Ronlin Foreman is a new kind of fool.
Part of the growing new generation of movement artists, the former classic mime speaks where he was once silent. In his paradoxical performances, which range from lunacy to pathos, his particular brand of comedic clowning and foolery is elevated by an ironic sense of tragedy.
Foreman enacts his latest work, "Donkeys, Feathers, Donuts and Floats," at the 1992 Mid-Atlantic Movement Theatre Festival being held at Towson State University today through Sunday. The performance is at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Main Stage Theatre of the Fine Arts Building.
The four-day event includes evening performances by the Splitting Image theater company, movement artists Mark Jaster and the comic team of Rajeckas and Intraub. In addition there are 30 workshops, eight ShopTOOLS sessions and four panel discussions to help those interested in creating new movement theater work.
As guest instructor this week teaching TSU students and out-of-town registrants European mime techniques, Foreman brings a rich background to festival activities.
Raised in South Alabama, the solo artist became a student at E'Cole Jacques Lecoq in Paris under the great mime master (Lecoq) after graduating with a bachelor of fine arts degree in acting and directing from the University of Southern Mississippi.
For eight years he has been the resident clown teacher at the Dell'arte School of Physical Theater in California and has toured nationally and internationally.
"A lot of my work is university residencies teaching theater as a dynamic proposition not a narrative engagement," Foreman said in a phone interview recently from his home in Clarksville, Tenn.
This summer he was invited to work on a new piece that deals with the nature of the fool as prophet at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute Writers Workshop in Utah.
"The fool as prophet is one who goes forward through the norm, past the norm, over and around to find revelations," said Foreman.
"As the author of my own material, I am interested in the arrangement of theatrical events. My interest is the performer as catalyst that allows for the development of the theatrical moment.
"Tragedy is underneath the comedy," he said. "The tragic event is not funny but the resolution of the event in a classical sense becomes comedic because it is not tragic. It transcends the tragic and becomes revelatory.
"The clown always has to be resilient," he noted. "That is why the clown can play with and should play with horrific material and not fear it. He can't ultimately be dented by it, misshapen by it. He has to always be the clown."
For Saturday's 90-minute performance Foreman will do a showing of works that he has enacted over the past 10 years that represent his own type of physical theater. Unlike the non-speaking mime he uses many props and dons an array of costumes.
"Within these bits is a more pure clown," he said. "And a fool. There is a difference. The fool plays with paradox and irony. He has the potential to manipulate and stands on the outside with an objective view of things.
"The clown is subjective, the embodiment of paradox and irony. He is that. His world functions as that. He plays solidly in the middle of both. He does not have the potential for making a comment on his world."
Mid-Atlantic Movement Theatre Festival, a non-profit organization based in Westminster, is coordinated by Maryland movement artist David Geyer. Admission for the performances is $12 for the general public. Tickets can be obtained by calling the Towson State University box office. Tickets can also be purchased at the door. Call 830-ARTS for reservations and performance dates and times and other festival information. The Main Stage Theatre at TSU is accessible for the handicapped.