The theatre produced by The Wooster Group consists of a combination of words, performance and technology. Since its inception in 1975, the credo of this experimental group from New York has been: telling stories in new ways.
‘Early Shaker Spirituals’ is based on the music album of the same name by Sister R. Mildred Barker and her Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake (Maine). It consists of Shaker hymns recorded between 1963 and 1976. The Wooster Group sings the hymns as they sound on the album recording. The remaining fragments of the Shakers’ ecstatic dancing and physical gestures form the basis from which The Wooster Group develops simple dance patterns.
Originating in England in the eighteenth century as a charismatic breakaway Protestant group, the Shakers were an open community of men and women who lived celibate lives and preached equality. They lived in austerity and dedicated their lives to the service of God through work: they worked ‘for eternity’. They embraced modern technology and were excellent furniture-makers. In 1774 they fled to the United States where, during the nineteenth century, they grew into one of the largest communities in America.