"Visually impressive and more-than-ably performed by the company, whose decade or so of collaboration shows in the strength of their performances." - Culturebot.net
You are defined by a handful of memories that make you who you are. That haunt you. You recreate them in your mind, but you know they’re gone. You can never go back.
Or can you?
By journeying into the uncanny valley you come face to face with these essential memories, made palpable and alive. For ten years Hand2Mouth has rigorously trained to make this journey into the unconscious mind, and now we present an athletic exploration into the mechanism of memory and the time machine of live performance.
With Uncanny Valley, Hand2Mouth takes the highly personal, wildly exuberant, hyper designed aesthetic we’ve become known for one step further, into the realm of the metaphysical.
Uncanny Valley is created by Hand2Mouth performers Marc Friedman, Julie Hammond, Faith Helma, Liz Hayden, Jeb Pearson, Maesie Speer and Jerry Tischleder, directed by Jonathan Walters and designed by Chris Kuhl, Efren Delgadillo Jr. and E.B. Brooks with dramaturgy by Kate Bredeson and Alex Huebsch, and music composed by Ash Black Bufflo.
“We don't simply listen and watch a meditation on the values of life; we actively participate. Project X: You Are Here is, in short, about what it is to be human in the 21st century. — The Oregonian
Project X: You Are Here is a living time capsule and interactive museum created by Hand2Mouth and filled in with the stories, memories and experiences of visitors. A site-mobile performance, Project X: You Are Here has performed at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival, artist live/work spaces, and a high rise condominium loading bay.
GROUND CONTROL, built into a retro-fitted Mobile Mini storage container, is the heart and headquarters of Project X. Here you find stations for listening, reading, writing, and an instant-time-capsule drop off site; a collective time-line stretches across the outside of Ground Control, recording seminal events and future hopes; this is a space for people to remember and share, listen and record.
SATELITES, mobile performance units, radiate from Ground Control and house opportunities to Choose Your Legacy, Survey Your Life, Record Memories, and Talk With A Guide. Contributions from these interactive performances are returned Ground Control for display.
Project X: You Are Here was commissioned by One Reel Productions for Seattle’s Bumbershoot Arts Festival where it premiered in August 2008. Additional development support provided by Milepost 5, Portland Community College Art Beat Festival, South Waterfront Artists-in-Residence Program, The Kinsman Foundation, Regional Arts and Culture Council, Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, 4Culture, and Artists Trust Grants for Artist Projects Award.
Through avalanche and deluge and drought, across prairies and deserts and jungles, we have endured poisoned arrows and frostbite, massacres, mud and mutiny to find glory, fame, adventure, fortune, and most of all: GOLD!
Welcome to a hybrid theatrical world infused with the mania for gold. Conquistadors wearing thigh-high leather boots hold miniature galleons in their hands and search for El Dorado. Their journey through the New World becomes a dark dance to the falsetto demands of the Queen wailing orders to the servants of her conquest into a microphone. Meanwhile, five nineteenth-century Americans race headlong into the madness of the gold rush, encountering fellow lost souls as they battle to strike it rich, or simply survive. Raucous burlesque dance sequences, delicate objects, a capella song, electric bass, atmospheric soundscapes, and raw physical movement accompany the absurd actions of these haunted, gleeful travelers, each struck dumb by superhuman allure.
Developed by:Amanda Deutch, Julie Hammond, Mark Hayes, Erin Leddy, Faith Helma, Timothy Scarrot, Jonathan Walters & James Wilson
Performers (Spring 2006):Salesman/Conquistador: Julie Hammond Preacher/Priest: Mark Hayes Edith/Conquistador: Faith Helma Gussie/Swiftwater Bill/Conquistador: Erin Leddy Mayor/Queen: Timothy Scarrott Performers (Fall 2006) Salesman/Conquistador: Julie Hammond Preacher/Priest: Jerry Tischleder Edith/Conquistador: Faith Helma Gussie/Swiftwater Bill/Conquistador: Erin Leddy Mayor/Queen: Stephen Beaudoin
Stage Manager (Spring):Gillian Tabler
Stage Manager (Fall):Alex Heubsch
Dramaturgs:Amanda Deutch, James Wilson, Alex Heubsch
Set/Lighting Design:Peter Ksander
Props & Objects on Wheels:Dawn Panttaja
Puppets & Art Objects:Jennica Blanchard & Drew Dannhorn
Costume Design:Carly Jane
Original Music : ("North American" themes)Kate O'Brien & Jay Clarke
Original Music: ("Conquistador" themes)Luxury Yacht
Original Music: ("Slaughter")Seth Nehil
Technical Direction:Craig Annsa
Music Recording & Engineering:Timothy Stollenwerk
Mix Master:David Chandler
House Manager:Alanna Degner
Production Manager:Dana Hyland
Graphic Design:Stephen Pozgay
Set Construction:Peter Ksander, Craig Annsa, Bethie Annsa, Casey Whistler, Erin Leddy, Mark Hayes, Julie Hammond, Timothy Scarrott, Gillian Tabler, Faith Helma, Jonathan Walters, Laura Bender
"A rockin' soundtrack, whimsical stagecraft and a ridiculous banana-flavored sex scene make Hand2Mouth's latest theatrical spectacle at once easily accessible and excitingly experimental. In City of Gold, the company intertwines narratives related to the California gold rush and 16th-century Spanish conquistadors to explore the nature of obsession. The resulting bad-ass symphony of highs and lows focuses on human emotion, avoiding condescending political statements about any modern-day likeness to our fiendish ancestors—that much is self-evident. At some point, this fast-paced one-act takes on the life of a glorified drug movie like Up in Smoke, capturing the thrill of the trip and (to a lesser extent) the despair of the comedown. On opening night, some of the lighting effects needed to be smoothed out while others (a bright light over the back row of the audience) needed to be rethought altogether. In spite of numerous kinks, City of Gold takes audiences for one hell of a wonderful ride." -Johanna Droubay, Willamette Week, March 15, 2006
"Throughout American history, the quest for gold often has led to tragedy. There's nothing new in this idea, yet director Jonathan Walters and Hand2Mouth Theatre inCity of Gold have mined it to produce an original performance full of remarkably imaginative and surprisingly humorous moments, even if it still seems very much a work in progress because the overall structure of the piece is rather rough. Using a talented cast of five, the play tries to weave together two narrative lines, one dealing with Spanish conquistadors and the other focusing on the California and Klondike gold rushes. Both stories are broadly conceived, offering a scattershot approach to history. Although some of the characters are a bit overdrawn, the play's themes emerge: the futile search for easy riches and the connection between religious fervor and gold fever. City of Gold begins with the actors, director and stage manager introducing themselves to the audience. This familiarity pervades the entire performance. The production mechanics are continually made visible. We see actors changing costumes as well as controlling the sound, and we see the stage manager at her stage-left console busily overseeing the production. For Bertolt Brecht, the German director and playwright who pioneered such gambits, effects like these had a definite purpose: to dislodge the audience from the play's illusion so they could consider its contradictions and ironies without empathizing too much with the actors. Here, however, these devices are more distracting than helpful. Simplicity often goes a long way in this production. With the merest suggestions of period costumes (including bizarre codpieces and high boots), the cast's three women -- Julie Hammond, Faith Helma and Erin Leddy -- portray conquistadors. They stomp-dance in unison about the stage or slash and stab pictures of Native Americans, and manage to convey the awesome irresistibility and brutality of Spanish conquest in the process. In another memorable moment, the conquistadors' search for gold culminates in a knot of writhing bodies that graphically suggest the fulfillment of their dreams of power, wealth and hedonist gratification. This scene is followed by one in which the five actors, spread about the stage and separately illuminated, represent the final alienation and impoverishment of gold rushers. Enhancing the play's story-telling, Walters and company ingeniously integrate into the production miniature Spanish galleons, a miniature Conestoga wagon, and other clever props -- all designed by a team including Dawn Panttaja, Jennica Blanchard, and Drew Dannhorn -- as well as live music. There is much in this production to celebrate, but, given the way Hand2Mouth Theatre reworks its past productions, there is also much room for continued development." -Richard Wattenberg, The Oregonian, March 13, 2006
"With City of Gold, Hand2Mouth joins Fever Theatre and Liminal at downtown's Goldsmith Building. The huge, largely empty space is full of exposed beams and unfinished floors, as though everything but the building's essential structure has been stripped away. City of Gold is right at home in this setting: Hand2Mouth director/wunderkind Jonathan Walters has constructed a production in which all of the mechanisms are visible, from microphones to hanging lights, and it inspires just as much curiosity and glee as the Goldsmith's funky, cavernous halls. The show uses music, dance, and puppetry to explore the idea of the gold rush as a metaphor—and if that sounds boring, consider that the David Bowie song "Golden Years" is incorporated into the action. The soundtrack is just one of the show's many highlights; others include clever, whimsical props, and, of course, the energy and charisma of the five-person cast. The ensemble members jump from role to role, crossing gender lines, decades, and continents in their single-minded quest for gold. Three conquistadors travel to the New World at the behest of their queen; a preacher joins the cult of gold; a prostitute and a society lady head West to strike it rich and find themselves. There's nothing particularly linear about any of this, and so much jumping about gives the piece a schizophrenic quality that is behind both its best moments and its worst. At best, it is hilarious, poignant, and surprising; at worst, muddled and confusing. As the prostitute Gussy L'Amour, Erin Leddy superbly embodies the spirit of the entire production during a scene when Gussy, onstage at a dance hall, acts out a conversation between a pickaxe and a hankie, both of whom are having a hard time out West. The scene is funny, touching, and slightly baffling—and in the end, the concentration and poise Leddy brings to the scene banish any questions about why the scene is happening in the first place. This principle applies to the production as a whole: I'm not really sure why the orgy scene involving the fellatio of a golden banana and the ensuing fruit pulp come shot was necessary, but I'm glad it happened. Really glad." -Alison Hallett, Portand Mercury, March 16, 2006
City of Gold is not currently available for touring.
Portland, OR: March 9-28, 2006
Portland, OR: August 31- September 17, 2006
From A Dream To A Dream
A one-night-only showing of From a Dream to a Dream, a new work-in-progress performance based on the writings of Polish author Bruno Schulz. This workshop performance was produced by Hand2Mouth Theatre and directed by Luba Zarembinska, Artistic Director of Teatr Stacja Szamocin and a well-known cultural activist, actress, and experimental puppet theatre director in Poland.
From a Dream to a Dream theatricalizes the fantastical ideas and images of Polish author Bruno Schulz. Featuring mannequin legs, nurses, plastic wedding dresses and meditations on eroticism and death, this performance explores “in between” time, when we are neither awake nor asleep.
Hand2Mouth Theatre and Teatr Stacja Szamocin will continue working on From a Dream to a Dream in Szamocin Poland in November 2007. The full production will premiere in Portland at Artists Repertory Theatre in May 2008.
Lighting Operators:Ensemble, Gillian Tabler & David Chandler
Poster Design:David Chandler
Translator & Assistant to Ms Zarembinska:Patryk Czaplicki
This production and Luba Zarembinska’s residency in Oregon was made possible with generous support from the Polish Cultural Institute, The Lilly Foundation, Willamette University Department of Theatre, The Trust for Mutual Understanding, Polish Ministry of Culture, Oregon Cultural Trust, and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.
From A Dream To A Dream is not currently available for touring.
May 14, 2006
A one-night only performance/tour through the facilities of the PERPETUAL Corporation as part of Portland Center Stage's Just Add Water West Festival 2006.
The PERPETUAL Corporation: Striving for Your Content, Making Attractive your Commodities.
The performance takes you through many of our key offices, witnessing the true heart of our corporate culture on our three levels at the World Trade Center. At the end of this time, you will have a better understanding of the inner workings of the PERPETUAL Corporation. It is our hope at the PERPETUAL Corporation that this tour will show you that a corporation is more than one person. A corporation is a collection of natural persons, becoming one legal person.
Developed by: Alexandra Bradbury, Jacob Coleman, Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Faith Helma, Frank Marroquin, Ken Moore, Jerry Tischleder, Gillian Tabler, Aaron Link, Seth Nehil, Adam Saucy & Jonathan Walters
Project Director: Jonathan Walters
Perpetual Top Performers:Alexandra Bradbury, Jacob Coleman, Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Faith Helma, Ken Moore, Elle Poindexter, Jerry Tischleder, Frank Marroquin
Perpetual Associate Performers:Jillian Johnson, Kate Mura, Monica Peltomaki, Philippa Anderson, Jacob Baynes, Marla Leahy, Deirdre Atkinson, Theodore Holdt, Kristin Moore
Project Manager:Gillian Tabler
Sound Composition & Design:Seth Nehil
Lighting & Techinical Design:Adam Saucy
Company Attire:Carly Jayne
Map, Logo, & Acid House Design:David Chandler
After Hours is not currently available for touring.
Portland, OR: July 22, 2006
Although many Portlanders are familiar with the Shanghai Tunnels in Old Town, few have explored its Catacombs. In this living installation figures culled from Portland's history battle to put their stamp on the city they once lived in. Visitors explore a constantly changing maze that is filled with the ghosts of Old Chinatown, Skid Row, Missionaries, Cigar smoking politicians, and perhaps someone who wants something from you in a dark hallway. Confronted by a diverse group of visual and video artists, who create work live during the performance, the Portland Catacombs progressively builds into something that could possibly be the city of our dreams or a terrifying purgatory.
Created by:Hand2Mouth Theatre, Fever Theatre & Portland Art Center
Hand2Mouth Performers: Liz Hayden, Monica Peltomaki, Elle Poindexter, Pearl Waldorf
Hand2Mouth Collaborators: Julie Hammond, Erin Leddy, Faith Helma, Jerry Tischleder, Jonathan Walters
Hand2Mouth Stage Manager: Alex Huebsch
Fever Theatre Performers: Jacob Coleman, Mark Modern, Amber Whitehall
Fever Theatre Collaborators: Aurora Erlander-Miller, Kate Sanderson
Other Performers:Ingrid Carlson, Alex Reagan, kollodi
Sound: John Berendzen, Ryan Cross, Matthew Marble, Frank Marroquin, Seth Nehil, Roger Norton
Lights: Alexzandria Eccles
Video Artistry: Andy Brown & Jason Frank
Visual Artistry: Simon Crane & Emily Stone, Arcy Douglass, Theodore Holdt, Scott Jackson, Sara Mapelli, Ian McNicol, Matt Riley
Concept Design: Gavin Shettler
Project Manager: kollodi
Administrative Manager: Kelly Rauer
"I was all kinds of excited when I heard that Fever Theater and Hand2Mouth Theatre had teamed up for The Portland Catacombs. Unlike a dismaying number of companies in this town, these kids share a knack for making theater feel relevant, and I always look forward to their boundary-defying work. This time, along with the Portland Art Center, they've created an engaging spectacle that prompts visitors to interact with the ghosts of Portland past.
"The Portland Catacombs is essentially an interactive haunted house, but here the "ghosts" are personalities from Old Town's past. Historical characters include Bernard Goldsmith (mayor during the 1870s), a prohibition-era saloon owner, and a gypsy fortuneteller. The entire Portland Art Center building has been transformed for this: The space has been creatively partitioned into an elaborate warren of hallways and rooms, populated by performers from Fever and Hand2Mouth. The actors were provided with historical information and background on their characters, and left to improvise the rest; thus, their relationships to one another, the space, and the audience are constantly evolving.
"It would probably be possible to just walk through the installation, checking out all the freaky shit, and trying not to get too involved, but that would be a shame. All these characters have backstories, which they'll gladly tell you about—all you have to do is ask. One character will tell you how she was shot 22 times by the police; another might ask about your sexual proclivities, then offer you some pornography. These actors can handle whatever you throw at them, and the unscripted interactions add volumes to the experience.
"The Catacombs also possess a strong arts component: A legion of video, sound, and visual artists teamed up to create the Catacombs' uniquely unsettling environment.
"Art, sex, drugs—it's all here. After interacting with all the crazy but harmless characters who populate the exhibit, it's disconcerting to leave the building and step out into the Old Town of today. It's fair to say that after The Portland Catacombs, reality looks a little bit different."
- Allison Hallett, Portland Mercury, October 26, 2006
"The usually avant-garde Portland Art Center delves into a more mainstream and timely subject for its latest creative jaunt: an old-fashioned haunted house. In groups of eight, patrons are led into The Catacombs, an interactive maze of Chinatown's past. After being led by a pale man in a butler's suit into what looks like a leftover horror-movie set, audience members are introduced to the Catacombs' "ghosts," including a depressive porn-shop owner with a shrill sense of urgency to share his story, a ratty woman screaming at the top of her lungs and a wizened man with a pillow of white hair, intently focused on his gadgets. All of this happens amid the menacing sounds of a deafening chainsaw commingling with the eerie voice of a woman slowly chanting in a disheveled corner. Equal parts "choose your own adventure" and a freaky childhood game of hide-and-seek, this living installation brings truthful bits of Portland's past histories back to life. Word to the wiseass: To get the full experience, don't be shy to ask questions of the ghosts—they are more than willing to share their tales."
- Elianna Bar-El, Willamette Week, October 18, 2006
Portland Catacombs is currently unavailable for touring.
Portland, OR: October 13-31, 2006
Mysteries Of The Heart
Writers:Michael Griggs & Chris Harris
Production Designer:Chris Harris
Production Manager:Jonathan Walters
Original Music Composer:Jack Falk & Ralph Huntley
Figures created by:Bill Holznagel, Frank Irby, Bobby Jones, Dawn Panttaja, Katrina Scotto di Carlo
Costume Designer:Andrea Royse
Stage Manager:Alex Huebsch
Production Assistant:Dave Stefani
Sound & Light Technician:Eric Lentz
Performed By:Lesley Harper, Mark Hayes, Faith Helma, Erin Leddy, Ben Plont & Ted Schulz
"It's reassuring to see that five years past their last visit to Portland, Poland's Wierszalin Teatr still has a hold on local puppeteers' imaginations. This evening of six short folk tales from around the world utilizes Wierszalin's singular style, particularly in the full physical presence of the puppeteer, where the very solid puppet (which can be a highly abstract construction of kitchen utensils as well as a rough birch log) represents the material world, while the human behind it exists in the spiritual.... the performers (Faith Helma, Ted Schulz, Mark Hayes, Ben Plont, Lesley Harper and Erin Leddy) are energetic, and the puppets themselves are often true works of art."
- Steffen Silvis, Willamette Week, May 2005
"The quietly innovative Hand2Mouth Theatre's last production, Wild Child, was notable--among other things--for its reliance on a simple wooden puppet. Having demonstrated the raw power basic puppetry can still wield in this modern world, Hand2Mouth has moved on to an even greater challenge with their current production, Mysteries of the Heart . Directed by Michael Griggs from a script he penned with Chris Harris, Mysteries of the Heart is a collection of darkly funny folk tales from a smattering of different cultures, grounded in a traditional Polish theater technique wherein characters are represented by what are basically stiff, wooden dolls. With excellent Hand2Mouth company members Erin Leddy and Faith Helma on board, as well as veteran local stalwarts Ben Plont and Ted Schulz, the performances in Mysteries are exuberant and committed. Playing an array of storytellers, animals, and spirits, the actors weave seamlessly through an odd collection of folklore from around the globe, including a funny Yiddish morality tale... eerie Native American spirit-world sagas ... and stories from the decidedly bleak Brothers Grimm...If anything, the figures portray the ultimate Mystery of the Heart: the true nature of our bodies. We are lumps of matter given life and breath by something outside ourselves, something that we will never understand"
- Justin Sanders, Portland Mercury, May 2005
Mysteries of the Heart is currently unavailable for touring.
An original, outdoor theatrical performance Jimmy Blue is a dark fantasia of the American psyche. A faith healer from the Old West travels through a harsh and surreal desert landscape, and along the way he encounters seers, ghosts, violent townspeople and supernatural spectacles. Vibrant masks, clowns, stilts, fiery sculptures, a cappella song and riveting physical work create unforgettable and breathtaking images.
Fire Sculpture Designer:Peter Musselman & Andrew Dannhorn
Set Designer:Abram Goldman-Armstrong
Original music composition:Peter Musselman
Additional sound & music:Richard Garfield
Graphic Designer:Brian Cossar
Stage Manager:Justin Akers
Production Assistants:Molly Gittelman, Nicholas Hope, Summer Dawn, Julie Hammond
Performers:Sarah Dyrhaug, Faith Helma, Erin Leddy, Jacob Mooney, Timothy Scarrott, Paul Susi & Nicole Turley
"Some of the best dialogue I heard at Hand2Mouth's exhilarating new outdoor spectacle, Jimmy Blue, came from the audience. A sample from the unofficial transcript: (The scene: The protagonist, Jimmy Blue, is tormented by a black-clad demon on stilts, who glowers high above him, howling and waving a torch. The demon lights part of the set on fire. Smoke and flame fill the night air. In the crowd of spectators, a father covers his young son's eyes. ) FATHER: It's not real, Lil' Timmy. It's just make believe. It's not real, okay? ( Pause. The scene changes and three screeching Macbeth -ian witch characters enter the performance area, represented by eerie flowing robes and masks that extend high above their shoulders. The effect is terrifying. FATHER has had enough. He scoops LIL' TIMMY up, and rushes him away. ) LIL' TIMMY: ( Staring over his shoulder, wide-eyed.) Where are we going? Why are we leaving? FATHER: This is too scary. When was the last time you observed a reaction like that at a play? Jimmy Blue, a work directed by Jonathan Walters and written by Walters and Jack Gibson, is a complete three-dimensional experience; a barrage of images, sounds, and sensations that, aided by the great outdoors, seems to exist everywhere at once. The story follows Jimmy Blue, a disillusioned faith healer who leaves behind his world of freaks and carneys to embark on a literal/spiritual journey that plays like a staged nightmare, with lucid hallucinations bleeding together like water. Jimmy watches a mother watch her children die in the back of a rickety cart. Jimmy battles a fiendish bear, whose angry snarls sound disconcertingly real. Walters draws on ancient storytelling tricks brilliant in their simple profundity: Flame against a night sky; towering stiltwalkers; those awful witches, composed of little more than masks and some cloth. Hand2Mouth is living proof that vision and imagination will always trump material excess, and Jonathan Walters remains the most resourceful director in Portland."
-Justin Wescoat Sanders, Portland Mercury, June 2004
"A young faith healer connected to an Old West medicine show escapes into the wilds to find himself on a spiritual journey. Hand2Mouth's latest park piece is a festival of stilt-walking, fire-dancing and song, with masks and clowning thrown in for good measure. Though this piece is filled to the brim with invention and features any number of haunting, beautiful images, director Jonathan Walters has over-egged the pudding. Protagonist Jimmy Blue's journey becomes such an epic that he himself gets lost in the details. We never develop a full idea of who he is or what his adventure means, as the character is too busy reacting to the onslaught of scenes and stimuli around him to be an active agent in his own story. And so the evening becomes a string of 'and now this' moments of street-theatre artistry rather than an engaging narrative of a classic hero's quest. The performances by Sarah Dyrhaug, Faith Helma, Erin Leddy, Jacob Mooney, Timothy Scarrott, Paul Susi and Nicole Turley are all energetic. But their skills would be better utilized in a story with a tighter structure, such as Hand2Mouth achieved with The Wild Child andJerusalem."
- Steffen Silvis, Willamette Week, June 2004
Jimmy Blue is not currently available for touring.
June, 2004 - Performed in Grant Park, Laurelhurst Park & Wallace Park (Portland)
The Wild Child
Based on true accounts of children raised by animals and "rescued" by humans, The Wild Child combines the story of a scientist attempting to civilize a feral child with the journey of an artist into a stark desert where she encounters a wild boy living among gazelles. Masks, shadow puppets, song, life-like bunraku puppets and original sound composition combine to create this rich and rewarding performance. The four-actor ensemble switches between characters, gazelles, and puppeteers before the audience's eyes, as the tight walls of the Doctor's closet dissolve into the spare beauty of the desert.
Created in collaboration with Signal Light Puppet Theatre.
Director: Jonathan Walters
Writer & Production Designer: Rachel Anthonisen
Puppet & Object Designer: Bill Holznagel
Mask Designer: Rachel Anthonisen
Shadow Puppet Designer: Andrew Dannhorn
Original Music & Sound: Peter Musselman
Set Designer: Abe Goldman-Armstrong
Stage Managers: Molly Gittelman (2004), Leigh Norman (2005)
Performed By: Jef Awada, Sarah Dyrhaug, Faith Helma & Bill Holznagel (2004) Faith Helma, Brian Keith, Erin Leddy & Amy McCarville (2005)
Awards: 2004 Drammy Award, Outstanding Ensemble Performance (Jef Awada, Sarah Dyrhaug, Faith Helma & Bill Holznagel), 2004 Drammy Award, Outstanding Original Sound Compositino (Peter Musselman)
"In the early 19th century, a French scientist, Dr. Jean Itard, undertook the task of 'civilizing' a feral child named Victor, who had been found in Africa. Hand2Mouth's original production of The Wild Child takes dialogue verbatim from Itard's report to craft a dreamy, eerie and brutal drama. Interspersed with scenes from Itard's sterile lab are glimpses of a sun-washed desert. This alternate vision of the wild child's fate is based on artist Jean Claude Armen's claims to have found a child living among the gazelles of the Sahara in the 1970s. Armen was fascinated by the child for what he was, not what he might become. Peter Musselman's bewitching original music both distinguishes and links these separate worlds nicely. In this Drammy-winning work, director Jonathan Walters and concept originator Rachel Anthonisen demonstrate a capacity for both wild imagination and careful precision. The star of the show is Victor, an incredibly dynamic puppet created by Bill Holznagel. All four cast members have a hand in operating Victor. Each deserves praise for the ability to disappear behind it, to manipulate it as if they inhabited it. But Faith Helma gives the strongest performance, as her voice seems to dwell captive inside the child's mouthless, wooden head. Brian Keith plays the rather cliché snooty evil doctor. This is a puppet show, after all, and the villains can be easily distinguished from the heroes. Yet it is the creation and complexity of Victor's soul, brought to life by every member of this talented ensemble, that makes the project so unique."
- Johanna Droubay, Williamette Week, January 2005
"The Wild Child, Hand2Mouth Theater's new, fully developed version of last spring's Drammy Award-winning work-in-progress, is smoother than it was in 2004, and just as magical. Combining shadow and bunraku-style puppets with live performers, The Wild Child -- originally co-produced with Signal Light Puppet Theatre -- is a meditation on what separates civilization from wildness.
"In one of its two interwoven stories, an 18th-century doctor fails in his attempts to 'civilize' a feral 'wild child.' The other story follows the fantastic, dreamlike vision of a woman who transcends her bleak urban existence to find herself seeking a wild child in an enchanted desert. This latter tale has been revised for this production: Originally it focused on a man journeying across a mysterious desert.
"The two stories are more artfully blended than in last year's original production. Disruptive blackouts have been minimized, and while some tricky transitions and occasional slow spots remain, the piece flows much more smoothly than it did last year.
"Director Jonathan Walters ably synthesizes the play's diverse elements -- the four-person ensemble's skillful mask and movement work; Peter Musselman's mood-enhancing music and sound composition; the spare but imaginative lights, sets and costumes; Andrew Dannhorn and Bill Holznagel's clever puppets -- into an evocative theater piece. Now, as before, Holznagel's bunraku-style Wild Child is especially wonderful. Manipulated by two or three cast members at a time, this puppet, with its unkempt curly hair and round black eyes, is extraordinarily alive."
- Richard Wattenberg, The Oregonian, January 2005
"Haunting and somewhat disturbing. Impressive ensemble work notable for its graceful, exacting and altogether reverent puppet manipulation, especially that of Victor, a feral young boy. At times I felt I wanted the story to be clearer but, in retrospect, that probably would have diminished the magic and dismissed the reflection."
- Posted review, followspot.blogspot.com, January 2005
"Hand2Mouth Theatre and Signal Light Puppet Theatre combine bunraku puppets and live actors in this new piece that explores the line separating civilization from wildness. It's still rough, but The Wild Child is imaginatively conceived and abounds in truly magical moments.
"The play cleverly interweaves two tales. One deals with a late-18 th -century scientist's futile efforts to socialize a feral 'wild child,' a boy who seems to have spent his early years nurtured by animals. The other tells of a grown man's journey into a gazelle-inhabited desert, where he hopes to sever his ties with civilization.
"The Wild Child bunraku puppet (built by Bill Holznagel) is the star of the show. Manipulated by all four cast members, who take turns working him in twos and threes, this enchanting puppet has long unkempt curly-black hair, two dark round eyes, no mouth and a wonderfully flexible body. Equally bewitching is the table, which suddenly frolics like a gazelle.
"The production could be (and probably will become) tighter, especially if it eliminates some of the many blackouts for scene changes. Still, director Jonathan Walters and writer/puppet-director Rachel Anthonisen artfully combine puppets, humans, mask work, mimetic movement, Jacob Fenston's bold lighting design, and Peter Musselman's evocative sound composition to create engaging theater."
- Richard Wattenberg, The Oregonian, March 2004
"Hand2Mouth Theatre's latest piece captures the same vitality and originality of the company's adventurous Jerusalem from last year, though it's placed in a far more intimate setting. Indeed, the company proves that it can work both on a large and minute scale with equal finesse. The Wild Child is a Kaspar Hauser-like wild boy who has been raised by gazelles. After his discovery, he is taken into civilization's custody, where he is systematically broken of his ferity. The piece, written by Rachel Anthonisen and directed by Jonathan Walters, moves back and force [sic] between Africa and Europe, but not always successfully. If there is a criticism of this imaginative piece, it's that the two realms of the Wild Boy's life are not always well bridged. Plus, the constant scrambling of the actors as they retreat from the stage to don costumes and gazelle masks often leaves long, dead moments in space. It might be worth considering adding two additional actors to the mix to keep the narrative flowing. But the actors who are here--Jef Awada, Sarah Dyrhaug, Faith Helma and Bill Holznagel--are exceptional physical performers and puppeteers. The Wild Boy is portrayed by a wooden puppet built by Holznagel, and the lad's four manipulators (a la Bunraku-style), especially Helma, breathe nothing less than spirit into him. This is first-rate puppetry in a piece that, while still lacking cohesion, is very exciting and thought-provoking."
- Steffen Silvis, Willamette Week, March 2004
The Wild Child is currently unavailable for touring.
Thirst portrays a mythical world where two women wrestle with their gifts and their demons, ricocheting between joy and terror, creation and destruction, wind and fire, defiance and madness. A third woman slips between their orbits almost unseen, a creature of the water searching for a soul, who is either their salvation or their ruin, or both. Inspired by the meteoric lives of Isadora Duncan and Zelda Fitzgerald, and by the tale of doomed water sprite Undine, Thirst is a fierce and glowing performance filled with movement, song and imagery.
Director: Jonathan Walters
Writer: Faith Helma
Original music composition: Peter Musselman
Set Design: Michael Pagliarulo
Costume & Mask Designer: Amy Jo McCarville
Prop & Object Designers: Timothy Scarrott & Dawn Panttaja
Stage manager: Anjelica Singer
Lighting Designer: Michael Weinburg
Performer/Creators: Sarah Dyrhaug, Faith Helma and Erin Leddy
"Thirst begins as a noble tribute to three women haunted by the beauty and pain of the world.... The well-intentioned actors resemble a troupe of lonely bridesmaids, sobered up and suicidal at the end of the last dance."
-Toussaint Perrault, Portland Mercury, December 2003
The Wild Child is currently unavailable for touring.
The Posture Queen
The Posture Queen is a post-modern morality tale inspired by the life of Tommy "Issan" Dorsey, a sailor, drag queen, junkie, commune leader and Zen Buddhist master who took the excesses of the flesh and the wonders of the spirit to the farthest either could go. Never a real devil even when at his most debauched, never a true angel when at his most spiritual, the life of Issan Dorsey defies typical moral judgments and dances between the boundaries of sexuality, death, love, and euphoria. Memories from his life play out over the course of one day in the zen monastery. This play uses movement, dance, songs and ritual chanting , sound and video to capture Issan's wild lust for life and kindness of spirit.
Choreographers:Mark Hayes (2001) & Tobias Lawrence, Heather Pearl (2003)
Original Sound Composition:Seth Nehil & Michael Northam
Video Designer:Michael Mateyko
Set Designer:Sara Thompson
Costume Designers:Sara Mapelli & Merry Enriquez
Prop Designers:Ted Holdt & Bill Holznagel
Stage Manager:Liz Sunde
2001 Performers:Aryn Bartley, Faith Helma, Micah Sunshower Klatt, Michelle Milne, Ina Strauss & Marc Weaver
"Hand2Mouth's restaging of its piece on the life and times of Zen master Issan Dorsey has changed much from its premiere last year. Director Jonathan Walters has tightened the script and edited out much that seemed extraneous.... there is much here that deserves attention. Walters' use of chant, music and dance is exceptional, and he's found a good cast to enact the rites of the former-drag-queen-turned-saint's life."
- Steffen Silvis, Willamette Week, January 2003
"In The Posture Queen, a new production by Hand2Mouth Theatre protagonist Tommy 'Issan' Dorsey, a real life figure, sums up his life by saying, 'I'm the worst nightmare a mother could possibly imagine, and yet here I am.' In flashbacks that make effective use of music, video montage and gender-blind casting, The Posture Queen dramatizes Dorsey's forbidden homosexual longings aboard a Navy ship, his sultry nightclub routines in San Francisco and his downward spiral into drug addiction....The intricate, nonchronological narrative comes together like a jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces. The ensemble cast... provides solid, versatile support for lead actor Marc Weaver... [whose] sharp features, graceful movements and piercing melancholy expressions make him fascinating to behold."
- Stephen Blair, Portland Tribune, August 2001
"Posture Queen tells the story of Issan Dorsey.... It's structured around a single day at the commune, and uses the various rituals that Dorsey and his followers engage in to trigger flashbacks that reveal the various stages of the man's life. The transitions into the past involve some very subtle and effective changes in sound and light, and a lot of strong acting from the play's chorus, whose members each seem to play at least 10 different characters before all is said and done. Marc Weaver, as Dorsey, imbues the character with a high-cheek-boned charisma that makes it easy to see how he could lead a commune despite his checkered past."
- Justin Sanders, Portland Mercury, August 2001
"The audience enters the theater space to find four Buddhist monks meditating before altars that are odd assemblages of hats, shoes, shirts and coats. The action begins as Issan, the master, approaches the meditators, who then rise and join him for a lesson. But with just a few changes in costume, the scene shifts right before our eyes and the monastic room becomes a sleazy bar, in which Issan, now Tommy Dee, an elegant drag queen, vamps to the song 'Hard Hearted Hannah.' ... No wig, no makeup, no glitter. But it works, thanks in no small part to actor Marc Weaver's skill in matching his posture and his movements to his characters's changing roles. Similarly, the monks become sailors just by draping themselves in middy collars and wearing navy hats. And, of course, by adding some swagger to their steps. A hospital gurney is an omnipresent prop. It becomes a bar, a kitchen table, an altar, even a four-passenger car, without ever ceasing to be a gurney. Given we know Dorsey died of AIDS, the gurney haunts every scene with the foreshadowing that it eventually will return to its hospital function and become a deathbed. The aural environment that envelops the production makes a significant contribution to the play's success. It is the work of soundscape artists Michael Northam and Seth Nehil.... Nonmelodic music creates a meditative sound space for the monastery scenes, while other unrecognizable noises create tension and heighten the drama at pivotal moments. Moving images are projected on a winglike screen. At one point the real-action choreography interacts with the video images, to stunning effect.... The production features fine acting all around, a stimulating sound and light environment and even a little Zen wisdom. It doesn't answer all the questions it raises, but it's a great play to see with a friend--you'll have a lot to talk about on the way home."
- Andy Simon, Just Out Magazine, August 2001
"A new company in town, Hand2Mouth Theatre, offers the curious story of Tommy 'Issan' Dorsey in the play The Posture Queen. From sailor in the U.S. Navy to drag queen to junkie to commune leader and, finally, Zen Buddhist master, the story of Dorsey unfolds with dramatic twists and turns.... New to Portland, the company has done theater work with youths in Poland, Romania and Macedonia. The group incorporates movement, imagery and sound into its performances."
- Holly Johnson, The Oregonian, August 2001
"Portland's summer theater scene never lacks for intriguing experimental efforts. Hand2Mouth Theatre's production of The Posture Queen, conceived and directed by artistic director Jonathan Walters, certainly fits this description.... In tracing Dorsey's life, Walters' intent is not a straightforward biography. He hopes to convey what it was really like 'on the inside for Issan.' Set in 1979, well after Issan embraced Buddhism, the play moves freely across time.... Led by Marc Weaver, who plays Dorsey with intensity and humor, the cast of five works very well together.
"Director Walters and choreographer Mark Hayes ably block their movements, imaginatively using Sara Thompson's set, Ted Holdt's props and the open Rose City Ballroom floor to create numerous vivid stage pictures. Walters also masterfully mixes Michael Mateyko's video images into the live action. While the production occasionally slips into lugubriousness, there is much evidence of skill and vision here. Certainly, The Posture Queen will please adventurous play-goers who are interested in the life of this drag queen turned Zen master."
- Richard Wattenberg, The Oregonian, August 2001
The Posture Queen is currently unavailable for touring.
May 2002 (indoor version)
September 2003 (outdoor version)
The Old Master Painter
Writers:Jack Gibson & Jonathan Walters
Vocal Coaches/Song Leaders:Faith Helma & Jack Gibson
Sound Designer:Brian Cossar
Set Designers:Laura Sol & Janan Bejaige
Mask & Prop Designer:Bill Holznagel
Large Prop Design & Sculpture:Meredith Hamm
Costume Designer:Tamela Cropper
Video Designers:Lars C. Larsen, Jack Gibson and No. 92 Productions
Stage Manager: Angie Hughes
Performers:Beth Cooper, Tim Guigni, Faith Helma, Molly Jaeger, Colin Kanewske, Dylan Paschke, Marcella Ruscigno & Marc Weaver
"Hand2Mouth Theatre's latest production is an ensemble-created "absurdist fairy tale" tracing a young, talented musician's futile efforts to hold onto the childlike innocence that shapes his art. Worn down by an overbearing father, jealous and ambitious friends, and a dizzyingly commercial cultural context, our youthful hero (Marc Weaver) finally turns his back on his own creative genius. Written and directed by Jonathan Walters and Jack Gibson, this ambitious theater piece tells its story less throug dialogue than through physical movement, music, masks, costumes, lighting and video. There are some nice moments, such as when the musician chases a ball of light through a dark and windy forest.... Also the concluding ritual funeral sequence, which ends with the musician finding his way back to his father, is strangely touching."
- Richard Wattenberg, The Oregonian, April 2003
The Old Master Painter is currently unavailable for touring.
Jerusalem: Nat Turner's Uprising
Jerusalem plunges into the cruelties and excesses of slavery as experienced by Nat Turner, through a veil of prophecy and mysticism. Using American oral history, African American work songs and spirituals, the "true confession" of Nat Turner's uprising published in 1831 and newspaper clippings from the mid-1800s, Hand2Mouth translates incendiary, thought-provoking subject manner into a breathtaking account using acrobatics, stilt-walking, pyrotechnics, and a cappella song, all leading to the finale of a doomed slave uprising.
2002 Writers/Performers:Timeca Briggs, Gregory Donavon, Lucia Harold, Arne Hartmann, Faith Helma, L Smith & Paul Susi
2003 Performers:Chandra Curtis, Kenneth Dembo, Tobias Lawrence, Erin Leddy, L Smith, Paul Susi, Nicole Turley & Chris Williams
"Having explored the inner world of a sailor turned drag queen turned Zen Buddhist master last summer... director Jonathan Walters and the Hand2Mouth Theatre now focus on a soulscape of a very different sort. With Jerusalem: Nat Turner's Uprising, Walters and company turn to the mystic revolutionary Turner, who led a brief but stirring slave revolt in 1831. The result is a much more tightly structured and powerful theatrical piece.... Dream prophecy and harsh reality are tightly interwoven in Turner's firsthand account of events (as told to Thomas R. Gray, who interviewed Turner in jail in 1831 and published his 'confessions'), and Hand2Mouth is justified in using a nonrealistic approach to the material.
"While the action follows a loosely chronological pattern, it is presented through stylized physical movement and richly theatrical devices more than traditional dialogue. Other than the single scene in which Nat Turner (Gregory Donavon) tells his own story, speech is limited primarily to one-word exclamations and song. The aura of mystery is established at the start. In murky night light, Turner's hand arises from under a blanket as he lies between two other reclining figures. Beckoned by mysterious forces, he is drawn away from human companionship into horrifying isolation. In the second scene... Turner is introduced to the kind of heartless violence that will mark his life. The Patriarch Owner (L Smith) orders him to slaughter a screeching, writhing pig, played with disturbing abandon by Arne Hartmann.
"Actors elevated on stilts--embodying the larger-than-life figures of Turner's visions--lumber through the next scenes, which illustrate the ugly realities of slave life. Skulking around the edges of the action from the start is Death, played by black-clad Faith Helma. She comes forward at play's end to embrace and soothe the doomed Turner, but the moment only arrives after the blazing climax of explosive movement that represents the revolt itself.
"Walters' company members work extremely well as an ensemble. It is Donavon, however, who drives the play forward. He brings a muscular intensity to his portrayal of Turner, and his disciplined vocal style carries depth to Turner's monologue."
-Richard Wattenberg, The Oregonian, May 2002:
"It's time that serious theater people abandon the commodity theater barns and seek out the work happening in rental spaces. Hand2Mouth's new piece, a fusion of technology, physicality and voice, is an often astonishing ensemble work exploring the world and life of Nat Turner, a slave who led an uprising against whites in Virginia in 1831.
"Creator Jonathan Walters has taken the lessons he's learned from working with street theater troupes in Poland and has created a dark cirque out of American history. Stilt-walking angels war over the heads of men for the men's souls, while torch-wielding slaves immolate white slavers made of wire and paper. Dream and revelation cross over into workfield drudgery, and Nat Turner (beautifully played by Gregory Donavon) rises up to become a visionary for his people.
"With an original score by Seth Nehil, set design by Sara Thompson and Richard Herman's puppets, Walters has fashioned an exciting and thought-provoking evening of drama. The Regional Arts & Culture Council should start paying more attention to who really deserves theater funding."
-Steffen Silvis, Willamette Week, May 2002
Jerusalem is not currently available for touring.
May 2002 (indoor version)
September 2003 (outdoor version)
Avoid Walking Backwards
Avoid Walking Backwards, one of Hand2Mouth's early, exploratory pieces, was created by a group of theatre artists over a period of six months. After months of physical training in the methods of Jerzy Grotowski, Anne Bogart and Gardzienice, the group began to develop and improvise scenes, eventually arriving at five interlocking scenes exploring love, death, and possessiveness. The piece was performed in Portland at the Back Door Theatre and later at the Raindog Theatre.
Performer/Creators: Aryn Bartley, Susan Faust, Faith Helma, Walt Schaefer & Jonathan Walters
"The new Hand2Mouth Theatre company is a troupe of young artists who gained their experience by training with Anne Bogart [and] immersing themselves in ritual and stilt-walking around Europe. In short, theirs is an eclectic theater, interested in creating collages of movement and language. The company's second piece is a series of blackouts primarily exploring human behavior and the difficulties in communication. There are also some comical interludes, as well as a balletic segment of mourners ritualistically washing the dead. The performers, which include Walt Schaefer, Aryn Bartley, Faith Helma, Susan Faust and artistic director Jonathan Walters, are rarities in Portland, as they are nimble in movement and expressiveness and are able to communicate more in a raised eyebrow than half the Macbeth cast can in their three hours of arm spasms and shouting." -Steffen Silvis, Willamette Week, April 2000
Avoid Walking Backwards is not currently available for touring.