The Wooster Group is set to present the premiere of its newest work, The B-Side: “Negro Folkore From Texas State Prisons” A Record Interpretation. The show is inspired by performer Eric Berryman’s exploration of the LP, Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons, which features songs, blues, preaching, and toasts performed by a group of inmates in the then-segregated prison farms.
The LP, recorded in 1964 by folklorist Bruce Jackson, is played live onstage and channeled by Berryman. He will be joined onstage at the Performing Garage by Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore. Performances will run October 25–November 12.
Berryman brought the record to The Wooster Group in 2015 after seeing the company’s acclaimed production of Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation, and the two took a similar approach to developing The B-Side. Kate Valk, who directed Early Shaker Spirituals, also directs the new piece; Elizabeth LeCompte is the designer.
“After I saw Early Shaker Spirituals, I was inspired to have the black convict work song tradition of these men honored in the same way,” says Berryman.
The complete creative team for The B-Side includes Enver Chakartash (costumes), Gareth Hobbs (sound), Bona Lee (production manager), Erin Mullin (stage manager), Ryan Seelig (lighting), Eric Sluyter (sound), Jennifer Tipton (lighting), and Robert Wuss (video for THE B-SIDE).
The Wooster Group has also announced a return engagement of Early Shaker Spirituals, December 7–17. The show is inspired by the 1976 album of Shaker songs recorded by the sisters of the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. The show features Cynthia Hedstrom, LeCompte, Frances McDormand, Bebe Miller, and Suzzy Roche, who channel the voices of the Shaker singers from the album via in-ear receivers to give a new live rendering to the songs. The singers are joined by Matthew Brown, Modesto Jimenez, Bobby McElver, and Andrew Schneider. Jamie Poskin serves as interlocutor, reading from the album’s liner notes.
For tickets to either shows, both playing at The Wooster Group’s Performing Garage, visit TheWoostergroup.org.