Mar. 30, 2011 - Issue #806 : Insidious
Text as sound
An experimental look at Gertrude Stein
"We're trying to get at, who was she, what was she about and how did she see the world," Coleman explains. "So there's only a few pieces [in this show] that were actual literary texts of hers that are a little bit difficult to understand on the page. But once you start reading them, it comes alive, in a very, very different way."
Plot is sort of on the back-burner here: though there's a fairly linear section, Coleman notes, documenting interviews between Stein's partner, Alice Toklas, and former Yale prof Leon Katz, elsewhere it's non-chronological, more fragmented, pulling directly from other moments of her life as well as an assemblance of her texts and lectures, both her poetic language experiments and more analytical looks at the world around her.
"Her work leaves it very open to interpretation. It's very much like found text; you can play with text as an object itself, and play with form," Coleman says.
Coleman has long held a fascination with Stein's work. And in a twist of fate, this project found its footing with the help of an old professor—Katz was an instructor of Coleman's at Yale which she discovered during her researc. "I was just absolutely shocked it was him," she recalls. She flew to LA to connect with him, now 91, and to ground her show in those interviews, as well as her own research, going through Stein's 173 boxes of artifacts at Yale (a San Francisco collector will be displaying an array of Stein's belongings and memorabilia in the Timms Theatre lobby during the show's run).
Not that all of it needs grounding, she notes, once it's off the page.
"I'm finding that it's not as dense when you put it in 3D. It isn't," she says. "You see the human person behind her. There's only about a minute and 36 seconds, I believe, of film of her—not in the piece of film itself, but existing—and when you see that, you see that she was actually a very, very alive person who laughed and moved really well, and wasn't necessarily this stern person who's portrayed in photographs." V
Until Sat, Apr 9 (7:30 pm)
The Gertrude Stein Project
Conceived and directed by
Starring Spenser Payne, Peter Fernandes, Samantha Hill, Nicola Elbro, Jamie Cavanagh
Timms Centre for the Arts (87 Ave & 112 St), $10 – $20
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