Abe Lincoln

Today’s 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln is being celebrated around the country (and with special fanfare in DC). My friend and former publicist, Stephen Rivers, just sent me an email telling me that playwright Tony Kushner, who is writing the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s film about Lincoln, says he thinks that John Ford’s “Young Mr. Lincoln” and my dad’s portrayal of Lincoln in that film, remains the best of all Lincoln films. Lincoln was dad’s hero, something he shares with Obama. How happy he would be about our new president…and not just because of their common admiration for honest Abe.


As usually happens during previews, we are cutting and trimming the play. Moises’ process for accomplishing this is unique in my experience and I’m not sure why because it makes total sense: He asks all of us actors to recommend our own cuts. Duh!  Who better than the actor saying the lines to know what’s extraneous? As Moises just said to me when I told him I wanted to blog about this, “actors are the most underused artists in America.” I asked him if this was unique to this country and he said, “Yes, because there is such a division of labor here so a community of talent isn’t developed. Because writing is not seen as the domain of actors, their emotional intelligence remains untapped.” As I reread this paragraph, it occurs to me that some of you might think that actors are too egotistical to ever voluntarily cut their own lines. Wrong. After inhabiting a character for awhile (we’ve been with ours for a month now) we can sense better than almost anyone what’s extraneous. Someone suggested a one-line cut in a speech of Zach Grenier (Beethoven) and he resisted, not out of ego but because that line was, for him, a critical emotional bridge.

The cast spent an hour or more giving our suggested cuts and Moises marveled at what we proposed, “I would never have thought of these cuts.” After that, Moises, Samantha and I discussed our mother/daughter scenes which need clarification and did some improvisation. It was fruitful.

On top of all this I did a photo shoot this morning with the wonderful Brigitte Lacombe for New York Magazine. The interview for the NY Times Arts and Leisure is tomorrow morning and next Monday is the Today Show. Meredith Vieira is coming to the show tomorrow night as is my dear pal, Robin Morgan and the couple, David Hodges and Laurel Lyle who ran the children’s camp that Tom Hayden and I had in California for 15 years in the 1970s and 80s.

Unless something unusual happens, I will sign off for today.

See you next time.

Because of the ferociously high winds today in NY, 49th St has been closed all day. This morning I came in by way of the Walter Kerr Theatre and, I just heard, that’s how the audience will come in tonight. THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

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  1. I’ll bet your Dad is smiling on Obama from wherever he is, especially today. In case you haven’t already seen this, he Library of Congress added some extraordinary Lincoln photos to their Fickr stream and they’re part of “The Commons” (we can republish, no copyright): http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157613324367705/

    Lastly, love that you had 3 hashtags in your tweet for this post. 🙂

  2. Dear Jane,

    I am genuinely grateful that you are willing to share your part in the creative process in this way!

    Bill and I are looking forward immensely to reconnecting with the play on March 9. Being a small part of this play has been an especially enriching part of our lives in recent years. May the pruning and minor adjustments go well. I so wish I could be there for that part of the process (I adore observing the way(s) that Moises works). Instead, we will play our roles as musicologists (and practice Beethoven’s 1st Piano Concerto together–Bill is performing it on Feb. 20) and send you very best wishes until we can convey them in person in just a few weeks.

    It just struck me to add one thing (that we never really discussed with Moises explicitly way, although it is obvious in so many ways): Katherine’s passion that drives her musicological pursuit is intimately bound to her ability to feel the music as a performer…they are not just notes on the page, the music permeates her whole being.

    Toi, Toi, Toi!

    a musicologist in Illinois

  3. I was 8 years old on November 22, 1963. Old enough to understand what had happened, but young enough to resent that all cartoons had been 86’d from the airwaves.

    That weekend in San Francisco, the only broadcast entertainment was a recurring showing of Young Mr. Lincoln (on TV station KTVU). I must have watched it a half-dozen times (my folks had a second TV where I parked myself). Each time I’ve seen it since (and it’s one of my favorites), a part of me is always thrown back into pajamas, with black-and-white recollections of a gut punched world.

  4. It has been a long-held dream of mine to see you perform live, ever since I was a pre-teen growing up in South Carolina and chose to do a class project on you, your work and your activism (to the horror of my father, it must be noted).

    On Monday night that dream came true, for I came to the first preview performance of the play. I wasn’t a “friend” of the production; I was one of those first-night audience members who was there just to see what was going on.

    I was blown away. I think the play is a major work, an incredible exploration of ambition, family and, well, transfiguration. And you, dear Ms. Fonda, were worth waiting all these years to see. I was so energized by your performance and the entire production that I couldn’t fall asleep till the very wee hours of the morning. It was a buzz, a natural level of excitement attained when you know you’ve just experienced something rare and wonderful.

    Thank you for returning to Broadway, and please accept my sincerest wishes for a fantastic run in this superb new play. Brava!

  5. Yes. The show must go on!

  6. I loved your comment about Moises’ process. how true that actors are often underused… within the proper context I imagine. Since I love and need to to both, perhaps that is why I feel invigorated and that these talents compliment each other so well as an artist- at least for myself. So grateful to have been a witness to this production and process. And, as always, inspired by your energy, Ms Fonda! xo, Rachel

  7. I have to admit that I was a skeptic when I first saw the Times article that mentioned your blog. But then you followed me on twitter, and I quickly discovered that you are very much for real. So…

    I just wanted to thank you for openness and honesty in discussing your acting process and your life. It is incredibly refreshing to watch an artist grounded enough to take risks onstage AND off.

    I, too, enjoyed your brief comments on Moises’ process – even used it in my lecture this week.

    As a Atlanta-raised boy, I appreciate your life and work.

    Break a leg!

  8. Really interesting ( a glib phrase -sorry)

    Love the interlinking of Blogs ,life ,personal history , American History , Family ,Work …love it !

    Yours is also such a great albeit maligned country (however so is mine )

    I too would love to see you on the stage

    Also associate myself with all coments made by P Mull above

    Mennard (Twitter )

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