Title

A Pop Parade of American Fantasy: Staging National Identity in The Mother of Us All

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-1-2002

Abstract

In her seminal study of the dramatic works of Gertrude Stein, They Watch Me As They Watch This, Jane Palatini Bowers argues that in her final libretto, The Mother of Us All, Stein:

dramatizes the conflict between a female's desire for power and authority and her sexual and emotional need to merge with a male other. Susan B. Anthony, the heroine of the play, resisted her biological destiny—never marrying, never having children— much like Gertrude Stein herself. Instead of becoming a natural mother, Susan B. Anthony is the metaphorical mother of us all.1

Bowers' text-based support for these assertions is extremely compelling, and, if one were not studying the work from the perspective of performance, it might seem superfluous to attempt to augment Bowers' analysis in any way. But, as I began investigating the way that The Mother of Us All was staged by the Santa Fe Opera in 1976, I found that the performance text can be driven by issues very different from those that Bowers suggests fuel the written text.

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