You don't have to be an expert to "get" performance art. My uncle Mac, who lives in Portland, is so excited about this year's Northwest...

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You don’t have to be an expert to “get” performance art. My uncle Mac, who lives in Portland, is so excited about this year’s Northwest New Works Festival he’s driving to Seattle two weekends in a row to experience it fully.

Now in its 24th year at On the Boards, NWNW showcases dance, theater and genre-defying performance pieces by emerging and established regional artists. This year, the two-weekend festival features 18 artists/companies on two stages, and Uncle Mac plans to see every one.

“This is a way for me to check out some performers from Portland, and get a better sense of the Seattle scene as well,” he says. “And since every piece is less than 20 minutes, even if I don’t like something I won’t have long to wait for the next one.

“Twelve hours of driving for six hours of art,” he calculates. “That’s pretty good payback.”

Uncle Mac, who has been everything from a furniture-spurning hippie to a corporate bank manager, is what you might call “a character.” He’s a little weird, frankly, but he’s also incredibly smart and harbors an enormous appreciation for arts of all kinds. So I sent him the NWNW press materials and asked him to tell me what seemed especially intriguing from a “man on the street” perspective. Following are his top five picks, and why.

tEEth (Portland, dance): “I mean, ‘themes of obsession, self-destruction and compulsion,’ these are things I can relate to,” Uncle Mac says, laughing. “Plus the piece is called ‘Normal and Happy.’ I always thought the biggest thing I could accomplish in life would be to pass myself off as normal and happy.”

Hand2Mouth Theatre (Portland, theater): Citing the press blurb, which promises, “one part karaoke gone wrong, one part dance, and one part nightmare,” he says, “How can you not give that a chance?”

Festival preview

Northwest New Works Festival, tonight-June 17, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $14 for one showcase (featuring four artists/companies); $20 for two; $24 for three; $30 for four (206-217-9888 or

Erin Jorgensen (Seattle, music): “I love the marimba,” says Uncle Mac. “I want to learn how to play marimba. But it’s very large and very expensive, so I probably won’t. I’ll listen to her play instead.”

Implied Violence (Seattle, theater): “I like the idea of mixing a sound score live onstage. Plus the title is ‘the air is peopled with cruel and fearsome birds,’ and you know I’ve got this raven thing going.” (Uncle Mac’s last visit to Seattle included a trip to Elliott Bay Book Co. for crow books.)

Paige Barnes (Seattle, spontaneous dance, music and animation): “First of all, performance is really vulnerable,” he says, “But at the same time to be creating it live … that really pulls me in and gives me a sense of community with the artists.”

Uncle Mac adds that when a performance captures his attention he starts to feel like he really knows the artists. “I’ll rush up to them afterward like they’re friends, and they’re like, ‘Whoa, I don’t know you.’ ” He laughs. “I guess I can be an overbearing fan.”

Performers, take heed, and know that it’s just Uncle Mac. He’s harmless.

Brangien Davis: