Spalding Gray was born in 1941 in Rhode Island to middle-class parents. He went to Emerson College where he studied acting. After graduation he worked as an actor for summer stock companies and traveled around North America. When he returned to Rhode Island in 1967, he found out that his mother had committed suicide. Her death would play a significant role in many of his monologues as well as his novel Impossible Vacation.
In 1970 he joined Richard Schechner’s Performance Group and remained there for five years until he and fellow group member Elizabeth LeCompte broke with Schechner to form the Wooster Group, an avant-garde performance troupe. While at the Wooster Group, he and LeCompte produced their trilogy of plays entitled Three Places in Rhode Island (1979), which included Sakonnet Point, Rumstick Road, and Nyatt School. These plays explored Gray’s relationship to his family and especially his mother’s suicide.
After teaming with LeCompte for Three Places in Rhode Island, Gray began to work individually on a series of monologues about his early life. These pieces, eventually titled Sex and Death to the Age Fourteen and Booze, Cars, and College Girls, would become the first of an ongoing series of monologues that Gray performed about his own life. These monologues made Gray famous and formed what he described as “an ongoing oral history, within which I include...
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