'Pavement' - Drive-in dance and drama
Despite the creativity COVID-19 has fostered, nothing tops live performance — you know, the seemingly thing of the past where artists actually performed for real audience members.
Katie Watkins, producing artistic director at Risk/Reward Festival, and her counterpart at Boom Arts, Tracy Cameron Francis, each lamented with others the absence of live performance.
"We kept asking ourselves, 'What does the future look like and how do we possibly bring back live performance to our community in a safe way?'" Watkins said. She grew up in Georgia and frequented a drive-in theater, and came up with the idea for drive-in performance.
The result is "Pavement," a collection of parking lot, drive-in performances that will be held at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at a Central Eastside parking lot. Buy a ticket, and you and yours can learn the location of the event and be entertained.
With XRAY.FM providing in-car audio, a la a drive-in, the joint venture of Boom Arts and Risk/Reward features a full lineup: Rejoice! Disapora Dance Theater's Oluyinka Akinjiola, dancer KT Kusmaul and musician Mickey Pollizatto, Creative Laureate of Portland Subashini Ganesan, poet/playwright Anya Pearson, Fear No Music's Kenji Bunch and Monica Ohuchi, actor Gerrin Mitchell and musician Amenta Abioto.
They'll perform in a parking lot, surrounded by audience members in cars. Everybody in the Portland arts world has been working to capture audiences — the Waterfront Blues Fest featured musicians in exclusive settings recently — and it's a different spin on keeping performance alive and relevant.
Watkins said the idea was inspired by LanDforms Dance of Seattle, which performed in front yards in conjunction with a scavenger hunt, as well as Lucky Devil Lounge, which has featured drive-thru stripping.
"We ended up with the drive-in idea," Watkins said.
There'll be 30 cars allowed in both shows.
"I like performances outside the norm and outside the box," Francis said. Boom Arts put on "Hidden Stories" last year, in which a group of people met at a secret location and followed actors through Portland streets for performances while listening to narration on headphones.
"It's a fun challenge to engage in public space," Francis added. "You get stuck in those same habits, and it's a chance to think of new ways to perform and engage audiences and be safe. If it goes well, there are other ways to explore this model or other models that'll be safe."
Many artists have gone the online route. It's a substitute for live performance, Watkins and Francis said, but it's not the same. While on-site, pop-up, outdoor performances are nothing new, the drive-in concept with XRAY.FM's participation makes it somewhat unique, Watkins said.
"Artists have always been innovators," Watkins said. "To back us into any type of corner is when fun stuff explodes.
"I'm working in an experimental, contemporary performance anyway, pushing the boundaries. This is in that line of continuing to push boundaries."
"Pavement" actually began in 2018 as pop-up performances in The Pearl District, with artists placed in a four-block radius and then audience members walked through the streets to watch performances in alleyways, on crosswalks, in shop storefronts, doorways and more.
Social distancing now requires people to stay in cars — although there will be some standing/seated spaces for "Pavement" for masked folks without cars, who can listen to XRAY.FM with their smartphones.
Francis originally curated "Pavement," and in her new role as Boom Arts artistic director, welcomed the collaboration with Watkins and Risk/Reward. Both of their companies' live festivals had to be postponed in 2020.
Said Watkins: "This live performance element has made me excited to get up in the morning. We're asking performers to work in digital realms (these days), and it's not their sweet spot. To bring back live performance that feels innovative has been energizing for sure."
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