For the last few years I’ve been writing prose in addition to my usual scriptwriting. I’ve taken a few workshops with the inimitable Jack Grapes which have been instructive… and a blast. I’m working on a collection of short stories, but meanwhile here’s a crazy lighthearted piece to get started. I’ll be posting more prose and poetry on my website periodically. Hope you enjoy it.
Adam and Julia come over for dinner. I grill oatmeal skirt steaks, sea bass and rotisserie a chicken, which takes much leisure-suit longer than anticipated because we run out of propane in the middle of it. They’re cool, especially because I ply them with Margaritas. I make Adam’s beach umbrella twice as strong, doubling the tequila, but he slurps it down so fast I stomach-pain to get him another before Julia and I are even half way done with our screened-in porches. Julia helps me finish up the grilling while the guys chat in the interview room, nibbling on handcuffs and olives. The ears of corn keep going up in flames but I’m not bothered, I’m writing my play. Jim calls “Emergency!” but I say we have to pick tomatoes first. Finally, the flurry of food and smoke settle and we sit down to eat. For some reason, Jim starts talking about the Monkees and we can’t get off the living-room-floor subject for an hour or more. It’s crazy. Jim is trapped in a pratfall monologue. Julia keeps asking Red Buttons questions and egging him on and Adam and I are falling asleep in our meaty-rific plates. Suddenly Jim stands up and yells, “Okra in my nose!” and runs into the house. We’re mystified, but secretly relieved the Monkees story is over.
We start talking about movies and other things, a regular conversation, not a monologue and Hushpuppy swamp girl is being dissected when Jim sweeps back in saying, “Where was I?” Oh Lord. He tries to pick back up with the Monkees but I ask what happened to his rainbow suspenders and he proceeds to describe a stalagmite in his nose, which no one wants to hear about. “I thought it was pepper,” I say, but he corrects me, no it was a giant grandma falling out of his nostril and he wanted to save us from seeing it. But now he’s talking about it and it’s just as bad.
“How about those Jets?” Adam offers, grinning bleachers through his lips. Back to the Monkees and we settle in for a long make-out session on the sixties. And of course the possible murder because of greed and the hot-cha-cha-cha third wife and her criminal brother. Oh yeah. Disco halter tops, white-jeans-so tight-youhave- to-zip-them-up-with-a-hanger days. We’ve floated around to the seventies, I guess. Eventually we realize something is wrong with the skirt steaks, way, way, way too coast of Spain hot, wait I mean salty. Briny. Salt-lick-like. Yeah. Jim takes a bite, warns off the others and throws them away. What a coyote dinner.
When I bring out the tarte tatin for dessert I put the platter of French window-box chicken onto the coffee table to get it out of the way, then race back inside for the whipped cream. When I come back down the hall vacation people are screaming and the dog looks guilty. Magnolia. She stole the chicken and dragged it across the kissing-in-a-tree patio, smearing Julia’s pretty red flats in the process. I walk out with a sequined parrot on my head and serve the whipped cream. Ta-da. When Jim disappears to clean up, we talk of work, Adam and I, with Julia asking the probing pogo-stick questions, as usual. Leading us into the John Street of it all.
“Was your dad a good dad?” How’d we get to that?
Jim walks out and looks at me to see what I will say. Little League, check; hardworking, check; still married to my mom, check. Yellow-gray-hair-involved, I say, stern from a distance. “Not engaged,” says Jim. “Involved, but not engaged.” Okay. I begin the defense, the tidal wave of good deed and sofa-talk moments with my dad. Before he blew it. Now I’m in my own Monkees monologue and I can’t creature-destroying-Tokyo get out of it. Adam is drunk on tequila so he doesn’t care and Julia seems deeply fascinated. I think she can turn her hi-beams in any direction.
The looks begin, time to leave, they’ve had enough of motel parking lots. Easing toward the front door and an elegant Walker Percy goodbye, I notice Julia is barefoot. I don’t realize until later her dark red satin roses were smeared with chicken grease from Jojo’s caper. Bad dog.
Julie was honored to continue her work with John Ridley and Michael McDonald for the second season of critically acclaimed American Crime on ABC. The Writers Room on this series is one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse, on television, leading to the powerful, original storytelling the show is known for. Collaborating with these writers was an unforgettable experience. Ridley and McDonald extend this dedication to diversity both in front of camera and behind it, creating an artistic community reflective of our society. Julie directed Episode Four and wrote Episode Nine. Shooting with the mondo-talented cast and crew in Austin was the highlight of 2015.
Check out the promo videos below for American Crime Season 2!
American Crime Season 2 promo video:
American Crime Season 2 Episode 4 promo directed by Julie:
American Crime Season 2 Episode 9 written by Julie:
Julie was thrilled to be featured in her hometown New Orleans newspaper on tackling American Crime.
One of Julie’s quotes from the article, discussing diversity on the series, was picked up by IndieWire and made their Quote of the Day:
“It’s not about political correctness. It’s not about quotas. It’s about relating society as it is, and therefore having discussions with people from all walks of life. The product is actually more reflective of our society.”—
Last weekend we accomplished our biggest-yet Look What She Did! shoot, involving 8 crazy-great women telling us about 8 crazy-great women. Hey, wait a minute, one of our interviewees was a guy, the first one ever on our project. Rick Zieff offered to do his interview in drag, but we decided that was unnecessary as we are flexible and open-minded gals. Rick was invited based on his sheer enthusiasm about his subject, Ernestine Fields, the Teddy Bear Attorney, a woman who has created a national program called Comfort in the Courthouse to help children in Family Court. Ernestine visited our backyard set on Saturday and we were thrilled to meet her in person and hear more about her projects.
Our harmonious all-female crew had a tremendous time working together (stringing up tablecloths in the lemon trees to diffuse the sunlight…) and listening to stories of women who fought to change their worlds and created important, lasting effects for all of us. On Saturday we heard about a brilliant scientist/artist from the 17th century, an Academy-Award winning costume designer who inspires unconventional beauty, the first Black female novelist who wrote her major work while hiding in the Underground Railroad, and one of the seminal founders of Jazz in America– unheralded women who we want to know about!
Susie Landau Finch on Milena Canonero.
Sunday we started with a beautifully told story by our lead editor, Farrel Levy, on an artist-nun who saw spiritual meaning in the most unlikely places.
DP Sevdije with umbrellas.
We also heard about the first art photographer, a woman who elevated photography from its designation as archival by daring to infuse her work with feeling; we finished the weekend hearing about the woman who founded the Feminist Health Initiative, a housewife who shocked everyone with her radical commitment to women’s control of their own bodies.
Jan Oxenberg talks about Carol Downer
I am so grateful to my friends who took the time to tell us these inspiring stories, many of whom are not that comfortable in front of a camera. It is the core mission of this project that we should hear stories about real women from real women, and I so appreciate your commitment in showing up for this lovingly hand-made series.
And to our mind-blowingly great and dedicated volunteer professional crew– thank you. It would not be possible without the generous gifts of your time and talent.
Once again a total joy to hang out in Austin for a few weeks, directing Episode 204 of American Crime. I could not have had a better time working with our world-class actors and crew who are tremendously talented and deeply collaborative. Really something. I feel such gratitude to all. Here I am chained to a post for safety while shooting inside a moving bus. (Christena Alcorn our intrepid Script Supervisor is my wing-woman.) Now on to write Episode 209! Back in Austin in November. Yes!
Going to the Emmy’s for the first time was a trip. Our show, American Crime, was nominated for ten Emmy’s, the most for any broadcast show.
Juliet Hébert and Lori-etta Taub at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards
That was amazing and happily, our own Regina King won for her brilliant work, but she was the only one for us that night; however, all the writers and our spouses were seated close to the front (just behind the Orange is the New Black folks with whom my husband kept trading jokes…) so we had a close-up view of the stage and all the luminaries. In the excitement of getting ready I forgot to power up my phone, which died soon after we arrived! So not too many behind-the-scenes photos… but here’s what I got:
Lessons Learned (in case there is ever a second trip to the Emmy’s…)
Andy Samberg gets it started
1. Thank the person who does your hair, then brush it out after they leave.
2. Pay attention when your spouse asks “Are you sure you want to wear that?”
3. Four-inch heels are for people under fifty.
4. Safely ignore all of the above because no one’s looking at you anyway.
5. Drive your own car.
6. Meet your friends ASAP. The crowd is nervous, over-dressed and desperate.
7. Beware of martinis with too much vermouth! The bartenders are cute, but…
8. Remember: You are a VIP. One of 7,000 VIP’s in attendance. Hmmm.
9. Be jovial when you are herded into chutes designed to move cattle, er, I mean VIP’s.
10. Smile when you lose, cry when you win, and don’t skip the after-party. The food’s good.
So proud to say my friend Lenora Champagne’s collection of plays has just been published!
New World Plays contains her first three works and they are beautiful. I wrote the introduction entitled “The Audacity of Her Vision” because Lenora has an audacious vision as an artist and it’s evident in these striking plays. Like me, Lenora is originally from rural south Louisiana… and despite a lifetime in the big city, we can’t shake our muddy Cajun roots. Potent imagery from home is laced through these sophisticated works of avant-garde theater in a way that is both startling and familiar. Lenora is a true sister, as an artist and a homegirl, and I hope you’ll check out her book.
The book, published by NoPassport Press in their “Dreaming the Americas” series, includes three early plays: Isabella Dreams the New World, My Nebraska, and Coaticook, along with a foreword by playwright, screenwriter and director Julie Hebert, an introduction by poet, playwright and director Fiona Templeton, and a thoughtful interview by American Theatre editor-in-chief, Jim O’Quinn.
You can order it directly online from No Passport Press at www.nopassport.org/inprint,
Ellen Gavin, Roberta Levitow, Julie Sgarzi, Alice Tuan, Melinda White and Ruth Cusick tell us about some amazing women– women you need to know about, including a founder of the ACLU, an El Savadoran immigrant, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and Mother Uganda. The women being interviewed are as interesting as the women they’re talking about. We’ve fallen in love with them all. See for yourself.
Support our little dream project by clicking the link and subscribing to our channel and you’ll be the first to know when we post new interviews. Say “Yes, we want to hear from these women. Yes, we want to hear about these women.” Click and enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/user/lwsdchannel/videos
My play Tree just finished a sold-out run at the San Fransisco Playhouse. It was great to be in rehearsal with my dedicated and inspired colleagues, director Jon Tracy and actors Carl Lumbly, Cathleen Ridley, Susi Damilano and Tristan Cunningham. Through their beautiful work and talents I rediscovered the play and in fact found nuances of character and story that I hadn’t seen before. Each production of a play is so very different and this one took my heart away. I can’t even say how moving it was to be back in San Francisco after all these years and seeing so many old friends. I was humbled by the response from both audience and critics who gave it rave reviews:
“A mature, richly theatrical work … as beautiful as it is moving” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“A profound examination of love, family [and] race” (The Huffington Post)
“… one of those rare gems …. at the heart of why you see theatre in the first place” (Stark Insider)
A few photos from our two-day Look What She Did! shoot last weekend in my backyard.
We had Dr. Julie Sgarzi speaking about Jungian analyst Gilda Frantz who at 87 has just published her first book;
Activist attorney Ruth Cusick told us about Magdalena Aguirre a woman who escaped the civil war in El Salvador then sent money back to her family over the years to fund a family compound of four houses;
Director Roberta Levitow conjured up Rose Mbowa, known as Mother Uganda, a woman who said no to Idi Amin;
Playwright Alice Tuan reminded us of Rachel Crothers a woman who wrote and directed plays on Broadway before women had the right to vote;
Business leader Melinda White extolled the virtues of her mentor CEO Maggie Wilderotter, one of the most influential business women in America;
Writer Ellen Gavin touched us with her portrayal of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn a bold and brilliant activist, a self-made woman who changed the world.
We had a blast listening to the stories of these amazing women and recording them for you. The edited interviews will be posted in the New Year.
Meanwhile, hearty thanks to our generous and talented crew this time around: DP Ellie Ann Fenton, Producer and Sound Engineer Courtney Graham, Producer and Bon Vivant Jill Klein, and thank-god-they-know-how-to-do-this-stuff Editors Farrel Levy and Franzis Muller. This project couldn’t happen without a lot of women giving a lot of time and I am so grateful to you all. More fun to come!