NEW YORK CITY: The Gish Prize Trust has named Elizabeth LeCompte, a founding member and director of the Wooster Group, as the recipient of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. LeCompte will be presented with the award on Nov. 3 at a ceremony at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
“I think of the Gish Prize as an affirmation of what the Wooster Group represents and the work we’ve created together over the past forty years,” LeCompte said in a statement. “There’s a tendency with theatre to think of each show as its own beginning and end, but what’s important to me is the whole thread of the work—the way each piece has a relationship to our past, and to the way the Group continues to change and evolve. I’m deeply grateful to the Gish Prize for recognizing that our company is still in it for the long haul—because this award is going to help us keep creating, as we have since the beginning.”
Established in 1994 through the will of stage and screen actress Lillian Gish, the Gish Prize is given out each year to an accomplished artist from any discipline who has pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change, and paved the way for the next generation. The award comes with a cash prize of approximately $300,000.
Trained as a visual artist, LeCompte worked with the experimental theatre ensemble, the Performance Group, before cofounding the Wooster Group in 1975 with Spalding Gray. The Wooster Group has gone on to create and perform more than 30 pieces under LeCompte’s direction, including works in theatre,—often integrating film, video, recorded sound, and architectonic designs into their performances—film/video, and dance.
“Liz LeCompte can’t be summed up as a director,” A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven, said in a statement. Homes was the chair of the selection committee, which also included trumpeter and composer Amir ElSaffar; Steven D. Lavine, president of the California Institute for the Arts; Janet L. Sarbaugh, vice president of creativity and senior program director for arts and culture at the Heinz Endowments; and visual artist Carrie Mae Weems.
“She’s a complete woman of the performing arts, who directs, writes, designs, produces, performs, collaborates, and expands the possibilities of her field,” Homes added in a statement. “She has become an historic figure by remaining at the forefront for decades; we saw in her the possibility of giving the prize to an artist who is something like Lillian Gish herself.”