---------------- H2M Homepage --------------- About H2M --------------- Contact H2M --------------- Support H2M --------------- Blog Login ----------------

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Performance via text message

Once again, I find myself inspired by the brilliant mind of Tim Etchells.

From the Guardian theatre blog, where they're thinking back on their favorite theatre moments of 2010:

I spent almost a month enthralled by An SMS; Tim Etchells's exquisitely constructed imaginary performance for the Norfolk & Norwich festival. Encountered entirely through text message, the project was composed of a series of absurd movements in which half-familiar scenes flickered into life and then spiralled out of control. Snowstorms grew too thick, a clown fight exploded into an ecstatic riot, a children's choir sang for days on end, slowly collapsing to the floor one by one. What made this project truly wonderful however was the way that these imagined events were slowly drip-fed into our own lives over such an extended period. As time passed, this beautiful, hysterical parade of events was written ever-more thoroughly over our own everyday experience, at points the two converging with breathtaking synchronicity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wrapping Up

When I say this, it feels like a confession, but here we go: it is really nice to be done with Everyone Who Looks Like You for a little while. Knowing that we will be doing it again (San Francisco! June 2011!) make the whole thing feel like a nice pause, rather than an interminable hold. I've loved touring and I enjoyed performing in Portland (especially this last weekend with great crowds and the wilds of fire alarms), but it is exhausting. The yelling, the tantrums, the nightly emotional roller coaster. I'm ready for a break.

Breaks don't last too long at h2m, however. Erin continues to rehearse and build My Mind Is Like An Open Meadow (I'm very excited about a new scene involving names of cats) and the rest of the team dips toes back into the world of Uncanny Valley, gently at the moment and more vigorously in February.

Until then, it's hot springs and hot toddies for me. Happy Holidays, ya'll.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Portland: Thoughts, Press, TV

It's been a change of pace performing Everyone Who Looks Like You at home in Portland: going home each night (instead of crashing somewhere), then getting up to do it again (instead of driving home). We've been talking a lot about the differences in audiences from night to night. At a post-show talk-back yesterday Jonathan said we "are like tourists to the audience each night." I like that. At this point, having been doing this show in more-or-less the same form for nearly a year, I really feel that the audience lets us know the show is, and every night that is is a little different. Comedy, tragedy, heartfelt, tear-jerker, somewhere in between. Five more times. Whew....

In other news, we got a review from the Portland Mercury. Read it all about it.

In other other news, we were on TV yesterday! We had a very nice time talking with Joe from KGW NewsChannel 8. Watch it all here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snowed in Seattle style

Thank goodness for Julie's dad's pad in Seattle. We got to see an amazing show on our way home from Bellingham and get cozy on the couch

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Of Snow and Laundry

I know we've said it here, and elsewhere, and surely we will continue to say it over and over in other venues: touring is great fun. Our weekend in Bellingham, WA, hosted by the great students and faculty at Western Washington University, was fun for all the expected reasons and then a few unexpected ones as well. Namely: snow.

The car full of H2M actors arrived in Bellingham at 11:00am on Friday morning, having somehow managed to leave Portland at a bleary-eyed 6am. We went straight to our favorite co-op for a fuel-up before descending on the Old Main Theater. It was such a treat to return to the same theater where, in November 2008, we performed Repeat After Me (the experience of performing RAM with all of it's USA love/hate pathos was amazing in the high of the post-Obama election, but that is for another time). I love walking into the theater and seeing our little set waiting for us with open arms, the lights hung, and the tech crew reaching for their 4th coffee of the day.

We had the fastest and smoothest tech yet of this tour and then curled ourselves into blankets and sleeping bags for a pre-show nap. It is amazing how comfortable a theater floor can be. The Friday night audience was hyped up for sure, laughing and exclaiming at lines and moments I didn't even know existed. I thought we must have really been on fire to have elicited such a reaction and while I don't want to play down our excellent and energetic performance, it became clear as soon as we left the theater that the audience was hyped up by what was happening outside: huge beautiful snow flakes!

There were a few inches on the ground by the time we left the theater, and it took some kind souls pushing and hopping on the hood of our car to make it downtown for our post-show celebration. Liz and I were staying with a few WWU students who had the foresight to live part-way up a very steep hill. Thankfully, we also had the foresight to leave our car parked at the bottom of the hill and get a ride home. The next morning's walk, however, was a little tricky.
Saturday we taught a workshop for WWU students and alums and spent the afternoon resting in front of the fire and eating soup at the home of the amazing Rich and Kendall. Saturday's show was followed by the fastest stike ever thanks to the WWU students (is it clear yet how amazing they were) and the strangest quesadillas ever.
On Sunday, while the tech team drove home to Portland, the actors stayed in Seattle to visit our favorite NW presenters On the Boards, see Ralph Lemon's amazing How Can You Stay Inside the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, and stay up until 5am dancing. There was so much love we made the snow fall again.

Now, back in Portland, the only thing left to do was wash the costumes. Nothing brings back those special tour moments more than this:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nutria Revisited

Faith wrote a lovely post on our tour to Eugene in October, including our late-night nutria sighting.

Now we get word from the New York Times, that nutria may be the new "guilt-free fur". This gets me thinking that perhaps Hand2Mouth's next fundraising event shouldn't be a cake sale/bake sale, but a nutria hunt-down and stitch-up. Perhaps our Uncanny Valley costumes could be less space-age and more Davey Crocket? Maybe we can realize our true DIY nature with a little help from, er, nature.

Or, maybe not.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fond memories of California

So, as we mentioned, our trip to Blue Lake, California to perform Everyone Who Looks Like You was lovely.

Some highlights:

+ Scones at Bob & Martha's house.
+ Sitting in on a class at Dell'Arte while students showed (and critiqued) each others' work.
+ $10 pitchers, a honky tonk piano and walls covered with saws at The Logger.
+ Listening to Michael Fields, producing artistic director and a master teacher at Dell'Arte, reminisce about writing plays at the Logger in the '80s.
+ The beautiful Mad River, which I'm sure is delightful to swim in during the summer.
+ Burgers, chili, delicious crepes and good conversation at Stardough's Cafe.

And on the drive home, some of us stopped along the way to take pictures.

We posed as H2M: BAND on the beach.

We came upon a field of elk!

And of course we communed with trees & nature & shit.

Next up on the touring train: Bellingham, Washington

We're visiting Western Washington University for the first time since performing Repeat After Me there two years ago. We were blown away then by the passion & intelligence of the students (and their teacher, Mr. Rich Brown), and we can't wait to return.

And after that... Everyone Who Looks Like You is coming home to Portland.

Speaking of which... have you seen the video trailer yet?

Everyone Who Looks Like You - Holiday Trailer from Hand2Mouth Theatre on Vimeo.

Monday, November 8, 2010

H2M Christmas Album

So, we're putting together a Hand2Mouth Greatest Hits CD, featuring songs from our shows over the last five years (My Mind Is Like An Open Meadow, Uncanny Valley, Everyone Who Looks Like You, Undine, Repeat After Me, City of Gold...)

But then Liam Kaas-Lentz, stage manager extraordinaire and an awesome person all around, suggested we make a Christmas CD.

Actually what he said was:
I just think the world is a worse place without the following tracks on a H2M Christmas CD:

1) Undine singing "Holly Jolly Christmas"
2) David Chandler reading "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
3) Getting Jonathan WASTED DRUNK and having him karaoke "Jingle Bell Rock"
4) The RAM crew singing Toby Keith's "Blame it on the Mistletoe"
5) The EWLLY ladies singing...well...anything.
6) Jerry rapping "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC
I don't think we're going to get around to doing this... but man, it would be fun.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

H2M on tour

Stay tuned for photos & recollections of our trip to Dell'Arte in Blue Lake, California! We had a wonderful time there.

In the meantime, this kind of gives you a picture of what it's like when H2M is on tour together:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Going to California

We are gearing up for our performances at Dell'Arte in Blue Lake, California.

The tech team, along with Jonathan, drove down this morning in H2M's brand new pickup truck (it's a 1989 Ford F150).

And the rest of us are driving down tomorrow.

We're going to California! Led Zeppelin understands how we feel.

And the Times Standard in Eureka wrote this preview about our show! Yay!

We'll let you know how it goes...

EWLLY Holiday Trailer!

Marc Friedman, H2M associate artist and a versatile, wide ranging creative spirit, made this trailer for our December showings of Everyone Who Looks Like You.


Everyone Who Looks Like You - Holiday Trailer from Hand2Mouth Theatre on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


So we just got back from a beautiful week in Eugene, performing Everyone Who Looks Like You at the University of Oregon.

This is the first time we've gotten EWLLY back on its feet since last January, when we took it to New York, and it's been really satisfying to come back to this show and realize how strong it is, and how cathartic to perform with an audience.

Some of my favorite moments:

+ Chatting with John Schmor over coffee in the mornings, as we surveyed his flower beds and meticulously arranged rock paths. John is the head of the theatre department as well as a dear friend -- he's been a mentor and supporter and teacher since the early days of H2M, and it is always such a treat to catch up with him.

+ The talkback after our Friday night show -- everyone got deep, stories were shared, tears were shed. Beautiful.

+ The workshop Jonathan and I led Saturday morning for UO students. They were filled with energy and enthusiasm, leaping into improvisation exercises with a gusto and fine tuned sense of each other that was wonderful to see.

+ Jerry trying on the lion costume that Julie bought for her little nephew and seriously trying to convince her to sell it to him instead.

+ Seeing 6-7 nutria munching on grasses in the moonlight by the canal at our hotel. The horror! The fascination!

+ Hanging out at Rennie's, a college bar across from the theatre, on a Saturday night when it was loaded to the gills with drunk students. Now, H2M likes to party. But it has been a loooooong time since I've hung out in a college bar at full tilt and trying to wind down and have conversations with each other in that setting reached comically, epically terrible proportions.

+ Driving back to Portland with my H2M peeps on a beautiful sunny day after a night of not much sleep and laughing our asses off.

As always, I'm reminded of how much fun it is to be on tour. I wish we could do it more often.

Thanks, Eugene!

What happens on tour stays on tour

Friday, October 1, 2010

Holidays Past

Clearly not much as changed for the ladies of h2m over the last 4 years....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From the Outside Looking In

I am experiencing an amazing thing for the first time. I have the rare opportunity to sit in the audience and watch the company I normally share the stage with perform an inspiring new work. As hard as it feels to not be exploring the memory field with my dear friends and colleagues, I am privy to the absolute pleasure and privilege of watching a beautiful piece of theatre unfold from the company I fell in love with so long ago.
Do NOT miss Uncanny Valley (Phase 2). It is EPIC.



(Phase 2)
Wed-­Fri Sept 8, 9, 10, 7:30pm
Thu-­Fri Sept 16 & 17, 7:30pm
Sat Sept 18, 2pm | Sun Sept 19, 2pm & 7:30pm
REED COLLEGE Mainstage Theatre
SE 28th Ave & Botsford Dr (between Woodstock & Steele)
TICKETS: $8 in advance, $10 at door (free for TBA passholders) |boxofficetickets.com
INFO: www.hand2mouththeatre.org |503-­235-­5284|mail@hand2mouththeatre.org

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Risk/Reward profile: OSLUND + CO

In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival, we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

Last profile: OSLUND + CO (Performing in the 5pm showcase).

Risk/Reward is here, and what better way to kick things off than to post our last profile, of the esteemed Oslund + Co?

If you’re a Portlander, you likely are familiar with this force of nature in Portland and beyond. As a choreographer, teacher and performer, Oslund is regarded as one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading dance artists. Throughout her career, she has advanced the discipline of contemporary dance through the exploration and creation of new work annually. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Oregon Arts Commission, the New York Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the National Dance Project, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. She co-founded and now co-directs Conduit Dance with Tere Mathern which has provided a home base for Oslund Co/Dance.

You can read articles on Mary Oslund’s performance here and here.

You can watch clips of other Oslund Company/Dance performances here and here.

Of her work, Catherine Thomas in the Oregonian has said, “the veteran Portland dance-maker gives no quarter where aggressive pitches of flesh-on-flesh are concerned, but she wields her blitzkrieg choreography with brains and a scalpel's precision.”

In January 2011 her new piece, Childhood Star, will be featured by White Bird in their 2010-11 season.

For Risk/Reward, Oslund + Co will present Flora, a reworking of Anatomica (2010) and Fauna (2010) for three dancers, and Hand2Mouth is incredibly honored to present this work in the festival this year.

We’ll see you at Risk/Reward!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Risk/Reward profile: MIKE PHAM

In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival tomorrow, we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! MIKE PHAM IS IN THE HOUSE! (Performing in the 8pm showcase).

Hand2Mouth has been friends with Mike Pham since way back in June 2007, when we shared the bill with Helsinki Syndrome (the performance art group Mike runs with Rachel Hynes) for the NW New Works Festival. As I recall, we instantly bonded over the fact that both our shows involved balloons and pop songs and total chaos (though theirs, unlike ours, also featured purple costumes and ribbon dancing).

We brought them down to Portland the first time in September 2007, to perform a late night show at our space during TBA time. Then the next summer we brought them down more formally in what was the first official Risk/Reward Festival. They brought their first draft of a blown apart version of The Importance of Being Earnest, which featured Prince, Godzilla, King Kong, and dozens of instant pudding packets.

Then in August 2009 they invited us to come to New York and do a split bill at the Ontological. That’s when I first heard Mike talk about his fascination with figure skating and Bolero. Little did I know he was already plotting a solo show!

So here we are. He’s made his show, and he’s back in Portland to sprinkle his magic fairy dust on our heads.

You can read reviews of Mike’s show at NWNW here and here and here. My favorite quote: "Mike’s performance was unexpected, without genre, shocking, sexy, funny, morbid, retro, futuristic and well hung.” (from the On the Boards blog)

And in case you’ve been admiring the postcards and posters, Mike designed those! He’s multi-talented.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Risk/Reward profile: ERIN LEDDY and H2M

In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival on Saturday, we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

So. Let’s talk about Erin Leddy (performing in the 5pm showcase).

As many of you know, Erin is a longtime company member of Hand2Mouth. She has been a powerhouse and a godsend since the day she showed up for an audition eight years ago, and an integral part of H2M’s work, from City of Gold to Repeat After Me to Everyone Who Looks Like You.

And that whole time she’s been thinking and dreaming about making a piece out of the 20 hours of tape she recorded in 2001 while living with her grandmother for a year.
This fall, she started working with Jonathan on making the material into a solo show, and spent a month in residency at Yaddo (which happens to be in the same town her grandmother, Sarah, lives). When she came back she dove back into rehearsals, and just last weekend they brought her show, My Mind is Like an Open Meadow, up to NW New Works for its first public showing.

I can attest that she cast a spell over the audience and brought them to their feet. Over at the On the Boards blog, Shango Los calls the show “a true joy to watch” and a lovely review in Seattlest came out today that says: “The closing applause was meant to credit the success of Leddy’s concept and performance … but we sensed some of it was for Sarah, too.

It’s been incredible to watch this process unfold, and we are so proud to be showing Erin’s piece for the first time in Portland at the Risk/Reward Festival.


And H2M is also excited to get another chance to try out our new show, Uncanny Valley, in front of an audience! That will kick off the 8pm showcases.

Risk/Reward profile: PAUL BUDRAITIS

In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival on Saturday, we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

Today's topic: Paul Budraitis (performing in the 5pm showcase).

Paul is a Seattle-based director, actor, and writer, as well as a teacher of acting and stage movement. As a Fulbright grantee, he studied directing at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy under the mentorship of visionary theatre director Jonas Vaitkus.

For Not. Stable. At all, which he just performed at the NW New Works Festival and will present in its entirety at On the Boards in February 2011, he is collaborating with director Sean Ryan (who, by the way, will be on the panel about festivals in the northwest on Sunday, in his role as On the Boards' Regional Programs & Facilities Manager).

Jerry saw this piece at NW New Works and was blown away by its honesty and sense of danger. The Seattle Times says that “the raw, fervid desire and sense of danger radiating from Budraitis' stage presence, were potent,” and Jeremy Barker of the SunBreak talks about an earlier version of the show here.

We are honored to bring Paul and Sean to Portland, and can’t wait to see how this piece evolves.

Let's talk about Risk/Reward

Check it out, Jerry had a great conversation with Dmae Roberts on KBOO yesterday about Risk/Reward.

Monday, June 14, 2010


In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival next Saturday (June 19 @ BodyVox), we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

Today it’s The Cherdonna & Lou Show (performing in the 8pm showcase).

The Cherdonna & Lou Show is the brainchild of Seattle dancers Jody Kuehner and Ricki Mason. Jody and Ricki invented The Cherdonna and Lou Show to combine their choreographic backgrounds with their desire to create comedic politicized and personal performance. Cherdonna and Lou combine brains, brawn, and contemporary dance moves (and celebrities, and the artifice of drag) as they lip sync, piano sync, and tap sync their way through the decades in no particular order.

Here is what they say about the show on their website:
We are here to entertain you. And then maybe give you a different kind of feeling then being entertained, like sadness or fear, and then maybe your feelings will make you think about things during the show or even afterwards over cocktails. You’re not allergic to cats, are you?

Jerry drove up to see their performance during the first weekend of the NW New Works Festival (where he also say performances by Mike Pham and Paul Budraitis: stay tuned!) and has this to say:
Cherdonna and Lou are an absolute delight to watch onstage. Their performance exposes a flawed narcissism and humiliation through two personas that are simultaneously hilarious and endearing. Their playful, precise choreography and wildly contrasting body types inject a refreshing simplicity to the world of high art, while subtly sending very powerful messages about the roles we all put on and portray for the benefit of the world around us.

You can check out excerpts from their show here and see the video On the Boards put together about their “costume inspiration” here.

We can’t wait to let them flaunt their “cluelessness via odd-couple dancing and mumbo-jumbo musings, to hilarious and pathetic effect” all over Portland.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Risk/Reward profile: ANGELA FAIR

In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival next Saturday (June 19 @ BodyVox!), we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

Today: Angela Fair (performing in the 5pm showcase).

Angela was a crowd favorite at Risk/Reward last year, and makes solo performances that deal with obsession, dissemblance, romantic love and other prevalent mental and emotional pathologies. She explores characters through video, monologue, movement and power karaoke that satirize the narcissism in human experience. Her work has been presented at On the Boards’ Northwest New Works festival.

Angela is also an alumna of the outrageous, beloved House of Cunt, whose presence still lingers over the Portland performance scene like a mythical bejeweled beast of legend.

Check out Angela performing in this video she made with Grace Carter. I hear this character will be featured in her performance at Risk/Reward... we can't WAIT to see it.

Friday, June 11, 2010


In anticipation of the Risk/Reward Festival next Saturday (June 19 @ BodyVox!), we’re presenting daily profiles of the artists involved.

First up: Katherine Longstreth (performing in the 8pm showcase).

Before moving to Portland recently, Katherine lived and worked in New York City as a choreographer, performer, teacher and arts administrator. Her dances have been developed through the Fieldwork process and presented by Dance Theater Workshop, David Parker/The Bang Group, the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Broome Corner Choreographic Platform Series, Context Theater, Fridays at Noon at the 92nd Street Y, Middlebury College, Performance Mix, the Festival of Independent Dance Artists in Toronto, and Piccolo Spoeleto in Charleston.

In March she performed her “Solos and Duets” at Conduit in a Portland debut, presenting work in a style “marked by clarity, musical acumen, gentleness, and now and then a hint of insouciance,” and demonstrating her “facility for evocative and sculptural movement.”

Needless to say, we are thrilled to be presenting her work this year at Risk/Reward.

And in fact, if you want a taste of Katherine’s work before Risk/Reward, you can catch some this weekend –- she is performing "High Seas, Wind Easing" alongside Keely McIntyre’s performances of "Subplot" and "Drift" with Noel Plemmons.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Being Wrong

Well, since I'm clearly fascinated with the counter-intuitiveness and messiness of creation lately, here's something else on the topic: this lovely interview with Ira Glass about being wrong. A lot.

I especially love this:
I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it's usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it. We spend a lot of money and time on stuff that goes nowhere. It's not unusual for us to go through 25 or 30 ideas and then go into production on eight or 10 and then kill everything but three or four. In my experience, most stuff that you start is mediocre for a really long time before it actually gets good. And you can't tell if it's going to be good until you're really late in the process. So the only thing you can do is have faith that if you do enough stuff, something will turn out great and really surprise you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Michael Kaiser

I know Marc went to Michael Kaiser's talk at PCS a few weeks ago, and mentioned a few of these ideas already. But I just came across Michael Kaiser's "Ten Rules" on Ultra and thought I'd post them here for further discussion. (You can also go to the Kennedy Center's Arts in Crisis website).

Michael Kaiser’s Ten Rules to Turn Around an Organization

1. There has to be a leader. In times of crisis everybody has a solution. But you need one leader to lead the charge.

2. The leader must have a plan. Kaiser doesn’t believe working harder is going to do it. “I ask them, ‘You were working hard at marketing before, right?’ Working harder is not enough.

3. You can’t save your way to health. You don’t get healthy by getting smaller, by doing less. He says, “My staff will tell you I squeeze every nickel til the buffalo poops, but that’s behind the scenes.”

4. Focus on today and tomorrow not yesterday. There’s no time for blame. When things are bad many people sit around talking about where it went wrong. That’s not healthy.

5. Extend your planning calendar. You have to plan your art. Most organizations plan their art too close to event. You need to plan four and five years out. First, you can make art better if you take more time. Second, you can do a better job fundraising. “I listen to the funder, find out what do they like to fund. I have menu of five years of projects, so I can choose best event for funder.” Finally, “It helps me to educate my audience to want to see something that is not so accessible. I’m excited about projects that are transformational. But this requires some education of the audience. And with time, you can educate in advance. Creativity has been beaten out of so many arts organizations. Planning ambitious work four years out, creating big vision is what’s needed.”

6. Marketing is more than brochures and email blasts. There are two cateogories, programmatic marketing to sell tickets and institutional marketing to get people excited about the institution as a whole. Kaiser gave a number of examples of institutional marketing including getting the Alvin Ailey Dance onto the Phil Donahue show, into the Clinton inaugural (as I recall), and having them do a Central Park performance.

7. There has to be one spokesperson for the organization, and the message must be positive. Often there are a lot of people in the organization talking about financial problems and not about what the organization is doing. There are many more funders that will fund organizations that are healthy than want to fund those in crisis.

8. “If you are in trouble, you don’t have time to focus on the $20 giver. I think the $20 gift is important, but you’ll run out of time chasing it if you’re in trouble. On the other hand, you also can’t be unrealistic and think you’re going to get one big gift.”

9. The board has to be willing to restructure itself. An organization goes through life cycle, and a board goes through life cycle too. The board that is necessary to launch an organization acts like staff. At Ailey, they sewed costumes and did bookkeeping. But that’s not the board that’s needed decades later.

10. You have to have the discipline to do the other 9 things all the time, continuously. Always evaluating the board, always planning.

Interesting. Let's discuss.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Past / Future / Present

Well, hello there.

Here at H2M headquarters we are resting up from our showing of Uncanny Valley at Reed (well, some of us are resting -- some of us are working on Erin's show which she'll be taking up to NWNW in 10 days. And preparing for Risk/Reward which will rock this town in 17 days. Ok, so I guess that means none of us are resting. I think it's safe to say that H2M doesn't really DO resting.)

In any case, the UV showing was wonderful and useful -- once again convincing us that showing our work along the way, in beta form, is absolutely necessary. We had two talkbacks in which we gathered vital information, and we also received feedback in the form of interviews & reviews.

But if anyone out there would like to tell us more: please do so in the comments! We would love to hear more about what worked and what didn't.

Thank you, one and all!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The nature of "improvising/making/creating"

This post on The Improvised Life really puts into words what it feels like when we're two weeks away from opening a show: on-things-not-looking-good-while-youre-working-on-them.

There is always a point in our process where I look around and think, there's no way this is coming together. This is a mess. It isn't going to work. We've failed. This time we can't pull it off.

And every time it does come together by opening night. It's kind of miraculous, really. And at the same time, I'm sure it's something every artist experiences.

By the way, have you read the Improvised Life manifesto? I love this:
You don't need to be an expert to improvise.
Improvising is a practice, like yoga or cooking; the more we do it, the better we get at it.
Creativity can be cultivated. We can learn what we don't know.
We can be afraid to do something, and do it anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marketing the Question Mark - aka Don't Ask Me to Explain

So ... is it a good thing to make a show that is a mystery, even to you?  There is always an element of the unknown in a show made from scratch, a requirement for a certain kind of faith in the long collective process, a knowledge that the whole point of collaborative creation is to discover something that could never come from a single rational mind. Right? I get that. At the same time, shouldn't the artist be able to competently pronounce some insight into what a show is, how it works, why it exists?  I ask this because as we approach the opening of the first work-in-progress run of Uncanny Valley--whoa is that really tomorrow?!--it's not necessarily that I find myself at a loss when asked to explain the experience of the show, it's that I don't want to do it.  When confronted with "what's it about?" my first impulse is, "it's about not answering that question; in fact, if I do answer that question, the show will be weaker for it. Just come and see it".  Obnoxious, right?  

The marketer in me berates the obnoxious artist "how the hell are you going to convince anyone to see your show if you are obstinately refusing to define or even accurately describe it?"  True, I suppose you've got a point, me. But I respond "we've made a show built around the idea of building an idea in front of the audience. Whatever I explain to you will be a fence-walking attempt to get you interested enough to see the show while trying to give away as little as possible as to what the show is actually about." (Faith Helma was put on the spot Tuesday to do precisely some of that fence-walking during a chat with Stumptown Magazine).  This is further complicated with Uncanny Valley because of our intentional conflation of the fictional show-world and reality (getting curious?).  How accurate are we to be with you, our wonderful audience, about what the show is?  Do you want the description that brings you closer to actual reality or closer to the fictional reality? And will you feel misled once you find that what you thought was the actual reality is really just more of the fiction ... and then you find out that the fiction was real all along, just steeping in metaphor... or is it steeping in your own mind ... (note: I'm just trying to confuse you)

Okay I'll stop pontificating.  My point is not actually the specifics of the show, but more of the complexity of marketing and growing an audience for this kind of contemporary performance.  This seems to be a recurring question posed to Hand2Mouth, particularly with work-in-progress runs, where part of the point of performing in front of an audience is actually to figure out what it is we are making.  How do we market this?  What do you put in the press release? How do we build an audience for a production that is necessarily a kind of question mark? (if you have any ideas, you should make sure you're at one of our post-show discussions this weekend--Sat eve or Sunday matinee).

Now for the point of all this--I just got to attend a great conversation between Chris Coleman and Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center in D.C., on the challenges of maintaining and growing non-profit arts organizations. One of Kaiser's big points was the essential (and oft overlooked) art of institutional marketing for arts organizations--this is essentially marketing that supports positive public consciousness of the company as a whole (as opposed to programmatic marketing which is about selling specific events). It struck me as very applicable to H2M's problem. What we are asking from potential audience is the commitment to the idea of the company as a whole, to participate in a culture of continuing support for our mission, without necessary parsing individual events. It is about the excitement of new work and the chance at being part of the process, not just a witness to the product. I'm not saying we must always ignore the specifics of our work, but I feel a lot better about sharing with you that what we're doing on the Reed College Mainstage starting tomorrow night is collaborating on something completely new, something experimental, collaborating with you. Will it work? Only if you come and play your part.  

See you there!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How to make good work

I just came across two pieces of writing (by Jonathan Lethem and Anne Lamott respectively -- hat tap to Parabasis for bringing them to my attention) that put into words what I happen to think are the two elements key to making strong work. Namely:

1. Rip people off. With no shame.
2. Write shitty first drafts.

If I was going to boil down my approach to making work, those would be the two essential steps. Blatantly copy the work of artists you admire (you might as well do it blatantly since you will be doing it regardless) and put something -- anything -- out there, so you have a thing to work with, not the angst of your fretful second-guessing mind.

I love this paragraph from Anne Lamott's book:

The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it rompall over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape itlater. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, "Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?," you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you're supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go -- but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.

So true.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tim Etchells

Just stumbled upon Tim Etchells' "performance diary" for the Guardian. It makes fascinating reading for anyone caught up in the mystery and joy and struggle of creating live performance.

Here are two of my favorites:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The start of something completely new

Hell yes we are starting our new project THIS WEEK. Working title is:
Space Opera. Nothing quite like the very first phase of starting something from scratch. If any stalkers are interested, you can follow our progress at space.hand2mouththeatre.org. There's where we creators post research, assignments, and converse down 'n dirty about the creation of the show.

And, we've got some concise language to describe this thing for Phase 1 :
What would it mean to escape the anxiety of your own mind into a different reality? You would need to find a place to escape to. A beautiful pink world, a snowy world, the coldness of the desert, the emptiness of space and a little blue dot. What a beautiful thing to be isolated in a vast landscape, filled with wonder, and you don't feel lonely at all.Welcome to Hand2Mouth's speculative performance in 4D. It's more magical if you don't know how it works.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

We love you, Seattle!

So, this weekend we took Undine up to Seattle to perform at Theatre Off Jackson. We were hosted by the Satori Group, a young band of upstarts who all relocated to Seattle together in the last year and a half.

This experience was amazing in several ways:

+ I think Theatre Off Jackson may be my favorite venue in terms of performing Undine so far. The space is just the right balance of intimate and roomy. And they have a bar out in the lobby! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the show always goes better when the audience has had a few drinks. The audiences were some of the most engaged I’ve experienced, and it was really fun to perform to/for/with them. I feel like I got my Undine mojo back.

+ Theatre Off Jackson is in the heart of the international district so we got to eat delicious noodle soups and stir fried veggies all day every day, and one night we met this delightful woman whose family owns Ho Ho Seafood, where Bruce Lee worked when he lived in Seattle (and I didn’t even know he lived in Seattle). While we waited for our food she told us all about their famous rockfish and their New York Times review and Bruce Lee’s moves. She made me want to stay and chat for hours, and eat everything on their menu. It was a great lesson in the art of self-promotion. She made it look natural, charming and selfless. And totally un-sleazy.

+ The Satori Group are incredible hosts. They handled all the details (with a ton of marketing help from Mike Pham of Helsinki Syndrome) with aplomb. They have set the bar high for when we return the favor. Which we hope to do with the show they’re working on now, The Making of a Monster. We actually got to see a bit of the wild-yet-focused process they’re using to create it when we did a training exchange with Satori on Saturday, and I’m excited to see the show in June, when it premieres at Northwest New Works, along with Ms. Erin Leddy’s solo show by the way. And Mike Pham’s! Yeeeehaw!

+ Satori set up a panel after each night’s performance to discuss new work in the northwest, hosted by Brendan Kiley of The Stranger. There were so many smart, engaging theater artists on this panel, and the outcome was that after each show we got into passionate, concrete discussions about the nature of new work vs. “old” work (and what the hell that distinction even means), and how we can establish a more tangible touring network in the northwest.

+ Did I mention that I freaking love Seattle audiences? Sometimes I feel like we get a better reception in Seattle than we do in Portland (which may just be the classic “never respected in your hometown” syndrome at play. Or as Jesus put it: “a prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Not that I’m saying we’re prophets.) Anyway. And we even got some press, like this preview written by Jeremy Barker.

In any case: I’m excited to do more performance in Seattle, to bring more groups from Seattle down here, and to work together to make a northwest scene for touring new work.

So – thank you, Seattle! Let’s make this a tradition.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Our Second Bite of the Apple

As I write, the ensemble is taking the stage at the infamous La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in New York City. If you are in New York right now, WHY ARE YOU NOT AT OPENING NIGHT!? If you are not in New York, make sure to bug your friends to see the show this weekend. It isn't too often a Portland troupe makes the trip to present in the Big Apple (though might I say that this is our second bite of the apple in the last 6 months! Props to Ms. Helma for breaking the ice). If your NY friends are reluctant to commit to the night out, you can let them in on the not-so-well-kept secret that Hand2Mouth loves to party with audience members after shows. A heartfelt thank you to all those who have supported us along the way, as audience members, donors, friends, enemies, and particularly family members.


La MaMa E.T.C in association with Hand2Mouth presents


January 8 - 17, 2010

Fridays - Saturdays at 10pm

Sundays at 5:30pm

La MaMa E.T.C.

74A E 4th St. New York, NY


$15 General Admission

Box Office: (212) 475-7710

Online: www.lamama.org