I have gone through much of my Iife thinking that things are best, most enticing and exciting, when they are fresh and new. I always thought my best work as an actress was at the first blush. I never have wanted to shoot scenes over and over because I always felt my very first go at it was usually the best. In fact, as a starting- out actor, sometimes I felt I peaked in the audition and never got better.

I will have to admit I have had the same sense within personal relations– they would peak early and tend not to grow and deepen.

So these last 2 months of performing the play “33 Variations,” has been a revelation. I did the play 2 years ago for almost 5 months on Broadway and then we reprised it in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre for 6 weeks. I went into this experience wondering what it would be like to do something I had done for so long for a 2nd time.

I have been stunned at the extent to which my entrance into my character, the musicologist Dr Katherine Brandt, deepened over the last weeks. I cannot entirely put words to it except to say that I inhabited her in way I had not in New York. She was in my bones. Little things could go wrong as they invariably do, but the core, the DNA of her inside me was there, solid, comfortable, and continuing to grow right to the last night. I know it is the most basic of acting realities: you don’t think about how to say a line, you just become totally present in the moment and allow it to happen…and it doesn’t always happen in exactly the same way each night. Of course, you have to have become deeply familiar with the character before this can happen. I was in many ways, deeply familiar with Dr Brandt during the NY run but there were some scenes that I never felt I could wrap myself around. In the last week or two (and with generous input from some of my co-actors, Susan Kellerman, in particular) these actually became the scenes i most looked forward to. And other scenes that i was sure i “got” in NY, i discovered whole new aspects to. What a fascinating thrill for me.

I am astonished by this. I can bring myself back to how I played her in New York, what I felt and thought as I played her, and I can feel how much less personal and resonant it was.

This has been a huge learning experience for me and I know it won’t be the last.

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  1. Bonjour Madame Jane,
    I just love this account of learning and that you embrace it so warmly. Thanks for sharing…


  2. That’s really awesome Jane! It’s great to know that someone as successful and trained as you are, is still able to learn new things! It’s inspiring! 🙂

  3. It’s a gift to be willing to keep on learning. In my experience, some people need a strong motivating reason to actively pursue acquiring willingness, as in my case, Others sort of have it serendipitously “come in” which is apparently your case. Still others just have it. And, alas, some are irritated at merely the mention of willingness.

    Your honesty to tell us your experience is very cool.

    Best wishes for your continued success.


  4. I so wish I could have seen this play in NY or LA. As a music educator, I know that it would have been inspirational to me personally and would have enriched my teaching tremendously. This blog, with your analysis and contrast of approaching the character in a different and deeper way, might also be applied to the way a musician might interpret the same piece of music after letting it go for awhile. The technique might be very similar, but the “heart” of the music is different because of the experiences along the way.

  5. Very interesting comments on you feeling about acting. I’m not a actor, but have talk to actor about Art and general and how it relates to brain development as academic exercises and problems. Back in the late 1970’s I met and talk about this with John Caradine, concerning Shakespeare. Actors discover new things after proforming Shakespere for years. My view is acting in a movie or a play is considered an art, it is directly linked to the right brain action. The enhance creativity and holistic thinking,as your performance flows as a reaction to what the other people in the play are doing and encourages your more creative use, thus exercising the right brain. I do feel tha acting and painting and drawing has a direct link to this creative use and understanding. You did just do a film role were you were playing a Artist and doing some painting , Right? I wonder I that had a mind set on some level of thinking?

  6. While I don’t know the first thing about acting.
    Just by being “old” and a meditator, both. I can identify with the way the mind changes, shifts, modifies, shapes and reshapes itself constantly.
    One can only imagine, how your insight of the character you portrayed, mirrored, the changes she herself experienced as her own life progressed through.
    Its wonderful to observe the mind, as it goes through all these changes, which folks overlook more often than not , distracted with everyday life.
    And yet is so clear that you WOULD appreciate the experience in its full range, recapture the character in a deeper -different- range because you (being you) are the perfect candidate to appreciate such subtleties.
    You are great indeed. A great actess and a great person.

  7. Greetings –

    a quick note to say I saw the play a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it. A truly satisfying theater experience – which seems a rare thing to me these days.

    Also saw again, after many years, California Suite and thought you were FANTASTIC in that too.

    Looking forward to new work from you.


  8. Watching the news about Japan today, China Syndrome comes to mind. Great movie. Not too far-fetched, unfortunately.

  9. It is great that you are able to share with us the process of creativity. This allows us to learn, grow, and examine ourselves.
    For most of us, how we do our jobs are direct reflections of who we are as people.
    It is an inspiration to know that the creative process can always continue to grow and deepen.

  10. Hi, Jane–

    When I read your latest post, I wanted to say: “I knew it, I knew that’s what you felt; I wrote a paper that made that very point.” Of course, I didn’t write a paper, but I did tell you how much you had grown in the role, and I reiterate it here. It has been my good fortune, as Diane’s roadie-groupie-husband, to see your remarkable evolution as Dr. Brandt. Your final performance moved me greatly.

    Sorry we didn’t get to talk more over the last two months. Another time, maybe. Until then, I hope you’ll find the following post a worthy salute.



    • Oh my goodness gracious, Dick. This from you has me in tears. Thank you for confirming what I felt. I so love your link that I am going to post it on mine, which I hope you don’t mind. Love, jane

  11. As someone who’s acted a lot, albeit on stage, I don’t think I could really ever do TV or film work. It would be too excruciating to try and get it right after so few rehearsals, keeping in mind it will be practically etched in stone for eternity. That’s some feat. Theatre is wonderful in that you keep on learning.
    Shakespeare’s like that, like Timothy Dougherty said. During rehearsals you don’t really get 100% what you’re saying, but during the run you find something new every single night and it’s like magic. The veils part and the fog lifts and suddenly you’re in Shakespeare’s world and you see his genius in that he can mean a lot by saying very little, very precisely.

  12. Jane, this is one of your best blogs. I saw the show in New York and loved it, but now I feel I really missed something in Los Angelas.

    Do you think you would ever do the play in London, or do it in French in Paris?

    Enjoy your vacation. Do you know when your movies that you made in upstate New York nad Paris will be released?

    • Bill, doing a play takes over your life. I found it impossible to do anything else. I have 3 small books I am committed to write and I want to do a TV series so, at least for now, I cannot do the play again. But I miss my Dr Brandt.

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