The White Album by Joan Didion (2018)

The White Album is a staging of Joan Didion’s seminal essay that traverses the tectonically shifting landscape of the late 1960s in California. A California native with an unmistakably cool and always illuminating style, Didion epitomized the voice of Los Angeles. Published in 1979, The White Album is a compilation of flashes into the author’s memories of iconic figures and events of the late 1960s from the Manson murders to the Black Panthers to student protests. By expressing the impossibility of any narrative to make sense of her time, Didion creates one of the defining and enduring stories of all time.

In Jan’s adaptation, Obie Award-winning actress Mia Barron performs the text’s fifteen vignettes in full while a parallel performance unfolds behind and around her. Two separate audiences—a traditional one seated in the theater and a smaller onstage audience of emerging storytellers—(including young artists, activists, and students)—experience the work simultaneously from different vantage points. The inner audience morphs from spectatorship to participation over the course of the work, connecting their experience of the contemporary moment with the radical forces at play in Didion’s work. The performance underscores stark similarities between the late 1960s and the present, challenging us to look critically at the past and incubating real-time conversation around new paths forward. The performance culminates with an open forum conversation involving both audiences and the creative team. 


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  • Created by Early Morning Opera
  • Text by Joan Didion
  • Directed, Adapted by Lars Jan
  • Co-created and lead performance by Mia Barron
  • Performed by Andrew Schneider, Micaela Taylor, Brittany Engel-Adams, Sharon Udoh, Stephanie Regina, and Madeline Barasch
  • Architectural design by P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S Architecture
  • Lighting by Andrew Schneider & Chu-hsuan Chang
  • Music and sound design by Jonathan Snipes
  • Choreography by Stephanie Zaletel
  • Dramaturgy by David Bruin
  • Assistant direction by Madeline Barasch
  • Costume design by Kate Fry
  • Sound engineering by Duncan Woodbury
  • Design consultation by Shannon Scrofano
  • Special effects by Steve Tolin / TolinFX
  • Scenic fabrication by Stereobot, Inc.
  • Technical direction by Michaelangelo DeSerio
  • Production managed by Sarah Peterson
  • Stage managed by Amanda Eno
  • Company managed by Marisa Blankier
  • Produced with Miranda Wright and Los Angeles Performance Practice.
Funding / Commissioning / Residency:

  • The White Album was commissioned by Center Theatre Group with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, by BAM for the 2018 Next Wave Festival, by the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, and by The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. The White Album received generous development support from CalArts Center for New Performance, the Shiva Foundation, the Mark E. Pollack Foundation, and the UCross Foundation.
  • With special thanks to Joan Didion, Griffin Dunne, and ICM Partners.