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Pleasurable Pain on NWNW’s Mainstage

The Saroti Group’s The Land is Always Known
Photo by Doreen Sayegh
The NW New Works Festival ended two weeks of brand new works with a night that explored the expression of pain, suffering, and loss. For thirty years, On the Boards has strived to present Seattle’s promising new talents in their annual NW New Works Festival. Wrapping up this year’s festival on Sunday June 16, 2013, the theme of the night, though perhaps a bit depressing, focused on the effectiveness and unique ability of performance art in expressing and sharing the universality of pain. The artists included Paul Budraitis, The New Animals, bobbevy, and The Satori Group.

Clear Blue Sky, written and performed by Paul Budraitis and directed by Braden Abraham, opened the show with a moving solo performance of a man driven to attempt suicide as a result of overwhelming pain. Budraitis gave a compelling performance as he retold true stories of people from around the world who have experienced the burden of intense loss. Accompanied by a backdrop of Earth to indicate the universality of pain and suffering, Budraitis’s character told the stories of the losses of others, while simultaneously suffering from some untold loss of his own. On the surface, the performance itself was merely Budraitis’ accounts of deeply sad stories; however, his suffering and compassion came through with striking intensity and helped set the stage for the works to follow.
The New Animals
Photo by Tim Summers

The New Animals’ TRE (where were you) also explored the theme of loss. The work featured a pleasing medley of modern dance and hip-hop vocabulary, epitomizing a funky Seattle movement style that seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent. Casual everyday clothing, hip-hop music, red cup props, and pedestrian movement lent themselves to the reality of the piece. Focused on the real loss of a friend, TRE clearly showed the artists’ responses to personal loss. The energy of the piece was constant, but there were key moments of stillness which made the emotions register boldly.

Photo by Lindsey Rickert
The second half of the evening opened with an excerpt from bobbevy’s This is how we disappear. An all-around compelling performance, it presented a haunting and visually striking compilation of original dance, music, and visual design. Co-artistic directors Suniti Dernovsek and David Stein utilized music composed and performed by Jesse Mejia to create an intense and chilling experience. The two dancers, Jesse Berdine and Jessica Hightower danced with a strong connection to one another with precision and focus. The piece had a clear sense of tension and resistance which was juxtaposed with occasional moments of release. Then, the dancers would briefly succumb to one another and relax, only to tense up again and continue the ongoing struggle between them.
The final piece of the evening, The Land is Always Known, was developed by the Satori Group and The Bengsons. This piece was a fantastical musical exploration of death and the otherworldly. The musical compositions were choral songs mixed with a tribal howling and wailing, as well as loud and intense drumbeats, all accompanied by metaphorical and nearly nonsensical dialogue. It told the story of ghosts, death, and inescapable pain. Although the dialogue was flowery and often indecipherable, the theme of inescapable pain was apparent, and the Sartori Group successfully conveyed this theme through the bizarre combination of sounds, dialogue, movements, and scenery.


The artists of Sunday night’s performance all succeeded in communicating emotions of loss, pain, and suffering in unique ways, presenting new perspectives on these universal experiences. For more information about On the Boards and the artists mentioned above, visit