It's not often that a columnist presents a story about an upcoming event and then writes a follow up. The last Steiny Road column (q.v.) featured Let Us Play A Play, a theater workshop for children focused on a play by Gertrude Stein and developed by Jessica Brater, the artistic director of Polybe + Seats; Katya Schapiro, a Polybe company member; and Molly Parker-Myers, a Polybe + Seats featured actor.
This Brooklyn-based workshop drew seven girls, mostly ages six to eight, but also included one four-year-old.
As with any assembled group of actors, Brater tailored the workshop to fit the needs. Quickly she decided to focus on Look and Long, one of the three Stein plays she had in mind to use.
One reason for selecting Look and Long was that this play lends itself well to puppetry.
When asked if the children said anything memorable about working with Steinian text, Brater said a six-year-old hearing the word "apparition" began talking about the "operation." Brater said eventually she offered a Steinian repetition exercise where they alternated saying apparition and operation to get the girls to hear the difference between the two words.
Another point of interest with the children's reactions occurred when Silly gets turned into Willy and was therefore (according to Stein's text) unable to wed Suzy. This raised questions about why the apparition would cast a spell on the characters in this way and why two girls would be getting married in any case.
However, Brater reiterated what she said in the original interview: children, including these seven girls, were very accepting of the oddities of language and situation.
Since the entire workshop was a two-week program, Brater did not expect the girls to memorize their lines. So the text was read. The four-year-old participated by following through with stage directions, such as walking on stage and dropping a curtain.
The Steiny Road Poet now sits back and wonders what delights of poetry, fiction, or theater these seven girls will bring to the world once they digest their experience in Let Us Play A Play.
Photos by Janice Olson