Ron Vawter’s Life in Performance
From 1974 to 1994, Ron Vawter was a staple of New York’s downtown theater scene, first with The Performance Group and later as a founding member of The Wooster Group. Ron Vawter’s Life in Performance is the first book that focuses on this incomparable actor’s contributions to ensemble theater as well as his solo projects. Through a combination of archival research and oral testimony—including interviews with Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, Elizabeth LeCompte, Gregory Mehrten, Richard Schechner, and Marianne Weems—Vawter emerges as an unsung innovator whose metamorphosis from soldier to avant-garde star was hardly accidental. Theresa Smalec reconstructs Vawter’s years in amateur theater, his time in the National Guard, and his body of work.
Partly recuperative history, Ron Vawter’s Life in Performance explores the complex intersections of individual and group biography. It offers a unique perspective on an era that spanned the Vietnam War to the AIDS crisis, putting Vawter’s own activism at the forefront. This volume’s broad historical and cultural reach, coupled with its careful study of a beloved, enigmatic performer, makes it a tremendous resource for theater scholars and practitioners as well as general readers of American cultural politics.
‘I admired the way that, as a performer, Vawter simultaneously transformed completely, but remained himself, maintaining his dedication, technical virtuosity, political commitment, humanity and generosity of spirit until the day he died.’—Rose English
‘Enormous courage, integrity, and clarity of vision marked Ron Vawter as a very rare occurrence. He never failed to draw on that ‘‘human potential’’ he so admired. He never gave up.’—Richard Schechner
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