Spalding Gray Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Spalding Gray, actor, writer, and monologist, has been hailed by critics as one of America’s outstanding storytellers. Born and raised in Rhode Island, his experiences in New England have served as the foundation for much of his autobiographical writing and performance. He moved to New York City in 1959 to become a writer but got involved in theater instead. In his works, he blends personal and social history, which affords his performances a diverse universality, resulting in what he refers to as “poetic reporting.”

Gray began his writing career as a cofounder and performer in the experimental theater company The Wooster Group in 1975. Prior to that, he and Liz LeCompte had worked with Richard Schechner in the Performance Group. While with the Wooster Group, Gray’s personal stories comprised the bulk of a trilogy titled Three Places in Rhode Island. The success of the trilogy and, more important, the finding of his own voice convinced Gray that, for him, the end of the collaborative group process’s usefulness had come.

In 1979, Gray returned to the Performing Garage in New York City to present his first major monologue, Sex and Death to the Age Fourteen. This was followed by five additional pieces about growing up in New England. Contained in the same volume, the pieces are titled Booze, Cars, and College Girls; Forty-seven Beds; Nobody Wanted to Sit Behind a Desk; Travels Through New England; and Terrors of Pleasure: The House. These monologues were performed throughout the United States and Europe during the early 1980’s.

Gray’s work as a performer has also...

(The entire section is 684 words.)