Baryshnikov Arts Center Resident Artist

Terrence O’Brien

BAC Space Resident Artist

Theater director Terrence O’Brien will combine documentary and fantasy in Investigating Sex, a dramatic adaptation of manuscripts from 12 conversations about sex held by the Paris Surrealists between 1928 and 1932. In this adaptation, these conversations are instigated by, observed by, and interfered with by three supernatural females from Greek mythology: Artemis, Pandora, and Thaleia.


Leadership support for BAC has been provided by Altman Foundation, Anonymous, James H. Duffy, The Enoch Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Princess Grace Foundation-USA, Jerome Robbins Foundation, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Thompson Family Foundation, and Dance/ NYC’s New York City Dance Rehearsal Space Subsidy Program, made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Ford Foundation provides leadership support for international residencies.

Lead support of dance programming at BAC is provided by the Rudolf Nureyev Endowment.

Terrence O'Brien
Artist Bio

Terrence O'Brien

Terrence O’Brien is the Founding Artistic Director of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and was that company’s artistic leader for 27 years. He directed more than 30 of HVSF’s productions, including most of the plays of Shakespeare and his own adaptations of A Christmas Carol and An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe.

He grew HVSF into a nationally recognized theatre festival and his directing work garnered significant critical acclaim in major press including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He developed and evolved HVSF’s signature performance style, and he remains deeply dedicated to the idea that Shakespeare’s plays can be made accessible without sacrificing any of their depth and integrity. O’Brien developed his one-man theatre project, Popular Mechanics, in residence at BAC, and performed it at Bedlam in NYC, at Philipstown Depot Theatre in Garrison, NY, and at University of North Georgia in Gainesville. He directed Pimm’s Mission at 59E59 for Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. In 2017, O’Brien directed a cast of 26 prisoners in his own adaptation of On The Waterfront at Sing Sing Correctional Facility under the auspices of Rehabilitation Through The Arts. He directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Stratford Arts Commission in Stratford, CT; Streamers for the Los Angeles Performers Theater; The Caretaker at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) Studio in San Francisco; and the premieres of The Dolly and Hostel Witness at the 29th Street Project in NYC. He has taught acting and directed student work at ACT, UC Berkeley and The Julliard School. O’Brien is the director of the New World Shakespeare Lab in NYC, a group that seeks to evolve a more spontaneous style of acting Shakespeare. He and his wife, Jane Praeger, live in Manhattan with their daughter, Jenne, and son, Leo.

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Terrence O'Brien

BAC Story by Dan O'Neil

Terrence O'Brien

May 31, 2019

My first visit finds Terrence O’Brien – Terry, in the room – and a group of actors around a table, deep in discussion. There are collisions between unexpected pieces. One actor questions the direction of the conversation of the work, saying, “I’ll just put my bias on the table.” What is the impact of the work? “Let’s turn over the rock and see what’s under there.” Terry says.

Nail on the head versus opening the question. Unpacking materials without fully unpacking. Examining the difference between killing and fucking. Free range conversations veer across politics. Is it an exchange? Is it a space to advocate for a point of view? Are we just going to be animals, or are we going to evolve?

 “What I like…” Terrence posits from the point of view that there are certain things in the text that he likes and wants to maintain. “I don’t want to ‘sort of.’ That’s me, though.”

Actors attempt to paraphrase the intention of characters. One performer feels strongly about adding certain ideas (such as evolution). Solutions versus not solving but still moving forward.

Of this time and particular place – how do the female voices in the work exist within the context of the current moment and modality? Is the future better than the present?

You can have two people looking at one thing with two completely different points of view, so, as Terry asks, “How do we make that work?” Upon suggestion, the men attempt to share a speaking role using Organic Intuitive Consensus.

My second visit: the table is now in the middle of the room, chairs on either side. The crew is a bit larger, a few new faces amid the recognizable ones. Terry, from the table in the corner, leans towards the action, stops it, stands up and joins the actors at the table for a few adjustments and comments, and returns to his table. There is general experimentation coupled with fine tuning. “If it doesn’t work, you’ll probably know right away,” Terry says.

There are women in masks. Some of the masks are wrong. They use them anyway to get used to the added element. Back and forth staging – incremental pieces put in place, then solidified. “That seemed a little cluttered. Let’s try it again.” The complexity of five men standing and escorting three women to sit with them at a table.

Means by which to interject a directorial voice: “Maybe – I’m wondering if – Let’s try – See what that does – Any thoughts about this? – Let’s get some other opinions on this.”

Tell, don't tell.

After a break, they lie in a circle and play storytelling games. Ways to create a shared thought environment, to listen, to participate fully in something while thinking on one’s feet (or back, as it were). The assignment: you’re the pirate. A preacher has told you that you’re behaving obscenely. One sentence per person. Sentence by sentence, the actors, using variations on pirate voices (one seems Irish), end up telling a surprisingly coherent tale as the pirate recruits the preacher to join the ship’s crew. “I’ve got quite a few positions other than missionary that you can fill.”

The work continues, now with an intermingling of gender, the three women taking over male roles at times, other times standing outside of the action. It’s somewhat of a challenge to understand what is an interjection and what is source text. “Okay, okay, let’s back up a bit.” Solving for source versus interjection – “Try addressing it to someone specific when you’re one of the supernaturals.” General versus particular. “On the other hand, it’s going really well. Let’s go back.”

Visit Terrence's Residency Page

Dan O’Neil is an NYC-based writer who grew up on a farm in northwestern Minnesota, where he learned to drive a tractor, use a chainsaw, and identify various star constellations. Notable recent projects include: Librettist on The House of Influence, an experimental opera composed by Alec Hall and performed in a parking garage in Harlem in 2018, Oblivion Falls, an in-process dance with text composition with Designated Movement Co., and Bear Slayer, developed through a 2016 Project Residency by Ars Nova and also presented as part of ANT Fest 2015. Leadership roles include Theater Editor of Culturebot and co-artistic director for Designated Movement Co. Education: B.A. in performance from the University of Minnesota and an M.F.A in dramatic writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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