"WE AUTOMATICALLY try to see patterns," says Jerry Tischleder, producing artistic director of the Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance, when I mention that three out of five of the works in this year's festival are expressly about culture, heritage, and diaspora. "Last year everyone thought Risk/Reward was a feminist art festival."
Was it intentional that last year's performances focused so strongly on the experience of miscarriage? Not at all. Tischleder contends that if Risk/Reward is thematically cohesive, it's entirely by accident. There's some wonder to it, and also a sort of pulse of what's going on in the world. He thinks that ideas of origin and heritage are "part of a particular moment right now that artists are responding to."
Risk/Reward is curated by a panel of regional artists and administrators who select proposals without knowing what the actual performance will look like. Some, as in the case of Carla Rossi/Anthony Hudson, are illuminating departures from previous material. Hudson will share the stage with his alter ego, drag clown Carla Rossi, in Looking for Tiger Lily. The "one-woman-ish" show explores Hudson's childhood impressions of his Native American culture, as informed by Disney movies and his father's work as a Grand Ronde Tribe social worker. It's a little amuse-bouche for a longer piece Hudson will present this fall at the Hollywood Theatre.
In contrast with Hudson's departure from previous performances, Vanessa Goodman will present continued work on her solo show, Container, some of which was seen last year at Canada's Magnetic North Theatre Festival. The positions of her body during the dance feel claustrophobic and caused a tightening in my chest, despite the wide emptiness of the room. Hudson and Goodman's are two performances on heritage that will feel very different from one another.
Ilvs Strauss' Risk/Reward work looks like the painstaking, personal voiceover parts of her 2014 solo piece, Manifesto, but will hopefully retain some of that work's refreshing playfulness (including a gyrating forest of dancers dressed in bright-red sea cucumber costumes) since it's scored with Daft Punk's "Doin' It Right." In the past, the Mercury has described Risk/Reward's blind curatorial process as dangerous, but looking at this collection of artists it's hard to imagine they will produce anything unworthy. Moving between short, intense 20-minute performances—one bright star right after another—you might find another theme cooking in our collective human ether.