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Interview with Ken Roht.

I spoke with Ken Roht on the North steps of Union Square Park on 2 May 1998. At the time, he was thinking about coming back to New York to work on the upcoming Richard Foreman production, Paradise Hotel, which was also supposed to feature Tom Fitzpatrick, Juliana Francis, Tony Torn, and Tom Pearl. Ultimately, he and Fitzpatrick would back out of the performance, and Tom Pearl performed in New York but later reneged on his commitment to tour. It seems as though Abdoh managed to get commitments and loyalty from actors who did not give such things lightly.


mufson: Could you begin by telling me a little bit about your performance background and how it is that you became to be working with Reza?

roht:  Yeah, I did mostly song and dance from getting out of high school all the way till about twenty-five in a group called The Young Americans, where I learned a lot about American musical theater movement and all the rest of it.  And did other theater along with that, but

mufson:  What kind of shows would they do?

roht:  Revues, Richard Rogers’ revues, and industrials for Xerox and all kinds of things.  Mostly reviews of all kinds of different dances and singing, choral singing and stuff like that.  Little blue sweaters, little white slacks.

mufson:  I’m sorry, what?

roht:  Blue sweaters and white slacks.  And the girls wear little red pinafores and stuff.  And then I did the Equity Waiver Theater in Los Angeles and all the rest of that.  And Reza…  Tom Fitz [Fitzpatrick] introduced me to Reza.  We were reading the same book, Peter Brooks’ Shifting Point.  And so he said why don’t you meet

mufson:  Who, you and Tom?

roht:  Me and Reza were reading The Shifting Point.  And so Tom said, “You should meet him, da-da-da.”  He was looking for a Hamlet at the time.  But he was really interested in the fact that I had such a extensive musical theater background.  Because that’s ultimately what he wanted from me, what he had to exploit as far as my talents were concerned.  Use all the singing and dancing.

mufson:  And how did he end up exploiting that?

roht:  Through the choreography.  He wanted that choreography, the musical theater choreography.  But I understood after a while that he wanted the steps in a different order so that they became abstracted.  He liked the violence, sort of aggression of American musical theater dance.  Tap and, you know, other sort of staccato movements in the musical theater.  [inaudible][023].  He also like really corny American musical theater tunes, so he was attracted to that.  And I knew a lot of those.  Tom Fitz and I were really good…you know, sources for hokey American tunes.  And again, the choreography is what he was interested in ultimately.  And the fact that I could sing.  He wanted to kind of use that as well.

mufson:  Did you ever choreograph entire shows, or did it more tend to be exerts of particular moments within the shows?  Because a lot of the dances were not out of American musical tradition, but were much more like traditional ethnic dances.

roht:  Later…  There was…  In Father Was a Peculiar Man there were a couple of big…three or four big dance numbers.  And those are the things that I choreographed.  There’s a “Hot Diggidy-Dog Diggidy” that used the whole street in Father Was a Peculiar Man in the meat packing district.  And “Bells are Ringing.”  Just all of the sudden out of the chaos would be something that was more uniform, you know, in the musical therapy.  [inaudible][039], Minamata.  There was just one…  That’s when I started working as a choreographer for him.  There was a little jitter bug sequence that nobody else really could do for him and the choreographer that he had was definitely about modern dance, and so I did that.  Then after that, it was Father Was a Peculiar Man, and did…  That was supposed to be co-choreographed and it just turned out to be myself.

mufson:  Co-choreographed with?

roht:  I don’t know what her name was.  I tried to think of it the other day.  She started working on stuff and it just didn’t stick and Reza didn’t like really anything that she did.  It’s on the poster; there’s a co-choreography credit.  I don’t remember her name.  But again, she was kind of into the soul stuff like that was in Tight Right White and that wasn’t what he was looking for, for that show.  So he wanted to get these whatever, sixty people moving all, you know, sort of in a dance, and did that.  And then Bogeyman, there were a lot of musical theater numbers that, you know, were sort of set apart.  So it’s basically when everybody starts dancing the same way, the ones…the shows that I choreographed, that was when I was doing what I was doing.  And then Quotations, you know all the way through there’s little dances and I’m pretty much responsible for those, except for the last dance Reza did.

mufson:  Did that himself?

roht:  Yeah.  There’s a weird sort of relentless dance at the end of Quotations that…it’s really powerful, and he choreographed that.

mufson:  What do you know about Reza’s background in terms of choreographing and learning choreography?  Is that just something he picked up on his own?

roht:  No.  I think he has some background in…  I laugh only because he’s so scattered about the way he would sort of try to get everybody to do that sort of thing.  But I think he had

mufson:  To do what sort of…  What do you mean?

roht:  Just to try to get everybody to move in a choreographic way was…  Just to me it was…  I mean it was…  He didn’t have the language of doing that.  He could tell, you know, masses of people what to do constantly, but when it came to dance, because he had…because it wasn’t…  Dance, that sounds so high.  But I’m just saying that he didn’t have a vocabulary for dance you know.

mufson:  He didn’t know a chaîné turn from a pas de deux.

roht:  That’s what I’m saying, it’s not that high.  It’s when you try to get people to do things in a uniform way, especially to music, there’s an approach.  And it was just a…  I don’t know, it was…  Anyway…  I think he studied Eastern, Middle Eastern dance and things like that.  But it never is choreography.  I mean he never was a choreographer.  You know, that wasn’t his thing.

mufson:  But he managed to do it a couple of times.

roht: Oh, yeah.  I mean yeah.  I mean he’s highly creative.  Reza Abdoh, highly creative.  But he just…  Yeah, and taught some dances and you know, got people to do what he wanted to do.  If you were really centered on the dance, I mean I’m sure he would’ve been a fantastic choreographer because that would’ve been his preoccupation and he would’ve been much more sort of zeroed in on it, much more concentrated on it, on a particular dance number, where that wasn’t really what he wanted to do.

mufson:  How would you describe your relationship in terms of collaboration when you were trying to figure out choreography?  You would choreograph something and bring it back to him and…  How would it work?

roht:  Yeah.  Very early on he was very generous about that because he didn’t know what he wanted and he didn’t have a vocabulary in dance and especially what he wanted, the sort of musical theater type, American musical theater type dance.  I got to do a lot of what I wanted to do.  At first, like for the Father Was a Peculiar Man, it was definitely touch and go.  It was the first time that I definitely was approaching it as a choreographer, and so I was very nervous about it.  But I did “The Bells are Ringing” and showed him what I had in mind and he was just overjoyed that I got the humor of what he was after and sort of the sexual innuendo of what he wanted and just the dance, the type of dance.

mufson:  Well how did you get that?  Was that from you reading…  You picked that up from his script or from what you knew of him from Minamata?  How did you pick up on what he wanted?

roht:  Yeah.  From Minamata.  I was clueless before that.  Peep Show was the only other show I did before Minamata with him.  I had no idea what he was about or what he was looking at.  But after the long rehearsal process and workshop process and the performance process of Minamata, I got an understanding vaguely of…  I never understood what Reza was really after and even what his shows meant at all.  That’s wasn’t my forte.  But I did understand the musicality of what he wanted.  And most always as a performer and as a choreographer.  I understood the musicality of his work.  And I knew that sexual innuendo would be good with him, you know, he’d get a big kick out of that.  And then just…  And that it stuck to musical theater, but that it was abstracted somehow.  And that a lot of people would look good and clean doing it.  That was a big important thing for him.

mufson:  What do you mean by abstracted?

roht:  You know, in musical theater, it’s a tradition.  This step goes after this step.  You know, and you kind of have the same sort of lines and you do that sort of…you follow a certain sort of preconceived idea of what the dance should look like and how it should sort of flow.  You know, there’s a sort of tradition of dance.  And so the idea is to take a step and put it next to a step that wouldn’t normally be there, or take an arm that’s doing something completely abstract while the rest of your body is doing the normal step so that in some way, it gets beat up a little bit.  And that was a much more interesting event to both of us.  Eventually.  I mean I didn’t understand that at first.  But I got the idea.  Just mess it up.  You know, as long as it’s clean and [inaudible][121], it’s a good deal.

mufson:  How did the work change over the years that you knew him?  Did it seem to you like the HIV diagnosis had an influence over either the tone of the work or the process?  Was it more just his growth that he would’ve had as an artist anyway?  What was the direction that his work moved in for you?  Was there a kind of development that you could trace or was he just constantly trying to do new things and moving not in one direction, but in many?

roht:  I think Reza’s work was all about rebellion, all about anger and all about disease.  And I think Reza was always about disease and self-destruction.

mufson:  With Minamata also?

roht:  Yeah.  With all of his work.  And with his personality.  He was

mufson:  A pre-diagnosis.

roht:  Yeah.  He was a self-destructive person.  And definitely had his mind much more on what was death and then redemption and then afterlife.  You know.  I don’t think he had a real…  It’s my judgment, but I don’t think he had a real sort of life burning…you know, up kind of personality.  Yeah, I think that’s the way his work would’ve gone.  It was definitely getting more violent.  It was getting violating as it went along.  I do think that his dying had a lot to do with what I’d consider his most lyrical show, Quotations.  I mean I thought that was…it was just beautiful and transcendent.  It was much more…  It was much more spiritual.  And spiritual in a sweet way than it was…than any of his other work.  And I think that had to do with him having to let go of a lot of this stuff that was feeding his work, that was making it very successful because people are junkies for that kind of stuff.

mufson:  What were the rehearsals like?  Was there a process as such, a method of rehearsing that was consistent in all of the shows that you worked on?  Like how would you approach the…  Because you weren’t just a choreographer, you were an actor, how did you approach the text and the interpretations of individual lines and scenes?

roht:  That changed a lot.  But one thing that was consistent was that Reza came in, he staged the show, he told you what to do, and eventually, you know, if he works with the same people, you knew how to do it.  But at first it was just, you know, he’d show you what to do, you did it and it just went on like that.  And you start filling it up with what you would consider nuance or what you thought he wanted as far as, you know, a character, all that.  But it was definitely very prescribed.  You know, other people like to thing “Oh, some big collaborative orgy, and it wasn’t.  It wasn’t.  You know, Reza knew what he wanted.  If he didn’t get what he wanted, he told you, you know.  It wasn’t like “Oh, yeah, I see you’ve come up with that.  How interesting.  I’ll go with it.”  It wasn’t that.  If he like it, sure, that’s great.  And eventually, with the people that worked with him a lot, that was the case, that you knew what he wanted so you did that.  And it was fulfilling because he liked it and he’s brilliant.  You know, that’s a very fulfilling equation.

But he came in and he staged shows.  Text.  Text was always different.  The text situation was always different.  Sometimes there was a script and sometimes there was just pieces.  Mostly there was just pieces of text that you…you know, “Here, do this.  And I don’t know where it goes.”  But he did know where it went, you know.  Then you just…

mufson:  Then things would get filled in gradually over the course of rehearsals?

roht:  Yeah.  I found that he started from the top of the show, he staged it…or, you know, pretty much from the top.  He started with sections, he knew how they wanted to go so he just kind of did that.  When…  Like in Minamata, there was a lot more dance and somebody else was responsible for it but he knew where those…the dances were and what was on either side of them.  But that wasn’t the more…  Like Bogeyman for example, it was three floors and so busy and everybody was doing something.  And I felt like he knew what he wanted.  Or at least he was able to really channel in the moment very successfully at that point.  I think that was his strongest…  That was the show that really represented that the strongest, was that he was just channeling on the spot and he channeled very well.  He’s good at that.

mufson:  So you were a regular member of the Dar A Luz Company, right?  As such.

roht:  Yeah.  I wouldn’t…  I’m not sure.  Because after the…  When they called…  They started calling themselves Dar A Luz after Bogeyman.  And after Bogeyman, I wasn’t involved with the next couple of shows.  I think Dar A Luz was a very important time for the people who were here in New York to come together as an ensemble.  That was very powerful.

mufson:  Why?

roht:  Because they went through a lot of shit together, trying to pull this stuff together, really identifying themselves as a company.  And finally, Reza needed more help than his producers and whatever could fulfill, so these performers were definitely an intricate part of the success of the company.  And they went through a lot of shit together and they learned some real ensemble work together.  When I came back in for Quotations, I was definitely…I felt like I was an odd man out because I didn’t go through that with them, something that I think that really drew the company together.  They did some really explosive work together.  It was very kind of raw and exciting work.  Then I came back and it was…  I saw how they were really doing their thing.  It was very exciting to see it, but it wasn’t my esthetic.

mufson:  You hadn’t…  You weren’t in on Tight Right White at all?

roht:  No.  Nor Law.

mufson:  Why was that?

roht:  It wasn’t…  I was in LA.  I didn’t want to starve in New York in the cold and do that.  You know, I did a show, didn’t do a show, did a show, didn’t do a show.  I got really psychically beat up after each show.  They were very intense for me and I didn’t…generally just didn’t do the next show.  I needed that time to heal and to decide that it wasn’t…you know, Reza wasn’t the Devil and that I…you know, that I actually benefited from this fuckin’ terrible ordeal.  You know, ultimately, obviously it was very, very beneficial.

mufson:  Now what do you know about Reza as a person, how his personal life influenced the work?  Do you think that that’s relevant in terms of a person who’s viewing it, that a person should know about that, or that the works can be fully appreciated on their own terms?

roht:  I think that everybody needs to know that Brenden was by his side the entire fucking time doing everything that Reza just couldn’t get to.  I think that that’s very important to know.  That for years Brenden was completely to do the laundry and to do, you know, all the other things.  And then to be in his shows as well.  That’s very important.  That was very important to his work and they loved each other very, very much.  It was a weird relationship.  It was very…  It looked very sort of unhealthy, co-dependent, destructive on the outside, whatever.  But they were into it, so whatever.  And Reza got a lot of fulfillment from Brenden’s family, who was very embracing to Reza.  So there was comfort there and some security, which I’m sure is always appreciated.  So the Brenden factor is huge.

Personal life.  He was really generous about bringing performers into his house.  I lived with Brenden and Reza for a year in Venice and then off and on around the periphery when I was sort of vagabonding around the country.  And that was cool.  And he cooked a lot.  Cooked really well.  And I think that was interesting and important to his work too.  It’s all sort of the same creative process.  He was able to really take a lot of ingredients and things and whatever and make it into some amazing food.  And he was very generous that way.  It was the same to me.  I learned a lot from his cooking about how to direct and choreograph.

mufson:  Seriously?

roht:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Because you could…  The way he put stuff together and the ease and the finesse with which he would prepare food, you could see the creative process.  It all made sense to you.  Whereas some people are not…are more scattered in the kitchen or whatever or the food doesn’t turn out as good, you know.  This was just a…  It was very sort of, again, Zen.  It was channeled.  He just did the right thing.  He created major meals for parties and whatever, and that was good.  I don’t know much more [inaudible][202].  I don’t know much more about his personal life.

mufson:  Abdoh differed from most…or from a lot of HIV positive artists in that he disregarded a lot of the community pleas that the artistic work be sex positive or encouraging a positive outlook.  And I think the work also avoided making explicit demands for tolerance of increased AIDS funding like, you know, Larry Kramer Show or something like that.  I’m wondering, you know, was that discussed very much?  And did other HIV members of the company respect that?  Was that outlook talked about?  I mean you mentioned that he’s not, you know, particularly…wasn’t particularly positive.

roht:  But always important in whatever issues that he was, you know, stabbing at or maiming, he was definitely…he was making a point.  And I think a lot of his points had to do with homo politics.  Always, you know.  And so in that way.  He didn’t say it in a diplomatic, you know, political friendly way, but he said it very strongly.  And I think in a way that people heard as opposed to “Please give us more money for AIDS.”  You know, it’s just like…  It was definitely attacking the system.  And that’s what needed to be reflected, was the system.  The system that didn’t work.  And that’s…  I mean I think in that way, he did…  Yeah.  He spoke his mind about it.  I think he did address it very completely.

mufson:  Now could you speak a little bit about…a little bit more about the move from LA to New York?  You were here for Father and then that was…

roht:  After Minamata, I was going to follow Reza to the ends of the earth, you know.  And that was…  It was a powerful thing.  It was very, very hard.  Minamata is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  But it…  You know, when you’re in the…  When you’re studying with genius like that, you go.  And so I went here.  And it was great.  I had never been to New York and they were going to pay for me to be in New York and da-da-da-da-da.  So, yeah, I was going to go to New York and do Father.  That turned out to be incredible.  But I’d done Bogeyman and, you know, it was…  I had lived with Reza for a year and, you know, we knew each other, we were friends.  We had a…  You know, it was enough already of the Reza experience and I needed to create my own work and that was very important to me also.  So that was happening.  And again, I didn’t…  There was no…  For Father and for Quotations, they provided housing, they provided a good paycheck, da-da-da.  For Law and Tight Right White, which was going to be their startup, you know the dar a luz startup.  And there wasn’t the theater, you know Los Angeles Theater Center behind them or En Garde Arts.  Nobody was behind them except for the board and all the money or whatever that came from that and his grants and things.  But it was a much different sort of configuration.  And just at that time, I wasn’t going to make myself completely uncomfortable, miserable I would say, in order to learn some things that I think I had already learned from Reza.  I don’t know that I was completely happy doing Quotations. That wasn’t a very positive experience for me.

mufson:  Why?

roht:  I was done.  I was done.  And I think it was very powerful for me to experience Reza’s dying.  That was beautiful and I’m glad that I was part of that.  You know, on a very personal level, that was…  But I stepped way back too when he was actually really dying because that was the end of my time with him and that was cool.  I was supposed to be just a choreographer for Tales of Infamy which is going to be…that was going to be sort of an unheard of thing.  We got to the point where I could just be a choreographer and not in it and I was definitely help him get people moving around on stage.  And help him with the casting and things, which, you know, that wasn’t my role ever before, but he was going to need it you know.  So that was going to be interesting and I was looking forward to that.  That didn’t happen obviously.  But the work, I was no longer interested in the work.  In Quotations.  I guess it was a beautiful show.  I didn’t care, I hated it.  Don’t tell anybody.  No, I didn’t…  You know, I guess…  Everybody says what a beautiful show it is and that’s great.  I didn’t have a good time.  I didn’t…  I was no longer in the mindset for it.

mufson:  Well see, you’re talking more in terms of performing in it than in terms of viewing it.

roht:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  I’ve only…  I had only seen Law of Remains and Hip-Hop Waltz.  And I sobbed all the way through Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice.  And then Law, of course, is just very impressive.  So I hadn’t seen a lot of his work; I was real happy to see those things.  Yeah.  Doing it.  It was a pain in ass.  And I wasn’t…  You know, I like to be more featured than I was.  I wasn’t featured.  But I didn’t want to be…  I didn’t care.  [inaudible][268].  There.  There, I said it.

mufson:  Did you go on any of the tours?

roht:  The Quotations tour.

mufson:  You went on the Quotations tour?  And what was…  Did you notice any kind of difference in terms of the response, European versus American?

roht:  Well, we got different audiences I would think.  In…  You know, in America the theater is all about…  The theater that I…  In LA, a lot of his audience in the bigger houses were older people who went to the theater a lot and they were the only ones who went to the theater a lot, were the older people in Los Angeles.  In New York, you got a much more young, kind of a hip audience.  And then in Europe, because people go to the theater much more often and it was a much more hip audience, so they appreciated it I guess.  The difference is they were a younger crowd.  I don’t know, they seemed to be excited.  You know nobody was throwing themselves at anybody’s feet or anything.  It was well received.  You got a lot of posters everywhere you know.  I mean it was, you know, big press.  They like them in Europe.

mufson:  You acted in at least one of Reza’s videos, right?  Was there a difference in how we work on video as opposed to how we work on film?  And how do you characterize it?

roht:  The difference between video and film?

mufson:  Well, how he would…  Was there…  Did Reza act differently as a video director than he did as a theater director, or was it essentially the same kind of creative process?

roht:  Well film he was much different than he was with the video.  But the video he was…  Yeah, it was different because it’s a different medium and there weren’t all these…  It was much more…  It was a smaller process.  You know, there were only a couple of people and a video camera and some lights.  He didn’t…  It wasn’t a huge overblown thing where he had to, you know, orchestrate a lot of people and lot of elements and things.  So he could be much more gorilla about it.  He wanted specific images.  I think he was much more…  He was simple and quaint, if that’s…  Quaint.  Yeah, he was quaint.  That’s not a derogatory thing as a video artist.  He liked simple sweet images I think, you know.  And Blind Owl, I think, even.  But again, it was a different operation because there were a lot of people to orchestrate in that situation.

mufson:  Were you in The Blind Owl?

roht:  Just a small scene.  Yeah.  But video, you just…  Yeah, I was in three of the videos and they…  It was fun.  It was really…  Because it was all spur of the moment and you could create a world.  There was a Sleeping with the Devil or something.  Have you seen that?

mufson:  Yeah.

roht:  The one where Tom Fitz is a…drag and…  Is that right?  He was in drag and I play this sort of Richard Ramirez character.

mufson:  Uh-huh.

roht:  These sunglasses.  And there’s these dildos.  Like…

mufson:  No.  Maybe I missed that one.

roht:  Liver on his stomach and all this stuff.

mufson:  Uh-huh.

roht:  It was a Richard Ramirez rip-off thing.  It was very intense.  It was…  Maybe it’s The Weeping SongThe Weeping Song?

mufson:  Uh-huh.

roht:  Did you see that one?

mufson:  I saw a couple after he…

roht:  Well that was a vortex.  But we all walked away from that really freaked out.  It was like…  We had like…  We had like resurrected some weird dead ghost.  It was really intense.  But it was nice because there was only three or four of us, you know, kind of doing this weird you know late night project.

mufson:  So after all is said and done, what kind of influence has the experience with Reza and dar a luz had on your on work?  Because you’ve been trying to work as a director for years now, right?  You were doing your own work in LA at the same time you were working with Reza, weren’t you?

roht:  Yeah.  Reza taught me how to be an artist.  You know, I had no idea what visceral meant or kinetic meant.  Didn’t know what those words meant.  And the way he approached it, the collage.  His, again, channeling sort of inspired collage work, that was very important to experience and to try to emulate.  My aesthetic is much different.  It’s much more whimsical and sort of psychedelic.  That’s not his thing at all.  And I didn’t come from his rather…from his harsh background, so I didn’t

mufson:  In his what?

roht:  Harsh upbringing.  I don’t know, whatever that is.  The thing that made him just really able to access a lot of his dark side.  I didn’t have as much of that.  But I learned how to be an artist from him.  And learned a lot about what was interesting about choreography, which is cool.  I was doing everything by the book before I met him.  And then after that, I understood that doing things by the book was not interesting.

mufson:  Do you also work on writing your own works now?  Or do you generally do…found…perform found material…direct on material?

roht:  Yeah, I write my own stuff.  Reza taught me how me how to be megalomaniac.  And again, I don’t do it quite as diligently as he did.  He was good at it.  He was an asshole.  But he taught me how to do everything.  I mean…  He didn’t teach me how to do all the little things, I’m just saying he did everything, the writing and just sort of took control of the whole thing.  He was a visionary in that.  And in that, you get permission to do so.  And to learn how to operate that way.  I’m finding that that’s not serving me because I’m not as…  I don’t need to do it.  I don’t need to be a drill sergeant.  Or, you know, a…  Eventually he didn’t have to be oppressive about it either.  I think at first though he had to wield a lot of control and a lot of anger in order to get his way basically.  But after a while, of course he didn’t have to do that because he had around him a lot of people who respected and understood what he wanted and they were much…that was much easier to give him what he wanted.  But I did learn how to take control and to have a vision and to do everything myself.  That was positive for a while.

mufson:  How did you even know Tom Fitzpatrick? One of the other things that I find kind of interesting and peculiar:  It’s just a mix strange mix of individuals that you have in all of those shows.  To me it seems like very idiosyncratic personalities come through a lot that you often don’t really…  And a certain rawness and peculiarness that doesn’t often come through in other theater companies or in other productions.

roht:  Nobody, no other theater artist I’ve ever experienced is as perceptive as Reza and as willing to capitalize on people’s damaged natures you know.  He was really great at taking what was damaged about you and blowing it up, putting it on stage, calling it an archetype and having those people battle it out.  And generally I guess because he possessed a lot of those characteristics.  So he was very good at bringing out, you know, what was vulnerable about you or what you…you know, what was dark about you.  And first of all to perceive it, which is very powerful.  You get a lot of these hacks who have no idea what human nature on any kind of a…an intense level is, and he did.

mufson:  You get a lot of these what?  What was the word you used?

roht:  Hacked.  Hacks.  Lot of hacks.  Who don’t deal in human nature.  Who deal with, you know, the way things look or whatever.  And he was great about, again, perceiving what was going on with you and bringing it way out and making your miserable and calling it theater and it was beautiful.  It was beautiful.  You learned a lot about it, just like self-flagellation.  You’re going to get something out of it.

mufson:  How did that apply to you?

roht:  Well, when Minamata—

mufson:  In a nutshell.

roht:  Yeah.  I think in a nutshell and I’m, you know.  In Minamata it just like having to be simulated naked, simulated and [inaudible][388] by Tony about [inaudible][390] in the center of the stage, sort of as Christ with my entire family in the front row of the balcony while Reza is in the wings saying, “Lift up your legs.  Lift up your legs.  Really look like you’re getting fucked.”  You know, it’s like “Well, you know what…”  I wanted to.  I couldn’t.  You know?  And that was the process, you know?  It was just always going further and further and further with things you never thought you’d do, but things that…  I mean ultimately I’m sure I was dealing with, you know, being out to my parents and all the rest of that.  And I’m that that was one really clear way of them seeing that I wasn’t going to be shy about the process.  They learned.  I learned.  And just constantly pushing me to do things that were psychically damaging.  But you heal.  And when you heal, you heal stronger and wiser.  You know, being chained to a bed and, you know, with the entire world around you as I’m being tortured by Tom Fitz [Fitzpatrick] and like clothespins and Reza’s got a microphone right in my face and he’s…you know, I’m supposed to

mufson:  —in Father Was a Peculiar Man—

roht:  I’m supposed to tell them about my experience of God that I had when I lived in Sedona for eight months you know.  All the while, these people were laughing at me and I’m supposed to tell them “Shut up!”  You know.  It was…  Just like I said, it was very intense.  And stuff I never thought I’d be doing.  Then after that, I was supposed to be…  I was supposed to be in Hip-Hop.  I was supposed to be Julia’s part.  He asked me to do it and I couldn’t do it.  Just couldn’t put myself in that situation.  It was a great part, too.  I’m sorry I missed out on that.  But Julia was fantastic.  Heavy.  Very heavy…  Very heavy stuff.  It was all very spiritually based for me.  Working with him was not just acting in theater, it was much more.  It was a much heavier psychic level for me.  And maybe it was for other people, maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know.  I never really understood how people approached his work.

I met Tom Fitzpatrick at a…  We worked together.  I got a job somehow and we met each other working at [inaudible][417], which is a marketing research group.  And we’d sit around chatting all day and he said, “I know this prince, this Persian prince you must meet.”  You know, and Reza was looking for a Hamlet at the time and I had long hair and I was smoking a lot of pot and I was really kind of blah.  And, you know…  So that was perfect for Reza’s Hamlet at the time.  And so Tom Fitz and I ended up being in the first opera show together, Peep Show, which was a bunch of motel rooms and he and I were in the same motel room and we did our thing together.

mufson:  He never did a production of Hamlet though?

roht:  No.  But Hamlet was this character that played opposite Dr. Gene Scott and like Marlene Dietrich.  Tom Fitz played Dr. Gene Scott and Marlene Dietrich and I played Hamlet.  And it was all about sort of educating Hamlet to the fact that Hamlet was…you know.  He kept telling him “Snap out of it, wuss.”  You know.  That was the big line.  It was like wake up and smell the bacon.  Stop being a…you know, a dope addict and get militant.  That was what my [inaudible][432] was about.  So Tom and I became friends that way.  We became very good friends. He’s my family.

mufson:  So are you…  Now are you trying to also build up a company of your own?

roht:  No, I’m done with that.  I want to create…  I don’t know what I want to do.  I want to…  I’m interesting in acting and movies, that’s what I want to do.  But no, creating a company of theater…  I’m not…  I’m done needing to have artistic control of things.  I did that for a time, I enjoyed the process.  But it’s more about…much more for me about letting go and just doing what’s really simple.  Not sort of on the grand scheme of things, but sort of what’s more Zen.  I enjoy performing.

mufson:  So you’re not planning on continuing to direct?  Or you’re trying to switch more to acting, or what?

roht:  I don’t know.  I am going to direct I’m sure.  I’m part of this Lincoln Center Director’s Lab coming up, and sure, I’ll be directing.  And I’m going to be choreographing and whatever.  I want to use my body to perform in movies.  Okay?  That’s what I want to…  Well, you know…  And the idea is not to have any desire at all, just to sort of take what comes.  Isn’t that the idea?

mufson:  I guess so.

roht:  Yeah, right.  I don’t know.

mufson:  All right.  Well, thanks.

roht:  Thank you.

This page was originally published on Oct. 8, 2009, as the unedited transcription of an audio recording.
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