Tag Archives: Carol Triffle

So much dance we can’t keep up

It’s not just rock around the clock in Puddletown: It’s dance around the calendar. Autumn, winter, spring and even summer, you just can’t keep this town’s dancing feet down. Art Scatter senior correspondent Martha Ullman West has done her best to keep up with the action, and reports here on some of what’s been kickin’ in town lately.


By Martha Ullman West

Portland is having a dance boom, even though those who swim in Terpsichore’s wake are having a hell of a time staying afloat.

Danielle Vermette, Darren McCarthy in "Backs Like That." Photo: Sumi WuUsed to be things were winding down by the time you reached the summer solstice, and there definitely was a time when addicts like me found it impossible to get any kind of movement fix once the Rose Festival was over. Not this year — I actually had to make choices, not having managed the art of being in two or three places at once. So to several emerging choreographers as well as some much more established ones, I apologize for not making it to their performances and herewith offer some thoughts on those I did see.

I’ll start with Carol Triffle’s new musical Backs Like That, which I saw on June 18th. It’s the latest in her series of quirky commentaries on what Balzac called the human comedy, with more than a little irony implied, and as usual with an Imago piece, it is greatly involved with movement.

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The meaning (or not) of Tick Tack Type


What’s it all about, Alfie?

After a Friday evening of loosely organized chance in the company of Third Angle New Music Ensemble (the program included Terry Riley‘s endlessly mutable In C; California composer Mark Applebaum‘s similarly open-ended exploration of alternative musical “reading,” The Metaphysics of Notation; and Portland composer David Schiff‘s exhilaratingly jazz-charged Mountains/ Rivers, which takes inspiration from In C) we’re feeling a bit unmoored.

Since we’re in free-float anyway, this seems like a good time to check in on Imago.

One of the terrific side benefits when Jerry Mouawad develops a new show is that he thinks long and hard about what he’s doing, and then he writes about it online. Anyone who wants to take a peek can get an inside look into one of Portland’s most fertile creative minds. Mouawad, Imago’s co-founder with Carol Triffle, spills his thoughts on the company blog. The spilling isn’t always easy, because, ever aware of the virtues of theatrical suspense, Mouawad really wants to hold onto the beans.

“I assume this blog is vague since I am not divulging any of the action,” he writes about his new show, Tick Tack Type. “I apologize for this, but I am doing this for your sake (that is if you plan to see the work.) By discussing the action I am robbing you of the experience of it. What I see in an action may not be what you see. I can say this about Tick Tack Type: in many ways it’s about “seeing” or “not seeing.”
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Memories of “Vladimir, Vladimir”

Memories fade. They begin vividly and then start to decay. And worse than decay, they start to deform. Until they are no longer very reliable. Valuable perhaps but not reliable. And then they vanish altogether. That’s one good way to think about memory.

Another way to think about it. We store our memories in a honeycomb of chambers. Sometimes we wander into one of the chambers and it’s dried out and empty. Nothing there of consequence. And then maybe the chamber collapses entirely. Much of the time, though, the chambers contain SOMETHING — a little drama, a smell, a lesson, maybe a song, sung just so by James Brown (Please, Please, Please). Weirdly, we are often rummaging around these chambers, yes, even when we are young.

We could come up with some other metaphors, too, I suppose, but I want to consider these two a bit, and how they relate to Imago’s Vladimir, Vladimir,
which I saw earlier this month and having succumbed to germs (among other things) never got back to. So this discussion about memory isn’t about Imago, really, it’s about me! Though we will get to Jerry Mouawad’s Vladimir, which closed last weekend, one way or another and soon.
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More clowns gone wild via Carol Triffle

Thanks to Carol Triffle, this is an unplanned Part Two of the previous post on Monica Drake’s recently published nove Clown Girl and Triffle’s play at Imago The Dinner. To make utter and complete sense of it, insofar as that’s actually possible, you’re going to have to take a peek at the original post, below, which is fairly long. If you’re like me, though, you’ll just charge on through THIS post, figuring things out on the fly, and then decide whether or not you want to spend yet MORE time on clowns later! But really, that’s false advertising, because the posts aren’t about clowns themselves, they are more about the creation of clowns.

After I had written “Clowns are wild,” I sent the link to Ms. Triffle, just so she’d be up-to-date on the slanders and misapprehensions about her play that I’d committed to digital eternity. She was kind enough to respond, and here’s part of what she said in two pieces:

It’s funny that you wrote about the book Clown Girl because Chuck Palahniuk wrote the introduction to that book and his book Choke got me thinking of doing a show about the etiquette of dining. I haven’t read Clown Girl but I will.

So, for starters, a coincidence chain, with Chuck Palahniuk in the middle: Choke to The Dinner, Palahniuk to Clown Girl, (and then my connection of Clown Girl to The Dinner). This is common enough in Portland, I suppose, this overlapping, and part of the reason for an emergence of a certain “Portland style” or “approach” or maybe “embrace” — that I would venture to say that involves a mix of risk-taking, craft, humility (with self-confidence), consciousness of the social (both in the form of the audience AND of the work’s context), and, well, we might go on, but this is the subject for a Ph.D. thesis perhaps, not a parenthetical paragraph in a post about other things.
Triffle continues:

Like the line Dolores says in The Dinner “I fall down and then I get right back up again” that is my description of the human condition. The funny part is that she does it over and over again with not much success. Lecoq once told me to stop walking into walls and do what comes naturally. I did think of Lecoq while writing and directing this play. [A] Lecoq clown has a risky rawness that exposes our inner naivety and desires. Lecoq showed me that movement and timing can sometimes say as much as words.

Falling down and getting back up, yes, and from a certain perspective, it can be hilarious. Or “funny” as in “interesting.”
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Clowns are wild: Imago meets Monica Drake

I’ve been worrying about Sniffles, the star of Monica Drake’s beguiling comic novel Clown Girl. She’s the kind of clown girl you would worry about, though. As her primary clown act, for example, she shapes balloons into religious tableaux — you know, manger scenes, Mother and Child, Annnunciations. She’s aiming ultimately for a balloon replication of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Except that she’s the only one who can “see” these things in the balloons, though her crown of thorns (misinterpreted as a tiara) and her sheep (from the manger scene) are popular with the kiddies. Sniff, you want to say, I’m not sure the religious balloon-tying bit is going to develop into a big clown hit.

But maybe this is the least of her problems. Clown Girl is a close accounting of a series of disasters with Sniffles right in the middle. Sometimes she ends up in the ER. Sometimes, it’s off to the Psych Ward, and despite the writer’s best efforts, you have some sympathy for the medical personnel who think that maybe that’s the best place for her. To quote blues queen Sippie Wallace: “You better get a doctor, honey, have him investigate your head.” Because by that time we’ve gotten a bead on the boyfriend, Rex Galore, the would-be Clown Prince: That just has train wreck written all over it, doesn’t it Sniff? But by that time you’ve already warned her several times. Don’t go on that “clown date” set up by your friend Crack! (Actually, maybe you should think twice about hanging with someone whose name is “Crack”.) Oh, and juggling the fire torches in an overgrown yard at 4 a.m.? I’d reconsider. Especially in your condition.

So yes, I’ve been worrying about Sniffles, because she’s quite sweet actually and vulnerable. She’s that kind of clown — not an aggressively transgressive Cirque clown, a circus clown, a “date” clown or a kiddie clown. She’s an artist clown in a world that doesn’t seem to appreciate such a thing. And though I may think her Kafka bit sounds pretty darn great, it’s a little like the religious balloons — who’s going to “get” your version of “Metamorphosis”? I want to give her career advice. My friends and colleagues know I’m full of career advice, most of it ridiculous. If Sniffles lived in Portland, Oregon, how could she make a living and still exercise her “artistic” sensibilities? Skills: balloon-tying (kinda), juggling (except with fire), a Charlie Chaplin bit (that might end up in the hospital), pain endurance, an intact ethical system, great courage and a knowledge of the classics.

Perhaps because I saw Imago’s production
of Carol Triffle’s new comedy, “The Dinner,” last week, I put one and one together, Clown Girl and Imago. At the same time, it finally occurred to me that clowning was a part of nearly everything that Imago does. (I say “finally” because I’ve watched them a lot during the past quarter century or so, and I say “clowning” with a broad definition of the term in mind. Maybe so broad as to render it useless as a description, for all I know. We’ll see.)
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