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.
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