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The Wooster Group Stages 'THE B-SIDE' Starting Tonight

The Wooster Group Stages 'THE B-SIDE' Starting Tonight

The Wooster Group presents the premiere of its newest work, THE B-SIDE: "Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons" A Record Album Interpretation this month, followed by a limited return engagement of the Group's 2014 piece, EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS: A Record Album Interpretation in December.

Both works are directed by Kate Valk and designed by Elizabeth LeCompte, and will be performed at The Wooster Group's home, The Performing Garage (33 Wooster Street, between Broome and Grand Streets).

These original works explore two very specific strains of American culture. Both pieces find a theatrical form inspired by the once nearly universal experience of sitting down with a record player and listening to an album. With these two shows, the Wooster Group returns to an artistic form that it has explored throughout its 42-year history: working with record albums as source material for original productions, including such previous works as NAYATT SCHOOL (1978) and L.S.D. (...JUST THE HIGH POINTS...) (1984).

THE B-SIDE is based on performer Eric Berryman's interest in the LP, Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons, recorded in 1964 by folklorist Bruce Jackson. The LP features work songs, blues, spirituals, preaching, and toasts performed by a group of inmates in Texas' then-segregated agricultural prison farms. Mr. Berryman plays the album and transmits the material live, by channeling, via an in-ear receiver, the voices of the men on the record. Accompanying him are Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore. Mr. Berryman also provides context from his conversations with MR. Jackson, who is a writer, photographer, and professor at the University at Buffalo.

Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons has been in Mr. Berryman's record collection for many years. After seeing EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS in 2015, he brought his album to the Group and together they collaborated on THE B-SIDE, a piece with an approach similar to EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS.

Mr. Berryman commented, "After I saw EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS, I was inspired to have the black convict work song tradition of these men honored in the same way."

EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS is based on a 1976 album of Shaker songs recorded by the sisters of the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. The album Early Shaker Spirituals has been in the Group's collection since the early 1980s, when Elizabeth LeCompte, Kate Valk, and other members of the company visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community and met with Sister R. MildrEd Barker, who sings on the album. The piece features Cynthia Hedstrom, Elizabeth LeCompte, Frances McDormand, Bebe Miller, and Suzzy Roche who channel the voices of the Shaker singers from the album via in-ear receivers to give a new live rendering to the songs. Complementing the songs are dances in which the singers are joined by Matthew Brown, Modesto Jimenez, Bobby McElver, and Andrew Schneider. Jamie Poskin serves as interlocutor, reading from the album's liner notes.

In addition to Valk, LeCompte, and the performers, the full ensemble for THE B-SIDE: "Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons" and EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS includes: Enver Chakartash (costumes), Gareth Hobbs (sound), Bona Lee (production manager), Erin Mullin (stage manager), Ryan Seelig (lighting), Eric Sluyter (sound), Jennifer Tipton (lighting), and Robert Wuss (video for THE B-SIDE).

Tickets for THE B-SIDE are on sale at www.thewoostergroup.org. Performances of THE B-SIDE run tonight, October 25, through November 12, 2017. EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS will run for 11 performances, December 7 - 17, 2017.

The Wooster Group began in 1975; founding company members include Spalding Gray (1941-2004), Elizabeth LeCompte, Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter (1948-1994), Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk, and Peyton Smith. The Group is a full-time ensemble, led by Ms. LeCompte and Ms. Valk, which has created and performed 25 pieces for theater, 13 film/video pieces, and five dance pieces. Major works have included RUMSTICK ROAD (1977), NAYATT SCHOOL (1978), HULA (1981), L.S.D. (...JUST THE HIGH POINTS...) (1984), FRANK DELL'S THE TEMPTATION OF ST. ANTONY (1988), BRACE UP! (1991), THE EMPEROR JONES (1993), HOUSE/LIGHTS (1999), TO YOU, THE BIRDIE! (Phèdre) (2002), POOR THEATER (2004), HAMLET (2007), the 360º video installation THERE IS STILL TIME . . BROTHER (2007), the opera LA DIDONE (2009), VIEUX CARRÉ (2011), CRY, TROJANS! (Troilus & Cressida) (2014), THE ROOM (2016), THE TOWN HALL AFFAIR (2017), and A PINK CHAIR (In Place of a Fake Antique) (2017). The Wooster Group and its members have won nine Obie Awards, six Bessie Awards, and the 1985 National Endowment for the Arts Ongoing Ensembles Grant. Kate Valk has received the Guggenheim and TCG/Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, as well as the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Performing Artist Award. Elizabeth LeCompte has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the 2016 Dorothy & Lillian Gish Award.

The Performing Garage has been The Wooster Group's permanent home and performance venue since its beginning, and all of its work has been developed there. It was bought in the early 1970s when Soho was an empty warehouse district being re-zoned for artists. The Wooster Group owns and operates the Garage as a shareholder in the Grand Street Artists Co-op, which was originally established as part of the Fluxus art movement in the 1960s. The Wooster Group also tours its productions throughout the United States and internationally.

IF YOU GO:

THE B-SIDE: "Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons," A Record Album Interpretation
October 25 - October 29, October 31 - November 5, November 7 - November 12
Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8 pm
Sundays at 7 pm

EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS: A RECORD ALBUM INTERPRETATION
December 7 - 10, 12 - 17, 2017
Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8 pm
Sunday, December 10 at 3 pm and 7 pm
Sunday, December 17 at 3 pm (special benefit performance)*

At The Performing Garage, 33 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013

Tickets: $25-$50, available at www.thewoostergroup.org or 212.966.3651.
*Tickets for the special benefit performance of EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS on December 17 are priced at $100.

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