Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Spalding Gray
In college there were two performers that had an immeasurable influence on me. One was Sam Shepard, whom I looked like at the time but have been cursed not to look like anymore. The other was Spalding Gray. I was a theater arts performance major, and these were the two performers I latched on to. I suppose it makes sense each was also a writer.
In many ways, Gray was the heavier influence on me. By my junior year, I was starting to dabble in similar performance art to Gray’s autobiographical monologues. It was hard to find exposure to Gray, but in a case of serendipity, I was in school at about the time that his monologues reached their greatest popularity. It was right in the middle of a time period when four of his monologues were filmed for feature release, “Swimming to Cambodia” (1987), “Spalding Gray: Terrors of Pleasure” (1988), “Monster in a Box” (1992), and “Gray’s Anatomy” (1996). I saw all but “Terrors of Pleasure”. I read both “Swimming to Cambodia” and “Monster in a Box”. And, I began writing my own monologues.
I was lucky enough to see Gray live in Beaver Creek, Colorado in 1998 performing his skiing monologue “It’s a Slippery Slope”. I was saddened to hear of his apparent suicide in early 2004. I fear his final days were filled with both physical and emotional pain due to a car accident in 2001 and a lifelong struggle with depression. You don’t see that in his work though. He was one of those artists who bloomed when he was performing.