A Personal Response to Violet

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 by Roundabout

The organization myFace recently reached out to us to share a personal response to the musical Violet  by journalist and blogger Jeryl Brunner.

myFace, was founded and continues to provide sustaining support for the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center to ensure that patients with craniofacial disfigurements receive state-of-the art, personalized, and integrated team care regardless of the severity or type of the condition, length of the treatment, or financial means of the family. The Institute treats over 2,000 patients each year, 85% of them children, 95% of whom are in long-term care. myFace is concerned not only with the physical effects but also the devastating emotional impacts of facial deformity and addresses all of the psycho-social needs of patients and their families through The Newman Family Support Center, which was created in 2011 and housed within the IRPS.

Ms. Brunner has been kind enough to let us reproduce her blog post here. You can read it in full below:

By Jeryl Brunner

“YOU have got to see this show!” It was 1997 and my editor was emphatic. At the time, I was working at a popular entertainment and celebrity magazine that was known for placing beautiful actresses on the cover. My editor knew my story, or at least parts of it. I was born with a severe unilateral cleft lip and palate. I had surgery after surgery to wipe it all away, yet was forever disappointed. But my scars were so very deep. They reached to my heart.

Day after day at work, I would stare at the photos of those seemingly flawless actresses and wish I were them. I thought, if I looked like those women, then I would be good enough, worthy enough - deserving of love and joy.  As Violet would say, “I’d like a pair of Gene Tierney eyes and Ava Gardner’s eyebrows...” That would give me everything I needed (or so I thought).

I listened to my editor and saw this miracle of a show. I sat motionless in the intimate theater at Playwrights Horizons, breathless. Violet spoke to me.  In many was, I was her longing so much to be transformed. All my life, I turned to surgery again and again to solve everything. But like Violet, I couldn't really see.

Many years later, in 2009, I met Jeanine Tesori and had the chance to tell her how much I loved Violet. She mentioned that the show had a special place in her heart too. I shared how I longed to see Violet staged again in New York. I knew that there was more I had to learn from Violet. There was so much to be gleaned from the gentle wisdom of this simple yet-richly complex masterpiece of a show.

And now Violet has been revived. Once again, the cast is inspired. The music is gorgeous. The show is still so profoundly beautifully uplifting. And this time, I finally I got it. I understood. For so long, I didn’t understand that my healing lay far beyond my surgeries. Just maybe my self-worth doesn’t begin and end with my face. Maybe it sounds too simple, but it took me so long to figure this out:  When I hinge everything solely on my looks, without feeling good enough within, I will always be disappointed and never feel truly beautiful.

In Violet, as the wise Flick sings: "You’ve got to give yourself a reason to rejoice. Cause the music you make counts for everything. Now every living soul has got a voice. You’ve got to give it room. And let it sing."

As Edith Wharton says, “there are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” In many ways, Violet has been my mirror. And I am so profoundly grateful to Jeanine Tesori, director Leigh Silverman, Sutton Foster, Joshua Henry, Colin Donnell, Alexander Gemignani and the entire cast of Violet for inspiring me to illuminate my voice and let it sing.

Violet plays at the American Airlines Theatre through August 10. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, Violet

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