When Gertrude met Susan: A Lesbian Literary Love Fest comes to San Francisco on June 24th.
Conceived and hosted by Brooklyn-based performer, writer and professor, Kay Turner, ‘When Gertrude Met Susan’ is a featured event at this year’s International Queer Arts Festival.
Tickets: FREE Tuesday 6/24, 7:30 pm at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission St @ 25th, San Francisco, CA
E: I’m excited about your upcoming event. Tell us about the show and what makes it so unique and interesting.
Kay: It’s a fun show that brings two lesbian icons together, who in actuality never did meet. Both were of course famous writers to the world, but like the rest of us they had girlfriends!! They had much love and sometimes…not so much. But both Gertrude and Susan wrote brilliantly about their lesbian dramas! The goal of this game-like show on Tuesday, June 24 is to choose by voting who writes the best about lesbian love.In the show we have a total of 12 Gerts and 12 Susans–twenty-four impersonators each bringing a different take on a reading from either Sontag’s journal or Stein’s love notes to Alice. Then at the end we take an audience vote–we encourage Gertrude and Susan fans to take a stand!
E: As a lesbian feminist scholar and author, you’re known for outstanding work that links the past to the present, connecting folklore through performance art and literature. This has now become an important part of preserving and creating our queer culture. Tell us, how did you happen to get involved with all this?
Kay: Great question, Robin! But that’s a LONG story! Beginning with ritual attempts to bring sunfish back to life in Florida when I was four!! But now I realize we all die, so I’ve calmed down a bit. Overall, as you suggest, I’m interested in performance of queer pedagogies–ways that different kinds of knowledge, different kinds of people can be brought together to explore and learn together. I work with extended networks of friends and strangers such as the fabulous crew I’ve cobbled together for “When Gertrude Met Susan.”
E: You’ve written several great books. Can you give us a rundown on some of your favorites and what they are about?
Kay: Well, I guess the most important of my books for this show I’m doing for Queer Arts Festival is Baby Precious Always Shines, my edited collection of love notes written between Stein and Toklas over a period of 30 years. The Gertrudes in the show are using that book as text. My folklore training and feminist commitment give me a particular view on the importance of women’s everyday customs and rituals, so I have done lots of writing about women’s home altars, including my book Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars. I remain a fervent fan of Madonna whose stardom gave me and other women an interesting nocturnal relationship to her which I recorded 20 years ago in my book I Dream of Madonna: Women’s Dreams of the Goddess of Pop.
E: What’s next for Kay Turner?
Kay: I have a musical side–some of your readers may remember my band Girls in the Nose— and last year I did a show at Dixon Place in New York called Otherwise: Queer Scholarship into Song. That project is continuing in workshops at universities and colleges. Also some years ago I began a project called Transgressive Tales aimed at queerly interpreting the classic Grimms’ fairy tales. That project resulted in my latest book Transgressive Tales ( Wayne State University Press, 2012) done with my great pal Pauline Greenhill. That project renewed my interest in the witch! I’m now working on a new book that reconsiders fairy tale witches, hags and sorceresses–in other words, old women! And of course there’s an interactive side to this work. Beginning in the fall of 2014 I’ll be hosting Witch Salons with women across the country to read and interpret fairy tales together. I hope to return to the Bay Area in early 2015 to host some salons here.
Kay Turner is an artist working across disciplines including writing, music, performance, and folklore. Turner’s recent performance works include ‘The Black Kiss’ (with Mary Beth Edelson), Brittany, France, 2014; ‘Otherwise: Queer Scholarship into Song’ (original songs presented at Dixon Place, Manhattan, April 4, 2013); ‘What a Witch,’ (lecture and performed reading of fairy tales, A.I.R. Gallery, Oct. 18, 2012), ‘Breast Exam Revisited: Am I Not My Sister’s Keeper’ (SOHO 20 Gallery, Backlash Show opening performance and video installation, July 2012), ‘ Show Some Raw Emotion,’ songs and love letters celebrating love between women (February 2012), ‘Rethinking Memorial: Ephemeral Gestures for September 11,’ Brooklyn Arts Council (September 2011), ‘When Gertrude Met Susan,’ Dixon Place
(February 2010), ‘Extraordinary Rendition,’ Hamilton College Art Department (April 2009), and ‘Creating Queer Genealogies: The Spinster Aunt Project,’ ( with Ella Gant), Denniston Hill (September 2009). Turner has written songs and performed in numerous bands, most notably the punk lezzie ‘Girls in the Nose’ (GITN), active 1985-1996 in Austin, TX and the Brooklyn-based rock intellectual trio “The Pages” she works with currently.