The Frank Moore Archives

Hidden treasures discovered while digging through Frank Moore's huge archives.

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EROPLAY

Re: The Drama Review Eroplay 1989
“I have finally read the Drama Review piece and I love it. It is one of the profoundest pieces of writing on performance or theatre or just plain living that I have read ever. Period. Something to read and think about over and over again. I am so tired of the new of the fast of the whats next — they are killing our souls. I can’t call what you have written an essay but a love song to society — makes total sense to me on the deepest most un-speakable levels. How you deal with the unconscious working side by side the conscious — as you say like two films going on at once. If you never write another thing, Frank, it won’t matter because this piece is luminous. And believe me I have read so many manifestos, essays critiques, artist statements ad nauseum over the years. It’s a beautiful generous manifesto and I look forward to reading more — it also has this beautiful slow pace as if forcing the mind of the reader to change pace as well and let the other world come to the forefront — the cartography of the soul is where you take us…each in our own way…rather than your way…which is generous indeed of you.”
Shelley Berc, writer, teacher

As published in The Drama Review (TDR), Spring 1989. During this period, before accessibility software was available to him, Frank typed in all caps. TDR also published the piece in all caps.

MY FIRST STROKE OF GOOD LUCK WAS I WAS BORN SPASTIC, UNABLE TO WALK OR TALK. ADD TO THIS GOOD FORTUNE THE FACT THAT MY FORMATIVE YEARS WERE IN THE ‘60S—MY FATE WAS ASSURED!

YES, I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN LUCKY. I HAVE A BODY THAT IS IDEAL FOR A PERFORMANCE ARTIST. AND I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A PERFORMER. WHEN I WAS A KID, MY YOUNGER BROTHER USED TO GET MAD WHEN PEOPLE LOOKED AT ME WHEN HE PUSHED ME TO THE MOVIES OR TO THE TEEN CLUB. HE CRIED. BUT I LIKED PEOPLE LOOKING AT ME. THAT IS WHAT I MEAN BY “I AM LUCKY.” I AM LUCKY I AM AN EXHIBITIONIST IN THIS BODY. ONE TIME, I WAS WORKING OUT ON THE JUNGLE GYM OUTSIDE OF OUR HOUSE—A KID CAME BY AND ASKED IF I WAS A MONSTER. I JUST ROARED LIKE A MONSTER. IT WAS FUN.

I WAS LUCKY. I WAS NEVER UNDER PRESSURE TO BE GOOD AT ANYTHING, TO MAKE MONEY, TO MAKE IT IN “THE REAL WORLD”, TO BE POLISHED—OR THE OTHER DISTRACTIONS THAT OTHER MODERN ARTISTS HAVE TO, OR THINK THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH. SO I COULD FOCUS ON HAVING FUN, ON GOING INTO TABOO AREAS WHERE MAGICAL CHANGE CAN BE EVOKED. IN FACT, A MAJOR REASON WHY I AM WRITING THIS IS TO ENCOURAGE ARTISTS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN SO BLESSED WITH BODIES THAT MARK THEM AS MISFITS, TO ASPIRE TO BE MISFITS ANYWAY, TO DO MISFIT ART ANYWAY—EVEN IF YOU ARE HANDICAPPED BY YOUR NORMAL BODY. YOUR ROAD IS DEFINITELY HARDER THAN MY ROAD. BUT THAT’S LIFE.

MY ART IS ROOTED IN BREAKING OUT OF ISOLATION. UNTIL I WAS 17, I DID NOT HAVE ANY WAY TO COMMUNICATE EXCEPT THROUGH MY FAMILY MEMBERS. FOR A COUPLE OF MY TEENAGE YEARS, I WAS VERY HARD OF HEARING. MY HEARING CLEARED UP. I INVENTED MY HEADPOINTER WHEN I WAS 17. MY COMMUNICATION ISOLATION WAS THEN DISPELLED. BUT IT TOOK ME ANOTHER 10 YEARS TO SHAKE OFF THE ISOLATION CAUSED BY MY ATTITUDES AND SELF-IMAGE. THIS EARLY ISOLATION ALLOWED ME TO OBSERVE LIFE AND PEOPLE AS AN OUTSIDER. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BREAK PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SPIRITUAL ISOLATION—FIRST FOR MYSELF, BUT THEN FOR OTHER PEOPLE.

THERE ARE OTHER ADVANTAGES TO MY BODY. PEOPLE PROJECT ONTO ME CERTAIN MYSTICAL POWERS—LIKE SEEING THROUGH THEIR FRONTS TO THEIR REAL SELVES —SEEING THE PAST AND THE FUTURE—AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO. THEY ARE REACTING TO SOME SYMBOL OF THE DEFORMED MEDICINE MAN. THEY USE ME AS A MEDIUM FOR GETTING THROUGH TO OTHER DIMENSIONS. BECAUSE OF THE SLOWNESS OF MY COMMUNICATION BOARD, THEY ARE FORCED TO SLOW DOWN. THEY CAN PROJECT WHATEVER THEY WANT, MISREAD ME WHEN IT FITS THEM. I AM A SYMBOL. AND BECAUSE THEY GIVE ME POWER AS A SYMBOL, THEY ARE AFRAID OF ME. IT WAS JUST MY LUCK TO BE BORN INTO THE LONG TRADITION OF THE DEFORMED SHAMAN, THE WOUNDED HEALER, THE BLIND PROPHET, THE CLUB-FOOTED “IDIOT” COURT JESTER.

THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF ART. THERE IS ART THAT CALMS, ART THAT PACIFIES, ART THAT SELLS, ART THAT DECORATES, ART THAT ENTERTAINS. BUT WHAT I AM COMMITTED TO IS ART AS A BATTLE, AN UNDERGROUND WAR AGAINST FRAGMENTATION. THE BATTLE IS ON ALL REALITIES. THE CONTROLLERS HAVE ALWAYS TRIED TO FRAGMENT US FROM EACH OTHER. IMPRISON US IN ISLANDS OF SEX, COLOR, RELIGION, POLITICS, CLASS, LABELS, ETC., ETC., ETC., ETC., ETC.—THEY FRAGMENT OUR INNER WORLDS, THEY BLOW OUR INDIVIDUAL REALITIES APART AND PLAY THE PIECES AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. THEY ARE US, OR A PART OF US. THEY ARE THE CONTROLLERS, THE POLITICIANS, THE SEXISTS, THE WOMEN’S LIBBERS, THE PORNOGRAPHERS, THE CENSORS, THE MORALISTS, THE CHURCH, THE MEDIA, THE BUSINESSMEN, EDUCATORS, THE VICTIMS, AND THE POWERFUL.

THEY ARE US.

I THINK PERFORMANCE IS BEING RUINED BY TRYING TO PACKAGE IT AS ENTERTAINMENT, AS OFF-BEAT CABARET. WHEN SOMEONE GOES TO A CABARET, HE KNOWS THERE ARE CERTAIN LIMITS INVOLVED SUCH AS THAT EACH ACT MUST END BEFORE ANOTHER BEGINS; BUT IN PERFORMANCE, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. A PERFORMANCE CAN LAST FOR A MINUTE OR IT CAN LAST FOR DAYS. PERFORMANCE CAN START IN ONE SPACE BUT THEN MOVE TO ANOTHER. PERFORMANCE CAN BE STORYTELLING, IT CAN BE A GUY THREATENING YOU WITH A BASEBALL BAT, IT CAN BE A GUY HANGING BY HIS SKIN, OR THROWING FOOD, OR ANYTHING. IN PERFORMANCE ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. AND THAT IS WHAT GIVES YOU AN EXTRA EDGE TO CREATE DREAMS.

PERFORMANCE, LIKE ANY AVANT-GARDE ART, IS THE WAY SOCIETY DREAMS; IT IS THE WAY SOCIETY EXPANDS ITS FREEDOM, EXPLORES THE FORBIDDEN.

THIS WAS WHAT SEALED ME INTO A PERFORMANCE LIFE.

IN 1972 I HAD JUST FINISHED TAKING A VERY INTENSIVE FILM COURSE IN SANTA FE. I HAD NO MONEY TO MAKE REAL FILMS. SO I STARTED LOOKING FOR A WAY TO WORK WITH PEOPLE. I WANTED TO SEE PEOPLE NUDE, AND TOUCH THEM, AND CREATE AN INTENSITY BETWEEN US. PAINTING WAS THE FIRST ATTEMPT. I USED TO SELL PAPERS ON A CORNER TO FIND PEOPLE TO PAINT. BUT ONCE THE PERSON WAS POSED THE SITUATION WAS STILL, NOT MOVING. SO I DID WHAT I CALLED NONFILMS—FOR WHICH I ASKED PEOPLE I MET WHEN I WAS SELLING NEWSPAPERS TO ACT OUT INTENSIVE EROTIC SCENES WITH ME. ALTHOUGH I HAD PLAYED WITH MY FRIENDS BEFORE IN NONSEXUAL EROTICISM, THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I TRIED TO USE “SEXUAL” ACTS IN A NONSEXUAL ART FORM. I WAS SURPRISED WITH THE POWER THAT THIS RELEASED. BECAUSE OF THESE SCENES, THE PEOPLE STARTED TALKING ABOUT THEIR LIVES DURING THE SESSIONS AND SAID IT HELPED THEIR OTHER RELATIONSHIPS. NOT ONE PERSON MINDED THAT THERE WAS NO FILM. THESE NONFILMS WERE THE BASE FOR MY CAREER IN RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING IN THE LATE ‘70S.

BUT I WAS NOT SATISFIED WITH THESE NONFILMS BECAUSE THEY WERE BRIEF RELATIONSHIPS THAT DID NOT GO ANYWHERE. SO I STARTED LOOKING FOR SOME OTHER WAY TO WORK WITH PEOPLE. I TRIED TO CAST A PLAY, BUT I COULDN’T FIND ENOUGH PEOPLE. I STARTED THINKING OF AN INTIMATE THEATRE WHERE THE LINE BETWEEN AUDIENCE AND ACTORS WOULD BE ERASED. I STARTED THINKING ABOUT HOW IF THAT LINE WERE ERASED, IT WOULD PLACE MUCH MORE RESPONSIBILITY ON THE ACTORS. THEY WOULD HAVE TO DARE TO TRICK THE AUDIENCE INTO THE INTENSE MAGICAL STATE.

I DIVIDED MY WORK—THE WORD “WORK” IS WEIRD—IT IS LIKE PLAYING—INTO TWO PARTS. THE FIRST PART IS PLAYED IN “REAL LIFE”—FOR INSTANCE, I GO UP TO A PERSON ON A STREET AND ASK HIM TO BE IN SOME PROJECT WHICH MAY CONTAIN SOME NUDITY AND PHYSICAL PLAY. THE NUDITY AND PHYSICAL PLAY AS AN IDEA IN THIS CONTEXT IS A GREAT TOOL TO GET UNDER THE POLITE CHATTER SURFACE TO THE MORE MEANINGFUL THINGS, AND OFTEN MORE INTIMATE, MORE PERSONAL STUFF—WHICH IS, AFTER ALL, THE AIM OF THE PIECE. I CAN SEE THIS KIND OF PIECE LASTING ANYWHERE FROM A FEW SECONDS TO SEVERAL HOURS.

THE SECOND PART IS A PIECE IN A CONTROLLED SPACE, SUCH AS MY STUDIO, IN WHICH THERE IS A FORM GOING ON, GIVING THE PERSON A REASON TO BE THERE WITH ME.

THIS KIND OF PERFORMANCE IS DIFFERENT THAN NORMAL THEATRE. IN THIS KIND, THERE IS NO REAL SCRIPT. EVEN IF YOU HAVE A SCRIPT, IT REALLY IS A PROP. THE REAL COURSE OF ACTION IS SHAPED BY THE PERFORMER SO THE FLOW OF THE PIECE WILL GO FORWARD AND DEEPER.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN ME AS THE ARTIST AND MY AUDIENCE, HOW I CHANGE THEM AND HOW THEY CHANGE ME, THAT MAGICAL STATE IN WHICH WE INTERACT WITH EACH OTHER. I, AS THE PERFORMER, MUST CREATE AROUND THE PEOPLE, BY PLAYING FOR AND TO THEM, BY LETTING THE PERFORMANCE TAKE ME OVER AND GUIDE ME—EVEN WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE THE OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING ALL OF THE ACTION. THE ULTIMATE GOAL IN MY PERFORMANCE IS TO CREATE A REALITY, NOT AN ILLUSION, WHICH THE AUDIENCE AND I ARE IN—EVEN IF I HAVE TO USE ILLUSIONS TO GET TO THIS REALITY.

THIS RAISES THE QUESTION OF MANIPULATION. ALMOST ANY TIME YOU PERFORM TO AN AUDIENCE, YOU MANIPULATE THE AUDIENCE. LET’S GET BEYOND THE NEGATIVE CONNOTATION OF THE WORD “MANIPULATE”. PEOPLE GO TO THE THEATRE, MOVIES, CONCERTS, DANCE COMPANIES, ETC., TO HAVE THEIR EMOTIONS MANIPULATED. THEY COME INTO THE PERFORMANCE AREA WITH A WILLINGNESS TO BE MANIPULATED BY THE ARTISTS WITHIN CERTAIN LIMITS. BUT IN MY PERFORMANCES, THE ONES WHICH ARE NOT DIVIDED FROM THE REST OF LIFE BY A THEATRE OR A STAGE, THERE IS NO WAY TO TELL THE PERSON SHE IS ENTERING A PERFORMANCE. WHEN I HAVE A FORMAL STRUCTURE, A THEATRE SPACE, AND A SET TIME ENDING—WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IS NOT WHAT IS SAID TO BE HAPPENING. ALSO IT IS A REALITY THAT IS HOPEFULLY BEING CREATED—PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED, INFECTED, AND EFFECTED BY THIS REALITY.

PERFORMANCE OBVIOUSLY GOES MUCH FARTHER BACK THAN 1909 WHEN IT BECAME A FORMAL ART FORM. I THINK PERFORMANCE CAME INTO EXISTENCE TO FILL A VOID IN WESTERN LIFE. THE VOID WAS THE LACK OF MAGIC AND INSPIRATION. THE TWO AREAS OF CREATIVITY, THEATRE AND RELIGION, THAT TRADITIONALLY WERE THE SOURCE OF THIS MAGICAL INSPIRATION HAD LONG AGO MOVED FROM MAGIC TO ENTERTAINMENT AND POLITICS. THIS VOID ALSO GAVE BIRTH TO PSYCHOLOGY DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD. I OFTEN GET THE CRITICISM THAT MY WORK IS REALLY PSYCHOLOGY AND THERAPY, AND NOT ART. WHEN IT IS REALIZED THAT PSYCHOLOGY AS A FORMAL SCIENCE AND PERFORMANCE AS A FORMAL ART WERE BORN AT THE SAME TIME, THIS CRITICISM CAN BE ANSWERED. PERFORMANCE AND PSYCHOLOGY ARE BOTH INVOLVED IN SPIRITUAL HEALING.

I SEE PERFORMANCE AS EXPERIMENTS IN HUMAN POSSIBILITIES. TO DO THESE EXPERIMENTS, I FORMED IN SANTA FE IN 1972 A WEEKLY DROP-IN WORKSHOP TO DO RITUALS LASTING MANY HOURS. A YEAR LATER, PEOPLE FROM THAT DROP-IN GROUP MOVED WITH ME TO N.Y.C. TO BE THE CORE OF A COMMITTED GROUP. BUT IT WAS IN BERKELEY THAT WE FOUND A PERMANENT HOME IN 1974. THERE, THE WORKSHOP SLOWLY DEVELOPED INTO A GROUP OF 30 PEOPLE.

IN THE LATE ’70S WE STARTED OUR PUBLIC PERFORMANCES BY DOING LONG RITUALISTIC PLAYS. OVER THE YEARS, THE GROUP BRANCHED OUT TO DO MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF LIVE AND VIDEO PIECES, INCLUDING the outrageous beauty revue [1978].

THE o.b.r. WAS A CABARET SHOW THAT TRIED TO SHORT-CIRCUIT THE CABARET LIMITS OF TIME AND STAGE. IT DID THIS BY BEING A SHOW OF PEOPLE WHO WERE HAVING FUN AND WHO WERE LIVING THEIR FANTASIES—A SHOW THAT INCLUDED THE AUDIENCE DIRECTLY IN THE ACTION—AN UNPOLISHED SHOW THAT FLAUNTED NUDITY, EROTICISM, AND GORE IN A SILLY, CHILDLIKE PLAYFULNESS—AN EVER-CHANGING SHOW WITH PREGNANT SEX SYMBOLS, NUDE GIRLS, CRIPPLED ROCK STARS, MEN AS WOMEN AND WOMEN AS MEN WITHOUT ANY SEXUAL MEANING. THE o.b.r. RAN FOR THREE YEARS AND WAS BY FAR MY MOST POPULAR WORK IN TERMS OF HOW MANY PEOPLE SAW IT. BUT THE SUCCESS OF A PIECE SHOULD NOT BE JUDGED BY HOW MANY PEOPLE SEE IT, BUT BY HOW FAR IT WENT BEYOND THE TABOOS, BY ITS MAGIC POWER FOR CHANGE. BY THIS STANDARD, MY BEST WORK WITH THE GROUP WAS OUR 48-HOUR DREAM PERFORMANCES IN THE LATE ’70S.

SINCE 1983, I HAVE BEEN DOING A PERFORMANCE SERIES AT U.C. BERKELEY WHICH HAS GIVEN ME A LAB WHERE I CAN DEVELOP PIECES BY DOING THEM OVER AND OVER WITHOUT THE PRESSURES OF MAKING MONEY OR ENTERTAINING. THESE PIECES ARE WHAT GOT ME THE N.E.A. FELLOWSHIP, AND THEY ARE THE ONES I DO ON MY TOURS.

IN MY WORK, I ALWAYS HAVE USED NUDITY AND PHYSICAL ACTS WHICH MOST PEOPLE WOULD CALL SEXUAL. IT IS JUST ONE OF MY WAYS OF BREAKING NORMAL REALITY INTO NEW WAYS OF COMMUNICATING AND RELATING. I COMBINE THIS WITH BREAKING TIME/SPACE TABOOS, MY UNIQUE BODY, AND OTHER TOOLS. BUT THE “SEXUAL” CONTENT OF MY WORK GRABS MOST OF THE ATTENTION.

THERE IS A COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE DEFORMED SHAMAN TRADITION—THAT IT GETS ITS POWER FROM THE MENTAL AND THE SPIRITUAL PLANE, SINCE THE PHYSICAL AND SENSUAL ARE ALMOST NONEXISTENT. IN TRUTH, THE WOUNDED HEALER USES HIS PHYSICALITY AS A CHANNEL TO UNITE THE SPIRITUAL WITH THE PHYSICAL.

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A VERY PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL PERSON. THIS WAS HEIGHTENED BY MY EARLY PHYSICAL ISOLATION. IN THE EARLY ’70S WHEN I WAS NOT YET OUT OF MY SEXUAL ISOLATION, I OBSERVED AS AN INTERESTED OUTSIDER THAT FREE SEX (CONFUSED WITH FREE LOVE) WAS NOT WORKING. IT WASN’T MAKING MY HIPPIE FRIENDS HAPPY. THIS OBSERVATION WAS AGAINST MY PHILOSOPHY OF FREEDOM. BUT I COULD NOT DENY THE FACTS. I STARTED LOOKING FOR NEW WAYS OF RELATING AND TOUCHING. I WAS LOOKING FOR A NEW FREE LOVE. MY PERFORMANCES, BOTH THE PUBLIC EVENTS AND THE PRIVATE NONFILMS, WERE MY RESEARCH, MY EXPERIMENTS.

I EXPERIMENTED IN USING THE EXCITED, AROUSED, PLEASURABLE ENERGY IN THE CONTEXT OF ART, OF PLAYING, RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING—NOT THE CONTEXT OF SEX. THIS RESEARCH REACHED A CLIMAX IN MY BERKELEY WORKSHOP DURING THE YEARS OF the outrageous beauty revue.

IT WAS FAIRLY CLEAR TO 30 OF US THAT THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLAYING AND SEX. WE SAW IT HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH SEX AND “MARRIAGE” (THE WORD marriage IS ANOTHER WORD THAT HAS NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS HIDDEN WITHIN IT). SO WE DECIDED TO COMMIT OURSELVES TO HAVING SEX ONLY WITH THOSE TO WHOM WE WERE MARRIED. BUT WE EROTICALLY PLAYED (FOR LACK OF A BETTER TERM FOR IT) WITH ALL OF THE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP.

THE EROTIC PLAY GOT WACKIER, MORE PHYSICAL. IT GAVE US A GREATER FREEDOM NOT ONLY WITHIN OUR GROUP, BUT IN SOCIETY IN GENERAL AS WELL. EROTIC PLAYING INTENSELY BUT PLAYFULLY RELEASED CREATIVITY WHICH WE USED IN MANY WAYS. SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES WERE ESTABLISHED. WE DID SEVERAL PUBLIC PERFORMANCES, AND A WEALTH OF PRIVATE PERFORMANCES. THERE WAS NO JEALOUSY OR POSSESSIVENESS BECAUSE IT WAS CLEAR THAT SEX WOULD NOT BE INVOLVED. THIS WENT ON FOR THREE YEARS.

AT A CERTAIN POINT, WE STARTED QUESTIONING THE CONCEPT OF MARRIAGE. WE DID NOT SEE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT WE 30 HAD TOGETHER AND BEING MARRIED. NOT SEEING ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MARRIAGE AND WHAT WE HAD AS A GROUP, THE NEXT LOGICAL QUESTION WAS, “WHY NOT HAVE SEX?” SO WE STARTED TO HAVE SEX OUTSIDE MARRIAGE, WITHIN THE GROUP. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY CHANGES APPEARED IN THE GROUP. JEALOUSY AND POSSESSIVENESS APPEARED. THE GROUP QUICKLY BEGAN TO FALL APART.

AFTER THIS BREAKUP, I FOCUSED MY WORK ON DEFINING THE UNIQUE PHYSICAL-SPIRITUAL ENERGY WE HAD USED, FORMALIZED IT IN MY ART TO TAP AGAIN INTO THE INTENSE, PURE PLAY WITH PEOPLE, USING THE RESULTING CREATIVENESS IN ART WITHOUT BEING DERAILED BY SEX.

I REALIZED THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS UNDERMINING MY WORK WAS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. THERE WAS NO WORD, NO NAME, FOR THE FORCE I WAS DEALING WITH. MY FIRST TASK WAS TO CREATE A NEW WORD: eroplay.

OUR MIND NEEDS LABELS. THERE IS SUCH A FORCE OR ENERGY, WHICH I HAVE LABELED EROPLAY. BUT THERE HAS NOT BEEN A WORD FOR IT. THE WORD sex HAS BEEN THE DUMP FOR EVERYTHING SENSUAL, ROMANTIC, PHYSICAL, OR FOR SHOWING MORE SKIN THAN USUAL. CARS ARE CALLED SEXY. POSES THAT DO NOT SHOW THE SEX ACT ARE CALLED SEXUAL. WEARING CERTAIN THINGS, MOVING CERTAIN WAYS ARE ALL CALLED SEXUAL, EVEN WHEN IT IS NOT LEADING TO THE SEXUAL ACT—EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO INTENT TO HAVE SEX.

EROPLAY IS INTENSE PHYSICAL PLAYING AND TOUCHING OF ONESELF AND OTHERS. EROPLAY IS THE FORCE OR ENERGY RELEASED BY SUCH PLAY. IT IS ALSO THE HAPPY, PLAYFUL ATTITUDE TOWARDS LIFE THAT COMES FROM SUCH PLAY. EROPLAY IS NOT FOREPLAY, EVEN THOUGH FOREPLAY IS EROPLAY.

FOREPLAY LEADS TO ORGASM—EROPLAY LEADS TO BEING TURNED-ON IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS AND IN ALL PARTS OF THE BODY—INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PHYSICAL AROUSAL. IT CAN BE DIFFERENT EVERY TIME. SKIN TOUCHING SKIN SEEMS TO BE WHAT RELEASES THE FULL IMPACT OF EROPLAY. EROPLAY CAN BE INTENSE. IT IS LIKE WHEN YOU RUB A PUPPY ON ITS BELLY AND THE PUPPY GOES INTO A STATE OF RAPTURE, BOTH TOTALLY TURNED-ON AND RELAXED. EROPLAY IS THE BLISSED-OUT, WARM, RELAXED, TURNED-ON, TOTALLY SATISFYING FEELING OF A GOOD HEAD RUB.

EROPLAY IS FUN!

EROPLAY IS INNOCENT AND CHILDLIKE.

EROPLAY’S FOCUS IS ON PHYSICAL ENJOYMENT.

EROPLAY DECREASES ISOLATION AND ALIENATION. IT INCREASES SELF-TRUST AND TRUSTING OF OTHERS. IT MAKES YOU HARDER TO BE CONTROLLED. EROPLAY LEADS TO A LIFE-STYLE WITH ALL THESE CHARACTERISTICS. THE LIFESTYLE LOOKS STRANGELY LIKE THE LOVE GENERATION, BUT WITHOUT DRUGS OR FREE SEX.

IN RECENT YEARS, OUTSIDE FORCES HAVE AFFECTED MY WORK. EDWIN MEESE’S POLITICAL WAR OF SEXUAL SUPPRESSION AND THE BLANDNESS OF YUPPIES HAVE GIVEN MY ART SOCIAL ISSUES AGAINST WHICH I CAN DO BATTLE.

BUT IT IS AIDS THAT HAS STARTED PEOPLE SEARCHING FOR NONSEXUAL WAYS TO FIND, TO SHOW, AND TO GIVE PHYSICAL INTIMACY. EROPLAY IS A SAFE, FUN, LUSTY CHANNEL FOR FREE PHYSICAL TOUCHING. IT IS SAFE BECAUSE THERE IS NO PHYSICAL INTERCOURSE. IT IS NOT AN AVOIDANCE, AS CELIBACY IS. IT IS NOT SOMETHING SECOND RATE. EROPLAY IS SATISFYING IN ITSELF.

I HAVE DEBATED WITH MYSELF ABOUT NO LONGER RESISTING THE LABEL sexual. BY INSISTING WHAT I AM DOING IS NOT SEXUAL, I AM OPENING MYSELF TO PEOPLE QUESTIONING MY HONESTY AND INTEGRITY. IF I ACCEPT THE SEXUAL LABEL, PEOPLE WOULD JUST HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THEY LIKE SEX IN ART—DECIDE WHETHER IT IS ART OR NOT. THAT WOULD BE THE DEPTH OF THE QUESTIONING. THEY MAY FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE SEEING SEX AS ART—BUT THAT UNCOMFORTABLENESS WOULD BE JUST FROM BREAKING THE TABOO OF SEX— WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? WHAT I AM DOING IS TAKING NUDITY AND ACTS THAT ARE USUALLY CONSIDERED SEXUAL AND GIVING THEM A NEW, NONSEXUAL CONTEXT. THAT CREATES A TENSION, A CONFLICT, AN EXAMINING, A LEAP INTO SOMETHING NEW. THAT IS WHAT I AM AFTER. THIS LEAP INTO NEWNESS IS WHY PEOPLE WHO ARE NORMALLY COMFORTABLE WITH CASUAL NUDITY AND CASUAL SEX SOMETIMES GET VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE NUDITY AND EROPLAY IN MY WORK. BY TAKING “SEXUAL” ACTS AND SINCERELY PUTTING THEM INTO A DIFFERENT CONTEXT, I CREATE ANOTHER REALITY, ANOTHER WAY OF RELATING. I ALSO CREATE CONFLICT WITH THE NORMAL REALITY—AND THAT CONFLICT MAY CHANGE, IN AN UNDERGROUND SORT OF A WAY, THE NORMAL REALITY. I THINK ART—OR AT LEAST THIS KIND OF ART—SHOULD CREATE CONFLICT AND CHANGE. AND I LIKE RELATING WITH PEOPLE IN THIS “UNNORMAL” WAY. THIS IS WHY I DO PERFORMANCE.


EROPLAY was also published by Inter-Relations in the book, Frankly Speaking: Essays, Writings and Rants by Frank Moore in 2014.


An Open Letter To Senator Jesse Helms

Published in The Drama Review (TDR) in 1991 and in various magazines and newspapers throughout the U.S.A. The letter was read at the Anti-Censorship Procession in San Francisco, California and was buried in the ART TIME CAPSULE along with Frank’s “The Combine Plot” at the same event. This letter was also read at Cooper Union Hall, New York, New York, as part of a STOP JESSE HELMS fund raiser in 1990.

Here is the letter:

Enough is enough. I have read in the L.A. TIMES and THE VILLAGE VOICE that you have the General Accounting Office investigating Karen Finley, Johanna Went, Cheri Gaulke, and myself. Why are you going behind our backs? Why aren’t you talking directly to us artists, instead of having the G.A.O., at the taxpayers’ expense, going to the galleries and the theaters we have performed in to ask veiled questions about us?

Here I am. Let’s talk, man to man. It is the American Way. What do you want to know about me? You had my address because I sent you my article about how I think what you are doing is patently offensive to the Bill of Rights. After all, it is the American Way to directly confront your opponent, giving him a chance to answer, and giving the people a dialog. But you did not send me a letter. You sent the G.A.O.

This is not an investigation for information. It is an investigation for extortion. It is part of the campaign to smear us four artists — as well as Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, Annie Sprinkle and John Fleck — as untouchable, unfundable, unbookable. The paint that is used to smear is that of “obscene artists”. Are you trying to find out whether or not our work falls into the legal definition of obscene? Have you seen my performances or even talked to anyone who has? Have you read my writings on art in professional and scholarly journals, or my resume of over 20 years? I think not.

I think you know you can not show that any of us untouchable eight are even remotely legally obscene. So you and your ilk are trying to create the atmosphere of fear by using the extortion tactics of the mafia. The N.E.A. chairman, Frohnmayer, used this atmosphere of fear, under the catchy phrase “certain political reality”, to take away the N.E.A. grants from Finley, Hughes, Fleck and Miller. Your extortion is what has created this political reality.

This extortion is an attempt to blacklist us untouchable eight and other artists who have the nerve to do difficult art. This so-called investigation is really the extortionist’s message to galleries that, if they book us or artists like us, they are risking the possibility of funding being cut off, of being audited, of being closed down by the fire department, of being hassled by the vice squad and other governmental agencies. All of which has occurred to the galleries that have booked us untouchable eight.

Why are you closing channels of expression and of funding to me without due process of law? It is a political and cultural blacklist under the cover of obscenity. Extortion and blacklists are against the American ideals and spirit.

If you have anything to say to me or to ask me, come to talk to me man to man. Otherwise, get your big brother foot off my back.

In Freedom,
Frank Moore, 1990


This is the article that set off the Jesse Helms GAO investigation back in 1990. Thanks to Harley Spiller at Franklin Furnace for pulling this article out of their archives for us!!

Download the article:
http://www.eroplay.com/Cave/NYCTribune-complete-opt.pdf


Read by Edna Floretta
Music by Jerome T. Youngman (Mutant Press)
A segment from the web video series LET ME BE FRANK,
Episode 11, “Workshop of Demands”
Website for the series: http://frankadelic.com/
Watch episodes: https://vimeo.com/channels/letmebefrank

Frank Moore by Fred Hatt

Fred Hatt was the second guest ever on Frank’s streaming internet show, Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den, on August 31, 1998 on FAKE Radio. Fred is an artist, dancer, and photographer. During the show as they talked, Fred sketched a portrait of Frank.

Frank Moore by Fred Hatt, 1998

Also during the show, Frank and Fred danced:

Visit Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den archives.

The Edge

The Edge is an avant-garde company of actors and artist, founded and directed by Frank. The Edge is focused on subversion, on magic on altering reality … and is not afraid of combining individual arts together.

We met Jonathan when he answered one of our CALLBOARD ads. CALLBOARD is a straight Bay Area theater listing publication that we would sometimes list in.

Our ad read:

Cutting Edge Productions is casting for males & females for THE EDGE, a company of experimental theatre and performance art.

Jonathan had moved to San Francisco from the mid-west with his wife and was scheduled to study at ACT (American Conservatory Theater) in the fall and had been looking for something to do for the summer and signed on to work with Frank as part of Frank’s weekly workshop in Performance that we did at a local private kids’ school in a space we rented.

We met Suzanna when she attended one of our first “Wrapping/Rocking” performances at The Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco in 1986. She worked with Frank for a few years. 

Mary was living with us at this point. She had been working with Frank since the 1970s and had been part of the Outrageous Beauty Revue.

Here is the text from a poster for the UCB series that featured The Edge:

Friends of the Studio

presents

free series of live performances

by

The Edge

in Frank Moore’s

Experimental Reality

supported by a grant from The National Endowment for Arts

7 P.M. at Rm. 125 Dwinelle, U.C. Berkeley

Thursday – September 4, September 18, October 2, October 30, November 13, December 4, 1986

Experimental Reality is not passive entertainment. Experimental Reality is not television.

Experimental Reality is a taboo-breaking series of improvised mischievous avant-garde performances which at first appear childishly simple, but which devilishly suck the audience into a surreal and sensual underground where even serious can become silly without social straight-jackets to spoil their fun. Each piece is designed to goose your mind and morality … among other things. These pieces make the audience an active element in the magic of art theatre.

Frank Moore is a nationally recognized controversial performance artist who always tries to create a dream reality in which anything is possible. He will use this series to develop productions for San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

The Edge is an avant-garde company of actors and artist, founded and directed by Frank. The Edge is focused on subversion, on magic on altering reality … and is not afraid of combining individual arts together.




Another performance, July 1986, Walden School, Berkeley, California.
Frank & Jonathan “King Lear” with Suzanna and Mary


Frank created a brochure:

Here is what Frank wrote in December 1986, at the end of the year of his NEA grant:

From NEA Fellowship October 1, 1985 – October 1, 1986:
Grant #51-4111-0456
December 2, 1986
 
What my N.E.A. Fellowship did for my art career this year was give me a new freedom. I could put my ideas directly into action without being limited by a lack of money. But this new freedom was not totally financial. Having the N.E.A. opened up performance and lecture venues which had been before denied to me.
 
But it also opened minds to my art and philosophy, making it much easier to get spaces, audiences, and actors for my work. My work could thus go much further in its content … it could explore new depths of magic.
 
The year started with a performance tour of southern California. This included performances at University of California at San Diego, the Anti Club in L.A. and Babel – a group show in L.A. Through this tour I met such performance artists as Eleanor Antin, Rachel Rosenthal, Allan Kaprow. These meetings gave me more of a sense of an artists’ community in which to do my work. This tour also planted the seeds for a group of young artists who work in my productions in L.A.
 
After this tour, The Inter-section for the Arts in San Francisco asked me to do my “Wrapping/Rocking” for two nights.
 
The Southern California tour stirred up the desire in me to have an avant-garde performance company in the Bay Area. To this end, I founded The Edge. I started leading a weekly workshop for my new group in a rented gym.
 
With The Edge, I have developed my bi-weekly performance series at University of California at Berkeley into a free and freeing taboo-breaking event with an average audience of 30 questioning students.
 
In private performances with a number of people of all walks of life, I have refined my concept of EROPLAY and of performance. I have been asked to give lectures at the San Francisco Art Institute three times this year. I also broadcasted my art and philosophy in a four-hour live program on KPFA public radio.
 
The year climaxed with an L.A. five-hour performance of my “Cave of Dream”, which I consider to be my best work to date. In it, I combined The Edge with my L.A. group to form a cast of 15 to create a complex surreal basket of reality. This performance alone would have been impossible for me without the freedom of the N.E.A.
 
Moreover, the N.E.A. created a momentum which will carry over next year to a performance in Denver at the Art. Dept. Gallery and an East Coast tour, including a production of “Cave of Dream” in N.Y.C. at Franklin Furnace.
 
Frank Moore


MEB

An excerpt from Frank Moore’s book, Art of a Shaman, Chapter 11:

During the rehearsals of Glamour, when the strip joint got unbearably boring after hours upon hours, I took a walk along Broadway, into what then was the West Coast hardcore punk center, the Mabuhay Gardens or the “Fab Mab”. Since I did not have anything else to do, I asked the gruff manager if I could do my next production at his club. To my surprise, Dirk Dirksen was a visionary who, instead of seeing a crip asking for a hand-out, saw me somehow as a misfit artist perfect for his new wave cabaret. Dirk gave me a sheltered theater for six years, with complete artistic freedom and moral support. The first production was a raping of a high-brow comedy, Meb, which I turned into a multi-media farce, full of camp, nudity, sex, violence and rock’n’roll. The straight playwright walked out in horror, the club owner wanted us out, and only a handful of people came. But Dirk wanted to extend the run. He loved it.

Frank had a slideshow projected onto the back wall of the stage while segments of the play were happening that featured the “war hero”. We did a photo shoot for this slideshow at Tilden Park where the “war hero” was fighting Linda, “the babe.” Here are some of the photos from that shoot and the poster (all by Ken Jennings):

Meb photo by Ken Jennings
Meb photo by Ken Jennings
Meb poster by Ken Jennings

The Erotic Test, 1978

An excerpt from Frank Moore’s book, Art of a Shaman, Chapter 11:

After a second parade had gotten out of hand and turned into dulling sleaze, I organized an indoor multi-media carnival in a large San Francisco warehouse, The Farm, where adults could play like kids in a safe environment. Providing adult playgrounds is one of the basic goals of my work. Since I think playing is a safe, mind-altering drug, I called my carnival The Erotic Test after The Acid Test of the Merry Pranksters.

Here is Frank’s “The Erotic Test Manifesto” (download pdf here):

The Erotic Test Manifesto by Frank Moore

Tickets for the first and second Erotic Test events:

Erotic Test ticket
Second Erotic Test ticket
Linda Mac at The Erotic Test, 1978.

Fantasy Costume Parades

An excerpt from Frank Moore’s book, Art of a Shaman, Chapter 11:

Public performances naturally evolved from what was created from the workshop. The first major public piece was a fantasy costume parade through Berkeley, flaunting brightly painted skin and see-through costumes of net and lace. The parade ended up with a free punk concert in the park. I have talked about how my art is not made of separate public pieces but is an evolving monster. For example, in this parade, an inner character of one of the cast members, Diane Hall, emerged (photo below). This character was a middle-aged, middle-America-on-acid, fast nonsense talking, dizzy dame in a skin-tight Frederick’s of Hollywood gown, long fake eye lashed, and a two-foot beehive bleached blonde wig with blinking Christmas lights. This creature grabbed the mike away from the hippie M.C. Wavy Gravy, and started hosting the concert. A year later, when I needed a bridge between a wacky stage show and the audience, I brought back this Woolworth babe.

Wavy Gravy
Diane Hall
Poster by Ken Jennings

Photos by Ken Jennings

Passion Quest

This “note” was written by Frank in October 1993 after the October 9 “Passion Quest” performance at Passion Flower in Oakland. The March 19, 1994, “Passion Quest 2,” also at Passion Flower,  incorporates the changes Frank talks about in this note. The scripts for both performances are available to download below under each poster.

Here is Frank’s note:

Yesterday I rewrote sections of the all-night ritual…partly in response to the increasing anti-sex environment of our culture (I wanted to make it clearer that the work is NOT anti-sexual)…and partly (mainly) following the desire of the ritual itself to go into different, “deeper” physical trance states. (“Deeper” is a misleading term because of its vertical linearity.)

These are some of the new sections:

“WE ARE GOING ON A NONLINEAR JOURNEY, A TRANCE JOURNEY, A JOURNEY BEYOND TIME AND TABOO, A JOURNEY OF PLAY, A JOURNEY TO LILA. FOR THIS JOURNEY, I NEED HEROS WHO ARE WILLING TO GO INTO THE TABOO AREAS OF EROPLAY, WILLING TO PUSH BEYOND WHERE IT IS COMFORTABLE AND SAFE TO EXPLORE AND BUILD A LARGER ZONE OF SAFENESS. ONE ADVANTAGE OF WORKING IN A SMALL ENCLOSED SPACE IS IT FOCUSES THE ENERGY, BUILDING UP PRIMAL FORCES. ALSO, BY HAVING OUR PLAYING EXIST WITHIN THE SACRED CIRCLE OF RITUAL, OUR PLAYING CAN BE DONE OUTSIDE THE CONTEXT OF TABOOS, WITHOUT BEING INFLUENCED BY JUDGMENTS OF THE AUDIENCE. SO THE PLAY, WITHIN THE EROPLAY RITUALS, CAN BE INTENSE, VULNERABLE, AND MAGICAL WITHOUT ANYTHING SEXUAL ABOUT IT. THIS ENERGY THEN WILL BE LEAKED OUT FROM THE ENCLOSED SPACE INTO THE OPEN PERFORMANCE SPACE, BECOMING THE MOST POWERFUL THING HAPPENING IN THAT PLACE. USING THE MAGICAL STATE RELEASED BY OUR PLAYING, THE DUEL-BODIED ROCKING JOYOUS FIGURE OF LILA WILL CARRY US IN A TRANCE, THROUGH SEX, TO WHAT IS BEYOND…TO THE REALM OF ALL-POSSIBILITIES.”

and:

“EROPLAY AND WHAT IS USUALLY CALLED “SEX” ARE BUT TWO OF MANY WAYS TO RELEASE AND CHANNEL THE ENERGY OF PHYSICAL PLAY. IN THE WESTERN CULTURE, THESE MANY WAYS HAVE BEEN HIDDEN FROM US WITHIN SEX. EROPLAYING WILL LEAD US TO DISCOVERING THESE MANY OTHER WAYS. EROPLAY IS NOT ANTI-SEXUAL ANYMORE THAN WALKING IS ANTI-SWIMMING.”

During the years I was exploring just eroplay trance in my work, I found that people in their head would pull themselves out of the playing when the play reached a certain intensity. What was happening was they were stepping out of the play to check if the play had turned from eroplay into sexual. Most of the time, this stepping back and checking was not from mistrust or not wanting to play, but from a carefulness and a confusion. But what the stepping back does is remove the person from the experiencing (playing) mode into the thinking/observing mode. This creates the jerkiness which is not pleasurable. This greatly limits the playing/experiencing, greatly increasing the confusion factor. It took me several years to come up with a way around this dynamic. I finally started asking people before they committed to the work if they would be willing to use sex in the work. This willingness bypassed a lot of pulling back, jerkiness, confusion, carefulness…and the whole sexual question…allowing the person to experience the play with the intensity unlimited. The play remained eroplay. The reasons that the play needed to remain eroplay rather than sexual in the work were practical rather than moral.

When the work turned to exploring, mapping, other physical trances “closer” to “sexual”, the need for this willingness grew for practical reasons.

The eroplay rituals will stay about the same, with only a slight widening of the frame. The real change will be in the WRAPPING/ROCKING ritual in that the rocking couple will have a wider “keyboard” of gestures, including “sexual” (really sursexual or tansexual). This new range of possibilities will effect the ritual…even on the nights when the couple (really the trance) happen not to “use” the “sexual” gestures.

During the WRAPPING/ROCKING ritual, the “audience” sit and watch and are wrapped together by nude body-painted dancers. The physical focus, the physical trance generator, is the rocking couple who are using the wider keyboard. The rocking couple are a female cast member (Linda in recent performances) and me. I’m not sure the audience will be aware of the widening…but they will be effected by it. The eroplay rituals in which the “audience” physically participate more remain the same.

Frank Moore
October 1993

Passion Quest poster
Passion Quest poster by LaBash

DOWNLOAD “PASSION QUEST” SCRIPT

Passion Quest 2 poster
“Passion Quest 2” poster by LaBash

DOWNLOAD “PASSION QUEST 2” SCRIPT

“Passion Quest” ticket, front and back
“Passion Quest” ticket, front and back
“Passion Quest 2” ticket, front and back
“Passion Quest 2” ticket, front and back

My Night At The Café Ruined

2/25/03

Oh this poem is shit!
I might as well
Be writing an essay
Like I told the cops
When they ask me
“Are you with THOSE poets?”
Hey, Peter denied being with Jesus
Three times
Before the cock crowed!
But they ain’t no Jesus!
Just poets whining
About poetry being censored,
Being thrown out of the café
Because they wouldn’t follow
THE HOUSE RULES
To promise the poetry
Would not offend anybody,
To give a warning
Of possibilities of offense
So that earplugs
Could be inserted!
Now I agreed
That THE RULES
Are Fascist.
I told the cultural gatekeepers
My opinion!
I tried to be
THE VOICE OF REASON,
Tried to mediate.
I AM A NICE GUY,
After all.
But the immature poets
(obviously age ain’t a sign
Of maturity!)
Started reading poetry
Right here in the café…
After their permit had been
REVOKED!
EMBARASSING!
I mean I was embarrassed!
I started chatting loudly
To drown out
The forbidden words,
To not be connected
To the untouchables
Actually yelling about
CENSORSHIP AND FREEDOM!
Thank god
The powers turned up
The musak!
But the savages just screamed
POETRY!
That’s when I started
Writing my poem…
After all
I AM A POET!
But my focus
Has been shaken by poets
Being dragged,
Very roughly,
Across the floor,
Right in front of my table,
And being booted outside!
It’s a wonder I can
Write at all!
They have put
armed police protection
Around the café
As I write this.
That’s better…
But still the sounds
Of struggle outside
Invade the café
Just like the sweet smoke
Gets into my house
From the soap factory
Next door…
Some fools say it is a death camp!
Fools! No one would put a death camp
In OUR neighborhood!
OH, CHRIST!
The loonies are actually
Reading poetry
Outside
In the bitter cold,
Right outside the big window
Right next to my table.
They are making eyes at me,
Trying to make me feel guilty
For being a poet
Sitting warm inside,
Sipping coffee,
Writing poetry
When poetry is
Locked out!
Well, it won’t work!
I just moved to another table,
My back towards them.
Don’t they realize
The real censors are rightwingers,
Lady Bush, Helms, brown shirts
With their blacklists?
We nice reasonable people
Ain’t censors!
We are artists and poets,
After all!
We are family,
After all!
We ain’t the enemy,
After all!
And we will make you
Look like feeble-minded whiners
If you dare come after one of us,
THE REASONABLE PEOPLE!

Damn, they are still out there!
I can’t leave,
Going through raw poetry
Between home and me!
I’M TRAPPED
Listening to Phil Ochs
Singing on the jukebox
A SMALL CIRCLE OF FRIENDS.


Deborah Crooks reads “My Night At The Café Ruined” on Frank Moore’s Shaman’s Den, June 19, 2011.

Frank to be included in the Live Art Research Space of Performistanbul

Frank’s work will now be archived in a new performance art research library in Istanbul, Turkey, the Live Art Research Space.

We were contacted by Performistanbul requesting a donation of Frank’s work to their archiving project. As a result, all of Frank’s digitized videos (almost 1000), and all of his published books will be added to the collection, plus other publications, a collection of posters, some original performance scripts, paraphernalia from Frank’s 2008 Presidential campaign, and more.

Performistanbul Live Art Research Space will focus on archiving, documenting and exhibiting performance art while providing space and resources for doing research.

“Over the course of our conversations and collaborations with performance art experts in the past two years, the need to conduct further research and access the means by which to do so has become ever more pressing. To this end, Performistanbul has decided to create the Live Art Research Space to meet the needs of students and researchers working in the field of performance art both locally and globally.”

“Performistanbul believes in the uniting and healing power of performance art, which is at the same time, a very effective tool to reach out to people around the world. This has motivated us to plant the seeds of discovering and creating new languages in the field of live art and as a first step, we decided to establish a specialized library and an archive of more than 7000 physical and digital resources within the research space. Planning to open in 2018, the Live Art Research Space will also launch Performistanbul Publishing, aiming to publish new books as well as translated books in Turkish.”

Learn more about Performistanbul at www.performistanbul.org
See Frank Moore’s website at www.eroplay.com