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Contents AVANT GARDE Banner Photo courtesy PS 122

The Birth of the Poet
Poet
Part 12
Poet Part 11
Poet Part 10
Poet Part 9
Poet Part 8
Poet Part 7
Poet Part 6
Poet Part 5
Poet Part 4
Poet Part 3
Poet Part 2
Poet Part 1

The Birth of the Poet
Stuart Hodes

Poet 12. Wednesday, Nov 13, 1985 In Act I, the atomic bomb factory blows up arousing the poet, Propertius, into fits of manic glee. He dances all over the stage (square patterns, tiny steps), hands flailing like seal flippers, singing, "The world's ending! The world's ending!"
    Then he and his girlfriend, Cynthia, grab violins and dash around playing. The image is not subtle – Nero fiddling as Rome burns, and neatly segues into Act II, ancient Rome. In Act III (Iran), Ali plays a violin although I don't yet know why.
    The violins, Chinese cheapos, are meant to be played but the actors can't play violin. Instead of having them mime, Richard has them play anyway, or rather, make sounds. Zach Grenier (Ali) figured out how to scrape his bow across the strings, producing raw shrieks. Max Jacobs (Propertius) couldn't even manage that until Richard (who can't play either) showed him how to produce tormented screeches. It's inspired. As the world is destroyed, the actors dance, shout, and produce hideous noises on instruments capable of music as sublime as poetry. Along with the chuffing throbbing sound score (by Otts Munderloh) it's a brilliant Act I ending.
      All the props: brooms, plastic trash cans, violins, are labeled "PROPS. DO NOT USE." Will the labels still be there in performance? If not, I'll be disappointed.
     Max Jacobs and I rode home on the subway.  He said he'd quit acting at age 31 to move to upstate NY, raise a family, and take over a franchise selling beer and franks at baseball games. Then he bought property and now has the means to act without having to make a living at it. Smart, lucky Max!—

Poet 11, Tuesday, Nov 12, 1985. Richard began by comparing our play to the work of Russian Constructivists who defined art as a way to make the familiar "strange." That works for me. I've always searched choreography for glimpses of how others perceive the world, and is why I prefer shabby loft concerts where it's a possibility, to glitzy uptown ballets where it's not.
      My character, Maecenas, is supposed to be wise. Richard said he is one of those cheery eastern gurus like the Maharishi, and to read the words lightly, softly, smilingly, palms pressed piously together, and after my lines, stand waiting for Anne and Annie to kiss me on the cheeks.
       Maecenas (Stuart): We are no longer heirarchical.
      Barbarella Anne): We no longer need men.
      Maecenas: We prefer deviation, anomie, anomaly, shift friction to rules and names. The repetitive, noise-making, ridiculous functions of language are more pleasurable when mixed with expressive ones. In times of war, all times, we are warriors.
      Richard called these lines,  "the heart of the play." But he also says that every line spoken is equally important. Is this a contradiction, or does he simply mean that my three lines are one with the rest?  (Or is he trying to bolster my ego because I have so few lines?)
      Today as I crossed in character, Richard said,
     "Are you walking funny or something?"
     "I think of him as a funny old guru."
     "No. Walk straight. He's not one of your cheapo gurus."
      I asked about the compacted mishmash of ideologies:
     "We are no longer hierarchical." –socialist/communist/egalitarian
     "We no longer need men."   –militant lesbian
     "We prefer deviation."   –gay pride.
     "Anomie."   –60s drop-out
     "Anomoly."   –occultism.
     "Shift fiction to rules and names. The repeating, noise-making, ridiculous functions of language."   –anti-bureaucratic/anarchism.
      I said the speech seems like a send-up of ideology in general. Richard agreed but, "It's not just satire." That, "Shift fiction to rules" could itself be a kind of fiction which the guru prefers to rules and games.
     He added that "all times" simply means all times are times of war. (I had deduced that.)
     He ended with specific directions:
     "Speak slowly, emphatically and clearly. And in the last sentence, emphasize ‘are.'"
     "In times of war, all times, we are warriors."—

Poet 10. Sunday, November 7, 1985. At the start of rehearsal Richard Foremen laughingly said that he'd been in the outer lobby of one of his other productions and heard a woman say: "Oh, let's go. It's another one of those Richard Foreman things."
     We ran through almost to the end of Act III. Some of Richard's notes:
    "The quality of each individual's performance should be like Japanese calligraphy."
    I wondered why Foreman had said Japanese rather than Chinese, decided that the Japanese mix of alphabets, ability to absorb other cultures while remaining Japanese, bringing ancient pride of craft to mass produced artifacts, and relentless science-powered entrepreneurship is closer to The Birth of the Poet than anything Chinese. On the other hand, maybe he'd meant Chinese but Japanese slipped out.
     "Your performance must be light and clear, even if you feel it is goofy."
     "Your lines are like playing Pick Up Sticks. Your attitude shouldn't jiggle any other line or gesture."
      He termed Kathy Acker's writing "pointillistic." It would mean that focusing on individual words or sentences reveals less than standing back to take in the whole. Yet he also said:
     "Individual words in the sentences hold potent cabalistic meaning. You are all participating in a secret ritualistic thing. The corns, the killing of a fly, examine each thing that you're doing for hidden meaning. Start thinking about it and working on the emotional content."
      Hidden meanings are pretty much ignored in the science-enraptured west, which has expunged magic from everyday life. Art is the exception, and in my personal experience, Martha Graham constantly sought, found, and shaped her art from hidden meanings.
      Yet I don't understand why Kathy Acker placed Act III in Iran unless because the middle-Easterner, whom I regard as socially medieval, continues to find meanings wholly contrary to mine. I recall a TV broadcast during the Iranian hostage crisis showing male mobs of screaming youths, followed by an interview with an Iranian national here in the U.S.A. who defended his countrymen, saying, "The American people are mentally sick."
      If he was seeing our actions through a magical lens that revealed meanings hidden to me, perhaps this made youths rampaging through Teheran streets screaming "Death to America!" appear rational. Yet it still doesn't explain to me why Kathy Acker placed Act III in Iran.—

Poet 9. Saturday, Nov 9, 1985. Richard [Foreman] worked on Act II in the morning and after lunch continued through and almost to the end of Act III. He said he wanted us to have a sense of the play as a whole, but I wonder if I ever will?  I still feel as if we're all swimming against a furious current of smut and obscenity. Sometimes a startling image will jump out – "A rose is a cunt," but I find thoughts and sequences arbitrary making lines hard to learn.
      Leads, Max, Jan, and Zack seem to have their roles memorized. Anne, Annie, and Warren seldom falter. Brooke and Valda seem fairly secure and so does Frank although he reads some of his speeches. Harsh and Ingrid sometimes flounder but I flounder the most, feeling like the slowest and stupidest member of the cast.
      Staging Cynthia's curse: "I'll poison your milk!" Richard wanted background action, perhaps like a Greek chorus. He had the men stomp downstage bent-over as if with bellies full of poisoned milk, then had us rub our bellies with both hands, then with one hand as the other rubbed the head.
      It suggested the old coordination test so he had us do that, rubbing the belly while patting the head. Then he had us go back to belly-rubbing with both hands, but still not satisfied, asked us to cover our mouths with both hands as though holding back a barf.  He declined the inevitable suggestion to puff out our cheeks, which of course everybody was doing. "That's disgusting!" he said with a smile.
      Then he said to hold our fists in front of our puffed-out cheeks, one in front of the other, "As though blowing a party horn." And liked it. I heard him ask stage-manager Jim Grant, "Have we got enough money for party horns?"
     It was a good example of Richard's process, starting with a literal idea, trying out consequences, counterpoints, exaggerations, flights of fancy, and then back, settling somewhere between. He creates continual kinetic puns; the men rush along, bellies full of poisoned milk, holding back barfs, finally suggesting a wild party which ties it back into Propertius's orgiastic adventures that so distress Cynthia.
      I once heard Martha Graham say, ‘Ecstasy and agony can produce identical physical responses." Kinetic puns are inherent yet I've never before thought of them as primary theatrical devices.—

Poet 8. October 1, 1985. (Cast, Birth of the Poet. Photo by Beatriz Schiller) Joe Mellilo, director of BAM's Next Wave Cast: Birth of the PoetFestival, had called asking if I wanted to be in Richard Foreman's The Birth of the Poet. The call was as perfectly timed as it was unexpected. I was just leaving The Kitchen where I'd been Executive Director for a bizarre year and a half. The Kitchen was a smaller scale avant garde arts presenter, well served by its curator-selected artists. But my job was business affairs and when I discovered a half million dollar deficit I immediately informed the Board, causing outright panic, plus the syndrome known as kill-the-messenger.
      The call from BAM made my departure a celebration.
October 15. 1st Day.
      I arrived having read the script which had come in the mail. (See Poet Part 5) In the cast of twelve was one familiar face, dancer, Velda Satterfield. I also knew Stage manager, Jim Grant, from the Martha Graham Company.
      After Harvey Lichtenstein's welcome speech, the costume assistant asked if I was related to Ryn Hodes. Told I was her father, she said she'd designed costumes for Theco when Ryn was acting in the troupe.
      Richard Foreman began by offering a general description of the play. He first described the text as "erotic," quickly corrected it to "obscene." I had somehow expected him to be angry and confrontational, perhaps because of the aggressively scatological text. But his tone was calm and neutral and he struck me as sensitive and gentle.
      His reputation as a wildly experimental director had led me to think he'd be more like Richard Schechner, another avant gardista, whom I found so haughty I never ventured a word to him although we met frequently at faculty meetings of NYU's Theater Program.
      After lunch, Foreman began to block from page one and I got a first sample of his process; he suggests a move, sometimes shows it, has us try, makes changes. Often he makes self-deprecating remarks like, "That's just silly," or "Awful."
      Minus the verbalizations, Foreman's process is as choreographic as Martha Graham's.

Poet 7. Rehearsal, Friday, November 8, 1985.
      Richard sat us down, seemed about to speak, hesitated, "I've said this for so long now..."
      A voice: "We've never heard it!"
      Warren: "Only Frank has heard it, and he never listens."
      Foreman to Cast
[Excerpted from tape]
      "This is a peculiar play. It's not a play. You've got to get out of your head the idea that you're building a character.
     "Compare it to Picasso. No shadows or twilight depths. It's all foreground. It's a modern painting without any depth of the normal sort."
     "All choices can be justified. You can choose to be a Marxist, a Freudian, a Republican. You can be macho and greatly admired for being macho, or you can choose a group encounter where you're admired if you cry because you're in touch with your feelings."
     "You have the worst possible motives for everything you say."
     "The modern world, Kathy Acker's world, is electric, aggressive, decadent, sad."
     "I'm not interested in evil -- my God. I'm only interested in its opposite. But we're living in evil times. We have to be fanatics of the good. We have to collect all the evil so we can deal with it. If we put little drops of evil, like ink into the sea, it dissipates. It's like life. But this is art. And art is not like life! Each piece of art is a little piece of therapy, a little exercise."
      To Valda: "I want you to make it funkily exaggerated. A Victorian Christmas story."
      To Max: "Your first speech was starting to get too sympathetic, You don't have to make anyone like you. You're surrounded by fools and getting fools to like you is selling out... You have to be careful that you don't pull back from being a real evil guy. Think of the great evil poets. They're real bastards, and that's the fascination."
     Frank Dahill is saying we can make a bundle on Birth of the Poet T-Shirts, suggesting some quotes from the script: "A Rose Is A Cunt," "Now We're Fucking," "O Little Cunt Door."
     Foreman was working with Jan on one of her long Act II speeches. He'd placed Brook and Ingrid in sitting positions on the floor and had Jan back up while she spoke a line. No one noticed that her backward path intersected the women's place on the floor until she suddenly sprawled backward over them. She sprang up immediately wearing a tight smile. "You asshole, why didn't you tell me they were there?"
     "Did you hear that?" said Warren to Frank, "She called the director an asshole."
      Foreman, taking no apparent notice, moved the women out of Jan's path and they worked on.—

Poet 6 November 20, 1985 (Photo: Richard Foreman) Richaard Foreman
       We each wear a police whistle and a stopwatch on lanyards around our necks, plastic sunglasses, and a microphone connected by a long wire to a pack carried in a pocket or on a belt. 
      Cast discussion transcribed from tape:
Frank Dahill: I just want to say something and I'm speaking for everyone here. One thing we have to talk about is ... the glasses, and the head sets, and all this crap on our faces is making it impossible to think of anything except what am I gonna do with all this stuff? And I was crawling around on the floor with Brooke [Myers], I was nearly, I nearly strangled myself on the whistle and the stopwatch (hoots of laughter) and the wires, and it's, it's, it's impossible you can't think of anything but, you know, what to do with all this stuff. Uh, I don't know what we can do about it but, you know, everyone seems... I'm not just speaking for myself."
Richard Foreman: Well, you think we should, you don't think you can deal with it?
Zach Grenier: Well if there's a way to deal with all those wires, uh, in rehearsal, it would be very helpful. Uh, the wires that are just like tangling you up. The cords are very long.
Dan Schreier [Sound man]: You see all those wires will be under your costume, so maybe...
Valda Setterfield: That's an assumption.
Dan Schreier: Oh, is it?
Frank Dahill: Well, yeah, when we have our diapers on.
Dan Schreier: Oh.
Valda Setterfield: Well, where are you going to put them. Where are they to be put?
Dan Schreier: Well...
Stuart Hodes: Are we gonna have an undergarment that never comes off? Like a leotard or something? Then we could stick it under that. Dance belt even?
Valda Setterfield: No.
[General buzz]
Frank Dahill: All the [sun] glasses are breaking from throwing ourselves against the walls and on the floors and stuff. They're all falling apart.
Zach Grenier: Is there a brace that you could give us, put on, sort of like you were talking about, sort of like a harmonica brace? Now this is not a harmonica brace cause those are huge. But if you were to make something out of a strong wire that, uh, would, would adapt to, to, right around here, right on the back of your neck you could attach the pack and make the wires very short and run it right up here like this... that way it would always be available. It also, the wire would be...
Jan Leslie Harding: And then, yes, down.
Stuart Hodes: It's worth pursuing if it were down the neck, like a choke collar.
Dan Schreier: Well, the answer is that you can try it.
Zach Grenier: I would be, be more than willing to contribute some night time to help you build something.
[More buzz. Foreman gives cast time to discuss technical problems with Dan Schreier.]

Poet 5. The script is like a storm cloud aflicker with lightening, swollen with rain. At the first rehearsal, Richard Foremen spent much of the day discussing it.
      I wished I could keep his words so next day brought a cassette recorder, and to every rehearsal thereafter. At times the roles of actor and recorder collided, necessarily resolved in favor of actor, but I didn't ponder where Poet was headed, absorbed in the adventure, occasionally feeling a flash of exhilaration like I'd known with Martha Graham. Some in the cast, all committed pros who trusted Foreman and worked full-out, occasionally revealed doubts.
      John Rockwell in the NY Times:
" Miss Acker's text presents a rather lurid, cartoon-eroticized vision of three 'traumatic' periods of world history - New York in the near future as a nuclear power plant explodes; the late Roman Empire, and contemporary Iran."
      Yet it could have been set in the American South during the Civil War, China when building the Great Wall, and contemporary Sri Lanka. Or in oil-polluted Alaska, the Incan Empire with Pizzaro, and Spain during the Inquisition. Or Washington, DC, the Ottoman Empire, and Cyberspace. Or in any of the numberless eras when humanity exposed its inhumanity. The Birth of the Poet attacked science, government, and religion. It attacked the very idea that humanity is redeemable and all ideologies and religions promoting that idea. The paragraph below, [transcribed from tape] is Foreman speaking to the cast:
      We live in a corrupt and corrupting world and you can't say tomorrow you'll change. Never mind your desires for transcendence. You'll never make it. You all know you're stupider, cruder, nastier than you should be and you're not going to change. That's the tragedy and that's what this piece is about. Remember that. In art we're simply trying to confront the impasse.
      It is a dark vision with only one spark of hope. Art. And although it is an art of self-absorbed obscenity, refracting what many would see as degradation, by existing at all it insists that in some distant and different epoch there is transcendence.
     Art then, the only potential savior of human kind, replaces science, government, and God, the last assailed in Act III as Allah in Iran, an aspect Westerners have tended to ignore, now chillingly prescient. But had it been Jehovah in Mississippi, Yahweh in Jerusalem, or Krishna in Bangalore, it would have been no different. (Personally I wish it had been Jesus in Southern California among followers of a preacher like Jim Jones.)
      Richard Foreman is as daring as Martha Graham. But Graham's vision was primarily kinetic, able to penetrate skin, muscles, and bones, while Foreman's words were forced to negotiate impassable thickets of mind. He energized The Birth of the Poet with ingeniously physical staging and a musical score, but text remained its core, virtually assuring that its hopeless desperation would leave audiences gasping. Which is why I am grateful for having experienced it from within, a worthy bookend to my early adventures with Martha Graham. [Foreman's web site: http://www.ontological.com/]

Birth of the Poet - Act !!

Poet 4 (Photo, Michael Germania. Act II)
         Richard Foreman's staging was unlike anything I'd ever imagined. In one scene, he had us carry coils of clothes line, zigging and zagging while we payed it out and strung it up until the stage was festooned. Ten minutes later we took it all down again.
      Often, after reading a line, he would direct us to fall on our backs, arms and legs poking into the air. "Like a dead cockroach!" he said.
     It felt like a kinetic comment: "So there!" "I'm gone!" "Drop dead!"
     Entrances and exits were frantic. The actors seemed to master them quickly, dashing off to run to another wing, perhaps on the opposite side of the stage. I found it harder to learn than dance sequences so slipped a cheat sheet into my back pocket, yanking it out for quick checks before racing to the next entrance.
      Actors told each other to give Valda Setterfield a wide berth. "If you don't she'll smash right into you!"
       "It's a dance thing, isn't it?" one said to me.
       "No. It's a Valda thing," I replied, wondering what other odd notions these actors had about dancers.
      A question from an actor about the intent of a line often elicited a reading from Foreman. Actors I knew from the Neighborhood Playhouse hated to be given line readings. Lee Strasburg, directing Peer Gynt, made extraordinary demands but I never heard him give a line reading. Foreman gave them constantly; actors even asked for them.
      In the wing off stage right, a dozen short wave microphone receivers were banked on a table before a sound guy who, eyes on the script, turned up the volume on those who were speaking. But instead of hiding our mikes, Foreman flaunted them. Performers carried sending units wired to head harnesses with microphones dangling in front of their lips like telephone operators. About ten years later in the 1990s, rock singers took to it and it's now common. In 1985 it was distinctly avant garde.
      The script was clogged with obscenity but after a couple of days we just didn't hear it. It had lost its power over us. I recall coming back after a lunch break.
      Foreman: "Let's pick up where we left off."
      Actor 1: "Where were we?"
      Actor 2: "Now we're fucking."
      But if we were inured, audiences were not, which I thought about fleetingly during dress rehearsal with an audience of a few dozen sprinkled around the house.  As far as I could tell, it did not affect our performance but next day Richard Foreman was unhappy.
     
[Transcribed from tape]
      Foreman: I must say, it was like you... gave up. I don't know. It had no feeling, no drive, there was no... it was like you were afraid of the audience. Uh, I was very baffled... I thought maybe it was because you were hearing all the... The show just didn't seem to count. To anybody. I mean I really had the feeling that it was as if you were in front of an audience for the first time, saying, "Oh my God what am I saying?" I don't know. I don't know. I'm sure that wasn't the...
      Leslie Jan Harding: It definitely wasn't that.
      Foreman: No, I'm sure it wasn't.

Poet 3 Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1985. At the first rehearsal, Richard Foreman spoke about his vision for the show. The next day I brought a cassette recorder and today have ten-plus hours of Foreman, plus the script, programs, reviews, and notes. After transcribing about 45 minutes I put everything into a Pendaflex hangar where it's been for twenty-one years. A history of that mighty – and I'd have to say failed – theater work has yet to be written.
         All over the world, sales meetings, faculty meetings, and board meetings are dutifully recorded, turned into minutes, and end up in files no one will ever read. But the magical history of Oklahoma!, The King and I, Sweeny Todd, Hair, and every other work of theater is lost, including the histories of flops, which may be even more interesting and instructive.
    Libraries are filled with so-called theater history, but setting aside scripts, scores, names, and dates, most of the rest – reviews and criticism – is opinionizing. What actually happened to bring those live productions, the life blood of theater, into existence is lost.
 
     The lone exception is the history of A Chorus Line, which can be traced in On the Line: the Creation of A Chorus Line, by Robert Viagas, Bayork Lee, and Thommie Walsh. What follows are excerpts from one of Richard Foreman's early lectures to the cast of The Birth of the Poet.
      "I hate the term post-modern art, but whatever that means, and I think it's probably meaningless, but Kathy's [Kathy Acker, librettist] writing is not poetry like -- John Greenleaf Whittier, or Longfellow, or even better poets like, um [sounded like Ogden Nash, followed by laughter.]
      Anyway, the poetry is a poetry, in essence, of naked fact. Much Twentieth Century art is life under the microscope, life under the x-ray machine, so you see the skeleton and not the lacy decorative thing. It's trimming away the hair that gives the aura of beauty so you have the naked skull.
      It's all a kind of language that wants to get rid of all the rhetoric, poetic and non-poetic language. Up to that point where language had a tone dependant upon what you were using it for. If you were going to be a poet you used the poetic tone. It you were going to be a statesman [voice deepens] you used the tone of a responsible statesman. If you were going to be a preacher you used that tone. And writing had these recognizable tones.
      And then at a certain point people started saying no, those tones are politically loaded because it means if you can't talk the poetic tone, or the aristocratic tone, or the political tone, you are excluded from those groups. You see?
      So all of those tones – in other words, if you were in the nineteenth century and you were having a meeting, a poetry club meeting, and the lady in charge said, ‘And now, my dears, we'd like to welcome a new member to our,' and she spoke in a poetic way, and for some reason this lady was socially progressive and hired the local laundress to come and join the poetry club, the local laundress would have said, well, I can't do a very good imitation, but she would have spoken in what they would have thought was a vulgar non-poetic way of speaking.
      So there's been all this writing lately, where people are trying to get rid of good writing, saying that good writing and poetic writing and other kinds of powerful rhetorical responsible writing, imply a kind of class structure that we no longer want to observe. That keep some people out and doesn't keep other people out.
      So this kind of, ah, Kathy's poetry, "All I want is red and black pussy," or uh, "Is this fruit red?" The idea is to write something that does not allow you to say, "Aah, yes that sounds just like Wallace Stevens... or T.S. Eliot."
      Lots of poets, the class of "Well, yes, my dear, you know, one thing in life that's very important to me is Art.
      "My husband, Jack, the steel company magnate who exploits all those-- Art is very important to him too." [laughs] "Look at this beautiful Renoir that we have on the wall."
      The idea is to say that this kind of art is no longer relevant. And no longer desirable. And is evil. That's what Kathy's saying.—


. The Birth of the Poet - Part 2.  When I joined the NYU faculty in 1972, one professor, a well-known avant garde director, came to meetings wearing bib overalls, sat cross-legged on a chair munching a sandwich, body language reeking disdain for everyone else. I'd seen a book about one of his productions, Dionysus in ‘69, lots of photos of naked actors smeared with what looked like chocolate syrup. Would Richard Foreman be like that?
      The script was full of scatology, obscenity, and profanity. From Act II:
             Cynthia: Don't fuck me cause you like my work. Leave me alone. This is the only way I can speak directly to you cause you're autistic.
           Propertius: (Sings.)
                   Oh little cunt door
                   I love you so very much
                   Oh little cunt door
                   I love you so very much.
  [Fall on back, playing violin.]
         Cynthia: Well, everyone wants to fuck me so I tell you that I'm sick of this life. Who cares if you're another person waiting at my door? You're just another man and you don't mean shit to me.
         Propertius: Please, cunt, I'm cold and I'm the best man for you. I know you're fucking someone else that's why you won't let me near you. You cheap rags stinking fish who wants anything to do with corpses anyway? (To himself) And thus I tried to drown my mourning. (end Script)
      One day Anne Iobst mentioned that Richard Foreman had asked her if she would be willing to be naked onstage. She'd said yes, but it didn't happen. Another time she told me that when she was sixteen she and a friend decided to dye their hair green.
     "When we looked in the mirror it looked so beautiful!"
      I'd always thought of green hair, Mohawk haircuts, nose rings, and other punk paraphernalia to be exhibitionistic nonsense, but listening to Anne, I saw a sweetly innocent kid experimenting to find out who she was.
      None of the actors seem to have any idea what The Birth of the Poet was about. This bothered some but to dancers Valda Setterfield, Anne Iobst, and me, it mattered little. Setterfield had danced with Merce Cunningham who, when asked what his dances represented, answered, "What do you represent?"

     The Birth of the Poet, Part 1. Avant garde artists are the world's ultimate entrepreneurs. They create a product no one ever heard of for a market that doesn't exist. As you might expect, most fail. But they keep at it and a few: Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Anna Sokolow, Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones, carve out a place for themselves.
     Of those mentioned, only Anna Sokolow and Twyla Tharp made dances for musicals and I'd argue that Twyla Tharp alone had commercial success. But don't hold it against her!
      When I joined Martha Graham in 1947, she was avant garde, but by the 1960s was main stream, a triumph for her vision although I think she never stopped wanting to be avant garde. In 1985 I was offered a role in The Birth of the Poet directed by Richard Foreman. Having worked with Graham, I was excited about working with another original artist. He is still very much on the scene; check "Ontological-Hysteric Theater" at http://www.ontological.com/. The Birth of the Poet was an opera and it had to be avant garde because its cast was eight actors and four dancers. No singers.
      On the first day of rehearsal, Richard Foreman sat us down and talked. By lunch I wished I'd brought my tape recorder so the next day I did, also took notes, kept the script, newspaper articles, opening night telegrams, etc. Below are five lines from Act III Scene 6.
           Max: You are not my cock, hatred
           Anne: My vagina is the freshest meat in the market and a hand.
           Valda: My vagina is the blackest shit in the market.
           Zach: My brain is a fire.
           Max: I'm screaming.
      More to come. Keep calm.

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