Monday, April 8, 2013

Gertrude Stein at the Girl Bar

In my early 30's, I was involved with two plays that started with the letter "G":  "Gertrude Stein and a Companion" by Win Wells and "Girl Bar", by ... well, I really don't know who wrote it and entering "girl bar" in a search engine brings up a list ad infinitum of lesbian bars and articles on the same.

When I auditioned for "Gertrude Stein", I did it because I knew the ladies producing the play.  I knew little or nothing about Gertrude Stein herself, except for maybe the "rose is a rose is a rose" quote.  I remember reading lines with a woman whom I thought looked more the part.  I'm still not sure why they chose me, but I'm glad they did because I love/d acting and Gertrude was a juicy big part!

Here is a picture of the couple in their Paris digs:

Apparently, the Saturday night gatherings the ladies used to host, involving many writers and painters who were or went on to be famous.  According to Wikipedia, Alice used to be hostess to the women in a separate room, while Gertrude and the men had the salon.  Figure that one out.  I had developed a curiosity as to why Gertrude and Alice escaped the treatment of most Jews in occupied France in WWII.  From what I could discover, it was some combination of knowing someone in the government with the right connections, and the fact that they were famous and American.

Our production was performed at the Art Barn in Salt Lake City.  At that time, there was an art gallery on the main floor, the basement was set up for meeting space and the 2nd floor was used often for theatrical productions.

A year or so later, I got a call from the art professor at Westminster College who asked if I wanted to sit in character for his portrait painting class.  It was paid and I was poor and in college so I said yes.  I would have done it anyway.  This professor had broken one of my art phobias by having us draw a still life - looking at the objects and moving our pencil around the paper.  So there was no expectation of a photograph-like drawing.  He did bemoan the fact that there was so much black, but in the Picasso version of the real Gertude, there was so much brown.

The second play was called "Girl Bar", at least to the best of my recollection.  Any memorabilia I might still have is packed away in storage in Utah, since my mother's house was sold last month.  We performed it in "The Sun" bar, a popular gay-friendly bar in Salt Lake City.  I played Drew, the play's 'token butch'.  I smoked nearly the entire play, and felt bad for the audience, because they were not allowed to smoke during the show.

There were one or two 'panel discussions' with the cast and crew after performances.  For one such discussion I changed after the show into a dress I had made specially for that event.  It was from a red velvet floor length skirt I had bought for $1.00 at a thrift store.  As I went to try it on for the first time, I unzipped the 7" side zipper and the skirt got hung up just south of my shoulders...not stuck, but not in much danger of falling either.  I added some white feathery boa to the 'neckline', and my $1 transformed into a kickin' strapless cocktail dress that got its own round of applause at the bar that night.  

Forgive my lapses of memory from things that happened 20 years ago (yuck, I feel old now), but their are few other memories of note about this production.  I did stop for a couple of Dr. Peppers and a pack of Marlboro reds in a box as part of my pre-performance ritual each night.

My most outstanding memory of this show has to do with my mother.  Go figure on that one too.  Ever since I had started acting, my mother had attended at least one showing of each production in which I was involved.  At a family dinner at the Little America Hotel Coffee Shop (each January 17th, we would eat there to commemorate our arrival in/move to Salt Lake City), I told her where the play was going to be performed.  She informed me that she "didn't think she'd be able to attend that show".  Naturally, I was disappointed, but I understood as well.  My brother eventually talked her into it.  She must have been quite a sight, a little white-haired older lady entering a gay bar just over the train tracks.  But I gave her props, then and ever since.  That, and the time I had to tell her I was pregnant out of wedlock (at the age of 35) and her reaction to such, showed her love for me more than anything I can remember.

So, after the performance she attended with my brother, I went up to them afterwards and gave them hugs.  My mother looked at me and said, "I just have one question for you."  I thought, "Oh, good gravy, here it comes."  

"Did you inhale on that cigar," she asked.  "Only once, Mom," I responded, "I learned my lesson." 


  1. That was a really sweet story about your mother, LuAnn. And I think your memory is better than mine.

  2. Thanks, M, for the comment about my Mom. Heheheh, maybe we could start a game show called "Less-than-Total Recall". :p

  3. Love Stein. Have you seen Midnight in Paris? Such a good movie, and now that's always how I'll picture her :)

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah With Joy)

  4. No, I haven't caught that one yet, Sarah, but it is on my list. :O)