CHICAGO: Everyone loves a good repeat, no one more than Gertrude Stein. Hence the title of the Stein-inspired musical, adapted by Frank Galati, with music by Stephen Flaherty: Loving Repeating.
First produced in 2006 by About Face Theatre at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Loving Repeating is a compilation of Stein’s lectures, poems and writings. The tuner tracks her two most enduring love affairs: with Alice B. Toklas and language.
“Loving Repeating is structured around lectures given at the University of Chicago,” says director Allison Hendrix, who will helm the production at Theater Wit, where it’s slated to run July 18–Aug. 30. Stein delivered a series of talks at the school in the 1930s. Galati has been directing operas with librettos penned by Stein, and creating plays inspired by her literary work, since the 1970s. They include The Mother of Us All, Four Saints in Three Acts, Gertrude Stein: Each One as She May, and She Always Said, Pablo.
Having Stein’s distorted syntax, abstract subtext, and use of repetition set to music provides easy access into her work for a contemporary audience, Hendrix believes. “I hope that what people will take away is the joy of it,” says the director. “It’s not simply an intellectual exploration or a dry, academic piece—the score is lush, lyrical and beautiful, and the piece as a whole is romantic and silly.”
Stein frequently said she hoped the overt repetition in her work would transcend time, and in many ways, Hendrix says, the material is more pertinent now than ever. Behind the illogical sentences and alliterations are, among other things, Stein’s thoughts on homosexuality and her romantic relationship with Toklas. “We have an increasing awareness now of gender identity and sexuality, and hopefully we view it with more kind and open hearts,” Hendrix points out.
The company behind this mounting, Kokandy Productions, of which Hendrix is the co-artistic director, was drawn to the musical because of its connection to the Chicago community and the way Stein was able to seamlessly integrate her art with academia there. “It’s a town that’s ready for new things, which maybe has always been true, and that’s what she found,” Hendrix figures, “and that’s what we still find today.”