The Artist’s Journey – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #7

Ayad Akhtar’s THE WHO & THE WHAT ended a terrific run at the Playhouse on Sunday, March 9. We were incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to share this world-premiere production with our audiences. Similarly, we’ve been lucky to have had cast member Bernard White share his own very personal thoughts and experiences with us during his time here via beautifully honest and intimate journal entries. Below is his final submission. Thank you, Bernie, for your openness and trust, and for bringing “Afzal Jatt” to vibrant life!

By Bernard White

6 – (final) notes from out of time in the who & the what

sunday march 9, 2014  11:57PM

in closing.

was in bed but got up to write this.

past tired.  over tired.  so sleep might be a challenge.

the voice was dragging a bit tonight, somewhat scraggly.  not sharp or bright.

enunciation was sloppy in several places.  don’t think the audience understood the word “perwert”.

good acting is a mystery.  none of my business.  the aim is all.

is it the aramaic or the latin word for sin that describes it as to miss the mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Megan, Sam, Kendra and I)

I am a sinner in that I am constantly missing the mark.

***

this odd emptiness.  this moving on after growing so close as a family.

the life of the theater is a constant moving on.  the secret is to guard against being jaded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Sam) 

to still invest and risk growing close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Meera birthday)

not worrying too much that the trunk is already packed to overflowing.

time to sleep.

good night on the who and the what.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

monday march 10, 2014 9:45

in the am.

doctor’s office waiting room.  Jackie’s been coughing ever since we got back from Phoenix.

she lost her voice last night.  she’s sounding like Margot Kidder.

I’m feeling the beginning of something myself.

the law of the theater.

the immune system battling battling in cahoots with the gods (there is no god but God) of art, for the run of the show.

show over.  everybody relaxes.

the body and mind cry out for slowing down.

time enough to slow down.

my privileged life.

***

the fragility and vulnerability of those in need of medical care.

God help us to be better caregivers for each other.

as a country, as a planet, as husbands and wives and parents and children;

there’s something profoundly wrong with how the culture is operating.  how we are treating each other.

constantly masking our weakness.  overblowing our strength.

***

“you’ll writer another book, behti.  one with more wisdom.  I know you will.”

***

so the play is over and these notes are crawling to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gonna hang on another week in beautiful La Jolla.  enjoy its ocean air.  its beauty.

catch our breath.  Jackie and I.

it seems, here comes the sun.

when we began rehearsal on January 14, my big sister Dawn Marguerite White was still so very alive.

she had plans to come see us here in La Jolla.

she’s gone missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nobody knows where she’s gone. 

Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroasterism.  none of them knows.

Paul McCartney, Tone-Loc, the Dalai Lama, Tony Danza, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Heather Locklear.  they don’t know.

not even Will Ferrell.

nobody knows where she’s gone.

maybe Afzal Jatt.

he and I have felt her in the audience almost every night.

hard to make out the faces that are not near our bright blue island.

***

what I will not miss about La Jolla;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. waiting at traffic lights 

2. mall parking.

***

I involuntarily let out a scream at the final matinee.  when Zarina left the kitchen.  sign of an undisciplined actor.

I believe it would have been more powerful to contain it (as Kimberly had guided me), to not show off.

I am a young actor.  following impulses.  not following impulses.  the art of acting.

so much to learn and so very little time to learn it in.

such nonsense.

I have all the time in the world.

onward in

love,

Bernie

let’s let Hafiz have the final word. . . (for March 10 as translated by Daniel Ladinksy)

BASICALLY USELESS

They were happier, all the mouths I saw in a
certain city.

For they all woke up one day and mostly forgot
what they were for besides… just kissing.

And in between their rounds of sweet romantic
play, they — all those mouths, 

appeared to have few lingering impulses, except
for a little food.

That is — talking, everyone came to realize, was
basically useless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Jackie and a baby and others at Dawn’s memorial celebration in Phoenix)
 

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

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The Artist’s Journey – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #6

By Bernard White

6 – notes from out of time in the who & the what

thursday march 6, 2014 4:07PM

at the peets coffee in La Jolla Village Mall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

is that what this place is called? 

a parking lot full of palm trees.

***

I had something very important to say.

I’ve now forgotten what it was.

***

we are down to our last 6 chances to be present in the world of this play before these La Jolla audiences.

but who’s counting.

I am counting.  we’ll live this story 6 more times.

so much can happen between now and the curtain call light cue on sunday around 9PM.

so many of our lives will change in ways we may never have imagined.

***

here I am, Lord.

***

the dogma of religion is absolutely an absurd addiction of mankind to cope with the ancient and still present overwhelming  mystery of living.

the rituals, the mystical aspects come as close to the truth that I have ever experienced.

whether it’s a stranger buddhist monk from nepal with a nice smile who leads the service for your dead sister or whether it’s a stranger catholic priest at her bedside moments before you take her off life support.

I don’t want to know why your way is THE way.  I don’t want you to teach me anything.  I don’t want to witness you mask your insecurity with your life’s decisions by trying to convince me.

as if there really were any more safety in numbers.

I crave your kindness.  I crave your love.  I crave your gentleness and even your vulnerability in the face of one of life’s greatest mysteries.

death.

I need you to get out of the way as much as you are able and allow for the Grace of God.

though, not even your awkward lack of wisdom can obscure the healing and loving Grace of God.

thank you, God.

for Your Grace.

***

THE WHO AND THE WHAT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this play is all about the who and the what. 

I believe it is a love story that moves from the what to the who.

as Galway Kinnell put it;

“from love, you think, into enduring Love.”

it’s like the lower case and the upper case with the word “god”.

there is no god but God.

there is no love but Love.

time for us all to relax.

***

it’s 4:24.  time for me to go home.

been out all day.  saw WINTER’S TALE at THE OLD GLOBE.

enjoyed it with a house full of eager students.  the best audiences.

the innocence.  the eagerness.  the honesty.

young man next to me, Ken, was curious as to what time period the play was set in.  was curious why they were wearing modern clothes.

out of time.

***

Shakespeare, in his later days, playing with forms and structure.

setting up tragedy and turning it to comedy.

people dying.  people being brought back to life.

no explanation necessary.

why not.

seriously.  why not.

“oh that men could be as free as fleas on the bodies of men.”

also from Galway Kinnell.  his THE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES.  I highly recommend it.

***

as far as Afzal’s concerned;  Ryan was all about THE WHAT.  perhaps on an unconscious level, but, nevertheless, to Afzal, Ryan was all about the what.

his sophistication.  his east coast sharpness of mind.  his confidence.  his liberal cultural catholic laziness.

Ryan could talk about god, but failed to give Afzal an experience of god.

Eli is all about the who.  the who.  faith.  spirituality.  mysticism.  ”serving people, rather than trying to bring them into the ummah.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe there is room for even more conflict between Eli and Zarina.  between me and Eli.  between me and Zarina 

conflict is all about the what.

a hope for the planet is to see below the illusion, the mask, of the what.

to tenderly love the who.

amen.

we can survive with all the conflicts of the what if we love the who.

***

friday march 7, 2014 12:26

in the am.

5 to go.  now 5.

time to sleep.

***

12:26PM

no joke.  I am writing again exactly 12 hours later.

at peets, again.

so much life has happened since I last wrote.  who knows what horrors and joys in the Ukraine.

the cast had breakfast at Elijah’s this morning.  listened to each other’s stories of starting out in acting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

such courage, vulnerability and strength. 

what people do with their precious lives.

it never ceases to amaze me.

***

okay, I have 20 minutes before I pick Mohammed up to go to Friday prayers so. . .

let’s talk about God and sex and love;

I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.

***

got an email for Meera with a link to her Broken Box Mime Theater Troupe.

watched the youtube video.

this is what I’m talking about;

the courage and risks and visions and dreams that ignite us and guide us.

the things we run from in order to be successful.

God, make me brave.

God, make us brave.  to take the risks of the “unsuccessful.”

to express that thing which unexpressed is the cause of war and other tragedies.

so much to say.

time to be quiet and listen.

***

saturday march 8, 2014 12:14

in the am.

4 to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

feel like I’m learning and discovering a lot as we continue, gear up for the final stretch of the river, this weekend.

***

religion is all about the what.

God is all about the who.

unconditional love.

***

at the mosque today.

example of being concerned with the what;

the imam reporting that some folk last week were handing out bibles outside the mosque after friday prayers.  trying to provoke, he said, the congregation to react negatively.  he claims they were trying to start a fight.

example of being concerned with the who;

the imam told them, it was up to them not to fight back.

example of being concerned with the what;

christian militants are decapitating and mutilating muslim corpses in the streets of cities in Central African Republic.

example of being concerned with the who;

a catholic priest is shielding muslims in his church, risking his own life, fending off the so called “christian” militants.

***

there was a woman in a hijab (the headscarf) sitting in the front row house right on Thursday night.

the mostly white audience was laughing in places that made me very uncomfortable.  they laughed at the line “in Pakistan, she would be killed for this, killed.”

I wonder what they found funny.  perhaps nervous laughter?

but there were other places they were laughing and my attention went to this one woman in the hijab.

I was troubled.

***

I could care less about “the what” of religions.

I want to grower deeper in my embrace of “the who.”  the people living in faith.

the nuances, perhaps, between the arabic words deen and iman.

religion and faith.

***

Jackie just said good night.

we were watching the CNN series about her hometown of Chicago.  Kimberly, our director’s hometown as well.

Robert Redford executive produced it.

talking about the gang violence.  the war zones in the city.

the learnt behavior in the gang mentality.

“when one prefers one’s own children to the children of another, war is near.” -the mahabarta

to see below the illusion, the mask, of the what.

to tenderly love the who.

as Galway Kinnell puts it;

and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,
learn,
as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come; to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones. 

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.

***

Jackie’s sleepy head sprouting hair in the moonlight.

***

next week we will walk the red carpet in front of the el capitan theater in Hollywood at the premiere of CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER.

press people will ask me questions.  to bide their time.  as they wait for the real movie stars to arrive.

their eyes will be wandering from me and my wife.

looking for that shinier object. 

in desperate search of the what.

God/Allah/Mother, give me the grace to see the who of these press people.

to remember principal Liz Doezer doing her work on the south side of chicago.

walking barefoot trying to keep her children safe.

no red carpet.

only love,

Bernie

learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come; to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

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The Artist’s Journey – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #5

In the wake of heartbreaking loss, THE WHO & THE WHAT’s Bernard White shares this tender, bittersweet submission. We thank him for his poignant candor and extend our deepest, warmest sympathies.

By Bernard White

5- notes from out of time in the who & the what

friday 2/28/14 12:22

in the am

can’t sleep.  feeling wrecked.

the sweet tears have turned bitter.

I’m exhausted and empty and angry and spent.  my body is sad.  approaching inconsolable.

***

surrounded by such love and generosity.

in the epilogue, I look at pictures.  they are personal family photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Ivy, Mari, Mom, Ingrid, Bernie in Dad’s arms, Ramona, DAWN and Errol)

3 of the 9 of my immediate family have now exited.  mom and dad and now Dawn.

Dawn was only 71.  she looked to be in her early 50′s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Jackie and Dawn in front of the world)

surreal mystery.

the grief threatens to destroy my family.

Yeats speaks from the grave;

“things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
the blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
the ceremony of innocence is drowned
the best lack all conviction, while the worse
are full of passionate intensity…

the darkness drops again but now I know…

and what rough best, its hour round at last
slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

surely Dawn speaks from the beyond as well

I’ll be listening, Dawn. if my anger and sadness doesn’t break the connection.

perhaps my anger and sadness will create the connection?

***

on Tuesday night, Jackie saved me from the news until I got off stage.

it was a full show.  Dawn died just at half hour.  so she got to see the show.  thank God.  it was a good one.

***

oh to be so human.

***

I want to jump out my skin.

***

monday morning, we got a call that Dawn had had a stroke and was in a coma on life support.  with the help and generous love of the playhouse we quickly planned our trip to Phoenix.  only a little more than a 5 hour drive.  company management arranged a discounted rent a car.  Katherine drove Jackie and I to pick it up.  and we were off.

we drove cross Mars and the Sahara.  I listened to Medhi Hassan for a good portion of the trip.

a good stretch we went God mode on the ipod and of course the songs were perfect.

Leonard Cohen’s CAME SO FAR FOR BEAUTY.

“I came so far for beauty
I left so much behind
My patience and my family
My masterpiece unsigned
I thought I’d be rewarded
For such a lonely choice
And surely she would answer
To such a very hopeless voice
I practiced all my sainthood
I gave to one and all
But the rumours of my virtue
They moved her not at all”

I’ve forgotten the other songs now.  all of them perfect.  true to iGod mode.

tuesday a day of profound decisions.

Doctor told us Dawn’s stroke was massive.  he took us through the various tests for brain function.  if she survived, she would have to be tube fed and on a ventilator.

the four of us;  Ramona, Ivy, Jackie and I listened close to God.  talked to other family members on the phone.  listened close to the doctors words.

“if this were your sister, what would you do” Ramona asked the doctor, full of strength and faith in her question.

“I would let her go.”

we took her off the machines.

I am suddenly self-conscious of how personal this all is.

what else am I going to write about right now?  why else am I not sleeping?

not feeling crystal clear about the balance of lightness and passion in Act 2 Scene 4 is not going to make me lose sleep.

my precious gypsy warrior woman sister Dawn, the woman we recognized, left us this week and the family is heart broken.

the grief is spitting and clawing like a frightened cat with only patches of hair.

so much exposed skin.  red and tender.

inconsolable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** 

I will stop writing now.  wait on sleep as I would a bus at night in a foreign land on a deserted street.  with weird cat sounds coming from a dark, unseen alley.

it’s raining here in La Jolla.  it’s 12:59

in the am.

the cat won’t be quiet.  keeping everybody up.

Lord have mercy.

***

1:17

in the am.

“. . . and I alone escaped to tell you.”

***

10:46

in the am.

so glad I don’t have to miss any shows.  if it were another play, I wouldn’t mind so much.  some plays, I would even welcome missing.

this is not one of them.

we are remembering Dawn and celebrating her life with our wonderful crazy human family in Phoenix on Monday.

Jackie and I will cross the deserts of Mars and Saudi Arabia together again.  we love it.

even to celebrate the death of my beloved sister.

I feel again the grace of God’s love this morning.  after my Jacob night of wrestling,  my Job night of cursing God’s cruelty.

“. . . and I alone escaped to tell you.”

the love of Jackie and my friends Paul and Clay and Aaron.

God can handle my wrestling with him.  God can handle my wrestling with her.

God can handle it.

my arms are not to short to box with God.

Allah can handle my human cursing.

I imagine we’ll be going several more rounds before this thing is over.

“they said I took his name in vain,
well, I don’t even know his name,
and if I did now really what’s it to you” 

Leonard Cohen’s HALLELULAH.

a reference to that song and Jeff Buckley used to be in the play.

like so many other things now missing.

***

12:55PM

today is the 28th and final day of February.

a month of openings and closings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Jackie and I on the set after Opening Night)

enough.

with great love and sorrow,

and such faith and gratitude,

Bernie 

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #4

It’s the newest edition of The Artist’s Journey with THE WHO & THE WHAT cast member Bernard White. Bernard has been generous and gracious enough to share the journal entries he’s been keeping of the experiences he’s been having and the thoughts that have been brewing during his time with this Playhouse production.

There are fewer than two weeks left to catch this play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ayad Akhtar! Experience it before it closes on March 9 and buy your tickets here.

By Bernard White

4- notes from out of time in the who & the what

saturday february 22, 2014 12:52PM

see, I would much rather see the 2/22/14.  but would rather make a thing of it than change it.

who cares.

***

at the Peets Coffee Joint in the mall.  on my way to the matinee.

I am telling myself this story;  that I am at the bottom of a treacherous and overwhelming mountain that I will finish climbing at the curtain call on sunday evening.

reality;  4 shows in two days of a play that when surrendered to, plays itself.

I have a life long track record of making things more difficult than they are.

Allahu Akhbar.

***

time to go to the theatre.  my sissy sugar free almond milk latte will come along for the ride.

***

10:39PM

family night at the theater.  the poetry of Kai’s two daughters being in the audience.  Kai, just like Afzal.

and Meera’s mother.  who knows what it means to carry on.  to be both mother and father.  Meera’s mother, just like Afzal.

Van Morrison’s THE HEALING GAME comes to mind.

***

now camped out for the night, half way up this weekend’s mountain.

so far, we haven’t lost anyone.  we’re strong.  ready for a good night’s rest.

Kai sure deserves one.  he’s a good man.  good man.

his youngest has been sick the last 4 days.  he’s driven back and forth to LA after the shows.

the absolute miracle of loving parents.  so inspiring.

Hamdullilah.

***

been thinking of these two things;

one – the first play I ever saw in my life when I was 9 years old was SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER starring my sister in the lead at Indiana State University.  Ivy and this play had a major influence on my life.

so, on Wednesday night when we opened.  opening right next door was an UCSD student production of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER.

now that’s something.

I hope I have the chance to see the Wednesday brush up rehearsal.  that would make me very happy.

two – the second thing that’s been on my mind is the fact that my first time in La Jolla, exactly 17 years ago, I was 37 years old.

I am thinking of what a different person I was back then.  just out of a relationship.  on the prowl.  late late nights.  crazy passionate loving community.

very little sleep.

very little daylight sightseeing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

now I’m married.  in bed early.  up early.  enjoying the beauty of La Jolla.

I am more myself.

though I was quite myself back then as well.

here I am, Lord.

who am I this time?

***

Mohammed, a wonderful young student here at UCSD, accompanied me to the Mosque for Friday Jumma’ah prayers. 

he showed me the ropes.  he told me about his life.  I am deeply grateful for him.

vibrant Islamic community.

***

it is good to be here.

***

so we opened on Wednesday night.

it feels good to be open.

to stay open.

to stay open.

feels good.

***

sunday 2/23/14 8:50

in the a.m.

seriously;  is it not absolutely clear and obvious that each one of us is a messenger of G-d?

Islam.  submission.  submission to what?  of course to G-d.  only to G-d.

submission to one’s calling.  the calling to be G-d’s messenger.

whether one’s an usher or on the stage management crew or an actor or director or writer.

oh the vital importance to being true to the call.

I believe where I, where many of us go wrong is in the lack of devotion to that call.  the embracing it.  submitting to it.

embracing the humility this sort of submission requires.

off broadway and broadway New York and regional theater are junk yards of people-pleasing eclipsing devotion to the call.

what do I know?

they are laboratories of commerce.  they are, in my humble opinion, far from the first half of the shahadah.

“Ash-hadu an la ilaha illa Allah”

I believe there is no God but God.

okay stop.

I can only speak for myself.  myself in regional theater.  myself in New York.

I live between the tension of relaxing into the perfection of it all and the holy striving that Dante spoke of.

it is, the play, as it should be.  as it is.

my work each day is right on time.  “here I am, Lord”.

but as Willy Loman’s wife said;  attention must be paid.

I must risk telling the truth (from my limited vision/from my true calling/my deep listening to the one God (the source/the higher power beyond my limited vision – my unconscious – my natural Self).

stop trying to please and do the thing.  do I want to be a good actor or do I want to be a good actor.

and where does kindness fit in?

I am called to be less afraid.

al Hamdullilah.

***

the question to Ayad and Reza.  do you consider yourselves Rasul Allahs?

the necessary deflection and joking.  the genuine humility underneath.  the masking over of natural human arrogance.  narcissism.

“we all got it, Eli, you’re just putting it to better use than the rest of us”

then that woman’s question to them about could their place as entertainers/academics graduate them to “peacekeepers”.

of course it could.  of course they are.

here’s a thought;  Reza and Ayad go on tour across america.  real humble tour.  not as flashy as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley.

a prius.  they drive themselves.  Gabe goes along.

smaller venues.  not a lot of hoopla.

they meditate together/individually.  they get quiet.  they then have these dialogues on art and religion and G-d.

they spread the message/the gospel of Love and humility and tolerance and wisdom beyond knowledge.

instead of going on Fox News or even the Daily Show.

***

what am I doing with MY life?

***

after the show, how I love to come home to Jackie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

during the show, how I love to be in that room, that sacred space, sharing in that miracle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pretending for real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

so easy for me, when inspired by two lovely men like Ayad Akhtar and Reza Aslan to then prescribe and dream paths for them. 

precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand.

dear G-d;  give me the Grace to listen closer to Your directions to MY path.

the Grace for the small thing.

today, for example, this moment, for example.

the ending of this entry.

gratitude for presence.

***

5:32PM

the mountain metaphor is not useful.

gonna switch to a river.

ready to hit final stretch of the river for this week.  our sunday evening show.

rest on the banks tomorrow.  throw in, again on tuesday.

let the river take us.

***

Mike from the office gave me and the play its greatest compliment, after opening.

he said seeing the play made him want to go home and hug his child.

talk about peace keeping.

and today Meera’s sister and brother in law.  the catharsis they felt.  the healing.

their kind words.

I am letting these things touch my heart.

here I am, Lord.

so blessed and grateful.

with love,

Bernie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #3

Thanks for joining us in this latest installment of The Artist’s Journey.  Actor Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT has been generously sharing his insights, observations and experiences with us over the last few weeks as he prepares for his role as “Afzal Jatt” in this newest play by Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar.

What’s been on Bernard’s mind as Opening Night approaches? Read on and find out!

Tickets for THE WHO & THE WHAT are available by clicking here.

By Bernard White

3 – notes from out of time in the who & the what

monday february 10, 2014 6:41

in the am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

train due at 6:43.  the surfliner north to Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

when I arrived at 6:20, there was only on other man at station.

now there are about 100 men and women looking like they have some place to go.

on the platform I’m thinking about competition for survival.  how we, in the “first world,” have a rather mild experience of this.

now on the train headed north, I am surrounded by empty seats and to my left an ocean that hides its cruelty.  as well as a large part of its beauty.

Jackie will pick me up at Union Station and take me to see John who starts chemo on Wednesday.

close to overwhelmed by the wonder and mystery of it all.

approaching Oceanside.  thank you God.

***

I am thinking of those overflowing trains in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

I am thinking of the sacrifices of my father, Stanley Leonard White.

I am thinking of Jackie’s father, a World War II veteran, Milton Katzman, a Chicago cabbie who was so very proud to see his daughter pursuing her dream in the arts.

my sources and inspiration for Afzal Jatt. 

***

monday february 17, 2014 10:21PM

we have had 8 preview audiences.  the play is in good shape.

gone through quite a few exciting and brave changes in the past week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we are ready. 

here I am, Lord.

another preview tomorrow and we open on Wednesday.

another chance to get it right.  that is;  to be present.

***

so I’m having what I call pre-post partum with Kimberly and Ayad and Jack due to leave this week.  I think Jaymi and Jill have already split.

this is the life of the circus.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Preston and Gabe behind the scenes) 

***

here’s a letter I wrote to Kimberly and Ayad, this morning, after 4 very good previews in the last 2 days;

who knows anything really?

Kimberly and Ayad,

I don’t want to be a clown.  I don’t want to be a caricature.  I don’t want to show off.

this is my concern and challenge as I move forward.

someone I trust said I was just talking and listening about 15 percent of the play.  they found that to be a high percentage.  I find it to be less than adequate.

there is such a tendency in me to perform.  to please.  to Do something.

I am currently a great admirer of Mark Rylance.

I think of his BIG ASS performance in JERUSALEM.

I said I didn’t want to be a clown.

and yet a great clown (Bill Irwin/Charlie Chaplin/Mark Rylance) is a great joy to watch.

do I need to be a better clown?

I trust you two.  I know you are pleased with what I’m doing.

how can I get better?  if you were not concerned with my ego, the fragility of my gift, what would you say to me to make my Afzal more grounded, more whole, better?  more seamlessly Afzal?

can I trust being simpler?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

do I need to get bolder? 

do I need to meditate more?  go back to school?  eat better?  go to more 12 step meetings?  shut the fuck up?  read Dostoyevsky?

I am a slightly mediocre actor at best.

I surrender.

if nothing else, pray for me to tell this story more truthfully.  if nothing else, let us keep each other in our prayers.

I honestly know nothing.  I have nothing to defend. I open my heart and mind to your asking more of me, challenging me to chip away at everything that is not true to Afzal and this play….

Allahu A’lam.

“Allah Hashem, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

you both have watched my “act” for several months now.

I am asking you to help purify my soul in the art of my portrayal of Afzal.

please.

amen.

enough

love,

Bernie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #2

We’re back with THE WHO & THE WHAT’s Bernard White (“Afzal Jatt”) in his second posting for The Artist’s Journey. Over the run of the production, we’ll be sharing journal entries we’ve asked him to keep about his experiences while performing in this world-premiere play!

For tickets and information about THE WHO & THE WHAT, click here.

By Bernard White

2 – notes from out of time in the who & the what

thursday february 6, 2014 9:43

in the am.

february has slipped in through some crack in the window.

2014 arrived quiet, in the shadows, shy, humble, drawing absolutely no attention to her self.

welcome both.

***

I’ve been living out of time.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Josh, Kimberly, Kendra, Dana and Ayad, notes in the sun) 

***

the bed is half made.  I’m listening to Mehdi Hassan’s “Gulshan Gulshan Sholaa e Gul Kii. . .,” computer on a pillow on my lap in our spacious studio apartment at Villa La Jolla.

compelled to write, to see the words appear on this magical screen.  to continue this blog requested by Becky and Grace at the playhouse.

the question for me was whether to have it be something separate from my own  ”notes from out of time.”

the answer (like most answers);  yes and no.

thus the title “notes from out of time in the who & the what.” I have begun.

so having begun, I begin;

my first few hours of quiet, it seems, since we arrived on January…?  when did we arrive?

we arrived on sunday january 12.  darn close to a month ago.

it feels as if it’s been a couple hours.

and here we are, on our third day of long tech hours.  1 to 11.  each day.

we have teched the whole show.  today at 1:00 we run tops and bottoms (of scenes) and then we begin running the show, I guess, and begin this miraculous process of combining our work with the all the sounds and lights and blah and the blah and the who and the what that is the world of theater making.

the who?  God.

the what?  God.

“there is no God but God”.

we move forward only by Grace.  Insha’Allah.  B’Ezrat Hashem.

thank you.  thank you.  thank you.

***

I am at the stage of the play where it all seems so fake.  my accent seems fake.  my clothes.

I feel like I’m talking too loud in too big a room.

the 10 feet between our magic blue playing area and the first row of seats feels like the grand canyon.

not the grand canyon;  it feels like the great wall of china.

not the great wall of china;  it feels like night fog in the middle of Lake Baikal in Siberia.

feels like the stage is an island.  a still boat.  a one way dark glassed interrogation room.

we are completely exposed.  we know we are being watched under scrutiny of our crimes.

but we have no idea who’s behind the glass.

no idea who else is sharing the lake with us

there are, however, these beautiful stars above (thanks to Jaymi and Jack).

I want the room to be smaller.  I want the whole room to be lit.

for some strange reason, I don’t want to feel like I’m doing a play.

been doing this theater thing now for 36 years (40 if I count my middle school walk on as a cop in the halloween play, “Alright, nobody’s going anywhere until you answer a few questions.”  I had a funny accent in that one, too).

I still don’t understand its mystery.

I still feel the tension between thinking I’m pretending and knowing that I’m easily, by no choice of my own, right smack in the middle of reality.

in the middle of Lake Baikal.  at night.  in the fog.

here I am, Lord.

***

I haven’t been having days off.  each monday, called back to LA to audition.  this past week, we (Jackie and I) have made the drive twice, together and I made it alone a 3rd time.

wonderful opportunities.  the Wachowski Siblings Netflix series.  a CBS pilot, championed by the late great James Gandolfini.

I just have great difficulty multi tasking.  splitting my focus.

this is the sole reason I envy Daniel Day Lewis’s career.

with the rehearsal of the play, the run, the repetition, I have a shot of getting it close to right.

stop.  what I have a shot at is being present today.  enough.

***

I am blessed beyond belief to be with my wife Jackie down here in wintry La Jolla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Comet and Jackie)

our dear friend, Comet came to visit for the weekend.

love is everything.  period.

***

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has done a number on so many of us. 

I, casually, met him several times.  not counting his movies, I spent, I’d say, maybe 7 hours in his presence.

so I was around for 7 precious hours of his precious life.

a half hour out in front of the public theatre.

3 hours one night at Cafe Un Deux Trois in midtown manhattan.

3 hours at the Knickerbocker near NYU.

various, after theater, before theater gatherings in NY.

he seemed to be always around.

he was one of the few “I knew” I’d be working with.  it was inevitable.  I was looking forward to that.

I am deeply sad at his death.

I recognized him.

I will consciously remember him in my work  here in La Jolla.

he remains a vital source of inspiration.

rest in peace.  God bless those close to him.

***

it is now 10:42.  the bed is still half made.  (it takes some time googling “most voluminous lakes in Siberia”)

***

I continue.

so grateful for my life.   my privileged life.

filled with such grace and love.

so honored to speak Ayad’s words, to help bring the healing force of Afzal Jatt to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Dana, Ayad and Kimberly)

Kimberly is as good a director as I have ever worked with.  she’s the real deal.  the complete package.  so rare.

may the work and play cross that 10 foot abyss and find its way off our heavenly blue island.

with grateful love,

Bernie

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

 

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #1

THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY provides an insider look at the creation of a La Jolla Playhouse production, through the eyes of one of the show’s cast, crew or creative team.

Actor Bernard White plays “Afzal” in our production, THE WHO & THE WHAT, by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar and directed by Kimberly Senior. We’ve asked Bernard to keep a journal of his experiences during rehearsal and the run of the play. In this series of guest blogs, which Bernard began creating in late January 2014 and which we’ll post over the next few weeks, he’ll be sharing those personal moments and insight into the creative process. Hope you’ll join the ride and check back here regularly!

By Bernard White

1 – notes from out of time in the who & the what

saturday 1/25/14 7:22

in the am.

La Jolla, California.  outside morning silver grey.

I think I stayed in this complex last century when I did DOGEATERS down here.

I can’t, for the life of me, remember exactly where I stayed.  I don’t recognize the place.

I think it was here.

that was a whole different life, back then.  I remember the people, the laughter and the late nights. Alec Mapa, Melody Butui, Tess Lina, Sandra Oh, Ching Valdes, Michael Greif, Jessica Hagedorn, Seth Gilliam.

I remember going to Black’s Beach.

the fog back then, nothing like this morning’s silver grey.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(me with hair and Jackie at Kimberly’s 4000 MILES in Chicago)

*** 

woke from a very disturbing dream.  Jackie woke and I shared it with her.  she listened out of love. in love, she listened.

I am blessed beyond belief.

I shared the whole disturbing dream.  she held me, shared her thoughts.

of course it led me to THE WHO & THE WHAT.

part of the dream was me standing over the kitchen sink.  Jackie next to me, as I was determined to hose off the dog shit from my blue nikes.  I was not going to leave S and S’s house until all this old crusted dog shit had been cleaned off my shoes.

the dream was all about the rigidity of the masculine and the messy vulnerability of the feminine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Jack’s amazing set in the pretend world)

3 of my 5 scenes take place in the kitchen.

Rashida’s kitchen.  my deceased wife of 10 years.

Kimberly called us to begin work the other day by saying “okay, let’s all go to Afzal’s kitchen”.

she meant Rashida’s Kitchen.

I asked Ayad to change it in the script.  from Afzal’s kitchen to Rashida’s kitchen.

I can understand how that might be confusing to the reader.

the truth is often quite confusing.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

thinking of heading out into the silver to a meeting in Encinitas.  not too far from where my parents lived in San Marcos.

they don’t live there anymore.

that’s something real different from the fog of the first time I worked at the playhouse back in 1997.  was it 1997?

both my parents were still alive and living just 20 minutes away.

I have much more of a sense of how close La Jolla is to San Marcos now than I did when they were alive.

death alters perception.

“Your mother was a gift, but I didn’t see it.  For three years, I didn’t see it.”

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am the father of two girls.  now grown women.  my saint of a wife passed from this earth 10 years ago. 

this play is all about dealing with the God sized hole of that loss.

Rashida’s absence from, and presence in, her blessed kitchen.

***

“it’s hard to say grace and to sit in the place when there’s someone missing at the table.  – Tom Waits

***

this morning’s silver grey.  Jackie back to sleep next to me.  so very close.

I am becoming the man, I’ve always pretended to be.

back in La Jolla, a 3rd time.

3′s a charm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WHO & THE WHAT 

thank you God for my warm wife.

amen.

love,

Bernie

A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Lauren Elder of SIDE SHOW

Welcome back to The Artist’s Journey with Side Show castmember Lauren Elder! We hope you’ve been enjoying the inside scoop she’s been providing from behind-the-scenes of this exciting production. Last week, Lauren shared how the cast was preparing for their various roles through table work and character development. In this week’s installment, she focuses on what’s been going on in “tech” by explaining what that is, the challenges and adjustments involved as the company moves into the theatre, as well as what her fellow actors do in their downtime. Read on and enjoy!

By Lauren Elder

Last week we were in tech for Side Show.  What this means is that we moved from our rehearsal space into the theatre.  We started working on stage with lights, costumes and sets for the first time.  It’s a very exciting period but also a long, grueling process.  Tech consists of a series of long rehearsals, usually 10 to 12 hours each day. On our first day of tech, we made it through the opening number, and that’s it!

What took so long? A lot of things.  Lighting is one of them. We have the multiple Tony-award winning lighting designer, Jules Fisher, lighting us, and he is making sure that whenever we are doing anything on stage, that we are bathed in beautiful light. But positioning the lights, finding the right hues and the right timing to bring them up takes time. All of this is computer-operated now, but just imagine how long it took before, when designers had to climb up to position the lights manually!

Moving onto the actual set takes time as well. Up until now, we have been rehearsing in a studio space with the outline of the set taped out on the floor. Now we’re in the theatre with a full two-story moving set, which poses a new batch of challenges. We have had to adjust some of our staging to make sure the sight-lines are good, or allow the set to move around us, or figure out how to get up to or down from the top level, sometimes in a matter of seconds and while singing.

Another obstacle to overcome was the number of quick changes we have in this show. There are multiple costume, make-up and wig changes, many of which have to be done in less than a minute! It’s like an explosion of costumes backstage. The first time through in rehearsal, we missed a lot of entrances, but the more we do our changes, the faster they get.

Tech can also mean a lot of waiting around off-stage when other cast members are working on scenes you’re not in.  What do we do to kill time? Read books, play games (many people got addicted to Candy Crush, and Keala Settle, who plays the Fortune Teller, got us all hooked on Rummikub), make music (Robert Joy, who plays Sir, and Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, who plays one of the sideshow Roustabouts, would play the guitar and we’d all sit around singing) and watch movies (we all sat around in our freak costumes, watching the Tod Browning movie “Freaks,” which featured the real Daisy and Violet Hilton).

As tech comes to an end, we are exhausted, yet excited. All of the elements of this amazing show have come together, and it is truly magical! Now we’ll start doing preview performances in front of audiences, but we’ll still be rehearsing during the day. Parts of the show can still get adjusted during previews, depending on what does or does not work in front of an audience. Once we officially open on November 17, the show will be set and no longer change.  Many people like seeing this evolution, so they come to preview performances and then come back again after the official opening to see what’s different!

What are you waiting for? Get your Side Show tickets and “come look at the freaks!”

Lauren Elder has performed in Hair (Broadway, West End, Shakespeare in the Park/NY Public Theater) and As You Like It (Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival), and has also appeared in HBO’sBoardwalk Empire. She performs regularly in nightclubs around New York City, including Joe’s Pub, Birdland, 54 Below and Jazz at Lincoln Center. She recently recorded her debut album of original music. Hear it and learn more at www.lauren-elder.com.

How meta: The SIDE SHOW freaks watching Tod Browning's "Freaks." From left to right, Zonya Love, Blair Ross, Hannah Shankman, Javier Ignacio, Emily Davie, Michelle London, Erin Davie and, somewhat hidden but holding the camera and taking the picture, The Artist's Journey blogger Lauren Elder.

 

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Lauren Elder of SIDE SHOW

In last week’s edition of THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY, Side Show cast member Lauren Elder shared her excitement and experiences in preparing for the production during its earlier stages. This week, she gives us a peek at what’s been happening as she and her fellow performers, guided by the creative team, dig deeper into their roles as carnival oddities, the “freaks” of Side Show. Read on to find out more!

This much-anticipated musical begins its run at the Playhouse this week! Click here for tickets and information.

By Lauren Elder

One of the very unique elements of working on Side Show is that our director, Bill Condon, is a film director.  He’s not a stranger to musicals, though. He wrote the Chicago screenplay and directed the Dreamgirls film (which featured music by Side Show’s composer, Henry Krieger, who wrote the iconic “And I Am Telling You!”) Bill also happens to be an Academy Award winner (Best Adapted Screenplay in 1998 for Gods and Monsters), so we’re in pretty good hands!  He has always wanted to direct a stage show, and now it’s happening!

He brings a new twist to our method here.  Rehearsal and preparation for film is very different from how we go about things in the theatre world.  For one, screenplays are much more apt to change during rehearsal and filming. However, in theatre, you usually have a script that has gone through many changes and is pretty set by the time you show up to rehearsal.  But by merging these two worlds, we’ve been going through a very new process.  Bill likes to have an open dialogue with his actors to identify challenges, issues, etc. To find these moments, Bill has added time to the schedule for “table work.”

Table work is when the actors in a scene sit down around a table with Bill and go through the scene, finding different beats, raising questions about why their character is saying and doing what they are.  Then a dialogue opens up about everything that’s happening and if it’s serving the piece well.  If not, there are conversations about how to alter the scene, character or situation.  Then Bill meets with Bill Russell, who wrote the book and lyrics for Side Show, and they find a way to make these alterations work. Many of our script changes have come about this way. It’s been a fresh new approach to the material and a really cool opportunity for the cast to be a part of the creative process.

Another unique part of this procedure has been our character development.  Besides the Hilton twins, who were very real people, many of us play “freaks” in the side show, who are also based on real people.  Bill asked us to take a deeper look at them and figure out their stories: where they came from, how they ended up in this side show, and what their relationships are to the twins.  We all sat in a circle and talked about this with one another.  My character is the Living Venus di Milo, based on Frances O’Connor, who was born without arms and used her feet to eat, drink, smoke and shoot a gun!  We also learned about The Bearded lady, The Three-Legged Man, The Dog-Faced Boy, The Geek, The Lizard Man, The Tattoo Girl, The Half Man-Half Woman, The Fortune Teller, The Hottentot, and The Cannibal King, as well as The Roustabouts who worked the show.  All of these were real attractions at the side shows of the past, and some of today.

I’ve got to get back to tech rehearsal now, but I’ll be back next week to let you know all about what happens when we get into the theater with lights, sets, costumes and an orchestra! See you soon!

Lauren Elder has performed in Hair (Broadway, West End, Shakespeare in the Park/NY Public Theater) and As You Like It (Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival), and has also appeared in HBO’sBoardwalk Empire. She performs regularly in nightclubs around New York City, including Joe’s Pub, Birdland, 54 Below and Jazz at Lincoln Center. She recently recorded her debut album of original music. Hear it and learn more at www.lauren-elder.com.

From a SIDE SHOW rehearal in the Play Development Center. From left to right: Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper ("Roustabout"), David St. Louis ("Jake"), Matthew Patrick David ("Geek"), Emily Padgett ("Daisy Hilton") and Erin Davie ("Violet Hilton"). Photo by Sandy Huffaker.

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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Lauren Elder of SIDE SHOW

THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY provides an insider look at the creation of a La Jolla Playhouse production, through the eyes of one of the show’s cast, crew or creative team.

Lauren Elder is an ensemble cast member of our upcoming, re-imagined musical Side Show, helmed by Academy Award-winning director Bill Condon.  As part of the ensemble, Lauren, who is making her Playhouse debut, will be playing various roles: Venus di Milo, Spectator, Party Guest, Cherub and  Townie.  In this series of guest blogs, she’ll be sharing her experiences working on this much-anticipated show, which kicks off performances on November 5!

By Lauren Elder

In early spring of this year, I received a call from Laura Stanczyk, a casting director and producer in New York City, asking if I would be willing to take a very unique job.  I wouldn’t be auditioning, but she wanted me to come and sing with all of the girls trying out for the roles of twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in the upcoming production of Side Show at La Jolla Playhouse. I quickly accepted the offer, being a longtime fan of the original Broadway version.

She sent me the new script and a couple of new songs to learn, and the next week I was in the room with the entire creative team (which included director Bill Condon, composer Henry Krieger, lyricist Bill Russell and choreographer Anthony Van Laast, all wizards in their respective crafts) and singing with some of Broadway’s brightest stars. I also got to read audition scenes with everyone who tried out.  I wasn’t up for a part in the show, but it was such an incredible learning experience, and I felt so lucky to be in that room, helping them find their perfect cast. During the last week of auditions, Laura pulled me aside and said that the Side Show team was considering me for a role and wondered if I’d mind coming in to audition for them. I was overjoyed and accepted immediately!

And wouldn’t you know: they cast me!

Fast forward a few months.  The show is fully cast, and we are all asked to do a reading of the revised script in NYC before heading to La Jolla. It was so exciting to finally be all together and to start becoming friends with the people whose auditions I got to be a part of. The reading was amazing, with people singing along with songs that they knew and our musical director Greg Jarett and Henry Krieger singing the rest.  What a treat!

We moved into our apartments in La Jolla in late September and started rehearsal the next day.  We began with music. This is a very music-heavy show, so in order to do the scene work, we needed to be comfortable with the songs.  Within three days, we had learned the entire score and were doing a complete read- and sing-through.  Staging and choreography started the next day.

It was clear right away that our creative team looked at us as equals.  This is not often the case.  They want to hear our opinions and are open to changes that serve the story and show.  Since this is a re-imagining of the show, there are many changes being made.  Almost every day we get new pages for our scripts and scores. Sometimes we come in and find that an entire song has changed, but it’s so exciting to be a part of such a dynamic creative process.

We’ve staged the entire show now, though things are still being tweaked almost every day.  We’re working in a rehearsal space with minimal set and costumes, but in a few weeks we’ll be in the theatre and things will most likely continue to change once we get to play with our amazingly intricate outfits and the set. And I’ll be posting here to keep you in the loop about what it’s like to be a part of this amazing journey, so check back next week for more!

Lauren Elder has performed in Hair (Broadway, West End, Shakespeare in the Park/NY Public Theater) and As You Like It (Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival), and has also appeared in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. She performs regularly in nightclubs around New York City, including Joe’s Pub, Birdland, 54 Below and Jazz at Lincoln Center. She recently recorded her debut album of original music. Hear it and learn more at www.lauren-elder.com.

From left to right: SIDE SHOW's Lauren Elder with cast mates Brandon Bieber, Javier Ignacio, Hannah Shankman and Zonya Love heading to their first day of rehearsal at the Playhouse in September 2013.

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