Pre-eminent Playwright, Producer, Director Richard Foreman Here March 16-29

Will Make Public Appearance and Offer Theater/Film Workshop to UB Students

Release Date: February 17, 2009

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Playwright, producer and director Richard Foreman will discuss his work in March as part of a two-week visit to Buffalo. (Photo: Paula Court)

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Professional theater in Buffalo has not been marked by an experimental bent. So it is refreshing that next month, area theater lovers will have an opportunity to meet and speak with Richard Foreman, the influential and enthusiastic pioneer of the American avant-garde theater; a man whom York Times critic Vincent Canby called an ebullient dramatizer of anarchic states of mind.

On March 23 at 7 p.m., the University at Buffalo Center for the Moving Image (CMI) directed by Emmy Award-winning arts filmmaker Elliot Caplan, UB professor of media study, will host "An Evening with Richard Foreman," free to the public, in the Market Arcade Theater.

Foreman will discuss his work and screen material selected from 25 years of his plays, as well as his last film production in Japan and the UK.

Foreman is a 10-time Obie award-winning playwright, director and designer of more than 57 vanguard plays whose action is driven by misunderstanding instead of by traditional conflict. His productions, five of which won Obies as Best Play of the Year, are often technically enhanced by film (he is also a filmmaker), video and other art forms, and provoke the audience to awareness and action in a way rarely experienced in theater here.

For 40 years, he has made it a practice to provoke change in his audiences by stripping the theater bare "of everything but the singular and essential impulse to stage the static tension of interpersonal relations in space."

He is best-known as the founder and director of the "Ontological-Hysteric Theater" (OHT), an institution that may have something to teach Western New York playwrights and producers who would dare to be different. For 40 years, despite its rejection of traditional modes of expression, it has been one of New York's most fecund and successful new-wave theatrical institutions.

Foreman's appearance is part of a two-week visit to Buffalo (March 16-29) with his collaborator, Sophie Haviland, during which the two will conduct an intensive theater/film workshop for students in the UB departments of Media Study and Theatre and Dance as part of "The Bridge: An International Art Initiative."

Since 2004, the two have worked together on The Bridge, which promotes international art exchange between countries around the world through workshops, symposiums, theater productions, visual art, performance and multimedia events.

The UB workshop and discussion will be filmed by Caplan for incorporation into a film about Foreman's creative process and this project.

Caplan says, "The Bridge Project has traveled to nine countries, creating the 'raw' art material for an international online database. All material is made available to participating artists in the project to use in their own work and in collaboration with other Bridge artists."

Foreman describes his own work as a "Theatre of Coincidence," which aims to produce a "Disorientation Massage," in contrast to Aristotle's goal of catharsis.

For instance, his mixed-media play "WAKE UP MR. SLEEPY! YOUR UNCONSCIOUS MIND IS DEAD!" is described by Joseph Nechvatale as "arguing that behind contemporary multiplicity and apparent capriciousness lies a bleak uniformity and that this amounts to making culture uncurious, timid and stupid in the service of unquestioning consumer conformity; a pop ethos apparently enforced by some dim-witted and unsaid social-climbing consensus."

Foreman's plays have been produced by many of the world's most distinguished theater companies from The Wooster Group, New York Public Theater and NY Shakespeare Festival to the Autumn Festivals in Paris and Vienna and well beyond.

Haviland was the managing director of the Ontological Theater from 1993-99, where she produced Foreman's New York productions and international tours. She also created the Obie award-winning Blueprint Series and several other theater productions and performance

In addition to the Obie Awards, Foreman has received the annual Literature Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Lifetime Achievement in the Theater Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN Club Master American Dramatist Award, and a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

The March 23 event and the workshop are made possible through the generous support of the Robert and Carol Morris Fund in the UB College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). They are co-sponsored by the UB departments of Media Study, Theater and Dance, and English; as well as the CAS Visual Arts Management Program, the Samuel P. Capen Chair in American Culture, and the James H. McNulty Chair in English.

More information on Foreman can be found at the Ontological-Hysteric Theater site: and additional information on The Bridge Project is available at

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