Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th, 777-1907, August 20-21, 8 pm, $15-30
Theater is a thrashing thing, an ancient life form that perpetually struggles to survive/stay relevant in the current entertainment ecosystem. But even decades ago, before it had to compete with films and computers and video games and televised poker tournaments, a group of incredibly perceptive artists were moving theater to the level it should be at right now (but sadly, isn't). These artists thrived in New York in the '60s and '70s and were led largely by Richard Foreman, the founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater company, and an experimentalist who favored careening, violent and frequently hilarious juxtapositions of images, sounds and text. Foreman was (and still is) doing the only thing theater has left to offer: a distinctly live experience.
"It was like seeing the inside of somebody's brain onstage," says Foreman Mini-Fest organizer Linda Austin, of the artist's earlier works. Like the randomly firing synapses inside a brain, Foreman doesn't create straight plays, but free-associates ideas and situations that may or may not connect. His writing process, as described in his own words, involves writing dialogue with "no indication of who is speaking" and "no connection between the pages." Amazingly, Foreman has placed all of these writings online (www.ontological.com) for other artists to sift through and use in any way they see fit. It costs nothing to use the pieces. All Foreman asks is that "you simply notify me, so I can know if this material is stimulating anyone."
For the Foreman Mini-Fest, Austin has invited several stellar theatrical artists from around Portland to choose text off the website and interpret it. Last year the event played to capacity crowds. Highlights included a scene with typewriters chasing each other around on a table, and a filmed performance outside the venue that was broadcast live onto the stage. Participants this year include Liminal Performance Group (whose text/movement deconstructions owe much to Foreman), Hand2Mouth (whose circus theatrics owe little to Foreman, but will be cool all the same), Austin herself, Tiffany Lee Brown, and more.