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A Tribute to Spalding Gray

From: Jon Kalish
Length: 28:51

Interviews with Gray and those who knew him, as well as excerpts from one of his performances.

Default-piece-image-2 New York reporter Jon Kalish spent a significant amount of time with Spalding Gray in the last years of the performer's life, interviewing him about another autobiographical performer and doing a profile of Gray for NPR. The late performance artist explains the mechanics of his craft to a seminar of aspiring monologuists at a New Age institute. Kalish hangs with Gray at home on Long Island and at a summer home in upstate New York where Gray recounts his horrific auto accident in Ireland. Included in the program are excerrpts from a monologue-in-progress about the accident. Kalish also talks to performer Eric Begosian and storyteller Mike Feder, both of whom were close to the man.

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Piece Description

New York reporter Jon Kalish spent a significant amount of time with Spalding Gray in the last years of the performer's life, interviewing him about another autobiographical performer and doing a profile of Gray for NPR. The late performance artist explains the mechanics of his craft to a seminar of aspiring monologuists at a New Age institute. Kalish hangs with Gray at home on Long Island and at a summer home in upstate New York where Gray recounts his horrific auto accident in Ireland. Included in the program are excerrpts from a monologue-in-progress about the accident. Kalish also talks to performer Eric Begosian and storyteller Mike Feder, both of whom were close to the man.

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Review of A Tribute to Spalding Gray

I felt somewhat healed by this piece. Even now I am so devastated by Spalding Gray's death. His voice was so essential, so much a part of our existence. No one will ever take his place. No one will ever adequately represent the art form he so brilliantly exploited. There are now, simply put, no monologuists. He was the end of an era. Thank you, Spalding. Thank you for your exquisite art. We will always be in your debt.

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Review of A Tribute to Spalding Gray

Storyteller Spalding Gray killed himself in 2004 by jumping off the Staten Island ferry. Best known for the monologue and movie "Swimming to Cambodia," this documentary focuses on the period of Gray's life after a life-threatening car accident. Using audio from his one-man performances and several personal interviews, New York City producer Jon Kalish presents a portrait of Gray's personal struggles and work, which many people believed were the same. "He questions everything and ends up more exhausted than satisfied," wrote Michael Kuchwara, the Associated Press drama critic. To do that, Gray dwelled on yesterday's troubles. "One of the hells that I suffer is that I live in the past a lot of the time," he says at one point in the documentary. The strongest moment of this piece is Kalish's conversation with Gray near the end of his life. The actor sounds unhinged as the pair stroll around the grounds of a college campus. The only downside to this doc are the time references (there's a reference to January, which might make the listener believe Gray died recently, not in 2004) and a mid-documentary reference to the radio station on which the piece originally aired.

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Review of A Tribute to Spalding Gray

"One of the hells I suffer is that I am in the past a lot of the time because I don’t have boundaries. Because if the past is fuel for your stories, then you’re not going to draw boundaries on what part of the past you want to go to – that’s the painful part for me... ...it’s having to let that stuff flood in."

This little moment, a bit buried in the piece, speaks volumes about Spalding Gray, his work and why many who are drawn to him, are drawn to him. The value Spalding put on raw emotion and re-feeling events is remarkable and rare in this world. Most of us prefer to put the past far behind us because we can’t risk the pain we may feel. It is the rare few, like Spalding Gray, who cannot do that. And that is truly a great gift to the rest of us.

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Broadcast History

Aired on KCRW-FM in Santa Monica in April 2004.