Already closed | 1h 0m | Brooklyn

The B-Side: "Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons"

From 34 member  reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great singing, Relevant, Absorbing

About the show

The Wooster Group presents this piece based on performer Eric Berryman’s interest in the LP, 'Negro Folklore from Texas State Prisons,' recorded in 1964 by folklorist Bruce Jackson. More…

The LP features work songs, blues, spirituals, preaching, and toasts performed by a group of inmates in Texas’ then-segregated agricultural prison farms. Mr. Berryman plays the album and transmits the material live, by channeling, via an in-ear receiver, the voices of the men on the record. 

1h 0m | Already closed | St Ann's Warehouse (Brooklyn)

Member Reviews (34)


Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great singing, Relevant, Absorbing
Avg Score

Resonant, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Exquisite

See it if 3 performers precisely use vocals & gestures to bring an album of work songs to life. Transports you to that time & place. Amazing.

Don't see it if You don't want to relate to prison slave laborers in the deep south. You don't like blues music. You want a traditional narrative.

Relevant, Resonant, Quirky, Slow, Ambitious

See it if Despite the inherent static quality of the drama, the evening proves to be very moving & poignant Berryman's 'labor of love' opens hearts

Don't see it if Wooster Group's hard-edged, high tech style not an easy fit for material, Valk's hands off staging & Berryman's performance soften edges

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if You enjoy spirituals & folk music even if unfamiliar, learning how Negro prisoners endured conditions, see how an actor developed this show

Don't see it if You don’t like plotless, short shows or all-singing, particularly to a record, very little action or limited set

Engaging, Intimate, Powerful, Thought-provoking, Great singing

See it if 3 actors/singers channeling the music & soul of Black prisoners serving hard labor in 1960's Texas. Powerful, moving, haunting, absorbing.

Don't see it if you prefer verbal storytelling comprised of a beginning, middle and end. Here, the singing and the songs tell the story. Beautifully done.

Moving, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent, Absorbing

See it if you like unusual theatrical experiences - 3 performers sing along to a record (only their voices are heard) of work songs/spirituals/blues*

Don't see it if you don't like minimalist sets or nontraditional theater; want flash and happy

Also *from black prisoners doing hard labor in Texas (similarities to slave... Read more Read less

Deeply affecting, Resonant, Absorbing

See it if A totally absorbing appreciation of a sad era of American history where dignity is given to those who suffered via musical interpretation.

Don't see it if Elegiac in fact & in effect, there is a necessary slow pace to the hour-long show but it’s not a criticism.


See it if Like a séance channeling the voices of the marginalized (Black laborers in prisons / "slaves") and their harsh and cruel yet faithful lives.

Don't see it if No plot or story. Gets you to empathize with them to bring humanity to the thousands of Black lives that labored for the US economy.

Also Ticket from online rush via TodayTix app for $27.50.

Great singing, An interesting way to look at incarceration, Something different

See it if You enjoy a cappella singing accompanied by some narration. You like prison work songs.

Don't see it if You are looking for a fleshed-out play.

Also I knew before I went to the show that it was going to be three guys si... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Profoundly simple, An auditory immersion, Resonant, Great singing

See it if You appreciate vocal, a Capella music. Like American history told evocatively. Want to learn about the Black prisoner experience in Texas..

Don't see it if Need linearity in story-telling. Want a full blown, highly stylized production.

Resonant, Intelligent, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if You want to hear an album reinvented because there's not much else to this 60 min show.

Don't see it if You're expecting a story because there isn't one.

Also I did enjoy this experience but it's something that could have been do... Read more Read less

A perfect little gem, Transporting, Moving

See it if "You've got to hear this album. I'll sing along with some friends. Southern prison work songs. It will move you."

Don't see it if This is not a play. It's a man playing a record and singing along. Slow. But it's as slow as it ought to be.

Also Didn't know what to expect my only reference was The Wooster Group's "... Read more Read less

Resonant, Great singing

See it if this is a brief staging of a record of southern black prisoners singing. That's all it is. The voices are deeply evocative.

Don't see it if There is no plot, and very little narrative.

Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Great singing, Disappointing, Clever

See it if Three talented men sing the words to an old album of black men singing on chain gangs in the south; a brief narrative, lovely music, moving

Don't see it if you want a play or any expansion on the story behind the album or what it means today. They just sing the album. Could've been much more.

Also Show-score should not be mixing the reviews from the earlier, intimate... Read more Read less

Raw, Insightful, Curated, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if you want to be part of a communal listening experience. It takes you inside the minds, songs, & heavy hearts of what these prisoners endured

Don't see it if you want a play with action. It's more like a curated immersion into an recorded album that reveals the history of prison slavery. Not fun.

Thought-provoking, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you're open to various forms of performance. This is a fascinating dive into an album, track-by-track, with live vocalists layering over it.

Don't see it if you're looking for and expecting to see a traditional play or musical. This is not that format, and you'll need to go in with an open mind.

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Relevant, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you like experimental theatre...this is like the serious, thoughtful version of Drowsy Chaperon / I enjoyed it very much /you like to think

Don't see it if you're expecting to be "entertained"...this is a work of scholarship, obsession and creativity and ultimately very rewarding

Great singing

See it if It's 3 people singing the entirety of the album - if you like this sort of music, you'll enjoy it.

Don't see it if It's very good, but other than some minimal video bits, it's just 3 people singing an album. If you want a play, this isn't. It's also short

Disappointing, Slow

See it if you have a vested interest in the work of The Wooster Group

Don't see it if you're not okay with visual stagnancy

Also I love Liz and Kate's work. The Wooster Group is one of the most fasci... Read more Read less

Disappointing, Uneventful, Lazy, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if u want to be moved and shook by the tragedy and resonance of the core material (prison recordings). Sad, maddening, painful, still relevant

Don't see it if u expect theater performance that should build on the core material. It was like karaoke, with minimal A/V embellishments. Dropped the ball.

Also I expected so much more. The recordings are so powerful. But the perfo... Read more Read less

Resonant, Great singing, Enchanting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if BLM hits experimental theater! I enjoyed this much more than Early Shaker Spirituals, it's inspiration. If you're open to different theater.

Don't see it if You want a conventional story, but then why go to to St Anns or the Wooster group? . I would have liked a little more context however.

Banal, Resonant, Excruciating, Disappointing, Ambitious

See it if You can sit for 1 hour to watch a great actor sing songs from prisioners in 1964 and fall asleep due to the excess of boredom.

Don't see it if You are looking for to watch a play with a plot.

Slow, Refreshing, Intelligent

See it if An auditory experience bringing an album of songs made by prisoners to life

Don't see it if Slow paced at times, not a lot of action just the album of music

Slow, Overrated, Indulgent, Disappointing, Banal

See it if you want to hear someone do karaoke and show you pictures of his apartment.

Don't see it if you were expecting to hear any stories of the actual prisoners or their lives. These are really just songs with only minor explanation.

Ambitious, Enchanting, Great acting, Intense, Must see

See it if You are willing to actively engage with performance

Don't see it if Avant-garde theatre doesn't agree with you

Also What a goddamn finale

Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Profound, Great singing, Ambitious

See it if you have an open mind to what theatre can be (i.e. not just a play or musical).

Don't see it if you're expecting a plot and story in the traditional sense.

March 4th, 2019
"The production as a whole falls short of its designation as an 'interpretation,' landing more accurately within the less exciting realm of 're-creation'...Berryman is joined by Jasper McGruder and Philip Moore, whose voices add presence and richness to the performance. But even that fullness of ...
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March 5th, 2019
"A haunting hour in the theatre...Berryman's voice seems to pierce the veil of the past, making the sorrows (and everyday horrors) of another time unsettlingly immediate; when he slips into character to introduce a number or perform a spoken piece, the transformation is instantaneous and complete...
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March 6th, 2019
“It’s an impressive, bravura piece of acting and singing on Berryman’s part, but there’s a pervading sense of something hollow looming over the show..For the final track...As he listens...His relationship with the record is clear, and it’s a chilling, effective moment. But it’s too brief. The pas...
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March 7th, 2019
"For all the similarities in rhythm, there is much underlying variety to these songs, and, beneath the simplicity, some striking nuance...Somehow, during this 21st century karaoke, as the three men on stage reproduced the singing...their live voices eerily took on the feel of an old record, a tes...
read more

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