(Eric Bogosian’s article was published in the spring 1994 issue of Bomb; the above video is from the current production of 'Idiot Savant'.)
In 1975, I came to New York to work as a “go-fer” for an Obie-award-winning director at the Chelsea Westside Theater. I knew little about Off-Broadway and a little about “Experimental Theater” (courtesy of the Drama Review). During the fall of 1975 I saw dozens of productions all over the city: Broadway, Off-Broadway, even Shakespeare at Juilliard.
One night I went to see Richard Foreman’s Rhoda in Potatoland in a loft on Lower Broadway, on the edge of a new neighborhood, “SoHo.” On that night, my whole orientation as a theater artist shifted.
Why? Because for all the theater I had seen, all over New York, only minutes of any particular production seemed alive (Exception: the young Richard Gere in Shepard’s Cowboy Mouth). I longed for intensity, fun, manic energy, insanity, brains; “performers” instead of “actors”. I wanted theater that was more than the sum of its parts. I wanted event. Funny thing was, I didn’t know what was missing until I saw it. After that, I couldn’t go back. Eventually, I moved downtown and tried to make (in Foreman’s words) “rigorous” theater art. I totally credit Richard Foreman with changing the direction of my theater life.
Since then, I have seen a number of his creations and have been enthralled every time. They are beyond imitation, almost beyond description or analysis. They are fantastic machines emanating from the head of Richard Foreman.
Eric Bogosian You’ve mentioned, in your manifestos on theater, that an actor must have hostility towards the audience. That was an original point of view in the seventies, but now it’s turned inside out. It is fashionable to be aggressive and indigestible. How does this affect your use of hostility, your jarring, aggressive style?
Richard Foreman I know how easy it is for me to want to love, to want the caress of reassurance; and how quickly that can deteriorate into not being alert through all the difficulties, all the stumbling, all the problems that force me to invent. I am personally happiest when I am forced to solve a problem. The aggression onstage has to do with that. I want the performer and the performance to give the audience the feeling that there are problems to be solved. And I’ve made the solution available, somehow, on the stage. That is the excitement, the delight and the pleasure. Personally, I am a very unaggressive person. When I was young, I’d see Sam Shepard occasionally giving interviews, and he seemed like such a cussed, intransigent bastard. I thought to myself, “God, I wish I could be tough,” instead of Mr. Niceguy, which is my personality.
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