Release Date: January 17, 2018
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Wooster Group, an innovative company of theater and media artists, will present four free performances of the critically acclaimed “The B-Side: ‘Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons’ A Record Album Interpretation” as part of its upcoming residency in the University at Buffalo’s Creative Arts Initiative (CAI).
Chosen by Ben Brantley of The New York Times as one of the best shows of 2017, “The B-Side” is based on performer Eric Berryman’s interest in the album “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” recorded in 1964 by CAI co-director Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and the James Agee Professor of American Culture at UB.
The album features work songs, blues and spirituals performed by a group of inmates in Texas’ racially segregated prison farms. Berryman plays the album and transmits the material live, by channeling, via an in-ear receiver, the voices of the men on the record. Accompanying him are Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore. Berryman also provides context from Jackson’s book “Wake Up Dead Man: Hard Labor and Southern Blues.”
Performances of “The B-Side” will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, and Friday, Feb. 9, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, and Sunday, Feb. 11. All four shows will be in the Black Box Theater in UB’s Center for the Arts.
Tickets are required for these free performances and are available here: https://cai-ub.yapsody.com/event/index/178626.
The Wooster Group develops and presents work in New York City at The Performing Garage at 33 Wooster St. Their national and international touring productions have received Bessie and Obie awards for individual productions and for sustained achievement.
With “The B-Side,” the Wooster Group returns to an artistic form that it has explored throughout its 42-year history: Working with record albums as source material for original theater pieces. These works have included “Nayatt School” (1978), “L.S.D. (…Just the High Points…)” (1984) and, most recently, “Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation” (2014), a piece based on a 1976 album of Shaker songs recorded by the sisters of the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
Berryman saw “Early Shaker Spirituals” in 2015 and brought the album “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons” – which had been in his record collection for years – to the group, and together they collaborated on “The B-Side.”
“After I saw ‘Early Shaker Spirituals,’ I was inspired to have the black convict work song tradition of these men honored in the same way,” he said.
Reviewing “The B-Side” in The New York Times, Brantley wrote “Music seldom sounds more exciting than when you’re introduced to it through the ears of a passionate fan. That’s the experience, heightened to the point of transcendence, that’s on offer in the Wooster Group’s extraordinary ‘The B-Side: ‘Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons.’” Peter Marks of The Washington Post hailed “The B-Side” as “galvanizing, hypnotizing, ravishing,” concluding, “this is an hour of listening for any audience anywhere that wants its spirits lifted even as its conscience is stirred.”
In addition to their schedule of free performances, the Wooster Group’s residency from Feb. 4-11 will also include several workshops and public discussions. Details on these programs are still being worked out, but once finalized the information will be available here.
Director: Kate Valk
Mise en Scène: Elizabeth LeCompte
Lighting: Ryan Seelig
Sound: Eric Sluyter
Video: Robert Wuss
Costumes: Enver Chakartash
Musical Director: Gareth Hobbs
Stage Manager: Erin Mullin
Videographer: Zbigniew Bzymek
Set Building: Joseph Silovsky Studios
Production Manager: Bona Lee
General Manager and Associate Producer: Pamela Reichen
The Buffalo presentation of the Wooster Group’s “The B-Side” has been made possible by major support from UB’s Creative Arts Initiative, College of Arts and Sciences (Robin G. Schulze, dean), James Agee Chair in American Culture (Bruce Jackson), Edward H. Butler Chair in English (Cristanne Miller), James H. McNulty Chair of English (Myung Mi Kim), and David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters (Steve McCaffery). Significant support has also been provided by The Robert and Patricia Colby Foundation, Riverrun (Patrick Martin, president) and Rigidized Metals (Rick Smith, president).
About the Wooster Group
The Wooster Group makes original works for the theater. The company integrates visual media, sound, architectonic design and text with live performance. Founded in 1975, it has remained at the forefront of experimental theater for decades.
The group’s major works include: “Rumstick Road” (1977), “Nayatt School” (1978), “L.S.D. (…Just the High Points…)” (1984), “Frank Dell’s The Temptation of St. Antony” (1988), “Brace Up!” (1991), “The Emperor Jones” (1993), “The Hairy Ape” (1996), “House/Lights” (1999), “To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre)” (2002), “Poor Theater” (2004), “Hamlet” (2007), the 360º video installation “There Is Still Time . . Brother” (2007), the opera “La Didone” (2009), “Vieux Carré” (2011), “Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation” (2014), “The Room” (2016), “The B-Side: ‘Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,’ A Record Album Interpretation” (2017) and “A Pink Chair (In Place of a Fake Antique)” (2017).
The group’s founding members were Spalding Gray (1941-2004), Elizabeth LeCompte, Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter (1948-1994), Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk and Peyton Smith. Wooster Group director Elizabeth LeCompte has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater, as well as the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the 2016 Dorothy & Lillian Gish Award. Director Kate Valk has received the Guggenheim and TCG/Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, as well as the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Performing Artist Award. The group and its members have also won nine Obie Awards, six Bessie Awards and the National Endowment for the Arts Ongoing Ensembles Grant.
The Performing Garage in the Soho neighborhood of lower Manhattan is the Wooster Group’s permanent home and performance venue. The group owns and operates the Garage as a shareholder in the Grand Street Artists Co-op, which was originally established as part of the Fluxus art movement. The group regularly tours its productions throughout the United States and internationally. For more information, visit www.TheWoosterGroup.org.
Jacob Bigelow, Zbigniew Bzymek, Enver Chakartash, Matthew Dipple, Mike Farry, Ari Fliakos, Clay Hapaz, Cynthia Hedstrom, Gareth Hobbs, Elizabeth LeCompte, Bona Lee, Erin Mullin, Michaela Murphy, Pamela Reichen, Scott Shepherd, Eric Sluyter, Kate Valk, Robert Wuss.
About the Creative Arts Initiative
The CAI is a university-wide initiative dedicated to the creation and production of new work upholding the highest artistic standards of excellence and fostering a complementary atmosphere of creative investigation and engagement among students, faculty, visiting artists and the community.
Through its Artist-in-Residence program and its innovative, interdisciplinary offerings for students, CAI is raising the profile of UB and Buffalo in the world of artistic expression and revitalizing the initiative’s proud tradition as a leader in contemporary art.