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l!nirscfci\, march 31.2011 • w\vw.lhegaUnvay(inlim;x:a 




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An artist shrouded in secrecy 


New Studio Theatre production delves into the tile and work of Gertrude Stein 


theatrepreview 

The Gertrude Stein Project 

Directed and adapted by Beau 
Coleman 

Designed by Katherine Jenkins 
Starring Spenser Payne, Peter 
Fernandes, Samantha Hill, Nicola 
Elbro, and Jamie Cavanagh 
Runs March 31-April 9 at 7:30 D.m., 
matinee performance on Thursday, 
April 7 at 12:30 p.m. 

Timms Centre for the Arts (87 
Avenue and 112 Street) 

$5-20 at Tix-on-the-Square or at the 
Timms Box Office 

ALEX MIC.DAL 

Arts & Entertainment Staff 

There’s an air of mystery that hangs 
over the name Gertrude Stein. It 
generates that tip-of-the-iongue feel¬ 
ing where you can’t quite figure out 
what she’s known for. despite feeling 
you’ve heard the name before. Even 
director Beau Coleman knew little of 
Stein at first when she started work 
on her latest production The Gertrude 
Stein Protect. 

"It had always been sort of a curi¬ 
osity in the back of my head that, at 
some point, I would like to find out 
more about her and tackle some of her 
texts,” Coleman says. "The minute I 
started working on it. it started want¬ 
ing to go into being its own piece." 

Stein was, in fact, numerous 
things: a writer, poet, art collector, 
and part oi a circle of high-profile 
lilerary friends whom she famously 
deemed “the losi generation.” Bui 
it’s her reclusive nature that makes 
her an ideal character to explore 
on stage. Bringing Stein to life has 


been an organic process for Coleman, 
who conceived The Gertrude Stein 
Project entirely from scratch. 

“The design process [was difficult] 
in a beautiful, wonderful way.” says 
Coleman. "How do we create a space 
in which all this can occur and yet 
reflects the simplicity? It’s very, very 
different. [.. .] We’re creating some¬ 
thing out of nothing." 

“Anything that conies 
in visually, movement- 
wise. images vise. 
vocaliy-wise.is 
considered text. So I was 
interested in not only 
just die written and the 
spoken, but what’s the 
visual text? \ VTiats die 
movement text?” 

BEAU COLEMAN 

DIRCCTOR. THE GERTRUDE STEIN PROJECT 

incidentally, it was by a stroke of 
luck that Coleman stumbled upon 
the project. She studied ai Yale 
under Leon Katz, who discovered 
1,500 notebooks penned by Stein. 
He reconstructed Stein’s writings by 
interviewing her longtime partner 
Alice B. Toklas over four months. By 
sharing liis findings with Coleman, 
he gave her rare access inside snippets 
of Stein's life, which came to form the 
basis of The Gertrude Stein Project. 

"What are these little fragments?” 
Coleman asks. “We can take that idea 
of the archive and these fragments 
and create a bit of a sense [that] 


we’re not getting the full picture. 
And neither did Leon — he got these 
little fragments of notes [and] we’re 
just getting these bils and pieces lliat 
are out of order." 

As a result, Coleman chose to 
approach the project as a Steinian 
composition rather than a typical 
linear narrative She also tackled the 
complexity of Stein's abstract writ¬ 
ing by incorporating distinct visual 
motifs on stage. 

"Stein is text, right?” she says. 
“Could we work tills text as an object 
itself? Could we get a sense of any¬ 
thing as seen on that space? Anything 
that comes in visually, movement- 
wise, image-wise, vocally-wise, is 
considered text. So 1 was interested 
in not only just the written and 
the spoken, but what's tlie visual 
text’ What's the movement text?" 

"Its choreographed a lot." she 
continues. "The movement is central 
to the whole piece. It reads as a cross 
between theatre, dance, and spoken 
word. The motifs are through the 
creation of the choreography and, 
in some cases, the things that are 
closest aligned to the scenes." 

Wliile many critics have dis¬ 
missed Stein’s texts as unadaptable, 
Coleman believes that her vision truly 
reflects Stein's experimental approach 
to theatre, providing insight into a 
woman shrouded in mystery. 

’’[Stein says] the phrase 'theatre's 
landscape' and that we need to look 
at plays the same way we look at a 
painting — ii's just there," says 
Coleman. 

"You know, we might look at 
it. but it's not looking back al us, 
and so we don't necessarily have lo 
tell [all] these stories. 1 think she 
would totally recognize that this is a 
landscape."