Sunday, September 13, 2009

no words...

"How do I presume, and how should I begin... "
The opening lines (or something like it) for The Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer...

Kind of how I feel at the moment. We opened on Friday after an intense three and a half weeks of rehearsal. The show is one of the best I've been in for many reasons...I will try to articulate them here but I may have to revisit it for some weeks to get some real perspective.

Okay so there is the word love in the title... and it was part of the whole tone, a tone that was set in the theater by Vic Browder and Julia Thudium, co-directors of the play for Mother Road Theater Company. Something so strong that I can only describe it as Reiki Energy. The process of rehearsing was one of love and compassion, not the airy fairy, touchy feely, creepy co-dependent "I'm okay you're okay" kind. It was the real kind. Tough, calling out unreal moments. Demanding, always setting the bar a little higher; the kind of energy that cracks what ever codes that need to be broken, to access the really good, deep work; and get to the truth of the Story. All the while guided by real vision and the ability to see it realized.

I am playing Kitty Oppenheimer. She is alcoholic, isolated by choice (as only an alcoholic can be ~ and don't I know it so well), and alienated from her contemporaries by her past. I imagine in the 1940's it was sort of difficult for her to fit in to the military environment of Los Alamos, given that she was German born, a member of the American Communist Party, and had been married three times before the age of 29. A threat to the military men on two counts and their wives on one...

I have probably the least number of lines in the show, and only play the one character, while Bill Sterchi, Brian Haney, Mark Hisler, and Courtney Cunningham play a several characters each and are on and off stage shaking off one costume and changing to another in a flash... sometimes literally. It is strangely isolating to be sitting backstage while they fly from one thing to the next. Oppie (Chris Atwood Hall) and Lilith (Danielle Louise Reddick) are never off stage, Lilith living in the cat walk over the stage. But lines or no lines, any appearance has just as much responsibility as any. Kitty creates a huge impact whenever she appears. Whip smart and intensely funny, she speaks her mind as it comes up... doesn't bother censoring until its too late, and even then... apologies tend to be at your expense. She could be a decidedly unpleasant character... if she wasn't so frightened and so deeply in love with Oppenheimer.

The cast. The cast is ... magnificent. (Them not me... more on that later). Each of the different characters are so well crafted that they are never "sketches" but deeply known portrayals of important factors of the story...

My work has been spotty. Some places connected and feeling good. Other times, I feel like a loose canon and have to guard against self annihilation, which is only tedious and a waste of energy. I remind myself that feelings aren't facts... move on. Suffice to say that after two performances, I felt locked in today and am grateful to have 14 more to enjoy.

okay so that's a start... more tomorrow.. too sleepy to continue articulately...


  1. Viv -
    I want to say unequivocally that Kitty is one of the strongest and most memorable characters in our show. I love the humor, humanity and vulnerability you bring to the part and audiences clearly react to the moments that Kitty has the stage. I am professionally honored to share a stage with you and personally grateful for all of your help backstage...even if I am a bastard. Looking forward to more...Brian

  2. Viv - I'm always so impressed with your honesty and obvious commitment to your art. Bravo! Thanks for sharing the journey with us. You're an inspiration.

  3. thank you so much Brian...its a joy working with you too! And Deonne... i follow your lead ... xox