July 12, 2006

Guild Hall To Honor Spalding Gray

Avant Garde. Manic Depressive. Genius.

Spalding Gray was called all these and more throughout his profoundly successful career. With only his writings remaining, the dark and definitive actor and monologist left a distinct impression on American literature. He will be honored in Guild Hall's upcoming "Leftover Stories to Tell: A Tribute to Spalding Gray," on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The evening promises a combination of performances and readings from Gray's journal excerpts, poems and monologues by Richard Gere, Anne Jackson, Eli Wallach, Carey Lowell, Ain Gordon, Hazelle Goodman and Jonathan Ames.

Gray's confessional-style of writing peeled away at the layers of the human condition to reveal the raw and sometimes uncomfortable truths that lie beneath. His monologues often recounted personal experiences and his subsequent reflections on them, usually with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor mixed in. The big break came with his critically acclaimed monologue Swimming to Cambodia, which recounted his experience playing a small role in the 1985 film The Killing Fields.

Gray's unusual and insightful perspective on life was, in part, attributed to the emotional suffering he endured as he struggled with clinical depression. His condition significantly worsened in 2001 after a car accident in Ireland left him with a fractured skull and a badly broken hip, making his right leg nearly unusable. The author never fully recovered from the accident, physically and emotionally. He committed suicide in February 2004 by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry. He was 62 years old.

Gray left behind a body of work that has inspired admiration and respect from his peers and fans. He created a series of 18 monologues that were performed around the world, including Sex and Death to the Age 14; Booze, Cars, and College Girls; A Personal History of the American Theater; Indian and After (America); Swimming to Cambodia; Terrors of Pleasure; Monster in a Box; Gray's Anatomy; Morning, Noon and Night and his final piece, Life Interrupted.

Guild Hall's tribute will conclude with a cocktail reception with hors d'oeuvres at Co Co's Restaurant at the Maidstone Arms in East Hampton at 10 p.m. Tickets are $200. Proceeds will benefit the Spalding Gray Scholarship Fund at Ross School. For more info call 324-4050.

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