… intelligence at work …
There is a theatrical genius among us: David Greenspan. On two Mondays in February this charismatic actor and writer performed Gertrude Stein’s lecture about plays as a monologue, Greenspan/Stein. He characterizes her without imitating her. How? By finding the thought processes that lie behind the words and conveying them through his expressions, rhythms, changes of pace and gestures. The audience concentrates intensely. The effect: Stein’s muddy though purposeful lecture takes on the suspense of an action thriller.
Stein peppers her sentences (to the extent they are sentences) with the creative holy grail of the early 20th century — the search for essence. She’s in harmony with her friends, Picasso and Matisse, and their search for essence but there’s a big difference: they succeeded, expressing the essential through new modes of abstraction. Stein didn’t have the creative capacity herself to do for words what the painters did for the visual arts, though she set a challenge for others.
In the new modern painting, telling a story and expressing essence were totally opposed. In this Lecture, and elsewhere, Gertrude Stein, seeking a comparable purity for her writing, subverts her own narrative. She also gives herself over to a stream of consciousness style that reflects contemporary interest in ongoing process, and in new psychoanalytic ideas. These features make her writing hard to follow, to the ridiculous at times — this is an amusing theater piece — but they’re driven by hot, revolutionary convictions with continued import that Greenspan makes accessible by conveying her thoughts-in-motion.
In contrast to Plato who wrote dialogs, Aristotle wrote his philosophy straight yet recently Greenspan performed a monologue of Aristotle’s writings about theater, from the Poetics, that was as intensely dramatic — and deeply moving — as any play I’ve seen. It was something of a shock. But, yes, intelligence at work to create ideas is drama — that’s what Greenspan reveals.
Watch what this remarkable theater personality does next!
What an insight – I agree with you about Greenspan and also about Stein – she was a near miss – not a great force.
While I found the reading quite heady and requiring continued concentration and intense focus, it certainly was thought-provoking and even humorous at times. David Greenspan is a consummate performer, one whom I hope to see off or on Broadway more frequently. He captures the mood, the intonations, and gives the audience a sense of Gertrude Stein, however irritating and even sophomoric at times, devoid of exaggeration or affectation.