The Wooster Group is a company of artists who make work for theater, dance, and media. The Wooster Group's CAI residency will include four performances of THE B-SIDE: “Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons” A Record Album Interpretation, workshops with UB students, and public discussions at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the African American Cultural Center.
The Wooster Group are based in New York City at The Performing Garage at 33 Wooster Street, where they develop and perform their work. They also perform their work at larger theaters in New York (Baryshnikov Arts Center, St. Ann's Warehouse, the Public Theater). Their productions tour nationally and internationally. The Wooster Group has received numerous BESSIE and OBIE Awards for individual productions and for sustained achievement.
The two principals of the Group are Director Elizabeth LeCompte and Associate Director Kate Valk (director of The B-Side). LeCompte has won The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the National Endowment for the Arts Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement; she is a chevalier in the French Ordre des Artes et des Lettres. Valk has received a BESSIE for Best Performer, an OBIE for Sustained Excellence in Performance, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Inspired by the Group’s recent record album interpretation of Early Shaker Spirituals, actor Eric Berryman brought the LP Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons to the Group’s attention. The album was recorded, edited, and annotated by Bruce Jackson and released in 1965. It contains work songs, blues, spirituals, preaching, and toasts performed by the men of Texas’ segregated agricultural prison farm units. The songs are part of a tradition that ended when the prisons were integrated.
This collaboration between Eric Berryman and the Wooster Group follows Eric’s journey with the album, including meetings with Bruce Jackson. In the performance, Berryman channels the album (using an in-ear receiver), transmitting voices from the past into a theatrical space. Joining him are Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore.