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Occasional updates from the front lines…

New book by Lenora Champagne

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.

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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,

or from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or lulu.com.

See more of Lenora’s experimental work on her website: lenorachampagne.com

Look What She Did! New Interviews

Happy to say we’ve posted six new interviews on the Look What She Did! YouTube channel. Check them out here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/lwsdchannel/videos

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

Tree at San Fransisco Playhouse

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)

More photos at SF Playhouse website: http://sfplayhouse.org/sfph/tree/

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Look What She Did! behind the scenes 12/05/14

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;kvioAm2zeT4ZIkka3YCJnW2oh_bUvrvxFIIIwMDKNKI

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;zXtOAtO8xw5nWdUsdh-iairVSJLF2qKzHaE_xUq6f2M

Director Roberta Levitow conjured up Rose Mbowa, known as Mother Uganda, a woman who said no to Idi Amin;ABWDmpjWk2mztRwjZDmEa8hCUWM1nxlgybGJ089KrMk

Playwright Alice Tuan reminded us of Rachel Crothers a woman who wrote and directed plays on Broadway before women had the right to vote;

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Business leader Melinda White extolled the virtues of her mentor CEO Maggie Wilderotter, one of the most influential business women in America;

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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.

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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!

 

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For more pictures and information check out the Look What She Did! Facebook page

Also, take a look at the Look What She Did! YouTube Channel!

LOOK WHAT SHE DID! JILL KLEIN on CLARA SHORTRIDGE FOLTZ

So proud to present our very first Look What She Did! interview with the audacious Jill Klein.

This is a project dear to my heart where we interview great women talking about other great women who have inspired them. We’ll be posting new interviews over the next few weeks, so keep checking in here and on my Facebook page.

We just finished another shoot this past weekend of six new amazing interviews which we’ll be sharing with you in the New Year.

Help us kick off Look What She Did! by forwarding the links to the interviews, liking the FB page and subscribing to our YouTube channel.

We are in the early stages of this project which I hope will go on for many years– as there are many astonishing women in the world– and we would very much appreciate your support. Thanks!

Night Falls Q&A

Join me online November 12th and 16th at 7pm PST for a streaming video and Q&A for a play I wrote and directed called Night Falls. The play was choreographed by Deborah Slater and debuted at the ODC Theater in San Fransisco California in October 2011. I am excited to chat with the collaborators about our time bringing Night Falls to life on stage as we watch the play together with you in real time.

Links to 2ndlineTV:

Nov. 12th: https://2ndline.tv/night-falls-1

Nov. 16th: https://2ndline.tv/night-falls-2

 

Synopsis of Night Falls… a physical play:

“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
– Mary Oliver, poet

Peregrine can’t sleep. The following day she’s turning sixty and has to give a speech which she’s not yet written… so she bounces off the walls of her apartment in the middle of the night trying to figure out what to do about getting older and what the hell she’s going to say to a bunch of young people looking for advice. Peregrine– played by several performers– excavates her life for clues. What has she done wrong? What has she done right? What should she do now? And then, an unexpected visitor alters the course of the night.

Canadian Documentary

I was delighted to participate in this documentary film about current-day Cajuns in America. I first met the director, Monique LeBlanc, when she arrived with her small crew in Tennessee where I was directing an episode of Nashville. As soon as I saw her, I called her “Cousin!” because she looked (and felt…) like a part of my family. They shot a bit of me working as a director that day, and I suppose some of that footage will end up in the documentary; but mainly, it was just a kick to have them around — the French cousins. They all spoke French to one another, and English to the rest of us.

Later Monique and the crew interviewed me at my home in Los Angeles about memories of my Acadian grandparents and family, and how their influence has played out in my work as a writer and in my life in general. I was most proud to show them my collection of fine art by Louisiana artists. Last August I went to New Brunswick for about ten days on a self-created writing retreat among the small towns and villages of my Acadian ancestors. It was a tremendous experience in so many ways. First of all, the lobster was a-mazing… but feeling the connection to the warm, open, sassy people I met, most of whom had French names that echoed the families I grew up among, recognizing their culture, their food, their physical characteristics as my own was kind of mind-blowing. I loved it. And in the course of writing while there, I remembered French phrases that my grandparents used, phrases I hadn’t thought about in fifty years. I am so grateful to Monique for bringing me back to this homeland.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the film and hearing about the other artistic Cajuns spread throughout our American culture. I’ll post when I know more about where the film will be aired/screened. Here is Monique’s description of the documentary:

DEVENIR AMERICAIN – BECOMING AMERICAN

BECOMING AMERICAN is a one-hour documentary produced by the independent production company CinImage Productions for Radio-Canada, the French Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for the World Acadian Congress. The film focusses on the Acadian presence in the United States.

The documentary begins by exploring the lives of Acadians who remained in America after they were deported from French Canada by the English, men who went on to play significant roles in the military, business and political spheres of the newborn nation.

But the film is far more about present-day Americans with Acadian ancestry, a discovery of their work and contribution to the country they call home. From Maine to South Carolina, from New York to Montana, from Louisiana to California, we criss cross the territory on a quest to meet , discuss with and celebrate a people of talent, conviction and determination.

 

Here are a few pictures of my time in Canada:

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Shoreline view

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View from my window

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Monique

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New Brunswick

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The Cormiers next door to where I stayed.

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Grand-Pré Acadian National Historic Site – Nova Scotia

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Grand-Pré Acadian National Historic Site – Nova Scotia

 

Berwick Beacon

So much fun. This month my old friend, Damon Robison, invited me to answer a questionnaire about growing up in our home town of Berwick, Louisiana. He then wrote a short article for the town newsletter, the Berwick Beacon. Here’s the link to the newsletter:

http://townofberwick.org/images/stories/October%202014%20Beacon-Web%20Version.pdf

It has spawned a volley of e-mails among some of my dear friends from childhood (featured in the photo above, sitting on the car from l to r: David Luck, Jan Taylor, me, Jody Barbier; standing: Melanie Wallace) where we’re remembering all kinds of rogue activities, including stuffing our science teacher’s beloved Ford Galaxie 500 with newspaper. He didn’t find it funny and made us wear sandwich boards to school the following day, apologizing and promising to wash and wax his car. Such wild kids. Both my parents passed away this year, and that brought me back to Berwick quite a lot, where I’ve been reminded of the value of being from a place where everyone knows you… even all these decades later. So many lovely friends, schoolmates, teachers and parents, have shown support to our family this year, and I am utterly grateful.

Alexis and Aaron’s Wedding Anniversary

One year ago today my beautiful daughter Alexis and her beloved Aaron made their wedding vows to one another in a charming and meaningful ceremony, witnessed by all of us who love them. A tremendous and memorable day, which fills my heart when I recall it. We wish them a Happy First Anniversary and many, many more to come.

Alexis and Aaron Wedding

 

 

American Crime Episode 108

Just got back from Austin where I was working on my episode of American Crime, the new series created by John Ridley, Academy-Award winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave. The show will air in March 2015, but meanwhile we’re all working like crazy to bring this powerful, subtle story to life.

My episode (108, we’re not using titles, just numbers…) focuses heavily on a character played by the amazing Felicity Huffman, who was a dream to work with. I also had a tremendous time working with Tim Hutton and Regina King. Truly, the entire cast of this show is stellar; everyone attends the work with such intelligence and seriousness that it’s inspirational. In fact, all of us –  cast, crew, writers, producers – have the feeling that this is a special experience and everyone is bringing their A-game.

The crew is kick-ass, including our first-time director Rachel Morrison (cinematographer of Fruitvale Station, among other indy movies) who did a great job on the biggest episode of the series so far. Here she is in the scout van, working away in anticipation of our GIGANTIC shoot in San Marcos, which included hundreds of extras, SWAT teams, stunts, weapons firing, tear gas, horses, dogs and children. We threw everything we had at Rachel and she handled it with grace, toughness and humor, getting the job done like the pro she is.

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A few photos of our days on set:

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Julie with Director of Photography Ramsey Nickell

During my (brief!) downtime, I was able to explore Austin a bit. Great food, great people. Love this city. Here are a couple of favorite photos:

The dome of the state capitol building:

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A Saturday festival on Sixth Street:

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Then back to set before dawn on most days.

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I am thrilled to be working on this series with these wonderful people. Keep a look out for American Crime in March 2015.