Spalding Gray's (1941-2004) career in the theatre spanned one of the most dynamic periods of American history and culture. From the 1960s and into the 21st century, Gray took the stage and mesmerized his audiences with twisted and often hilarious tales about life in America and abroad.
Spalding Gray's America traces Gray's life from his work with the famous Performance and Wooster Groups to his career as a storyteller famously presenting captivating monologues in his signature plaid shirt while sitting behind a desk on an otherwise bare stage. His monologues include Sex and Death to the Age 14, Swimming to Cambodia, Gray's Anatomy, Monster in a Box, It's a Slippery Slope, and Morning, Noon and Night. Successful as these monologues were on the stage, many of them have also been converted to feature films, including Swimming to Cambodia, directed by Jonathan Demme, and Gray's Anatomy, directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Gray's stories provide a quirky, full-color portrait of America in the last half of what has been famously labeled “the American century.” They are poignant, touching, and often troubling, but they're also vividly insightful and invariably funny. Spalding Gray's America captures the essence of Spalding Gray's theatre and storytelling. And it reveals Gray's deep but conflicted passion for the homeland that gave him the opportunity to be a true American original.
William Demastes (Baton Rouge, LA) has written widely on theatre and drama, including the books Comedy Matters: From Shakespeare to Stoppard; Staging Consciousness; Theatre of Chaos; and Beyond Naturalism. He is a professor of English at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and knew Spalding Gray for nearly fifteen years.
Richard Shechner is editor of The Drama Review and a professor of Performance Studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.