The Hardest Becomes The Easiest

March 4th

I have long noticed that the scene in a film script that seemed the most daunting upon first readings would invariably end up being my best scene. This happened repeatedly over the years.

This afternoon during the matinee, I realized that the same has happened with this play. There are two scenes that I have felt awkward about from the beginning that are becoming my favorites. What’s that about? Maybe it’s that these are scenes that made less sense until I sank deeper into the character and got braver with the illness she suffers from.

Elizabeth Lesser and four of her friends came back to say hello after the play. Elizabeth is a founder and director of the Omega Institute in Rochester, NY., a center for human growth and spiritual practice. For a number of years running, Elizabeth and Eve Ensler have jointly organized a 3-day “Women and Power” conference at the Institute. I have spoken there on a number of occasions and performed with Kerry Washington in Eve’s play, “Necessary Targets.” I have wanted Elizabeth to see “33 Variations” because I was sure she would respond to the play’s many levels of intelligence and spirit. I was right. She did and so did her friends. Elizabeth’s book, “Broken Open,” is one I have sent to many people who are confronting tragedy and crisis.  It shows how the other side of tragedy is opportunity to grow and deepen—if one allows it to be and remains open to the signals when they appear. Elizabeth is a person of great depth and kindness. When Oprah did her intense, interactive radio show about Eckhart Tolle’s “The New Earth,” she asked Elizabeth to develop the curriculum for it. Now she has asked her to do interviews for her new radio show about Spirituality. Elizabeth has invited me to be her interviewee on the show in a few weeks.

Chef Scott Peacock whom I wrote about in an earlier blog, saw the show for a second time this afternoon (and will come again on opening night!). He said he saw new things in the play and was moved in different places.

Tonight, Rabbi Malka Drucker is coming with a friend. Malka is a progressive rabbi from Santa Fe. We spoke together at a women’s retreat last year at the Upaya Zen Center.

Maybe I’ll remember to take some pictures. I’ve missed so many opportunities these last weeks to memorialize my friends backstage on my blog.

Hi to dear Karen out there in Boseman, Montana—my friend for decades who just emailed me that she reads this blog daily.

See you next time.

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  1. I am going to the library tomorrow to get a copy of Broken Open. Can’t wait to read it.

  2. Great blog post!Thank you for sharing like this. It gives some of us a chance to learn about the experiences you are having through the play and the people and this whole process, who normally would not be able to get that kind of understanding. Being so far removed from that environment socio-economically as well as logistically. A kind of-experiential learning and sharing if you will. Love it! Kudos.

  3. Dear Ms. Fonda,
    I am so happy! I managed to get a ticket (Row B center) for the April 14th performance. I will be flying into New York and staying only 36 hours just to see 33 Variations. I have admired your work since I was in junior high school in the late 1960s. They Shoot Horses Don’t They showed me the power a movie could have! I have followed your career ever since 1969, never missing a film or television performance. I do have a few questions. When you choose a project, what do you look for in the script or your character? What does Jane Fonda consider to be a worthwhile vehicle? What did you see in 33 Variations that told you this was the role for you to bring to the audience? I am looking forward to a wonderful and moving evening in the theater.

  4. “The Hardest Becomes The Easiest” that is what is said about the Japanese: The Hardest Language Becomes the Easiest.
    more photos backstage would be nice/thanks Jane

  5. I appreciate your openess and self reflection. I think it is amazing that the most daunting scenes could turn out to be some of your best scenes and I greatly admire you for that.

    I find (for myself), that the most daunting things in life are rooted in my own fears. It takes a great deal of bravery and determination to face ones fear, vulnerability, and subsequent unknown outcome. Sure, there have been times I have flopped. However, I cannot think of a greater opportunity for growth, than by taking on something that is truly scary, difficult, and/or akward. The process, growth, and emergence of even greater capacity and skill makes it all worthwhile.

  6. Thank you for posting your thoughts, Ms. Fonda. I think it’s very brave of a celebrity like your to expose yourself on the internet like this, and I appreciate it very much. I’ve been a long time fan of your film career, and when I heard you say you kept a blog like this (on “The View”) I jumped at the opportunity to be one of your readers.

    I’ve always considered myself a very creative person, and that is one of the things I admire about you. You have diversity and talent, and hey, you’re even on Twitter! I look forward to reading more about your experiences with the play (which I am anxious to see).

    All my best,
    J. Spindle

  7. Just visited your blog for the first time. Very Nice! I saw you on The View last week. You look great. Best wishes and much success in your play and all your endeavors!

  8. Elizabeth sounds interesting. Let us know when she’ll be interviewing you! I can’t get enough of your blogging. I swear, I wouldn’t feel right about going to bed and NOT reading and responding to it. I always end my day with…you! Haha. Its a great way to end any kind of day.

    – Kelsey

  9. Jane,

    I saw 33 variations tonight and although I knew it would be fantastic even before seeing this evening’s performance, it ended up being beyond brilliant, beyond anything I imagined. The ending literally took my breath away. Kudos!

    This is definitely a play I plan on seeing again and again. You, the cast, the writing–all exceptional.

    I was one of the loyal fans waiting outside in the freezing cold tonight. I was mostly speechless when I saw you come out the stage door with Tulea and couldn’t conjure up the words to really say anything except, “Did you blog today?” but I wanted to thank you. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me my entire life, and I really want to thank you for all the work you’ve done with women’s rights, and civil rights in general. I hope to one day be half the woman that you are.

    All my best,

  10. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who now wants to know what those two scenes are that were initially difficult and are now your favorites. Although I’ve already seen the play (and LOVED it!), i’m sure you can let us know without spoilers. I think it would be fascinating to hear how those scenes finally clicked and what makes them your favorite (at least your favorites right now). Thanks! Kevin

  11. Can’t wait to see the show later this month. I’m bringing 20 age 50+ women from the University of California, Riverside with me. We’ll see five plays in four days and 33 Variations is our first show. Just wanted to say thank you for the blog – I taught a class about the plays we are going to see yesterday and I showed them your clip from The View, then showed them your blog. Not only did both give us a wonderful insight into the play and your experience performing in it, it also gave me a opportunity to teach them about blogging and Twitter, and how that’s different from Facebook, so they can speak the same language as their kids and grandkids.

  12. Omega Institute is an amazing place and resource, although I should mention that it’s in Rhinebeck, not Rochester, which is great for those of us on this side of the state!!

  13. Thank you and the rest of the wonderful company for a memorable evening of thoughtful inspiration, fine acting and sublime music. As a composer and pianist I really appreciated the insights into Beethoven’s search to extract every morsel from the waltz. May I offer to you this little set of variations on a familiar tune in the style of Beethoven?

    All best wishes,

    D. Sosin

  14. I am thrilled to read your “work” as it occurs on this play. You have been one of my greatest film going pleasures since I was 13 and saw “Cat Ballou” at the Malco Theater in Jackson, Tennessee and fell in love. Good luck on what I know will be a great triumph for you.

  15. I was also at this performance and was very moved — and I’m wondering what those two scenes are — the ones that are now your favorites…

  16. Love to be part of this process. Nice to know a glimpse of you as a person as well. Just keep blogging, growing and learning you craft. I know you have been an actress for very long, but this challenge and hopefully future challenges will let you grow further. It is all about your Journey, so far you have had such an exciting one. You really are energizing to me. Not that I am an actress, but this kind of committment and excitment is necessary in all we do. I guess being present. So wish I could see this play, it sounds amazing. Since I can not, I thank you for the glimpse you are providing.

  17. My 20 year daughter and I were in the house yesterday afternoon. We have been making trips to Broadway together for about twelve years. I can not begin to tell you how moved the two of us were after watching 33 Variations on Wednesday. Out an OUTSTANDING performance by and outstanding cast of a moving play that brought me to tears more than once during the two hour plus performance. GREAT JOB, it is only 10:30 in the morning and I think I have already told forty people about the show and great job each of you did with an outstanding script. WOW, is all I can say, and thank you for an over the top experience.
    Paul Campagna

  18. Jane. I’ve never been into blogs, but yours has hooked me. So many things converged with it. For many years I’ve had great admiration for your career. Years ago I taught Georges Delerue’s evocative score from “Julia” as part of a humanities course. I am a retired musicologist. The Diabelli Variations always used to intimidate me a bit. No longer. Thanks to your energizing approach to this role I will look at this piece with new eyes and ears. Tony Garton

  19. Jonathon Demme is presenting a screening of Coming Home on Sunday in Pleasantville at the Jacob Burns Center.

  20. I think it’s those scenes that you speak of, that allow for self discovery on a deeper level .

    Kind of like confronting your fears.

  21. Hi Jane,
    I’ve long considered you and me to be soul-mates–I was born in November 1937 and you, as you well know, in December that same year (you’re younger than I!). You’ve inspired me to stay in shape, which I have over the years–did your workout and went on to running and biking. I’m now mainly into “zumba” and indoor workouts and really feel that exercise is the key to staying young.

    Thanks for being a great role model and terrific actress. I hope to see you on Broadway–just read about it today. The play sounds wonderful.

    Carol Smith

  22. Jane,

    I have always been curious about you and your views. For 30 years or so at least.
    I am from Nova Scotia, Canada and am in California just nowwhere my two sons live.(Santa Monica). I work all over the world in post conflict environments as well as complex emergencies. I train NATO soldiers in peacebuilding (new thinking) and offer a way for the military to understand gender as a system and a lens through which to better understand conflict and war.

    I am currently working on my PhD. Is Peacebuilding a Profession (my dissertation topic)

    In any case, if I find myself in New York during the run of your play, I will be sure to attend .

    I make a connection between your deep exploration of the themes of 33 Variations and the requirements of an academic dissertation. The required intimacy with the message and the questions.. the familiiarity one must achieve to live the material and be a vessel for the question/questions.. so that new knowledge might emerge!

    Dear Jane,
    Thank you for your fearless pursuit of transparency and what it means to evolve as a human BEING.. As a species I think we must do so(evolve that is) rather quickly now.. to bring ourselves in balance with the earth and the universe for that matter.

    One love,

    Marsha Lake Eyre

  23. hello Jane,
    Was thinking on the play “33 Variations” and the
    musicologist Katherine Brandt, studying Beethoven’s sketchbooks at the Bonn archives. She’s terminally ill, and desperate to solve the riddle of his fascination.
    was doing some reading on Marcel Proust the French writer of In Search of Lost Time. and the promoter of the concept of Involuntary memory.

    I feel a interest, because of the use of Art and mind as a visual creative formatting and processor of memory device. As Proust would have it ,within In Search of Lost Time , A large part of the novel has to do with the nature of art. A theory of art in which we all are capable of producing art, by taking the experiences of life and transforming them in a way that shows more human understanding .Involuntary memory is a conception of human Memory in which we encounter in everyday life that would evoke recollections of the past without conscious effort. As opposite is voluntary memory, a deliberate effort to recall the past. As when we try to recall something ,this is only a part of truth and not a true “essence” of the past.

    Being transported back to an earlier time by sensory experiences of memory, triggered by smells, sights, sounds, or touch. Understanding media is what the sensory experience is about and Artist uses the medium to create a trigger. Imagined or form a mental image of something that is not present . The artist only can be a maker of imaginary or dubious facts.

    We remember what we want to be real, Art as the habit of memory as in learning a poem by heart, and spontaneous memory that stores up perceptions and impressions and than reveals them . So what is it touchy and feely and see it than it must be there. Reality is the sum total of our imaginary worlds. Nobody is a fixed state of being, life is all memory and imaginary view of what we feel. If this is true Art is the expression of the self: A memory of unconscious effort into remembering events, people, and places. that can and always will be a memory.

    Timothy Dougherty

  24. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences behind the scenes. Your fearlessness and skill in facing the uncomfortable, scary or awkward moments that terrify all of us (both in our lives and in our art); this is what is so outstanding about your body of work. You always strip away the artifice of “cool” and show the true emotion beneath it. I can’t tell you how much your films, as well as your book and now your blog excite and inspire me as an artist (I’m a musician/songwriter). I am dying to come to NYC and see the play. Two of my relatives had ALS and passed away in the last few years, so the subject matter is close to my heart. Thanks again so much & warm regards,

  25. Ms. Fonda,
    Just curious –Which are the two scenes you mention in today’s blog? We saw the show a couple weeks ago and I’m curious to know where you have found yourself challenged in the piece.
    Keep up the great work. I so enjoyed the show … refreshing to see attention paid to “creating art”. As an artist I am just as intrigued about the process, if not more so, than the end result.

  26. I’m an infantry veteran of the VN War. I’ve always admired you. I hope your performance on Broadway in “33 Variations” is a success.

  27. Why I’ve stood by you—-sat with you & grown with you over the past fifty years [even in the wake of “the coldness” towards you] is because of your ability to let yourself be plowed over—-constantly reseeded! A vulnerability, always just beneath the surface, that might have been a liability to others is what furtilized you most because it kept you close to your own bone… Bravo!Jane!

  28. I am enjoying your blog and loved your book as well. Thank you! I am an actress, though I don’t get to work often enough for my taste, and it is so heartening to read the musings of an artist/human of your thoughtfulness and accomplishments and to feel someone else yearning for truth and beauty. In reading your blog I realize that we never ‘get it done’ and it wouldn’t be much fun if we did! Also, as someone who has kept a journal for most of my life, I express my gratitude for your willingness to share your blog with us! It is fun! Thanks again!

  29. I think that expresses life clearly…the areas we fear, or have no compassion for are usually those areas that once we come to understand them are special times and they soon become such victories for us personally.

    My daughter and I are coming to see the show this Saturday nite 3/7. We are so thrilled and together we have enjoyed sharing your journey with us.

    May God continue to bless you and thank you for sharing with us.

    Jill Strauss

  30. was at sunday afternoon performance. 3/1 -had no idea what 33 variations was about. only interest was in seeing you onstage since you are so powerful on screen. was absolutely mesmerized – a family member was diagnosed recently with ALS. your performance was magnificent – as your disease progressed, i felt myself getting weaker! Waited outside stage door knowing that gloria steinem and christine lahti were visiting you (someone in the crowd saw them). Some of the crowd left as it was getting chilly. my girlfriend turned to me and said “do you think if you and i hadn’t seen each other in a while, you would be running out the door?”. Was very surprised when you came out and apologized to everyone saying that it is not every day you get a visitor like gloria steinem. what a humble thing to say. you are a star in every sense of the word.

  31. wonderful performance!

  32. Thanks for being so kind to our daughter Jordan at the stage door last night. She reads your blog daily and we thoroughly enjoyed your performance last night. It was even more special for Jordan who auditioned for RADA earlier yesterday. Best to you.
    Emery, Jackie and Jordan

  33. Please make sure that this temperal work is documented and a copy rests securely in the Lincoln Center archive of Theatre on Film and Tape…

  34. I attended your March 3 performance & you were wonderful, very moving. We had great orchestra seats but had to move to the rear balcony because the person behind us ate pretzels and chewed on the ice from his drink for the entire 1st act. The ushers let patrons bring food & drinks to their seats in your theater, please try to find a way to stop this!!! We came to see you & the play not hear chomping for two hours. Its insulting to you and the author. That being said when we moved to the balcony we could hear every word and still feel the power and beauty of your performance. Thank you for coming to Broadway. Please come back often.

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