Tom O'Horgan, 1924-2009

Though never the author, his visionary directing made him a true creator

That situation naturally couldn't last. Broadway looked to systematize what it saw as simply a new bag of marketable tricks, and O'Horgan again moved on. He tried film; his aimed-for fluidity congealed unhappily on celluloid. He tried opera, creating the stunning visual coup with the Trojan Horse that made his Les Troyens in Vienna legendary; most opera houses weren't ready then for his brand of daring. Cushioned by his Broadway royalties, he took up smaller-scale projects as they came to him, meanwhile building and populating his loft, and his life. Hard to sum up: He had made all the right "career moves" while barely pursuing a career at all; a quest is not a career. O'Horgan sought a theater that could perpetually change; the fluidity he sought engulfed and absorbed him. His achievements are virtually impossible to re-create. I think he might actually be rather proud of that. He would know, from Goethe, that only when Faust begs the beautiful moment to stay can the Devil finally entrap him.

A career of endless quest: O'Horgan's La MaMa production of Tom Paine, 1967
Patrick Eagar/La MaMa Archive
A career of endless quest: O'Horgan's La MaMa production of Tom Paine, 1967
O'Horgan's production of Rochelle Owens's "Futz" at La MaMa, 1967.
Conrad Ward
O'Horgan's production of Rochelle Owens's "Futz" at La MaMa, 1967.

mfeingold@villagevoice.com

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