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Photo highlights of Elevator Repair Service’s craziest theatrical mash-ups

One of New York theater’s most original troupes has been remixing text for more than two decades

By David Cote |
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Although Elevator Repair Service started creating performance pieces (“plays” is too neat) a decade after punk and New Wave, comparisons to New York’s music scene are too tempting. It was the early ’90s, and nobody knew where theater was going—experimental types looked to Richard Foreman, the Wooster Group and Robert Wilson for inspiration. Music videos, postmodern theory, multimedia mise en scène and the Internet soon changed the way we made and consumed narrative, and barriers between high and low culture were tumbling faster than ever. It was the perfect moment for ERS to make work Off-Off Broadway that mashed together stand-up comedy and linguistics (Language Instruction), or Tennessee Williams and goofy dance (Cab Legs), or use literature as found text in the most literal way (an office drone picks up a copy of The Great Gatsby and starts reading the entire book in Gatz). Although ERS shows are often funny-weird inquiries into the nature and use of text, they're also visually beguiling. Here are images of some of the company’s most exciting journeys over the past 24 years.

1993, Language Instruction
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

1993, Language Instruction
1993, Language Instruction
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

1993, Language Instruction
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1997, Cab Legs
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

1997, Cab Legs
1997, Cab Legs
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

1997, Cab Legs
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Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

2002, Room Tone
2002, Room Tone
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

2002, Room Tone
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2004, Gatz
Photograph: Courtesy Mark Barton

2004, Gatz
2004, Gatz
Photograph: Courtesy Paula Court

2004, Gatz
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2008, Sound and the Fury
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

2008, Sound and the Fury
2008, Sound and the Fury
Photograph: Courtesy Elevator Repair Service

2008, Sound and the Fury
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2010, The Select
Photograph: Courtesy Rob Strong

2010, The Select
2010, The Select
Photograph: Courtesy Rob Strong

2010, The Select
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2012, Arguendo
Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus

2012, Arguendo
2012, Arguendo
Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus

2012, Arguendo
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2013, Fondly, Collette Richland
Photograph: Courtesy Gene Pittman

2013, Fondly, Collette Richland
2013, Fondly, Collette Richland
Photograph: Courtesy Gene Pittman

2013, Fondly, Collette Richland
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