Spalding Gray
Spalding Gray Retrospective

Nell Casey's May 28, 2006 article in The New York Times, For Spalding Gray, One Last Tale, left out a big chunk of Spalding's history and, as a result, misrepresented the early development of Spalding Gray's solo monologs.

In 1975 Spalding Gray and Elizabeth LeCompte began a collaboration at The Performing Garage that resulted in the trilogy Three Places in Rhode Island, consisting of Sakonnet Point (1975), Rumstick Road (1977), and Nayatt School (1978), plus Point Judith (an epilog). This body of work presented a theatrical inquiry which included the first development of Spalding's character of "Spalding," the use of autobiographical materials and a "direct address to the audience," and in Nayatt School an opening monolog in which Gray and LeCompte structured facets of Gray's personal history within and alongside a larger framework.

It was directly out of this work that Spalding began to develop his solo monologs, the first of which was Sex and Death to the Age 14. It was presented at The Performing Garage from April 20 to June 2, 1979.

During the years of 1979 to 1982 Spalding developed and presented five more solo monologs at The Performing Garage: India and After (America), Booze, Cars, and College Girls, A Personal History of the American Theater, In Search of the Monkey Girl, and 47 Beds. A Spalding Gray Retrospective, which ran from October 28 to December 19, 1982 at The Performing Garage, re-presented all six monologs, plus two new pieces: Nobody Wanted to Sit Behind A Desk, and Interviewing the Audience. The Retrsospective, and all of the earlier performances, were produced by The Wooster Group. Videotapes of seven of those pieces, as well as Rumstick Road, are available for viewing at The Theater on Film and Tape Archive of The Library for the Performing Arts.

In December of 1983 Spalding began to present work-in-progress showings of Swimming to Cambodia at The Performing Garage. This on and off process continued into January of 1985. It was during this time that Jonathan Demme directed, at The Performing Garage, the well-known film version. In 2001, not long after the accident in Ireland, Spalding began a revival tour of Swimming to Cambodia, which he inaugurated at The Performing Garage in November and December of that year.

Spalding's relationship with The Performing Garage started in 1969 when he joined the resident company, The Performance Group. Richard Schechner was the director and Spalding performed in many TPG productions over the next 10 years. Those shows included Commune, The Tooth of Crime, Mother Courage, and Cops. Through 1985 Spalding was actively performing in The Wooster Group's shows at The Performing Garage, The American Place Theater, The Mickery in Amsterdam, Kaai in Brussels, and The Kennedy Center in D.C. In addition to the trilogy, he was a part of early rehearsals and work-in-progress showings of L.S.D. (…Just the High Points…), was present on audio in Route 1&9, and originated the role of General Benders in North Atlantic by Jim Strahs.

It has become a somewhat frequent mistake to conflate Spalding's early monologs and The Wooster Group's Three Places in Rhode Island and remember them as one theatrical endeavor. This tendency might explain the incorrect date of 1977 being given as the year when Spalding began his "confessional monologues." It is also worth pointing out that P.S. 122 did not begin its presentation history until 1980 so it simply cannot be "where he started all his monologues." Spalding's valuable relationship with P.S. 122, and also Lincoln Center, began later.