KPBS AIRDATE: April 4, 1991
>Ask Spalding Gray a question and you won’t necessarily get a straight answer. He won’t avoid; he’ll digress. But that’s what he does best: Take a circuitous route from Point A to Point B via a delicious series of personal anecdotal detours.
>Gray is known as a monologist, a moniker he detests. He calls himself an Actor/Writer/Performer. One of the pieces he’s doing here, tomorrow night, is “Monster in a Box,” his thirteenth monologue, a series of stories about a man who can’t write a book about a man who can’t take a vacation. Tonight is his talk entitled, “A History of American Theater,” which chronicles his lifetime of theater experience framed, as always, in a much broader context. He’s toured his monologues around the country, as well as in Europe and Australia. Probably his best-known is the Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia,” which was successfully filmed by Jonathan Demme in 1987.
>Ten years earlier, Gray helped to found the cutting-edge, experimental New York theater company called the Wooster Group. The Group is still based at the Performing Garage in Soho. Gray still lives across the street.
>He’s acted both on and off Broadway, most recently as the Stage Manager in a Lincoln Center revival of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” He got mixed reviews, and, in his latest monologue, he takes the rare opportunity to respond virulently to the offending critics.
>Gray’s film appearances include “The Killing Fields,” the shooting of which was the subject of “Swimming to Cambodia,” as well as “True Stories,” “Stars and Bars,” “Clara’s Heart,” “Beaches” and “The Image” with Albert Finney for HBO. He recently re-created his role in “Our Town” for PBS’s “Great Performances.”
A number of Gray’s monologues are now in print, and “Monster in a Box” is soon to be published by Vintage Press, followed shortly by its Afterward, called “Scenes Behind the Scenes Behind the Scenes.”
He’s been touring “Monster in a Box” for six weeks, after an enormously successful New York run at Lincoln Center. In June he turns 50, and in August, he marries Renée Shafransky, his girlfriend of 13 years, who directed his performance in “Monster in a Box.”
At various points in his life, Gray claims to have had a drinking problem, a reading problem, paranoia about AIDS, sweaty feet, a hyperactive conscience, middle-child syndrome, fear of fear — and incredible adventures in making his way from his home town in Rhode Island to the wilds of L.A., stopping along the way in Nicaragua, Cambodia, New Hampshire and his beloved New York. He’s a New England Puritan raised on Christian Science and drowning in Jewish guilt; a bicoastal purveyor of urban irony, an astute observer of the outer and inner world he inhabits — a world that’s always slightly askew, a little loopy, poignant, gut-wrenching and frequently hilarious.
I’m Pat Launer for KPBS radio.
©1991 Patté Productions Inc.