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The Artist’s Journey – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #5 - La Jolla Playhouse Blog

The Artist’s Journey – Bernard White of THE WHO & THE WHAT, Journal Entry #5

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In the wake of heartbreaking loss, THE WHO & THE WHAT’s Bernard White shares this tender, bittersweet submission. We thank him for his poignant candor and extend our deepest, warmest sympathies.

By Bernard White

5- notes from out of time in the who & the what

friday 2/28/14 12:22

in the am

can’t sleep.  feeling wrecked.

the sweet tears have turned bitter.

I’m exhausted and empty and angry and spent.  my body is sad.  approaching inconsolable.


surrounded by such love and generosity.

in the epilogue, I look at pictures.  they are personal family photos.








(Ivy, Mari, Mom, Ingrid, Bernie in Dad’s arms, Ramona, DAWN and Errol)

3 of the 9 of my immediate family have now exited.  mom and dad and now Dawn.

Dawn was only 71.  she looked to be in her early 50’s.








(Jackie and Dawn in front of the world)

surreal mystery.

the grief threatens to destroy my family.

Yeats speaks from the grave;

“things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
the blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
the ceremony of innocence is drowned
the best lack all conviction, while the worse
are full of passionate intensity…

the darkness drops again but now I know…

and what rough best, its hour round at last
slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

surely Dawn speaks from the beyond as well

I’ll be listening, Dawn. if my anger and sadness doesn’t break the connection.

perhaps my anger and sadness will create the connection?


on Tuesday night, Jackie saved me from the news until I got off stage.

it was a full show.  Dawn died just at half hour.  so she got to see the show.  thank God.  it was a good one.


oh to be so human.


I want to jump out my skin.


monday morning, we got a call that Dawn had had a stroke and was in a coma on life support.  with the help and generous love of the playhouse we quickly planned our trip to Phoenix.  only a little more than a 5 hour drive.  company management arranged a discounted rent a car.  Katherine drove Jackie and I to pick it up.  and we were off.

we drove cross Mars and the Sahara.  I listened to Medhi Hassan for a good portion of the trip.

a good stretch we went God mode on the ipod and of course the songs were perfect.


“I came so far for beauty
I left so much behind
My patience and my family
My masterpiece unsigned
I thought I’d be rewarded
For such a lonely choice
And surely she would answer
To such a very hopeless voice
I practiced all my sainthood
I gave to one and all
But the rumours of my virtue
They moved her not at all”

I’ve forgotten the other songs now.  all of them perfect.  true to iGod mode.

tuesday a day of profound decisions.

Doctor told us Dawn’s stroke was massive.  he took us through the various tests for brain function.  if she survived, she would have to be tube fed and on a ventilator.

the four of us;  Ramona, Ivy, Jackie and I listened close to God.  talked to other family members on the phone.  listened close to the doctors words.

“if this were your sister, what would you do” Ramona asked the doctor, full of strength and faith in her question.

“I would let her go.”

we took her off the machines.

I am suddenly self-conscious of how personal this all is.

what else am I going to write about right now?  why else am I not sleeping?

not feeling crystal clear about the balance of lightness and passion in Act 2 Scene 4 is not going to make me lose sleep.

my precious gypsy warrior woman sister Dawn, the woman we recognized, left us this week and the family is heart broken.

the grief is spitting and clawing like a frightened cat with only patches of hair.

so much exposed skin.  red and tender.











I will stop writing now.  wait on sleep as I would a bus at night in a foreign land on a deserted street.  with weird cat sounds coming from a dark, unseen alley.

it’s raining here in La Jolla.  it’s 12:59

in the am.

the cat won’t be quiet.  keeping everybody up.

Lord have mercy.



in the am.

“. . . and I alone escaped to tell you.”



in the am.

so glad I don’t have to miss any shows.  if it were another play, I wouldn’t mind so much.  some plays, I would even welcome missing.

this is not one of them.

we are remembering Dawn and celebrating her life with our wonderful crazy human family in Phoenix on Monday.

Jackie and I will cross the deserts of Mars and Saudi Arabia together again.  we love it.

even to celebrate the death of my beloved sister.

I feel again the grace of God’s love this morning.  after my Jacob night of wrestling,  my Job night of cursing God’s cruelty.

“. . . and I alone escaped to tell you.”

the love of Jackie and my friends Paul and Clay and Aaron.

God can handle my wrestling with him.  God can handle my wrestling with her.

God can handle it.

my arms are not to short to box with God.

Allah can handle my human cursing.

I imagine we’ll be going several more rounds before this thing is over.

“they said I took his name in vain,
well, I don’t even know his name,
and if I did now really what’s it to you” 

Leonard Cohen’s HALLELULAH.

a reference to that song and Jeff Buckley used to be in the play.

like so many other things now missing.



today is the 28th and final day of February.

a month of openings and closings.








(Jackie and I on the set after Opening Night)


with great love and sorrow,

and such faith and gratitude,


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.