A bearded lady who juggles fire, a lesbian dressed as a drag queen and a duo called the Scum Wrenches that specializes in confrontational political performance art. Is this cabaret? Is it comedy? Or on a more basic level, is it art?
Baltimore audiences can decide for themselves beginning tonight when the month-long New York-Baltimore New Performance Festival opens with Avant-Garde-Arama, a multi-media showcase from New York's Performance Space 122. In addition to P.S. 122, the festival will highlight work from two other New York experimental venues -- Dixon Place and the Kitchen.
New York audiences will get a taste of our local product later this spring when Maryland Art Place's 14Karat Cabaret travels to Dixon Place.
"Almost all of these people will test the conventions of what you might think of as basic performance or dance," says Mark Russell, executive director of P.S. 122, whose Avant-Garde-Arama is being presented outside New York for the first time. A variety show of up-and-coming artists, Avant-Garde-Arama's line-up will include a poet, a dancer, RRTC musician and several monologuists, as well as bearded lady Jennifer Miller and the Scum Wrenches.
After seeing this sampling, if you're still confused about the nature of new performance, you can gain further insight at tomorrow's symposium, "The Art of Collaboration." Co-sponsored by the Baltimore Area Contemporary Arts Presenters and Towson State University with additional help from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the symposium is, in a sense, an example of the type of collaboration to be addressed, according to Victoria Westover, chair of BACAP. Though most presentations will focus on artist-to-artist issues, the symposium will also include a number of mini-performances.
The afternoon will conclude with two video anthologies compiled by the Kitchen and featuring such now-famous alums as Laurie Anderson and David Byrne.
On March 13 and 14, Dixon Place founder Ellie Covan will attempt to re-create the atmosphere of the New York venue, which operates out of her living room. The bill will include Dominique Dibell, whose act, according to Covan, poses the questions: "Is she a drag queen? Is she a lesbian playing an object of lesbian desire?"
If your taste runs to the slightly more conventional, another festival offering is Saturday's Baltimore Symphony Discovery Concert at Peabody Conservatory; David Zinman conducts Lucy Shelton, a soprano renowned for her performances of contemporary work.
The festival will offer a home-grown program Feb. 27-March 1 when 14Karat Cabaret comes to the Theatre Project.
New York-Baltimore New Performance Festival
Tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m., P.S. 122's Avant-Garde-Arama, Lida Lee Tall Hall, Towson State University; $6 admission.
Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Symposium on the "Art of Collaboration," Lida Lee Tall Hall; free admission.
Saturday at 4:30 p.m., The Kitchen Video Showcase, Van Bokkelen Auditorium, TSU; free admission. (Excerpts will also be screened before and after most festival performances)
Saturday at 8:15 p.m., BSO Discovery Concert with Lucy Shelton, Friedberg Hall, Peabody Conservatory; $5 admission.
Feb. 27-Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. and March 1 at 3 p.m., 14Karat Cabaret, Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.; $7 admission.
March 13 and 14 at 8:30 p.m., Dixon Place at 14Karat Cabaret, Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St., $6 admission.