Paradise Hotel

2003-2004 ICE Project Grant
Cal Clements
Comparative Literature

Using Richard Foreman’s play, Paradise Hotel, as a framework for collaboration to bring together readers, actors, and artists in a series of performances. The play interrogates sexuality along philosophical and psychoanalytical lines and explores body-machine interactivity, the displacement of the subject, and the persistence of humanistic fantasies.

Director Joshua Waterstone and cast stunned, seduced, and amused Athens audiences with Richard Foreman’s highly avant-garde (and highly lewd) play Paradise Hotel. Waterstone, a B.A. student in Drama, took over direction of the play from Cal Clements, who moved to New York this past summer.

Though still not widely known, Richard Foreman is the contemporary master of the absurdist stage. He has carried this particular torch since 1969 when he opened the Ontological-Hysterical Theater in New York City. Following Alfred Jarry, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, David Mamet, and Laurie Anderson, his plays reject the layers of normative ideology that masquerade as realism in favor of a raw vision of human subjectivity: We are fragmented, earthy souls caught in broken linguistic structures and automated at the deepest core of our capacity for meaning.

In order to communicate the particular humanity of human automation, Clements/Waterstone collaborated with technical engineer Ben Coolik. Coolik, an MFA candidate at the University of Georgia, designed an interactive sound and light target/lamp for the set of Paradise Hotel. This target/lamp senses the proximity of actors and, as a result, become visually and audibly excited. The target/lamp, when struck, responds enthusiastically with light and sound cues and triggers an air compressor inflating balloons. In this way, the project interrogates the subjectivity at work in non-living structures (such as hotels).

The play utilizes many hand-built set pieces and an assortment of props including an elaborate red velvet patchwork curtain (which Clements used in his play Overhead Dejection), a feather headdress (created by MFA costume designer Cathy Parrot), a rabbit hat, and a series of headset microphones (which are a staple in Richard Foreman plays). Audiences were treated not only to a conceptually challenging play but also to a dazzling assortment of sound effects/music and works of art.