Ever wonder what it would have been like to grow up on the Straus family farm? Or, what that experience might look performed as a one-woman show — with cheese? Then you definitely won’t want to miss Vivien Straus’ E-i-E-i-OY! – In Bed with the Farmer’s Daughter.
All her childhood, while she grew up on the family dairy farm in Marshall, Straus dreamed of more than cows.
“I wanted nothing more than to leave the farm and go to the big city,” she said. And, that’s what she did, acting in New York and Los Angeles, with bit parts in movies and on TV. But, as soon as she left it, she missed the farm.
When the family dairy became the Straus Family Creamery and went all organic in 1994, Vivien pitched in to help it succeed. She became the vice president of marketing — a position she held for 11 years — and created the Cheese Trail to promote cheeses in Marin and Sonoma. But, she couldn’t shake the acting bug, so instead she traveled back and forth to L.A. and even performed an earlier version of her one-woman show at the San Francisco Fringe Festival in 2002.
It wasn’t until 2008 that she realized her passions had changed. She moved back north for good, settling in Petaluma, and now works in marketing for Cowgirl Creamery part-time and does consulting part-time with the UC Agriculture extension program, helping three farms in the Sacramento area develop agri-tours. But, she still loves acting.
So, last summer, with encouragement from her writing group, she began rewriting and reworking the autobiographical play she had performed 12 years ago, which she will be performing throughout April in San Francisco.
The show is “85-95% true,” said Straus. With the rewriting, she condensed timelines and characters, but the events all happened, she said. The play is based on advice her father gave her about how to find a husband, which she may have taken too literally. “A guy came over and never left,” she said — not until she was able to stand up for herself. To do that, Straus plays 15 different characters throughout the show, including her father, the guy who wouldn’t leave, a therapist, a number of San Francisco residents, and her mother.
In case you couldn’t tell, it’s a comedy, a “tragic comedy,” she said. And, there are plenty of bits about cows and farming too. “You’ll learn some about cows and some about my family along the way,” she said.
But, what would Straus’ autobiographical show be without cheese?
Because her love of farming and her experience with the dairy is so much a part of her story, Straus asked the local cheesemakers she knows, which is pretty much all of them, if they’d be interested in participating. Now, each performance will also feature a complimentary cheese-tasting.
The show is drawing interest and the first weekend has already sold out. Straus is hoping to break even and then who knows. She’s working on more shows, including a “comedy about my mother’s death,” she said.
“I might as well put my adventures on the stage,” she said. “We’re all dysfunctional” — even the Straus’s.
If you go:
E-i-E-i-OY! – In Bed with the Farmer’s Daughter
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., April 4 – May 10
NOHSpace Theater, 2840 Mariposa St., San Francisco