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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010 DOC NYC: Ryan Kerrison's MindFLUX

Posted by Melissa Silvestri on Nov 04, 2010
Source: Festival Coverage

His name may not be as well-known as Stephen Sondheim, but Richard Foreman is a legendary freak of a genius. A playwright whose abstract plays defy definition, his shows of absolute madness and confusion have both turned on and weirded out audiences since the 1960s. Ryan Kerrison’s documentary mindFLUX examines the life of this strange and unusual artist, who has touched the lives of many of the most celebrated theater artists in New York City.

2010 DOC NYC First Festival Edition

Richard Foreman debuted his theater the Ontological-Hysteric Theater in 1968, a venue where he could give a stage to the out-there performers who didn’t belong anywhere near Broadway. Ontology is the study of the nature of being, and Foreman’s theater is dedicated to balance the primitive with the absolute mad, taking the perplexity of life and throwing it onstage for extensional understanding. Foreman’s work is anti-commercial, hilarious in a sick way, and is not performed to please the audience, but rather to challenge them.

Foreman’s work has touched the lives of many theater professionals who have either worked with him or been influenced by his eccentricity. Amongst the interview subjects are James Cromwell, Willem Dafoe, Lili Taylor, Suzan-Lori Parks, Yoko Ono, Lou Reed, and Eric Bogosian. As actor T. Ryder Smith tells a long and strange tale of his audition for Foreman, his story is presented in an animated sequence, turning Foreman into a grizzly ogre and his apartment building a dank and smelly fortress, heightening the auditioner’s sense of insecurity and hesitation over giving themselves up for critique by this enigmatic individual.

Foreman’s work stayed underground for years, until he gets the opportunity to stage Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at Lincoln Center in 1976, starring Raul Julia, a gifted Shakespearean actor who got Foreman’s macabre side to deliver a stunning performance as Macheath. While Foreman himself is not an accessibly likable character, and his shows that are abstract for the sake of being that way can be frustrating to watch and verge on pretentiousness, his willingness to forgo mainstream acceptance is to be admired. Foreman himself would say of aspiring artists that he is “hungry for your uniqueness.” Anybody who shakes up audience’s expectations and opens their minds to the reawakening of life is to be commended.

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