Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Entry #6

Meghan Buchanan, OHT's Props/Costume Engineer:

It’s quite possible that I have the messiest desk in all of New York. Most days I have about one square foot of workspace on my four-foot by nine-foot desk. It is an amazing wonderland though. There you can find foam core boards, a paint kit, an assortment of hats, a sewing kit, a small supply of insulation foam, a few automated hands, at least half a dozen dowel rods, several white masks, a few yards of rope, a handful of fake fruit, and a wide variety of adhesives.
I realize these items might seem a little atypical for a desk, but if you have ever set foot in the Ontological-Hysteric Theater you would completely understand. I must admit, I never know how all of the supplies might go to use, but that’s what makes my job interesting. I walk into the theatre everyday with butterflies in my stomach wondering what exactly Richard might have conjured up for me to create that day. Oh…I’m the props and costumes engineer, to put it simply; I make things. And, I try as hard as I can to interpret Richard's direction into something tangible.
For example, we have a platter of fruit with an airplane on top (obviously), and I was given the note to make the fruit look more glorious and like a renaissance painting. When asked to put more babies in the plane hanging from the ceiling, we were told to cut it so it looks like a horrendous mutation. And, when describing how he wanted Stephanie Silver’s costume to look, he told me that he wanted her be dressed in a kind of 1940’s film noir, cocktail dress, but also look like she did last year… a beautifully feathered ballerina.
With directions like these, it’s easy to interpret a project completely different than how it might have been intended. Sometimes, I have no idea if I am making what Richard has envisioned, or if I am even getting close. But, I go into every new project open minded, and hope that these hands can whip up something that lives in the world that Richard is trying to create.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Entry #5

Chris Mirto, Stephanie Silver, Jamie Peterson and Stefanie Neukirch on a mission
A digital missive from Jamie Peterson, one of the actors in Wake Up Mr. Sleepy! Your Unconscious Mind Is Dead!

El Generalisimo of his theater, I am one of Richard Foreman's soldiers. More specifically I am a fighter pilot. The problem is that I don't have a plane. So instead I deliver things. I bring the main performers the property they need to wake up Mr. Sleepy (and he is such a sound sleeper).

I feel as though we're chasing after something. What we're chasing is a feeling, and Richard has the binoculars. He can see it running in the distance and it's our job to go out and get it. Now when we bring it back, it may not be what he wanted after all, so we sortie yet again to go get something new. Maybe after we bring enough feelings back, we can cut them up and sew the pieces back together in different combinations. Frankenfeeling, AHA!

But then again, I just got that all wrong. It's not really that we're hunting "feelings" for him, because that implies some level of surface psychological content. We're performing actions onstage, and when we perform we try not to act. Acting falsely induces the feeling of content. There is content but it's not from us acting, it potentially derives from the audience. Our actions, not acting, activate a part of your (the audience's) brain that you're probably not using right now reading this nonsense. Therein lies the content.

At least that's what I think, but what do I really know? I'm just as asleep as anybody.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Entry #4

Interview between Richard Foreman and Christine Vartoughian, intern on Wake Up Mr. Sleepy! Your Unconscious Mind is Dead!

Christine Vartoughian: Who or what is Mr. Sleepy?

Richard Foreman: That's every human being, including myself, who are asleep. I've always been concerned with trying to make a theatre that woke people up to what energies are really operating in the unconscious or other places that we don't normally perceive. Wake up is the message of every one of my plays. It used to be in the early days that you start a nice dance or something like that and then it would stop and I remember a friend of mine from France at one point saying 'Richard, Richard, you start all these very enjoyable things going and then you stop them, and I said 'Yes, because we all start to be seduced by that, myself included. I want to slap you in the face and say wait a minute, wake up, do you realize what's happening to you? You're being seduced.

CV: So seduction is one of the things we succumb to?

RF: Sure, seduction is everything that we use as an escape, that we like, be it chocolate cake, sex, entertainment, wealth, it's all seductive, it all takes us away from the real task which is trying to see things at each moment as they really are.

CV: What qualities do actors that you like to work with posses?

RF: I like actors that are not saying at every moment to the audience, on one level or another, love me, love me. Even when I was a young man I always disliked what I perceived as being the real content of performances which was 'I may be suffering, I may be playing an evil person, but I want you to love me'. Obviously an actor wants to be liked. I want people who don't, or I want to teach people how not to use that, how to have an inner laser-like intensity, that's all inner directed, not going out so much towards the audience. One thing I've always told actors is that they have to think that everything they say is the most intelligent thing in the world (though they're not saying anything in this play). They have to do it, it's a secret that they have to assume that only one person in the audience is going to understand and they are not offering it on a silver platter for everybody. It's a secret, so that when you're sitting in the audience you can think Ahh I'm the one person that gets that, the other people aren't smart enough to get it. That's a delight, to think that it is not stated in a vulgar, general way, but you are sitting there with your partner in the theater and you poke him in the ribs and say 'Hey did you realize what he's saying?!' You've got to have that feeling. I want a secretive kind of performance- performers that have secrets, and actually I think that gets me in trouble sometimes because I know certain people have said 'Oh, I didn't like the show because everybody seemed to be acting as if they had some secret and I didn't get it.' To me, that's the only thing that turns me on because I do these shows to turn myself on, which would be a form of seduction, which I just said I don't want to use. However, these are the contradictions that make up everything.

CV: What do you say to those people who say 'I didn't get the secret'?

RF: There is not much I can say, because to me, to meet people who seem to have a secret is fascinating, and again wakes me up. Confronted with something like that, I want to know what the secret is, and of course, generally, in real life when we learn the secret, eh, then you lose interest.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Entry #3

Here's something that should provide some insight into Richard's rehearsal process: the stage management book.

Richard's rehearsals begin with full tech. That means costumes, sound, props, a full set and lights on day one. For three-and-a-half months, these elements will be revised, reworked, and re-envisioned.

The script itself, as it exists now, is based off of the video. What is spoken by the actors in the video and what is seen onscreen appears in print; the handwriting is the stage manager's notation of the movement of the live actors.

That's fairly straightforward. But now we get into Foremanland: the colored stickers are a way of notating the 215+ audio tapes that are available to Stage Manager Brendan Regimbal. The white numbered stickers refer to the current lighting cues in place. The stars indicate the use of flashpots, the fly system and motors for the propellers on the airplane. A lot to track, quick someone buy this kid a drink.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Entry #2

My task is to make something on stage into which you can project--And yet you are not bored because there is no “narrative or psychological (vis a vis characters) involvement”. Boredom is avoided because two levels go on at once—film and stage--
Yet neither is complete. And you oscillate between the two—-there is a “spark gap” which your consciousness jumps—and this keeps you awake.

Neither level is complete—(which is always the problem with both theater and film, in which all levels—language, image, movement in 3-dimensional space fill in all levels of perceptual experience) as opposed to other art forms which leave at least one level empty.

(And this relates to Gertrude Stein saying that in theater she was always either behind or ahead of the transpiring play—so she wrote ”landscapes” through which consciousness could wander.)

Why can I return to a painting, a poem, aphorisms, music—? Yet to see a play or film more than once is usually unbearably boring? Because these other forms elude one by leaving out at least one level of perceptual experience. So a play must discover how to “leave out” a level—yet, a play with no dialogue for instance, isn’t necessarily interesting; it’s simply another full world but composed of people “not talking”—it’s not a world (like dance) which is strangely “lacking” in a particular dimension.

But splitting focus between film and stage, the way I do it—-that lacks a dimension, which is the dimension of “making the connection” between these modes. Yet it’s not simply “2 separate tracks running parallel” --which would be the case if any old film were just shown while the play transpired. No—-the static tableaus I employ “imply” a potential relation (symbolic) — while the fact of live performers occasionally reacting to the screen imply a different kind of relation (dynamic and psychological)—-but the dimension in which this could indeed happen must be left out-—just as, for instance, the visual is ‘left out’ of a poem, or language is ‘left out’ of music that nevertheless seems to copy the fluctuations of consciousness that seem to surface automatically in speech.

No—-we seek a form that forces the perceiving mind to “jump” like a spark from one level of “potential content” (film) to another (on-stage performance)—-which means that normal “tracking consciousness” is bypassed while the new field created between spectator and the “in between” space manifest on-stage in a field of total alertness --without a subject! (The minute you have a subject, you have a prison created by that subject—and the deep content of this art is freedom)

This object
Is about itself.
That is to say
It is about impulse
Occurring against the backdrop
Of an event horizon
That changes slowly (the film)(slow seems permanent)
And that impulse—-
Pokes holes (void) in the on-going film
(generating gaps—-non-definable)
creating a space between impulse and event horizon
where truth arises

(my life story, desire to be ‘good boy’ and hated success of that as ‘killing’ self, so I sneak in proof (circus) I don’t want to kill audience. . .
Cut sound (shock!)

Don’t write clever phrases,
Just register

No to complexity

No, to seductiveness
(philosophical) of “write to make exception to system, a statement that generates its own disappearance:”
this is achieved by the REGISTER of film tableau,
and statement

and “thrown” (impulse) action
the combination of which is “real” (truth)


Problem is always—there are bits that seize one
And others that don’t

(narrative—in and out
stein- landscape (vs before or behind)
but how to deal with in-out
of landscape
(stein— normally you are not in control as you watch, so there is relief, not completion)
but—is between screen and stage? A way of control?
(in between, minimal space
like in between first row and stage

museum is solution, as is 3-ring circus
screen and stage—3 ring circus

you are in control if you FOCUS?
Every human face
Is a double

Reaching into the future
To simulate
Human beings

Listening to oneself

The next moment
Is a miscalculation

Collapsible furniture

Intelligence means
No way out

Wait for the bus
It smiles
On your favorite

one automatically

specific motives
confuse heroes

The dog
Without thinking

to build
a real world

Intense feelings
But empty

A subliminal exercise
Gone wrong

When the reality of the world
Comes under investigation

What do the next few moments--

What maneuver
And style of playfulness
Will surface between us

Living in a world where the un-manifest part—the greatest part—is being denied

“in some sense”
“so to speak”

(suppose I “WERE”....... that tense)

Dear Richard
There are things that can’t be known. Your task is to find them.

In between. In between

Be afraid. The unconscious may be dying.

Away with bad objects

This is the only way
Of traveling
Towards the future.

To read part two of the complete notes click here

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Entry #1

This begins our new "Wake up Mr. Sleepy! Your Unconscious Mind Is Dead!" blog. The first posting consists of pages of notes I've written to myself during the months in which I was planning the production, which will feature material filmed in Portugal last Spring that will be projected throughout the performance and against which the play with live actors will be staged.

A new entry will be made four times a week-- sometimes my own comments on the rehearsals or answering questions posed by our interns about the process and relevant background material-- but there will also be contributions consisting of ideas and impressions of those now working on the play in rehearsal, as well as anecdotes and reminiscences posted by many who have worked on my Ontological-Hysteric productions in past years.

Hopefully, the blog will evolve in directions not yet known-- let's find out!

Richard Foreman


What I do is really quite straight-forward.

Most theater depicts people navigating the currents of every-day life. I admit I find this suffocating and non-revelatory.

Instead, I am passionately interested in what throbs behind normal “social” life— a hypnotic yet inaccessible influence from levels both above and below that common life within which the impulsive twitches of the conditioned mind and body dance their every-day dance.

For me, the true JOY in art is to display such behavioral lurching in counterpoint against a more formal, non-human backdrop that is both literal (projected film tableaux) and symbolic (a relatively abstract grid of words and sounds) which combine to create contrapuntal complex patterns into which the human mind inevitably projects visions of the transcendence that haunts all non-human “empty space”-- that void that exists between everything from atomic particles, to mental concepts, to human beings, or individual moments of pulsating consciousness.

What I do in my theater is simply to layer different self contained ‘realms of being’ (image, sound, idea, or movement) over one another in ways that allow such overlapping layers to bleed through each other and create thereby, maps of new mental territory in which heightened sensibility re-energizes the internal mechanism we all share in common.

So—nothing to be afraid of or to anticipate as “hard to understand” in my plays, because one should not try to laboriously translate them into what they are not. They are NOT pictures of the “outer” world. They are NOT even pictures of the “inner” world. They simply use left over pieces of both inner and outer worlds to build a PARADISE where the mind and feelings dance as if the world were in fact—total music. (And perhaps it secretly is!)



True-- there is no real story, but there is always a ‘theme”—sometimes from the beginning of the play’s conception, and other times only emerging in the weeks of rehearsal.

But! -- my task as an artist is always to fold that ‘theme’
into many other levels of meaning and materials. Mixed and dispersed so that the energetic twitchings of the ‘whole world at once’ transforming any central and therefore one dimensional theme into the network of “all meanings at once”-- reflecting and feeding off all other meanings”.

This, I do find, EXHILARATING!



1) The universe of the penetrating look. Frightened by the look. When you are LOOKED at, with intensity, does the level of ‘personality’ become befuddled, and the deep self—stripped naked, wake up at last?

2) The frozen image. When the presented image suggests neither intention nor “involving action”, then the field of the image starts to tremble with intimations of “elsewhere”

3) Each on stage item as provocation. Provoke, like the mysterious seductive one who withdraws into silence, and beckons-- like a door to another world. . .

4) Language as the impenetrable mystery. Statements that turn upon themselves, Ouroborus -like (the snake eating its own tail)—and by emptying out normal, every-day ‘meanings’-- knock down the walls of the everyday
behavioral prison, opening (Zen-like) to new levels of mental organization

I.E. “MENTAL SHOCKS”. Tiny MENTAL SHOCKS to reprogram the nervous system so the mind can start dancing a new kind of brain dance!


I suggest there are two kinds of theater.

One kind ‘talks about’ things and suggests at least a possible ‘resolution’ to the issues raised.

The second kind EMBODIES in its style and structure the often agitated ebb and flow that consciousness experiences in its collisions with life-- understanding that nothing is ever ‘resolved’, but rather that all things change into other things before there is any possible ‘resolution’.

So this second—which is my theater, of course—is about “nothing” that can be discussed, but deeply about the
moment to moment experience of the flux of the real—i.e. impulse giving way to new impulse giving way to new impulse.

To read part one of the full notes click here