One of the cardinal principles of Two Men Talking
is that there is a reciprocal relationship between listening and telling. They create one another in a circular-causal fashion. We actually believe that the listening of our audiences powerfully shapes our stories, which accounts for the fact our performances are never the same twice.
The odd thing about talking on radio or tv is that one has no clue who is listening, apart from the interviewer. Its like this huge invisible amorphous net of listening.
Today in a terrific interview with Bonnie on WLIU Radio, I was asked which storytellers I admired most. My mind went blank for a moment before I started spewing out names. "Ingmar Bergman, and I'm currently reading The God of Small Things
and I loved Love in the Time of Cholera".
I was way off the point and the interviewer reeled me back in.
"But what about storytelling ... the kind you do?"
The first name that came to mind was Spalding Gray.
This is what I didn't think to say in the interview:
I have often described what Paul and I do as "Spalding Gray x 2".
He was a major influence when I first got to New York in 1990. I heard him at St Mark's Church at one of those marathon New Year's Day affairs. And then the Lincoln Center with Monster in a Box. The guy sat behind a table and held an entire Lincoln Center Audience spellbound with his personal stories.
I'd never seen that before. The theater I went to in South Africa during the 70's and 80's was political. It had to be. The theater was one of the only public venues for finding out what was really going on. There was no place for personal life stories. We weren't free enough.
One of the reasons I came to New York was to find a way to manifest -on stage - what I'd been hearing from my patients. But really, I wanted to, no needed
to tell my own story.
So Spalding Gray blew my mind.
I have read and watched Swimming to Cambodia tens of times.
I love the way he does the South Africans.
And lately when I heard archive interviews with/ by Spalding on NPR, I was filled with sadness that he was gone.
When the interview was over, the producer Kathie Russo came back on the line and told me how happy she was that I'd mentioned Spalding. It was his wife. She'd been listening.