had to be there

Risk/Reward 2012 Leaves Indelible Impressions

Last weekend, Hand2Mouth Theatre presented its fifth—and most ambitious—Risk/Reward performance art showcase. In case you missed it, here’s the play-by-play, from Shmooquan’s prosthetic parts, to H2M’s hold on our heart.

By Anne Adams June 25, 2012

Did we mention that Kaj-Anne Pepper (right) wore a trash-bag dress with a cellophane slip? Photo by Joni Kabana

Is this the first you’re hearing of it? Check out last week’s notes from festival director Jerry Tischleder…

Corrie Befort
In the opening number—the most ephemeral (arguably, forgettable) of the evening’s pieces—a demurely-dressed woman played piano until startled by a hoodie falling off a coat-rack. Spirited around set via some unpredictable lighting fluctuations (on and off) another more ninjalike character (Befort) began a spooky pattern of intermittently draping face-down over a chair and leaping around on a conveyor-belted platform while ambient, resonant multitonal sounds (like what emanate from wine-glasses or Tibetan singing bowl) lulled the audience into dazed semi-consciousness.

Pappas & Dancers
A Dance Concerning Itself with History and Memory
Editor’s note: Rebecca Pappas is currently preparing “Remaking the World”, a July 7 workshop at Conduit.
Genevieve Carson began by sharing a personal story: While she and her brother were kids, they fought and she shot him with the family fire extinguisher. While Carson spoke, she forced herself to multi-task, attempting to catch and holding as many colorful balloons (Memories?) as possible—tucking them between her legs and arms so they couldn’t scoot away—but try as she might, they still did. The balloons continued to drift around the stage demonstrate the frailty and transience of memory as Jesse Saler joined Genevieve (Portraying her brother? A lover? Both wore twin flannel-and-jean outfits). In an energetic, puppyish onstage romp to feel-good folk instrumentals, they shouted and repeat phrases “telephone” style, mishearing each other all the way (“lie in bed” became “die instead,” etc). When they tried to capture a balloon between their bodies, it predictably popped. A detached third character, seemingly a radio DJ in the ouvre of Ira Glass, finished their story more formally, superimposing philosophy and meaning that may or may not have applied. Behind him, a roomful of dormant balloons (Memories in storage?) could be glimpsed through a door left ajar. As the pair reconvened, words seemed to have fallen by the wayside. They closed the piece in silence, with seeming improvisation, cradling and manipulating each other’s heads and faces as if probing for lost answers.

Tracy Broyles
Art & Life
Gazing at the audience with Mediterranean intensity but moving with butoh introversion, Broyles gradually danced her way upward and backward on the long, straight hardwood-and-steel staircase that connects the upper and lower Artists Rep theaters. She stomped her booted feet in cross-rhythms with the oboe notes that Dr. Catherine Lee provided live behind her, and when the music paused, she played with her own experimental-but-tuneful voice, sometimes expressively cupping her hand by her ear or laying it on her heart. Greeted with a long silence after they disappeared into the heavens, Broyles and Lee quickly reemerged to take their bows.

Queen Shmooquan
I Am Queen Shmooquan
A veritable goddess of gleeful vulgarity, Seattle’s Shmooquan pulled props from her suitcase like a madcap gender-fixated Carrot Top, impersonating Prince and simulating an Annie audition while sporting exaggerated prosthetic genitalia. Exclaiming, “I’m going to do things I’ve wanted to do forever!” she performed ritual rubber-chicken regurgitation, pitched temper tantrums, and sang to herself in a mosquitoey soprano. Her antics and her star-and-stripe spandex presented Shmooquan as a symbol of the individual’s right to do…anything.

Hand2Mouth Theatre
Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart
The host company’s in-house contribution to Risk/Reward, which they’ll expand into a longer work in time for Fertile Ground 2013, started with storytelling but culminated in a rock show. The radiantly empathetic Erin Leddy began narrating as one of two strikingly-alike girls whose lifelong friendship began the day they wore the same dress. By taking turns narrating and miming the storyline (and by many members sporting the same pink Raggedy Anne t-shirt) H2M members claimed equal ownership of the story. As the plot progressed, one of the friends faced untimely death from cancer, prompting the other to tag in and take her place, marrying the deceased’s husband and raising her child. At this revelation, the troupe broke out a drumkit, bass, and guitar and exploded into a set of triumphal Fleetwood-Mac-sounding power ballads about love and acceptance. Incidentally, this piece would’ve made a great finale—but H2M’s hosting etiquette probably forbade it.

Cat Main & Jamie Nesbitt
Other Side Through You
Main’s unique experience growing up with a sister with cerebral palsy was articulately recounted and elegantly embellished with audio and video clips—including Main’s childhood videos, in which we see her sister’s hands manipulated through a supposed “communication” method that is currently being debunked. We heard radio experts decry it, and the sister’s old caretaker weakly defend it…and we watched Main absorb the initial shock. Seeming like a viable first act that would need one or two more to feel complete, the piece stopped abruptly at the point of discovery, well shy of the philosophical grappling and personal decision-making that inevitably follow life-changing revelations. Your sister’s communications may have all been a lie. Now what?

Generously surrendering the prime position (center stage) to a miniscule, expressively-moving masked mime (Jen Hackworth) and “talking” from further back (making gaping puppetlike faces that were projected on a large screen while a backstage queen actually did the talking) Kaj-Anne Pepper mounted an audience quiz with questions like, “What’s the word for when a man’s kind of feminine, and also something British people smoke?” Answer: “fag.” Irreverently, the troupe even assailed White Bird’s Walter Jaffe, forcing him to say “dyke” thrice. When Hackworth took up a collection of sorts from the audience (including a shoe, a wallet, and other personal items) Kaj-Anne and two assistant queens picked through the spoils on the big screen with mingled curiosity and delight, then shouted a word-salad of mostly pronouns (“He! She! Ze!”) as Jen “the body” struck various gender- and non-gender-associated poses. Though deliberately sloppy and unpredictable, and seemingly too long, the piece’s novel staging and serious undertones helped amuse and engage.

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