I got the chance to both meet and chat with Artistic Director Cathy Edwards to pick her brain a bit about how the festival was going. First off, I was surprised to hear how calm and downright tranquil she sounded. For whatever reason I figured that at this stage of the festival, with nearly half of the artists closing out the festival's first weekend, and with brand new artists setting up for the final stage, Cathy might be in freak out mode. But her voice was mellowed, her attitude grounded, and her mood uplifted when we caught up yesterday.
"It is busy but I’m really just trying to be available for the things I love to do, and what’s at the core of the festival... really trying to participate in the energy and vibe of the festival and bring my own energy and curiosity to it." As well as being the festival's Guest Artistic director for the last three years, Cathy Edwards could also be TBA's biggest fan. During our conversation she not only wanted to convey her enthusiasm for all the artists who are participating this year, but also express her excitement to see as much as she could. "I went and saw Kyle Abraham twice. It's just great to see and re-see work. You know a lot of times the act of just looking at art, it can sometimes come and go so easily, we can give it short shrift. But to have a period of time in which you can immerse yourself, to really see as much as possible, it can open you up, and allows you to interact with art from a more engaged place."
More of Cathy's thoughts on the festival after the jump!
The immersion element to TBA is what Cathy described as probably its biggest benefit to the community. To be able to enjoy this much art in ten day's time is something that is extremely unique to the festival and to a place like Portland. She mentioned how it speaks highly of the city to not only host and curate a festival like this, but the fact that it has continued to grow is something we should be proud of.
This actually brought me to a question that I had been wanting to ask TBA organizers (and something that I have questioned here on the TBA Blog), regarding the possibility that the festival is outgrowing some of its roots, specifically using Washington High School as a venue. Cathy agreed in a way, saying that opening weekend had what appeared to be record attendance numbers. "I don't have actual numbers from the door, but taking a look at our bar receipts alone, there appears to be a significant spike from last year's opening weekend." She counter pointed however, mentioning that the school has acted as both an interesting and familiar hub for the festival, and has been a home base for organizers and the returning audience members. "It would be a difficult place for TBA to say goodbye to, but in its tradition, Pica is always on the hunt for new and interesting spaces to show work, and if we outgrow The Works, something else exciting will be found."
This then prompted me to ask about other ways that the festival is growing, and the fact that Cathy Edwards won't be staying on as Guest Artistic Director next year. You can read about incoming Artistic Director Angela Mattox here. "She's [Mattox] made the decision to actually move to Portland, which will probably be a great help to both Pica and the festival, while I was having to commute from the east coast eight or nine times a year"... "And I think Pica is interested in some of the other programs she wants to develop. TBA will still be the flagship, but Angela has some other great ideas in the works." As for Edward's future, for those who didn't know (myself included) her other job is as Director of Performance Programs for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut where she lives for the majority of the year. "I'll be concentrating on that, and also enjoying being home for awhile." I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb when I say that Pica and Portland are going to miss Cathy Edwards. She has done substantial things for this festival. If you want a chance to properly say goodbye, there will be a passing of the torch talk happening on Saturday in which Cathy will reflect on her three year tenure as artistic director.
To close, I asked Cathy what people should be looking forward to seeing in this second half of the festival. "Well naturally I'm going to say everything," she said with a chuckle. "But I'm just so excited about Andrew Dinwiddie's piece. It is just such a tour de force." She also recommends Zoe/Juniper from Seattle, Dean & Britta's 13 Most Beautiful Songs... For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests... "And then of course Mike Daisey. Go see Mike Daisey! Go be a part of something that is bigger than you!"