Is This Desire?

Richard Foreman Utters a Four-Letter Word

Across the front of the stage, Foreman has strung his trademark string and Plexiglas. He always vows he's going to leave it out this time, then he always adds it in the end, mostly to create aesthetic distance and density. He thinks he needs it.

For years now, Foreman has set his pieces in some vague undefinable past. "Maybe the period around when I was born," he speculates. "In '37. Maybe there's some psychological thing going on there. But I often look at old photographs from turn of the century through the '30s. There's an atmosphere that seems sort of hothouse sexually repressed, so you have very erotic scary surrealist— it's what starts my juices flowing. Often I start thinking I will escape that this time, and I will prepare something that seems to be going in a different direction. But then, in rehearsal, it's not me. So I revert back to what reverberates with me."

For Foreman, the paradise that is not a hotel occurred before he could live in it, "anywhere from 1880 to the beginning of the war in Paris. That's just heaven to me. It's provided major inspiration for most of my plays." Spread across the coffee table in Foreman's Soho loft are several books about Baudelaire. He's preparing for next year's play, imagining some sort of Baudelairean street. It may be his first play in an outdoor setting, but, he says, "no guarantees. By the time it's finished, I may not be able to do it."

Foreman's new play is a culture war between the horny and the corny.
Robin Holland
Foreman's new play is a culture war between the horny and the corny.

Years ago he told an interviewer, "I want to make art that gives me the environment I would rather be living in." And that is still true, he says. "For as long as I can remember, I've profoundly felt that something's wrong with the world. Something's wrong with me. Something's wrong with everything. And all of my plays are paradise. People are surprised because there are very aggressive energies in the plays, and there are very negative things in the plays. But I think that they are redeemed. And that's my job. Redeemed by a kind of energy, a kind of light, a kind of organizational rhythm that to me is paradise."

Richard Foreman has posted 15 years' worth of his notebooks at www.ontological.com for others to use, royalty free, as raw material for plays.

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