Directing: Gertrude Stein

“THREE SISTERS WHO ARE NOT SISTERS

Sullivan Street Playhouse, New York, April 1965, and Judson Poet’s Theatre

Three Sisters

Diane Fisher, Deborah Lee, and Marva Abraham in “Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters”

This was the first play I directed in New York, part of a benefit evening for the Caffè Cino, which had been severely damaged by a fire. Gertrude Stein was a heroic figure, a writer who had made her reputation with an eccentric, hard-to-read style—and as a Lesbian at a time when hardly anybody was “out.” Obscurity was better than obviousness, in my book, and the fact that “Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters” hardly made any sense counted in its favor. I put together a cast of people I knew, some actors and some not. The script, more dramatic than most of Stein’s plays, calls for a curtain to be drawn between scenes. We were performing in the three-quarter round on the set of “The Fantasticks,” and there was no curtain. So I asked Gwen Fabricant to make a large painting of a curtain, which Charles Stanley and Johnny Dodd carried across the stage at the appropriate moments.

We were invited to revive the play for a few weekends at Judson Poets’ Theatre, in the choirloft at Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square. Some kind of set seemed called for, and Charles and I constructed, in Deborah Lee’s loft on Great Jones Street, an octagonal gazebo that we painted red. In rehearsal this proved more obstacle than asset; if touched, it wobbled, and the actors were distracted trying to avoid it. It was scrapped before the opening.