The award is named after monologist Spalding Gray, who died in 2004, and is sponsored by the consortium that includes Kathleen Russo, Gray's widow; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; On the Boards in Seattle; Performance Space 122 in New York; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
The award includes a $20,000 commission to create a new work and provides for a full production of that work by each sponsoring organization.
"Over the past two decades, Richard Maxwell has developed a distinctive and essential voice," Philip Bither, senior curator, Performing Arts at the Walker Art Center, said in a statement. "His influence on theatre and contemporary performance, both in the U.S. and abroad, has been profound. Personally, I find his spare, poetic language, and the stripped-to-the-bone directorial approach he applies to his plays to be tremendously powerful. He is more than deserving of the Spalding Gray Award."
"It's a great honor to receive the Spalding Gray Award," added Maxwell. "I feel fortunate to be included in the roster of past winners, and I also feel grateful to know Spalding's work, to have seen it live, and to even have encountered Spalding on occasion, e.g. as he cheerfully darted inside to use the downstairs phone at the Performing Garage. Spalding and his work helped define for me what it means to be a non-native New Yorker: entering and acclimating as a nervy transplant, I was helped along by Spalding's wry recounting of his experiences in the city and around the world.
"I hope with my next work to identify some universality in locality. Everybody says and will continue to say New York isn't what it was. Time marches on and as the landscape gets higher and shinier we get further and further from Spalding's passing. And perhaps you could say the city goes on without him, but for a second let's recall how Spalding had the uncanny ability to hold time still. No one in theatre performance was like Spalding. I suppose it's fitting then to use my award to help make a work of theatre that in many ways is a return to my earlier more spare writing. I also like to tell stories, and I believe in plot lines, I believe in leanness, purposefulness, and in the merciless fate of characters once conditions are put into play. My award-work might be called The Custodian of a Man and concerns a girl caring for a man, a convalescing martial artist to be exact, their ambiguous relationship, and the ever-spiraling path they undertake into their underworld." In his new work, Maxwell will collaborate with choreographer Sarah Michelson, who will take charge of the production's design, and actor Gary Wilmes.