AS GUEST ARTISTIC DIRECTOR of Portland's biggest (okay, only) contemporary arts festival, Cathy Edwards has the daunting responsibility of curating a fest for a city whose access to the nationwide performing arts scene is otherwise limited to Broadway touring productions of The Color Purple.

But she's figuring us out: Last year's festival included a number of somber, introspective, difficult works, from Eric Friedlander's beautiful cello-scored road trip narrative to Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher's impenetrable modern dance love parable Maybe Forever. The lineup reflected what artists were making at the time, Edwards says, "but I did feel at the end, like, oh my god, I've exhausted these people." Edwards says that this year, she'll be "adjusting the pacing so that there's more fun stuff scattered throughout." If there's a thematic throughline, Edwards characterizes it as artists grappling with "signature genius identities in the arts," as TBA performers take on influences like Beckett, dancer/choregrapher Merce Cunningham, and Shakespeare.

This year sees the return of familiar faces Mike Daisey, Jérôme Bel, and Nature Theater of Oklahoma, as well as an exciting lineup of first-time TBA artists—including Rufus Wainwright, performing with the Oregon Symphony, and New York's Wooster Group, who will be presenting an "interactive, 360-degree war film." TBA's late-night programming, the Works, is returning to Washington High School, as are TBA's visual art installations—last year, the high school proved a perfect location for giddy late-night dance parties and beer- and food-cart-fueled post-performance analysis. TBA's annual art binge is challenging, exhausting, frustrating, exciting—and easily one of the highlights of Portland's contemporary art calendar. This year looks to be no exception. ALISON HALLETT

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