God Saves Gertrude, Deborah Stein Saves Herself From Jam Bands
October 8, 2009, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Theater | Tags: , ,

Hawt Poster for Hawtie Deborah Stein's New Play!

Erm, simply stated, Deborah Stein is brillz. Like if there were an apopcalypse and the sun went out and the oil got drained and the corn cobs withered, we could just power our appliances off an extension cord coming out of her brillzy brain. We’d be good for years.

So, Los Angeles: get off your toned tokheses (tokhi?), shut up about the traffic and peep God Save Gertrude, Deb’s new play – “a punk rock riff on Hamlet” with music by David Hanbury – at The Boston Court Theatre. It’s opening weekend!

To everyone else, here’s my interview with the 2-time Jerome Fellow, recipient of the Bush Artist Fellowship, member of New Dramatists, all around fly-girl and friend…

In the beginning…
It started as a writing assignment in grad school. We had to take a character from a theater classic and tell the story from their point of view. Lady Macbeth was the only woman in Shakespeare who had a soliloquy and that always bothered me. In Hamlet, Gertrude is accused of doing a lot of shitty things to her son, first husband, and the country of Denmark but never gets to say why. That’s where the play comes out of.

What does a “punk rock riff on Hamlet” look like?
Gertrude has royally eff-ed things up.  She used to be a punk rocker, now she’s Celine Dion. She used to be a revolutionary, and now she’s Nancy Reagan. She looked the other way while her husband was killed in a military coup and then she married his replacement. Her son is a poser, a drug addict, and—even worse, in Gertrude’s universe—a crappy musician. Her world is falling apart and she thinks that if she returns to her punk roots, she can save the country.

How did it become a musical?
The play was written listening mostly to Patti Smith rarities and B-sides on the second CD of her compilation LAND. I was so obsessed that I actually wrote her in, with Gertrude hallucinating a Patti Smith ghost who lip-synched her songs and gave advice. It turned out this was a lame device, but it took me three years to figure it out. Eventually I sat down with my collaborator David Hanbury and wrote a bunch of original songs.

What music saved Deborah?
I definitely think it was moving from being a well-behaved girl who liked jam bands to like, Jane’s Addiction, The Pixies, The Clash and Iggy Pop. I listened to their cassette tapes on a secret Sony walkman. As a teenager, that rawness and out-of-controlness spoke to a part of me I had no access to in other parts of my life. Friends went to Fugazi shows but I was always too intimidated and scared to go. As I got older, I started going to shows. Music was a big part of me getting over my shyness and lack of confidence.

Are you still a well-behaved girl?
I am relatively well behaved but compared to my peers who have stable jobs, a steady income, own property and have kids, I definitely charted out a different path. My once-wilder friends now are way more settled. I’d like to have all of that one day, but right now I am living life on my own terms. I am living a nomadic, gypsy life.

If God doesn’t save us, who or what will?
Only we can save ourselves—but not in, like, an everyone-for-themselves kind of way. Instead I think we need to be more alert and attentive to the needs of our communities by letting go of both the material things we love and the anxieties we nurse.

How do you envision The Apopcalypse and what will you be doing when the shiz hits the fan?
I’m going to be swimming in the ocean.

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