Elizabeth Lecompte is an acclaimed director, choreographer, and performer whose works have been seen around the world.
She is a pioneer of the avant-garde theater movement, and has created some of the most acclaimed and influential works of the 20th and 21st centuries.
She has won numerous awards, including a MacArthur fellowship and a Guggenheim fellowship.
In this exclusive interview, Lecompte shares her thoughts on the creative process, her approach to directing, and her vision for the future of avant-garde theater.
From her insights, it’s clear that Lecompte is a passionate and dedicated artist whose work is deeply rooted in a profound understanding of theater and performance.
Elizabeth Lecompte’s Background and Career
Born in 1931 in Hartford, Connecticut, Lecompte began her career at a time when the field of theater was dominated by men.
She joined the avant-garde theater movement in the 1950s, performing in and co-founding the experimental Open Theater in New York City.
For the next decade, Lecompte performed in and directed some of the most provocative and influential works in the history of American theater. In the 1970s and 1980s, she became a scholar, writer, and teacher.
In the 1990s, she returned to directing, helping to rejuvenate the avant-garde movement with a series of innovative and challenging works. In addition to her prolific career as an artist, Lecompte has also been an advocate for female artists.
She co-founded the Women’s Interart Center in New York City in 1967 and was involved in the creation of the Feminist Theater Movement.
In 1972, she co-founded Grapefruit, a feminist-theater collective that produced works by women.
She has been a champion for the inclusion of women’s voices in the arts and has written extensively about her experiences as a female artist in a field that is often hostile to women.
Creative Process and Approach to Directing
Lecompte has spent a lifetime examining the connections between movement, sound, and language. Her work has been described as “cinematic” in its use of visual images and soundscapes.
In her words, “The best work has a unity, a wholeness and an integrity of expression. It’s not the sum of its parts.” While her works differ in form and content, they share certain aesthetic and conceptual threads.
Lecompte is known for her use of repetition, particularly in her use of spoken text. She has said, “I’ve always been interested in repetition as a creative process and in it’s ability to create trance states.”
Her works often use repetition as a means to enact social and political injustices, often with a feminist and psychological slant.
She is particularly interested in the relationship between the personal and the political, and the significance of resistance and resilience in the face of adversity.
Challenges in the Avant-Garde Theatre Movement
As an avant-garde artist, Lecompte has always been a bit of an outsider. Her work has often been misunderstood, even by critics and audiences who have adored her.
She has even had her work censored, including a 1973 production of The Flowers of Our Lives, which was cancelled after the owner of the theatre where it was to be performed received death threats.
Throughout her career, Lecompte has had to navigate the tension between the supposed “evils” of commercial theatre and the “goodness” of avant-garde art.
She has always been quick to recognize the value of commercial theatre in bringing art to a wide audience, while also making the case that avant-garde theatre is deeply meaningful.
She has said, “Theatre is a way of knowing. It’s knowledge that can’t be found in books or in laboratories, or in any other way except by creating ritual/drill/dance in which we are all connected to one another.”
Vision for the Future of Avant-Garde Theatre
While avant-garde theatre has often been dismissed as being too inaccessible or too radical, Lecompte has always believed in its power and necessity.
She has argued that the commercialization of theatre has made the art form less radical and has led to an emphasis on spectacle rather than content. She has worked tirelessly to defend avant-garde theatre, both as a practitioner and as an advocate.
For Lecompte, the future of avant-garde theatre lies in its ability to remain both radical and relevant. She has argued that avant-garde artists must be conscious of the political climate in which they operate and must use their voices to advocate for change.
She has also noted the importance of being sensitive to the needs and desires of audiences, while also prioritizing a vision that is true to the work of art. She has said, “The best theatre in the world is theatre that has been formed in response to the problems of the world.”
Insights on the Creative Process
Many artists have tried to understand and describe the process of creating art, but Lecompte has a unique insight into the connection between psychological and social experiences.
She has noted that creativity is often “brought on by a feeling of oppression, of pressure, of pain.” She has also observed that the creative process is often a way of “coping with the world” and “figure[ing] out how we fit into that world.”
For Lecompte, the creative process is deeply intertwined with the process of self-discovery and personal transformation. She has said, “People are really trying to sort out who they are. I think that’s true for everybody.”
Her work has often explored the process of individuation, as artists grapple with their relationship to the world and grapple with their own identity.
Lecompte has noted that this is particularly true of artists who work in “intermedia” or “interdisciplinary” forms, such as those who work with dance, music, and theatre. She has stated, “We are all trying to come together.”
Reflections on the Impact of Her Work
Lecompte has often been asked to reflect on the impact of her work. She has been described as a “visionary cultural historian,” and her works have been credited with creating a “new vocabulary” for theatre artists.
She has been credited with creating “a new language for feminism” and inspiring generations of artists. Her work has been described as “radical theatre that has the power to change the world.”
While Lecompte has always been modest about the impact of her work, even in the face of such praise, she has inspired many with her unwavering dedication to the power of art. She has said, “I feel that what I’m doing has meaning. I feel that it’s important.”
Elizabeth Lecompte has been called a “cultural historian” and a “visionary,” and she has inspired generations of artists with her unwavering dedication to the power of art.
Throughout her career, she has used her work as a means of grappling with the world and wrestling with experiences that have shaped her as a person.
She has challenged audiences to examine their relationship to authority, their own biases and prejudices, and the world in which they live.
Her work has been described as “radical theatre that has the power to change the world.” In this exclusive interview, Lecompte shares her thoughts on the creative process, her approach to directing, and her vision for the future of avant-garde theatre.