181 - The Accidental Archivist—Keeping the Wooster Group

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The Wooster Group, perched on a street corner in Soho in downtown New York, at the forefront of experimental theater for some 40 years. Singular, rigorous, flamboyant. Their startling performances unravel and transform classic texts by Brecht, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill... along with their own striking original works. Six Obies, nine Bessies, accolades from around the world as they tour their works through Europe and Asia.
Theater. One of the more ephemeral of art forms. How to preserve the work, chronicle it, archive it for the ages? Yes, there are scripts, props, sets, costumes — a pair of muddy shoes from a 1981 production of Route 1 & 9. But what if you're experimental theater? Devoted to process, improvisation, the dense layering of ideas and texts and sound and image, performances ever-changing? Obsessed with preserving everything—every rehearsal, every production meeting, every performance. How do you catalog something in a constant state of flux?
Clay Hapaz entered the universe of The Wooster Group as an intern in 1992. In 2000 he became their official archivist.

Voices you’ll hear include Clay Hapaz, Kate Valk, Frances McDormand, Hilton Als, Peter Sellars, Spalding Gray and Elizabeth LeCompte.

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) and Evan Jacoby in collaboration with Brandi Howell and Nathan Dalton. Mixed by Jim McKee.
Special Thanks: Clay Hapaz, Kate Valk, Frances McDormand, Juliet Lashinsky-Revene, Hilton Als, Peter Sellars, Fran & Kate’s Drama Club and Elizabeth LeCompte.

Music: Matt Dougherty and The Wooster Group’s archive.

Thanks also to Lumi Tan, Lewanne Jones and Claire Maske.
Support for the Stories comes from The National Endowment for the Arts & Listener Contributions to The Kitchen Sisters Productions (Many thanks)

The Kitchen Sisters Present is part of the Radiotopia Podcast Network on PRX. Thanks for listening

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