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Rick Foster's Abstract Musings At The Burbage

March 13, 1985|LAWRENCE CHRISTON

'I don't know whether it's brilliant or idiotic, idiotically brilliant or brilliantly idiotic for me to have come up with that title," said playwright Rick Foster, in reference to his play, "The Heroes of Xochiquipa," which has its Los Angeles premiere tonight at the Burbage Theater.

By any other name, pronounceable or not, "Heroes" has enjoyed a certain success d'estime in San Francisco, where it earned five Bay Area Critics Circle nominations in 1984 and was co-winner (with "Fool for Love") of the best original script award. Not only is the title a puzzlement, but the place it names doesn't exist, and the plurality implicit in the word "Heroes" is a misnomer--the whole story is told by one man (played by Thomas A. Maguire).

The glint in Foster's eye tells you that these improbabilities are by design, just the thing you might expect from someone who's changed careers radically--several times.

California Theater aficionados will recall the name Rick Foster as former editor of the annual volume West Coast Plays. San Francisco newspaper readers will recall his byline as one of the founders of the Bay Area Critics Circle. Folks who took "Logic and Methodology of the Deductive Sciences" at UC Berkeley in the early '60s will remember Foster as a classmate. So might some career naval officers--Foster went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis before signing up at Berkeley to study pure mathematics. His name may not be familiar in management circles at American telephone & Telegraph, but that doesn't stop the company from using Foster-designed algorithms in their long-range planning systems.

However: "Theater has always been part of my image of myself. My mother and father met in the theater. He was a stage manager and she was a dancer. When I first started writing I got hooked on its communal aspect, all those people with different talents coming together for a single project.

"I'm not interested in the modern naturalistic play," Foster said, by way of introducing "Heroes." "I'm interested in the play that has historical, mythological dimensions. 'The Heroes of Xochiquipa' is a one-man Western epic set in a town near the Mexican-American border. Imagine Euripides coming back from the dead to write a screenplay for John Ford in the 1940s, and then adapting it for Henry Fonda. it deals with racism and the conflict within a man, like that of Agamemnon's: Will he devote himself to leadership or to his family? I'm interested in the mythological roots of power.

"But of course, I'm interested in too many things. That's probably why I'm 46 and not famous."

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