Gertrude Stein’s eccentric ‘A List’ provides lens to explore our surreal moment in history

James Peck directs Stein’s short, peculiar modernist drama for Muhlenberg Theatre’s Mnemonic Festival, April 11-13

By: Clarissa Shirley '22  Thursday, April 8, 2021 10:53 PM

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Time drags, time races, time spikes. Words stretch, words linger, words implode. We're on Zoom. We try. We fail. We manage. Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance presents “A List,” by the great American modernist Gertrude Stein, which director James Peck describes as “a short, endless play of words and longing.”

Peck, a theater professor at Muhlenberg, has approached the text as an investigation of the present moment of covid lockdowns and life on Zoom. The show runs (on Zoom, naturally) April 11-13 at Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance. 

“Gertrude Stein is one of the most daring and original playwrights of the 20th century, someone whose legacy in the theatre is unknown but in my opinion profound,” Peck says. “Her writing captures a strange sense of temporality. The production is seeking to look into the strange sense of time that zoom has created.”

The fourth instalment in Muhlenberg’s semester-long Mnemonic Theatre Festival, “A List” runs April 11-13, and will be presented in a virtual performance. Attendance is free. Patrons can request tickets at muhlenberg.edu/seeashow.

 An American novelist, poet and playwright who lived most of her adult life in Paris, Stein was a leading figure in the modernist movement of the early 20th century. She was known as an avant-garde writer — eccentric, often non-linear, and experimental — and was a self-proclaimed genius. 

“I passionately love Gertrude Stein’s theatre, and I’m a bit possessed by the desire to help other people love it too,” Peck says. “For the past few weeks, the cast and I have been attempting to give body and life to her complex, circuitous, and picturesque language.”

“A List” runs Sunday, April 11, at 3 p.m., and Monday and Tuesday, April 12-13, at 7 p.m. Patrons can sign up to see the show at muhlenberg.edu/seeashow, where information is also available about the rest of the Mnemonic Theatre Festival.

About the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.