by Richard Dodds
From page to stage is the literal mission of Word for Word, a theater company that, for 16 years, has created highly regarded theatrical experiences from published prose while still managing to include every word authors have written. For the first time, Word for Word and Theatre Rhino are collaborating on a production that will provide flesh-and-blood life to short stories by Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, and Armistead Maupin.
Three on a Party, opening May 16, takes its name from the Williams short story "Two on a Party" that Rhino Artistic Director John Fisher is staging. First published in 1954, "Two on a Party" focuses on barflies Cora and Bill, who form a bond based on their mutual lust for men.
Fisher is also directing Maupin's "Suddenly Home," a short story originally written in 1990 for the musical Hearts Desire. It's the story of the romantically confused Tess, who looks to her brother and his boyfriend for guidance. Maupin, best known for his Tales of the City books, will take to the stage for a conversation with Fisher following the May 17 performance.
Delia MacDougall, a charter member of Word for Word, is directing Stein's "Miss Furr and Miss Skeen." Written around 1910 and published in 1922, it's a fictionalized portrait of artists Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire and their intimate relationship. It is often cited as one of the first published coming-out stories, as well as, perhaps, the first published use of the word "gay" in reference to same-sex relationships. There will be a post-show discussion with Stein expert Hans Gallas following the May 22 performance.
Three on a Party will run through June 7 at Theatre Rhino. Call 861-5079 or go to www.therhino.org.