THE WOOSTER GROUP Screening & Conversation With Elizabeth LeCompte & Hilton Als

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)
Apr 24, 2014 2:09AM


Screening & Conversation With Elizabeth LeCompte & Hilton Als

EAI is pleased to present a special evening devoted to the New York-based experimental theater and media ensemble The Wooster Group. For close to forty years, this company of artists has explored the interplay between media and live performance, transgressing traditions of theater and dance on stage while also experimenting with single-channel video and media installations. A screening of selections from the group's theatrical productions and videos—many of them rarely seen—will be followed by a conversation between Wooster Group director and co-founder Elizabeth LeCompte and Hilton Als, Theater Critic for The New Yorker.

Thursday April 24th, 2014, 6:30 PM

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

535 West 22nd Street, 5th floor

New York, NY 10011

Admission $ 7.00 / Students $ 5.00

Free for EAI Members

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Founded in 1975, The Wooster Group has played a pivotal role in bringing technologically sophisticated and evocative uses of sound, film and video into the realm of contemporary theater. Constructed as assemblages of surprising juxtapositions, their productions draw on a wide array of cultural references to present radical restagings of classic texts, such as Shakespeare's Hamlet, for which LeCompte repurposed the "Theatrofilm" of a 1964 Broadway production starring Richard Burton, recorded live and screened in cinemas across the U.S. The Group's La Didone is a live mash-up of Francesco Cavalli's 1641 opera with Mario Bava's cult movie Planet of the Vampires (1965), staged simultaneously. The Group's strategy of layering eclectic elements (including found materials, dance, multi-track scoring, and an architectonic approach to design) also finds dynamic expression in their innovative works in film, single-channel video and multi-media installation, such as White Homeland Commando (1992) and There Is Still Time..Brother (2007).

Group productions often deliberately provoke classifications and stereotypes, experimenting with the mutation of a text's significance when displaced from its familiar setting. Writing on the Group's staging of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, in which the main black male character was played by Kate Valk in blackface, Hilton Als observed that "By casting Valk in the title role, instead of, say, Jeffrey Wright, [LeCompte] adds another dimension to the play: she equates the female with the black outsider, and she allows Valk to embody the two central themes of American drama, sex and race. By mercilessly exploiting language that the N.A.A.C.P. would find incendiary now…LeCompte also addresses the long-standing controversy surrounding the text."

Alongside groundbreaking theater-media hybrids by Richard Foreman, Joan Jonas, and Robert Wilson, The Wooster Group's use of media to deconstruct and recombine plays, operas, B-movies, television shows, and art history breaks down stringent distinctions between disciplines, widening the frame to include an eclectic and diverse range of references that reflect a dynamic contemporary culture.


The Wooster Group is a company of artists—originally composed of Elizabeth LeCompte, Spalding Gray (1941-2004), Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter (1948-1994), Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk, and Peyton Smith—who create work for theater, dance, and media. Based in New York City at The Performing Garage at 33 Wooster Street, the company also stages works at larger theaters in New York, including St. Ann's Warehouse, the Baryshnikov Arts Center and the Public Theater, in addition to touring nationally and internationally. Since its founding in 1975, The Wooster Group has sustained a full-time, ongoing ensemble, though one that is constantly evolving. With its many artistic associates, the Group has created and performed twenty pieces for theater, twelve film/video pieces, and five dance pieces. LeCompte has directed all of these works, and members who have "moved on" periodically return to remount repertory pieces and make new work.

The Wooster Group has received numerous awards, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Village Voice OBIE Award for "fifteen years of sustained excellence." The Wooster Group's film and video works have been included in numerous exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial and the New York Film Festival. The video reconstruction of Rumstick Road, a major work of experimental video in its own right by LeCompte and Ken Kobland, will be premiered in a run at Anthology Film Archives, from May 1st-7th, 2014.


Elizabeth LeCompte is the director and a founding member of The Wooster Group. Since TWG's first show in 1975, she has composed, designed, and directed over forty works for theater, dance, film and video, including, for theater, Rumstick Road (1977), Frank Dell's The Temptation of St. Antony (1988), House/Lights (1999), Hamlet (2007),  and Cry, Trojans! (Troilus & Cressida) (2014); the immersive installation There Is Still Time..Brother (2007); the opera La Didone (2008), as well as works for single-channel video, including White Homeland Commando (1992), Rhyme 'Em To Death (1993), and The Emperor Jones (2001). She has received an NEA Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement in American Theater, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Skowhegan Medal for Performance, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French Cultural Ministry, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Performing Artist Award, a US Artists Fellowship, an Anonymous Was a Woman Award, and honorary doctorates from the New School and California Institute for the Arts. Prior to her work with TWG, she was a member of the experimental theater company The Performance Group (1970-75).

Hilton Als is the Theater Critic for The New Yorker. He began contributing there in 1989, becoming a staff writer at the magazine in 1994 before assuming his current role in 2002. His 2013 book White Girls—which explores race, gender, and identity in essays on topics ranging from the AIDS epidemic to Richard Pryor—was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. His published writing include the books The Women (1996) and Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis (2010), as well as articles for The Nation and The Village Voice, where he was a staff writer. He was editor-at-large of Vibe magazine, collaborated on film scripts for Swoon and Looking for Langston, and edited the catalogue for The Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (1994-95). He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism in 2002-03.


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