We're halfway through PICA's annual Time-Based Arts Festival, which, despite competing for audiences with MusicfestNW, has seen well-attended shows and boisterous crowds at Washington High School's late-night events. (Two words were used by our perennially intoxicated esteemed Food Editor Patrick Alan Coleman to describe the pork belly tacos being served in the beer garden: "HOLY FUCK.") There have been hitches, of course: On the festival's opening night, art-punk fans waited in lengthy lines for Japanther's free set, only to have a "mosh pit" shut down by security. And legendary performance art troupe the Wooster Group had to delay the opening of their show for a night after a technical malfunction in their innovative 360-degree movie screen. But the kids managed to have their dance party after all, and the Wooster Group's inventive There Is Still Time... Brother opened the next day to considerable acclaim (you can still see it, and you should—it runs through the end of the festival).

TBA's visual art offerings have taken over Washington High School for the duration of the festival—the exhibits are free, and I highly recommend swinging by to check out, in particular, The People's Biennial, a show curated from the fringe and folk art of Portland and four other cities—it's a surprising, varied exhibit show that deliberately challenges notions of art as exclusive and inaccessible.

If you missed the first weekend's theater and dance offerings, you're out of luck—here are a few reviews of festival standouts so far, as well as picks for the final days of the fest. And as always, check out the Mercury's TBA blog (tba.portlandmercury.com) for news, updates, reviews, and discussion of all aspects of TBA, from dance theory to Washington High School's unisex bathrooms. ALISON HALLETT


Quick Reviews from the Mercury's TBA Blog

I like Rufus Wainwright. I like how hard consonants don't exist when he sings. I love the range of his voice and his skill as a musician, songwriter, and composer. All of that being said, I have no idea what he has to do with time-based art. At the TBA Festival opening performance at the Schnitz, Wainwright was joined by the Oregon Symphony, Thomas Lauderdale, and Lauderdale's big-voiced shadow Storm Large, to present a hodgepodge program that was lovely, sure, but unfocused and a little boring. At first it seemed like the magic might happen, as we were treated to portions of Wainwright's new opera Prima Donna, concerning the struggles of a fading diva ("Nothing to do with me. Ha ha," Wainwright joked). The music was gorgeous and the singers skilled. There was much fun to be had in hearing Wainwright's poppy phrases translated into orchestral swells and ebbs, like a technicolor-drenched film score from a 1950s melodrama. It was clear to me for the first 30 minutes that the beautiful Schnitz deserves opera—but, while I love Wainwright, the remainder of the program just felt thrown together. There was ample stage time for Lauderdale and Large, both of whom I can see fairly regularly in PDX. There were some tunes from Wainwright's reinterpretation of Judy Garland's famous concert at Carnegie Hall, all of which were pleasant and entertaining. And there were some honestly gorgeous tunes from French composer Berlioz. But I found my mind wandering, obsessed more with thoughts of what it would be like to bring Wainwright coffee in bed in the morning or cook him dinner... maybe that's just me. No matter. This opener didn't really reach me. It felt designed for a Pink Martini audience that I don't normally associate with forward-thinking forms of performance art. Frankly, I miss the old days. PATRICK ALAN COLEMAN

Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs has severely strained my relationship with my iPhone. Daisey's frankly activist monologue hopes to lay the groundwork for a movement to improve working conditions in electronics factories, similar to the anti-sweatshop movement that took on the apparel industry. He ties his polemic to a history of Apple computers and a chronicle of his own unabashed love affair with Apple products, making for a relatable piece that offers some tangible ways to take action, beginning with: Email sjobs@apple.com to tell him you're concerned about his company's labor practices. ALISON HALLETT

Shirin Neshat's beautiful debut film Women without Men tells the interconnected stories of four women in Tehran in 1953 against a backdrop of resistance American and British interests who were conspiring to overthrow Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. (Mossadegh made the mistake of nationalizing the oil industry—hello, British Petroleum.) The script is rife with symbols and magical realism, but underpinning the intersecting stories of these four women are the historical circumstances in which the characters find themselves—caught between nationalism, imperialism, and the remnants of a social and religious tradition that insists an unmarried woman might as well be a dead one. Iran is a country that has been through "westernization" and back again, and one has to imagine it's the country's women who suffer the most from the schizophrenic value shifts entailed therein. Like Persepolis, Women without Men offers a chance to see that world through the eyes of a smart, accomplished female artist. AH

Jérôme Bel's Cédric Andrieux is masterful in the way it cultivates the intimacy between audience and performer, the self-same Andrieux. We are brought together so elegantly, so softly, that before long we're perched on Andrieux's every movement. Not a bad feat for a performance I can best describe as a one-man A Chorus Line, but without all the singing and wah-wah pedal. The performance is built out of little more than breath and gesture, so there is very little for the audience to cling to really, aside from Andrieux's soft, almost bashful narrative—the story of how he came to be a modern dancer, training for some time with the aged, legendary American choreographer Merce Cunningham. It would be easy for a piece like this to go wrong—all it is, really, is talking interspersed with sections of solo dance unaccompanied by music. And that shit could get insanely boring. But Bel, who thrilled me with 2008's Pichet Klunchun and Myself, is a master at pacing; as Andrieux moves from childhood dance classes, to the French dance conservatory, to New York, Bel has teased enough humor and vulnerability from the narrative that it never really lags. It helps too that Andrieux's story is like a bridge between modes of modern dance divided by the turn of the century. As personal as the performance is, it also acts as a kind of living time capsule—with choreography of the past held deep in Andrieux's muscles and memory. PAC


Shows Still to Come at TBA

Emily Johnson/Catalyst, The Thank-You Bar—Emily Johnson is a choreographer who hails from Alaska, which explains why The Thank-You Bar seems like a dream you might have if you fall asleep watching modern dance on TV and Nanook of the North came on while you're dreaming. It's a mingling of myths, an allusion to lived history—and then there are the fish taped to forearms, dumbly migrating wherever their human bearer takes them. The theme of the work is "displacement," and the performance unfolds through motion and music in a dark room. "This is our architecture. This is where we are. Put us all in the same place for a moment," says Johnson. STEFAN KAMPH Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th, Thurs Sept 16-Fri Sept 17, 4:30 pm, 6:30 pm, 8:30 pm; Sat Sept 18-Sun Sept 19, 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm, 6:30 pm, $15-20

Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields—There is every possibility Stefan Zeromski Theatre's rendition of French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès' In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, directed by Radek Rychcik, will be the performance that causes certain aged PICA members to walk out, causes others to wrinkle noses in disdain, and a very few to loudly voice its merits. It features live music by the frenetic Natural Born Chillers, and promises to be loud. Also, the description of the performance not only describes love songs as "wolves," it references "the swagger of a punk-rock concert." Punk-rock swagger, loud guitar, and zoomorphizing love songs have never really been popular at the TBA Fest (although I'm just guessing on that last one). Still, there's another possibility: This short, loud, one-act play balanced on the fulcrum of a relationship between a Dealer of "whatever you want" and his random Client, may just be the punk-rock modern theater event of the year. PAC Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Wed Sept 15-Sat Sept 18, 8:30 pm, $20-25

John Jasperse Company, Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat out LiesPerformance about performance can be eye opening and profound or self-indulgent and inaccessible—and you can usually count on finding a little bit of both at TBA. On deck this year, New York choreographer John Jasperse and his company take on the nature of performance and how audience expectations of it have changed over time, and continue to vary from context to context: Sometimes we want to suspend our disbelief and wallow in an illusion, and sometimes we prize honesty and individual expression. The John Jasperse Company explores these notions through dance, a medium that contains performance at its most populist and its most esoteric. AH PSU's Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park, Thurs Sept 16-Sat Sept 18, 8:30 pm, $20-25

Mike Daisey, Notes Toward All the Hours in the Day—As if taking on the labor practices of Apple weren't ambitious enough, Mike Daisey's next project is a 24-hour monologue, made up of 24 interlocking vignettes that will form a complete arc over the course of one full day. In Notes Toward All the Hours in the Day, Daisey will explain the genesis and rationale for this project. It's a monologue about a monologue, which sounds a little wanky, but fans of Daisey know well that any time this monologist opens his mouth, it's worth listening. AH Washington High School, 531 SE 14th, Sat Sept 18, 2:30 pm, $20-25

Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Romeo and Juliet—TBA favorite Nature Theater of Oklahoma returns with a show that sounds like pure fun: Romeo and Juliet, as filtered through the dim recollections of people who probably hadn't read the play since eighth grade English class. Nature Theater asked a handful of people—including the show's two leads—to do their best to retell the plot of Romeo and Juliet, and based this production on those half-remembered and often contradictory accounts. AH Washington High School, 531 SE 14th, Wed Sept 15-Sat Sept 18, 6:30 pm, $20-25

Eric Fredericksen and Weekend Leisure, Karaoke & Authenticity—Full disclosure: I worked with Eric Fredericksen back at The Stranger newspaper in Seattle when he was our chief art critic/editor. And there are two things I can say without bias about this man: Dude knows his art, and dude knows his karaoke. Tonight, along with art/karaoke/comedy collective Weekend Leisure (who construct wildly hilarious karaoke videos), Fredericksen will discuss the "authenticity" and "semiotics" of karaoke, while singing the shit out of some Journey. And tonight, it will finally all make sense. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Washington High School, 531 SE 14th, Sun Sept 19, 8:30 pm, $8-10