The Walker's Philip Bither knows that Out There, the art center's annual festival of experimental performing arts, can be an either/or proposition.
"You either love it or don't," the curator says. "Pieces that have hung with me for 10 or 15 years are ones that I didn't even care for when I first saw them."
The tradition continues this year with a world premiere, two international works, and a musical journey through the final days of Edgar Allan Poe.
Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, January 8-10
The Fargo-born Maxwell's work is loaded with detached performances and minimalist staging. This world premiere is about a downtrodden mixed martial artist hitting bottom in a dive bar.
Befitting the setting, a bar band will do more than set the scene. "It can overwhelm the dialogue," Bither says, just as with any heart-to-heart amid spilled beer.
Still Standing You
CAMPO/Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido, January 15-17
Two men grapple through this rough and physical dance work that finds the duo engaged in all kinds of clothed and unclothed activities.
"You don't know what you are looking at," Bither says. "Are they best pals? Brothers in the basement? Lovers or antagonists? They go through a series of physical interactions that are brutal, or surprisingly funny or charming. It's hard to imagine a piece that has the words 'charming' and 'brutal' in the same sentence, but it is true."
Mariano Pensotti, January 22-24
Pensotti pushes the experience, presenting his work on a split stage. One level has a quartet of Buenos Aires filmmakers struggling with their lives and art. The other shows us scenes from their work.
"It's done with a lot heart," says Bither. "The four lives are interwoven so artfully and the writing is so sophisticated it bridges the worlds of storytelling."
Red-Eye to Havre de Grace
Lucidity Suitcases Intercontinental and Wilhelm Bros. & Co., January 29-31
Thaddeus Phillips's piece merges Edgar Allan Poe's last days with an operatic score by Twin Cities composers Jeremy and David Wilhelm. "It's both surreal and visually sumptuous — and darkly funny," Bither says.
The music embraces plenty of styles, "from atonal to classical to cabaret to folk to indie rock," Bither says. "It transports you to a different world."
On January 29, Miwa Matreyek will also offer a free presentation of The World Made Itself, a theater/film hybrid. Matreyek has crafted a series of intense and colorful landscapes drawn from natural history.
All of this can seem heady for the experienced theatergoer, let alone the newly curious, but the Walker has a number of events to help bridge the gap, including artists' workshops, post-show drinks, and discussions.