Watch out! Richard Schechner returns, armed with another series of shocks and surprises: the world premiere of “Imagining O” at Peak Performances, September 10-13. Transforming the notoriously erotic French novel “Story of O” into a multi-site, immersive production, the 80 year-old director’s most recent work promises to reaffirm Peak’s commitment to the ultra and outré challenge, and the director’s reputation for creating uncomfortable joy in his audiences. The show opens the Kasser Theater’s 10th anniversary season.
Assigning the Kasser stage a minor role, the 90-minute production will colonize the theater’s lobbies, amphitheater and backstage areas. The show, which employs a cast of 14 women and one lone man, unites the women who died in Shakespeare’s plays, most especially Ophelia, whose character Schechner merges with O from Pauline Réage’s exquisitely erotic French novel, “Story of O.” Like Réage’s 1954 book, “Imagining O” is designed to raise questions of propriety as it explores ideas of sexual submission, abjection and power.
“Imagining O” was conceived by Richard Schechner, and co-directed by Schechner and Benjamin Mosse. Chris Muller designed the environments; Oana Botez, the costumes. Films and photographs were created by Matt Bockelman, and Roanna Mitchell is the director of choreography and movement.
Where To Go
The Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University is located at 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey 07043. Tickets are $20, and are available at the box office, www.peakperfs.org, or by calling 973-655-5112. The performance will take place on September 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30PM; September 13 at 8:00PM
Charter bus service is provided from New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal–arcade on 41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues–to the Alexander Kasser Theater ($10 per person, roundtrip) for all Saturday and Sunday performances. Bus reservations may be made by calling 973-655- 5112 or by visiting www.peakperfs.org. For train service, available only on weekdays, go online to www.njtransit.com or call 973-275-5555.
For restaurants close to the Alexander Kasser Theater, visit www.destinationmontclair.com.
Programs in this season are made possible in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts; the new Jersey State Council on the Arts/Dept. of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the National Dance Project (NDP) of the New England Foundation for the Arts.
RICHARD SCHECHNER directs both new and classical plays in New York and around the world. Schechner founded The Performance Group and East Coast Artists. With The Performance Group, Schechner directed many productions including Dionysus in 69, Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime, Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, Seneca’s Oedipus, David Gaard’s The Marilyn Project, Terry Curtis Fox’s Cops, and Jean Genet’s The Balcony.
With East Coast Artists, which Schechner founded in 1991, he has directed his Faust/Gastronome (his own adaptation of the Faust story), Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Hamlet both in New York and then a new production in Shanghai, YokastaS Redux (co-authored with Saviana Stanescu), and the work-in-progress version of Imagining O. In addition to his ECA work, Schechner has directed Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (in Hindi in New Delhi), August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for the Grahamstown Festival, South Africa, and Aeschylus’s Oresteia (in Mandarin in Taipei). Schechner’s Chinese production of Hamlet played not only in Shanghai but toured to Poland and Romania. The work-in-progress version of Imagining O played in the University of Kent, UK and also in Kerala, India.
In addition to his directing, Schechner conducts performer training workshops featuring “rasaboxes,” a technique he devised in the 1990s fusing Asian performance theories and practices with Western psychophysical training. Schechner has led workshops in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Rasaboxes training is also offered by certified instructors in various parts of the world.
Schechner is University Professor and Professor of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University and editor of TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies. He is the author of many books including Environmental Theater, Between Theater and Anthropology, The End of Humanism, Performance Theory, The Future of Ritual, Performance Studies: An Introduction, The New Third World of Performance (to be published in October, 2014). His books and articles have been translated into many languages.
BENJAMIN MOSSE (co-director) has directed over 55 pieces internationally and in the United States, including the New York debut of the noted Fisher Ensemble’s opera Kocho at the Galapagos Art Space, Manjula Padmanabhan’s Harvest; and Saviana Stanescu’s Innovative Theatre Award winning Waxing West at La MaMa E.T.C., which subsequently performed at the Sibiu International Theater Festival, Teatrul ACT in Bucharest, and the Dramalabbet in Stockholm. He recently worked with Pop UP Theatrics for their Long Distance Affair, and this year will be collaborating again with the Fisher Ensemble’s premiere of Kakitsubata in Germany and Seattle.
As artistic director of East Coast Artists he works with Richard Schechner developing international new work; their collaboration of Hamlet has performed at the Shanghai Experimental Theatre Festival, Grotowski Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, and the International Shakespeare Festival in Craiova, Romania. Their most recent work, Imagining O, was seen at the Jarman Center for the Performing Arts in Canterbury and the Kerala International Theater Festival in India.
He received his BS from Northwestern University, MA in Performance Studies from NYU, and MFA in Directing from Yale School of Drama.
ROANNA MITCHELL (movement director) is a movement artist based in the UK and working internationally. She is associate artist with east coast artists (ECA) and co-founder of artists’ collective Allied Productions. Recent movement direction, choreography and performance work includes international performance series Resting Place (Platform-7 Events, UK and France, 2014-16); Here Is Where We Meet (Accidental Collective, Canterbury); Through The Grapevine (Allied Productions, Canterbury); Imagining O (International Theatre Festival Kerala, India), Up The Line (Platform-7 Events, London & South East) and Tapescape (Platform-7 Events, London).
CHRIS MULLER (set design) is a designer and artist based in Brooklyn. With Richard Schechner’s East Coast Artists, Chris designed sets Faust Gastronome, Amerika, and Three Sisters. He also designed Richard’s epic staging of The Oresteia with the Contemporary Legends Theater of Taipei. He has designed sets for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Juilliard Opera, the Manhattan School of Music, and Laurie Anderson’s Scenes from the Nerve Bible world tour.
As an exhibit designer he has created exhibits for the Museum for African Art, the Jewish Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the World War II Museum, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, the Yale University Art Gallery, and many others.
He is currently a Visiting Associate Arts Professor at NYU’s Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film.
MATT BOCKELMAN (video) is a documentary cinematographer and director. He has created original documentary films for the New York City Ballet, Madison Square Garden, MTV, and East Coast Artists; and shot commercial campaigns for ESPN, Allstate, SAP, and Humana. Matt founded Fly’s Eye Films in 2010 with the goal of creating substantive documentaries, objectively rendered and with a strong visual aesthetic. Since then, Fly’s Eye Films has produced award-winning documentary shorts that have been shown internationally at film festivals including Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, The Hamptons International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and HotDocs. In addition, Fly’s Eye Films is actively involved in creating original content and short documentaries for non-profit organizations around New York City. Matt Bockelman is also an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
OANA BOTEZ (costume design), a native of Romania, has designed for major theater, opera, and dance companies including The National Theater of Bucharest and was involved in different international theater festivals such as the Quadrennial Scenography Show in Prague. Oana is part of the first Romanian theater design catalogue, Scenografica. Since 1999, when she moved to New York, her collaborations in theater, opera, film, and dance include Robert Woodruff, Richard Foreman, Maya Beiser, Richard Schechner, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Andrei Serban, Blanka Zizka, Brian Kulick, Zelda Fichlander, Annie-B Parson & Paul Lazar, Ken Rus Schmoll, Jackson Gay, Rebecca Taichman, Eric Ting, Razvan Dinca, Karin Coonrod, Jay Scheib, Kristin Marting, Evan Ziporyn, Eduardo Machado,Gus Solomon Jr. & Paradigm, Carmen De Lavallade, Jackson Gay, Doug Elkins, Dusan Tynek, Daniel Alexander Jones, David Levine, Rania Ajami,Gisela Cardenas, Tony Speciale, Pavol Liska& Kelly Copper, Matthew Neenan, Molissa Fenley, Zishan Ugurlu, Michael Sexton, Michael Barakiva, Pig Iron Company, Play Company, Charles Moulton, Ripe Time, among others. MFA in Design from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts. Princess Grace Recipient, NEA/TCG Career Development Program. Barrymore Award. www.oanabotez.com