The Watermill Center celebrates the life of Sue Jane Stoker

On Sunday, August 5th at 11:30 am, The Watermill Center will hold a memorial service for Sue Jane Stoker.

Sue Jane Stoker, an associate director, stage manager, dramaturge, and theater collaborator of Robert Wilson and André Gingras, died in New York City between Saturday and Sunday of heart failure. She was 48.

Born on December 1, 1963, in White Plains, New York, she grew up and attended Huntington High School in Huntington, New York on Long Island. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater and business, she began working as a stage manager at various theaters in New York City including the Pan Asian Repertory Theater and La MaMa E.T.C.

Ms. Stoker met Robert Wilson in the summer of 1994 at The Watermill Center in Water Mill, New York while working as the stage manager for Mr. Wilson’s production of The Meek Girl. This was the first of eighteen summers that she spent at Watermill collaborating with Mr. Wilson and international artists of the Center’s annual International Summer Program. For four years, she acted as the Center’s Summer Program Director, coordinating the many workshops held for the 80 to 100 visiting artists. She recently co-edited and contributed to the publication, The Watermill Center, A Laboratory for Performance: Robert Wilson’s Legacy (DACO-VERLAG, Stuttgart), chronicling the first twenty years of the Center’s history.

“Sue Jane was exceptionally brilliant. She put drama, rhythm, and humor in the work of theatre with direction, lights, dramaturgy, coordination, and with the best sense of timing. I cannot imagine my work without her,” Mr. Wilson said of Ms. Stoker today. For eighteen years, she worked as his associate director and stage manager, collaborating on his productions of I La Galigo, the Polish and Spanish productions of Lady form the Sea, RUMI in the Blink of the Eye, KOOL - Dancing in my Mind, 1433 - The Grand Voyage, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, and as co-director and dramaturge for Krapp’s Last Tape.

Remembering their work together on Wilson’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Bernice Johnson Reagon stated that, “Sue Jane Stoker was there, everywhere, quick, strong memory, covering ground, treading connections, a part of the ground and essential to the breath of what was being borne...”

Ms. Stoker’s most recent project with Mr. Wilson was his highly anticipated revival tour of the opera he created with Philip Glass in 1976, Einstein on the Beach, where she was production stage-manager for the preview performances in Ann Arbor, Michigan in January of this year.

Since 1994, she was also a central collaborator for Change Performing Arts, contributing to countless theater productions, art installations, and exhibitions in over thirty countries.

Her other principal collaborations were with choreographer André Gingras, who she met through Mr. Wilson, and with whom she worked for the first time in 2000 as dramaturge and associate director for the solo dance and video performance CYP17. Since then, she collaborated with him on more than twenty dance projects, most recently at Dance Works Rotterdam, as well as on video projects with Fabio Laquone.

Mr. Gingras commented that, “Sue Jane was an inspiration, a remarkable combination of scholar, theater artist, dramaturge, and visionary. Her humor and sensitivity were balanced by an exceptional professionalism and a fierce dedication to the art form.”

In her vast and varied career in the performing arts, Ms. Stoker also worked with such artists as Marina Abramovic, Lucinda Childs, Willem Dafoe, Peter Greenaway, Antony Hegarty, and Isabella Rossellini.

“She was unflappable. Her intelligence, humor, and warm calm often saved us when we were lost in the woods of making the piece,” said Mr. Dafoe, who along with Ms. Abramovic and Mr. Hegarty worked with Ms. Stoker on The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic this past July at the Manchester International Festival.

“The thing that most impressed me about her was that she never lost her cool in the storm of activity that surrounded the production. She was a pillar of the Bob Wilson family,” said Ms. Abramovic. Similarly, Mr. Hegarty noted that, “Sue Jane's steadfast calm was the pillar on which we all relied. Her sensuous monotone across the loudspeakers and through the headsets was a balm to our ears. We relied on her like a mother, and we mourn her passing.”

Until recently, Ms. Stoker resided in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She is survived by her mother, Muriel Stoker of Seattle, Washington, her younger sister Gillian Stoker of Flagstaff, Arizona, and her younger brother James Stoker of Atlanta, Georgia. She is also survived by an immense extended family of international artists whom she nurtured and with whom she worked at The Watermill Center and at theaters around the world.

Her father, James J. Stoker, preceded her in death.

A memorial service will be held in her honor this summer at The Watermill Center.

Cards may be sent to The Watermill Center c/o Muriel Stoker, 115 West 29th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10001.

Photos provided by: Lovis Dengler, Luciano Romano, and various other photographers.