Lindfors shares life as woman
Gertrude Barnstone held the
following interview with actress
Viveca Lindf ors at the
University of Houston last fall.
Her visit to the campus was
sponsored by the UH Student
Association and the Department
of Women's Affairs.
BARNSTONE: Tell us
something about your program
LINDFORS: The evening is
called "I Am a Woman." It's a
journey of one woman and many
women. We think of it as a
"theatrical evening," because
there's a certain prejudice
against a "one-woman show" as
opposed to a "one-man show."
BARNSTONE: Why is that?
LINDFORS: Well, I suppose
there are no images when it
comes to a "one-woman show." I
think people imagine an elderly
unsuccessful actress reading
poetry in a flowing gown. That's
the image that comes to some
people's minds. But when it
comes to a man's show, you have
images like Mark Twain or
BARNSTONE: You are also
helping to break down
stereotypic images of an older
LINDFORS: Right, I should
say so. I don't think of myself as
an older woman, but I suppose I
am. I'm 54. I think once you get
involved into the creative
processes of life, whatever it is
you do, age just flies out the
window. The youngest woman in
this show is Annie Frank who is
14 and the oldest one, Anais Nin,
BARNSTONE: Have you had
any problems with your show?
LINDFORS: Well, the problem
that the show has is similar to the
problem that women have: It is
hard for people to take you
seriously. It's hard when it comes
to dealing with all the legal
aspects of the show - in all the
rights clearances and so forth.
You have to deal mostly with
men, or you have to deal with
women who are almost like men -
- women who accept the power
drive of men, right? You do run
BARNSTONE: Will the theatre
continue to be your main interest? You main expression?
LINDFORS: I want to express
myself in an artistic way whether
it's through acting in the theatre
or in the films, directing or
writing . I don't care. I'm doing
more of those other things, too.
BARNSTONE: More of
writing, producing and directing?
LINDFORS: Well, producing.
I'm only doing producing because
it was the only way to get it done.
But otherwise, I would prefer to
stay out of that; I found it very
time-consuming and exhausting.
BARNSTONE: You mean
you're involved in producing I
Am a Woman?
LINDFORS: Yes, there was no
way out. There are only three of
us and unless I totally put myself
into it, it would not nave happened.
BARNSTONE: Do you find
different attitudes in different
parts of the country toward you
or the production?
LINDFORS: Not really. I
would say the negative aspects in
some parts of the country are
larger than in others. There's the
lack of interest in coming to see a
show like this, but it's different in
different places. Now once they
get in there, people's reactions to
the show are always the same.*
They feel joyful in the end. But
word-of-mouth has been our
strongest ally in getting people
in. Whenever we've played for a
week, it's always been the same:
less box office in the beginning
and standing-room-only in the
BARNSTONE: Are you
bringing it to television?
LINDFORS: We are
negotiating with the Canadian
Broadcasting Company to do it on
television, but we've run into a
snag. The Anne Frank segment,
which comes from her diary, is
suddenly being withdrawn from
the television thing because the
people that wrote the play based
on the diary are now negotiating
for a musical. And because they
are in the middle of negotiations,
they don't want to give me the
rights for television. I keep
thinking, 'How insane!' When
Annie sat there and wrote that
book, it belonged to her, and now
it belongs to anyone who listens to
it. I mean you run into snags like
that, and people that just like to
use their powers. I just say,
' Why, that's what the Nazis did. '
You see this sudden ego power,
you know. People say 'yes' or
' no 'for no reason. Right? That's
got to go.
BARNSTONE: When you were
here recently for a performance
of An Evening With a Woman,
you were asked, "Why has it been
so long since the theater has
produced an evening about
women. Can you comment on
LINDFORS: The theater, like
most institutions and
organizations, is run by men. The
plays are written by men and
men have written about themselves which, in a way, we can
understand. The very great
writers like Ibsen, Shakespeare,
Tennessee Williams, write about
women, but those writers come
up only once or twice in every
century. So the major portion of
the work at the moment is occupied really by men. The
unemployment figure among
actresses, particularly women
over 35, is absolutely staggering
in comparison to the male over
35. Roles are just not as available
for women as they are for men.
That's going to change of course,
because women will begin to
write themselves and men will
begin to look at women in a new
way. If a man is a talented artist,
he'll be interested in writing
about women as well as about
men, for I don't think you can live
without getting very deeply into
BARNSTONE: Do you feel that
you will create another show in
the same vein?
LINDFORS: Right now I'm so
bruised over losing the Anne
Frank TV thing, and the fact that
the whole thing may be cancelled, that I keep saying to
myself that I am never again
going to deal all those various
parasites sitting in between,
holding onto things in a
possessive way. So I don't know. I
probably will. As a matter of fact,
my son and I are dealing with an
evening called "My Mother, My
Son." However, I've learned a
lot . I will never start committing
myself to a piece of material
without first having cleared it on
all levels, and that was unfortunately not done in our case.
We had somebody dealing with
the business that wasn't really
good at it, so a lot of things were
not as clear as they should have
BARNSTONE: Do you feel this
show can be done without the
Anne Frank piece?
LINDFORS: I believe anything
can be done without anything.
And I have said so to CBC. If we
don't do the show, we are
defeating the Anne Frank spirit.
She has an extraordinary line
where she says 'Why should I be
in despair?' There is always
something that makes you happy
- like nature, like people. People
are marvelous, nature is marvelous • I believe it's my duty to
carry on with the survival spirit
that she had. So I would do the
show without the Anne Frank
piece, and I would find other
voices that express her spirit.
BARNSTONE: You must have
had trouble getting backing for
LINDFORS: Yes. Well, to start
with, we didn't depend on
backings. We created our own
show by being booked because of
my name and my reputation. I
have built up a tremendous
college audience. So, it was only
coming to New York that we had
to raise a certain amount of
money, which we did. I found that
I had to involve myself personally. Every time that we're
not right on top of it, things get all
screwed up. That goes for rights
and everything else when it
comes to this particular show. We
have to have people whom we can
really trust, which I do have now,
but I didn't always. I wasn't
always capable of choosing that
kind of people. I think I'm
learning to choose people and feel
that I have the right to choose
certain ones to do certain things.
To think that four or five years
ago I suffered very much from
the female neurosis like 'I can't
be in charge', I give everything
over to you; Darling please - I
don't every want to interfere with
you'. Now I don't think of it as
interference; I think of it as just
protecting the "baby" - seeing
the "baby" grow the way I think
it should grow.
BARNSTONE: Have colleges
been supportive of you?
LINDFORS: Colleges have
been marvelous. Colleges have
supported me as an artist for the
past 15 years, and have protected
me from having to do difficult
commercials and all kinds of
ridiculous TV things. That's
where the culture is in this
country - I do think it's the
colleges. But if the universities
and colleges are going to be the
cultural centers of the country,
they are going to have to have
professional theater on campus.
Whether the campuses can
support such a group, I don't
know. But they could certainly
split it between three or four so
that a repertory company goes
three months to Houston, three
months to Dallas, and another
three months somewhere else.
BARNSTONE: Where were
you in the fifties when Dalton
Trumbo, for example, was
blacklisted - and how did the
blacklisting affect you?
LINDFORS: Well, I don't see
any blacklisting today. There's
personal sabotage, personal
fights between people, a certain
built-in censorship ~ but it's not
like it was in the fifties. That
blacklisting period occurred at
the time I came to this country. I
think it was really a bleak time in
our lives and I think it's extraordinary that it was such a
hush-hush thing. Nobody dared to
rebel, nobody demonstrated,
nobody marched, nobody did
anything. Those people were
absolutely alone in their struggle,
and they were left to the wolves.
I had this terrible feeling inside
me - could I really stand the
test? If I'd been called down to
Washington, if I knew they would
t ake away my way of making a
living - would I be strong? That
was always the fear inside me.
And you never know what you
will do until you get in that
situation. I think today I would be
better prepared and would feel
less weakened by the threat.
When the Vietnam anti-war
movement began, I got involved
very early. I said to myself 'If I
don't learn to always get involved
in what I feel is right, I'm going to
screw up when the moment
comes. If I get used to always
standing up for what I believe in,
then at that moment when it
really matters, I won't be so
So in a way, that is what the
blacklist period did to me,
although I personally was never
BARNSTONE: What is your
opinion of Lillian Hellman?
LINDFORS: She's one of our
major American playwrights.
She's about 80 now. There's a big
ceremony around her work
"Sunday in New York." She's
almost the only female
playwright that we have.
BARNSTONE: Clare Booth
LINDFORS: Yes, she's a
major playwright too, but
Hellman is probably Number One.
She's a brilliant, brilliant woman.
The introduction to her last book
J'Pentimento" is in the opening of
my show. She explains that she
needs to see and see again, which
is the story of the woman in the
play. She has to look backward in
order to look at things again -
maybe see something in a different way.
BARNSTONE: From your
college tours you must be getting
man y feelings of young people.
LINDFORS: Yes. I see quite a
bit of turbulence between men
and women, and I've gone
through much of it myself. The
woman is beginning to deal with
the split between the active
woman and the loving woman -
the woman with her man and the
woman with her work. Women
must put those two things
together. We may feel that since
we are entering the man's world
of work, we must act like a man.
But we should bring our own
rhythm into what we do and not
try to fit into the rhythm of a
man. We shouldn't change
ourselves just because we are
dealing with the world. It's no
different from dealing with a
house ~ you take one room at a
Working women have suffered
this incredible identity crisis and
often had to pay the price and live
without a man and children.
Those women have suffered.
Particularly now, I think they
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