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THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #3 - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #3

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Thanks for joining us in this latest installment of The Artist’s Journey.  Actor Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT has been generously sharing his insights, observations and experiences with us over the last few weeks as he prepares for his role as “Afzal Jatt” in this newest play by Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar.

What’s been on Bernard’s mind as Opening Night approaches? Read on and find out!

Tickets for THE WHO & THE WHAT are available by clicking here.

By Bernard White

3 – notes from out of time in the who & the what

monday february 10, 2014 6:41

in the am.









train due at 6:43.  the surfliner north to Los Angeles.









when I arrived at 6:20, there was only on other man at station.

now there are about 100 men and women looking like they have some place to go.

on the platform I’m thinking about competition for survival.  how we, in the “first world,” have a rather mild experience of this.

now on the train headed north, I am surrounded by empty seats and to my left an ocean that hides its cruelty.  as well as a large part of its beauty.

Jackie will pick me up at Union Station and take me to see John who starts chemo on Wednesday.

close to overwhelmed by the wonder and mystery of it all.

approaching Oceanside.  thank you God.


I am thinking of those overflowing trains in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

I am thinking of the sacrifices of my father, Stanley Leonard White.

I am thinking of Jackie’s father, a World War II veteran, Milton Katzman, a Chicago cabbie who was so very proud to see his daughter pursuing her dream in the arts.

my sources and inspiration for Afzal Jatt. 


monday february 17, 2014 10:21PM

we have had 8 preview audiences.  the play is in good shape.

gone through quite a few exciting and brave changes in the past week.









we are ready. 

here I am, Lord.

another preview tomorrow and we open on Wednesday.

another chance to get it right.  that is;  to be present.


so I’m having what I call pre-post partum with Kimberly and Ayad and Jack due to leave this week.  I think Jaymi and Jill have already split.

this is the life of the circus.












(Preston and Gabe behind the scenes) 


here’s a letter I wrote to Kimberly and Ayad, this morning, after 4 very good previews in the last 2 days;

who knows anything really?

Kimberly and Ayad,

I don’t want to be a clown.  I don’t want to be a caricature.  I don’t want to show off.

this is my concern and challenge as I move forward.

someone I trust said I was just talking and listening about 15 percent of the play.  they found that to be a high percentage.  I find it to be less than adequate.

there is such a tendency in me to perform.  to please.  to Do something.

I am currently a great admirer of Mark Rylance.

I think of his BIG ASS performance in JERUSALEM.

I said I didn’t want to be a clown.

and yet a great clown (Bill Irwin/Charlie Chaplin/Mark Rylance) is a great joy to watch.

do I need to be a better clown?

I trust you two.  I know you are pleased with what I’m doing.

how can I get better?  if you were not concerned with my ego, the fragility of my gift, what would you say to me to make my Afzal more grounded, more whole, better?  more seamlessly Afzal?

can I trust being simpler?









do I need to get bolder? 

do I need to meditate more?  go back to school?  eat better?  go to more 12 step meetings?  shut the fuck up?  read Dostoyevsky?

I am a slightly mediocre actor at best.

I surrender.

if nothing else, pray for me to tell this story more truthfully.  if nothing else, let us keep each other in our prayers.

I honestly know nothing.  I have nothing to defend. I open my heart and mind to your asking more of me, challenging me to chip away at everything that is not true to Afzal and this play….

Allahu A’lam.

“Allah Hashem, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

you both have watched my “act” for several months now.

I am asking you to help purify my soul in the art of my portrayal of Afzal.

















A veteran actor, Bernard White has performed extensively on stage, film and TV. La Jolla Playhouse: Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway: Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center); Landscape of the Body (Signature); Sakharam Binder (Play Company); The Death of Garcia Lorca (Public). Regional: Troilus and Cressida and Henry V (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Art (East/West Players); Wings of Desire (American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest (Williamstown).  Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, Miss India America, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay It Forward and City of Angels. Selected TV: Silicon Valley, Grey’s Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife and NCIS, among others.