By some standards, Vicki Juditz was most successful when she was someone else. But in the last four years, she has found that she has an award-winning talent for being herself.
When she lived in New York City, Juditz made a comfortable living as an actress in commercials. As she says, people would buy anything from her. But something was missing.
Since moving to Los Angeles she has discovered the world of storytelling, basing her work on her own life. Although it has not been as lucrative as commercials, she says, it gives her creative control of the product. It's also won her critic's choice awards from the L.A. Weekly and Drama-Logue.
Juditz will perform her most recent work, "Teshuva, Return" at 8 p.m. Friday at the Joslyn Fine Arts Gallery, 3320 Civic Center Drive in Torrance. The one-woman show chronicles Juditz's conversion from Christianity to Judaism. She begins with a description of her relationship with a boyfriend who wanted her to convert.
Although she says she changes the time frames and facts in the piece for pacing and emotional impact, the material comes from real life.
"I don't make up events," she says.
Most professional storytellers rely on scripts or standard tales to showcase their acting talent. When she first started, Juditz tried to develop fictional characters.
"I was bad," she says unequivocally.
Then her father died of a heart attack one Christmas Eve, while he was on his way to visit her. Writing down every detail of the events that followed helped her understand the tragedy and see how she was affected by his death. It also brought her an understanding of what she wanted to write about.
"Nothing can be more humorous or sad than the truth," Juditz says.
In the last four years she has produced 10 pieces, three of which are solo shows. Her work falls somewhere between traditional storytelling and performance art, but her mild demeanor and lack of props confuse some members of the audience.
"They don't understand why I don't break into song," she said.
Because she comes from nine generations of teachers, entertaining is not enough for her. Juditz wants to provoke the audience into thinking about their own lives. In each piece, she says, it's important to have a universal message.
"Teshuva, Return" examines the issue of responsibility in the world, specifically for the Holocaust. Upon reflection, she says, she realized she was not too different from her German Lutheran family members--who chose to do nothing to stop the Holocaust. One of the reasons she converted to Judaism was to create a strong moral base for her life, she said.
Juditz appears as part of the spring season of Works in Progress presented by the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. For ticket information, call (310) 781-7171.