Having worked together for several seasons at Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora, California, playwright Rick Foster and actress Janis Stevens started searching for subject matter that might allow them to create a one-person play together. At the suggestion of another colleague, they started looking at the life and career of Vivien Leigh. Janis had played many of the same roles that Vivien had---Blanche DuBois, Lady Macbeth, Titania, Sabina, Cleopatra---and Rick was interested in exploring the complexities of Vivien's relationship with Laurence Olivier. They started research for the play in the Fall of 1996 and, once he learned of the project, Producing Director, Dennis Jones, included the new piece in Sierra Repertory's 1997 season. The play premiered there in May of that year and has been produced on the West Coast numerous times since. The first performance of VIVIEN in NYC was in September of 2004 at The Players and was followed by a performance at the Episcopal Actor' Guild of America in November of the same year.
"The whole world knows Vivien Leigh as a charismatic film actor. As a young woman she had the ease and vivacity that the camera loves. And yet, for her, cinema was a minor art. The great work was done on stage. It was in the theater that she felt at home, both in the work itself and in the community created during any production.
She was blessed with overabundant energy, quick intelligence, sparkling humor, and great beauty. And for a time she was blessed in her celebrity marriage to Laurence Olivier, who was even then widely regarded as the finest actor of his era.
"But each of these blessings was also a curse. The beauty opened doors---but led to her being type cast. The marriage gave her a great stage partner---but for many years limited her ability to work with others and led one important critic to complain that she was an obstacle to her husband's growth as an artist. The energy turned out to be part and parcel of her manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) that sometimes swept her into temporary madness or sank her into an abyss of despair.
"In addition to her mixed blessings, she carried one unadulterated curse. While still a young woman she contracted tuberculosis. It recurred several times in her life and caused her death, at the age of 53, in 1967.
"She was a great lady carrying terrible burdens and we pray we have done her justice."