Elizabeth LeCompte, founding member and director of the Wooster Group, the pioneering experimental theater troupe, has won the 2016 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which comes with a cash prize of some $300,000.
LeCompte takes the award for 40 years of Wooster Group work encompassing a string of experimental, boundary-pushing, multimedia shows that include “Route 1 & 9,” “L.S.D. (Just The High Points),” “Brace Up!” and “The Emperor Jones.” She co-founded the troupe with Spalding Gray, with Willem Dafoe among its original members; Frances McDormand has performed with the company in recent years.
The Gish’s hefty cash prize places the award in the realm of the MacArthur “genius” grant, which weighs in at more than $600,000, and the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, which totals $200,000 and was won this year by Sarah Ruhl.
LeCompte will receive the Gish award at a Nov. 3 ceremony at the Whitney Museum, with attendees including director Peter Sellars, critic Hilton Als and writer A.M. Homes, who chaired the selection committee for the prize this year. Last year, the Whitney commissioned LeCompte and the Wooster Group to create a performance for the dedication of the museum’s new building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
LeCompte was chosen to receive the award from a pool of some 60 finalists. She joins a list of previous winners that includes Sellars, Suzan-Lori Parks, Anna Deavere Smith, Spike Lee and Frank Gehry, among others.