Artist Profile: Eli Steffen

Eli Steffen (Seattle, WA): WAR
participatory performance

War is an exploration of how masculinity constructs and whiteness through a reimagining of the card game War. Using faux-rituals around a deck of “male-socialization” cards, Eli and a volunteer will play until the game is won. In their Risk/Reward debut, Eli asks the audience to consider what winning really means; how far are they willing to go to finish the game?

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Eli will ask the audience for a volunteer to come on stage to play a game of “War.” They will explain that we are going to play with a special deck, “a deck dedicated to teach boys to be men.” Eli will describe the rules of the game: each player will start with half the deck; every round each player will flip over one card and read what is written on it out loud; then the volunteer will decide which card wins; this will be repeated until one player has all the cards and wins the war. The point of this game is to explore how we understand the interaction of different aspects of male socialization and the underlying structures that create and reinforce our personal experiences, while also examining how white-supremacy and racism are integrally intertwined with dominant notions of maleness. How has the audience experienced and perpetuated male-socialization (either as people taught to be men and/or people subjected to male dominance), and how do racism and sexism feed each other?

BIO

Eli Steffen is a Seattle-based artist whose work focuses on the intersections of community, culture, and identity. Eli seeks to understand what binds us together and how that relates to personal representation, violence, and belonging. Most recently Eli has performed with Syniva Whitney/Gender Tender, the A.O. Movement Collect, Future Husband, and Vanessa Dewolf. Eli is a founding member of Future Husband, an international performance collective. Eli’s work has been shown at Dixon Place, The Martha Graham Studio, Richard Hugo House, Seattle City Hall and the Museum of History and Industry. 

Corinne Manning (performer) is a prose writer, literary organizer and performer whose fiction has appeared in Story Quarterly, Calyx, Vol 1 Brooklyn,Moss, The Bellingham Review,Southern Humanities Review, and is forthcoming in Wildness from Platypus Press. Additional stories and essays have appeared in Literary Hub, Vol 1 Brooklyn,Drunken Boat, Arts & Letters, anthologized in Shadow Map: An anthology of Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM Press), and recognized as notable in The Best American Series. Corinne has received grants and fellowships from 4 Culture, Artist Trust, and the MacDowell Colony and founded The James Franco Review, a project on visibility and reimagining the publishing process.

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Artist Profile: Bouton Volonté

Bouton Volonté (Portland, OR): Planet Pink
modern dance/vogue/improv/queer art 

In her Risk/Reward Festival debut, Bouton Volonté brings us Planet Pink, a playful dance piece delving into her own private imagination/thought-space; a visual diary entry from a black queer bald femme.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Planet Pink takes the audience on a real and personal journey of self-love and transness. Bouton, often perceived as a black man but identifying as a non-binary femme, challenges beauty standards by trying things that are typically only acceptable from cis women (think: flowy night gowns, bras & wigs, etc.).

Bouton says, “As a black queer person, sometimes making my unpopular thoughts public or a part of my art, not only empowers me personally, but it also challenges those who need it most and encourages others like me.”

BIO

Bouton Volonté teaches a local dance class called CUUNTEMOORARY (modern dance/vogue fusion) and belongs to vogue group House of Flora. A film student at Portland State University, Bouton performs very often in local drag and burlesque shows here and also in the Bay Area. You will also see her in variety shows and festivals, where she is able to dance more than one style and be more creatively expansive.

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Artist Profile: Angel “Moonyeka” Alviar-Langley

Angel “Moonyeka” Alviar-Langley (Seattle, WA): In the White Frame
dance/street styles/popping/digital art/experimental media/freestyle 

Featuring vignettes on mixed-race experience, Moonyeka and her team of Seattle-based dancers and designers bring their show, In the White Frame, which has previously existed as a live installation but will be transformed into a performance on stage for the Portland premiere of this work. In the White Frame explores the multi-racial experience in “post-racial” America. Read on!

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

In the White Frame is inspired by Sharon H. Chang’s book Raising Mixed Race. Using her book as a resource, Moonyeka and dancers will explore mixed race folks’ experience in a post racial world, while also specifically looking at Joe R. Feagin’s theory of white racial framing. White racial framing is when people ask mixed folks, or even non-mixed folks, “What are you? Where are you from? No really, where are you from?” This is people trying to figure out where someone lands on the black or white binary of race. In the White Frame also seeks to complicate the ugly/pretty, superhuman, mutt, “mixed people will end racism!,” 1-drop rule narratives of mixed race people. It will include black, indigenous, young, queer, and femme voices since this work would not be authentic or accurate without honoring their voices. Moonyeka and dancers dare ask the question, “is the racial discourse inclusive of our experiences? is it erasing us? are we (as mixed people) allowed to reject the racial framework being used today?”

Featuring dancers El Nyberg, Michael O’Neal Jr., Alyza DelPan-Monley, Bria Calhougn-Anderson, and Estrella Gonzalez. Ravella Riffenburg: Light Design + Nic Masangkay: Sound Design.

BIO

Angel Alviar-Langley (aka Moonyeka) is a sick and disabled queer Filipinx femme street-styles dancer who utilizes art creation and organizing to realize a more inclusive and intersectional world for the communities she comes from. Her current projects for 2018 include expanding WHAT’S POPPIN’ LADIEZ?! into a mentorship program for young brown femmes of color, and so much more! Moonyeka is also a choreographer and dancer of Au Collective – a dance collective that puts women, queer folks, and POC at the forefront. When not battling, Angel is a teaching artist for Arts Corps + Spectrum Dance Theater, helps runs an open dance session (VIBE) for immigrant youth at Yesler Terrace, and coaches LIL BROWN GIRLS CLUB. As a team member of Moksha, a Seattle art space and local boutique owned by Karleen Ilagan and Robin Guilfoil, Moonyeka expands her artistry outside of dance by supporting Moksha’s mission to foster the next generation of Seattle artists through event curation and creative direction. Moonyeka is a DANCE CRUSH selected by Seattle Dances, the 2017 Tina La Padula Fellowship recipient, Ubunye Project 2017 contributor, Mary Gates Leadership awardee and George Newsome Humanitarian scholar.

CHECK OUT MOONYEKA’S WEBSITE

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Artist Profile: Wayne Bund

WAYNE BUND (PORTLAND, OR) – Strong Female Protagonist


Photo by Sean Johnson.

Since Feyonce’s Risk/Reward Festival premiere in 2013, we’ve been anticipating the next time we’d see that fiery, fierce, bold beauty back on a Risk/Reward stage. In partnership with PNCA, and through a well-deserved 2017 RACC grant, Feyonce is bringing her sass BACK with a brand new piece about love, loss, and female power.

BIO

Wayne Bund is a visual artist, performer, writer, and educator living in Portland, OR. His multi-discipline practice includes photography, performance, video, painting, and playwriting. His works and performances have been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as Seattle Art Museum, On the Boards, and Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, the Ludlow Festival in the UK, SOMarts in San Francisco, and Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, the Q-Center, Pacific Northwest College of Art, East End, PLACE PDX Gallery, and Cock Gallery in Portland. Bund’s practice has received attention in print and online from Bad at Sports, The Oregonian, Willamette Week, The Stranger, Artforum, Be Portland, and Portland Monthly. He has taught classes at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, and the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Otis. He has received grants from the Ford Family Foundation, WESTAF Foundation, the Oregon Arts Commission, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council. He served with Teach for America from 2004-2006, and is a 1999 Ford Family Foundation Scholar. He currently works as a 1st Grade Teacher in Portland.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Strong Female Protagonist is a comedic, queer solo performance that prioritizes the power of femininity and sass. Little Wayne grows up wanting to be a pop diva, and when he grows up and becomes a drag queen called Feyonce, he struggles with self-doubt and is taken to an appropriation fantasy. He is judged by Judith Butler, his ego, and his mother until he lets go of his dreams and finds a new lineage. One part autobiography, one part 1980s nostalgia, one part drag fantasy, this queer solo performance celebrates the powerful feminine role models to which we all looked up.

 “undeniably fierce… challenged the spectrum of drag performance” – Lindsey Lux, BePortland

“chock full of everything” – Seattle Dances

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Guest Blogger: Katie Piatt

I love the performance community in Portland. It’s small enough that I hug at least 4 people I know at each show, but big enough that there are always 8 new people to meet and then hug at the next show. This community has a real intimacy to it. Tonight when I was attending the Risk/Reward Festival’s 10th Anniversary show at the Artists Repertory Theatre, I introduced myself to the person who sat down next to me and they responded, “I know who you are. We performed at Risk/Reward together 2 years ago when you pulled me up on stage as a participant.” Color me honored and blushing and excited, and now having a friend to talk with about the show — all made possible by Risk/Reward!

The 2017 Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance brings together a body of the strange, the blossoming, the poetic, the fabulous, the dying, the risky, and the cuttingly comedic in this year’s installment. Those are not listed in a particular order as every piece manifested each in it’s own glorious presentation. The show as a whole demonstrated both private battles and personal growths, as well as what we’ve all been feeling lately with this new regime and it’s centuries old father (patriarchy).

Linda Austin’s A world..a world opened the offering and had me meditating and feeling the way I do when I read the newspaper while intermittently checking my phone updates as the radio plays on in the background. I often get stuck in a brainwave about mortality, and Pam Tzeng’s darkly funny and horror-laden “A Meditation on the End” by Jo-Lee put me in that purgatory space from the scary movie where one possibly knows they are about to die horribly, but still takes the time to remember something dear and mundane from their childhood. Queen Shmooquan (Jeppa Hall) has more tiny penis large balls enormous hairy vagina than any of us mortals. Queen Shmooquan. Dark Wave. was acidic and funny and relatable in ways I never knew possible. If I had known the words to the songs, I would have sung them very loudly with the queen as she regaled us. Also, two words: tampon tassels. Pepper Pepper’s Diva Practice (Solo) was interactive, commanding, classic, and had me gasp as Pepper stripped off the pieces of their corporeal persona in an intimate portrait of a diva at work and play in a solo vignette. Ending the night in a poetic plea for space to speak, breathe, and be, Donal Mosher and Shannon Stewart’s Strange Gardens was an eloquently simplistic evolution of dreams and personal narrative of the inner and outer relationship to one’s body, HIV, and scientific symbolism.

And of course nothing I could write now could really paint you as great a word picture as seeing these pieces in person. As a performance artist myself, this amalgam of work put me in that space where you have ten brainstorms at once and want to write every feeling down and start performing yourself right there from your chair, as well as tell each and every performer what their pieces meant to you. I love the performance community in Portland. There are not enough festivals or platforms like this.

*author would like to note that they did not get a chance to see Kiana Harris’ piece DIVINE, although they are quite sure that it is divine and that you should arrive early to see it!

-Katie Piatt

Guest Blogger: Tamara Carroll

Risk/Reward – A “Theatre Person” on an Evening of Performance Art

Has it started yet?
Is it over?
Did they mean for that to happen?
Was that supposed to be funny?

As primarily a practitioner of “theatre” (put in quotes because a single evening of performance art seems to have left me shaky on what that term really means), but as primarily a practitioner and purveyor of pretty predictably text-driven, “traditional” theatre, if our audience was asking these questions, we would worry we had not done our job well. We would worry our play lacked clarity, specificity, accessibility. It’s fairly rare (though not unheard of) that we seek to confuse or confound our audience. We want to “tell a story,” (does “story” necessarily imply narrative? Suddenly not so sure) for which we expect our audience to be decidedly passive receivers.

Performance art seems to be completely intentional about audience experience, with the audience being a vital and essential ingredient in the artistic moment, while simultaneously not caring in the slightest if the audience understands what the eff is happening. This was a challenge for me, and some of my more traditional theatre-going companions. In the theatre, everything on stage is information, but these performances offered endless streams of information I had no way to decode. Five minutes into the first piece, a music-less modern dance piece scored by an ever-increasingly cacophonic sound collage, I started to panic. “How am I going to write anything intelligent or useful about this? I have no context or appropriate aesthetic criteria from which to form an opinion on this art! Deep shame will befall me if I try to discuss this!” I got into more of a groove with the second piece, and at intermission I proudly shared with my companions that I had totally understood it, only to be told that if I was trying to “figure it out,” I was missing the point. Drat.

My deepest engagement with performance art before last night was when an organization I worked with brought in a guest artist to lead a workshop with incarcerated youth and we required them to demo the workshop before taking it to the youth. The workshop consisted of her having a room full of graduate students and professors clap for 30 minutes straight. No talking. No stopping. No rules. No objective. Just clapping. For 30. Minutes. Straight.

It was actually amazing.

Those 30 minutes contained multitudes in ways I could never have imagined. I went through the full range of human emotion. I decided I would stop about forty times, and didn’t stop, and didn’t know why I didn’t stop, and wondered what that meant about me as a person, and whether I was angry or enjoying myself, and what was happening for everyone else, etc, and that was only the first five minutes.

The Risk/Reward Festival took me on a similar ride of varied emotions and freely associated responses. Presented with the unexpected, the grotesque, the beautiful, the spectacle, the obtuse, without any story to follow, any characters to relate to, any recognizable concrete human experience to relax safely into, my mind went everywhere and asked so many questions. I was leaning forward. A small smattering of people would laugh and I didn’t know why. Occasionally I would laugh and not know why.

Despite having never attended a festival of performance art, it had everything I never knew I expected a performance art festival would have. Live multimedia/performer interaction, varying degrees of nudity, assaultive noise and frenetic movement followed by prolonged moments of stillness and silence, durational tests of endurance, genitals in hats, and of course, Trump masks.

For this traditional, narrative-driven frequent theatre-goer, the risk of unknown was well worth the reward of the unexpected, unexplained, uncategorizable experience. Thanks, Risk/Reward, for another year of making this festival happen!

-Tamara Carroll

Guest Blogger: Devan Wardrop-Saxton

Twenty minutes is nothing, and forever.

At Risk/Reward, twenty minutes is an entire ecosystem. A planet that unfolds itself, envelops you in its particular air and quality of light, and then—with varying degrees of gentleness—spits you back out into the stars for the next planet to appear out of the darkness and pull you in. Two hours later, walking out after the last piece, I felt like examining myself for passport stamps, skinned knees, seasickness: any lingering sign that my heart and mind had just been whirled into and out of six stunning and gut-busting and gloriously difficult worlds.

Thrillingly, woven into and out of every piece of this year’s festival are women, and with them the many bodies and possibilities of femininity. And they are strong: naked, and strong. Superficial, and strong. Repurposing the the detritus of a world bleached of meaning, seizing the means of objectification to make their own provocations, weightless and powerful against an endless sky. Singing, shrieking, tearing out the eyes of tyrants, sweating off their armor, cradling youth and death with equal tenderness. Strong, ridiculous, defiant, enduring. In the rapid-fire onslaught, I grasped desperately after these images, repeating them frantically to myself in the hopes that I could somehow keep them from fading.

From here, the morning after, some burn brighter than others, but I remain profoundly moved: amazed by the strengths of women, empowered by their emphatic and unstoppable contradictions, and emboldened by the space that they take up in this unpredictable and bruising world.

-Devan Wardrop-Saxton

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Guest Blogger: Mariel Sierra

I thought I knew what Risk/Reward was.

I had no idea.

I still have no idea. Even as I write “Risk/Reward” I realize, “Holy Shit. That’s it. That is literally it.”

For the past eight years that I’ve lived in Portland and known about Risk/Reward, I never really paid attention to the name of the festival and what it meant. The lens through which I examine the world, examined art, was already expanding. But I’m getting a head of myself.

Walking into the theatre, I was immediately struck with its vibrancy. It was as if the audience had brought the sun in with them.

Walking into the theatre, I realized that the vibrancy came from the transformation of the Alder Lobby into a safe, Queer space. My body was ready.

As I’m writing, I keep starting, stopping, and deleting, unable to come up with anything intelligent to say. Sure, I scribbled down a ton of notes in preparation for the thoughtful examination I was going to write, but then I thought, “Fuck it. That’s not my job. What was my experience?”

Last night’s performances were so radically different, but each one left me thinking “How did they do this?”

Like, how did they DO this. How did their brains and their bodies reach this conclusion? The extent in which each artist used, well, themselves, illuminated the limitlessness of our bodies and mind. The creativity and dedication of these artists reach levels I couldn’t even comprehend. The specificity, preparedness, and commitment was astounding. It was the best acting lesson I ever had.

During intermission, a friend of mine made the distinction between bravery and fear by saying, “Bravery implies the overcoming of fear, but that performance was a total absence of fear.” Obviously, my friend is pretty smart, because that epiphany shook me.

Dude, how did they do that?

Each show contained tenderness, pathos, discovery, love, anger, resignation, ugliness, beauty, hungry ghosts, and expansion of self.

Growing up in a theatre family, and then pursuing it as a career, I always thought of myself as a very cultured person, right? Wrong. I have no idea.

What I do know, is that last night I felt elated, sad, uncomfortable, curious, angry, soft, horny, safe, and by proxy, a little bit fearless.

-Mariel Sierra

Risk/Reward: LATE NIGHT EVENTS

RISK/REWARD: LATE NIGHT EVENTS

FRIDAY NIGHT, 6/23

Voicebox Karaoke NW
2112 NW Hoyt St
10pm – 1am

See the art, then BE the art – Join us for opening night celebration KARAOKE in a private lounge room at Portland’s premiere karaoke destination. We will be departing Artists Rep at 9:45pm, following the artist toast, and getting our sing on all night long.

 

SATURDAY NIGHT, 6/24

Coley Mixan (Seattle)
Music/Visual Art
9:45pm – 11:30pm 

Stick around after Saturday’s festival performances to experience Seattle performance artist and musician Coley Mixan as they bring live visual and sonic experience that juxtapose queries into food justice, sound ecology & identity in the Artists Rep lobby following the show. Seeing the show another night? Come out just for this! You don’t want to miss this musician, visual artist, librarian, astronomical sleuth and vegan baker in action!

 

BIO
Coley Mixan’s work percolates love songs to the multiverse through the artists’s body and voice, embodying the making of space-as-time through an intra-exploration of queer agency.  As an agent fascinated by the intricate forms of cultural/caloric/mythological consumption, Mixan is often performed as a switchboard of athletics, (g)astronomic pursuance, and the tortuous discoveries of intra-connected holes, cavities, and channels between gluten chains & sound waves.

Check out Coley’s Soundcloud

Artist Profile: Kiana Harris

Kiana Harris (Seattle, WA): DIVINE
Dance Film

Photo by Kiana Harris.

In a Risk/Reward first, Seattle filmmaker Kiana Harris’s film series, DIVINE, will be installed in the Artists Rep lobby before and after the performances. We invite you to arrive early or stay late, but MAKE SURE to watch the 20-minute film piece about the reclamation of black female liberation.

BIO

Kiana Harris, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, received early dance training at Dance Spectrum School of Dance where she took her very first ballet class at the age of six. In 2003, she was invited to study and perform with Dance Contempo Company where she expanded her repetoire to include various multicultural styles of dance. In spring of 2008, Kiana moved to Seattle, WA to enhance her training as a student at Cornish College of The Arts. An active member of the Seattle dance community, she has danced at local shows such as DanceThis and Black Nativity, as well as being a member of the Afro-Peruvian performance ensemble, De Cajon Project, for the past seven years. In summer 2016, Kiana created and debuted her first dance film entitled “DIVINE” part l and ll available on Vimeo. Her mission as a film maker, is to reclaim images of femininity in a non-exploitative representation from a black women’s lens, and have it be one of many tools to drive black liberation.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Reflections of body positivity and non-exploitative visuals provide a start to healing the inferiority complex. DIVINE is a trilogy of films that destroy the exploitation of black femme bodies on screen and conveys stories through a black woman’s lens. By sharing these films with other black-identifying women, DIVINE allows dialogue to occur, reclaiming the narrative of how black women’s bodies should and will be portrayed.

WATCH A PREVIEW OF DIVINE, PART I

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