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Letters to the Past : Exploring Relationships of a California Dynasty

July 09, 1992|ROBERT EPSTEIN

She believes her production may break some silences, may cause people to question what they have learned. "We talk but we often don't say what we feel. We don't dare," she says.

Her work has taken on its own life. Since "Tearsheets" was introduced two years ago at Highways in Santa Monica, it has been on the road, this year in the Northeast and Southwest, particularly, being changed and altered as audiences reacted to it. After this week's Pasadena engagement, "Tearsheets" will be part of the opening program later this month at UCLA's National Women's Theater Festival, then from mid-August to Sept. 5 Hotchkis will be performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.

She plans on continuing to tour the program--it requires just herself, her two partners, five suitcases of props and projectors "and two electrical outlets"--but she has other plans for her company. Her next performance piece will be about women cowboys, she says, one that will incorporate video interviews with contemporary working cattle-ranch women.

At the same time, she is developing what she calls her Elder Project, another attempt "to free the voices our culture has silenced." As she examined her cultural upbringing through her family's history, she is planning a series of personal histories with older people, having them convey through recorded conversations or songs or dances what their histories are about.

Box-office receipts pay some of "Tearsheet's" expenses. Some investors have been found and grants are being pursued for her future projects. Hotchkis is hoping the exposure of her performance piece might interest a television producer, particularly public broadcasting.

She knows television, having appeared in several series and dramas, including the role of Jack Klugman's girlfriend in "The Odd Couple" following a stage career in New York. She wrote and produced the 1975 film "The Legacy" and 10 years ago in New York she wrote and acted in her first one-woman presentation, "Bissie at the Baths," produced by Joan Tewkesbury, the story of "a middle-class woman who has lost her sense of direction in society and has a nervous breakdown."

Now, through her "Tearsheets," Joan Hotchkis has found her new sense of direction, heading for home again.

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