Written by, directed and starring: Arianna Veronesi
Janis Joplin is one of the most celebrated artists of our time. An icon in fact and as such, over the years, she has been awarded an almost goddess-like position in our collective history.
We remember her through her incredible music and unforgettable voice, of course. But the darkness of her addictions is just as legendary as her music, although far less glamorous.
"My Janis" addresses a moment in her life when all she ever wanted was offered to her - success, fame, money…everything she had ever dreamed of. And yet, still she hesitated.
Alone in her hotel room in Austin, Texas on a vacation with her friends, she gets a call from an old friend, now a big time manager in San Fransisco, inviting her to sing with a band. Knowing herself and her demons, Janis takes some convincing as if she sees the inevitability of her decision and the danger of returning to a music career would bring her.
Arianna Veronesi has created an intimate glimpse into Janis Joplin’s world using a pivotal moment in her life. Had she declined Chet Helms offer and stayed in Texas with her family, away from the drugs and the alcohol that would be the instruments of her demise, perhaps she would have lived a longer life. But to Janis, life wasn’t whole without her music and so she threw herself back into the lion’s den and the rest is history.
It’s an interesting concept to take a few moments of time from what was a very short life of only 27 years and to examine it so closely. We often make decisions in our lives without realizing just how profound the consequences will be, don’t we? Looking back, what seems unimportant at the time proves again and again to be just the opposite.
This particular decision was the making and ultimately the un-making of this incredible woman. So ahead of her time in so many ways, we watch her as she almost unravels in front of us while she wrestles with her life, knowing she wouldn’t have the strength to resist the destructive lifestyle that surrounded the 60s music scene and yet being unable to stay away, her soul yearning to sing.
It’s a heartbreaking and riveting play. Ms Veronesi captures Janis Joplin in exquisite detail and looks uncannily like her. But it is her complete performance that recreates Janis Joplin on the stage…her movements, her laughter, her sadness and her suffering. Everything she poured into her music, her vulnerability, her self-consciousness and her pain, was there on stage in all their raw beauty.
It’s not all sadness, Ms Veronesi’s Janis is full of life and wonder, although she still seems to be waiting for something or searching perhaps and her shyness is almost painful. But it’s a pain that she drew from, pain that she poured into her music, making it real and unrestrained and beautiful.
"My Janis" is a highly accomplished piece, more performance art than play and extremely voyeuristic, but very unique and rather wonderful, delicate and touching.
One of the more unusual Fringe plays, I would highly recommend it, I can’t get it out of my head…in a very good way.
The New Collective, 6440 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood
June 4, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25
Tickets are $10 and available at http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4563?tab=tickets.