Revisiting ‘The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play’.

August 11, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Events, News


‘The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play’ (TYoMT: P), a self-adapted staging of Joan Didion’s non-fiction book of the same name, was first performed by Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway in the summer of 2007. Though Didion did the writing; the director, David Hare, and Redgrave herself were intimately part of the production process.  Recently, we have seen a steady supply of alternative productions, with each actress taking the work in a different direction, some more successfully than others. In May 2009, Analee Jefferies inhabited the role in a TheatreWorks production in Hartford Connecticut, earning strong reviews from The New York Times, who praised her “earthier, less reserved” approach.

Now another actress is preparing to play the part of ‘Didion’ – a writer coping with grief and waking up the audience to its unsubtle methods. The Intiman Theatre in Seattle is preparing for its run from August 21st until September 20th, with Judith Roberts as the sole performer. Roberts’ stage credits have a solid Shakespearian flavour, including Richard 111 at Classic Stage Company. Such experience should serve her well as she endeavours to communicate a character entirely in extremis. “In the midst of life we are in death,” Didion wrote, recalling the words Presbyterians say at the graveside. Done correctly, the play can stun an audience by articulating the simple burden of this reality.

If you missed the original, you’ll get another chance to see Vanessa Redgrave this October when she reprises the role to raise money for UNICEF. Joan Didion and David Hare will be special guests at this performance in St. John The Divine, Manhattan. This event had been scheduled for April 2009, but was postponed following the sudden death of Natasha Richardson, Redgrave’s daughter. When asked by a reporter if Didion thought that Redgrave’s previous involvement with the work would help her with the grieving process, Didion replied, “I don’t think there’s any comfort… [Or if there is], it’s cold comfort.”

The Year of Magical Thinking, adapted by Joan Didion from her memoir, directed by Sarna Lapine and starring Judith Roberts. Performances will begin at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer Street at Seattle Center, on Friday, August 21 and continue through Sunday, September 20. The opening night performance is Wednesday, August 26 at 7:30 pm. For more, click here.

A benefit performance by Vanessa Redgrave of “The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play” in support of UNICEF on Monday, October 26th, 2009. Click here.

Dominick Dunne: Up Close and Personal

June 24, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events

The following is a write-up of the Dominick Dunne event, which took place this past Monday evening:


Monday evening, Didion’s brother-in-law, producer, writer, and victim’s rights activist. Dominick Dunne was joined by Jason Tyrrell of IndiePix Films and co-director Kirsty de Garis at the Borders Bookstore in Columbus Circle to discuss the newly-released documentary, DOMINICK DUNNE: AFTER THE PARTY, following an exclusive sneak peek of the film.

The packed house applauded the short but candid scene, in which Dominick discussed the death of three of his children — two just after birth, and one at the hands of a murderer during her 22nd year. A Q&A session with Dominick and Kirsty went on for a solid hour, with no holds barred and no questions left unanswered. As in the film, Dominick is utterly candid in his recounting of the most amazing, unending string of stories. Telling tales that spanned from the battlefields of World War II to the early days of television and the golden age of Hollywood, through personal tragedies and his rebirth as a celebrity and crime writer, Dominick had the crowd on the edge of their seats.

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The Party After The Party, And You're Invited

June 17, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events

Didion’s brother-in-law, Dominick Dunne is the subject of a biographical film, in which Didion is featured. The film is entitled, “Dominick Dunne: After the Party.” 

In the film, Vanity Fair’s more notorious celebrity journalist considers his life from childhood and heroism in World War II to his rise and ultimate fall in Hollywood, as well as the total reincarnation that followed when Dunne redeveloped as a writer in his fifties. 

On Monday, June 22nd at 7p.m., Dominick Dunne will be signing copies of the DVD at Borders bookstore located at 10 Colombus Circle (Manhattan). There will also be a round-table discussion with Dominick, co-Director Kirsty de Garis and other key cast. All DVDs will be marked down to $19.99 for this exclusive event!

Thanks to Kolleen Whitley for the above post. Visit here for more. 

Didion Speaks: “It took me a long time to realize I was trying to come to terms with my failure to understand”

May 14, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events, News


The reports are in on Joan Didion’s reading in Cleveland:

Writer Joan Didion, whose spare, piercing sensibility has colored American culture for 40 years, talked about her craft Tuesday evening at the Ohio Theatre in Cleveland.

At age 74, Didion’s fierceness in print contrasts with her fragility in person; she stumbled as she stepped up to the Cleveland stage.

“No matter how many times somebody says watch the step, I still trip,” she said without preamble, her voice deeper than expected, carrying a faint flatness that she has attributed to a girlhood in California.

Her fiction, she said, flowed invariably from her nonfiction reporting, and she compared journalism to sculpting a material already there while writing a novel was more akin to attempting a watercolor. She dismissed Wallace Stegner’s work as too polite and “Orlando,” by Virginia Woolf as “irritating.”

The daughter of a librarian and a financial officer who loved playing craps said her parents gave her free rein as a child in the Sacramento library, but “I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio because there were scary things on it.”

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Author Joan Didion comes to Cleveland for Writers Center Stage series

May 10, 2009 by Admin  
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In her 1968 book of essays called “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” Joan Didion wrote: “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does.”

As one creator of “New Journalism,” a style of reporting that allows the writer to be seen in the work, Didion had it all: a deadpan wit, a cool detachment, a piercing observational intelligence and chiseled, perceptive sentences.

“She is really a distinctive American voice,” said Charles Michener, an acquaintance and former Newsweek arts editor. “There is nobody quite like her.”

Michener will interview Didion Tuesday evening on stage as the finale to this season’s Writers Center Stage series. The program, run by the Cuyahoga County Library Foundation, brought in Didion when it became clear John Updike was too ill to fulfill his commitment.

Didion, 74, brings her own brand of courage to Cleveland, in that her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, died suddenly in 2003, followed by their only child, Quintana Roo, eight months later. “The Year of Magical Thinking,” a book about grief and loss, won Didion the National Book Award in 2005.


Although not her best writing, the rawness of that memoir resonated with readers. It became a best seller, with 511 customer reviews posted

“That’s a book that shouldn’t work — written in the moment, breaking all the rules — and it does,” said Dinty W. Moore, who teaches Didion’s craft as director of creative writing at Ohio University. “She’s had a long career and done amazing work at both ends, from ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ and ‘The White Album’ to ‘The Year.’ ”

Michener said he was rereading Didion’s fiction — “Play It As It Lays” and “A Book of Common Prayer” — and was struck by how differently it reads from her nonfiction, reminding him in its dread and menace of Don DeLillo’s books.

“She is a very compelling writer; she has her own music, the rhythms, repetitions,” Michener said. “Hers is a very despairing vision. I’ve known Joan for a long time. She’s a mysterious person. It will be interesting to see how voluble she is in public. In private, she is so quiet as to be almost inaudible.” 

Boise Reading Cancelled; Didion "Hospitalised"

May 8, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events, News

Joan Didion will not be coming to Boise for The Cabin’s visiting author series, according to the Idaho Statesman yesterday.

“Ms. Didion was hospitalized briefly this week and has been advised not to travel for the May 14 event,” said director Paul Shaffer.

The event had been due to take place months ago, but was delayed after the death of Natasha Richardson, which we reported here. 

Edward Albee will serve as a last-minute replacement:

…ticket-holders will get to see playwright Edward Albee in her place. The three-time Pulitzer winner and recipient of a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre is best known for writing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

The New Yorker has called him “the greatest living playwright.” “We are very grateful Mr. Albee was available to visit on such short notice, and we look forward to a splendid evening with a writing legend,” Shaffer added. All tickets for Didion will be accepted at the door.

Joan Didion Reads At Tulane

April 7, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events, News

Joan Didion read from “The Year of Magical Thinking” last night at Tulane University.

One attendee wrote on her Twitter: “Didion wears black tights and camel colored Uggs. Her voice is dry w/o emotion…”

To go to the Tulane Creative Writing blog, click here.

ELIOT KAMENITZ / THE TIMES PICAYUNE Joan Didion at Tulane University's Great Writers series on  Monday, April 6, 2009.

ELIOT KAMENITZ / THE TIMES PICAYUNE Joan Didion at Tulane University's Great Writers series on Monday, April 6, 2009.

This is an excerpt from The Times – Picayune blog about the event:

Novelist, essayist and screenwriter Joan Didion received a standing ovation from a crowd of approximately 700 Monday night at Tulane University after she read from her memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which won the National Book Award in 2005.

She appeared rather frail behind the microphone, but her voice was strong as she read from the section that described the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the grief that came after, “the beginning of my year of magical thinking.” She said she was reading from that book “not for any particular reason, but because I haven’t read it for a while.”

Didion’s description of Dunne’s death — the arrival of the paramedics, the trip to the hospital, the return home — was unsparing and detailed.

“It made me weep,” writer and audience member Chris Wiltz said, “because it made me think of the incredible amount of courage it took to write the book and the incredible amount of courage it took to stand up there and read it.”

After the reading, there was a brief question-and-answer period. Didion explained to one questioner that the reason she had included the death of her daughter in the musical [theatrical] adaptation of the book, but not the book itself, was because the book already was completed and in the publisher’s warehouse. When she said the book was “done,” she said, “I wasn’t making a delphic statement. It was printed.”

Asked about the declining rates of reading, she replied, “I’m not convinced that people aren’t reading as much. I know that book sales are down, but book sales have been down for a while.”

Writers could take heart from her false starts: “I wrote a poem once, and it was turned down by The Nation,” she said. “I got a letter saying they had turned it down, and they were right.”

Then there was her humorous description of a project that came to naught, a book about Kobe Bryant, “which was not a natural for me,” she said.

When a questioner asked how Didion would rewrite a 1969 essay, “As You Read Me,” Didion said, “I don’t know. I haven’t changed all that much.”

"I Had To Justify The Emerald": Joan Didion Attends Kelly Writers House

March 31, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events, News

Media Credit: Alex Remnick/DP Senior Photographer

Media Credit: Alex Remnick/DP Senior Photographer

Joan Didion attended the Kelly Writers House at UPenn on March 30th/31st 2009.


Click here to read an article about this in the Daily Pennsylvanian.


Click here to stream the Quicktime video of her reading, with an introduction by Al Filreis, the faculty director of the Writers House.

Click here to listen to the MP3 Audio of the reading.

Click here to stream the Quicktime video of an interview with Joan Didion, conducted by Al Filreis.

Click here to listen to an MP3 of the interview.


To view some great photos of the event click here. Thanks to John for sending the link.

New Dates Announced for Vanessa Redgrave's Performance of "The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play"; Joan Didion and David Hare Will Attend.

March 27, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events, News


Joan Didion and Vanessa Redgrave

Joan Didion and Vanessa Redgrave

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York has announced new dates for a special charity performance of “The Year of Magical Thinking: The Play” starring Vanessa Redgrave. The date had been set for April, but was delayed due to the unexpected death of Natasha Richardson, Redgrave’s daughter. It will now take place on the 26th of October, 2009, with Joan Didion and (its director) David Hare in attendance. 

Funds raised will go to programs run by UNICEF, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and their partners to help provide much needed help to the children of Gaza and southern Israel.

To book your tickets, and to get more information, click here.

Due To Ill-health, Event Postponed

March 16, 2009 by Admin  
Filed under Events, News

Joan Didion has postponed her appearance at the Egyptian Theatre in Boise, Idaho as scheduled for Monday, March 16, due to health reasons, the Idaho Statesman reports on Monday 16th March.

The event organizers, “The Cabin”, are sure that it will be rescheduled. If you are a ticket holder for this event, please click here.

Dunne and Didion

Didion is also due to speak at Tulane University in McAlister Auditorium on Monday, April 6th at 7 pm as part of the Joan Didion Reading Series currently underway there. For more about this event, please see here.

UPDATE: In fact, it was Natasha Richardson’s skiiing accident which caused Didion to miss the event. See here. Didion visited Richardson in Lennox Hill Hospital, New York on the night of Wednesday 18th March. (New York Post). We may take this to mean that Joan Didion is still up and about, and that is welcome news.

FURTHER UPDATE: Event rescheduled: Didion will appear at The Egyptian Theatre on Thursday, May 14. Her appearance was postponed from an earlier date. All current tickets are valid.

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