Ontological-Hysteric Theater founded by Richard Foreman

Joel Israel, Caitlin McDonough-Thayer and Sarah Dahlen in Richard Foreman's DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND (Photo © Paula Court)

The Ontological-Hysteric Theater (OHT) was founded in 1968 by Richard Foreman.

According to his website, his aim was “stripping the theater bare of everything but the singular and essential impulse to stage the static tension of interpersonal relations in space. The OHT seeks to produce works that balance a primitive and minimal style with extremely complex and theatrical themes. The core of the company’s annual programming is Richard Foreman’s theater pieces, of which he has made over 50 in the last 40 years.

“Foreman’s trademark “total theater” unites elements of the performative, auditory and visual arts, philosophypsychoanalysis and literature for a unique result. Foreman’s style is not meant to be ‘cerebral’, but rather, the density of his compositional theater is an attempt to viscerally reflect and process everything that he has inherited from his explorations in twentieth century thought and art. Foreman engages in what the poet John Keats famously described as “negative capability” – i.e. “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” He seeks to make work that unsettles and disorients received ideas and opens the doors for alternative models of perception, organization, and understanding. Of course as times, technologies and experiences change, strategies must shift as well. In 2005 Foreman began a second chapter in his work with the introduction of the digital video and film media as dominating forces in his redefinition of ontologically hysteric theater.”

According to the New York Times, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater is leaving its performance space at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery in June, the playwright and director Richard Foreman said in a news release. The Ontological, which has had a permanent home at St. Mark’s, in the East Village, since 1992, will wrap up operations there on June 30, the end of its 2009-10 season, according to the release. “My aesthetic remains the same,” Mr. Foreman said in the statement, “but after many years of making theater there’s been a thematic deepening of everything I’ve been working towards that can now only be made possible through film.” The Ontological-Hysteric Theater will continue to function, with the possibility of an occasional theatrical production, but will focus on film and video work.

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