Contact: Robert Allen, 949-854-7115, or email hai@loop.com

"Well, the big problem with democracy is that no one trusts the mob... including the mob." --Pretorian_Guard

The Roman Forum is a series of linked online performances and stage events centered on this year's Democratic National Convention (Aug. 11-19, 2000) and set against the backdrop of Imperial Rome.

This imaginative exploration of the roots of the American political spectacle is conceived and created by artist Antoinette LaFarge and director Robert Allen. The Roman Forum builds on the idea that we are still Roman in our heads, especially when it comes to politics: in our notions of civic virtue; in the particular types of corruption our system is prey to; in our imperial attitude towards the rest of the world. It is affiliated with a larger national project called "Democracy: The Last Campaign."

The Roman Forum seeks to provoke a sense of lively engagement with the often impenetrable and disheartening world of American politics. Similarly, LaFarge and Allen's last online/offline collaboration, Still Lies Quiet Truth, was based on the 1996 presidential campaign and played to sold-out audiences at the 1998 New York International Fringe Festival.

The Roman Forum stage events are being co-produced by Side Street Projects, Los Angeles. Sponsors include the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (Santa Monica), UC Irvine, Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universtät and Global Brain--Bonner Wissenchaftsnacht (Germany), and "Democracy: The Last Campaign" which is being hosted by the Walker Art Center and Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, San Francisco Camerawork, and Hallwalls in Buffalo, New York.

The Roman Forum begins with a series of live, online performances that respond to the Democratic National Convention as it unfolds day by day. The material from these online improvisations will be instantly adapted into a series of stage events at Side Street Live in downtown Los Angeles. Segments from each stage event will be videotaped and uploaded to the web during the week of the Convention for viewing worldwide, completing the cycle from cyberspace to "real life" and back online.

The online component of The Roman Forum is being undertaken by the Plaintext Players, Antoinette LaFarge's net performance group. On June 30th, an online preview of The Roman Forum took place before an audience of 4000 in Bonn, Germany, as part of the "Bonn Science Night: Global Brain--The Evolution of Knowing and Doing." The Plaintext Players are "a collective of artists and writers from around the world [including Marlena Corcoran, Joe Ferrari, Richard Foerstl, Antoinette LaFarge, Lise Patt, and Richard Smoley] who log on from their real locations (Munich, Los Angeles, New York) to a communal text space known as a MOO (Multiuser Object-Oriented Space) and proceed to type in dialogue, action and scenery in a steady flow of improvised theatrics" (New York Times, July 2, 2000). Founded in 1994, the Plaintext Players have presented their provocative shows at venues in the United States and Europe, including Literaturhaus Munich (1999), Documenta X (Germany, 1997), the Venice Biennale (Italy, 1997), Postmasters Gallery (New York, 1996), the Sandra Gering Gallery (New York, 1996 and 1995), the Xavier Lopez Gallery (London, 1995), the 1995 Digital Salon (New York), and the 1995 European Media Arts Festival (EMAF). Plaintext Players founder and director Antoinette LaFarge is an artist, writer, and designer who is assistant professor of digital media in the Studio Art department at UC Irvine. Past work includes web projects, set design, book and type design, and writing on various subjects in such magazines as Wired, Leonardo, and Gnosis.

The texts improvised by the Plaintext Players will be adapted by director Robert Allen and a group of theater actors (Kevin Keaveney, Daniel Lynch-Millner, David Moo, Elizabeth Nafpaktitis, and Helen Wilson) into a fresh restaging of the material that will be presented the same day at Side Street Live. Crucial to these restagings will be the rapidly evolving costume and theater designs orchestrated by designer Michael Oberle. Director Robert Allen just moved to the West Coast from New York, where his recent projects include Dear Anton (Chekhov Now Festival, 1999), The Creditors (New York International Fringe Festival, 1999), "August in January," a festival celebrating August Strindberg's 150th birthday (Theater 22, 1999), Le Ménage (LaMama E.T.C. 1998), Still Lies Quiet Truth (New York International Fringe Festival, 1998), and The Good Night (Theatre for the New City, 1998).

Costume designer Nicole Evangelista¹s recent theater credits include "The Embraceable Me" (Rachel Reiner Productions, NY, 2000), "Richard II" (The Eleventh Hour, NY, 2000), "Finding Louise" (Oberon Theatre Ensemble, NY, 2000), "Between Sets" (Juilliard Dance Division, NY, 2000), and "Cherie" (The Live Bait, Chicago, 1999). She received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Most Outstanding Costume Design of 1999.

Videographer Hilja Keading has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe, with work included in "Made in California (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), "Sunshine and Noire in LA 1960--1997 (Armand Hammer Museum), "Avant Garde Video--The First 25 Years" (Museum of Modern Art, New York), and many other shows. She teaches video at UC Irvine.

The Roman Forum features the music of the popular club band Languis. Languis is currently performing in the Los Angeles area and recording their fifth full-length CD, due to be released in summer 2000.

The Roman Forum is a series of fast-paced experiments in restaging in which LaFarge, Allen, and their collaborators are forging a unique hybrid of fiction, poetry, and vaudeville at the intersection of theater and networked reality. As Allen and LaFarge put it, The Roman Forum is "the next stage in our development of work breaching the boundaries between the Internet and the real world to address the differing perspectives of these two communities. Our work is a dialog between the two worlds. In this project, we are collapsing the time frame in which each speaks to the other to the space of a single day."


Place: Side Street Live, 425 S. Main St., 2nd floor, Los Angeles

Dates: August 11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19 at 8 pm

Tickets: $15 ($12 with parking stub)
students $8 with ID
for reservations: leave a message at 213-620-8895