Gertrude Stein: Counting Her Dresses

Counting her dresses performance spaceDevised by Lib Taylor

Counting Her Dresses and other plays…, was a mixed-media, promenade performance/installation, based on theatre writings of Gertrude Stein (1874 - 1946). It was presented in Bob Kayley Studio Theatre, University of Reading in December 2010. Rather than present a realisation of one or more of Stein's play texts, it was a devised performance which interrogates and reconceptualises Gertrude Stein's play texts, reflecting on and critiquing her work.

Counting her dresses performance spaceThe performance juxtaposes a soundcape of voices, live performance, an 'exhibition' of paintings and mediated images projected onto and across the space to evoke Stein's sense of theatre as a place of experience and emotion, not as a place of story and action. The text comprised a collage of five fragments from plays by Stein with additional textual material from one of her novels. The source texts were the theatre writings For Her Country Entirely (a play in letters), Counting Her Dresses (a play), I Like It To Be A Play (a play), Captain Walter Arnold (a play) Gertrude Steinand A Play Called Not And Now, plus selected passages taken from the novel The Making of Americans. The performance alludes to the cubist experimental art that Stein promoted.

Gertrude Stein was an American writer who lived in Paris for most of her adult life and was a significant figure in the development of early twentieth century modernism. She was an artists' patron and one of the first collectors of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne and others. She wrote novels, short stories, poetry and criticism, as well as a number of very short 'plays' and opera libretti. Even though her plays are very rarely performed they have been very influential in the development of avant-garde theatre.

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