The Gish Prize Trust announced September 29 that Elizabeth LeCompte, founding member and director of the experimental theatre company The Wooster Group, has been selected to receive the 23rd annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.
Established in 1994 through the will of stage and screen star Lillian Gish, known as the First Lady of Cinema, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize bears one of the largest cash awards, currently valued at approximately $300,000. The prize is given annually to an individual who has “made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Past recipients include Suzan-Lori Parks, Maya Lin, Spike Lee, Anna Deavere Smith, Trisha Brown, Chinua Achebe, Pete Seegar, Robert Redford, Laurie Anderson, Shirin Neshat, Peter Sellars, Ornette Coleman, Bill T. Jones, Lloyd Richards, Jennifer Tipton, Merce Cunningham, Arthur Miller, Isabel Allende, Bob Dylan, Robert Wilson, Ingmar Bergman and Frank Gehry.
Prize recipients are nominated by the arts community and chosen by a committee of arts leaders for their groundbreaking work in their chosen fields.
The Gish Prize will be presented to LeCompte November 3 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The private ceremony, attended by leaders of the arts community, will include a video presentation by The Wooster Group and remarks by author and New Yorker theatre critic Hilton Als; opera, theatre and festival director Peter Sellars; the chair of this year’s selection committee, author A.M. Homes; and Jacqueline E. Elias, managing director of The Philanthropy Centre, J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Opening remarks will be delivered by Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney, who commissioned LeCompte and the Group to create a performance for the dedication of the Museum’s new downtown building in April 2015.
LeCompte said in a statement, “I think of the Gish Prize as an affirmation of what The Wooster Group represents and the work we’ve created together over the past 40 years. There’s a tendency with theater to think of each show as its own beginning and end, but what’s important to me is the whole thread of the work—the way each piece has a relationship to our past, and to the way the Group continues to change and evolve. I’m deeply grateful to the Gish Prize for recognizing that our company is still in it for the long haul—because this award is going to help us keep creating, as we have since the beginning.”
Trained as a visual artist, LeCompte worked with the experimental theatre ensemble The Performance Group before co-founding The Wooster Group in 1975 with Spalding Gray. Based at the Performing Garage in SoHo, the original company soon came to include Jim Clayburgh, Willem Dafoe, Libby Howes, Peyton Smith, Kate Valk and Ron Vawter. To date, The Wooster Group has created and performed more than 30 pieces under LeCompte’s direction, including works in theatre, film/video and dance.
For further information visit www.gishprize.com.