Story of A Female Love Affair

Suzy Freeman-Greene reports on the highly successful play about author, Gertrude Stein, and her lover, Alice B. Toklas.

Gertrude Stein was an irrepressible woman. Mirthful and dry-witted, she reigned for 40 years over the literary and art circles of Paris. Her friends included Picasso and Matisse; her protege was Ernest Hemingway. She was brilliant, snobbish, vain and warm-hearted.

But, as famous people often do, Stein drew her strength and inspiration from a seemingly ordinary morta. Alice B Toklas, was plain, ascerbic, slightly paranoid and totally committed to Stein whom she recognised as a genius. The two lived together from 1907 until 1948 in their legendary apartment at 27 Rue de Sleurus.

Pam & Miriam | Original Photo by Doris Thomas/Fairfax MediaPam & Miriam (Colorised Edit) | Original Photo by Doris Thomas/Fairfax Media

According to British actor, Miriam Margoyles, who is in Australia to play Stein in ‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion‘, theirs was a true-love story. “Everybody wants a wife — and Gertrude had one,” she said.

As much a tribute to Toklas as Stein, the two-woman play has been acclaimed world-wide since it was first performed in 1984. Margoyle has played Stein in Britain, the United States, Canada, and now Melbourne. Pamela Rabe is the new Alice B Toklas. (more…)

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Alice Toklas Get Her Due

Miriam Margoyles and Pamela Rabe, who star in ‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion’, the play about the American couple who were once the toast of the Paris literati, are keen to set the record straight: Alice B. Toklas, the often overlooked half of the relationship, was no lapdog.

According to Ms Rabe, the Melbourne actress who plays Alice in what the pair believe is the definitive version of the couple’s life: “The public perception is that Gertrude was the forceful one, the mover, the doer, and Alice was just the shadow in the background, hanging off the glory of Gertrude. I think that those that were close to them were aware that the balance was slightly different.”

The willowy Ms Rabe and, in her own words, the “short, fat and Jewish” Ms Margolyes — who have been described as a couple as incongruous as Stein and Toklas themselves — were preparing for the play’s Melbourne opening (tonight, at the Universal Theatre, Fitzroy). after a successful Sydney season. Despite its title, they said ‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion’ was essentially about Alice and her crucial role in the relationship.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ 40-year relationship began early this century. Gertrude, a writer, would “hold court” with Paris’ “literati and glitterati” — Picasso, Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, “anyone who was anyone” — while Alice, an intellectual in her own right, would entertain the wives.

“Gertrude was a wonderful self-publicist,” Ms Rabe said. “When Alice met her, her bells rang and she made an instant decision that this was someone who needed her and vice versa and she then set about devoting her life to making Gertrude possible; to making Gertrude happy, secure; making it possible for her to write and for her to hold court… the only credit, the only kudos that she needed was from Gertrude.” (more…)

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Pamela Rabe auditions for John Hirsch

Trying out for Stratford

It’s been only a day and a half since Gillian Barber first heard that Stratford Festival artistic director John Hirsch would be at the Granville Island Arts Club on Thursday conducting auditions for next year’s season, and with the Talking Dirty matinee Wednesday, she’s had only a day to prepare.

She’s chosen speeches from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Michel Tremblay’s Forever Yours, Marie-Lou, but rather than follow the lead of some of her colleagues who are silently mouthing their texts one last time, Barber is sitting idle, and outwardly. at least, composed.

When she auditioned for Hirsch last November he stopped her performance to offer some suggestions.

“I gather from other people that the people he did stop and work with were the ones he was interested in,” she says optimistically.

If there’s any truth to the rumor, the situation looks good for Barber’s predecessor, Pamela Rabe. Asked to run through her speech, also coincidentally from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a second time, Rabe is scarcely allowed a line before Hirsch interjects.

“Taste what you are saying,” he urges from a seat several rows back of the stage where Rabe is doing her best to navigate around furniture left from the Talking Dirty set. “Taste the words, chew them, and spit them out. Don’t let a single syllable escape you.”

Pamela Rabe auditions for John Hirsch 1982 | Photo by Ralph BowerPamela Rabe auditions for John Hirsch 1982 | Photo by Ralph Bower (more…)

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