Grab a random Fringe patron out of the beer tent and ask them what they know about Gertrude Stein and her lover Alice B. Toklas, and they are likely to say little more than "Kathy Bates in Midnight in Paris
" and "pot brownies." Betty Jean Steinshouer, who has toured the continent re-creating historical figures like Willa Cather and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, aims to rectify that ignorance with Gertrude Stein Has Arrived
, her one-woman re-creation of an hour with the author, arts patron, lesbian icon and ardent anti-fascist.
The press preview was conducted in an interactive Q&A format, but Steinshouer's actual show is a scripted, largely chronological account of Stein's life, from her birth in Pennsylvania and her interactions with Picasso and Hemingway, to her hiding in France throughout the Nazi occupation. Stein certainly lived in interesting times — she drank tea on Hitler's balcony as one of the first Americans in Germany after his defeat — and Steinshouer has obviously invested countless hours in researching her history and persona.
The version I experienced lacked dramatic structure, making it more like an extended interaction with a historical re-enactor than a show with satisfying narrative. But if you are interested in the culture and history of World War II, Steinshouer's Stein has a wealth of stories to share.
Gertrude Stein Has Arrived!
Betty Jean Steinshouer