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Friday, September 2, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

For a change: dance, drama, improv and solo narratives

Seattle Times theater critic

Dance and theatrical events tend to be overshadowed by the abundance of musical offerings at Bumbershoot, but plenty of intriguing performers stake out the festival's quieter stages. So why not take a break from good ol' concertizing?

Here are some prime picks from the dance and theater headliners of this year's festival — and some local lights to catch up with as well.

STREB: 8 p.m. tomorrow, 1:30 p.m. Sunday and 5:45 p.m. Monday at Bagley Wright Theatre. Elizabeth Streb's unique, soaring dance company from New York City tours extensively, but is a newcomer to Bumbershoot.

And how to describe what these thrilling movers do, for which Streb was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award? They defy gravity! They fly, they bounce, they crash! And in the new piece they're bringing here, "Wild Blue Yonder," they use trampolines and circus techniques to celebrate the 100th birthday of human aviation.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph: 4:30 p.m. tomorrow and 8 p.m. Sunday at Bagley Wright Theatre. Combining poetry, dance, live music and a hip-hop sensibility, this magnetic Def Jam veteran returns to Seattle with his choreo-poem "Word Becomes Flesh," first seen here in a brief 2004 run at On the Boards.

With several musicians providing sonic background, the Bay Area-based Joseph shares the compelling story of how he became a loving single father, and what that means to him as a young, African-American artist. The piece is political and personal, provocative and engrossing.

Meredith Monk: 4 p.m. Monday at Bagley Wright Theatre. File this accomplished 60-ish artist in an open-ended "performance" category, to give her maximum room to maneuver.

A veteran avant-garde vocalist and composer, a director and choreographer who has explored many formats (opera, sacred and orchestral music, jazz), Monk makes a rare Seattle appearance at the festival, where she will again use her flexible voice as an expansive instrument in sync with composer-singer Theo Bleckmann and mezzo-soprano Katie Geissinger.

Wade Madsen: 1 p.m. tomorrow and 6:15 p.m. Sunday at Bagley Wright Theatre. The quirky Seattle choreographer is at it again, with a piece that presents his own inventions on an eternal theme: "Four Elements."

The suite features music by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Arvo Pärt and others. And to help conjure those awesome elements of air, water, fire and earth, the full-length dance suite will also blend in film sequences evoking natural surroundings.

The local organization Theatre Puget Sound curates a full program of works by performing artists familiar to Seattle, including:

"Wreckage," writer Lauren Weedman's intimate solo piece about the lingering effects of a lie from her youth. 6:30 p.m. tomorrow and 3 p.m. Sunday at Center House Theater

"Loud Yoga," billed as a "hilarious participatory performance/demonstration" of yoga postures in a comedy improv format, by longtime UMO members (and yoga teachers) Martha Enson and Kevin Joyce. 5:15 p.m. Monday at Center House Theater

"Purdy Woman," solo performer and public-radio spieler Mary Purdy's multicharacter solo piece about "eight unusual individuals in bizarre situations." 2:15 p.m. tomorrow and 4 p.m. Monday at Center House Theater

Misha Berson:

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