist
The sixth annual three week New Original Works Festival ran its course this past weekend downtown at REDCAT. True to its mission, the series showcased new and emerging artists working in new genres as well as mid-career creators further exploring their art or collaborating with other experimenters in other media. Each of the three separate programs was a shared event and this final triptych went down as promised.

To begin the evening, comic performer, writer and alumna of cable TV’s The Daily Show,Lauren Weedman presented Off. This monologue of characters both easily identifiable and comically inspired included references to motherhood (Weedman’s own upcoming), street living and tattoos, among other topics. Though sometimes it took me a few moments to register the change in context with each new character, every different voice was clear and distinct and performed with an appropriate aplomb. Directed by Jeff Weatherford, each vignette was divided by a short movement byte (choreography by Jennifer Winters) set to an assortment of sound snippets (from Dean Martin to KODO taiko drumming). One of my highlights was Weedman tossing an ever-present metal chair from one location on the stage to another—an effective marker for character changes and, though dramatic, much less clunky and crashing than would be expected. The energetic performer has brought her previous shows to REDCAT before and each has been funny, insightful and spot on. Off is no different.

Programmed to appear immediately after Weedman’s comic and accessible effort, Zackary Drucker, Mariana Marroquin and Wu Ingrid Tsang collaborated to create P.I.G. (Politically Involved Girls). With the addition of interactive video (by Rhys Ernst), lots of styling (by Math Bass, Marco Prado and Nicolau Vergueiro) and primed by the aforementioned witticisms, it took me a while to see where and how this collective work was going to go. Structured at times like an academic lecture, a therapy session and/or a support group meeting, an onscreen character informed us about today’s transgender experience, asked and answered questions that the performers responded to and escorted us into this parallel universe. The two long and lanky creators (Drucker and Tsang), cross-dressed in a turban or form-hugging dress and long straight hair, were a counterpoint to Marroquin’s short stocky frame and halo of electric red hair. The stage had been arranged with a couple dozen chairs placed in a semicircle around a wooden table in the center. Standing on or around this set, the trio of collaborators talked about sex, what life can be like for a woman in a man’s body in our current society (or vice versa) and related subjects. Though the text was credited in the program to “dialogue from films significant to transgender history,” it seemed a little didactic and pedagogical in sarcastic and satiric ways, and a bit blunt to go home thinking about. However, I was pleased to see the subject matter tackled onstage and to be invited into a world in and of which not a lot of outsiders commonly see very much.

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Re-visiting the pure and unadorned environment of classic modern dance, choreographer/performer Meg Wolfe brought watch her (not know it now) onto the curtain-less and light instrument-exposed stage in this state of the art facility. Against an electronic amalgam of musical moments from rock ‘n roll to classical compositions collated by Aaron Drake, Ms. Wolfe lunged and twisted from one end of the room to the other, keeping us riveted to her tweaks and nuances. At times slashing strident arms and, at others, curving and waving them loosely in the air around her, the metallic green cap sleeve-topped performer took us through an abstract maze of unknown events. Although there were spells when facing away from us and repeatedly lunging between simple steps got a hair wearisome, the bulk of the 15-minute piece kept me in the room with her. An homage to the late Merce Cunningham’s recent passing? Perhaps. But, more than likely, the result of Cunningham and his successors’ 20th century revolution. Dance.

So ends another NOW celebration of new experiences in the performing arts. The theater has already released some if its plans for the next year, so there’s even more to look forward to in 2009/2010. Stay tuned!