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How The Light Lies (On You) illuminates failure’s long shadow

A new, all-woman theatre collective celebrates the overlooked legacy of artist Florine Stettheimer

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Ella MacDonald as Carrie Stettheimer. - JULIA SCHULTZ
  • Julia Schultz
  • Ella MacDonald as Carrie Stettheimer.

How the Light Lies (On You)
Aug 8, 9, 7:30pm; Aug 11 2:30pm, 7:30pm
Art Bar + Projects, 1873 Granville Street
Pay What You Can/$10-$30


Sometimes, the risks we take don't result in triumph or success.In the upcoming production How the Light Lies (On You), failure and disappointment are examined using art, poetry and a whole lot of cellophane. 

An original script by Edie Reaney Chunn starring Kya Mosey, Ella MacDonald and Julia Schultz, How the Light Lies follows the life of modernist-feminist designer and painter Florine Stettheimer during the period she designed the set and costumes for Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein's opera, Four Saints in Three Acts.

During the early part of the 20th century, she was a major success in the costume and set design scene but her paintings were largely ignored during Stettheimer's lifetime—she didn't sell a single painting in her first and only solo exhibition. 

Both adored and reviled for her unapologetic love of decadence, feminine painting style and depictions of sex, nudity and race (Stettheimer is credited for painting the first feminist nude self-portrait), How the Light Lies proves both failure and success are only ephemeral.

With innovative visual effects and designs developed by Anna Shepard, audiences can expect to experience an array of Stettheimer's paintings, poetry and letters—even cellophane artwork (the artist's trademark medium). 

How the Light Lies is the first production by the recently formed all-woman collective The New Pants Project. Schultz, who also directs the piece, says Stettheimer's audacious attitude in the face of the patriarchy parallels what women often experience in theatre: "I think that's something that gave me a lot of strength, as someone who loves my feminine side and still demands to be taken seriously. I get to be as much as I want, as feminine as I want, and you still have to respect me." 

As Reaney Chunn offers of the story, which is centred around Stettheimer's decadent and excessive paintings: "It's an interesting way to know her life. You can read a Wikipedia article about her, you can look at other profiles about her. It's another interpretation of her life based on her art."

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