1.19.2004

OFFICIALLY MISSING




Spading Gray is officially a missing person today. If you aren't familiar with the name, don't worry. You're not alone.

Spalding is a theatrical monologist, best remembered for his movies Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box. These are not traditional movies, though. They are ninety minute monologues, featuring only Gray sitting at a desk talking about life, specifically his life. The movies only offer a glimpse into his theatrical work, though. While monologues are common (and somewhat popular) today, his work was considered experimental, and somewhat narcissistic, thirty years ago.

It's difficult to classify or discuss the nature of Gray's performances. His mother committed suicide when he was young, and he has grappled with issues of suicide, depression, spirituality, and self-worth his entire life. Humans have long faced these subjects, including myself. While most of us struggle internally, Spalding's inner dialogue was laid bare on the stage every night. Old age appeared to have mellowed Spalding a little bit, but he was badly injured in a car accident on his 60th birthday. He was slow to recover physically and emotionally.

I hope that Spalding is alive and well, but the chances are slim if he has been exposed to the frigid weather in NY over the past week. That's why this post is titled "Officially Missing". If he's alive, then that is his public status. If he is no longer alive, then that is my personal feeling. I'll miss the guy. For the millions of depressed people in the world, Spalding was a symbol of hope and victory. If he has succumbed to the disease, then there's a little less hope. And a statement that the effects of depression can strike anytime, even at older ages, the "golden years".

Here are a couple links from some Gray interviews and newspaper articles about his missing status:

IO Magazine
io: Is there a certain religion you subscribe to?
SG: I'm a doubter.
io: That's your religion? Doubt?
SG: I'm afraid it is. That and cocktail hour.
io: There's a certain amount of spirituality in that.
SG: Yes, spirits.


Interview with the Harvard Gazette:

Q: New York Times critic Mel Gussow called you a writer, reporter, comic, and playwright. I’m going to add actor to that catalogue. Can you arrange those in order of importance to you?

A: Is author in there? Writing and the performing go hand-in-hand. They’re the important ones because I’m creating the piece in front of the audience, I’m making the sentences, they’re not [always] pre-written. There are the keywords and then I speak it, so it’s a form of oral writing. It’s definitely an oral composition, storytelling in the Irish sense of first-person present talking about your own life. I suppose acting is probably at the bottom of the list. Although I do act, when I perform I’m acting myself. [Then] I’d say humorist. Or humanistic humorist reporter.

Q: As you’ve noted on several occasions, humor comes out of an enormous pain.

A: Often.

Q: Is your work a means of therapy for you?

A: To some degree.
[later in the interview]
Q: Would you talk about your accident?

A: [It happened] June 22 in Ireland. God, I don’t remember the territory. Just northeast of Dublin, dairy country. We were five adults in the car stopped to turn right on this very narrow road and this guy came around the corner in a van. He hit us. I was in the back seat and [my partner] Kathie was driving. I flew forward, impacting my head on hers. Her seat came back. The engine went right into the cabin. I think what happened was the seat pushed my femur, dislocated my hip and fractured my [skull]. Next thing I know I was in a puddle of blood on the road. It was an hour before the ambulance came. It changed my life, the accident. Everything was fine and then five seconds later, I was lying in a puddle of blood.


From the NYPost:

A week after she reported his disappearance, [his wife Kathie] Russo remains hopeful her celebrated husband is still alive - although [today] he officially becomes a missing person.
"I can't rule out the possibility that he's out there walking around in a daze," she told The Post.
What she can't believe - as has been speculated - is that he took his life by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry.


From CNN:

"He was a pioneer in saying that the border between the private and public is a very blurry boundary," says Richard Schechner, founder of The Performance Group, a downtown Manhattan theater troupe Gray joined in 1970. Schechner directed the actor in off-Broadway productions of "Mother Courage" and Jean Genet's "The Balcony," among others.
But while Gray has acknowledged insecurities in his monologues, he never conveyed the depths of his periodic depressions, Schechner says.
"His theatrical persona was of someone who always saw the humor and irony in life, but as an actual person, he battled depression and fears," he says.
A particularly low period came after Gray's auto accident in Ireland in 2001, when a van plowed into a car he, his wife and three others were in during a vacation to celebrate his 60th birthday. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken hip and nerve damage, injuries from which he has yet to recover fully.



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