Written and performed by Carrie Fisher
Directed by Tony Taccone
In association with Jonathan Reinis Productions
Main Season · Roda Theatre
February 8–April 12, 2008
Running time: 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission
Carrie Fisher is the life of the party on Berkeley Rep’s 40th birthday with Wishful Drinking, an uproarious and sobering look at her Hollywood hangover. Fisher tells a true and intoxicating story with the strong, wry wit that she poured into bestsellers like Postcards from the Edge. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in the original Star Wars when only 19 years old. Alas, aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother, Carrie also spends her free time battling addiction, weathering the wild ride of manic depression and lounging around various mental institutions. It’s an incredible tale—from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, from having the father of her daughter leave her for a man, to ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed. Entertainment Weekly declares Drinking “drolly hysterical,” and the Los Angeles Times dubs it a “Beverly Hills yard sale of juicy anecdotes.” Don’t miss this outrageous chance to get Carried away.
Carrie Fisher · Creator
Tony Taccone · Director
Alexander V. Nichols · Scenic, Lighting and Projection Design
Christina Wright · Costume Design
Heather Bradley · Sound Coordinator
Billy Philadelphia · Piano Recording
Nicole Dickerson · Stage Manager
“Carrie Fisher pioneers a strange form of tabloid theater, telling often hilariously sardonic and inappropriate tales of the many marriages of her mother Debbie Reynolds and father Eddie Fisher, numerous step-parents, marriage to Paul Simon, addictions and a great deal more in a two-hour autobiographical solo…It’s definitely funny. Fisher knows how to write wickedly comic material and, better still, how to deliver it. It’s also quite brave…Princess Leia is just telling her life story—as honestly, sardonically, fetchingly, caustically and comically as she can.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A red hot, blue and wildly funny soul-baring reminiscence…Fisher made the performance an often blue homage to a hard-knock life, filled with family difficulties, mental problems, the lifelong onus of being Princess Leia in Star Wars, booze and the sort of pharmacological lifestyle that would make Hunter S. Thompson look like a prissy teetotaler.”—Contra Costa Times
“Fisher is wickedly funny and undaunted to stand before all of us simply as herself.”—SF Bay Guardian
“Convulsively funny…A lightsaber-sharp comedy about the dark side of celebrity…Fisher is a cheerfully tart one-liner machine, regaling us with the deadpan jewels that made her autobiography, Postcards from the Edge, twinkle…The lightsaber-sharp comedy will be irresistible to anyone who knows his Jedi from his Jabba.”—San Jose Mercury News
“Frank and forthcoming and, I’m delighted to say, occasionally filthy, Wishful Drinking is a theatrical memoir with a whole lot of kick…Fisher is hilarious, which is no surprise to anyone who has read her books…She has a brilliant mind and sharp comic timing…she’s got substance under the stardust [and] boy does that voice convey dark, cynical humor beautifully.”—Oakland Tribune
“She’s an absolute riot. What a surprise performance. I could see it again, and I will…You’ll double over laughing at the skeletons in Carrie’s closet.”—KGO-AM
Prologue: from the Artistic Director
Carrie Fisher—fearlessly honest
When i was approached about directing Carrie Fisher’s show, I confess to being more than a little flabbergasted. Like many people, I was introduced to Carrie’s work through the fantastically weird lens of Princess Leia, her marriage to Paul Simon and the traumatic adventures she so entertainingly presented in Postcards From the Edge. Aside from these few voyeuristic experiences, I knew nothing about her, and so I had absolutely no idea if we would have any grounds for conversation about a show that discussed her very different life.
Upon meeting her, I was immediately struck by two things about Carrie: a searing wit and a voracious mind. Her understanding of comic language, and her conscious use of that language as a tool not only to describe the world but to survive it, was disarming and almost disquieting. She was brazenly open about her past, about the legacy of celebrity she inherited subsequently enhanced by the astounding popularity of Star Wars. She was equally open about many other aspects of her life, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer…and all other permutations of that expression. She told me about the wildness of her social escapades and her bouts with alcoholism and mental illness. We spoke about her unique position as a storyteller, about her existing simultaneously in two different worlds: personifying an exotic, famous icon in one; a hard-working comedy writer and mother in the other. She obviously had an amazingly unique experience of life, and her desire to share that experience from a fearlessly honest perspective was one that I found infectiously, overwhelmingly authentic.
This evening you will see Carrie Fisher as simply herself: ribald, smart, honest and unadorned. You will see her as a performer, yes, but you will be unable to distinguish the performer from the person because there is no difference. That is the unique mark of this particular event. It offers us a chance to peek behind the mask of character, the mythos of Hollywood and the artifice of celebrity to witness a person who recognizes the suffering, absurdity and insanity of everything around her and who brazenly chooses to laugh it off. Given the options, she will tell you, it’s her only viable choice.
The gift she is offering is that we get to laugh along with her.
Prologue: from the Managing Director
Subscribing—a habit to cultivate
Berkeley Rep has long boasted one of the most thoughtful and demanding subscription audiences in the nation. I am now proud to add that their numbers are growing. While many theatres are struggling with declining attendance, declining subscriptions and an audience that is devoid of young people, Berkeley Rep is charting its own course. Among the faces in the house tonight, you’ll see people who have been attending since our College Avenue days. You’ll also see people who have discovered us more recently. We value our long-time ticket holders and we are thrilled that so many new ones are joining them. Last season alone, over 3,000 new audience members signed on to see at least three plays at Berkeley Rep.
What interests me about these new patrons is that their reasons for making an up-front commitment of time and money are the same reasons people have purchased season tickets to Berkeley Rep for years. Our new subscribers tell us, “If I don’t subscribe, I won’t make the time to attend.” Or, “the subscription prices are tantalizingly good,” and, “by buying a series, I see work that surprises me. Sometimes I like the plays—and sometimes I don’t—but they often give me something to talk about.”
All these reasons are good reasons to sign up for a Berkeley Rep series. But my favorite is the single one that unites all our season ticket holders: they feel Berkeley Rep produces the best productions that can be seen in the Bay Area.
So when your renewal form arrives at your doorstep this month, I hope you’ll respond by signing up for next year’s exciting program. And if you are sitting in the theatre for the first time this season, consider going to our website, checking out the line up for next year and making 2008–09 the season in which you start a great new habit.
Carrie Fisher’s outtakes
Carrie Fisher was born under the watchful gaze of the public eye as the child of two of the 1950s’ brightest stars: Eddie Fisher, teen idol and superstar crooner-cum-actor, and Debbie Reynolds, tap-dance queen and movie icon. Entering the world in the spotlight kickstarted her life in high gear, a life that prominently features the proverbial sex, drugs and rock-and-roll with large helpings of therapy, panic attacks and bipolar disorder thrown in to balance things out, or unbalance them as the case may be. What follows is a glimpse of her wry yet probing perspective on life thus far—excerpts from Wishful Drinking that didn’t make it into tonight’s performance, and our favorite Carrie Fisher-isms from Postcards from the Edge.
On family and upbringing
From Wishful Drinking:
When I was really young, I saw the word “fuck” written on the handball court and I asked my mother what it meant and she said, “I’ll have to tell you later when I can draw you pictures.” Well, tragically, later never came—over time, I came to believe that those pictures would have come in handy. There’s another anecdote about my family that my grandmother married my grandfather at 15 so she could have her own room. Well, once you factor in all the other advantages, he was much older than she was, and much more knowledgeable in the ways of the world. But when it came to the wedding night, it turned out that her parents hadn’t told her about sex. My great-grandparents had just kept that off the table. So my grandmother refused to believe that this was what you had to do—this meaning the sex thing—so consequently my grandfather had to spend three days drawing pictures. In an effort to clarify this sex thing, she was suddenly expected to subject herself to the thing about all this drawing and promises of drawings. No one in my family can actually draw, so those are a set of pictures I’d like to see. I’ve never drawn my daughter any pictures that I can recall, although we’ll have to wait for her book.
I don’t just have high-class problems, they’re nosebleed high, so ultimately, you’re known as the poor little rich girl. And nobody wants to be that person, no one wants to be someone who grew up in a privileged existence that’s caught complaining about it. How unattractive is that? So I hope that no one feels that I’m complaining about anything. Any of the difficulties I’ve had in large part come from my choices, and my chemistry and the consequences of that. It has nothing to do with my upbringing. Or, not a lot. Nature vs. nurture. My brother had the same upbringing and he’s not some manic-depressive, alcoholic nut…he’s just religious. That’s a comfort to him (although you could argue that drugs were a comfort to me). They say that religion is the opiate of the masses; well, I took masses of opiates religiously.
Carrie’s birth announcement for her daughter Billie:
Someone’s summered in my stomach
Someone’s fallen through my legs
To make an infant omelet
Simply scramble sperm and eggs.
From Postcards from the Edge:
It was always like that…You did a film for a few months and you got a family. An intimate family with its own dynamic, its own in-jokes, its own likes, dislikes and romances. The intensity of it was heightened by the knowledge that it was all temporary. Not only did you know that it would end, but, give or take a week or two, you knew when. What you didn’t know was how the whole thing would turn out. It could be good entertainment, it could be bad. It could succeed, it could fail. It was mining for celluloid gold. But regardless of the outcome, you got this unnatural yet pleasant temporary bond.
She thought he looked like an old boy—someone who should wear a backpack instead of carrying a briefcase, but a very high-style backpack. She realized with dismay that this was her type of guy. She always ended up with guys like this, in relationships she likened to being partners on a school science fair project. She always felt like calling them up afterward and saying, “You left your beaker and your petri dish here. Do you want me to bring it to class tomorrow?”
She was one of those unfortunate women who did not find nice men interesting. She’d learned her lesson after him. She found undesirables desirable. She sought out unpleasant boyfriends, then complained about them as though the government had allocated them to her.
The fact that she was quite pretty—and that, on some level, she even knew it—made it all the more bizarre when she opened her mouth and Phyllis Diller came out.
She wanted to walk up to couples in the street and find out what their relationships were, as if that would somehow help her determine how hers was going. One Thursday she spent the entire afternoon in the Bodhi Tree bookstore. She discovered two things: you should communicate openly with your partner, and red meat is bad for everything, including relationships.
There was a period early on, when she knew for certain he liked her a lot, that was decidedly unpleasant. Suddenly, everything he did annoyed her, everything he did after liking her. He held his head too still. He walked like a burglar. He touched his hair a lot, and he chewed too much gum. It was prissy to be so smart, he wasn’t that smart, why was he that smart? Who was he, anyway? Why had he been available? Who had put him up to this? The Russians? That was it. The Russians had trained him to impersonate a great guy on a date in order to penetrate Hollywood through Suzanne Vale. Well, she could see through their game. Did they think she was a fool? Maybe they should try being apart for a while. Maybe they should see other people. Maybe there was someone better.
I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting. I would rather watch TV. Of course, this eventually becomes known to the other person.
On losing it
From Wishful Drinking:
So, I took a movie in Australia—it was a terrible movie but I took it ‘cause it was in Australia. I went down there and I went off the lithium. I went to all these health doctors and they put me on like, holistic lithium. Oh, that went well. And if I had ever been manic-depressive before, now I was whewwww, really wild. I called my brother because I wanted him to go with me to China because China was very near to Australia. It’s like an inch away on the map. That was how my logic was going. So my brother met me in Singapore, then we went to Hong Kong and then we went into China and I was as nutty as fruitcake. So we go to the Great Wall and the Great Wall has two parts: one is somewhere you can walk and the other side is not. The guide says to us, “Go up on the right side, that’s where all the tourists go.” So in my keen bipolar thinking, I thought, “In Disneyland at The Matterhorn we enter on the left line, it’s much faster. The Matterhorn is much better, faster, on the left line so we’re gonna go up the left part of the Great Wall of China.” That is some beautiful manic logic right there. Going up the left side was like walking up a wall. Quite literally. And in my purse I had Christmas carols playing, and we went up the wall of China singing. My brother was filming the whole trip and I thought I was riveting at every step. But I kept thinking, “Why would anyone want to be with me, blah blah blah.” And then there was a huge incident at customs. Oh it was a blast.
She was in full-tilt panic, but she tried to look like she couldn’t imagine doing anything more relaxing than standing alone at a table next to something that looked like pink whipped cream but was probably salmon mousse and picking cashews out of a bowl of nuts in a room full of celebrities in Bel Air.
On life and performance
From Wishful Drinking:
There are many downsides to being so ridiculously open. For one thing, it screws up your love life. Because you see how I’m talking to you, incredibly intimately and making myself so available to you? Well, I can do that with almost anybody, so what am I reserving exclusively for my primary relationship if I’m so intimate with everyone else? It’s inevitable that at a certain point the guy I’m with is going to feel cheated, like he’s just part of the crowd for whom I put on my Carrie Fisher talk show, or rather my never-shut-up show.
It’s almost as though if I’m not conveying myself to someone I cease to exist. If I can convince you of what I am, then you’ll give me back myself in a way that I can stomach. Plato said the unexamined life is not worth living, but the overexamined life is difficult to bear. I once wrote, “The flies are collecting on all my inspecting.” Knowledge is power, and I’ve tried so hard to learn everything I can about myself so that you can’t figure it out first. It’s a method of control. If I come in and say, “I know I’m 5 pounds overweight,” you don’t get to notice it. I own it, it’s mine, and maybe by my saying it, it matters less.
“Remember what it was like when you’d be getting ready to jump rope, and two people were turning it, and you were waiting for exactly the right moment to jump in? I feel like that all the time.”—Suzanne Vale
Show business, Suzanne thought, as this man she had just met—this man she would probably know fairly intimately by the end of the week—played with her hair. It’s all about distraction, a way of being transported out of your life, of having someone else’s life for a while. Identifying with them. Feeling relief that their predicament isn’t yours, or feeling relief that it is. A way of dreaming outside your head. Tilting your head with the actors when they kiss, thinking, “It’s so real.”
Portraying reality had become her way of experiencing it. She knew how to act like a regular person. She was self-consciously unselfconscious. She didn’t mind being watched, but on some level she minded being recorded. It was as if she became an African native the moment the cameras started rolling, and felt her soul being robbed. If the natives were right about this, Suzanne figured her soul level was unacceptably low right now.
On her way to the bathroom she passed two women in their late twenties, who were standing by the phones and talking about how they could never live in L.A. because the nice weather all the time would annoy them. “I like seasons,” one of them said. When Suzanne came out they were still there, talking now about a mutual acquaintance of theirs. “I heard she blew Don Johnson,” said the woman who liked seasons.
She had read in Vogue that there was an operation that made your lips big like Nastassia Kinski’s. Unfortunately, it involved taking skin from your vagina and moving it to your mouth. Suzanne couldn’t quite bring herself to do this, fearing that it would ruin kissing for her. Still, it rolled around in her head for weeks as a vague possibility.
Sid said that drugs weren’t the problem, life was the problem. Drugs were the solution. I think Sid has a crush on me. He gets me up in the morning by coming into my room and holding my feet until I’m totally awake. I like having my feet held, even if it is by Sid.
She wanted so to be tranquil, to be someone who took walks in the late-afternoon sun, listening to the birds and crickets and feeling the whole world breathe. Instead, she lived in her head like a madwoman locked in a tower, hearing the wind howling through her hair and waiting for someone to come and rescue her from feeling things so deeply that her bones burned. She had plenty of evidence that she had a good life. She just couldn’t feel the life she had. It was as though she had cancer of the perspective.
Carrie Fisher invites audiences to her one-woman smash hit show, Wishful Drinking.