Spalding Gray and Kathie Russo moved to the East End in 1996. This is where they raised their two sons and Russo’s daughter. They first lived in Sag Harbor in what would become known as “the Green House” in Gray’s famous monologue “Morning, Noon and Night,” which chronicled his domestic life. In 2001, the family relocated to a house in North Haven.
Gray was raised in Barrington, Rhode Island, a sleepy town on the Atlantic. One of the biggest draws of Sag Harbor was the water: In a 2004 New York Magazine article, Russo recalls, “Spalding had to see water every day…It just cleared his head…You know, you go down to the ocean, and whoosh, everything just leaves you, all your troubles.” For many years, Gray docked his Beetle Cat sailboat in the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.
Gray, the legendary monologist and writer, performed many of his acclaimed one-man shows at Performance Space 122 in SoHo, both works-in-progress and finished pieces. In 2004, Gray died from an apparent suicide. According to his widow, Russo, “he thought of PS122 as home.”
Since 1980, Performance Space 122 has been bringing the innovative and challenging work of artists and actors such as Gray, John Leguizamo, Eric Bagosian, Jonathan Ames, Meredith Monk and Maria Hassabi, among many others, to the public’s attention. The organization’s mission is “to re-establish the value of live performance, provide singular experiences for audiences that inspire critical thinking and sustain the creative process for artists throughout their career.”
Housed in what used to be an abandoned public school, PS122, has been undergoing a dramatic renovation since 2011 in order to remove columns, update facilities and meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Much of the funding for the project comes from the City of New York and the city’s Departments of Consumer Affairs and Design and Construction.
In February of this year, PS122 launched the Give Performance Space (GPS) Campaign. The mission of GPS is to further the organization’s support for artists, actors and creative space in New York City. It is co-chaired by award-winning actor Alan Cumming, director Stella Schnabel and Charles L. Kerr, the vice president of PS122’s board.
As part of the GPS Campaign, Russo is hosting a “Celebration of Spalding Gray and Performance Space 122’s New Building” at her home in Sag Harbor. She says, “It is my personal mission to carry on Spalding’s legacy by putting his name permanently on a space [in PS122].”
Russo currently works as the Special Projects Coordinator at Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature Program. She coordinates the Wednesday Writers Speak series that runs in the fall and spring, which features lectures and readings by acclaimed authors. As another way of honoring her late husband, Russo is bringing “Stories Left to Tell” to the Avram Theater on the Southampton campus, a work she conceived and organized, and will co-host alongside Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Ames, Mike Daisy and Mercedes Ruehl.
On Thursday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m., Ruehl, author Matt Klam and writer/director/actor Ain Gordon, among others, will perform “Stories Left to Tell,” a collection of Gray’s well-known monologues and previously unpublished writings from journals and letters. The performance was first staged to much acclaim in 2007 at the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village. The New York Times called it “vividly funny, joyous, devastating, affecting, gorgeous…a breathing portrait.”
Join Jonathan Ames, Alec Baldwin, Mike Daisy and Mercedes Ruehl at the home of Kathie Russo for a “Celebration of Spalding Gray and Performance Space 122’s New Building” Saturday, June 21 6-8 p.m. Tickets $122, include cocktails & hors d’oeuvres, ps122.org, 212-477-5829 ext. 307.