Ann Victoria White
Victoria White passed away peacefully on August 14, 2021. To some she will be remembered by her married name, Victoria Owens, and many will remember her as Corey White. An artist of many talents, she expressed herself as a poet, a painter, an actor, and a director before settling on her role as a playwright. In the magazine Arabesque in 1982, the poet Perie J. Longo asked White, “How did you get into playwriting?”
“I wanted to do a feminist play, and I wanted to do it with humor. I didn’t find one that suited me. That got me started. I’d never thought of myself as a writer before… It opened up a whole new world.…Humor gives it that distance.”
The first feminist play she wrote was a collaboration with Ellen Geiger and Mary Small, Toni McCarty writing the songs. Ladies, Girls, Chicks, Babes, Dames, Dolls and Bitches was a spoof of women’s roles in film. In December 1975, The Santa Barbara News-Press wrote, “The show is fresh, sassy, bold, bright, compelling and a lot more. In short, it’s a smash.”
In April, 1982, Attorney Gail Rappaport produced Victoria White’s Gertrude!, a girl-meets-girl musical about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. It played to sold out audiences. It was followed in 1989 by FISSION!, produced by Rappaport and directed by White at SBCC’s Garvin theater. The Santa Barbara Independent reported, “White has fashioned…an engaging portrait of Silkwood…FISSION! is a bold and provocative leap into little-charted musical waters.”
The Drama Coach, a comedy-drama inspired by her beloved mentor Mary Tarsi, was the first play she wrote using the name Corey White. The LA Weekly wrote, “White’s play continually surprises us with its humor, its handling of a complicated political trauma and its refusal to sentimentalize its heroine’s dilemma.” Corey White was nominated for the L.A. Weekly Theater Award for Playwriting in 1994.
She was born Ann Victoria White in Mason City, Iowa, December 6, 1934. Soon she became ”Vicki,” the precocious child of two young artists, Barbara and Robert White. Her mother claimed, “She was dictating stories as soon as she could talk.”
When she was seventeen, her talent was recognized in Seventeen Magazine. In January 1952, Seventeen published both her poetry and her powerful paintings of wild horses. The magazine reported, “At seventeen, her work is rich, vivid…It was only last year that Vicki had a one-man show in Los Angeles.”
She attended Hollywood High and The Happy Valley School in Ojai. White later studied at the renowned Goodman Theater School in Chicago and earned her B.A. in Theater at UCSB.
In the Seventies, she was instrumental in operating Santa Barbara’s Baudelaire’s, an Avant Garde night spot famous for its live jazz and for its weekly improvisational revue. Stagefright! was the improv comedy group with Victoria White and Laezer Schlomkowitz founding members. The Santa Barbara News and Reviews wrote on March 23, 1973, “The company is very well-rehearsed, and it shows, not only in the expert comic timing, but also in the constant influx of new material.” Stagefright! also played the Comedy Club in L.A.
White continued painting and writing, delighting friends with her sense of humor and her insightful conversation. She loved a fresh carafe of coffee, (hold the martinis,) a bouquet of wildflowers, a willing horse, jazz devas, a game of bridge, the yellow motorcycle, a coven of cats, some men, and many more women.
In the past few years, she experienced dementia, yet managed to maintain her warm spirit and her zany way of looking at things. When eventually she was ready to go, she simply stopped eating. On Saturday, August 14, 2021, she died, and left us wishing for one more curtain call. Her ashes will be scattered with roses at sea.
“The Empress” from Deck, Poems for the Tarot, Corey White (2000)
Oh she had grace and elegance that defied
Even the wild hogs rutting, even the starved
wolf would roll upon its back with a lolling smile.
Flocks of birds, at the lift of an eyebrow flew
down, horses in the pasture nudged her arm.
All of us longed for her company, I did
cartwheels on the lawn in hope of a glance.
Why, I wasn’t sure, except I knew she loved
the world and the world in turn loved her
and there was a secret I could learn—if only
I could run fast enough to catch her, hold tight
to the hem of her honey-colored skirt.