Richard Foreman

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Johns Hopkins University Press, May 24, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 248 pages
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"The spectator's question should not be, What does this play mean? The question should be, In response to which of the world's possibilities and tensions is this play created? That is its meaning." -- Richard Foreman For more than thirty years, the playwright and director Richard Foreman has been a pioneering figure in the American theater. His Ontological-Hysteric Theater has earned an international reputation for extending the boundaries of experimental theater (and has won several Village Voice Obies, including one for Best Play in 1998). His work for the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Guthrie Theatre, the Paris Opera, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music has brought his unique vision to mainstream audiences with innovative productions of the classics and the works of other playwrights. This new volume in PAJ's Art + Performance series is the first critical edition devoted to Foreman's work. Edited by Gerald Rabkin, this wide-ranging anthology includes a collection of contemporary reviews tracing Foreman's reception from the 1960s to today, a series of informative interviews, a section of critical essays, and a selection of Foreman's writings (including the compete text of My Head Was a Sledgehammer). The book also offers a detailed chronology of Foreman's career, a current bibliography, and twenty photographs from his plays. Rabkin's comprehensive introduction traces the development of Foreman's career and places his contributions within the context of post-1950s experimental theater. From Foreman's founding of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater in 1968, to his artistic and personal partnership with Kate Manheim, to his company's move to the historic theater at Saint Mark's Church in the 1990s, Richard Foreman chronicles the remarkable vision and singular voice of one of America's most important theater artists. "Foreman's theater is no mere articulation of theoretical ideas. Obviously, theory illuminates his plays, but to reduce his work to intellectual propositions would impose a transparency that Foreman rejects. His theater has sustained itself through the years because, at its best, it is fun -- spirited, frenetic, dazzling, surprising, provocative, even as it is intellectually demanding. Foreman is not only an obsessive self-scrutinizer, a philosophical prober of recalcitrant reality, but also a ring-master melding text, performance, music, sound, and objects into unique spectacles." -- from the Introduction by Gerald Rabkin "Foreman's theater is designed to reorient the spectator's perception toward nonlinear forms of consciousness and toward a capacity for aperspectivity. Convinced that the world we call reality is only one among several possible worlds, and that its subjective correlate, our personal consciousness, is only one among several possible modes of experiencing, Foreman advocates that the way we see and what we see can and should be changed." -- Florence Falk, Setting as Consciousness "As a playwright and director with a philosophical bent, Richard Foreman is a practicing metaphysician in the experimental theater." -- Mel Gussow, Celebrating the Fallen World "Foreman has always more or less dramatized the anxiety of being. His concern has always been to break through the conventions to a raw feel of reality/truth. In the process he beats epistemology to death and still fails. His theater is the hysterical drama of that failure." -- Kenneth Bernard on Lava

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Richard Foreman

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These latest entries in the recent series from the editors of Performing Arts Journal shed light on two very different practioners of avant-garde theater. Foreman is in some ways the elder statesman ... Read full review


An Introduction
Kate Davy Kate Manheim as Foremans Rhoda

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About the author (1999)

Gerald Rabkin is a professor of theater arts at Rutgers University. He has written extensively about the theater--particularly the contemporary theater--both as a scholar and as a journalist. He served as theater editor and principal critic for the SoHo Weekly News from 1976 to 1980 and has written for such publications as the London New Statesman, the Kansas City Star, Theatre Journal, and American Theatre. He has served as contributing editor for Performing Arts Journal since its inception.