Last night as the lights dimmed for the beginning of Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, a man in front of me turned around said “Stop kicking my seat!” and abruptly flicked me off. I was flabbergasted. Anger and indignation welled up my spine.
Then the show began.
90 plus minutes of tales written by a genius storyteller. It was a remembrance. It was an honor to the spirit of the man. It had some of the informality of a staged reading. A few times I found myself staring at the back the head of the man who had flicked me off. And in the end it also sent waves of emotion up my spine.
I knew Spalding killed himself in 2003. I knew it was coming. But when it arrived, told in the words of the man, I found it hard to breath. My bodied tensed up. It passed. I released. Catharsis. I was surprised to be so moved and forgave the man in front of me. It wasn’t his fault. I had been touching his chair with my foot, and he did me a favor. He primed me for an emotional experience.
I also realized something about Spalding Gray. He enters my body with his work. But how? Rhythm is a big part. I can only imagine what it was like to see him perform live. The added physicality would have amplified his genius writing. I imagine it was transcendent.
Maybe I can imagine a ‘better’ Stories Left to Tell, maybe I lost focus at times, but ultimately this show has changed me. That’s really what I ask for as an audience member and an artist. My work will be different. My storytelling might even improve!