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The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons” A Record Album Interpretation

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About the Show

The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation is an original performance by The Wooster Group based on an LP of work songs, spirituals, and toasts recorded in 1964 in Texas’ then-segregated prison farms.

The LP had been in performer Eric Berryman’s personal record collection for many years when, in 2015, he had a chance meeting with Wooster Group associate director Kate Valk. He had just seen the Group’s Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation, which Valk directed. Berryman asked to work with the Group on a record album interpretation of Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons.

In The B-Side, Berryman and fellow performers Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore channel the inmates’ voices from the record via in-ear receivers and transmit the full album live. In between tracks, Berryman reads from the liner notes and provides context from the book Wake Up Dead Man: Hard Labor and Southern Blues by Bruce Jackson, the folklorist who recorded the album. The voices of the live performers blend with and complement the voices on the record, creating a moving and intense performance.

About The Album: Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons

The record album Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons (Elektra 1965) was recorded, edited, and annotated by Bruce Jackson. It features performances by Johnnie Adams, W.D. “Alec” Alexander, Virgil Asbury, John Bell, Douglas Cannon, James A. Champion, William Evans, John Gibson, James Hampton, James W. Hobbs, Louis “Bacon & Porkchop” Houston, Johnny Jackson, Floyd James, Lemon Jefferson, Jesse “G.I. Jazz” Hendricks, James Johnson, Joseph “Chinaman” Johnson, C.B. “Snuffy” Kimble, Henry Landers, L.Z. Lee, Clem A. Martin, Leroy Martindell, Mack Maze, D.J. Miller, Houston Page, Marshall Phillips, Johnnie H. Robinson, Arthur “Lightning” Sherrod, Albert Spencer, Lee Curtis Tyler, David Walker, Jesse Lee Warren, Venesty Weles, George White, Morgan White, Matt Williams, and Eddie Ray Zachary.


1. RAISE ’EM UP HIGHER Worksong, Ramsey Farm, Unit 1
3. MOVE ALONG ’GATOR Worksong, Ellis Farm
4. THREE MOORE BROTHERS Cante-fable, Ellis Farm
5. ASSASSINATION OF THE PRESIDENT Topical/gospel, Ramsey Farm, Unit 2
6. DON’T BE UNEASY Spiritual, The Walls
7. RATTLER Worksong, Ramsey Farm, Unit 1


1. HAMMER RING Worksong, Ramsey Farm, Unit 1
2. T.B. BEES Toast, Ramsey Farm, Unit 2
3. IF YOU SEE MY MOTHER Blues, Ellis Farm
5. SEE HOW THEY DONE MY LORD Spiritual, Ramsey Farm, Unit 1
6. DANIEL IN THE LION’S DEN Preaching parody, Ellis Farm
7. FORTY-FOUR HAMMERS Worksong, Retrieve Farm

“The way we do it, we do it by time. We have a steady rock. Everybody raise their axe up and come down at the same time, just rock. I guess that might a came from many a year ago. We see in the picture show the way Africans beat and paddle boats together, just work together.”
–Anonymous black inmate in the Texas Department of Corrections, circa 1964, from Wake Up Dead Man, collected and edited by Bruce Jackson

Film footage from Afro-American Worksongs in a Texas Prison, by Pete, Toshi and Dan Seeger, and Bruce Jackson, 1966.

Creative Team

Performed by Eric Berryman, Jasper McGruder, Philip Moore Directed by Kate Valk Production Designer Elizabeth LeCompte Lighting Design Ryan Seelig Sound Designer Eric Sluyter Video Designer Robert Wuss Costume Designer Enver Chakartash Musical Directer Gareth Hobbs Stage Manager Erin Mullin Tour Lighting David Sexton Video Engineering Irfan Brkovic Set Building Joseph Silovsky Studios Production Managemer Bona Lee Producer Pamela Reichen

Thanks to Jennifer Tipton, Ruud van den Akker, Antonia Belt, and Diane Christian.

About The Wooster Group

Founded in 1975, The Wooster Group has made more than 50 works for theater, dance, film, and media under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte. Wooster Group founding members are Spalding Gray (1941-2004), Elizabeth LeCompte, Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter (1948-1994), Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk, and Peyton Smith.

Major works include: Rumstick Road (1977), Nayatt School (1978), L.S.D. (…Just The High Points…) (1984), Frank Dell’s The Temptation of St. Antony (1988), Brace Up! (1991), The Emperor Jones (1993), The Hairy Ape (1996), House/Lights (1999), To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre) (2002), Poor Theater (2004), Hamlet (2007), the 360º video installation There Is Still Time . . Brother (2007), the opera La Didone (2009), Vieux Carré (2011), The Room (2016), The Town Hall Affair (2017), and A Pink Chair (In Place of a Fake Antique) (2017), all directed by LeCompte; and Early Shaker Spirituals: A Record Album Interpretation (2014), directed by Kate Valk. Visit us at

Current Company: Irfan Brkovic, Zbigniew Bzymek, Enver Chakartash, Matthew Dipple, Mike Farry, Ari Fliakos, Clay Hapaz, Cynthia Hedstrom, Gareth Hobbs, Elizabeth LeCompte, Bona Lee, Michaela Murphy, Erin Mullin, Pamela Reichen, Scott Shepherd, Eric Sluyter, Kate Valk

Current Associates: Bill Ballou, Eric Berryman, Jacob Bigelow, Dennis Dermody, Jim Fletcher, Mia Fliakos, Linus Ignatius, Bruce Jackson, Aviva Jaye, Ken Kobland, Ying Liu, Andrew Maillet, Frances McDormand, Jasper McGruder, Greg Mehrten, Philip Moore, Matthias Neckermann, Suzzy Roche, Kaneza Schaal, Ryan Seelig, David Sexton, Casey Spooner, Lucy Taylor, Maura Tierney, Jennifer Tipton, Danusia Trevino, Ariana Smart Truman, Wladimiro Woyno, Robert Wuss, Omar Zubair

Director’s Circle: George Ahl, Alan Mark & Jeffrey Fraenkel, Diane & Adam Max, Frances McDormand, Robyn Mewshaw, the Orentreich Family Foundation, Wendy vanden Heuvel

Go Deeper

Fringe Festival Bookstore
Join us on Saturday, Sept 7 at 3pm at Cherry Street Pier for an artist talk with The Wooster Group’s Eric Berryman and Kate Valk, who will discuss The B-Side with FringeArts’ Marketing Manager Raina Searles. Learn more here.

Read our interview with Eric Berryman on how he first learned about the album Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons and the development of this piece on the FringeArts Blog.


This piece is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts Art Works program; the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, which awarded Kate Valk a fellowship in 2016; and by a Princess Grace Foundation–USA honorarium awarded to Eric Berryman for his work on the project.

The B-Side: “Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,” A Record Album Interpretation has been made possible in part by support from the Independence Foundation.

Festival Star Producers: Arthur M. Kaplan & R. Duane Perry
Festival Producers: Carol & Tom Beam
Festival Co-Producers: Chris Deephouse & Donna Hunt; Cat, Annie & Steven Bohnenberger; Lynne & Bert Strieb


The Fringe Festival is sponsored by The Durst Organization, the University of PennsylvaniaM&T BankGetaround, and Parx Casino.

About FringeArts

FringeArts is Philadelphia’s home for contemporary performance, presenting progressive, world-class art that expands the imagination and boldly defies expectation. Our programming exposes audiences to genre-defying dance, theater, and music performances by accomplished and emerging innovators who push the boundaries of art-making and redefine the artistic landscape worldwide.

Now in its 23rd year, the Fringe Festival is a three-week, Philadelphia-wide celebration of innovation and creativity through performance, visual, and digital art. With more than 1,000 artistically daring performances, the Fringe Festival explodes into every nook and cranny of neighborhoods across Philadelphia. See the full lineup of events here.

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