Spalding Gray Archive Will Rest at University of Texas at Austin

News   Spalding Gray Archive Will Rest at University of Texas at Austin
The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the archive of writer and actor Spalding Gray (1941-2004).

"Spanning more than 40 years, the archive traces the author's career since the late 1970s, when Gray helped define a new era in theatre where public and private life became an indivisible part of each new performance," according to a Nov. 8 announcement from the Ransom Center.

Gray's dramatic monologues drew upon his experiences. He wrote and performed Swimming to Cambodia (1985), Monster in a Box (1992), Gray's Anatomy (1994), It's a Slippery Slope (1997) and Morning, Noon and Night (1999).

Gray committed suicide in New York City in 2004. At the time, he had been working on another monologue, Life Interrupted, about a near-fatal car accident he suffered in Ireland.

The collection includes more than 90 handwritten performance notebooks that were the templates for Gray's live performances and more than 100 private journals. "The notebooks are heavily revised and annotated, offering ample evidence of the growth and development of Gray's most significant pieces," according to the Ransom Center. He expanded and revised his monologues based on audience reception and his own changing needs as a performer, and nearly all of the notebooks contain additional handwritten pages inserted by Gray.

Gray's archive includes more than 150 audio cassette tapes of Gray's performances, interviews, and more. These cassette tapes, along with more than 120 VHS tapes, "help trace the evolution of Gray's work in front of audiences over more than two decades." "In the Spalding Gray archive, the mind of a man has been transferred to paper," said Helen Adair, associate curator of performing arts at the Ransom Center. "In his journals and performance notebooks, he writes about sex, death, drugs and love with honesty and humor. His voice is clear, and he appears to have no filter. Everything is written down without shame. Like his performances, it is powerful because it is so personal."

The collection contains numerous examples of unpublished writing, including short stories, plays and poems, as well as manuscript and draft material of his works It's a Slippery Slope and Morning, Noon and Night.

Audio and video materials in the collection, including more than 150 audio tapes and more than 120 VHS tapes, "will allow scholars to trace the evolution of Gray's work in front of an audience, the arena for which he was best known."

The collection also contains the first and only edition of Gray's debut work, Seven Scenes From a Family Album (1981).

More than 300 letters make up the correspondence component of the archive. Many of the letters are of a personal nature between Gray and his wives, but there are also fan letters and correspondence from musician Luis Fonsi López-Cepero, actress Fran Drescher and director Jonathan Demme.

Many of Gray's works were adapted to film, including Demme's 1987 film "Swimming to Cambodia," which includes Gray's performance, the HBO comedy special "Monster in a Box" that was released by New Line Features in 1992 and Steven Soderbergh's film "Gray's Anatomy" (1997). Soderbergh also directed the documentary "And Everything Is Going Fine" (2010) about Gray's life and work.

Gray's materials at the Ransom Center will reside alongside the papers of such writers as David Mamet, Tom Stoppard, Lewis Allen, Norman Mailer, Jayne Anne Phillips and Tim O'Brien, as well as those of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

A portion of the archive was donated to the Center by Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo. The materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged.

For more information about the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, visit

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