PORTLAND INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art has long perched on creativity’s proverbial cutting edge. But the scrappy 15-year-old increasingly appears to be way ahead of its peers in economics, too. "PICA has always done a lot with a little," says guest artistic director Cathy Edwards. "So the bad times aren’t a brutal new reality."
Free from the burden of owning a building or fretting about a shrinking endowment, PICA transitioned 10 years ago from a typical season of performances to the weeklong, intensive Time-Based Art Festival. The shift has proven to be a glove-like fit for both the era and Portland. By anticipating commercial and cultural trends like "pop-up" retail and flash mobs, TBA (Sept 9–19) has enlivened the entire city with performances and exhibitions in virtually every traditional Portland venue plus plenty of little-known nooks and crannies, the most successful being the long-shuttered but splendid Washington High School in the Buckman neighborhood (TBA’s base camp this year, too).
In the second of what will be her three turns as guest director, the New Haven, Connecticut-based Edwards is weaving together a festival of PICA returnees (the Wooster Group, Dayna Hanson, and Nature Theater of Oklahoma) and newcomers who are—perhaps more than in any previous year—connected by a theme, which Edwards describes simply as "storytelling."
Shakespeare, Beckett, and Merce Cunningham, anyone? "I’ve been thinking a lot about the classic voices that have informed a collective sense of who we are," Edwards says. "These are really complex times. I’m craving something emotional: being in the room with art that can be profoundly moving." —RG
SHOWS TO KNOW
GARE ST. LAZARE PLAYERS
Heralded as the leading contemporary interpreters of Samuel Beckett, Ireland’s Gare St. Lazare Players reach beyond Beckett’s more commonly performed plays to his fiction: "First Love," one of Beckett’s earliest works, offers a look at his emerging tragicomic sensibility (Sept 10-13 at 8:30); "The Beckett Trilogy" is a three-hour tour of the writer’s trio of novels, Malloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, described by Variety as a "spell-binding marathon" of the “supreme poet of mankind at its lowest ebb" (Sept 14 at 6).
THE WOOSTER GROUP
The legendary New York multimedia theater group goes virtual with "There Is Still Time… Brother," an interactive, panoramic meditation on war that puts the audience at the center and—for the one member who sits in a lone swivel chair—in control of a 30-minute, 360-degree barrage of everything from battlefield footage to the blogosphere (ongoing, Sept 10-18 4:30-8:30). The Wooster Group’s director, Elizabeth LeCompte, will join a panel discussion on the ensemble’s history and technique (Sept 12 at 2:30).
One of his generation’s most probing media artists, Charles Atlas, 52, will offer a triptych of his wide-ranging, interdisciplinary work. "Tornado Warning" is a five-channel video piece built upon Atlas’s early childhood memories of Missouri tornados (daily, Sept 10-19 noon-6:30). Atlas will present a live mix of prepared and sampled video performed with musician-composer William Basinski (Sept 10 at 10:30 p.m.). And in "With Merce," Atlas lectures on and screens some of the 40 years of films and videos he made with the late choreographer Merce Cunningham (Sept 11 at 2:30). —RG