Rumstick RoadPhoto: Elizabeth LeCompte
Rumstick Road, Photo: Elizabeth LeCompte 

Film: Rumstick Road

by The Wooster Group
Director: Elizabeth LeCompte
Stage B

In »Rumstick Road«, one of their most famous productions, The Wooster Group undertook an experiment that was highly unusual for the theatre of its time in 1977: one that was poised on the border between acting, documentary research and multimedia installation. On stage, Spalding Gray attempted to reconstruct the story of his mother who committed suicide after a long struggle with severe depression interspersed by manic episodes of religious ecstasy. His own memories were intermingled on stage with recordings of interviews he had conducted with family members, letters, film clips, family photos and pictures of his childhood home on the Rumstick Road of the title in a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island. This documentary search for traces of evidence was repeatedly interrupted by sometimes absurdly comical moments of acting and dance. The quest to reconstruct a story out of fragments is also the artistic principle of the film version of the play, and in two senses: since there was no complete recording of the original theatrical production, Elizabeth LeCompte and filmmaker Ken Kobland decided to create a reconstruction of the stage version — itself a mix of materials — in a collage-like patchwork of different materials. U-Matic video is combined with Super 8 film, reel-to-reel audio tapes and 35 mm slides and photographs to create a film that goes beyond being a mere recording of a play and becomes its own form of video art. Due to the distance of the decades, it also becomes the tragic chronicle of a suicide in which reality catches up with the story on stage. And again in a double sense: in 2004, after a long battle with depression, Spalding Gray also took his own life.

Original production: Spalding Gray, Elizabeth LeCompte
Filmed reconstruction: Elizabeth LeCompte, Ken Kobland
With: Spalding Gray, Libby Howes, Ron Vawter, Jim Clayburgh