Response by Jessica Green (find out more about her work at https://fusedcreativepdx.com/)
I went into the Risk/Reward Festival not knowing what to except. What I got was two hours of brave artists ripping themselves at the seams to show what was going on inside of them and the world they live in. Britt Karhoff started by showing us the inside of a woman’s brain going through grief and the burden of womanhood. She uses her limited props to show the emotional labor women in our society are set up to go through. Having a wooden table break apart in her hands while she, through rhythmic movements, reassembles it and goes on to use it as her personal stage. Raw and at times uncomfortably funny, she comes undone on stage and then puts herself back together again. A journey every woman can connect with.
Bouton Volonté took the stage and the room in one quick grab of their hands. Prancing to the microphone like they not only owned the place, but all of us too. Bouton made it clear from the beginning that this was their show, and we should be honored they let us witness it. Interweaving their jaw dropping dance moves, body drops and all, with stopping the music to give us a snippet of what it’s like to be a trans person in the world; They managed to create my favorite moment of the night by asking the audience what we thought their gender was, expecting and waiting for an answer. After a couple sheepish attempts from two women in the crowd calling them gender fluid, a bold man raised his hand. “You’re male.” Bouton looks at him with a perfectly placed head tilt and asked him why he thinks that. “Because I’m a man and you look like me.” After a long pause where I’m pretty sure not a single person took a breath, Bouton asks the man to join them on stage. Keeping with the narrative of their show, Bouton bravely asks the man to please leave the auditorium, stating they don’t feel comfortable performing their next piece with him in the room. The misinformed man begrudgingly walks out. Bouton then asks if anyone in the room would like to try again to gender them “Maybe one of my friends that are here or someone that read the program.” A person raises their hand and says “Trans-femme?” It was that easy. To me it was a symbol of how simple it is to know someone’s preferred pronouns. All you have to do is ask, all you have to do is take the time and care to know someone and respect who they are. Once Bouton feels safe they tell us of a child who dreamed of being Maria from The Sound of Music, but unfortunately, they weren’t born white or female enough for that. They place a sheer white dress over their body and take us on a journey through dance and body movements.