Color Plates began with a used copy of Sam Hunter’s Toulouse-Lautrec—to be cut-up, I thought, for poetry; instead, Hunter’s book inspired a short ekphrastic exercise.
Gradually, Mary Cassatt became central to Color Plates. A woman who did not allow other people’s expectations to interfere with what she wanted to do. All the painters whose work the Plates refer were involved with the Impressionists, but also worked outside Impressionism.
It took me a few years to draft the version of Color Plates I sent to publishers, & when a press accepted that draft, I continued to edit & cut. Some cuts were hard won: a story about a pianist who gives birth to a heron shortly before a concert was beloved by the publishers, but I feel what was attractive about that story was all flash. At the time, I couldn’t get it right. Other rejects were too convoluted—they weren’t true Plates.
Color Plates is out of print. A natural course for a book to take. Copies can be found on secondary markets—I see a copy at The Strand, for instance. Maybe another publisher will reprint it, perhaps with reproductions of the art that inspired the stories? (This was the wish I heard most often from readers—they wanted to look at the paintings while they read. Of course!) If Color Plates is picked up again, I'll write a few new stories for it.
In the meantime, Stories on Stage will present a selection from Color Plates read by actors. The folks in charge, Abbe & Anthony, are generous & thoughtful people—it's very satisfying to work with them. As each Plate is read, the artwork will be shown. After the show, the performers answer audience questions; I’ve been invited to join. I don’t know all the details, but the show will be streamed on a platform heartier than Zoom.
I'd also like to thank Isabelle Clark, this Color Plates' patron. She's wonderful.
Originally meant to be performed on stage in Denver, this virtual performance can be attended by anyone anywhere, which is great.
Stories on Stage has been around for twenty years. They’ve done a couple virtual performances since the pandemic postponed their 2020 season, too. The details for the show are here.