The Wooster Group Presents EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS at The Performing Garage, Now thru 6/15

The Wooster Group Presents EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS at The Performing Garage, Now thru 6/15

The Wooster Group will present EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS: A RECORD ALBUM INTERPRETATION at The Performing Garage from today, May 17 through June 15, 2014. The newest Wooster Group work, EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS is a performance based on a 1976 LP of Shaker hymns, marches, anthems, and testimony recorded by Sister R. Mildred Barker and the sisters of the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

All tickets are $25 and will be available starting April 9 at or by phone at 212.966.3651 (Monday-Friday, 10:00 am-6:00 pm). Critics are welcome starting May 22. The production will officially open on May 29.

EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS features performances of all twenty tracks from side A of the album sung by Cynthia Hedstrom, Elizabeth LeCompte, Frances McDormand, and Suzzy Roche. The performers channel the voices of the Shaker singers to give a new live rendering of the songs. Complementing the songs are dances created by the Group. They are composed of simple patterns inspired by the surviving fragments of the ecstatic dance that characterized the Shakers' worship services. For the dances, the singers are joined by Modesto Jimenez, Bobby McElver, Bebe Miller, and Andrew Schneider. Kate Valk narrates from the album liner notes.

EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS returns to an artistic practice that the Group has used throughout its history: working with record albums as source material for original productions, among them HULA (1981) and L.S.D. (...JUST THE HIGH POINTS...) (1984). The piece also expresses the Group's long-standing interest in the Shakers, a millenarian, celibate, communitarian sect. In 1980, Elizabeth LeCompte, Kate Valk, and other members of the company visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community and met with Sister R. Mildred Barker. Around that time, the company first began listening to the record album that forms the basis for this new piece.

Valk says, "This record has been in The Wooster Group's collection for over 30 years and has a deep personal connection for Elizabeth LeCompte and me. As the female elders of the Group, we've found an apt metaphor in the Sisters of the Sabbathday Lake community. And we have the perfect women joining us to sing their songs: Suzzy Roche, Frances McDormand and Cynthia Hedstrom."

In addition to the performers, the full EARLY SHAKER SPIRITUALS ensemble includes Max Bernstein (sound), Enver Chakartash (costumes), Jim Clayburgh (set), Bill Kennedy (technical director), Elizabeth LeCompte (set), Bobby McElver (sound), Jamie Poskin (assistant director), Emily Rea (production manager), Ryan Seelig (lighting), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and Kate Valk (director).

Founded in 1975, The Wooster Group has made more than 30 works for theater, dance, film, and video under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte. These works include RUMSTICK ROAD (1977), 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), HAMLET (2007), THERE IS STILL TIME. .BROTHER (2007), LA DIDONE (2009), VIEUX CARRÉ (2011), and CRY, TROJANS! (Troilus & Cressida) (2014). Historical and contemporary arts exert a strong influence on the Group's work, and dance, video, music, and architecture are all important organizing principles. Based at The Performing Garage at 33 Wooster Street in lower Manhattan, the company regularly tours worldwide, including North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The Performing Garage is part of the Grand Street Artists Co-op, a 1960s project of the Fluxus art movement.


April 24: Screening and Conversation: Elizabeth LeCompte & Hilton Als. A program of selections from Wooster Group film and video works, followed by Elizabeth LeCompte and critic Hilton Als in conversation. 6:30 pm. Electronic Arts Intermix, 535 West 22nd Street, New York City.

April 29: The Wooster Group Spring Benefit hosted by Steve Buscemi, Buck Henry, Frances McDormand, Lorne Michaels, Mike Nichols, and Maura Tierney. 6:00 pm. 632 on Hudson, 632 Hudson Street, New York City.

May 1-7: RUMSTICK ROAD at Anthology Film Archives. Screenings of Elizabeth LeCompte and Ken Kobland's video reconstruction of the landmark 1977 Wooster Group production composed by Spalding Gray and LeCompte. Special events: Elizabeth LeCompte and playwright/director Richard Maxwell in conversation on May 1; Ken Kobland and film critic Amy Taubin in conversation on May 2; Wooster Group member Kate Valk and theater director Sam Gold (The Flick) in conversation on May 5; screening and reception co-hosted by Alex Katz, Joan Jonas, Tony Oursler, Nayland Blake, David Reed & others on May 6. All screenings at 8:00 pm (additional 5:00 pm screening on May 5). Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Avenue, New York City.






May 17, 22-24, 29-31, June 5-7 and 12-14: 7:30 pm

May 18, 25, June 1, 8 and 15: 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm

To purchase tickets:

Online at

By phone at 212.966.3651

Pictured: Wooster Group portraits by Nancy Campbell; composite by Max Bernstein

Related Articles

Off-Off-Broadway THEATER Stories | Shows

From This Author BWW News Desk

Before you go...