D.C.: Vivienne Leheny is an actress, writer and voice over professional. I met Vivienne in Maine where we were resident actors at the Maine Media Workshops – where we marvelled at and revelled in the genius of the instructors AND students of photography, cinematography, directing for Film and Television and documentary.. I wish I could share Vivienne’s voice of silk and smoke with you here on Profile/Ten!
Who was the first person to encourage your creative spirit? Tell me about this person. Vivienne: Probably my grandfather — my mom’s dad. He was Italian, had a potent, beautiful voice and would sit with me at the piano when I was very young, singing and playing. He was a powerful and dramatic force and when he died (I was 7) my world dimmed. I’d always thought that was about the sudden awareness of death in my life. But now I think it was about his grand energy and distinctive presence, his joy of music and art and beauty and delicious food, suddenly gone. He fostered my creative spirit by example.
Inspiring performances/works of art/actions in any medium.
Vivienne: Potentially endless list here so, to keep it manageable I’ll go with an exmample that’s really a two-parter: seeing Derek Jacobi onstage in Cyrano DeBergerac when I was a teenager. A simple touch to the face of his Roxanne was the moment I “got” how transcendent acting could be; that gesture (meaning, all he conveyed in it) blew my mind and broke my heart. A year or so later, I saw a film he did and he was just chewing up the scenery, and not in a good way. I was shocked, but thrilled. I loved that he could achieve such extraordinary heights in one role and then be kind of awful in another. It was liberating. On a more general front, I’m inspired by people who demonstrate courage and grace in the choices they make.
What does the word ‘original’ mean to you?
Vivienne: Living out a personal truth and not worrying what anyone thinks about it.
Are you ambitious? What does that word mean to you? How does it resonate in your life?
Vivienne: I just had this conversation with a friend. I was bemoaning not having real ambition, not being clear or focused in setting and pursuing goals. I was referring to my professional life – my acting, voiceover and writing work – which I feel I approach haphazardly. And she said, “You are ambitious. You’re ambitious in learning about who you are and you’re ambitious in trying to improve yourself.” Which, I guess, is accurate: I’m a pretty committed naval-gazer.
Random high school memory.
Vivienne: Cutting class to go to Peach Lake deli with Kris Westergren and Billy Chiodo the spring of senior year. Billy had already graduated and he picked us up at school with Journey blaring. Perfect, beautiful day and I remember feeling hopeful and wistful, both. Everything lay ahead. The world was just waiting out there, and I couldn’t wait to go out into it. But I wanted that spring to last forever too.
Favorite quote? Thoughts on it? (or not)
Vivienne: “No one gets out of this life alive.” Not meaningful; I just like saying it to pals when things look bleak.
What is something that you do everyday?
Vivienne: I drink a large cup of blackassam tea with milk and a pack-and-a-half of Splenda . . . and repeat, as often as necessary.
Are you a fan of social media (Facebook, Twitter etc). If so, any particular ‘gift’ that has come of your involvement in social media?
Vivienne: Not a fan at all, even though a somewhat regular user because it’s hard not to be: I’m on Facebook and Linked In. I understand what the appeal is, and I’m susceptible to it, but I hate the new level of distraction introduced into my life. I’m easily distracted (see response to the ambition question). And easily caught up in naval-gazing (see same).
If you could have a ‘dream meal’ (no worries about calories or how the ingredients affect your body) what would it be? Who would prepare it?
Vivienne: My grandmother’s eggplant parmigiana. She died years ago and while I’ve followed her recipe, I can’t replicate her touch with the dish. So that beloved meal is lost to me. Add that dish to my definition of “original.”
What do you like about October?
Vivienne: Everything! It’s my favorite month of the year. It excites me, probably because it conjures such conflicting feelings. I associate October with new beginnings — like new teachers and classes, breaking out school clothes that we bought before school started but were too hot to wear in September – and with festivities (Halloween costumes, huge Thanksgivings, snowy Christmases). But there’s also a feeling of loss as the trees drop their leaves and the frost settles and browns everything. And I miss the romantic langour of summer evenings, but that’s balanced by the mystery of October’s cool, dark nights and the warm lights blazing behind people’s windows. Who are they? What are they doing? So much life happening behind those windows that I’m curious about. . . there, I’ve just outed myself as a Peeping Tom.