The Whitefire Theatre, Solofest Presents: “My Janis”
Written by, directed and starring: Arianna Veronesi
Janis Joplin, alone in her hotel room in Austin Texas, living close to her family, and in treatment for her addictions, gets a call from an old friend, Chet Helms, now a big-time manager in San Fransisco inviting her to sing with a band.
Janis takes some convincing, knowing herself and her affliction. But for her life wasn’t complete without music and so flew to San Fransisco, joined the band and the rest is music legend.
I was lucky enough to see this play at the Hollywood Fringe last year and it has evolved, incorporating a little more of Janis’s relationship with her mother, perhaps a giving us more depth and more insight into Janis’s troubled mind.
Arianna Veronesi, the writer and performer of this riveting play, has taken just a few moments of Janis Joplin’s life, an hour or two of one day in fact, and turned it into a close examination of what turned out to be a crucial choice she made. One that would set her on a path to fame, to a life full of spectacular triumphs and terrible lows. A journey that would lead to her death ultimately…all set in motion one afternoon in an Austin hotel room.
When we look back on our lives it’s easy to see how one decision impacts profoundly the path we take and often who we take it with. This play, or performance piece really, is a heartbreaking and fascinating glimpse of this tragic woman’s soul and Ms Veronesi captures her completely. She bears an astonishing resemblance and recreates so perfectly the essence of Janis Joplin. The shyness and the openness, the laughter and the struggle, her absolute vulnerability and her raw, exquisite talent.
We watch transfixed as she wrestles with this decision, knowing that she would never be able to resist the destructive lifestyle of the music business, yet knowing also that remaining in Texas and turning her back on what gave her meaning and purpose was an impossible choice to make.
“My Janis” is a highly accomplished piece, extremely voyeuristic, but unique and rather wonderful, delicate and touching. Janis Joplin is an icon.
Her music is still relevant and important and there has been no one like her since. It’s amazing that more isn’t known about her, but this play gives us a unique window into her world and if you get the chance to see it I highly recommend that you do.