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Avant-garde theater group to be resident at Baryshnikov center

The experimental Wooster Group will be the resident company in a new theater in the Baryshnikov Arts Center in Manhattan.

Mikhail Baryshnikov told The New York Times for Wednesday editions that he always wanted to have a resident theater company in the 37 ARTS building, on West 37th Street.

"It's been my plan from the beginning," he said.

The Wooster Group will occupy a space in the building to be named the Jerome Robbins Theater. The Times said the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation has entered into an agreement to buy the theater, one of three at 37 ARTS being rented out by the building's owner.

The acclaimed Wooster Group, which once included the late monologuist Spalding Gray, currently operates out of the 99-seat Performing Garage in SoHo; it also performs at various spaces including the Public Theater in Lower Manhattan.

The Jerome Robbins Theater, which has a 299-seat capacity, is slated to open in 2009, the newspaper said. Wooster would use the space for three months of the year, with the remaining months going to avant-garde groups from around the world, Baryshnikov said.

The Wooster Group, founded in 1975, is best known for its avant-garde approach on classic pieces, including casting Kate Valk in "Emperor Jones" in blackface. Elizabeth LeCompte, its director, said the group would probably continue to use St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, where it has performed since 2001.

The Baryshnikov Arts Center opened in 2005. Its Web site says it serves as "a creative laboratory, meeting place and performing space for a vibrant community of artists from around the world."