Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ontological-Hysteric Theater: First Week

Let me try and organize my thoughts here:

By here I do mean here as in this blog, but also I mean to say let me organize my thoughts now. Of course I also mean here as in the place I am writing this: a coffee shop.

I have been waiting for what seems like many months in anticipation for my internship with Richard Foreman and the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre. During this period of anticipation i did many things to occupy my time. Many things and not so many things. I rambled about the country via motorcycle visiting friends, family, and strangers. I ended in New York City, making an indefinite home in Brooklyn.

My first 3 weeks were miserable. I wanted very much to transport my self back to the West. I came into the city with little more than $45 dollars cash in my pocket and whole lot of increasing credit card debt. I had no home and no job. The first 2 weeks seemed to last months. I was constantly stressed out and worried about finding housing, food, and a job. Looking back now it doesn't seem that long. Hell, I found a place to live and work in only 3 weeks.

I now work at a nice little espresso bar in Forte Greene somewhat near my apartment. With my internship I will be working 60 hours a week: 40 at the theatre and 20 at the coffee shop. Guess which one I actually get paid for?

So I've been waiting, and working. And the first day finally arrived. I woke up and it was time. Only a little nervous. I was more afraid that I'd be working with a bunch of pretentious rich kids. And while most of them certainly are coming from rich families, I was pleased to find that I'll be working with more genuine people than I expected. I guess it makes sense: what kind of people are attracted to Foreman's work? And are willing to give their free time to help make his visions reality.

It turns out through some series of events that I happened to be one of these people; though, I couldn't exactly tell you why or how: it all just happened. Of course there was more to it, but looking at it from a distance...

Does anyone know why anything happens?

I have found myself here. Not to say I have found myself, but more to say that I have litterally found myself here. And what a pleasant surprise, and what an unusual place, and what a unique opportunity. I am excited.

The theater itself inhabits the loft of the St. Marks Cathedral in the East Village. It is everything I could have imagined. Small, intimate, almost make-shift. The theatre staff is comprised off 5 people, all friendly, genuine, caring, and passionate people. They work hard and love what they do. I hope to learn much from them on that mode of living. I only briefly met Richard, as rehearsals have not yet started.

The first two weeks are load-in: in which time we construct the set, costumes, and props, so that everything is fully ready to go by the first day of rehearsal. Richard runs every rehearsal like a full dress rehearsal. That means every element must be at performance level. This is becuase Richard likes to start with everything from the very beginning. He puts all ideas right out in the open and physically works through them during the 8 weeks of rehearsal.

We were warned: NOTHING IS SACRED (and everything is sacred)! Even though we spend all this time, craft, effort, material, and money on a prop, costume, sound design, or set, none of it is sacred. In fact, half it will be thrown out, changed, modified or not even used for the final performance. Richard Foreman's method of creating a play is unique in that it all comes out of the process. We were told that we will get to see many different versions of the play, since it will be in constant evolution. Something that the technical director said that I found interesting was that even though during the early rehearsals a certain point in the play a large object might be shook loudly, and in the final version it is replaced with a silent moment, the energy of the initial action is still remains present. It got me to thinking about the reverberation of energy in a space, and how that it can exist both in a specific moment in time and eternally.

Richard plays typically involve hundreds of props and objects: he is a master of distraction. The prop list is quite amusing calling for odd numbers of odd objects, such as 3 red ping pong balls, a giant green lightbulb, 4 rolling pins, a giant fish that knitting needles can be stuck into, etc. The list as of now is literally 3 pages long, and it will only grow throughout rehearsal.

I speak more in depth about Foreman's method once we actually begin rehearsals, so I won't try to explain any of it now. Not here.

I suppose this whole blog thing should be more about me: my experience, my impressions of this process.

Well. In the past week I've had many thoughts. I should try to write these down through out the day as they come, because now of course I can't remember any.

I have thought constantly about what will happen after the internship, and after that, and after that, but then I try to bring myself back to the moment. I try to focus only what is immediately in front of me.

But will a stick around in New York? Let's just say I have a gut feeling that tells me that this town is going to suck me into it for at least a few years. And that might be ok. Even though my heart sits in the cold Portland water.

Do I want to be an actor still? ? ? Theater. Film. ? ? ? Oh I don't know. It all seems like so much work to get there. But then maybe if I keeping living the way I'm living it will all just happen like everything else just seems to happen. Of course I know nothing really just happens: I work hard for things. But again things do also just happen at the same time. Looking back at it.

What if I get the chance to actually work in theatre. It would be a busy life, working multiple jobs, multiple theaters, making all those connections, networking, blah, blah...

I have to focus on the moment, I can't think about all of that. It isn't healthy. I forget to breathe.

I will end this post with something I found to ring true while reading Foreman's Unbalancing Acts. What he said seemed to settle my dilemma about wanting to hurriedly move back to the Northwest as soon as possible. It is Foreman's reason for living in New York, and also one reason why he produces his art.

"Obvioulsy, if you choose to inhabit a nice, comfortable environment, it's quite easy to feel at one within yourself. The challenge is to find that point of stillness in the midst of the storm--within the depths of the negative hyper-energy that characterizes the worst of contemporary Western urban life."

1 comment:

ubik said...

Thanks for this post. It think it is an invaluable look a the inside of a fascinating process. I showed my students a early dance piece for television by Forman and they were annoyed by it. Then I showed them Foreman Planet and they were bored by it. While Richard is not the most dynamic speaker and the documentation of the work is sparse, he is essential for the student's understanding of theater because he works in the extremes of understandability, comprehensibility, and perceptability. Anything you can do to bring his message down to earth will be appreciated by all who read.