Special Projects


Creation, Direction, choreography


Doctor Faustus Lights The Lights

An opera by Gertrude Stein

Theatre Department–Concordia University, Montreal


In 1938, Gertrude Stein wrote the opera-play “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights”. A play that revels in the relationship between electricity, fate, and Stein’s own brand of sparky language games. It was written during the transition between the Old Dark World and the birth of Modernity, and it expresses a simultanous excitement and wariness about light everlasting; where life itself is radically changing with the arrival of electricity; a true industrial revolution that will affect all of humanity.

This production of “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights” had a distribution of 16 actors, supported by an original soundtrack of electronic music, inspired by the sounds inherent in electrical modulations.
Nathalie Claude places her Dr Faustus perched on a huge pile of books, both feet fixed on top of his knowledge, and on the brink of chaos. While above him a small light bulb literally hangs above his head, his own sword of Damocles. In the distance pulsating, the mysterious forest made of neon trees, enlightens and terrifies all at once. Doubling the heroines of Margerite Ida and Helena Annabel, Nathalie places them under the eye of the moon-witness, who sees everything, knows everything.
She mixes genres: vaudeville, movies of the 1950’s, horror films, ballet corps, puppet theater, and expressionism, and creates an unrestricted work in tune with the underground feminism of Gertrude Stein.

“Gertrude is my idol!

I turned her on and off, and on and off, and on and off, and everytime I did, something else appeared. I think she has a golden brain. Her secret is buried at Père-Lachaise. I was there once, meditating at her tombstone. I should have dug and checked. Her work is visceral, unique, sharp and she plays, destroys, and enlightens words, and the general concept of language like no one else. And, Oh words, words, words, beautiful-strong-playful words. They spin, repeat, dance, and sing and twist, and finally they enter the bloodstream, and then: the light appears.

Modernity is a fabulous thing. But a starry night, when the moon is full and the sky is dark, is simply: priceless. I would not sell my soul to the devil, risking losing THAT.” (Excerpt from the director notes in the program)

Text: Gertrude Stein
Creation, direction, choreograpy: Nathalie Claude
Assistant director: David Di Giovanni
Set design: Cassandre Chatonnier
Properties design: Hannah Gorham-Smith
Costumes design: Michela Fisher
Lighting design: Chris Rayment
Original music and sound design: Max Stein and Julian Stein
Designer’s assistants: Eve-Catherine Champoux, Benedicte Le Bel, Meriza Martel-Bryden, Anastasia Schneider.
Performers: Doctor Faustus/ Callahan Connor, The Country Woman/Marie Farsi,
Margherite Ida & Elena Annabel/Shannon Hamilton, Margherite Ida & Elena Annabel/Amy Kitz, The Boy/Michael Mercer, Chorus 4/Mireck Metelski, The Little Boy/Noa Nussbaum, Chorus 1/Natasha Perry Fagant, The Little Girl/Kyle Purves , Chorus 2/Sara Rodrigez, Chorus 3/Kendall Savage, Mephisto/Cameron Sedgwick, The Dog/Emily Skahan, Chorus 5/Matt Smith, The Man From Over the Seas/Benoît Trudel, Chorus 6/Jake Zabusky.

Presented from December 1 to 5, 2010, at the D. B Clark Theatre, Montreal.

Photos © Christian Brand