Sunday, October 4, 2009


I just went back through my posts to see when it was that I actually got cast in The Love Song of J Robert Oppenheimer and it was six months ago... and we just closed tonight. Such an amazing experience.

The opportunity to work with a cast that was so committed to the play and each other's well being was very special. The work just deepened and deepened. The connections on stage really sang.

I fell in love. With each member of the cast, with the craft, the directors and the whole crew. That peaceful kind of rich love that gives you the sense that you are walking in grace. The quiet kind, that says yup this here is where the real work happens.

The amazing thing is for me, I was finally able to use life experiences that I have held at bay because they were so hot for so long that they were unpredictable and would run away with me. I would not allow myself to go to the dark places required to inform my work because I couldn't channel it successfully to the given circumstances of the play. It would lead to general emotions of what I call "broad stroke anger" or "broad stroke grief" that lacked dimension and delineation. In Oppenheimer, I was finally able to use these old betrayals, fears, anger and grief and have them fall into service of my art.

There was a scene in which I confront Oppie about his dead mistress... To do so in any way that was real I had to revisit my own experience of betrayal. I felt like I was cheating when I tried to do substitutions and the Magic Ifs... always skirting around the truth of where those emotions live for me. So I took the plunge. 40 years ago I learned that my father had been having an affair with a woman. It explained the mysterious disappearances, some strange behaviors and a lot of drinking. The confrontation ended ultimately with his suicide. I found him in the garage. Not surprising that I haven't been able to touch it ... it is fucking brutal territory. But in this show, thanks to prep in class with Price and Eb last winter, and the deep trust I had for my directors and cast mates... I was able to use this experience in service to the character. Still hurts like a certain ring of Dante's Hell and I am at a loss as to know which one... but is was at last useful... and that is healing... that all that emotion is now available to serve instead of destroy...

The unexpected part is this... Now that I can use the brutal experiences, that thick layer of protective gauze that has enveloped my work for years... okay decades... the one that made me quit for seven years because it hurt too much to peel it away ... has now been removed. The result is the joyous emotions are all that much more joyous, the love is all the much more loving and the pain has a raison d'etre...

Its better than therapy and much much more gratifying... I am alive to talk about it...


  1. Wow, Viv, it sounds like you made a MAJOR breakthrough, both emotionally and in your art. I am so glad for you. And proud. You're a superstar.

  2. Vivian, what a wonderful and illuminating blog about the creative process. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences so frankly. And congratulations on the show! xoxo Diana