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“Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell” plays March 11–12 at the Newman Center

With pieces like Monster in a Box, Swimming to Cambodia and Gray’s Anatomy, Spalding Gray essentially created a new kind of performance art. Taking to the stage with nothing but a chair, a notebook and a glass of water, the writer and actor performed trademark monologues that were hilarious, heartbreaking and intensely personal, covering everything from his early sexual encounters to life with his wife and children.

Clinically depressed and still in physical pain from a 2001 car accident that left him with a broken leg and a fractured skull, Gray committed suicide in 2004, allegedly throwing himself over the side of the Staten Island Ferry. But his voice wasn’t silenced forever. On a mission to preserve her husband’s legacy, Gray’s widow, Kathie Russo, created the show Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, in which five actors read excerpts from Gray’s monologues and journals. It plays in the Byron Theatre at DU’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts March 11–12.

“Soon after Spalding died, I wasn’t sure if people could read his work and it would mean anything, but we did a special reading of ‘Swimming to Cambodia’ when they republished it,” Russo says. “It was Frank McCourt, Eric Bogosian, Kate Valk from the Wooster Group and two other women, and they sat in a line and they started to read his work, and it was one of those light-bulb moments.”

Two years later, Stories Left to Tell was complete. Led by a narrator who reads directly from Gray’s journals, the four other cast members are assigned categories — like “love,” “career” and “family” — which describe the monologue sections from which they read. Each performance features a guest reader from the local community; at DU the guest will be Kirk Montgomery, entertainment reporter for 9News.

“When you hear someone else read his work, you realize what a brilliant writer [Gray] was,” Russo says. “I think when Spalding was performing you were paying more attention to the performer side of him, whereas now you pay more attention to the words.”

Russo — who was with Gray for 12 years and still tends to the three children he left behind — says she’ll never get over the loss of her husband, but she says the act of creating the show was a good start to the healing process.

“The great thing about this piece is that it’s a tribute to Spalding, but the way we constructed it, it’s like one of his monologues where it takes you on an emotional roller coaster,” she says. “There’s a lot of laughter. Even when he talks about the car accident, there’s laughter after that. That’s what kind of saves you and helps you cope with the loss of someone.”

“Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 11–12 in DU’s Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. Free “Behind the Curtain” lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35; visit for more information.

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