Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We Have a Winner!

Last week, Foreman fans were challenged to compete for the title of Best Mr. Sleepy Face, and Avery Hudson won! He will receive a pair of tickets to opening night, this Thursday, the 18th.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Around rehearsal, we've been hard-pressed to duplicate the wise, already-disappointed face of young Mr. Sleepy. If you have a better mug to share, email to info@ontological.com with "contest" in the subject line. On Monday, January 15th, we'll post our favorite and the winner will receive a pair of tickets to opening night!

Please include your name and phone number.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Entry #14

Stefanie Neukirch, foreground


Just like the summer sky suddenly turning grey and threatening (THREAT=THE ART=THEATRE), so this play once about lonely airplanes, suddenly drops its curtains to reveal a shade of red that human eyes have never seen before.
Schachspiel. Lonely players have deserted and an empty table was left behind. A game. Predestined. Condena eterna. Children might cry out:
- But there were no guidelines!
This is true. Like Christians without Bibles. Plain unfair. (“Life is unfair”). The sin of ignorance. The sin of impulse. That or its opposite: self-flagellation, punishment, yes punishment,
-but where did we go astray? , asks the human sheep.

WRONG AGAIN, SWEETIE. Ah, it’s set up that way. The System. (Brava! Or: Just take your cocaine) Not knowing turns us into blind mice who run against paper coated walls of meaning – it’s all such a joke! (Cheese!) (Who are we entertaining?) All part of an experiment. Steinbeck said: Of Mice and Men. Foreman, I suggest, says: Of Mice in Men. Like playing dolls. Like building a house out of wooden sticks. When the truth is: We are being experimented with! Scientific research. “Where are the Barbarians of the 20th century?”, asks Nietzsche. Where are the Mice of the 21st century? We are the Mice of the 21st century. Gottlos.
I feel sympathy for them left-behind mice. Them blind worms (PROPHECY) who intertwine with each other, helpless, in great pain, with no space (subway), no air (ambulance), no hope – frantic worms knotted with each other and kept in deep chasmic containers: all will be thrown into a big frying pan once sold, and they shall burn in hot oil. The unworsenable void?
(But do them worms suffer? Or is that only the assumption of the beholder? The feeling of no feeling, that deep feeling. Perhaps they are even ignorant of the fact that they will fry shortly! And so they might masturbate to pass the time, or engage in orgies before the Unavoidable Appointment) IGNORANCE.

This is not the world. Alice in Nightmareland. BE ALARMED. Better pass the time looking for clues God must have left somewhere before He died (Haensel und Gretel verliefen sich im Wald…) Looking in hiding places. Looking with anguish

as if this was our Ueberneed.
Tic tac.
Solve the riddle
before he whom we entertain
solves it for us.

Ach wie grau, ach wie grau
grauer Himmel
graue Kuehe
hinterm Kirschenbaum.

Stefanie Neukirch (actor)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Entry #13


David Chikhladze: In your stage productions, the spectator can clearly feel the presence of old world theater - lights and mis-en-scene cues, sounds of actors' steps and props, music emphasizing or enhancing emotions, narration, even recreation of a cozy sense of theatergoer's experience. Is it that the avant-garde theater simply cannot be completely disconnected from Stanislavsky or Brecht, or is it your personal tool to add an academic contrast to the very contemporary nature of your theater world--and in this way to keep it always alive and distinguished from some other plain contemporaries? Or maybe it is just a sentiment of your remote background, which brings a hidden dimension to your abstract and conceptual aesthetics--a dimension of lyricism?

Richard Foreman: It’s a very relevant question because my whole life has been a struggle between gravitating intellectually to the most advanced, austere 20th century art, yet knowing that deep inside me there is a romantic self who finds it difficult to separate from the high modernist tradition and even the romantic tradition. Back in the later 60’s when minimalist art came into America I remember feeling “Oh at last I understand. At last there are artists who I feel close to.” And I thought of myself as a minimalist and it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t in fact really a minimalist.

DC: How was that expressed in the theater world?

RF: It wasn’t. It wasn’t. I thought I was going to express it. And indeed my early plays were much more minimalist. Now I used non-actors and I used none of the big theatrical effects I use now. They were much more minimalist. And I am sure there are people who think that is the best stuff I ever did. In a funny way I do and every year I think I am going to go back to that, but then it just bores me after a while and I need more old fashioned gratification. Now most of that art that my art makes reference to is stuff that bores me very quickly, but just ravishing snippets of it give me a thrill. And that is what I think I build my work out of, just snippets of all kinds of things that within the narrative structures in which they originally occurred I have no use for. But I feel very torn about it. This play when we started rehearsing it was much quieter, had much less effects and I thought wow I’m going to do it, this is going to be like that. Then after weeks of rehearsal I just find myself having a need to put in more and more fancy stuff that I am ambivalent about. And just two days ago I was saying to Shannon [Sindelar] “Ugh god you know I have given up, I think the theater is vulgar after all and has to be vulgar. And I know that somebody like Beckett makes a very austere theater, but I don’t like sitting there watching Beckett. Even though aesthetically and intellectually I approve and I think that is what should be done.

DC: I tried once, it was 60 minutes…

RF: Yeah. Well, that’s my continual thought. I am continually torn between wanting the circusy aspect of the theater and wanting to identify with much more stringent minimalist art, it’s in film also that I approve but I sort of get bored after a while. But I think it is that pull in both of those directions, that struggle that is at the center of my work really.

DC: So it looks like the spectacle always wants to get to some narration…

RF: It’s not narration that I get pulled to. It’s just circus. It’s just the richness of manipulative music, sound, light and so forth.

DC. Let me shift to another question…I have a strange expectation that as we move towards the opening of your production you will relieve the actors from their mouth bandages, which you had put on them sometime a month ago. Why did you want to hide their faces? Not to allow them to disturb you by talking during the working process?

RF: I end up very often putting a lot of stuff on the actors to sort of mask them. From the very beginning people accused me of tending to turn my actors into übermarionettes and I denied it completely because I was interested in the idiosyncratic natures of individual people. But as the years go by I think maybe I am sort of interested in that. Especially now that I am using the film, it’s a matter of wanting to keep the focus enough in the film, the real people in a way are in the film and I just am bothered by some aspect of the actors’ presence. I am not sure what. Partially it’s because people in the theater here are so close to the actors, that’s why there has always been string, plastic walls between the actors and audience. It’s a matter of aesthetic distance. And just as there are various techniques for creating aesthetic distance formally in all the arts, it’s almost as if I want to create an aesthetic distance between the audience and the performer, for whom they usually have empathy. I want to get in the way of that.

DC: Unconscious, your theme word for Mr. Sleepy, should suggest emotion vs. rationale of consciousness. But the show's tools are of intellectual and very conceptual language. Is this a set of self-reflective problematics where you look for solutions, or is this where your artistic motivation comes from?

RF: Well, I’m trying to chart the twitches that I think are essentially mental sparks that are the way the unconscious operates. I don’t think of the unconscious as being particularly related to emotional reality. I think of the unconscious in a Freudian or Lacanian sense, as being a particular method by which the mind operates behind our back, and that’s not necessarily emotional. Now after it operates you can have emotional reactions to some of the configurations that are produced in it, but the actual production of the materials that is performed by the unconscious is a matter of structure, as I see it, as a matter of structure…

DC: Kind of symbols...

RF: Symbols less than a kind of structural reprocessing, always recycling of material, in unexpected ways. So it is a mental activity basically.

DC: So you say it excludes the emotional side?

RF: Yes. Yes. Now I think that there are plenty of emotions in my theater, but they are things that result from this rather dry cerebral operation of the mind, both consciously and unconsciously.

DC: Is humor or sexuality a part of it...

RF: Oh but that just surfaces automatically all the time. Yeah, I think usually my plays--this play maybe is less funny than some--but I think of myself as close to Moliere, much more than Shakespeare. And I think that humor and sexuality are the bedrock of the theater. Humor to me means, laughing at how stupid everything is. I am stupid, everybody I see is stupid; [laughs] that’s funny.

DC: Do you dedicate every play to Kate Manheim, as a protector spirit of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater?

RF: Oh, well, I used to dedicate some plays to her, now just…I don’t anymore. I guess I should. Well Kate made my theater what it is in a sense because when I was starting out and doing very minimalist plays that bored everybody out of their skull, Kate came into the plays as a performer and Kate had no patience with that and kept pushing me to do more sexy, funny, lively things and that changed my life, because I started doing plays that started getting a lot more attention. And I approve. And as I’m going back, I think I’m going back now each year when I start a play, but I can’t go back. So these plays certainly are created in an arena that is my consciousness colliding with the reality of Kate.

DC: Is this play, in regards to the video screens and the plot, corresponding to the previous play, Zomboid (judging also by their related titles)? Do you consider these as a cycle? Is this new production ending the cycle? What will you work on next?

RF: I don’t know. I’m trying to decide. I’m really trying to decide. Because in the back of my mind I wonder if I really don’t want to just use this film that I have, this material that I am filming all around the world, as film, and whether I am cheating myself by doing something more radical by setting it within a play that pulls the more minimalist film back into the surface of the theater. So next year, I can’t decide, I haven’t decided yet, whether the material from Germany which is what I think I want to work on, should be used in a performance which would be the third in this series--and I have specific ideas for how I would do it--or if I should say “You know Richard, be courageous. You really want to make film, make it as a film and in your theater go back to some kind of play that doesn’t use the film.” So I haven’t decided yet, but I’m really struggling with that problem now.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Entry #12

Stefanie Neukirch in rehearsal; Patricia Leal on screen
Photo by Paula Court

Friday, December 08, 2006

Entry #11

By Chris Mirto, actor in Wake Up Mr. Sleepy

In an attempt to get to know the Richard Foreman behind Richard Foreman, I am conducting
quirky interviews with the Maestro throughout our rehearsal process. I must say that he is quite
a trooper! And behind all the sighs and eye rolling, I think he secretly gets a kick out of it.

What am I learning?
That Richard is really funny. And a lot of fun. And you should hear him when he gets going
telling a good story. (And even better, is making him laugh!)

Enjoy Richard's random choosing of words below and check back
for the next round of fun.

Mediator: Chris Mirto
Filler of the Blanks: Richard Foreman
(answers are in caps)

A New Broadway Show
Come see the FRIGHTENING show DOGS SWIMMING about! MICE! The story stars the main character RICHARD, played by ARNOLD SCHOENBURG, who is a HOPEFUL STATUE in search of COLUMNS. On RICHARD 's journey through PARIS, RICHARD falls LONELY in love with the UGLY DONALD, played by GUSTAVE MOREAU. RICHARD then runs into the GREEN MAN named JACK JONES, played by THOMAS EDISON. The audience RUNS as RICHARD and DONALD sing and WALK across the stage. 7 KNIVES join DONALD on stage for the MUDDY song called "BROWN HOUSE." PM says, "Wow! This show is DANK ! I give it 7 3/4 TEETH DOWN!" SLEEP CAREFULLY and buy YOUR tickets for MICE today!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Entry #10


STEPHEN MOSBLECH. Your unedited notebooks are available on the Ontological site, to be used by writers and directors to generate theater pieces of their own. These texts can be unrestrictedly cut. Also your more recent plays are archived on Ubuweb along with sound files from Now that Communism is Dead… and your film Strong Medicine. Is this an important project to have your plays available online for free?

RICHARD FOREMAN. I’ve always made the plays free to any group, unless it’s a big theater that can really afford to pay a royalty. That doesn’t happen very often—it’s happened once or twice, but other theaters, they’re just free to use them.

SM. How will the recent “theatrical scores” from Zomboid and Mr. Sleepy plug into this?

RF. I have no idea. It’s a problem and I don’t know if it will ever work. The only way I can see it working is with a lot of photographs, like a photograph on one page and then all these other individual aphoristic lines on the other page as a kind of collage. I haven’t given it that much thought because I felt probably these plays can’t be published. It could be published that way if some publisher had the money and wanted to do it. But just to publish the text, I would be perfectly happy if they would just publish the aphorisms, that’s fine. I mean, we do have scripts we use in rehearsal, so I guess that could be published but I’m not sure what people would make of it. You know the publishers insisted after my second book or something that I write in a lot of stage directions which I have mixed feelings about; in Unbalancing Acts it was the scripts without any stage directions as a kind of open field poem and in many ways I preferred that and I would be perfectly happy to publish these texts also, just with all the things that are said as kind of an open field poem. Just statement after statement, both onscreen and live and then people make of it what they will. But I don’t know if anyone would actually be interested in that.

SM. But in regard to the actual video itself, would you be open to other directors or theatrical conductors using the video either in its complete form or re-edited?

RF. I don’t see why not. It’s a little more problematic, I mean I’m not going to go into the business of making videos for people, so I don’t see exactly how it would work, but in principle I have no objection.

SM. We talked briefly, I think it was last week, about the fact that Bresson’s movie Au Hasard Balthazar, to an extent, conditioned the use of donkey props in Zomboid.

RF. Yeah. I wouldn’t say it conditioned it very much. It’s just obviously I was reminded that that was a great movie and it had donkeys in it. Other than that I’m not sure how much it conditioned it. When I began making theater Bresson was one of the people I thought about a lot of course, especially his use of actors.

SM. Are there any filmic precedents that, in any way, are seeding your use of the airplanes in Mr. Sleepy?

RF. No. I don’t think so. You mentioned Come and See, but I certainly wasn’t thinking of that. I have used the image before, in Egyptology; the play opens with Kate. Kate Manheim was playing the lead. She sort of tumbled on stage as if she had just been thrown out of an airplane that crashed. Other than that…I mean I have used airplanes before, in Maria Del Bosco there was an airplane the actors carried around, a little baby wrote on it and so forth, so you know it’s one of those archetypal images like so many others that I’ve used. But I can’t think of any other particular, specific big airplane things in a play before. The image relates a little to me, to something that I haven’t used but I was always very impressed with—you know there is the famous photograph of the big steam engine crashing through the Gare Montparnasse. There is a big picture of the steam engine falling out of the station and down into the street. I’ve always been interested in that image. Maybe that had something to do with it.

SM. My next question pertains somewhat concretely to the film-stage performance in Mr. Sleepy. In a way I’d say, it has to do with a unique moment in the current staging, where to my mind it seems that two separate tracks are “running parallel” for a molecular length of time. It happens approximately eight minutes into the film, where one actor is standing and two rows of actors are arranged behind her. All of a sudden the actors stand up and start to disperse, out of the frame of the camera. At this point we here a voice, in the film, calling them to “come back, come back, come back”. This is actually your voice. It is unique because it is the only example of your voice we hear in the film. Also it is the only instance when the onstage actors repeat a statement made by the actors on film. So it seemed to me as if at this moment, for this molecular space of time, there is an oozing perhaps across this “spark gap” that you refer to, as this sort of absent dimension, that there is something maybe temporarily resembling a completeness happening in the film-stage performance? I don’t know. It’s a very striking moment for me.

RF. Well, I am happy that you say that it’s striking; I see what you mean. You have to understand that when I am making things, I am not thinking intellectually about anything. I am just trying different things that seem to reverberate in some way that seems interesting. So I have no theory, I have no theoretical reason for that happening at that point. What can I say, I just wait to get ideas, wait to try different things matched against different other things; most of them are lousy which is why we rehearse so long and I keep changing things. Who knows, by the time this play opens that may or may not be there.
There’s not much I can say about it. I would say, but to return to the airplane of course, as the play sort of mentions, it is an image from a dream I had when I was a teenager of an airplane flying over me as I climbed up from a pit, and I saw people in the airplane staring at me and dotted lines came from their eyes into my eyes, so I think that’s why the airplane is here, and what its relationship to the unconscious is I don’t know, it’s that image of things breaking through the walls, as if something broke through from your unconscious. I suppose that’s why I am using the airplane and flight and any implications of that, but flight vis-à-vis the people getting up and leaving the screen and I say come back come back, somehow that has reverberations with this whole notion of things that might arise out of your unconscious but you can’t keep them because they vanish almost before they arise, or like a dream image that you can’t hold on to the next day so it’s like come back come back. Even making art is an attempt maybe to re-evoke those quick silver things that flitter through you but you can’t hold on to in normal life, so to make a work of art is to say come back come back to things that are escaping you all the time, that seem to be profound things on some level, but you can’t hold on to them.

SM. I wonder if this gesture of saying “come back” to this molecular field of impressions which you called art, if that isn’t an intrusion of a subject that then imprisons that field, these objects.

RF. Well you should be able to let go. I’m not saying it’s good to say come back, come back, maybe you should let everything pass through you and go, that’s certainly a spiritual position that basically I approve of. Most of my moments I don’t have the enlightenment to be able to let them just pass through me, and I want them to stay and I want to imprison them, and I don’t find that to be particularly noble or even desirable. But that’s part of the tension out of the contradictions and the human contradictions that I try to make my art—you are always saying come back, come back when you know you should let go. And indeed they don’t come back do they?

SM. No.

RF. The screen wipes.

SM. Yeah it cuts.

RF. Yes.

SM. It wipes, cuts.

RF. So you can start again but they don’t come back.