Through the Lens of Creative Process at 12 Minutes Max

Written by Charlotte Hart

Britt Karhoff’s maybe it’s quieter
Photo by Tim Summers

On the Boards presented the fifth and final performance of the 2012-2013 series 12 Minutes Max to a sold out studio theater house Sunday, April 28, 2013. Part of a series designed to showcase new works by regional artists, the evening offered eight pieces across a wide array of performing arts media. Paul Budraitis, Priya Frank, and Steven Miller curated a well-designed production, each work an exploration of process and perspective.

The evening opened smartly with a voyeuristic look inside the creative process with Julia Freeman and Grant Olsen’s Tone/Shape, a collaboration between Freeman’s visual projections and Olsen’s soundscape. Visual frames projected onto the wall accompanied atmospheric music. The kaleidoscopic collage of patterns, colors, and music forced observers to fabricate connections between seemingly disjointed elements to create individual story and meaning. Placed first, this work seemed an invitation to audience members in the small black box theater: See through our eyes. Remember that as you watch us, we watch back.  


The evening continued with Ritournelle v.1, Dylan Ward’s solo exploring fixation and repetition.  A dynamic performer, Ward maintained eye contact with the audience to the point of discomfort, even plucking one audience member onto stage for a prolonged, silent cuddle.  Between gestures (which included much thumb-sucking) and poses, Ward danced smoothly through angular sequences with childlike impishness.

Stephanie Liapis in The Building of a Sphere

Photo by Tim Summers

In contrast, Stephanie Liapis’s The Building of a Sphere strictly adhered to the use of the fourth wall, an introvert to Ward’s extrovert. The organic progression of the choreography—floating, swimming, wading, and undulating—highlighted by the water droplets in Paul Moore’s musical score, alluded to a birth process. Liapis’s choreography suited her long-limbed frame, her legs and arms both floated in and carved out the space.

Manuel R. Cawaling retold moments immediately prior to and following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in Pika-Don. In a Greek chorus ensemble, the performers used spoken word and movement to describe the daily routine, all interrupted by the bright flash of the bomb’s energy, cleverly depicted with billowing white fabric. In this powerfully simple work, Cawaling’s ensemble navigated through the past to focus on the goal of future peace.

Robert Talamantez’s Forest Field used distance-sensing units in the dancers’ costumes to create graphic projections that blossomed larger the greater the distance apart, creating only a single line when dancers connected heart to heart. Andrea Larreta’s and Irene Beausoleil’s elegant port de bras added to the polished duet. The choreography wove the dancers in and out of the central light of the projection, creating and playing with shadow in such a way as to pose the question: can the process of artistic creation become the central performer itself?
Robert Talamantez’s Forest Field Photo by Tim Summers
In Tourette Syndrome:  It’s No Fucking Joke, Nicole Merat intentionally provoked with a dramatic monologue about combating not only her diagnosis, but also societal stereotypes. Using crass gestures and anecdotes, Merat most certainly watched her audience carefully, and pronounced well-performed judgment.

In the most complete work of the evening, an ensemble of five women navigated female progression from childhood through maturity in Britt Karhoff’s maybe it’s quieter. The dancers began seated, groping blindly for each other while staring into the mirror of the darkened audience. Through moments awkward and beautiful, Karhoff demonstrated a strong choreographic talent. Dancers described their different dresses, an act that quickly translated into a metaphor for self-portrait. As assets became flaws, movement became fragmented and elegant extensions and cambrés turned into dissatisfied gestures. Even with such a weighty subject, Karhoff maintained a sense of playfulness and joy within the absurd.
Alicia Mullikin in Locura
Photo by Tim Summers
Locura, a collaboration between Alicia Mullikin (vocals, choreography) and Daniel Mullikin (electric cello, composition), produced a powerfully funny and intense end to the evening. In the first of two sections, A. Mullikin deadpanned a deranged femme fatale (complete with down-the-chin lipstick applications) singing Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” partnered by D. Mullikin’s sonorous electric cello. The second section contrasted with a dramatic contemporary solo skillfully danced by A. Mullikin. The juxtaposition of sections began to tell a story but ended feeling unfinished, even with excellent use of lighting and costuming.  
If some works seemed unfinished, (as is to be expected in a performance series designed for works-in-progress) the surprises were those pieces whole unto themselves: Forest Field, Tourette Syndrome, and maybe it’s quieter. Throughout the evening, however, strong artistic creators and performers shined, a sign that Seattle’s arts community continues to thrive.  
12 Minutes Max runs through April 29, 2013 at 7:00 PM.  Tickets are available for $8 at the door. For more information see www.ontheboards.org.