Ontological to leave St. Mark’s, Incubator Programming to take over

The Ontological-Hysteric Theater announced today that it will cease operations at the theater space at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery at the end of the 2009-2010 season (June 30, 2010). Since taking up a permanent home at St. Mark’s Theater in 1992, the Ontological has presented annual theater works by Richard Foreman, whose trademark “total theater” unites elements of the performing arts, visual art, philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature and, in recent years, film. “My aesthetic remains the same, 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,” said the playwright and director.

[more after the jump]

Mr. Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater will continue to function. While not eliminating the possibility of occasional theatrical production, it will focus on film/video work under the sub-set of the International Bridge Project. Under the co-leadership of Foreman and previous Ontological administrator Sophie Haviland, the Bridge Project was established in 2004 to promote international art exchange between countries around the world through workshops, symposiums, theater productions, visual art, performance and multimedia events. Foreman and Haviland have already filmed material in nine countries around the world (including the U.S.).

Starting with Zomboid in 2006, most of Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric productions have incorporated the projection of video footage generated through Bridge workshops as a kind of “film-score” for the live performance. He is interested in further exploring this medium, as well as other projects. Foreman’s first video feature, Speaking for Dead People, is nearing completion, and he is starting editing on two new projects—one shot in Bucharest, Zurich and Denmark, and a second shot at SUNY Buffalo in New York. The Ontological does not have immediate plans to seek a new permanent home, but will stay intact as an organization as Foreman takes his next steps.

In addition to presenting Richard Foreman’s theater works, the Ontological has served as a home to independent theater artists and companies who share Foreman’s goals and passion for innovative theater. The Incubator has served emerging theater artists with the resources and support necessary to develop long-term, process-oriented, original productions. The Incubator has grown exponentially since its inception, and will now form its own organization, beginning a new lease with St. Mark’s Church in the current performance space as of July 1, 2010. The programs will continue to support independent, experimental performing artists and will be sponsored under the fiscal umbrella of Performing Artservices, Inc.

Since 1993, the emerging theater program at the Ontological has taken many forms, including the Obie-winning Blueprint Series for emerging directors, to the current Incubator, which today includes full productions, festivals, work-in-progress programs, a concert series and artist workshops, roundtables and salons. Several of the theater artists and companies fostered at the Ontological have gone on to successful careers and critical acclaim, including Richard Maxwell (New York City Players), David Herskovits (Target Margin Theater), Young Jean Lee, John Collins (Elevator Repair Service), and Eric Dyer (Radiohole).

In recent years the Incubator has become a beacon of support in the artists community, supplying artists with funds, staff support and total artistic freedom within the walls of the Ontological Theater. The Incubator is as frequent a host to first professional productions as it is to community-lauded works with longer runs. Two years ago, the Incubator initiated structural changes aimed at keeping artists more engaged and supported year-round, through artist roundtables, workshops and salons.

The Incubator has been led by Ontological-Hysteric managing and programming director Shannon Sindelar since 2006, with the support of curators Travis Just, Peter Ksander and Brendan Regimbal. Samara Naeymi joins this group in the transition. Past directors of the programming include Sophie Haviland, who initiated it in 1993, and Morgan von Prelle Pecelli, who reorganized the programming under the name Incubator in 2005. Going forward, the bulk of programming will continue to be devoted to emerging artists, while making room for longer residencies with more established companies. New work development and world premieres will continue to be the focus of the programming.

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