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Lynn C. Miller

Performing Gertrude Stein/"Gertrude Stein Lights the Lights"
Posted on: August 6, 2012

The modernist writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was multi-faceted––she was an art collector, a critic of language, a scientist of human behavior, a writer of experimental texts, the creator of the continuous present, and one half of the most famous lesbian couple in the early 20th century. My project, Performing Gertrude Stein, documents my career-long critical exploration of Stein through stage adaptations, both solo and ensemble, that showcase her writing and the ways in which she performed her life on the page, in her salon, and during her famous lecture tour of America in 1934-35.
I’ve lectured and published on Stein’s work in performance, and adapted and directed her work for stage, including two solo performances, “Gertrude Stein as Gertrude Stein” and “Saved By Gertrude Stein.” My plan for the SPREAD grant period includes writing the final chapter of the book: a script for five actors, “Gertrude Stein Lights the Lights,” that incorporates the various selves of Stein and includes adaptations of two of her word portraits, “As a Wife has a Cow a Love Story” and “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” said to be the first time (1927) the word gay was used to connote homosexuality in print.

This grant would be used to complete my research, particularly at the Stein archives at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. SPREAD would also fund a staged reading of “Gertrude Stein Lights the Light,” including theater rental, music and sound design, and publicity to bring Stein’s work to the general public. Discussion follows the performance.

I anticipate completing research for the project by December, 2012. January-March, 2013 will be spent writing “Gertrude Stein Lights the Lights” with the staged reading taking place in summer of 2013.

Stein has been rediscovered over the past two years as an extraordinary innovator through new art exhibits (2011-12) in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C. and Paris. Performing Gertrude Stein showcases this artist whose work spans visual art, literature, and theater, bringing her modern consciousness into the 21st century. She invented the word portrait as a literary form that captured perception much as cubism does in painting. The final chapter of Performing Gertrude Stein, “Gertrude Stein Lights the Lights,” will allow audiences to experience her remarkable theories of language and perception in acoustic space.