VIVIENNE ( VIVIAN ) H. GIESEN
aka Joan Croydon
Born : 15th May 1908 - Tarrytown, NY.
Died : 23rd May 1985 - New York, NY. - buried Kensico Cemetary, Valhalla, NY.
Married : Guy Spaull ( b. 1904 - 1980 ) - buried
Kensico Cemetary, Valhalla, NY.
Children : Malcolm Guy Spaull m. Elaine
Parents : (M) C.W. Gieson, (F) Nina _
Actress / Dancer ( known as Orrea )
She was trained as a dancer at Isadora Duncan dance school. She was cast as a substitute lead nun in Max Reinhardt's The Miracle in a later production in 1924 that Norina Matchabelli also starred as she did in the original production in 1911.
Vivienne & Guy's son Malcom - film-maker, since 2009 the president of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) 's Graduate
School of Film and Animation in Rochester, New York and currently produces videos and also a documentary for PBS.
Check-out Malcolm's documentary : https://vimeo.com/112191189
NOTE : You can click on the under-scored names to visit their web pages on this website.
Vivienne Giesen first met Meher Baba in London in early December 1932, during Baba's 4th visit to the West.
By late March 1933, Vivienne was sailing to India with a group of English
and American followers and admirers. This visit to India lasted 20 days , whereupon, they then returned by ship to Europe. Vivienne waited for Baba's return to London, meanwhile, she took acting stage roles
across England especially in the local production of 'The Miracle".
Later in mid-October 1933, Vivienne meets Meher Baba when he visits London, his 6th visit to the West. This is the last mention of Vivienne especially in the Lord Meher
Vivienne departed England on the 12 April 1934 for New York. ( see letters below )
After working under her birth name for several years in NY theatres she
changed her name to Joan Croydon and forged a whole new career in acting.
It's not known currently, whether Vivienne's mother Nina or herself
visited the Harmon, NY property when Baba visited in 1931 & 1932. Their family
home was in Pleasantville, NY which was nearby.
The bulk of the images of Vivienne came from DVD-video "I am the One Reality" by Buzz & Wendy Connor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqEWdFiq-M0&feature=emb_err_woyt
Those images are from the Elizabeth Patterson Archive Collection.
Most of the written content came from Bhau Kalchuri's epic 20 Vol. book set "Lord Meher" which has an on-line version at http://www.lordmeher.org/rev/index.jsp
The letters that were sent to Meher Baba from both Vivienne ( Orrea ) & her mother Nina are courtesy of the Avatar Meher Baba Trust Digital Archives.
Early December 1932
Baba and the mandali arrived in Venice on Friday, 2 December 1932. They were met there by Elizabeth Patterson, Norina Matchabelli, Nadine Tolstoy and Quentin Tod. They then traveled by train towards London, arriving in Milan on the 4th, where Enid Corfe and another devotee met them. The group stayed overnight at the Hotel Diana, leaving at 5:00 P.M. the next evening. Baba arrived in Paris at 6:00 A.M. on the 6th and left for London at noon, arriving the same day.
Meanwhile Kitty Davy and the others in the Kimco group had arranged for Baba's seven-day stay at the Knightsbridge Hotel. No sooner had Baba arrived than his lovers enthusiastically flocked to be near him. This was the first opportunity Elizabeth and Norina had to meet the London group.
Norina had many acquaintances in London and she brought them to meet her Beloved. Among them were Countess Catherine ("Kitty") Pahlen of Russia, Baroness Rothschild, Lady Stella Vitelleschi, and Vivienne Giesen. "Baba was teaching his gopis to sing his Song," Age observed, "so that others might be drawn to the Master Musician. The Song is contained only in the Wine, which reverberates its strains. And who, except the Saki, can bestow this wine of love?"
HOTEL DIANA, MILAN, ITALY
KNIGHTSBRIDGE HOTEL, LONDON, ENGLAND
Late March 1933
After some days, Baba held a meeting with the men mandali and gave detailed instructions to Pendu, Vishnu and Adi Sr. about arrangements for the Westerners' visit. A complete itinerary for travel through India was chalked out. Chanji was sent to Bombay for the same purpose. Baba went to Bhandardara with the close women mandali for four days from 25 to 29 March 1933 and then took the women to Kandivali ( in Bombay ) on 3 April. Besides Mehera, Mani, Naja, Big Khorshed, Soonamasi and Small Khorshed, Freiny and Gulmai and her daughter Dolly were also with him, along with Pilamai and her daughter Silla.
28th March 1933
The Western group had met in Europe and sailed together from Genoa on 28 March aboard the SS Victoria. The London group consisted of Kitty, Margaret, Mabel, Audrey, Minta, Delia, Christine and Quentin; the Americans were Elizabeth, Norina and Vivienne Giesen (who replaced Kim Tolhurst whose husband did not want her to go). They arrived in Bombay on Friday, 7 April 1933.
28th March 1933 - ( L-R ) STANDING : Kitty Davy, Delia De Leon, Norina Matchabelli, Minta Toledano, Vivienne Giesen, Christine McNaughton, Audrey Williams. SITTING : Mabel Ryan, Quentin Tod, Margaret Craske. Photo taken by Elizabeth Patterson in Genoa on board the SS Victoria prior to departure for India.
28th March 1933 - ( L-R ) STANDING : Minta Toledano, Kitty Davy, ?, Delia De Leon, ?, Vivienne Giesen, Mabel Ryan, Kenneth Ross, Christine McNaughton, Norina Matchabelli, Edith Corfe, Elizabeth Patterson SITTING : Margaret Craske, Audrey Williams.
Photo possibly taken by Quentin Tod in
Genoa on board the SS Victoria prior to departure for India. Image is from the
video "I am the One Reality" .
Sailing to India on the SS Victoria ; ( L-R ) Vivienne Giesen, Delia De Leon, Mabel Ryan, Norina Matchabelli ( laying ) also Elizabeth Patterson.
7th April 1933 - continued ...
The Bombay lovers went to the pier to welcome them; Freiny and Dina Talati gave each of the new arrivals a wreath of flowers. The mandali in charge took the group to the Majestic Hotel, where they could bathe and rest.
7th April 1933 - continued ...
At 2:00 P.M. the group was taken to Kandivali ( in Bombay ), where they were in for a surprise. All rushed inside, expecting to greet Baba. Instead they were met by Small Khorshed, who said to them in broken English, "Baba found! Baba found!"
Baba had hidden himself in the house, and had instructed Khorshed to tell the Westerners to find him. Khorshed did not know much English, so she was repeating what she thought was the correct message. This made everyone laugh and someone then explained that they were to look for Baba. All participated in the fun game of "Avataric Hide-and-Seek," and Delia eventually found him.
7th April 1933 - continued ...
When Baba came out, Mehera, his queen, and the other women mandali were with him, dressed in gorgeous saris. This was the first time with Baba that they had an occasion and the permission to wear fine clothes. Baba introduced Mehera, and the Western women saw that she was just as Baba had described — pure and beautiful. They were then introduced to Mani, Freiny, Gulmai, Naja, Big Khorshed and Small Khorshed. Gulmai's daughter Dolly was not present; she was ill in bed. The ladies exchanged presents with their Indian sisters and the women mandali dressed the Western women in saris.
NASIK, MS., INDIA
9th April 1933
At 6:00 A.M. on Sunday, 9 April 1933, Baba took the Eastern ladies back to Nasik and then went to Bhandardara. The Westerners joined Baba there at 4:00 P.M. on the 10th, and stayed for three days. Baba took them sailing on the lake and led them on hikes. Baba once especially asked them to be with him wherever he went. As they were returning from a long walk, they saw an unusual sight — lightning, clouds, sunset and the rising moon at the same time. Christine had gone on ahead despite Baba's order and he showed his displeasure that everyone was not there to see the view.
12th April 1933
After staying in Bhandardara, Baba and the group left by train from Igatpuri for Agra on Wednesday, 12 April 1933. There were 20 people accompanying Baba, including the Westerners, Adi Jr., Jalbhai, Adi Sr., Chanji, Ghani, Gustadji, Kaka, Pendu and Vishnu. When the train arrived at Nasik Road Station, shouts of "Sadguru Meher Baba ki jai" rent the air as hundreds crowded onto the platform for Baba's darshan. When the train came to a halt, the crowd rushed toward Baba's compartment with loud cheers. Some fell weeping at his feet, and some kissed his feet and the hem of his garment — an illuminating sight indeed for his Western lovers.
13th April, 1933
Reaching Agra on the afternoon of 13 April, they stayed at Laurie's Hotel. Baba sent Adi Sr., Pendu and Vishnu in advance to Srinagar to arrange for the group's lodging in Kashmir. After a rest and dinner at the hotel, at 9:30 Baba took the group to see the Taj Mahal by moonlight. The gopis were enthralled by the sight of the rising full moon beyond the stunning monument.
After some remarks about the grandeur of the Taj Mahal, Adi Jr. commented to Kitty, "There is nothing spiritual about it. It is a mausoleum dedicated only to a human love — a king's love for his queen. How much greater it would have been had Shah Jahan dedicated it to the worship of God."
Baba motioned to Norina asking what she had to say about the Taj Mahal. Norina replied, "Since I have seen you, no other beauty can satisfy or affect me!"
Baba smiled, gesturing, "And still you have not seen my real beauty and splendor!"
The next day Baba took them again to see the Taj Mahal by daylight and there announced a change of plans. The Westerners had been called to India to stay for six months and had left jobs, homes, businesses, families and friends.
Now, after less than a week in India, Baba informed them that, after the trip to Kashmir, they would have to return home to await his arrival in the West. It was a shock to them, but as he had done when he left the Harmon Retreat ( New York State, US.) earlier than scheduled and postponed breaking his silence, Baba was once again teaching them obedience, flexibility and steadfastness to him under all circumstances. Would they obey him? "Yes," they replied earnestly, and Baba was very happy.
There are no more mentions of Vivienne for the remainder of this visit to India in Lord Meher.
A more thorough account of this visit to India by the Westerners is found under the "Event" folder - 1933 Westerners visit to India.
Click on the link : https://www.meherbabatravels.com/events/1933-westerners-visit-to-india/
The following images feature Vivienne in different parts of India during this short visit.
After returning to London with the other Westerners, Vivienne was invited to join some of the Westerners to meet Meher Baba in Portofino, Italy in early July, 1933.
Early July 1933 - Portofino
The group was large. Adi Jr., Chanji, Elizabeth and Enid were usually typing for Baba and Otto; Elizabeth was also driving the car and doing the accounting; Norina did translation work and correspondence; Quentin handled some correspondence; Kitty, Anita, Delia, Mabel, Margaret, Minta and Vivienne shared in the household management; Herbert was writing an account of his adventures in Russia and also working on Baba's writings; and Kaka and Pendu were helping prepare the meals.
10th July 1933 - Portofino ( 8th Silence Anniversary )
After tea, Baba took about fifteen of them for a walk along the cliffs, informing them, "We will get good exercise today, climbing up and down the cliffs, which I always like to do whenever near them. So remember, be with me wherever I go. Stay near me and don't get separated. Keep together."
After looking at the beautiful Italian sky, Baba took them down a steep cliff to the sea. They were all together up to a certain point, but then some began to lag behind due to their usual chatter. At the last descent to the sea, some stayed back because the incline was too steep and dangerous. Only Baba, Herbert and Vivienne reached the bottom. When Baba did not see the others, he loudly clapped for them to join him. Anita came fast and the others tried to follow slowly, but they could not make it down. Quentin suggested they turn back, so the others retraced their steps, rejoined Quentin and Mabel at the top and returned to the villa.
Instead of returning the way they had come, Baba said they would take a shortcut and he began climbing back along another ridge. Nimble and light-footed, Baba scaled the smooth, rocky surface, and Herbert, Vivienne and Anita had no choice but to follow. Baba was gentle with the young ladies, helping them over the difficult spots by stretching out a hand to pull them up. Herbert thought that this venture was symbolic of following the Master under all circumstances, even in the face of danger, and he boldly climbed upward, confident of Baba's protection.
Baba's last signal had been for them to come up, so Herbert told Vivienne to come. She tried valiantly, but her strength was slowly ebbing.
They were too scared to look down and shouted to Baba for help. Herbert was gradually slipping from his precarious perch where loose dirt and slippery moss covered the rock. Any movement would have pushed down earth and rocks into the face of Vivienne, who was clinging desperately to a depression in the rock and pressing her body to the smooth surface, unable to move. Anita was below her, trying to hold steady.
By this time, Vivienne was terrified and shouting at the top of her lungs, "BABA! BABA!" She could not let go, as she would fall 15 to 20 feet onto Anita and then roll down another 300 feet to the sea. Also growing anxious, Herbert tried to reassure her that help was coming and to hold on. Anita was more perplexed than afraid and wondered how on earth this could have happened on a walk with Baba. The line, "A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only once," kept going through her mind.
Pendu then appeared at the top of the cliffs with a rope. He tied the rope to a tree. Baba began climbing down it and Pendu followed him, dropping pebbles on Baba as they descended. The rope wasn't long enough to reach those stranded, so Pendu went further down and extended his arm to pull Herbert and Vivienne up. Pendu then slid further down the side of the cliff and told Anita to grab his leg, which she did, and she too was rescued. Anita recounted:
10th July 1933 - Portofino- continued...
Back at the villa, Baba's mood changed and he seemed to enjoy the excitement of this spice of danger and was as happy as a schoolboy. As Anita described it, he appeared positively radiant. He called all into the library and narrated the adventure. With his own hands, he served a glass of wine to Herbert, Anita and Vivienne, and commented, "I wanted to give this experience to all of you, but some did not stick with me, as I had repeatedly warned. To be with me and to die according to my wish is real living. I have done great work through this adventure. The energies expended, the feelings aroused and the courage displayed were utilized by me in my spiritual work."
11th October 1933 - London
Delia's brother Jack made the Q Theater available to Baba and the group on the evening of the 11th. Baba went there and saw Margaret, Norina, Vivienne, Mabel, Quentin, Minta, Anita and Delia perform different types of dances and humorous skits. Minta danced a rumba with Quentin, for which Margaret did the choreography. Norina acted in a short play, but she got carried away, took off her shoe and knocked Minta on the head! Baba thoroughly enjoyed the evening's entertainment.
16th October 1933 - London
Baba went to dinner that evening at Countess Pahlen's home (at 23 Jubilee Place, King's Road) in Chelsea and was accompanied by Herbert, Kitty, Vivienne, Quentin, Elizabeth, Norina, Stephanie, Chanji, Kaka and Adi Jr. The countess had invited about fifteen of her friends, who were mostly exiled Russian royalty.
18th October 1933 - London
At 4:00 P.M. on the 18th, Nonny and Rano promptly entered Hygeia House to meet the Eternal Beloved. They were greeted by Ruano, who told them with sympathy that Baba was very tired and would not be able to see them then. They were dumbstruck. Crestfallen, they were taken to meet Norina, Elizabeth and the Kimco group. While they were talking about Baba, he sent a message: "Since you have come from such a long distance, I will see you. But you must not ask anything or talk to me. You should leave after seeing me."
Afterwards, Rano was with her mother and Ruano, discussing their individual meetings when Vivienne Giesen came dancing into the room in her "airy" way.
Draped around the door, she sang out in dramatic fashion, "R-u-a-n-o! BABA wants you." Ruano hurriedly scampered from the room, leaving Rano and Nonny to look at each other. They did not care for Vivienne's theatrical behavior and Rano wondered to herself: "What have we gotten into?" She had never seen Ruano heed anyone's beck-and-call, and the whole scene struck her as somewhat strange.
37 Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale, London
Stage Play: Major Barbara. Comedy (revival)
East side - West side - TV Series
Episode : "I before E except after C " - role ; Mrs. Mapes
The Doctors & Nurses aka The Nurses - TV Series
Ep. 1 : "The Third Generation " - role ; the land lady
Theatre 62 - TV Series
Episode : "Rebecca"... role ; ?
Armstrong Circle Theatre - TV Series
Episode : "The Zone of Silence"... role ; ?
The Golden Age of Television - TV Series
Ep. 1 : "The Wound Within"... role ; a nurse
Stage Play: Compulsion
Drama. Dramatization (Producer's Version) by Meyer Levin. Original Music by Cy Coleman. Musical Director: Cy Coleman. Directed by Alex Segal. Ambassador Theatre: 24 Oct 1957- 22 Feb 1958 (140 performances). Cast: Roddy McDowall (as "Artie Straus"), Dean Stockwell (as "Judd Steiner ") Michael Constantine (as "Al, Owner of a Speakeasy/Jonathan Wilk, The Defense Attorney"), Joan Croydon (as "Mrs. Straus"). Note: This was a thinly veiled dramatization of the infamous Leopold-Leob murder. Filmed as Compulsion (1959).
(1957) Stage Play: The Potting Shed. Drama. Written by Graham Greene. Directed by Carmen Capalbo. Bijou Theatre (moved to The John Golden Theatre, from 22 Apr 1957- close): 20 Jan 1957- 1 Jun 1957 (143 performances). Joan Croydon (as "Miss Connolly"). Produced by Carmen Capalbo and Stanley Chase.
Mama - TV Series
Episode : "Katrin's Office Romance"... role ;?
Hands of Mystery - TV Series
Ep. 1 "The Forbidden Field"
The Philco Television Playhouse - TV Series
Episode : "The Man Who Bought a Town" .....role ; Mrs. Dennis
Stage Play: The First Crocus
Stage Play: Pygmalion
Stage Play: Coriolanus
Giesen appeared with Martha Graham in "Electra" at the Copley Theater in Boston in 1931.
Note : Meher Baba visited Boston for a couple of days in early December 1931. He stayed at the then Vendome Hotel which was then located also on Dartmouth Street, but 6 blocks from the Copley Theatre. The whole block where the theatre was located made way for a road network in the 1990s.
Opened : 1st May 1934 - 12th May 1934 ; 15 performances
The Emperor’s Nightingale is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Nightingale, set in 18th-century China, and brings to light the youthful exploits of the future Emperor Qianlong. He befriends a magical bird who helps him learn what he must do to be King. The play employs traditional Chinese lion dance, puppetry, and a pair of tigers and pandas to tell this fun, thrilling tale.
In 1934, The Theater of Young America presented “The Chinese Nightingale” with music by my father, Alan Shulman,at the Cosmopolitan Theatre. The show opened on October 5, 1934 and ran for 8 performances. Flora LeBreton starred and the orchestra was conducted by Dr. Francis Gromon. In 1947, as the Majestic Theatre, is was used by International Records to record the Stuyvesant String Quartet and the New Friends of Rhythm. www.alanshulman.com
- Vivian Giesen
- as Ilonka
June 10, 1935
World Premiere of Robert Raynolds' "The Ugly Runts"
with Tom Powers, Vivienne Giesen, McKay Morris, and Sorel and Vilan.
THE MICHIGAN DAILY
16 January, 1924 to June 1924
"The Miracle" - Century Theatre ( 2,320 seats )
Central Park West @ W.62nd St., New York
- 175 performances
The wordless play written by Karl Vollmöller was first performed in London in 1911.
The play was revived on Broadway in 1924 after a tour of Detroit, Milwaukee and Dallas. The New York version, which opened in January 16, 1924 at the Century Theatre was produced by Morris Gest, and starred Rosamond Pinchot as the Nun and Lady Diana Cooper and Maria Carmi ( Norina Matchabelli ) alternating nightly in the role of the Madonna, as was for the role of the Nun.
Sometime into this production, Vivienne Giesen replaced Pinochot in the Nun role. Because of their future travels
together, it seems a friendship emerged between Norina & her young apprentice Vivienne. ( Vivienne was 16 y.o. & Norina was 43 y.o.
It appears that Vivienne enrolled into Norina's Brooklyn International Theater Arts
Institute, Remsen St., Brooklyn, NY., which opened in 1926 after her role in The
Miracle had finished.
Seven years later in April 1933, both ladies travelled to India, to be with Meher Baba for several weeks and in his orbit for some time afterwards.
DINNER DANCE BENEFIT
The dinner dance for the benefit of the Westchester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, to be held at Briarclff Lodge on Saturday evening of this week, promises to be a most successful affair. In order to insure plenty of entertainment for those who do not dance, the committee has secured the services of Miss Vivienne H. Gieson, a solo dancer of exceptionable talent, who will give four numbers during the evening. The gay sipectacle of the throng of dancers in brilliant gowns, relieved by the sombre black of mansculine evening dress, will probably entertain the non-dancers sufficiently during the rest of the evening, but card tables will be provided also for all who wish
to use them.
The dinner is at 8 o’clock and the Lodge bus will meet the train from New York which reaches Scarborough.
Irvington Gazette, Westminster, New York : 14th Sept.1923
Mrs. Florence. Harmon Dock, Chairman of this branch of the Federation, presided. She opened the meeting with remarks on the changed status of women in the present and Introduced Mrs. Fairchild, of Tarrytown, who led the gathering charmingly in “America” and other songs at this point and later in the meeting. Mrs. Dock then presented Miss Vivienne Giesen, who pleased all by her two. dances, illustrating the woman of yesterday and of to-day, and was warmly applauded.
Irvington Gazette, Westchester, New York : 6th July 1923
LETTERS TO MEHER BABA FROM VIVIENNE ( ORREA )
3rd August 1933
25th December 1933 - London
LETTERS TO MEHER BABA FROM VIVIENNE'S MOTHER ( NINA )
August 1933 - 5 Ascott Ave, London, W5 3XL
27th October 1933
25th December 1933
9th January 1934 - England
( 6 shillings 1934 converts to $US 30.00 today )
20th February 1934 - England
12th April 1934 - Pleasantville, N.Y.
10th December 1934 - New York